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I have had PTSD for almost 4 years. It started after I was raped by a friend’s boyfriend, and since that night I haven’t been the same. When I talk about my rape now compared to right after it happened I feel a lot of judgment from people that say I’m “living in the past” – trust me I’m not trying to. I don’t think any person out there wants PTSD, so I’ve decided to write this in the hopes of sharing how PTSD is for me.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder makes it so I can’t relax. I find myself always looking over my shoulder, and it’s hard for me to open up about my experiences. PTSD is described as a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world. Like any of mental disorder the stigma around it can make it a hard subject to talk about, but so can the rape itself.
PTSD is not something I control, it comes and goes and while I can cope with it in certain ways it is always there. For example, my PTSD can be triggered by certain events like the assault. It can be a hug, a conversation, a jacket, even a place I love. If I was to list out my every trigger this would be the length of a novel, as I’ve found somethings trigger me more than others.
While over the past few years I’ve had periods worse than how am I today, it still is a process of learning how to deal with PTSD myself. One of the biggest comforts for me is sleeping on my couch. My couch is located right in front of my apartment door, and a glass window overlooking the street. When I’m attempting to sleep what eats me up the most is not being able to know what’s going on everywhere. I need to be able to hear the door, if someone is opening it, I need to see if there is something going outside my window, and when I have my nightmares the only thing that can wake me up is putting my feet on solid ground. I know this is insane, I’m aware that I have a perfectly good bed just one room away but that hasn’t stopped me from sleeping on my couch weeks at a time.
While being able to sleep is hard, often enough I find myself waking up from a nightmare that is all too familiar. In the past, I have mentioned to my regular doctor about my insomnia and she told me to take ‘melatonin’ which is a natural sleep aid. I found when originally using this that it did not help. So, a friend recommended ZzzQuil, the sleep aid portion of what is found in cold meds, and at first, the recommended dose of 25mgs worked but now a day I have to take 200mg. This is my last resort for falling asleep because I don’t know the harm that could come from the high dosage. I find the days that I don’t take it and I’m on a bender of not being able to sleep I fall into this barely motivated mindset.
The benders are the worst, I’m also not sure if that is the proper term but it’s what I call it to my friends when they ask me why I’m not acting normal. But the benders are the days where I spend hours hand cleaning my kitchen floor. Benders are the days where I’m trying to cook a pot of noodles and my hands won’t stop shaking and somehow, I set the stove on fire (yes this has happened). It’s the nights where I’m walking home with groceries and a car makes a sharp turn at me and I don’t move out of the way. A bender is any moment where my brain will not shut off. It is a circle of the same thoughts. His hands were here, you’re unclean, you’re unworthy, he touched you. That is the light way, to sum up, my brain in those moments and it makes me not want to communicate because I can’t function, I can only see where he has been. The only help I’ve really found for these thoughts is to take control back of my body. I have three tattoos on my right leg, the one he held down with his calf and open with hands. The tattoos I’ve gotten remind me that my body is my own, and when I look at myself I don’t see him as clearly.
Anyone who has tried to have a relationship with me in the past 4 years knows I can’t function properly, some more than others but this isn’t a fact I’ve been able to share with anyone. After I was raped it became hard for me to be sexual with others. My boyfriend after being raped who’ll remain nameless can confirm that 2 out of 3 times I would break down crying. Sex was no longer this safe space to have fun with someone I liked, it became this reminder. I would close my eyes and the only thing my brain would allow me to see was him. I went on a sexual revolution of finding how to get back the ability to have sex. If you want to say it’s a bad thing, go ahead, but imagine every time you hold someone’s hand, give a hug, or even kissing your partner only being able to see and feel the person who murdered part of your soul (It’s not fun).
I’m aware I’m not the person I was before I was raped. I know that I can never be that person again, all I’m trying to do is be the best person I can be with the resources I have. I don’t want to be told anymore that I’m not who you knew, or that you hated who I was because I hate who I am most of the time. I know that I will never be able to live a normal life, but I don’t want to be reminded that how I’m coping isn’t normal. So, to my friends that hang out with me, I’m sorry that while we’re in the grocery store I take a lap after seeing a guy with brown hair and a flannel. Trust me, I know it’s not normal, but taking a lap allows me to break down all the possibilities of who that could be, where I can go, where is a safe zone. I have coping mechanisms that most wouldn’t find normal, but I have them because I’m trying to get back to where I’m comfortable with my surroundings and myself. But if you are my friend, please try and understand it because the friends that I have are the reason I forget how I’m not the same anymore. It’s having good friends that remind me I can be okay.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is hard, as a friend all I ask is that you understand that I’m going through something out of my control. This doesn’t mean don’t invite me for nights out or a night in but just check in with me sometimes. The hardest part of PTSD is sometimes it’s hard to explain what it is I’m going through. I’m not a licensed professional so I’m not sure if these are the methods recommended or best but when you know someone with PTSD don’t tell them to get over it, don’t pressure them into situations they’re not comfortable with, and most of all are understanding. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a part of my life and I’m managing it the best I can but I hope that my friends and family will try to educate themselves on the disorder as having a support system in all situations in life makes everything easier.
Interested in reading more about my life with PTSD? Click here for my article about Female Solo Travel After Trauma
I’d like to be able to discuss my struggle with PTSD so if you’d like more content like this, please like, comment, and share with your friends. Bringing awareness to a subject is the step to destigmatizing. I hope you’ll follow me on this journey as well so join our little family and let’s keep the conversation going!
Until next time,