Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

I was raped in the summer of 1977, in Dallas, Texas. It was one of many secrets that I felt so shamed by, I kept them hidden well into adulthood. It wasn't the first time that I had been sexually abused. The first time was an older cousin, and then the husband of a babysitter. Incidents that all happened during the beginning of my parents divorce, and because my mom was already going through so much trying to raise my brother and I on her own, I instinctively kept hidden what I knew would only cause more pain. I look back now, and remember losing chunks of time, always pretending to remember this or that, and getting by with a "head in the clouds, such a daydreamer" excuse. My first dissociative episode happened while being raped. I felt myself leaving my body, and watching it all from a distance, as if it wasn't happening to me at all.

" I tell myself;
just fly away,
fly away,
we'll be okay."

I'm still not sure what it was that finally shattered my silence. Maybe it was beginning to trust the therapist that I was seeing for an eating disorder. I never thought that I would tell, and sometimes I question whatever wisdom it was that told me it would be for the best. Part of me knew that the silence could destroy what was left of my life, and I wasn't willing to give that up.
The filth and scum always rise to the surface, and that is what happens when you try to cover up trash. It is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder~

Trauma survivors with PTSD feel chronically afraid that the event is happening or is going to happen, and are unable to fully realize the traumatic event is over. Sometimes they involuntarily relive the event to such a degree that they are unable to maintain contact with present reality; these experiences are called “flashbacks”. At the same time, they avoid remembering as much as possible, and as stimuli in daily life trigger memories, they begin to avoid more and more of life. They may feel intense shame and guilt, thinking that they are somehow responsible for what happened, or guilty for what he or she did in order to survive. With chronic hyperarousal, they feel exhausted, have sleep problems, have difficulty concentrating, and are irritable and jumpy. They may purposefully avoid sleep because of terrifying nightmares. Due to emotional numbing they lose feeling a sense of being connected to others, withdraw from loved ones, and may lash out due to irritability, causing whatever support they have to slowly disappear. They may begin to drink, use drugs, work too much, or engage in other self-destructive behaviors to avoid the feelings and memories of what happened.
Johnson, D.M., Pike, J.L., & Chard, K.M. (2001). Factors predicting PTSD, depression, and dissociative severity in female treatment-seeking childhood sexual abuse survivors. Child Abuse & Neglect, 25, 179-198.

These feelings are normal, even many years after the trauma has occured. I have to remind myself that I'm not crazy...that I will survive...and thrive.


LuckyGirl said...

PTSD is so difficult to overcome, I know sometimes it can make just getting through the day a nightmare. It's so good you let the dark secrets out--that was brave!

Caitlin said...

The summary of PTSD pretty much sums up my entire life until recently. I have made progress, but still struggle with staying present when a trigger happens. I struggled with eating disorders growing up and in my adult years, used obsessive dieting to distract me from my memories and feelings. I gave up dieting for good in March and it has been an amazing experience. You can read about it on

I have slowly been cleaning out old emotional scabs from sexual trauma. Thank you for this post.

Anonymous said...

It's great that you are working through your issues. As you do be sure and remember that you are a survivor and not a victim. Do not let the "victim mentality" weigh you down and win the battle. You have alot of people around you that love you and you need to reach out for those who are in your present, rather than holding on to the past.

Waterrose said...

Take good care of yourself you deserve a wonderful life. Letting things out is just one more step forward. Hugs.

Jennifer said...

I stumbled upon your blog via entrecard and just wanted to offer my support.

Sometimes identifying why we feel or act the way we do can help us heal. I'm glad that you have a therapist you can trust and are working through your past. It can take a long time (as I'm sure you know), but things get better and at some point, the past can truly be the past and won't have the same power it does for you now.

Anonymous said...

Please excuse the practicality, but I just want to be able to understand what you're going through better.

It says above that one may feel intense shame and guilt, thinking that they are responsible for what happened. I was just wondering how. What is the logic or psychology behind that emotion?