Your Story Does Not Define You
by Emily Natani
| PTSD: My Story Project #005
I chose to take part in the PTSD: My Story Project because I used to feel such shame in my story. After realizing that it is not something I caused, but something that happened to me, I have been wanting to advocate and attempt to release the shame I still am partly attached to. By writing pieces of my story down, I can feel some of the walls slowly falling. This is such an important project for anyone and everyone suffering.
As I write this, my hands slightly shake and my body trembles. I fear my story is too much, that I am too much, and maybe it is all too much. The PTSD I suffer from is relentless, vigilant and raging throughout my body.
Read also ‘Mindfulness and PTSD by Leigh Hurst‘
It began twenty years ago when I was raped and tortured for a day and a half, and I luckily escaped, or so I thought. I was stalked, attacked, and emotionally and physically abused by a group of men for years. I changed cities, moved numerous times, went to every officer and official I could, but they had complete control. I could not do anything I needed to, even attempt to live a normal life, but somehow, I pushed myself forward. From that moment on, there were innumerable events and tragedies in my life that never ceased.
I said to myself, just don’t think about it. Bury it. Build a grave and throw all of it inside. And that is what I did. I met my husband, had two kids, and never spoke of what was happening, the horrific trauma I was forced to endure. I felt I needed to internalize it when I finally tried expressing it. I viewed myself as a dirty little secret, unworthy, disgusting, undeserving, and useless on this earth. In that timeframe, it is no surprise that I became suddenly chronically ill.
The illness was onset from my first pregnancy and only got worse with my second. Given this, it was easy to blame it on the major hormonal shift a woman’s body goes through. For the next twelve years, I went to over 100 doctors, had surgeries, procedures, myriad medications, lived with midlines, IVs, but I was not improving one bit.
I have major vestibular issues, debilitating dizziness, sensations of falling all the time, blacking out, vertigo, migraine, TMD, ME/CFS, fibromyalgia, pseudomonas infections, reactivating viruses, orthostatic hypotension, POTS, etc. The list of diagnoses goes on and on, to the point, where I dedicated my entire being to just focusing on the medical or the holistic or the integrative approaches, whatever was my chosen path for the next six months.
I was immediately dismissed by doctors, scared of lawsuits for what they had put my body through, knowing it was wrong. The medical mistreatment and gaslighting never stopped. I was told I would die from my pseudomonas infection many times. Given this, I never gave up trying to find a diagnosis that made sense, that I could cling onto, that would validate what the hell I was feeling.
Stuck in PTSD
The research is endless, my body a pin cushion, and my mind obsessed with fixing my illness, while completely ignoring my PTSD. I tried therapy for years, and as the room spun around me and I nearly blacked out every time, I realized I was too physically ill to engage in it. I was clearly suppressing all my emotions, therefore regressing to a state that left me in survival mode around the clock. My nervous system is showing me something that I am not willing to see.
My kids were also a beautiful distraction, and I never needed to feel what I actually needed to confront my PTSD head-on. In addition, they suffered from complex health issues for most of their lives, so I never actually had the time to allow my mind to go there. My daughter had chronic pneumonia, had three surgeries before six, and was on inhalers and medicines to prevent her lungs from filling with fluid. My son had Bells Palsy, had double hernia surgery at six weeks, and suffers from anaphylaxis. I have watched him become anaphylactic three times, where I literally felt helpless and have never been so scared in my life.
As I pulled myself together from every emergency, my PTSD was becoming more and more amplified. I couldn’t put any of the pieces together as my PTSD was never actually in a post-state. It was active to the point where I felt so alone and lost that I didn’t know what to do. I was able to fix my kid’s health issues for the most part, and that gave me solace, but what about me? When would I have a moment of peace? I could never acknowledge, not even to myself, how complex the emotional distress was, so I became an Oscar-worthy actress.
But the story doesn’t end here…
Who really wanted to hear about my story? Who would be empathetic? I had lost hope in humanity because it felt like no one understood an ounce of what I was going through. So I smiled, talked about nonsensical topics, used sarcasm as a defence mechanism, and only spoke of trivialities. But, my heart was hurting, my symptoms caused a complete loss of life, where I did everything I should be doing for my kids and husband, but nothing that I wanted or longed for myself.
Who did I become? I looked into the mirror and saw a ghost of a person, a shell of a human. Was I alive? I finally began to speak of my PTSD and the mind-body connection after realizing how toxic my life had become. I saw how this affects the body directly, so there must be a connection between my experiences and my physicality.
PTSD impacts us but doesn’t have to define us
I joined Instagram, and in January this year, I spoke openly about my illness, then my abuse, and I found others who also have PTSD. This has been the ultimate blessing, honestly, to simply realize that it is not just me. I desperately need support around the entire trauma, and that is my goal. I have lost complete faith in the medical system, lived past the dates they told me I would pass on, and even ignore my structural abnormalities to which I have been told I need brain, neck and heart surgery to heal.
I don’t believe so, and I am done with giving others the power to dictate my life. I am taking that back now. I have a voice and need to find a way to heal myself. I am going to begin this journey and place all of the responsibility on me, the only one I can trust right now with my health.
I am a survivor, chronically ill, a mom, and a wife, but I do not want this to be my entire story. I am simply a woman whose body kept telling her to STOP but didn’t. PTSD is real in every way and it is so marginalized and underrated in terms of how it wreaks havoc all over the body. My goal is that someone reads this and feels some kind of connection that they too do not have to live like this.
Emily is a mom of two, chronically ill for 12 years and an abuse survivor. While her illness has taken away her career in public relations, she really enjoys writing and poetry. Her goal is to raise awareness about invisible illnesses, sexual assault, CPTSD and body dysmorphia. You can check out some of her work on her IG account @emilynatani3
Read some more real-life stories from trauma survivors here: ‘PTSD: My Story Project‘.
Share your experience
Do you have experience with PTSD, or do you take care of / live with someone who has? Would you like to share your story in a guest blog post?
I’m not an expert or a health professional, so the aim of this project isn’t to offer professional advice. Neither is it to pity those who experience PTSD. That’s not what I want. My aim is to raise awareness of PTSD. By sharing your story, you can inspire and empower others. You can highlight the methods that helped you. This way, you can encourage others to reach out for help.
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. The fact is that our society still lacks an understanding of mental health. Therefore, I’ve decided to share my story and invite others to join me in this project and write a blog post about their experience. By working together, we can help destigmatise mental health problems and promote wellbeing.
To be featured
If you would like to join in and share your story on my blog but don’t have the experience of writing a blog post, this isn’t a problem. You can still contact me, and I’d be happy to assist you with the writing. And you can use a pseudonym if you wish to stay anonymous. You can share as much of your story as you want in a way you feel comfortable with.
The only thing I ask is that you mention ‘PTSD: My story project’ in your post and briefly state why you have chosen to take part in it. You will be allowed to approve the post before publishing it, should it be edited.Follow Journeyofsmiley on WordPress.com