It's been a difficult decision whether or not to write this post......I expect it will be a more difficult one still to decide whether or not to hit the publish button.
If you have been following my blog for a while you may remember this post. Well now, finally, I have started my treatment. It's taken twelve rather long, slow months but now I am being given the chance I need to face this head on.
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a strange animal. The original trauma that I am dealing with happened to me when I was 13 years old. That's 21 years ago. And yet, without any real warning, a simple conversation triggered the symptoms almost exactly a year ago today. I struggled with nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks and depression.....getting from one day to the next was sometimes an impossible task that could only be tackled hour by hour or minute by minute....... The six weeks I took off work are just a blur to me now.
Any problems of a mental nature, I find, are still very much a taboo subject.... Don't get me wrong, it's a lot more acceptable to talk about them now than twenty years ago but it's still not easy.....and it's a difficult situation for the person experiencing these issues. You're split in two. Part of you wants to reach out to those you trust and those who are close enough to talk to.....you want help, unerstanding, love, support and to feel safe..... but at the same time, another part of you wants to ignore it....you don't want to be characterised by the symptoms. You don't want to be taken over by them even though, at times, that's exactly how you feel. I am not my symptoms, I am me. But, at times, even I struggle to see me through the fog that the PTSD creates.
This social taboo issue makes things considerably harder for someone dealing with a trauma. Because, for some people, it's not just the diagnosis of the PTSD that is hard to discuss....for many people, myself included, the trauma itself is often treated in the same way. My issues are based around an event that happened when I was still a child. I was raped. I am not ashamed of writing that but even as I do I imagine people cringing as they read it. Sexual abuse is something that happens to many people; both men and women, boys and girls and it is still something that is not talked about, mainly because people don't know how to talk about it. And so it's easier not to. But that is not true for those of us who have been attacked in this way and are trying so hard to make sense of the experience and move on.
I suppose, in reality, there are only a handful of people that anyone would want to discuss something like rape with in any detail. It's not something you want everyone you meet to know the smallest detail about but, having said that, beyond the handful of people closest to you, there is a larger circle of friends that you kind of wish just did know. To understand, to be there and to just 'get it'. But nobody can 'just know' and you have to go through the heart wrenching decision of how, when and if to share the facts and, then, how much do you share? And even then, you have to be ready for almost any and every reaction possible........it can be a huge hug, some may cry, others just look back in silence and don't know what to say leaving a very awkward situation. And there is no going back. It's no wonder so many people suffer in silence and don't say anything to anyone....just burying it underneath everyday routines and accepting that things will never change for them.
I find that such a sad situation. I suppose it's what I did for almost twenty years. I knew I hadn't dealt with things but it was easier just to carry on muddling through, ignoring some of the difficulties I encountered that, looking back, were blatantly caused by the trauma. I had no idea that after all this time it was even possible for PTSD to suddenly strike me as it did. It was so frightening. I felt like I had been taken over, I had no control over my thoughts and the flashbacks were so realisitic, bringing back memories I didn't know I had and using all my senses to show me that I remembered more than I could ever have imagined.
It took a lot to speak to my GP, but I did and, after 12 months of waiting and screening I have now just started my treatment with a consultant psychologist. I will see her every week for an hour for as long as it takes. It's more than scary and before my first appointment last week I struggled to hold back the tears and the panic....but that's OK. I know I am strong enough to deal with this now and to meet it head on. Last week we started working on a timeline and we got up to age 13. Which means this afternoon I have to relive, in detail, that day, that attack, that rape. It's something I have tried to hide from since the day it happened but today I will take the deepest breath and put myself back in that situation as a 13 year old. I know I have to do it so that I can finally move on.
I haven't written this post because I want pity, sympathy, attention or anything else. In fact I'm not concerned if no one comments at all. My hope is that my experiences just may help someone else who is struggling in a similar way. There are so many people coping with symptoms alone, thinking they are unable to reach out and take that next step. Even if I can only help one person to realise that other people understand their symptoms and have experienced what they are going through then I consider sharing my story to be worthwhile.