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Complex PTSD and me

Monday, 10 August 2015 Sarah

Sarah blogs about her experience of complex PTSD after suffering abuse.

That night, the first time it happened, changed my life completely. That one day signified the start of my two year nightmare of rape and assault.

"I went from being confident to being scared to wake up in the morning."

From loving college to getting thrown off my course because of nonattendance.

Why didn’t I tell anybody or get help? The honest answer is I was terrified to. Terrified that my family would get hurt. How I wish I had told somebody. I urge others to get help. Someone will believe you. 

"You don’t need to suffer in silence."

This happened 11 years ago. It was only when my youngest daughter was born in 2013 that I started getting the help I so desperately needed. During my pregnancy my symptoms became unbearable and unmanageable.

"I was having flashbacks daily, not sleeping, completely unable to leave my own home because of panic attacks."

One day in particular stays with me. I lay sobbing on the bedroom floor, wishing I could take my own life, anything for some peace. Nothing seemed worth it anymore, not my daughter, my partner, my unborn daughter, nothing. That is the moment I reached crisis point and I knew it. There was no way out of that black hole, the sadness, depression, consumed me.

"I now look at that day with some thankfulness as I believe it was the start of my recovery."

The first step was to contact my GP and be honest about how I was feeling.

That was hard, I felt at the time that I was admitting defeat, in some way they had won. Of course, it was the total opposite, but certainly didn’t feel like that.

I started on anti-depressants, and was referred for counselling. Unfortunately that was a long wait – I didn’t receive any sort of talking therapy for almost a year. My midwife and consultant were informed and were extremely helpful. I finally felt that I was understood, and I wasn’t mad. I was referred to the perinatal mental health team and assigned a CPN. Through that service I had an appointment with the psychiatrist and was diagnosed with complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

That was a shock. I genuinely didn’t think that I had a diagnosable disorder.

I had always associated PTSD with those in the armed forces. In some way I felt guilty, that I was a fraud for having this awful disorder but hadn’t been through what others had. I played down what happened to me, but I now realise we all react to things differently and this is nothing to be ashamed of.

Now that I knew what was wrong with me I could start to recover and deal with my symptoms. By now my daughter was born. I was managing with her, had bonded with her, so it was time to start dealing with me. To concentrate on myself. Was this selfish? I thought so but I had to do it to be the best mother I could possibly be. My girls spurred me on.

"Starting small was the only way."

At times, I was so scared to leave the house so I would force myself to step into the garden. If I couldn’t do it, then fine, I would try again later. No pressure. That was the key.

Of all the symptoms I had, the nightmares were the worst. Reliving every moment every night. This was possibly the hardest thing to deal with. I started listening to relaxation apps an hour before bed and had a strict routine. I found writing helped so I used to take a notepad and pen to bed so if I woke up I could write down what I was feeling. This worked as a distraction so I didn’t get up and then be scared to go back to bed.

"Things are much better now, I do not recognise the person I used to be."

I am no longer ashamed of having a mental illness. Nobody should be. I only wish I had sought help sooner.

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