This Is PTSD. And This Is My Life.

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upset woman

It’s 3:58 am.

A while ago I removed the clock next to my bed so I would stop obsessing over the exact amount of sleep I was not getting each night. It seems I keep score on my phone now; my only company in the silence of yet another night smashed by insomnia.

I find myself angry at everyone else in the house for sleeping; angry at the way they breathe even and sure, the way their hearts beat blood into their veins while mine pumps shots of adrenaline into mine; still, after all these years, a fully automatic weapon of survival.

I find myself angry a lot lately, it seems.

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It’s difficult to know how to bring awareness to something I spend most of my life preferring to be unaware of. I struggle to speak of it out loud as if the words might bring an implication of my weakness after so many years of striving to keep this bulletproof illusion intact.

I grew up a child of the ’80s; a time when children were to be seen and not heard. A time before police checks and mandatory reporting, before topics such as domestic violence, child abuse, and rape were openly discussed; before #metoo campaigns, before women began to raise their voices. My childhood saw neglect, abuse, rape. I existed in silence and shame, finally breaking that silence at twelve years old, only to be condemned as a liar. By age fifteen, I had left home.

For many years I lived in denial as if my entire body wasn’t being crushed beneath the weight of a past I could never quite forget. It was only after I had my first daughter I began to unravel — the moment I understood with stark clarity not only her innocence but how abhorrently mine had been taken.

Through cracks that became harder to disguise, symptoms began to show.

Anger, irritability, rage over trivial things, insomnia, inability to concentrate on work. I became extremely hyper-vigilant; the sound of a plate being dropped would paralyze me with fear. There was one particular day my youngest daughter suffered a rash on her body — though we knew it would sting, her father and I had to cover it with ointment.

She became hysterical, screaming, “No Daddy! Stop! You’re hurting me! Please stop, Daddy, please stop!” Sometime later, I was found curled up on the bathroom floor, totally checked out.

Soon after, I began to have flashbacks and nightmares. I moved into longer phases of numbness and apathy and isolated myself from the world. I cycled between bouts of rage and depression, becoming so overwhelmed with such intense emotion that dissociation became a more regular thing. I became physically ill; back-to-back episodes of glandular fever, eventuating into ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia.

No longer able to cope, I spiraled into self-destruction.

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I hurt my relationships, those who tried to love me; myself. Only when I reached rock bottom did I accept it was time to deal with the trauma I had been through and sought help.

It’s been a number of years since then; since I was first diagnosed with Complex-PTSD. We most often hear of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome caused by a singular or short-term traumatic event. Complex-PTSD varies a little in that it is caused by repetitive, prolonged trauma, mostly in childhood, where there was sustained neglect or abuse often at the hands of a caregiver or other interpersonal relationship with an uneven power dynamic.

Uneven power dynamic.

For some time I have been well, but often find myself triggered by the stories, the conversations, the torrents of pain that rush at me from women who have suffered — are suffering –at the hands of uneven power dynamics. Every #MeToo story. The 22 women and 14 children killed in Australia this year by domestic violence. Every story reminds me.

I am angry for them; angry for me. Angry that once again I am having to fight this battle I shouldn’t have to fight but will spend the rest of my life fighting nonetheless because of the uneven power dynamics I endured for so many years; the ones which left more scars than anyone will ever see.

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Two years ago I had the words of Robert Frost inked upon my skin; a poignant reminder of my ongoing journey:

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.

These words have been my anchor on days when the battle to overcome PTSD seems insurmountable. The days I do not know where or how I will find the strength to continue to fight a battle that can so easily defeat me.

Some days the dark woods still appeal so much more.

But each day I am forced to fight means I still have a life to fight for; somewhere, another woman loses hers. I refuse to allow all I have suffered to be for nothing.

There is still a hell of a lot of miles to go before I’m ready to sleep.

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Kathy Parker is a freelance writer, poet, spoken word performer, and author of The Unravelled Heart, her first collection of poetry and prose. She writes of abuse, trauma, mental health, domestic violence, loss, grief, survival; but also recovery, healing, overcoming abuse, and empowering women in the truth of their worth.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.