This is something I just wrote about PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). This week has been particularly intense with PTSD symptoms… the safer I get, the worse the symptoms become. Or maybe they were always this bad, but because I wasn’t safe, they just felt normal feelings considering the circumstances. I don’t know. What I do know is, as much as I know it’s part of the healing process and the only way out is forward, it’s still hard. So I’m trying to express myself regarding the PTSD; refusing to bottle it up and eat me from the inside out.
PTSD is the cold sweat in the middle of night, when I wake from a memory and into silent blackness. It’s the dry sobs when I’m too afraid to scream, and nobody else can see what’s scaring me.
PTSD: the talons inside my chest, scratching and clawing at my lungs, choking me with terror. It’s the underwater feeling when a flashback is approaching, pulling me beneath the surface and drowning me.
PTSD means I’m raped every night in bed, despite being the only one in the room. It rapes me in the shower. It tortures me in a basement which does not even exist in my current house.
PTSD; the vivid hallucinations of abusers, pinning me against a wall. One hand over my mouth, rough and tight, whilst another shoves a corkscrew inside me. It’s the shockwave ripple of pain the shoots through me as the tool rapes me. It’s the pain so intense I step outside of my body. It’s the memory of watching myself be tortured, with my eyes rolling back, foam at the mouth in pain, screams from some animal cave inside my heart, until I dissociate and become nothing. It’s remembering how my body contorted and writhed, and then watching my body do just that in its own despairing memory.
PTSD is the car door that slams, or door that bangs, or engine that backfires…and yet is translated as a gunshot in my head. It’s the loss of rationalisation, the blur of reality and memory, so that a door slams and I freeze. It’s that frozen panic after hearing a gunshot that was just a door, of the fear locked in my throat, my eyes already hot with scared tears, my body trembling, my head quickly thinking about escape paths, except I’ve already fallen to the floor –play dead, and they might not shoot again. It’s the fear that gunshot might mean worse than death… it might mean rape by the end of a rifle and being reduced to a number – not a name, not even a child, just a number – and my abdomen crumples with remembered agony, leaving me gasping and mewing. Then my head says ‘oh it was just a door slamming’ – a sudden release escapes me, my body collapses into sobs; I sob and choke on gasping breaths as the terror ignites before it can escape. I sob for the memory, scream for the terror I felt, where it had too many times in actual fact been a gunshot fired to scare me, and a rifle used to rape me. PTSD is the twisting of sounds which destroy me, time and time again.
PTSD is remembering the dizzy emptiness as I focussed on the swinging light above me. Tied to a chair with rope that bit me, a belt gagging me, whilst I’m beaten. Bang…bang…bang… I stop feeling. I watch the fist come at me in slow motion, then speed up in the final half-second of impact. I watch my body recoil at the brutal punch. And I feel nothing. I’m not in my body anymore. PTSD is remembering this separation due to pain. Remembering tilting my head back in that dark room, with hot rivers of tears eroding the sides of my face, as I stare at the swinging light bulb. Round and round it goes, moths headbutting it. It’s remembering how I wished to be a moth. How I longed to be able to throw myself at the light, until I too frazzled in half a second and died. PTSD is remembering the remains of small moths raining on me like grey snow, whilst simultaneously being beaten and tortured. Or it’s the sensation of chains on my wrists, from being chained to a cold, rough wall. Or the cable ties cutting my wrists raw, as I’m tied to a bed and sold. It’s the shame from being sold. It’s the identity crisis because I was sold and just a number – the endless wondering; am I even human at all?
PTSD is standing in my kitchen at home, calmly getting a knife and fork, and then recoiling as my body panics at the knife. It’s looking down and finding blood all over my arms, pouring out below me, slashes across my stomach. It’s the terror at seeing so much blood. The dizziness filling my head and my desperate internal plea: don’t faint, they’ll kill you. It’s trying to remember to breathe slowly so that my heart-rate is kept minimal whilst I bleed. Then it’s realising I’m not bleeding at all – it’s just a memory. The blood vanishes. I fall to my knees and howl.
It’s lying in bed at night and trembling, feeling like a little girl again. Will they come in tonight? Will it be family, or another member of the ring? It’s missing the other children, craving the sound of their heartbeat so I can fall asleep. It’s the grief that comes with that, as I sob into my pillow – silently – for my children, and the children in that ring. It’s the guilt which chokes me. Survivor’s guilt – the worst form of torture, the abusers’ final fatal stab to the heart – if they let you survive, then you survive with a tortured soul. Would I prefer a tortured soul or tortured body? PTSD is the wish to be tortured again so I can stop feeling guilty. It’s the voices in my head telling me I’m worthless and bad. That I shouldn’t have survived.
PTSD is the fear on certain dates – anniversaries, or ritual dates. It’s dreading the full moon, and feeling ashamed of it. It’s sitting in the house on a ritual date and knowing children across the world are being tortured simply because of the number on the calendar. It’s knowing I can do nothing about it. It’s sitting there, useless and powerless, and crying…because someone needs to cry for the children, someone needs to grieve for them. Even those never registered – never existing in the system – they’re still human. Who else will cry for them?
PTSD is the jumpiness. Jumping at everything. The shame. The terror. The guilt and grief. The sudden explosions of anger or intense sorrow. It’s the hallucinations, the panic when I look in a mirror, the abusers who follow me in my shadows – who are invisible to anyone else. It’s the flashbacks that possess me, as my body, spirit and mind re-live truly horrific events. It’s looking at everyday objects and thinking I was raped with one of them and then breaking into uncontrollable tears as it hits me.
It’s the battle to keep smiling, when inside I am screaming.
PTSD is the aftermath. It’s a sign I survived hell. And it is also hell in itself.