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After I had my second child, I thought I had post-natal depression. I’d been diagnosed with depression about 10 years ago, so I just thought it was the same. The thing was I knew there was something else happening to me.
My fear was through the roof, I would get triggered by the smallest thing but they didn’t make me feel down, they made me feel scared for my life.
I couldn’t understand what was going on, why I was scared to even leave the house without someone close being with me. This didn’t feel like I was depressed, yes I was down but something else was going on. For a while, I thought maybe it was anxiety but that didn’t make sense either.
I would have these episodes where I thought I was going to die but more like someone was holding a gun to my head like I was in a horror film and I had to fight for my life.
These episodes could last for hours, sometimes days, where I would feel exhausted from the fear and panic.
The scary part was I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling like this, I knew I was being triggered but by what?
Them someone told me they thought I had complex PTSD. Straight away I read everything I could about this. I found out that what was happening to me was an emotional flashback.
This is where an emotional event is triggered in you, by something that is said or happened and you go back to the traumatic event and feel all the emotions you felt like it was happening right now.
So you may not get any visual flashback but your body thinks it is happening to you at that moment.
After going to the doctors and confirming that I did have complex PTSD, I thought everything would be OK now I had my diagnosis. But this wasn’t the case. It turns out that not many people know how to treat complex PTSD. It’s hard to understand and they just put me on really strong antidepressants, which didn’t really help me at all.
I was getting triggered every day, plus I was also started getting visual flashbacks as well. This helped me understand why I had this. I knew I grew up in a violent and toxic family but because I thought I had forgiven them, I didn’t think this could be what was causing my illness.
However, with complex PTSD, you can’t simply forgive someone and think it will no longer affect you. Yes forgiveness is amazing but this is a psychological injury, your body is reacting to trauma over and over again. It’s like it is happening to you, you have no control over it (until you start healing with the right tools of course)
So this is really where my journey began, it turns out I’ve had PTSD for a very long time, just no one, including myself, recognised the symptoms.
Complex PTSD is different from PTSD, as it is caused by trauma that has been sustained in childhood, over a long period of time.
Hence it is complex because it isn’t caused by one single event. This makes it hard to treat because sometimes you don’t even know what events caused it, you may have blocked them out of forgotten them.
For so long I felt like I had no hope, everyone told me that you can’t cure PTSD, you have it for life.
Which is heartbreaking when you have just been diagnosed with it.
Other people would tell me not to label myself like I was wearing my diagnoses like a badge of honour.
It felt like no one could understand the horror of my daily life.
I took me about 5 months to get therapy, which helped a lot but I wouldn’t say it cured me. The great thing about therapy is that someone listens to your story, with compassion and understanding.
However, I didn’t know how to stop these flashbacks.
The scariest flashback I had was when my father tried to kill me, he had strangled me because he was drunk and my mum wasn’t home yet. That was obviously a valid reason to hurt me.
It sounds like something out of a film or something now and sometimes I wonder if it ever really happened (unfortunately it did happen). He is an alcoholic, so of course, he has no memory of this.
I had thought I’d forgiven him; I was a loving and caring daughter because I had so much empathy for him, as his dad was also violent.
The thing was this empathy towards him meant I was neglecting myself. It was like my body and mind was trying to scream at me that I hadn’t dealt with this. I needed to listen to myself and put myself first.
For so long I was one of these people who thought that I could change someone and get their approval by being nice to them.
This was never going to happen.
So during therapy, I made the decision that I had to stop seeing my family permanently. I hadn’t seen them for a fair few months and this was the only real thing that made a big difference in my life.
My visual flashbacks stopped and I was getting better.
The problem was when I told my mum she started threatening me. She told me she would get my kids taken off me, she even called social services.
All my progress went out the window and I was back to having more and more episodes. I actually think this was harder for me to deal with than my dad.
He stayed out of it all, well he simply txt me to tell me I was a liar but that was to be expected.
This was probably the most heartbreaking thing I have ever gone through. Your mum is supposed to protect you and it was bad enough that she stayed with a violent man who hit her children, now she was standing up for him and abandoning me.
So I went back to being scared to leave the house, I think I spent most of last year in my pyjamas! It felt like nothing could save me and no matter how much love I had in my life, I felt empty.
I turned to alcohol to numb my pain, most of my life last year was a blur and I didn’t want to deal with the pain. I pushed everyone away, that’s what happens when you are emotionally unavailable.
In December my partner left me.
More heartbreak and abandonment.
It felt like I had lost everything and in a way I had.
But I still had my children and I knew I had to be strong for them. I wanted them to have a different life and the only way I could do that was to heal.
It was at that point I realised I could either carry on down the same path and let this ruin my life or I could be brave and choose a different one.
I guess sometimes when you lose the people you really do love, it can be a huge wake-up call!
Looking back I have no idea where I got the strength from but I did and I started my healing journey.
It’s now been 9 months and I’m actually happy with my life. I haven’t had a flashback for months. I hardly ever get triggered and when I do I recognise it and I can deal with it quickly. I’ve had my moments and in the beginning, it was hard but it gets easier every day.
I’ve been off my medication for half a year now and I’ve only had a drink 4 times this year.
Not using substances for hiding your pain is hard, you have to face up to your shadow and trauma but it’s worth it.
I’ve worked bloody hard to get to this point and I’m so proud of myself. I can’t even imagine being that person who is scared to leave the house.
But healing trauma is a process and I know I still have work to do.
It’s not something you can work on once and it’s done, you have to look after yourself every day.
That is my biggest piece of advice, work on yourself every day! This means self-care, meditation, yoga, walking, anything that brings you joy and peace.
You have to rebuild your life, no matter what mental health illness you have!!
Also having the right help too, therapy and counselling is a great way to help you figure out what caused your PTSD (I’m actually still doing counselling because it helps me a lot).
Using energy clearing techniques (I use EFT every day) to help release these memories is what has made the biggest difference in my life.
Letting go of my painful past was hard, it was part of my identity, it was my story but it is so freeing that I have.
I thought I was stuck with this forever but it’s been 3 years since I was diagnosed and I feel comfortable saying I no longer suffer from PTSD symptoms.
Life is exciting to me and no longer scary, I never thought I’d say that!!
It’s not an easy ride; it’s hard and filled with ups and downs.
I still feel sad sometimes, thinking about how much pain I lived with and how much PTSD affected my life. Some moments I even think it ruined my life. But these are passing moments because I feel like I truly love the person I am and I wouldn’t be this person if I hadn’t gone through what I had.
It’s about accepting all parts of you and loving even the ugly parts.
I’d rather be whole than goodCarl Jung
So many people live with mental illness and it can feel like we should be ashamed of this, I know I do sometimes.
However, know you are not alone. If I got through all this, then I believe anyone can heal, if they have the right help.
I went from feeling suicidal every day, to not wanting to miss one second of life.
I’ve wanted to share my story for a long time now but I never felt brave enough before this moment. It feels scary sharing the hardest parts of my life but I know how important awareness is. I want people to have hope that you can heal.
Please do reach out to me here if you have any questions and seek professional help if you feel suicidal.
You don’t have to do this alone!