Saturday, August 29, 2009

I wish someone had told me sooner . . .

. . . that there is of course a difference between when one is diagnosed officially with something, and when one starts suffering from it in the first place.

I was officially diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in early 2004. We'd only begun to seriously start exploring what that all meant when I was forced to stop treatment and flee the state. In June of 2005 I finally, after a third nervous breakdown, landed back in therapy. It was as much a condition of getting out of the hospital, as it was my wish to find an alternative to the suffering I was doing. I spent the next four years in pretty much crisis mode, going from one to the next, fighting to stay alive and had precious little chance to dig and make more sense out of things. Plus the little bit of digging I was doing was hard enough, and that was all to stay alive.

I finally fled that part of my life for where I am now. It's giving me the opportunity, the energy, to look into and start sorting the wreckage of my life. I can't believe how much this all hurts sometimes, and I certainly wasn't prepared to have a friend point out that when I first started having major problems with PTSD isn't really when it first became a part of my life. We were talking about how I was responding to the pressure my late husband brought to bear on my life and I said simply:

"Well I kept trying to work harder, do more, and be better so that he'd remember me, and the love we had in the beginning. That he'd love me again."

She said something that at that moment caused me to realize just how long I'd been living with PTSD, and how much of an impact it's had on my entire life. She said:

"Yeah, that's the PTSD."

I think I did a really good job of not freaking out right then and there as it dawned on me that was a reality that defined my marriage from day one. I went into the marriage with PTSD. I'd had PTSD since I was five, and there and then I was back in that one horrible moment that has haunted me on and off my entire life. It's then I KNEW, that PTSD has been messing with my life since long before Earl showed up and made it worse.

Up until I was five, I had a great relationship with my parents, and thought my Dad was a pretty decent guy. It was one horrific day when I was five, and the conversation I tried to have with my folks destroyed my life before I even had a chance to get it started. Short story is my father flew into a rage, beat me badly without warning, expectation, or even reason. Violence and hatred so extreme that I remember hoping I would die right then and there. I felt betrayed, violated and couldn't even begin to understand what I'd done wrong. And there, in that moment my life was forever changed. My battle with Post Traumatic Stress began. One at five I was ill prepared to fight, one that would haunt me and alter the course my life would take. My worth as a human being became firmly entrenched in the minds of others, I was property, a slave to command and torture, a puppet whose invisible strings went only as far as the nearest puppet master who owned me. I became a slave to the false gods of other people's demands and expectations. Everything I did from that point on, was colored by violence, or the steps I took in advance to preempt violence. I'd become "strong" from living in a combat environment, living with a brilliant, but deranged person who didn't want me in the first place, and whom I could NEVER make happy.

What I wanted to do with my life changed constantly for no other reason than it didn't matter what it was, my "Father" instantly turned it to a weapon to use against me. I won't even bore you with the details because it really doesn't matter now. Be it enough said that over time, I've proven him wrong time and again, but my horribly scared heart and soul still don't quite buy it all.

It's actually amusing in some respects, people who know me well have marveled at how many dramatically different careers I've had over the years, made great amounts of money in each, and moved on to something else. How I've in effect lived many lifetimes in just this one alone, and become an expert in so many things, I could do anything I wanted anywhere I wanted simply because I wished to do so. In retrospect the horrible truth I can now see is that it was a life wasted, looking for the approval of a man that at this point in life I'm not certain I'm actually related to by blood. That too is a story for another day.

So now I turn my newly opened eyes back upon some of the other parts of my life I'd not heretofore given much thought, to learn lessons lost to me then.


  1. Sometimes it's easier to see things from a distance; you've shown me that so many times, my friend...and your revelations have made much difference in my own ability "to deal"!

    Hugs, my wonderful friend! I love you...


  2. Your childhood reminds me somewhat of my own, except that it was my mother, not my father who regularly subjected me to her violence and cynicism. In my blog Assault On Innocence, I wrote of my first transgender memory, where in a violent hysterical rage, she turned what had been an afternoon of joyful innocence, into an intense sense of fear and shame. I was four at the time, and from that day on, I could never again trust, or confide in my mother. I grew up in constant fear of her mercurial mood swings, never knowing when an innocent comment or action, would send her into a violent rage. Hardly a day went by, where I didn't receive either a full out beating, a smack in the mouth, or at at the very least, be subjected to cruel and humiliating ridicule. The result was that I grew into a shy and reticent being, always looking for, but rarely receiving the approval of others, and never quite capable of reaching my full potential. I never thought of it as living with PTSD, but now that I have read your post, I think that's exactly what it is.

    Melissa XX

  3. Yeah Melissa, that's exactly what it is. It's hard to realize that, deal with it, heal and move on. But it can be done, and you are taking all the important steps to do that now. The important thing to remember is that now you know, so you can give yourself permission to grow, and that's a huge victory of itself. There is no rush to healing, in fact if you attempt to rush it, like as not you'll only do more harm, like not healing correctly. So give yourself permission to take all the time you need. It's also important to not let others make excuses why you shouldn't do this, or should do it their way. Let folks help you, but don't let them dictate how, when, or how fast you should heal because you should be doing this only for you.

    Something else that goes with this that I've had to learn the hard way. You have to be able to care for yourself, love yourself, at least as much as you care for and love people around you or you won't be doing anyone any favors.

    Yes my dear, it sounds from what you've written here, and on you blog in other posts, that you probably are living with a touch of Complex PTSD. This difference between complex and regular PTSD isn't one of severity as much as onset. Having someone die on you while you are fighting in one instant in time can be regular. A car crash, rape, or really any major sudden trauma that happens, suspending someone in a single moment in time is regular PTSD. Being battered over years is complex PTSD, also sometimes subclassed (known) as prison camp survivor's syndrome.

    From the time I was five on I was battered and abused, at the mercy of a captor from which I could not escape or defend myself in any healthy fashion. At 17 I caught a break, but did not reflect and try to heal, I kept pushing on, burning my new found freedom to prove on some level that my abuser was wrong while looking for someone, anyone to love me.

    When Earl showed up I'd not learned to look for the signs of trouble, and was lured in by the "perfect" man, a guy identical to my dear own Dad. The difference there is that my father thankfully never sexual abused me. Earl did not have any such inhibitions. Anyway that's a story I suspect for another post.

    So yeah, take your time, give yourself permission to explore, grow and heal. It will be, I promise, and adventure. Don't be discouraged if it takes a long time. For me, transition was a short runway walk compared to the ongoing journey of healing and growth. It may well be the same for you.

    If you have questions, or just need moral support, let me know, I'm here.



  4. Sorry it took so long for me to reply Melissa, it wasn't you, I just go through periods where I pull away from the machine.



I'd love for you to share what's on your heart or mind after reading this.