Category Archives: PTSD

BooHooWho

This is the only place where I feel the power of having a voice. The blank page listens to me. It gives me its full attention. I feel heard.

It would be unfair of me – as well as a cognitive distortion  – to say “no one ever listens to me”. But I’m going to be upfront: this is the first thing that pops into my head when someone I want to hear me, doesn’t. My immediate emotional reaction to a present instance of not being heard, that frustration – and on a much deeper level, hurt, because not being listened to is being rejected – colors my perception of the event, and it is added to a long narrative of other such events which resemble it in any way, no matter how small. The only thing needed to set off the telling of this particular Tale of Injustice Against Me is a little tap on that button there, which got hit when this not-getting-listened-to business bounced in unexpectedly.

So there in my brain is this entire unfolded saga and every stab of the knife of the central emotions is happening at once, it’s on however many flickering movie screens in that space in my consciousness that’s so close to the world it almost feels outside of me, each screen supercharged with fermented, risen-from-the-dead painful emotion. And all those rotting zombie emotions get together and form a groaning horde, focused on only one end: To eat my brain.

Because now everything I see is colored by this fucked-up perception, so I am not seeing clearly, and if I’m not seeing clearly, I’m not thinking clearly. Not only has the current event been distorted, it’s been tossed into a pit with however many other events where it will endlessly reanimate when new, fresh meat is thrown onto the pile. And rest assured, it will be – because the bigger the pile, the more I’m going to see this negative theme in every interaction. I’ll actually ignore the good things to look for it.

That is, unless I can recognize that this happens. Recognize the distortion, the generalizations of “never”, of “always”… These words are usually good indicators that maybe I need to take a look at the evidence. And if I look at what is real, and not just what I perceive in my moment of pique, I find that actually, quite a few people have listened to me. There have been many people who have, in fact, heard me. So while the zombie horde of emotional baggage wants to pull me into the Victim Dimension, I know that I do not belong there.

And because I can free myself from this vortex of the Woe Is Me Narrative my brain is for all its might attempting to suck me into, I am able to figure out that actually, in this particular instance, it’s just that the people I want to hear me, aren’t. There could be any number of reasons for that. Some of those reasons may have nothing at all to do with me. And just because they don’t hear me now, doesn’t mean they never will. This may be a situation that can be remedied. It may even be an opportunity to learn something – if only how not to get triggered when Life hits one of your sore spots.

Of course, this is all well and good when you’re able to think things through. That doesn’t always happen though, does it?

Coming soon: The Trigger Plan…

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I Think You Just Don’t Want To Be Happy

Hey EVERYBODY!

I think that this unhappiness thing is just getting out of hand. I mean, c’mon. You’ve been skulking around here FOREVER. It’s like, SO obvious what you need to do. I think you know that. But I’m your friend. Your pal. Your buddy. So I will happily remind you. You’re doing this to yourself, you know that, right? You really just need to get out of your head and…

FORGET GRANDMA!

Yeah, she was nice and all, and like, related to you or whatever so she was around a lot, but still – never, ever, EVER think of her again. No holiday visits. No birthday presents. If you smell a cookie and it smells like hers and you involuntarily think of her cookies which automatically before you can control it leads to remembering that time you made those cookies with her? You see what you’re doing here. And you see that you’re doing it to yourself, right?

I’m telling you:

FORGET GRANDMA. NEVER THINK ABOUT GRANDMA AGAIN.

Also, don’t think about your parents. Or your siblings. Or any pet you had, or any house you lived in, or any kid you knew in school. Don’t dream about them either. Especially don’t dream about them. Because, really, if you dream about them? What good are you doing? You need to control that shit. You need to focus. Mind over matter.

Don’t think about classes you took, schools you went to, foreign lands you visited, books you’ve read, clothes you used to have, shows you used to like. In fact, you need to forget everything that ever happened to you. Seriously, man. Forget the past, will you? You’re fucking STUCK there, jeez. We ALL see it, and we really think you have issues. It’s like you WANT to have problems. Do you even WANT to be happy?

Oh, shit. Hold the phone, folks —

Sorry, but, uh… I just looked at my notes here.

Apparently, when I said “EVERYONE”, I was supposed to say “People with PTSD”, and when I said “GRANDMA”, I was supposed to say “the trauma you experienced”.

Otherwise, the advice is exactly the same, and it will work JUST AS WELL.

Whew. Fixed it.

(Hey! Thanks for checking out Armchair Therapy, where people who lack self-awareness counsel you about your own problems before tending to their own!  The moral of today’s story: Telling people with PTSD that they “seem stuck in the past” is a stellar comedy premise, truly. I mean, thinking that people can forget their entire lives by sheer power of will! COMEDY GOLD. If only Mitzi were alive for this, sniff (RIP, Babe). But hey, take part in the “Armchair Therapy Challenge” and give forgetting your life a shot! And please, write in to let us know how you do – oh, wait, you won’t be able to, because if you succeed, then you won’t remember reading this. Well, pin a note on your shirt for someone else to do it, okay? Armchair Therapy – if you don’t have an armchair, a broken futon will do!)

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Air and Light and Time and Space

“You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred.”

– Superchicken, cartoon superhero

Everyone champions the cause of the minimum wage worker, saying you cannot survive and you can barely subsist on minimum wage.

Everyone champions the cause of the waitress who makes $2.13 an hour and relies on tips to barely make ends meet.

No one champions the cause of the disabled girl who has to work in the adult industry because she is not employable due to a psychotic break over a decade ago (making progress but still recovering) who makes $1.25 an hour with no possibility of tips.

A lot of people speak up for adult industry workers, saying they deserve the same rights and protections as any other workers do, and should never be exploited or put in a position they do not want to be in. A lot of people speak up for victims of sexual assault and assert they should be shielded from things that might be disturbing or unearth bad memories by the availability of ‘trigger warnings’ that will alert the reader or viewer that emotionally incendiary material looms ahead.

And yet, interestingly, no one speaks up for the disabled girl triggered daily by the exploitative nature of her adult industry work, the stigma that she experiences because of it, the painful and destructive cross-pollination of it with her traumatic history, and the despair that comes from finding no hope that anything other than her present reality will ever be possible. No one attempts to shield her from the psychological damage. There are no trigger warnings. The entirety of existence could be called a trigger.

These conditions have the ability to quite fluidly draw one to the presumptive conclusion that only a certain kind of victim matters, and only a certain kind of victim is eligible to receive assistance or compassion. This train of thought goes mag-lev when the effects of continual abuse come into play. Surety in the belief that one is defective and legitimately despicable soon follows – or more accurately, is reawakened, since that is the message that lifelong abuse has already emblazoned upon the abused’s brain.

Despite herself, despite some days when every fiber of her being rebels or threatens to implode or otherwise self-destruct, this disabled girl persists. She endures. She pushes on and survives, and does not even understand, sometimes, why she does it. The only reason she can find is that she does it for the people she loves. She doesn’t want anyone she holds in her heart to carry the grief that she does. She doesn’t want to leave anyone broken. And she wants to give others the benefit of whatever meager lessons she may have learned along the way. She wants to do something to redeem the pain and the regret and the shame and the darkness. She wants to help others in those ways that she wishes she would have – could have – been helped.

It’s rough going sometimes, this silk-purse-from-a-sow’s-ear vision. And frankly, some days it’s difficult and overwhelming and it seems quite fruitless. But these feelings, this hopelessness, it’s all part of the Business of Survival when you carry a certain set of bags. It’s the landscape you have to traverse sometimes when you choose The Long Journey over The Quick Exit.

So, on those days when it seems useless, when it seems an impossible task to continue, she digs in with her fingernails and hangs on. Because she knows that nothing lasts forever. This, too, shall pass. Not the conditions of her existence, no:  not the crushing despair, nor the shit job, nor the feeling like no one cares – and don’t even think that the poisoned roots of the past will miraculously release themselves from their purchases deep beneath the Earth’s surface without considerable effort and heavy machinery. These things won’t just magically disappear into the ether. They will still exist. But they will be Over There. Out of focus, not today’s issue, that’s Future Chick’s problem, dude. And what will also happen is that easier times will return. It may not seem like it at that low moment, but the sun will break through the dark clouds once again and she will feel its warmth. She’s seen this happen too many times not to have faith in that. That she lives and breathes is proof of it.

So, in the meantime – see, there’s a reason why they call it meantime, yeah? – she sits down with another coffee, because she read somewhere that it only takes a single cup of coffee to keep you from killing yourself, and she’s found this to be true. (Not that she feels like killing herself today. It’s just a good fact to know, man. It’s News You Can Use.) She channels the troubling shit out thru her fingers and onto the keyboard, trying not to sound too dramatic (trying, though probably not succeeding) because at this point in her life trotting out the Grand Guignol when it’s not an emergency feels tedious, unnecessary, and a bit too Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf. She does, however, allow herself the hideous indulgence of writing about herself in the third person. Because EMOTIONS.

She lets out a big sigh. Takes a swig of Diet Pepsi to chase the coffee. Lights up a cigarette (tsk tsk), and selects a podcast from one of the comedians she loves because comedy can save – it’s saved her more times than she can count – and the conversation will steer her thoughts away from the detritus of which they are currently composed.

And then damned if that crazy bitch doesn’t get on with her day.

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Suspended in Amber & Slipping Through Cracks

11 years ago I had a total psychotic break. It lasted for 4 months. I was never hospitalized.

Instead, I ended up homeless and living in a garage where, my first morning there, my adoptive sister tried to choke me out and had to be pulled off of me. This was because I was not able to drive her daughter to the bus stop less than a block away. Because I was in psychosis. I got choked because I could not drive because I was in psychosis and therefore not safe to drive, because you kind of need a sense of reality to drive, at least in some cases.

I lived in the garage for 2 months, sleeping on a couch with bad springs, surrounded by my boxes of possessions that had come from the apartment I’d lost, the nicest apartment I’d ever lived in, the place I still think of as home. It was winter, and the electricity was shut off because this garage was attached to the house my adoptive sister was renting, and she decided to move out. No, she didn’t care that there was an ill person subsisting in the garage. She left, and I was there with no electricity, freezing cold in the dark, still coming down from the psychotic break.

I was given medication that made me sleep over 15 hours a day and gain 50 lbs. There was no therapy. That would come later, in false starts, with bad therapists, including one who would tell me, based on my history of chronic abuse and trauma, “You will never be happy, and you will never be functional”, because that was apparently her version of therapeutic. Those words still haunt me to this day. I wonder, was she right?

I moved from the garage into an attic apartment that was infested by rats that ran by me as I slept on the floor. From there I found an apartment that I was able to afford on disability – I could afford exactly rent and electric and nothing more. My adoptive sister tried to have me evicted from this apartment, by calling and lodging many false complaints against me, saying that she could smell my cats in her apartment next door – she of course did not live next door and the entire thing was a lie – and had a couple of her friends call pretending to be other neighbors with the same complaint. She did this because I caught her stealing my mom’s Oxycontin on Christmas Eve, and I was honest with my mother about what had happened. What would you have done? Protected the person who broke into your mother’s home to steal her pain medication that she desperately needed, or be honest about what happened? I did the latter, and was nearly homeless again as a result.

Over the next decade, a lot of things happened. Doctors denied me my medication. I couldn’t find a psychiatrist – none in the area were taking patients – there literally was not a single psychiatrist taking insurance who would accept a new patient in the entire city. A psychiatrist fired me, because I complained about the therapist who said I’d never be happy or functional (she worked in the same office, and I told the office manager, who yelled at me. I was fired for “noncompliance”.) My adoptive sister systematically brought my elderly parents down with a thousand tiny cuts and several hundred deep ones, a constant supply of stress and threats and ultimatums if they did not do as she wished. My father died suddenly. My mother dissolved into profound grief and heartbreak from which she never recovered. I could do nothing to help, because I was so sick, and because I had no control over what happened to her, no way to stop the machinations of evil that my sister (and now her daughter) perpetrated on my fragile mom.

And I had no financial means to help, either. My father had died leaving only a very small insurance policy that was quickly eaten up by cremation expenses and bills and an ill-fated used car purchase that my mother insisted on making because she wanted me to have a safe vehicle. The car was a lemon. I should never have let her do it. I tried to argue against it. I look back now and I am sickened that I allowed her to spend money that should have been kept for her own well-being on something to benefit me. It makes me disgusted with myself, and ashamed.

My rent increased each year, and continued to increase. Each year the struggle to get by became more difficult.  A dear friend offered to move in to help out. I accepted, giving him the bedroom I never used, because due to my PTSD, I could only sleep in the living room, where the front door is, because what if someone broke in and I didn’t hear it? My hyper-vigilance demanded this accommodation, even though now I really wish I had a bedroom.

Then my mom died. I lost my best friend.

None of the therapists I saw could help me. None of them ever even brought up my psychotic break. You’d think that would be a topic of conversation at some point, but apparently, no. I went therapist to therapist, searching for someone who would understand, and also, for someone who would fucking listen. Because these therapists all shared the same trait: they’d listen to the first part, then assume they knew everything, and ‘give advice’ based on that. Which, you know, first off, giving advice is not really therapy. Anyone can give advice. If that worked, no one would need therapy. Secondly, I’ve been through so many things, and there is so much detail to all of them because of the way my mind has processed these things, that I am like an onion, with many layers, and all of those layers need to be taken into account. You can’t read a few pages of a book and know the story.

They would also try to fit me into some pre-fab notion of what a “normal person” is, instead of helping me to understand and accept who it is that I actually am, and work with THAT person, with the person I actually happen to be and not the person they thought I should be. Any treatment plan based on changing who I am as a person will fail. A successful treatment plan is one that works with my strengths, works on my weaknesses, gives me tools to deal with real situations that arise. A treatment plan based in reality. None of these people had it. One therapist even told me that my treatment plan was “none of [my] business”.

During all of this time, I have not once had the time to recuperate, to heal, to process what I went through. I have not been successful in efforts to build a routine again, to be part of the world again. Because I have been struggling financially, always stressed about how to pay things, how to get heavy things like kitty litter HERE because I have no car, how to supplement the unsustainable amount that has not grown commensurate with inflation. And I have been struggling, every day, with just how to get through the day, when I am plagued by flashbacks of lifelong abuse by so many different people, and jarred by so many bad memories, and self-recriminations for things I should have done differently, things I did wrong, things for which I should be and am ashamed. In short, struggling to stay on the planet. To stay alive.

Through this I have been fumbling, trying in vain to create a routine to follow, to do things that are healthy and “self-care”, to right my thinking on my own since I have no professional assistance that is not derelict*; trying fruitlessly to fight the bad voices that make me despair and try to convince me to just give up. I have kept going, my knuckles white from gripping onto whatever might tether me to this realm.

The truth of it is, though, that I have spent 11 years in this living room, not getting better.

I have tried so hard to get better. I have done so many different things. I have adjusted my attitude – as much as someone with severe mental illness can – so many times.

I’m not getting better. I have never had a chance to get better.

I have never heard of someone who had a psychotic break who was not hospitalized. But then there’s me. This makes sense, though. Because I was in a car wreck where I was thrown 75 feet and no one even bothered to check me for a concussion. And all the bad experiences with doctors in general – from psychiatric to medical. A continual pattern of disregard.

Things like this, they give me the message that I really, and truly, do not matter.

I wish more than anything I could have just a few months, where I didn’t have to worry about financial survival, where I could actually and finally focus on getting well, or at least better. Where I could look again for a therapist and hopefully find a good one, and concentrate on going to therapy a few times a week. Focus on building a new routine, a new life. Find myself again, in such a way that I don’t disappear and I don’t fall apart every morning, the way I do now.

Because right now, every morning of every day, I wake up a sobbing shambles, a complete mess, paralyzed, not sure what to do, and haunted by so much bad shit in my brain that it physically hurts. The anxiety is so bad I have to take a benzo and then I have to ingest huge amounts of caffeine to stay awake, and also to keep myself awash in enough temporary dopamine that I don’t just say, “That’s it, I’m done, I can’t do this anymore.”

I’m on all the medication that they can give me. So many pills. It does work. It does its job. But it isn’t enough. You can’t just medicate trauma away, you can’t medicate your brain into processing and parsing things and assimilating them into your narrative in such a way that you can go on comfortably.

They always say, if you are down, ask for help. Reach out. I have done that, over and over again. I have done that to the point where I now wonder, have they changed the spelling or the pronunciation of the word “help” and I just didn’t get the memo? Am I speaking the correct language? Or is it as I suspect, deep down, that when it comes down to it, I really don’t matter?

Eleven years have passed away, been wasted, sitting in this living room on this futon upon which I sleep. I don’t want it to be this way. I am willing to put in the work, and I have been from the very start – ever since I tried to kill myself the first time when I was 8 years old, and no one believed that I was depressed because a person is supposed to pull themselves up by those bootstraps, those fucking bootstraps that every mentally ill person would love to brandish at the people who suggest that the Road to Wellness is merely a matter of eschewing some indolence they seem to think we have.

Motherfucker, if I could pull up some metaphorical out-of-current-parlance item to fix myself, don’t you think I would have done that ELEVEN YEARS AGO? Because who among us wants eleven years of their life to just disappear with nothing to show for them? Who?

I have spent time focusing on small problems in order to avoid the biggest one, the hydra-headed one that follows me around like the dust cloud follows Pig-Pen from Peanuts. But all problems lead to one end, and it is this one. The Big One.

I never had time to get better. And so I never have. And things just keep getting more and more log-jammed, in my head, and in my life, and I am overwhelmed.

I am studying coding, in an attempt to make something of this life. But I know that unless I get the actual Life stuff sorted out, it’s not going to help. I have to be a person who is reliable and focused, not someone who has to put themselves back together every morning from scratch.

How the fuck will I ever get there, when my main focus must be survival? What I have to do to survive, it’s not healthy for me in myriad ways. And better still, people judge me harshly for doing it. A cherry atop the melted sundae of all the thoughts of the potential I had as a child, and the possibility of what might have been.

It’s hard sometimes to hear parents discuss parenting with other parents. They are all so focused on their children’s welfare. Their lives appear to be centered around parenting, and being parents. They think about things like which school is best, and how it will affect their child’s future. Their kids are involved in school activities and have friends and don’t have to lie about the stuff that happens at home. And their kids don’t seem to be randomly insulted by people on the street for no reason. It’s like, if I squint my mind’s eye I can almost see that kind of life, where every day is the same, there is a routine and you follow it, and you make progress in things, and your parents know what’s going on in your schooling, and the idea of you going to college isn’t considered ridiculous or impossible or simply “off the table” but instead a real fucking thing. Where you say “I want to do this creative thing for a living” and you don’t hear back, “You’ll never make a living doing that” as the very first response to your giving voice to a dream. Where you know how to plan out things, because you have confidence that the future you are planning is actually going to happen.

Oh, yeah;. And where no one hits you or beats you with a belt or molests you or psychologically tortures you day in and day out. That, too.  And where you can have friends over and know everything will be okay, that there won’t be some horrible scene coming out of nowhere that will end with someone threatening to throw you out of the house to live on the street. Where you can say, “Yeah, this teacher was kinda a jerk”, and know that later on, no one in your family is going to be calling that teacher and threatening to put a bomb in her car.

My parents loved me. But my dad was psychotic for most of my childhood, and neither he nor my mom protected me from the adoptive sister, who was and is a violent sociopath. And they were so busy reacting to her every fucked-up move, that there was no room for anything, or anyone, else.

I don’t know what else to say. I have to try to figure out how to make this day worth something now. I have been crying all morning. I am surrounded by used tissues and I can no longer breathe through my nose. And these tears and this Everything has fucked up a day where I needed to try to do something to earn some money to pay for the ever-growing list of things that need to be paid for, some of which – like redoing my teeth so my facial bone structure doesn’t cave in – will probably never be possible.

This is the truth about my life. Along with so very much else that remains unsaid.

 

*ETA: my shrink is a good shrink. It is the 15-minute hour, though, and just medication, so I didn’t count him among the therapists and doctors I grouped together as derelict. But I wanted to acknowledge him, and say that without him, I would not be here.

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Better Living Through Chemistry

For a time now, I’ve been avoiding following my psychiatrist’s advice when it came to taking my Klonopin on a regular basis in order to deal with my massive amounts of anxiety. He’s been wanting me to take 1 mg three times a day. Usually I take .25mg as needed and it calms me down, .5 if I am really freaking out. 1 mg will knock my ass out. I haven’t been able to imagine what it would be like to take that dose three times a day. I’m assuming I’d be rendered comatose.

But since I have been in such a deep depressive funk, accompanied by this frenetic panic, I have started taking the quarter Klonopin three times a day, and I think I am ready to move up to a half. It seems to be helping. I’m still worried about becoming dependent on it, but the shrink says that if I need to go off of it, I would be tapering down and that shouldn’t be an issue. We’ll see. In the meantime, the benefits are outweighing the dangers.

This new regimen is allowing me some objective distance from my emotions. It’s not a ton of distance, but enough to get a bit more clarity. I’m starting to see what I can do to clear out some of the overwhelm that I feel. I need to add creativity and recreation to my life, instead of thinking I’ve always got to be focused on the struggle. My coding is becoming much clearer as well. I’m starting to get the hang of things I was completely clueless about. It’s cheering me up.

This is all relatively new, and by no means is it enough. I have a long way to go.  I’m trying to learn how to live life again. I need to find a routine gain, and balance. Mostly, I am trying to heal a little. Or a lot, preferably, if that’s possible.

Again, we’ll see.

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The Body Indeed Keeps The Score

I can’t do it anymore.

I tried to force myself. I tried so fucking hard to force myself. And I became physically ill. It’s like my body is saying, Enough.

This happened once before. I was doing so poorly mentally at the time, and in a bad environment, and my body rebelled, Suddenly, I was projectile vomiting like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. For weeks. I couldn’t even keep down Gatorade. And my therapist at the time – I was fortunate enough then to actually have a good one – said that my body was literally trying to cast off all of the bad things I had internalized.

Well, it’s happening again. I’m not projectile vomiting, yet. But I’m nauseated, my body aches, all of the energy feels drained out of me, I’m getting insanely intense headaches that don’t respond to NSAIDs. So now it’s not just the panic attacks that have been hounding me as of late. It’s not just the feeling of being creatively dead, of being a hack with no integrity, of never being able to speak my actual mind, of losing my identity to this thing I don’t even enjoy doing (but that I have to pretend that I do enjoy doing, because when you sell your soul for pennies on the dollar, you need every fucking penny.) It is literally physical shit that is PREVENTING me from doing this.

I seriously tried so hard. Because I need the money to pay my bills. I don’t know how I’m going to pay my bills. I am not well enough to work outside my home. I was never even hospitalized after having a four month long psychotic break. I am sitting here sobbing because I don’t know what the fuck I am going to do. This job has wrecked me. I am not well at all. I straight up need help, I need healing. But there is none of that for me. I have to figure out what to do. I have to figure out how I’m going to feed my cats, pay my utilities, pay the vet bills, pay for Milhouse’s insulin and Tramadol and thyroid meds, how to pay for my SHRINK.

I was in the middle of doing a clip and I just could not finish it. I couldn’t because I was about to throw up. I’ve never felt like I felt yesterday. It was frightening. And what this experience leaves me with is frightening, too. I needed to work my ass off the rest of this month. I need the money so badly. I have to get Tiny to the vet. I have to pay the part of my rent that my disability does not cover, and my utilities, and my shrink appt is at the beginning of the month. But now I am completely fucked. I needed to make miracles happen this last week of the month.  But now, they are not going to happen.

I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m in a panic. I’m trying to think of options, but what options does a severely mentally ill woman, who isn’t able to work outside her home and is still trying to get better so actually shouldn’t be working in the first place, have? Because I can’t think of any realistic ones.

All I know is that my body won’t let me do this. It no longer wants to actively participate in an endeavor where the main draw is that I am slowly dying.

A woman gets sexually harassed at work – hey, maybe by a famous comedian who whips it out, let’s say – and the world is in an uproar. But a disabled woman has to work a job where she is objectified and where she is told on the reg that her only value is damaged lungs and mortality. Crickets.

You know, when people want you to die, and you’ve got a long history of trauma and abuse, and a few co-morbid mental illnesses, that isn’t good for you. That makes you turn in the “Let’s walk into the waves” direction. The “Hey, that ledge looks pretty fuckin’ good” path. Because hey, if that’s my only value in this world, should I not have at that then? It’s a really hard thought to fight. Particularly when I have no idea how I’m going to survive now.

And in this, too, is the knowledge that some people, upon finding out that this is my situation, that I am a (reluctant as FUCK) smoking fetish girl, will judge me harshly and unfollow me, block me, isolate and ostracize instead of understand that this is all I could do to get by. They make me feel like this is what I deserve. And the people that want me to die make me feel that’s also what I deserve, because THAT’S ALL I’M GOOD FOR.

And I probably do deserve it. I pandered to them, because I needed to survive. I have no family. There is nowhere to go if I lose my place on the couch, nowhere for my cats to go. I’ve been trying hard to learn to code, have gotten a couple of certificates but don’t yet know enough to work as a web dev, but my focus is annihilated because the issue of survival is pressing, and even if it weren’t, I simply cannot learn quickly enough to solve this immediate problem.

I need help. I need to get better. I can’t do this anymore. But I have no idea how the fuck I am going to keep me and my kitties going. And panic is not something that helps you think clearly.

Fuck.

There is the panic about the future.

And then there is the fact that this, all of this, hurts more than I can ever describe.

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Screaming Into The Void

I think one of the worst things about trauma – besides of course enduring it – is how absolutely alone you feel in its aftermath. You want to tell the people you love what you’ve been through. They are well meaning and suggest a therapist would be a good thing, and it probably would.

But I still would not feel seen. I would not feel as though my story matters to anyone. Except maybe the person getting paid to hear and probably misinterpret it.

I’ve had horrific luck with therapists. I would still be willing to try again, if I could afford it. And I could find a good one. But that does not solve the problem.

It’s the problem of feeling stifled and not seen and not heard (which reminds me of “Children should be seen and not heard”, which I heard so many times growing up). The problem of feeling like I have no voice, and that no one understands what I go through each day, trying to maneuver this heavy, tiresome burden strapped to my back. The feeling of loneliness that swallows me up, because how can anyone fully know me if they don’t know what I have been through?

If I can only sketch out a few thumbnails with little detail, if I can only truncate my experience into two or three sentences, there is no relief in that. It’s almost worse than not being heard at all. Whether it truly is or not, this *feels* like a disinterest in the whole thing. And that in turn feels like a disinterest in me, because I am the sum of all these experiences plus what I have been able to do with them.

No one will ever know the amount of mental work I put in each day, trying to straighten out all the horrible knots trauma made in my head. I am mining the good from the bad. I am fighting off the memories. I am striving to be well and to create a life of meaning. Even though I look back on my life and see so many missed opportunities and wrong turns and it would be so easy to just completely fall into despair, I fight like hell not to do that. To somehow cull a bit of Greater Purpose, to somehow win my creativity back, i’m fighting for that too. Not being able to share my history and the enormous inner life that springs from that feels fucking lonely.

The last thing I want to do is be a lifelong victim. That isn’t what this is about. It’s not about just generically “seeking attention”, either. I seek no melodrama in this. I just want understanding. I want the people I love to care about the things that happened to me as much as they care about someone with a single, lesser trauma. It’s not a trauma contest, mind you, but it would be nice if the umbrage could be evenly distributed sometimes.

I have worked hard to maintain a polite demeanor when in the presence of others, in that I smile at them even when I don’t feel like it, I ask how they are, I force myself to be cheerful or at least friendly, not sullen, because who wants to go in with an affect that carries with it every bit of heaviness from every single trauma? I cannot be that person. I have worn my innards on my outside many times and it is a very low place to be. It makes things worse. Much worse.

Not only does it feel like hell, but medical professionals treat you like utter shit.  If I showed on the outside how I felt on the inside sometimes, I’d get 5150’d. Because again, no one knows how much work I have put into rehabbing myself from psychosis and homelessness and a lifetime of alternating torture, abuse, and neglect.

Long ago I was taught two things that figure into this idea of forced affability:

  1. No one wants to hear it. (It being anything wrong, anything bad, any kind of problem.)
  2. You have a face for work and social life and a face for home behind closed doors. (What that means when applied is that you end up with a confusing and vacillating identity and you feel constantly feel like an impostor, or like you are outside of yourself observing. In short, you wonder if you might be a sociopath.)

People think that because I can be polite and inquire about their well-being and carry on a conversation, that I’m not suffering. But every day, I am suffering in some fashion, a little or a lot, depending on what flashback my brain is trotting out to attempt to annihilate me.

This isn’t something I want to spend all of my time talking about. Yes, I have PTSD, among other mental maladies, but I don’t want to be a poster girl for it, nor do I necessarily want to make it my ‘brand’. I just want what I think a lot of people want, most of us really.

I want to be seen.

I want to be heard.

I want to be understood.

Being really, sincerely listened to and empathized with is validating, and it says that a person matters, that what happened to them matters. For someone to say “That must have been really hard going through that”. Especially after you’ve had a lifetime of abusers telling you it wasn’t abuse, that it was YOUR fault, or that ‘hey, nothing happened at all, I don’t know what you’re talking about, you fell’ kind of bullshit’. You feel as though it really was your fault, and no wonder people don’t want to hear it, because obviously anyone can do anything to you at any time and the world is completely okay with that.

People can completely lose their shit over a guy with more power than a woman jerking off in front of her, but it feels like crickets when it comes to my kidnap experience, where I was kept against my will for a weekend by an abuser who it turned out was also a rapist. This is how POC must feel about when a white girl gets kidnapped and her disappearance gets tons of press coverage while a little brown girl is missing and her story gets maybe 30 seconds of air time, if any.

It’s like the world doesn’t give a fuck. Which actually is true.

And the loneliness of that goes right to the bone.

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