I recently started blogging again after a break that came shortly after my sense of security was severely threatened and sent me into horrible flashbacks. I wrote about my life in poverty and a specific instance of me using government assistance and how difficult it can be. I wanted people to understand because I kept thinking “if people only knew.”
Right now my mind is at war. I want to die with each horrible flashback wave that crashes me. I have PTSD from a very complex and expansive abusive past and recently another trigger has come and every time I close my eyes, I am brutally attacked and transported to a very traumatic time in my life. My tears that sometimes reach the surface do little to cleanse. I forget where I am each time the flashback comes. As I try my best to hold on and stay in the present moment, sitting up at times because the pain is physical as well and I feel nauseated as if I am literally being teleported through time and space and once again I find myself thinking “if people only knew”–no–“I wish people knew.”
Sometimes like now the pain is so unbearable, physically and mentally, that I can barely move or think and I have a moment of wishing for just five seconds, an infinitesimly small fraction of what I endure, everyone in the world could feel this horrible pain that I am feeling. This doesn’t come from malice or anger, but from desperation; I want people to know and understand. Describing my life in poverty was so much easier. Can I even begin to explain the horror of my mental illness? Of my lasting scars from my trauma?
I’ve been doing great lately with the exception of money stress. I wake up at 5:30 and do yoga for an hour every morning. People comment on how much muscle I’ve gained and it’s only been a little over a month. I also haven’t had any caffeine and after several years of a vegetarian lifestyle, made the plunge into full vegan and it works. I’m taking time for myself and loving myself and reconnecting with my inner selves. We are at peace. I’m reading so many books that have called to me from all sorts of religions and spiritual ideals. My awareness is ever expanding and the light within me growing. I’m in therapy again and being the best model for self care and spirituality. Unfortunately, to my dismay, flashbacks still come.
I like simplicity and things that are easy to do and understand. By nature I am lazy. No shame. I’m like a sloth. I like the simple life. I like quick and easy fixes and questions with straightforward answers. It’s why I like math. 1+1 always equals two and anyone you ask will typically give you the same answer. Therefore you must understand there is something so powerful and strong that moves me against my nature to wake up early and practice yoga instead of sleeping in, to meditate and surrender instead of running my hamster wheel mind, to read book after book instead of browse mindlessly on social media, to read ingredient labels instead of eat whatever, to live like I do instead of the sloth I am.
Self care for all is so important. Self care for those who suffer from trauma scars of PTSD is vital for survival. We are in combat and cannot fight if we are already weakened by poor diet, little rest (as I hypocritically write late instead of sleep knowing my alarm will go off at 5:30 so I can yoga), or other vulnerabilities. What or where is this war we are fighting? With all mental illness, in our minds. PTSD is unique though in that it is actually an injury. The trauma we suffered was so mentally horrific that it injured our minds. For me, it is very much physical as well as mental.
What does any of this tell you though? Most of this you probably already knew, but you do not know PTSD.
This time my trigger was a person; someone new started to attend my church. My subconscious has made a strong connection between this lady and one of my worst abusers. This lady at church is a complete stranger and has begun to use the nursery I work and help with. I smile and am friendly as I am with all people, but I can barely do it with her. For others its genuine and natural to act this way. I’m told I can befriend anyone. It’s true. However, I see this lady and my whole body tenses. I want to throw up. I start to enter fight mode and I want to attack her. I reassure my inner self we are safe and this lady is not my abuser. It’s enough to stay composed but I become agitated. I start to pick at the skin by my nail beds, or figit, break eye contact, lose my ability to consentrate; I start to disassociate.
People can’t tell. My trained trauma counselor, Yoda (my nickname for her which she is unaware), could and when I disassociated during our last session and she caught it and brought me out, it was a very unsettling and vulnerable feeling. However most people can’t pick up on the subtlies of my dissociation. I begin to leave or completely teleport and no one can tell.
At home it hits me harder. The flashbacks come. Nighttime they are worse as I lay down. Each time I close my eyes I am teleported. I am there. It’s not a memory; it’s time travel–that is if time travel was invented to torture.
I jump from time to time, back and forth. I try to keep my eyes open. I blink fast. Not quick enough. I try to play music to make me cry and purge these painful memories and thoughts quicker. It doesn’t work. It’s background music for the ride. I am so sure I will throw up one of these times. I feel disoriented. I feel confused. I want someone. I want to talk to someone. I want someone to hold me. At the same time I want noone; I trust noone. I feel so vulnerable. I reassure my inner child and self we are safe. I mentally hug and hold onto her. Then I pray. I call to God despretly. This is why I’ve never been able to let go of God. In this moment, I need a god. I believe if anyone was going through this, in that moment even the most convicted non believer would cry out to God. Intense suffering has a way of making you a believer.
Sunday night when this happened, I slipped from my flashbacks into a nightmare filled slumber. It was so bad at one point I heard a voice rather outside of me but much my own say, “Liz, Liz, wake up. You are dreaming. Wake up,” and I awoke heart pounding and out of breath. Wake up Liz.
Flashbacks put me to sleep even when my eyes are open. I walk in a dream and can scarce tell the difference. The next day I smile and start to feel fine. Sometimes I forget I am a trauma survivor, but it never lasts long before a smell, a person, a word, a gesture, a song, a sound, a feeling will trigger a flashback and I’m there all over again. I start to feel normal and like I don’t need help until I am harshly reminded I can’t do this alone.
PTSD sucks. Being a survivor sucks. People admire my story and how much I survived but for me, I’m still fighting. I feel isolated and alone. How can I tell someone that lady reminds me of my abuser and have that mean anything? And if I did, no one would know what to say. “I’m sorry,” would more than likely be their unhelpful, but well intended response.
Maybe I’m not saying it right. I just don’t know how else to say it.
I was a victim of trauma. Now I survive and fight for recovery every single day. I fight to stay a survivor instead of relapsing and fall victim again. I am constantly teleported to horrific times in my life and no one ever knows even though I’m surrounded by people. I feel so isolated because of my trauma. I never know what could trigger me and I fight fear every single day. When I am triggered by multiple things close to each other, all I want to do is hide.
I’m learning not to hide, though. I’m learning how to welcome these memories and release them instead of resist. Though I am a sloth, I climb mountains every day to seek understanding and enlightenment and peace. I work hard so that one day I can help others with my wisdom and knowledge. This is greater than my desire for an easy life and quick fix.
If only people understood. PTSD is a bitch.