No one person is exactly the same as another. Mental illness affects everyone differently.
PTSD is defined as a condition that occurs in some people who have suffered through traumatic experiences. These feelings of anxiety, discomfort, and being scared can happen to people in their normal everyday lives, and those who have PTSD learn that these symptoms doesn’t go away. We suffer from many different symptoms on a regular basis.
Medical professionals feel PSTD is when someone has these lingering feelings for “at least a month or so.”
I can’t remember a time in my life that was “before PTSD”.
I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when I was in my early 20’s. At the time, I didn’t really think too much of it, and I didn’t research it. I was diagnosed with some other issues at the same time and I thought they were the important things I should be dealing with. Looking back on my life, I realize how much PTSD has affected me when I had no idea what it was. Clearly the PTSD is what I should have been dealing with this whole time, as the others are all by-products.
One thing I’d like to touch on is that people without PTSD tend to think that the 30+ year old trauma is what is haunting me today – however I do not normally have flashbacks or nightmares of the very old traumatic experience. It’s like my brain got programmed when I had the first trauma to overreact to all trauma so now, many years later I experience a major reaction to trauma. What may seem small to a non-PTSD sufferer, can be major to the brain of someone with PTSD Your brain tells your entire body to react to this huge event.
Some of my friends could (and probably do) describe me as being a negative person. I’d describe myself as realistic; I try to see all sides of a situation, good and bad. When friends are being very optimistic and point out good things in a situation, I will point out everything – all sides. Pointing out the bad things is why I often get told I’m pessimistic. I try not to, but I live with a constant feeling of fear, worry, and anxiety so it can be difficult for me to feel like things are going my way and everything will be fine. While I try not to spill it, sometimes it still slips out.
Persistent instability to experience positive emotions is described as a symptom of PTSD.
I don’t watch horror movies, and yes I’ve been mocked because I was a “wuss” or a “baby.” Honestly, I just brush it off, because they don’t know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night to a flashback. It’s not a dream, it’s not a nightmare, it’s everything you’re afraid of. There are always things in the back of your mind percolating.
Dark closets and corners hiding things that you forgot about or didn’t see as a problem. Today is day when it becomes a problem, and you’re going to remember it in the most traumatic way (even if it didn’t happen that way). It’s going to scare the living shit out of you, and linger with you like a cloud following you around ready to suck you up at any moment.
Every time your mind starts to wander for the following days or weeks, it will go back there and BOOM.
Sweating, anxiety, heart is racing, your body is shaking. You calm yourself down and after a while you feel back to normal again. Just when you think it might have gone away and left you alone, you walk around the corner and see something, hear something or smell something that reminds you of it and BOOM.
Back into high adrenaline mode. You take some time to calm yourself down. You go back to work, or whatever you were doing. You go on with your day. You’re cleaning up dinner, the kids are in bed and you think “I’m tried, it’s been a long day, I’ll head off to bed now too”. You crawl into bed and drift off to sleep. Then when your guard is down and it’s the middle of the night.
You wake up crying and shaking and sweating and scared. I did not know that these feelings were part of my disorder until recently. Flash backs and re-experiencing the trauma including “what if” scenarios through nightmares is a common characteristic of PTSD.
Most of my early life (pre-20) I don’t remember. I have relied on others to tell me what happened, even though I was there. I generally tell people that I have a bad memory and can’t remember much from my childhood or adolescence. I can sometimes be reminded and recall a memory, but I often can’t remember much.
I had no idea that repression and “lost memory” was my brain trying to protect me from my traumatic events.
It is very well known in my circle of friends that I’m easily startled. Most of them find it quite hilarious.
I often find myself at work and round a corner or open a door that has no window to find someone on the other side. I will jump out of my skin and usually let out a high pitched shriek which will usually get a reaction from the other person (either startle them or they laugh or both). This is a characteristic related to the hyper vigilance aspect of PTSD because I’m often on edge or on alert. It is also common for PTSD sufferers to have an exaggerated response when startled.
When something traumatic happens in my life, I can have flashbacks or re-experience the trauma, or sometimes my brain will play out “what if” scenarios. This usually occurs with the newest trauma but sometimes can go back to something that happened many years ago. If the trauma is very fresh, I can’t get to sleep.
Every time I try to close my eyes the event will replay itself and I’m in a state of panic.
This will continue all night and when I finally feel like I’ve fallen asleep I’ll have to get up and go to work, which leaves me feeling exhausted and unable to cope with getting through the day. This as PTSD-induced insomnia.
Another characteristic of PTSD is self blame, feeling hopeless ,and may including having negative thoughts about yourself.
I’d like to let you know, if you’re reading this PTSD is not your fault. If you are feeling this way, I encourage you to seek medical attention and the support of your friends or family. If that is not an option, there are helplines and even chats you can speak with someone.
There are other things that are on the “common list of PTSD symptoms” that I have not listed. Some I didn’t want to talk about and some I don’t normally experience.
I know that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can affect people differently so I decided to write how it affects me.
I am now 45 years old and I nearly lost my marriage to PTSD.
It was my first year of marriage, and I’d gotten a nice degree, so I got a great job at an investment bank.
It all started to unravel after the birth of my first child, a boy.
Every time I changed his nappy and saw his penis, it triggered repressed memories of my evil stepfather who exposed himself to me and masturbated in front of me for most of the 25 years he was married to my mother.
The flashbacks played in my mind at work and interrupted my ability to concentrate. I lasted through work with strained relationships with my colleagues.
After the birth of my second child, a daughter, I had post traumatic stress disorder and could not go back to work.
In therapy, over the following year, I processed the anger and rage I felt for my mother as she did not protect me from him.
Now 8 years later, my eldest son is 10 and I now have 4 children with my husband. Our marriage has been emotionally difficult and I don’t trust him. Somehow, thank God, we have lasted.
We separated after 11 years and we now live apart, but we’re still married. I cannot cope with the emotional intimacy of living with him, I need to spend long periods quiet and alone in my own thoughts. At the time I didn’t realize the catastrophic abuse happening to me, but now as a 40 something adult I look at homeless alcoholics and drug addicts and think, yes, I know what happened to you.
When someone molested you, hurt you, as a child, you are broken.
This abuse has made me compassionate and deeply religious in a very private personal way. My relationship with God is very strong, but less so with the congregation as I still have trust issues. God has kept me alive and not dying by suicide over the years.
To all of you out there, all I can say is put your life in God’s hands. Whatever has happened to you broke you so that God could shape you more perfectly. Life is teaching you horrific lessons, but you will be stronger and more compassionate about other people’s suffering.
Work hard on your marriage if you are married and don’t give up.
And above all else, work on forgiving the parent that didn’t protect you. The abuser chose your parent so they could abuse you. Abusers are evil, cold, and calculating; anyone who could hurt a child is stupid and evil.
But let that go.
Leave them to God and move on with your life AFTER therapy. I will say that you can’t get rid of these extreme feelings without a therapist; it’s the best investment in your own health.
My mother has cancer now and not long to live.
I cherish these times with her, after I forgave her. She’s now a devout Christian and is doing lots to heal herself after 25 years with her abusive husband. I thank God that I’ve been able to connect with her finally, at the end of her life, to heal.
Now, I work with the poor and addicts, you might consider working in this area if you have overcome childhood sexual abuse yourself. It took me years to be able to tell people that my step-father masturbated in front of me, and my mother often was doing the masturbating.
Now, it’s just such a relief, just letting people know.
At the age of 3, my father began sexually molesting me.
At the age of 5, the sexual abuse was replaced by physical abuse from my father and my mother.
At the age of 9, both my mother and father went to rehab for alcoholism.
At the age of 10, I finally knew what it was like to have a home after living in over 200 houses, more than 100 cities, fifteen states, and two countries.
At the age of 14, I was raped by a classmate my freshman year of high school.
At the age of 15, I started working two full-time jobs and single-handedly supporting my family because my parents flat-out refused to work.
At the age of 16, my parents decided to start drinking again. I took on a third job to support their alcoholism.
At the age of 18 I graduated high school at nearly the top of my class.
After my first year of college, I was told that I was not allowed to continue even though I had scholarships because “I wasn’t raised to think I was better than anyone else.”
At the age of 21, I was raped again … by the man who had betrayed me seven years before. My parents told me I deserved it, and was lucky that a man had paid that much attention to me since I was worth nothing. I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
My birth certificate says that I was born on April 2nd, 1987 at 1:25 p.m.
I was born on March 30th, 2009 at roughly 9:45 p.m. when, at nearly 22 years old, I decided I had been through enough.
I am the adult daughter of two alcoholics who have been diagnosed by multiple mental health professionals as suffering from a variety of mental disorders.
My father suffers from Bipolar Disorder and severe Anxiety. My mother is a Paranoid Schizophrenic. Neither one has any sense of reality beyond their immediate perception of the world, and both are Compulsive Liars.
The man who raped me intimidated and frightened me into a silence I would not break for almost ten years. When I ran into him again, he introduced me to his wife and child as if we were old high school friends.
He contacted me after getting my information through old mutual friends and asked if we could meet to reconcile and so that he could apologize for what he had done. He never had any intention of doing so and in my own foolishness, I met with him and he forced me into the back of a car and raped me … again.
My parents told me I had to be lying, and that if I had been raped then I should consider myself lucky because that was more than I deserved from anyone. When I insisted that I was not lying and needed their help, my father smacked me across the face and broke a chair over my back.
I was almost twenty-two years old at the time and the only thing I remember after that was my youngest sister’s face. She was staring in horror and fear trying to figure out what to do.
I was the only one who stood up to the two of them. I defended everyone. I fought everyone’s battles and kept everyone safe. The thoughts in her mind were clear on her face: Who was supposed to protect me? How could they help me?
I had stayed for years thinking that I was protecting them. In that moment, I realized that if I showed them that all you could do was take the abuse and not actually do anything about it … then one day my little sister was going to be in my position … and no one would be around to help her either.
I didn’t have anywhere to go. I had nowhere to stay that night. I called up a friend and grabbed a ride, and crashed on a couch while struggling to find somewhere to live.
I went through months of endless torture and doubt while going through the trail that put my rapist in jail for what will be a very long time. I changed my address, my phone number, and all of my information so that I could cut ties with the life I didn’t deserve and start living a life that was not filled with fear, or doubt, or regret, or abuse.
Today, I am 23 years old.
I have a home of my own for the very first time.
I have sought counseling for the traumas I have been through in my life.
I have struggled with body image, self-esteem, guilt, and an intense lack of trust in people I care about.
I have cut all ties with my family, stopped supporting them financially, and moved on to start a life of my own.
I have found love in a man who is the best thing to ever happen to me. A man who would never raise a hand to me, who loves me in spite of my demons, and who has already supported and seen me at my absolute worst.
I have found peace.
I am not sharing my story to shock, horrify, or scare people. I am not sharing my story seeking sympathy although it is graciously received.
I am sharing my story because somewhere out there is a man, woman, or child who has faced demons that linger in shadows all around them. They may not feel that they are able to overcome them and they are utterly alone.
I am telling you my story to tell you this:
You are not alone. Ever.
No one is ever alone. There were moments when I wanted to give up and give in. Just tune out and wait for the worst to come so that nothing else as bad could happen. I figured there was nothing that could help or save me. I have been there.
I made it out and I am waiting for you with open arms on the other side. There’s plenty of room here.
Three years ago, my husband attempted to rape me. I didn’t really think of it that way at the time. I did shove him off me with a hand to his throat, and he was extremely angry. A few months later, he completed the rape.
He’s always been terrible with boundaries and when I would say no to sex, he would keep trying until I gave in. I didn’t like it, but didn’t recognize it as anything more than annoying.
It was a red flag I guess, but didn’t seem like “real abuse” because I wasn’t being harmed.
After he raped me, I slowly spiraled downward.
We did marriage counseling. I did individual counseling. Still, I wound up checking myself into a psych hospital with severe post-traumatic-stress-syndrome, anxiety, and depression.
We have managed to stay together, but, as you’d expect, It hasn’t been easy.
He still struggles with boundaries, which are obviously so important to our relationship. Unfortunately, he will touch me sexually even after I’ve explicitly said that I don’t want to be touched that way (when my anxiety is at a high I do not want to be touched at all; much less sexually).
He’s started having sex with me in his sleep despite me saying no – when he’s aware of what’s going on he stops, thankfully. When he is very much in the mood, he won’t come to bed with me because he’s afraid he can’t control himself. I suppose I should just be grateful that he stays away but I don’t like hearing him say he can’t control himself. It freaks me out.
He has been (for the most part) patient and understands why I’m like this now. He’d do absolutely anything to make me happy.
I feel guilty because a large part of me hates him. He has told me that he doesn’t think about the rape unless I’m struggling, which is devastating to me. Something that changed me at my core so much. Traumatized me. Destroyed trust, my ability to enjoy intimacy, gave me massive, crippling anxiety and he…?
He doesn’t even think about.
We are in marriage counseling again; but we haven’t yet told the counselor what happened.
We’ve only had two sessions so far, and I haven’t been ready to discuss the rape.
The counselor is giving us all these tools to work on things and I just…I don’t know. I don’t know how to make it work.
I can’t afford to care for my kids alone. I’m a stay-at-home mom, no good work experience, no family to help me out. I MUST make this work.
And my husband really does try to make me happy and I feel so guilty that he can’t.
I will never be the same again.
Part of me wishes to just end it all and escape the constant anxiety and feeling like I will never get better. Don’t worry; I would never do that to my children.
I’m just struggling with so many feelings of anger, sadness, depression, stress, and frustration.
My husband used to be my best friend. We get along pretty well now, but I just can’t see him romantically again.
Can we make this work?
The first time I was molested, I was 6 years old. My step-dad was a controlling, abusive asshole and had been grooming me over the few years he’d been married to my mom. It started as tickling, then moved to a touch here, me touching him there, and everything you can imagine in between.
At 6, I had no idea this wasn’t normal interaction. He was the only dad I knew.
At 8, I knew how to give a blow job, at 10 he was attempting penetration (poorly), at 12 when I got my period, I got worried. A substitute teacher covered a chapter on sexual abuse in health class and I realized that this wasn’t normal at all. I told my mom that afternoon, he moved out that night, I got lots and lots of counseling.
At 14, I was raped by a 21 year old that was my “boyfriend.” We met through a mutual friend, he got me drunk on Everclear and told me if I didn’t let him put it in one hole he was gonna put it in the other, whether I liked it or not.
I thought it was a compelling argument.
I remember he had big speakers under his mattress and he put on something with a shit ton of bass and it made me so nauseous that I spent 20 minutes puking on his back porch. I didn’t tell anyone. In fact, I continued to date him for an additional 6 months.
During that time he fantasized about moving to Alabama (where 14 is the age of consent) getting married and having babies with me. At the end of those 6 months he nearly got arrested for threatening a secretary with bodily harm for not allowing him to bring me flowers to my class… in middle school.
My mom found out and then I spent 4 weeks as an inpatient at a juvenile psychiatric facility. I started my long journey of anti-depressants and self-medicating.
At 15, I walked over to a boy’s house that I had a crush on to “hang out.” We were making out and he got my pants off. I let him know I wasn’t interested in having sex so he decided that putting his belt inside me was a better option? I was known as “belt girl” (probably still am, honestly) for a number of years after that, to our group of mutual friends.
At 31, I got locked into a hotel room with a smooth talker (stalker) who had me convinced we were in love. The next 8 hours were filled with things I never want to remember and that my brain won’t recall. I left sore and mentally broken, but I never told a soul (until now).
These are of course only the major offenses. I’m not including the literal hundreds of unsolicited dick pics, “accidental” gropings, catcalling, and unwanted sexual advances that occur from randoms quite often.
Why didn’t I report it at the time?
Well it depends on the occurrence. The first time I didn’t know any better, the second time I was in love, the third I was embarrassed and ashamed, the fourth I was terrified of ever seeing him again. I definitely didn’t want a court case. I never filed charges on any of them. Even the long-term ones.
I remember vividly talking to a counselor who warned me of the long court process to press charges against my dad, how it was my decision (AT 12), and whether they should file charges with the DA. Seems like something an adult should’ve decided, no? That stayed with me through all of my assaults. I felt powerless and guilty. I blamed myself for my poor decisions. Surely, I mean, it was my fault, right?
So now PTSD is a real thing I live with every day as a survivor of multiple sexual assaults. The triggers are never expected or convenient. Depression and anxiety go hand-in-hand with that. Once, a psychologist mentioned her surprise that I didn’t have a personality disorder, so there’s that, I suppose?
This is why the #MeToo movement is so vitally important.
The shame, the bureaucracy, the headaches, the guilt, it’s not worth reporting. This is what I’ve been told time and again as a victim. Maybe not in those words, but certainly with that intent. Someone didn’t want the paperwork and i didn’t want the trauma of retelling my story time and time again.
It was a beautiful Memorial Day Weekend a few years ago. I had gone with a good friend to the Indianapolis 500. I was very recently divorced and my son, age 8, was with his dad at an amusement park fairly close to our house. I had just returned to the area when my ex-husband called with a pretty horrifying story. His normally tough-as-nails mother had called him, hysterical, saying something about a pool, but he couldn’t make out anything else she was saying. He was on his way back to town, but in the meantime asked me to look for his mom.
So, I did. I think I knew all along what I would find. I knew my brother and sister-in-law were having a pool installed for my niece and nephew, ages 5 and 8. I stopped at a couple of places where I knew they hung out with no luck, so I headed for the hospital.
I went to the ER desk and told them who I was looking for. Just the last name, mind you. Immediately, the front desk person said I could come in the back. I didn’t know that meant really bad news. I said, “No, I can wait out here, no problem,” but she insisted. Into the back I went, and immediately I was confused. There was my mother-in-law, surprisingly calm, or so it seemed. I went to her, and she said it was my niece, it had been the pool where the football cookout had been held, my niece had been missed but there were too many toys in the pool to see her at the bottom.
And I said, “Well, how is she?”
She said, “Oh, she’s dead.”
A lot of the aftermath is a blur now. I went to my brother and sister-in-law, who were holding my niece’s body. She looked perfect and beautiful, but blue. I remember my sister-in-law looking at her almost reverently. I remember sitting on the curb outside the ER, waiting for my ex-husband to get there so I could tell him. I remember my son’s horrified face as he saw her as it sunk in that he would never argue with her again over who got the middle part of the back seat. And I remember the feeling of absolute hopelessness that I couldn’t protect him from that, or from the other ugly things in life.
That night, something broke inside me. I went to bed that night knowing things would not be better in the morning. My sister-in-law’s wails echoing in my ears.
It’s been years now. My sister and brother-in-law are doing as well as I think anyone could and I was diagnosed with PTSD. I thought I had a good handle on it, but I got a comment from someone that brought it all back. This person told me she hoped someone in my family, like my child, got sick so I could understand why she missed a ton of work.
She didn’t know how close to home she hit.