When I first developed PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), I never thought I’d end up being a spokesperson against domestic violence. I certainly never thought I’d tell my story. Shame and disgust ruled my world. I wanted to hide from life. At times, I wanted to die to ease the ache of betrayal and loss. I grieved deeply for who I used to be. What I’d never become.
Who am I? I asked myself over and over.
“Nothing,” echoed in my mind.
I told no one of this deep dark secret for many years.
When my brain would blank out, trying to protect itself against triggers, I’d forget the most basic things. And people thought I was stupid.
I had trouble at work. In the corporate accounting office of a nationwide trucking company where I billed millions of dollars to clients for services rendered and issued over 400 driver paychecks each week, I forgot how to use the mail machine. I wasn’t even aware that I was in some sort of daze, just standing there, until someone came up to me.
What could I tell him? I didn’t know what happened. All I knew was the image of the face of the man who raped me came into my mind before I blanked out.
I didn’t know how to cope, how to change, how to recover. Feeling I was going crazy when I would forget how to get home from work or where I’d just been, I sought counseling.
I was fearful they’d take my children away, that I was indeed borderline insane. That would explain why I startled over a dark window or cried for no known reason.
The counselor told me what I was experiencing was a “normal response to an abnormal situation.”
Let me repeat that in case you didn’t get it the first time:
A Normal Response to an Abnormal Situation
Over the years, I learned about triggers. I was taught how to recognize them, how to deal with them, and how to avoid them when I needed to do so. It didn’t always work. But I was taught it was okay to cry.
And I didn’t owe anybody an explanation!
This is worth repeating – YOU don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Let them wonder. It’s up to you whether or not you desire to talk/tell them and what and how much you will tell them.
With the help of that first counselor, I put the pieces back together enough to know that something terrible happened. Those memories leaked into my mind like drops of blood from a severed vein. Only this cut bled inwardly until I was forced to quit my job and focus on recovery. How was I to know this healing process would continue for many, many years?
More memories leaked out as the years and counseling continued. “When you are ready, your mind will remember,” a psychotherapist said years later. Unfortunately, for some abuses the body remembers even if the brain doesn’t.
“The memories will come when you can handle them,” another psychotherapist said.
I pray they never do. The flashbacks are enough to wreck my world. I cannot handle more than I already have, I think.
Still, I go on. I get up every day and fight this battle. Someday, I will conquer this world of pain brought on by triggers. Until then, I will continue fighting this unseen foe, even if I do so for the rest of my life. Only from now on, I’m not fighting just for me but for every woman, child or person out there who has ever been or will be a victim of domestic violence.
PTSD United tells us that an estimated 8% of Americans − 24.4 million people − have PTSD at any given time (That’s the equivalent of the total population of Texas). And that 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. That’s 223.4 million people with a chance to develop some form of PTSD. So there are a lot of you out there who need to know you’re not alone. It’s no longer just about me. It’s about us.
I wish I could say you can overcome with complete confidence. But the truth is I can’t.
What I can say is you can survive!
Emergency Phone Numbers:
If you are in immediate danger, please dial 911
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
The National Sexual Assault Hotline
The National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline
TTY for National Domestic Violence Hotline