Broken

** DISCLAIMER**

This is going to be a highly personal, highly sensitive post. It’s not pretty.
Feel free to look away … I won’t take offense. Lighter subjects next week. Promise.

 

Many of you have noticed, when the subject of rape comes up I get VERY vocal. I believe there to be a special circle of hell reserved for those to find rape to be a subject worth joking about. I’ve worked in crisis centers, and spent countless hours consoling and supporting and weeping with those it’s happened to. I can honestly say to them I know what they’re going through. After all, it happened to me when I was 15.

But this isn’t about rape. It’s about living with it.

The first 2 years after, I ignored it, as if it would go away. Then I got numb. Then I started having trouble. Trouble that was hard to pin down, but real all the same. It took 3 years to convince a doctor that the issues I was experiencing were real. Are real. (SIDE NOTE: NEVER let a doctor tell you that your mental issues are made up. Find a new doctor. And another new doctor. And another. Until you find someone willing to treat you with respect.)

Ultimately, I was diagnosed with PTSD at age 20.

Today, 8 years after my diagnosis, PTSD still isn’t widely recognized. There are still doctors that don’t believe it’s real. There are conflicting studies that say it’s a physical condition (these are interesting to me … that extreme trauma can actually change your physiology) and those that say it’s a mental condition. And those that say it’s nothing at all. (Those INFURIATE me.)

The problem seems to be that it affects everyone differently.

For me, there are recurring nightmares. (I literally have to … as the APW ladies I spent last Thursday night with found out … warn everyone I share a bed with.) An increased tendency to fall headfirst into deep depression. And a HUGELY altered fight-and-flight response. I now have  an extremely quick temper, and at the same time can be sobbing with fear at just the slightest provocation. (A good example – if my husband is driving and stops short my heart goes into overdrive and I have a hard time breathing. It’s an insanely exaggerated response.) Plus a host of other super fun anxiety issues that pop up at inopportune times. I once (7 years ago) had a night terror … that an  unfortunate boyfriend chose to wake me up out of. Apparently I was screaming in my sleep, and when he woke me up I couldn’t recognize him … so I kept screaming. It was the single most terrifying thing I have ever been though. Thank GOD that was a one time occurence.

Having a support system, that knows what’s going on, helps. My husband is a saint for what he puts up with and helps me through. Various drugs have been tried … but they all seem to help some symptoms, and worsen others. The trade-off, for me, isn’t worth it. So we continue along.

I generally don’t talk about it. It’s a burden, and sets me apart, as people begin to see me as “broken”. But I’ve begun to realize … it’s something that NEEDS to be talked about. Because there ISN’T any dialog about it. The little that IS out there is military-centric. And even that is crap. A friend who works for the Army got me an advance copy of a new book about living with combat PTSD. The advice in the book? “It’s all in your head. If you try hard enough, you’ll beat it.”

Um, fuck off.

The rates of people living with this are low, but still. If even one person has this, and can’t find examples of hope (that aren’t “just try harder!”), we’ve failed. And with a condition that has huge suicide rates for those affected? Adding anxiety, adding a feeling of being broken, not offering hope? It feels like you’re taking those people and just leaving them for dead.

Living with a condition that no one fully understands is HARD. Not only do you deal with what it means for you day-in-and-day-out, but you deal with the ostracization from the rest of the world.

So I’m choosing to put myself out there. To tell my story. To show that no matter how fucking hard it is, you CAN go on living. Even when it’s terrible. Even when it feels hopeless.

Because even when you FEEL broken, NO ONE deserves to be CALLED broken.

** Please, go read this TIME article. It was published today, after I wrote. But it’s perfect.**

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11 Responses to “Broken”

  1. I’m so sorry for what you’ve gone through and what you’re going through now. I fully agree about the special circle of hell.

    There are so many people in the world affected by mental conditions (I believe it actually has the highest toll in terms of quality of life on a population level) it’s hard to believe how much stigma and dismissal still exists. I thought PTSD was fairly accepted, but apparently not by the medical community. Or even the regular community. So thank you for sharing with us, because only talking about it openly will help shed light.

    • PTSD, in my experience, is only accepted as a part of military life. I’ve had several people tell me that I COULDN’T have it, because it’s something only soldiers get. Which just adds a layer of hurt onto those that are struggling, I think.

      I agree completely with the quality of life bit. Anxiety disorders are so, so difficult to live with, and so difficult to “fix” even in the short term. And somehow they became a mark of shame. It’s no wonder people don’t talk about it, when a common response is “oh whatever, it’s just stress. Suck it up.”

  2. Thank you for being wildly brave in writing this. I can’t imagine what it would be like to function through it all, but this goes to show how strong you are. You rock.

  3. YES. Also, I’m incredibly angry that you still get treated like PTSD isn’t real. It’s so real, and it affects so many of us today (and yesterday, and yesteryear) that it’s so important to acknowledge.

    You’re brave and wonderful.

  4. Also very angry that you have been dismissed. So brave to talk about this. I have always believed that sharing our stories saves not only us, but others.

  5. A week late. 🙂

    Well said, brave lady. I’m so glad you posted this. I’ve always tried to talk openly about my history of anxiety and depression, as well as OCD (which oddly, I’m way more uncomfortable sharing), and just general insanity. It’s good to have it in the open, but I still feel–even among my friends–like I’ve been stigmatized because of it. But, because I believe it fits right into Brene Brown’s shame theory, I still share, share, share. The truth is, all of us have some kind of problem. We’ve all had shit happen to us that’s shaped us–physically, emotionally, psychologically. But all of us have had different challenges than others. And sometimes when you haven’t experienced something for yourself it makes those who have an “other.” And empathy does NOT come easy to a lot of individuals, and even more unfortunately, the medical community at large. Sigh. I wish I had something more positive to add, but I guess I just wanted to say I affirm you! What you’ve experienced is completely real and valid, and people need to open their eyes to that.

    Hugs.

    • ::hugs right back::

      And it’s true. Which, I think, makes it so difficult for everyone. If people could just be honest with others … and with THEMSELVES, we might just be able to help each other.

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