[TW: self harm, abuse] By Amy Crellin
My PTSD manifested itself eight years ago, it stemmed from childhood abuse that I had been suppressing for years and I “decomposed” when I was molested at sixteen. This is when all my problems began.
I started self harming with avengance. I hated myself so much. I lost large periods of time and ended up stealing things and not knowing I had done it. Until I got home and found my money intact, and my bag full of things I didn’t remember. This is how the dissociation first began for me. My self harming got me put in a secure children’s unit, but I still hadn’t disclosed my trauma, when I did all hell broke loose. I began to experience vivid visualizations of what happened to me as a child, and I could even taste, smell and hear what was going on around me. These would happen up to fifteen times a day. I often found myself lying in the corner of a room, so convinced was I that it was happening again and I once again had to comply. I manage these episodes, which I soon found out were flashbacks better now. I use grounding techniques such as noting all the objects in the room in my mind, putting my feet on the floor and using strong sensations such as taste or smell to help me “come back”. I now have flashbacks very calmly and quietly, and can usually cope with them by myself, although they can be very distressing. What I struggle more with is the dissociation.
When I turned 18 my self-harming was no longer a planned attack on myself, it had turned into something worse than that. I used to begin to dissociate, and not having any skills to deal with it, used to rise up above my head and look down on myself I might have a flashback before it happened or I might have a certain trigger like a smell or a noise. I would then float up, and everything would be surreal. I would stare off into space and was completely unresponsive. However my periods of dissociation didn’t stop there. I used to drive off in my car, go to a shop to buy my weapons and self-harm all whilst dissociating, then I would “wake up” in a random car park covered in blood. Having to figure out exactly what I had done to myself. Very scary. Due to this frequent self-harm, I was diagnosed as having borderline personality disorder, and this was treated with DBT, obviously to no effect. Not one professional in my care team had considered the dissociation or trauma, no one had mentioned PTSD, and what’s more no one believed I even had no control over my self harm. They believed it was all planned.
There are other things I suffer with that stem from my trauma, like for example hallucinations. Tactile, visual and auditory. They are very scary particularly when I am dissociating, as then I believe they are real. For years this was diagnosed as psychosis. So I was put on a diatribe of anti psychotics. Which unsurprisingly did not help! These hallucinations are very real in the moment, but when I am adequately grounded I can deal with.
Now what does PTSD feel like? It feels as if every little hair on my body has turned into ears and eyes, alert for danger ready for fight or flight. PTSD is always at your back, ready to jump forwards and clasp you in its historic hands. It takes you back to a time and a place that you never wish to go again. To me it is an unjust disorder, as no sooner have you been through all these terrifying situations, you are forced to relive them through flashbacks and nightmares, everyday and every night. Ultimately for me this is PTSD …It’s knowing in my bones that other humans do have the power to destroy me. I can be victimized no matter how hard I fight or cry. That even people you trust as friends can turn on you faster than a wolf can turn on its pack. It’s the taste of black liquorish making you feel sick. It is being told not everyone wants to hurt you, but not being grounded enough to listen to the rest of the sentence. It is feeling unbalanced and shaky, and being scared that when I feel him hurting me everyone can see. It is with me morning noon and night. I can’t escape. It is my sentence, since they never got one. I am doing the time for his crime.
I thought to end I would share with you my favourite poem called The Survivor Psalm (please note this is not my own poem):
I have been victimized,
I was in a fight that was not a fair fight,
I did not ask for the fight,
There is no shame in losing such fights,
I have reached the stage of survivor and am no longer a slave of victim status,
I look back with sadness rather than hate,
I look forward with hope rather than despair,
I may never forget but I need not constantly remember,
I was a victim,
I am a survivor.
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