Permanent PTSD

https://healingfromcomplextraumaandptsd.wordpress.com/

When understanding what is happening, more gentleness and compassion can be bestowed upon what first feels like my weaknesses. Preparing for the trip to the cottage tomorrow to meet with my son and two year old grand-daughter had gotten me in a flurry. A 4 AM waking meant staying awake with a head full of a ‘to do’ list.

But the night after, even with being so tired, sleep did not come. Coming out to the couch I said to Samuel, who always stays up later, “I’m wide awake. But it makes no sense, I know I’m tired.”

He nods, then goes off to bed. Samuel is not much of a talker.

Feeling sorry for myself for having to take a sleep aid, adding to the ‘I hate myself list’ comes eating. The bag of pretzels found its way onto my lap, not usually a snack that’s around just for that reason, my tendency to numb out with non-nutritious snack food. Who overeats on baby carrots?

Self-hatred completely full as the Xanax took effect, sleep came solid for 7 hours. The day of reckoning came upon waking. There are many days like that. Feelings of disgust; with myself, with life, with me being haunted with being me. Why do I have to be me?

Why can’t I be like everyone else around me? Picking themselves up and going wherever they please, all over the world. Even a trip to a lake gets me in a frenzy. It was more than that though.

It took all day to figure it out and begin to be gentle with myself; accepting that I can’t snap a finger and be someone else. I can’t snap a finger and be a different girl than the one born to a family who would abuse me over and over again, then spend the rest of their lives, and my life, never talking about it, never validating the traumas sustained, never apologizing. .

The bird. It was the bird again. Abashed to admit it, the bird traumatized me once again. The first nest was in the pine tree by the house. Bad enough. But this was right on top of us. Samuel wanted to hose it out of wisteria when she began to build but I wouldn’t allow it.

If only I had. It was at the back door over the patio where sitting every morning in my sanctuary brings peace, joy, and a contentment of well-being not felt for most of my life.

When sipping coffee, the sun rises while hummingbirds zip by my face towards the feeder close-by. Chipmunks scoot by near my feet playfully making me laugh aloud with their antics. The flowers open still dewy, as the warmth of the first rays massage my legs and feet with their heat. A train often echoes in the distance magnified by the cool, moist air.

Gone. Taken. Unsafe. 

She built her nest peaceably enough. It wasn’t until the eggs hatched that the terrorizing began, ramping up the very last week before they left it. I stayed housebound only using the screened porch. 

My safety was stolen, my haven, my paradise. It is embarrassing to admit it was a bird. Samuel added to my chagrin, and self-contempt by saying, “It’s just a bird. It really can’t hurt you, but it is annoying. Next time I’m going to shoot it.”

At this point killing it sounded good to me too, perhaps even drowning the chicks so that the killer birds would back off. Maybe they could die too. My love of mockingbirds has shifted dramatically.

But Samuel’s usual lack of depth about my body’s reaction, and my inability to have any control over my hyper-arousal, made the pain feel heavier and deeper. No validation does that. 

Once again he doesn’t get it. And I believed him, feeling ashamed at my overreaction even as I try to explain how my broken system works. Even while I think of children in war-torn countries where their everyday life really is threatened without relief. That doesn’t seem to lesson my own body’s reactions, or my feelings of futility about the on-going challenges. 

Once the siren goes off, that’s it, my system’s on alert and stayed that way the entire day, though I was unaware of it. Like two people inhabit my body, a calm one, and one who is frightened for her life all the time. That system is inaccessible. 

Refusing to be a prisoner in my own home, I dared walk to the garden. That set it off. Juggling an armload of squash with a water bottle to squirt my attacker, the attacker won. He chased me to the door, swooping down at my head as I fumbled with the door knob, frightening the hell out of me.

This had happened another day at the back door after a walk in the meadow, staying away from the house on each lap so that the ‘killer bird’ would not get agitated. My escape inside was so frantic my shoe got caught in the door. He was right at me all the way to the door. I had to duck out quickly for an instant in order to retrieve the shoe, afraid to be poked in the head or face with it’s sharp beak. 

My heart was pumping, adrenaline shooting through my veins. Even by nighttime my system couldn’t calm down. It was out of my hands, even though Samuel blamed me, and I agreed as my ever-ready harsh critic battered me black and blue. But by nightfall understanding came, and it all made sense.

Not that I want to accept it. The permanent effects of the early abuse has to be accepted over, and over again. I so want to be like others, but in that intense yearning do not accept myself, taking me farther away from myself, making the chasm wider, colder and so much lonelier. 

It wasn’t my doing. My poor body has done this since childhood, a place where terror reined, especially in my own bed, and what usually is a safe place for a child… her own bedroom. 

Things go along peaceably. Then they don’t. We leave tomorrow, and all is ready. Today can be peaceful. The baby birds have left the nest. Last night’s walk to the meadow was without incident. Feelings of safety are being tested, but it will take a while before full security returns. (and my love of birds) 

To not feel safe at home was a big thing, even if caused by a little one pound pecker. 

 

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SHE RISES

And then stillness. The waves subside and calm prevails. But for how long? Is it my mind observing how peaceful things have been stirring it up causing havoc just for variety? Or is it years of suppressing trauma, unprocessed at the time of the events due to the type of trauma; childhood sexual abuse.

Because no family will , (rarely) take that child and hold her in their arms lovingly. Or give her the medical and psychological intervention necessary to heal and have a life. Want a life.

How many times has the wish come for it all to be over? How many more times will I wish it? 

A child sexually abused is cast out. Not out in the middle of the road, naked, alone and cold. But inside, naked alone and cold…still with the monsters, and now the collusive family who wants her kept quiet.

There she shivers, from cold. From terror. From aloneness.

From there she must grow. Her body does even if she wishes not to. She must traverse all the steps of life that others climb, but her journey is always naked, alone and cold. No one to help, because she was trained not to ask, not to talk.

She is mute. Alone. Naked but no one sees. Reactive to every stimulus, because PTSD does that, makes every nerve on edge for what’s to come.

There are too many challenges making one wish not to be here. For it all to be over.

But she is a warrior. Each one a warrior, the ones that don’t make it too. No one knows this, not even her. But someday she does. One day she rises yet again, knocked down over and over, she rises, tries again, and begins to see, feel, and know that inside her resides courage, beauty, and strength.

She blooms into a powerful woman, a beautiful soul that shines from within radiating outward onto a aged face that sparkles with peace, knowledge, and depth.  

 

FEAR

 

 

 

 

 

 

The skin on my hands grows thinner. My face shocking with age lines noticed only on the rare times when glimpsing it in the mirror. My inner world does not match the age of my body. Fear grips in the middle of the night while sitting upright because my digestive system has gone awry. And no wonder, 30 years ago I had it ‘butchered’ as one therapist described.

My fate is unknown. Other species do not have to live with the knowledge of their imminent death. Giving birth to two sons makes me wonder why put them through the torture of living only to die. But then the reminder that each of them and their families live nothing like my life has been. That satisfaction does not alleviate my own fears.

This fear of living hits hard as winter turns to spring. Many nights are spent awake, alone, and terrified in the dark coaxing the warrior to shine.

Where is this strength, the courage that has brought me this far? This too shall pass. But terror flourishes when my poor beaten body acts up. It became especially fearsome after the internal bleed that landed me in the hospital for a 3 night stay due to complications from the stomach stapling so long ago. Since that stay 2 years ago the fear of more bleeding never left.

Hospitals are no place for the sick. Noise, busyness, mistakes, no one to advocate for my needs. Others rush around attending to those with the loudest mouths complaining like out of tune tubas, being outrageously inconsiderate. Me? Meek, quiet, oh so very quiet.

This period of unfolding, grass growing, leaves budding, and flowers erupting… mixes my brain chemicals, mixes my soul, and mixes me up. In the night all the mistakes I think I’ve made, more irrational then true, explode with thought after thought dark and defeating. Mornings bring new hope, new trying, and better coping. But the nights, the nights are so hard.

 

SEXUAL CHILDHOOD VIOLENCE

Childhood sexual abuse? That term makes the crime seem mild. Sexual assault gives more truth to the violence. And it is violent even though using a child for one’s sexual gratification is easy because there is love and trust. An attacker fucks with the body and the mind.

What’s broken can’t be mended, ever. Trust. Gone. The ability to love? My cat, yes. My kids when little, yes. Other little kids, yes. No one else really, or a moment at times when the guard walls come down.

It is always a violent act, though no discernible violence is used. As a child I felt ashamed, and bad. My brother used that to his advantage. I pretended sleep after the first attack which suffocated due to lack of air and breath. 

I had no one. I was alone. And have felt on my own ever since.

When I Die

photo by Patricia

If writing helps just one other person, that is enough. If it helps only me, that is also enough. Even now, in this age, childhood sexual abuse isn’t talked about much except that much more has been exposed in the news. Still, that person, once a child, holds it in because others don’t want to hear, and certainly families don’t.

So she is there alone in her pain. Pain so great she often wants to die. To hear another speak the unspoken gives hope. Just as the little books only found in the city’s tiny women’s bookstore helped me thirty years ago when I dared to begin to look at what was done. In those books women spoke the truth of what was done, every word, every vicious transgression that a little child suffered, and held in.

I wasn’t alone with that tar inside me that threatened taking my life. What my brothers had done. But it wouldn’t be until thirty years later, after my mother died, when I didn’t have to protect her delusions of a happy of family, that I too spoke my truth, and the tar slowly regurgitated out; the details of what had been done. One chapter roiled up after another, what happened as a child held in. Interspersed with the treacherous pain was joy. Joy, that had been imprisoned in the thick, black tar. 

Until the day my mother died ten years ago, we had a happy family. One where I spun in circles with anxiety like a whirling dervish, or fell into depressions so bottomless that climbing out wasn’t possible without therapy. Dark days, one after the other, and a wish for death every day. Oh, I had spoken some of what happened, but everyone ignored it and went on as if I had never spoken of the traumas within.

And factions broke off here and there. Yet we all continued to pretend. But after her death, after my swooning over her grave time and again mourning her loss, the words began to come. The words of truth over what had been done. The words no one still wants to hear. 

Some days even now death doesn’t sound so bad. It is that hard, and when the time comes I hope I’m in that frame of mind. Not really wishing for it, though maybe I might, but realizing I’ve done all I can to overcome the abysmal obstacles put in my path. Die at peace. When it’s time, I want that feeling of satisfaction when I let go.

I want to live every day ready. Ready is wholeness, a connectedness to my being. And liking being there. For much of my life I did not have this, what many others take for granted. For me it is a miracle and a blessing.

 

Sleep?

The 2 AM dance in my head occurs. If only the use of the bathroom wasn’t needed, because returning to sleep afterwards is often hard work. No, you will not get up. Stay. And a long time later sleep did come, but not till my brain calmed down and went over every painful experience it ever had.

I don’t think of this shit in the daytime, why does it feast on my brain at night? Hushing the harsh voice that blames me for not disciplining my mind, the knowledge that parts of my brain are broken from the unprocessed repeated traumas of my youth, brings some balm to at least that aspect of my nightly troubles, but the thoughts continue to swirl. 

That included thinking about abusive siblings who feel as close now as they ever did. In the thick of darkness these thoughts invade, even though for a good portion of my adult life another ‘family’ was built from ground up that had nothing to do with blood.

To love those that hurt me so much? To hate those that hurt me so much? But the hate is gone. The rage is gone. In its place is sadness. Sadness that each of them lived with what they did, and grew in a family that drove them to it.

The love and closeness of blood family does not dissipate like a poof of air at the end of a wand. Family is family. This was mine… sadly. And yet while these rabid thoughts played out, a hint of something else flickered… the awareness of the light of my own soul. In the dark, while trying to sleep, a spark of truth.

My tired brain, awake like an hot wire frantically whipping wildly in the road during a storm, won’t stop and move onto other mundane matters until it had its ride. Eventually fitful sleep comes.  But this new awakening of what lies beneath holds promise of growth, light, and ever-lasting life.  

The Price of Abuse

photo by Patricia

Price tag? One life.

Thinking back on my life, and looking at it now,  the wonder is how this place was achieved with so much trauma and anxiety ruling each day.  The power of one individual makes me take stock, but with a sense of sadness at what was stolen.

My life is worth admiration. Yet I’m not in it enough to appreciate that fact. There it is beside me as if I’m living that life apart from the real body and being. Retreating to my safe place is where I still go.

Though work occurs now to be present in the moment, it is work. At least now there is awareness that I go elsewhere.

A therapist once said, “Just show up.”

What did that mean? Years later, after the book, and delving into the community of women survivors of childhood sexual abuse blogging on-line, I learned there was a real clinical word to describe being apart from the body during trauma, and for some, long after. What I refer to as ‘zoning out’ is called dissociation.

It happened without my conscious knowledge. No therapist ever told me, or mentioned the word. This unconscious survival tool buffered me from any more taken from me because precious little was left; an ember burning for life, one spec of fire buried under rubble, a kernel of hope almost extinguished by the hands of brothers.

They didn’t mean it. They were messed up. I was an easy target. It was never about me. It was all about me. Rage and dissociation took my life. Yet the work was diligent to have a life, forging on to fight for one, pushing through no matter what. That takes lives too, draining the already over-taxed adrenals so much it could kill you.

At the least it has gobbled up energy stores, unlike most others around me who go, go, go. The body takes many hits for psychological pain, pointedly traumatic pain where the family requires silence. Unprocessed traumatic pain inflames all body systems damaging them permanently, alone with the psyche, and spirit. Emotional growth becomes stalled requiring much work and many years to catch up.

There are many outlets to this unconscionable  pain running deep in the bones of little girls growing to womanhood…  those take lives too.

You did not mean to take my life. Yet you did. And the guilt ate you dead. Though I envisioned ways to chop you up, I did not really wish you dead. I wanted to love you. I wanted you to love me. I wanted a loving family, with loving brothers. I wanted warmth. Connection. A body to be in. You took that. You didn’t mean to, but you did.