The Path Out of Darkness by Nicole Dake
| PTSD: My Story Project #001
Trigger warning: Domestic Violence, Suicide & Child Abuse/Neglect
When asked to participate in the ‘PTSD: My Story Project’, I immediately said yes. The reason was that I believe that speaking up about trauma helps to break the stigma and shame that is commonly associated with PTSD.
I have been diagnosed with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (cPTSD). It means that I have a trauma response based on multiple traumatic experiences in my lifetime. It manifests itself in chronic anxiety, hyper-arousal to danger, irritability, and panic attacks. My trauma stems predominately from childhood, as well as an abusive marriage.
I suffer from Childhood Emotional Neglect, Disorganized Attachment, and abuse. The earliest memories I have of trauma are from when I was around three years old. It is hard to describe neglect since it is not so much something that ‘happened’ to me, but a long series of things that did not happen. I remember that I was in High School when I told my dad that I was depressed after returning one day home crying. Instead of empathizing with me, he was yelling at me over and over. He asked me what my problem was. And when I tried to get away from him, he threw me on the ground and kicked me repeatedly. Another time, my dad hit me across the face, and I went to my room to cry. My mom came down and started yelling at me that he would not hit me if I had not made him mad.
My mom never made any of my problems better or hugged me when I was sad. All she would ever do is tell me how things are my fault.
After that, I tried to run away from home repeatedly and was brought back by the police, who never bothered asking me why I ran away. They just told me that I was hurting my parents. I fell into an even deeper depression and turned to drugs as a way of self-harming. I felt like being trapped in hell with no way out. When I turned 18, I had a good year living out of state with relatives, but I had to return home when my dad got cancer.
Then, I met the man I married. I got pregnant, and we moved in together. The emotional abuse and constant manipulation began then, although I recognized that first much later. During my pregnancy, he cheated on me twice. I left him to move back with my parents yet again.
I did get to have closure with my dad before he died. He apologized for being so hard on me when I was younger and acknowledged that he knew he had hurt me and made lots of mistakes. But he also confided in me about his suicidal thoughts resulting from his illness. I started college in another town after my daughter was born and got back together with her dad.
In college, I was a new mom. At the same time, I had three jobs because my ex was on drugs and in and out of jail. I was so ashamed that he was in prison that I never told anyone. Still, I managed to see my dad in hospice every day. Whilst visiting him, I would hear my mom talking to other people about the cruise she planned to go on with the insurance money after he died, right in front of him.
After he died, it felt like my mom and siblings were in denial and went to do sightseeing when my brother and his family came on leave from the military for the funeral. I lost trust in my family, who I wish could have been my support system.
Fast forward a couple of years, I graduated from college and got a good job. My ex and I bought a house. We bought a business together.
About six years into our marriage, he started to hit me. The first time, he hit me so many times that I had two black eyes. I ended up going to the hospital because I would have a panic attack, but they just gave me Xanax and sent me home. I stayed that night with my mom at her place, but the next day she took me back to him instead of sticking up for me.
The abuse continued for the next three years, and it wore me down emotionally. I hated myself so much. I tried to leave my ex several times. Every time he would guilt me into coming back. It was hard for me to try to leave the marriage since I had no support. Friends and family believed him when he told them that I was crazy and that everything was my fault. They felt sorry for him and took his side.
When you spend years with everyone telling you that the abuse is your fault, you begin to believe it. It convinced me that I was a terrible person and undeserving of being treated better.
I was so filled with self-hate every time that I went back that I tried to commit suicide. In the last year of our marriage, I left seven times and tried to commit suicide seven times.
The very last time I tried to commit suicide, I took every pill in our house, then chased it down with a bottle of rum. I got in the shower and put a gun into my mouth. I tried as hard as I could to shoot it, but I have no idea how to shoot a gun, so I turned on the shower and cut up and down my arm, from my wrist almost to my elbow. Exhausted from all the pills, the rum, and the crying, I went and laid down in bed.
When my husband got home from work, he laid down next to me without noticing that I had thrown up in the bed or that I was bleeding. The following morning he shoved me out of bed and told me to go to work. After that, I promised myself that I would never allow anyone to have so much power over me again. I started looking for a lawyer and an apartment. Then I finally left him.
Domestic violence victims have it the hardest when they leave
One day during a custody exchange, we got into an argument. I tried to leave, but he choked me and threw me down a flight of stairs. I drove straight to the police station, and he tried to pull the car door open and stop me.
I had a little bit of peace while I had a restraining order leading up to the trial. However, he defended himself that he hit me because I deserved it, and they let him go. The entire jury believed that I had gotten what I deserved. That was the worst day of my life.
Worse than being abused was the knowledge that other people thought that it was fine.
A couple of years ago, I suffered an additional trauma of being subjected to a hostile workplace that I ended up having to leave because of panic attacks.
The Path to Healing
Living life going from one trauma to the next is exhausting and demoralizing. Since my trauma started when I was so young, the terrible things people said to me about myself have become my inner monologue. I told myself that bad things happen to me because I am an awful person.
But that was all lies.
Certain types of people lie almost unconsciously to keep their victims in their power. For me, the first step to feeling better about myself was to get away from toxic people. First, that was getting divorced, then cutting off other toxic family members.
The last ten years have been a gradual peeling back layers of trauma to uncover more underneath. Luckily for me, along the way, I found a new supportive partner. Together we have made a safe home for ourselves and our kids.
I have also found a good counselling centre that provides wrap-around services. I see one counsellor for talk therapy and coping skills, another counsellor for EMDR, and a Psychiatrist for medication.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a therapy aimed at reprocessing trauma, so instead of constantly re-experiencing traumatic events, I can think about them without being triggered.
My therapist helps me to understand the messages that I internalized through the traumatic experiences and to be able to release the negative thoughts about myself.
Finally, in the last month, I have been feeling better.
If you encounter a similar situation to mine, I recommend talking to a therapist as soon as possible. If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Check NAMI for links to additional resources https://www.nami.org/Home
Remember, your trauma does not define you. It is something that happened to you. You are not an awful person and are not to blame. It is not your fault. It is the fault of the people that hurt you.
Nicole is a proud mom of two girls living with her family in the States. She has PTSD and is a mom blogger. You can find more of her work here:
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‘PTSD: My Story Project’
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And it may help you as well. Perhaps it’s something you feel like you’re not able to talk about within your closest circle and would like to connect with others in a similar situation. It’s nothing more than bearing an untold story inside you.