****Trigger Warning: This post deals with PTSD in general and childhood abuse and sexual assault specifically. Please do not read if you feel it might trigger something negative in yourself. But please know you are not alone.
When I talk about my past- it’s that. My past. It wasn’t always that way. I used to live in the constant haze of yesterday slamming into today and things I never knew suddenly belonging to my set of memories as real as all the others. But I’m fine now. At least 90-99% of the time.
That’s the thing with PTSD- it will be my life long companion. Sure, I’ve learned to cope. I’ve found ways to heal the wounds that my traumas left behind. And while I can now go weeks to months without a nightmare wrenching me awake, they still come. Out of the blue for no reason I can find, my mind leaks one out and I find myself in a cold sweat again, gasping for air and looking for the safest way out of my own bedroom.
I’ve learned to love, learned to trust and learned to live a freer life.
I sit in the movie theater and it happens. A scene catches me off guard and I didn’t know not to look. Not to listen. She says no. She screams. And no one listens.
And no one listens.
And no one listens as the babysitter tells me that this game is so special we can’t tell anyone. The game isn’t fun, it’s scary and all I can do is look out the window at the clouds an I’m floating away on one. Away from what he does to me and makes me do to him. And no one listens because he tells me not to tell. Tells me it’s our special game and they’ll get mad if they know. And I float away on the cloud.
Crashing down on the trampoline in a yard five houses down. No one listens as he yells at me. Calls me names that I don’t understand. I’m only nine. He doesn’t listen as I beg him not to do again what he’s done so many times before. He doesn’t listen. There are no clouds to take me away this day and I search the yard for escape and all I find is my own pain. And a piece of something shiny that winks at me as if it knows I have no choice.
By the time my mom tries to listen, to understand my pain, I’ve learned to well that I’m a whore and a disgusting piece of shit that no one will ever love again if I tell. And so there’s nothing to listen to because I’m learning to shove it all down. Deep inside and while I feel pain it is somehow not mine. It just is.
No one hears the lie I tell as I say I’ll be fine. I’m seventeen and drunk. And now alone with three men way too old to be with me. And as he slurs a half question he doesn’t hear the tears that slide down my cheek because I cannot speak. I am not ok. I don’t know why I’ve let this happen. Why I almost begged to be in this place where no one hears me and I have no words anyway. I push it down again. The alcohol makes it easier. And all I see is the leopard print underwear he hadn’t even bothered to take all the way off.
I push it down. All of it. Except the cloud, the winking metal and the leopard print. Only at night does it come to me in vivid dreams I cannot decipher because I no longer hear myself. And every man is either my savoir or puts me in mortal danger. And I sleep around but don’t know why. It doesn’t fill the hole inside me. I stuff and stuff and stuff it all down and yet the hole grows bigger. And any man that flirts or talks sweetly can bed because I know. I know this is what I was made for.
I have to blink hard to see the credits scrolling up as my tears fall down. I mumble some words and hope they suffice because I am not fine. Not today anyway.
Because that’s how it is with PTSD. Years of hard work and even harder therapy and I’ve learned to cope. Learned to discern between real dangers and those my PTSD is forcing on me. I’ve learned it’s ok to break down on the floor of the bathroom even if you aren’t really sure why.
I wrote this to help me piece some thoughts together as I start working on my novel again. Both characters have PTSD and I want to give a voice to this disorder. This struggle. The female character is actually loosely based on me. On my past. Writing “her” story helped me work through mine. The male character is a combat vet, haunted by the men he couldn’t bring home. I am passionate about getting this right because I’m passionate about what our returning vets are facing.
According to the government an alarming number of combat vets are committing suicide every day. 22 a day. (Source)
22 A DAY.
To me that means we are failing the people that put their lives on the line for us. And we should be ashamed. Sure, we’ve all heard of PTSD. But even that sentence suggests a problem. We’ve shrunk it down to initials. We don’t have to think too hard about what that means. Trauma. Stress. Disorder.
This is why I want to get this right in my book. Maybe only ten people will ever buy it and read it. But maybe one of those ten people will understand a little better why this matters. And maybe that one person will do more to help.
Lofty dreams, I’m sure. But this is something that I can do even when I’m too tired or in too much pain to leave the house. I can research. I can talk to people. And I can incorporate their experiences into my book.
That’s my goal. But I do need help. I’d really like to talk to a few vets that are coming through the other side of this. I don’t want to make anything worse for anyone. I just want to listen to anyone willing and able to tell me their story. However much or little they want to. So, if you know someone that might be willing please have them contact me. I would really appreciate it.