As an adult survivor of childhood abuse, I knew little to nothing about many of the coping skills needed for adult life. In trying to navigate the world with such a biased opinion of myself and becoming attached to others who would degrade me further was a given. It wasn’t difficult to look back at my past and see a pattern emerge.
Being groomed as a youngster to tolerate the intolerable was just the way it was. I hadn’t experienced many pleasantries throughout my life so when someone would treat me in a suitable manner I would end up swooning at their feet. It didn’t take long for all the old uncomfortable feelings to come back like a tidal wave telling me that I had been horribly mistaken, but by that time it would be too late because I would either be married or ended up moving them into my home.
I knew the familiar pressure of it all too well as I would not be able to separate their adult responsibilities from my own so in turn, I would carry all of it until my back would break and everything would come tumbling off. I never would have figured that all of this was because of Childhood Trauma.
Now mind you I started with mental health professionals when I was in my early 20’s. I was feeling so awful after my first baby was born that I had to literally crawl out of my bed to get to his crib. This is when I was introduced to Prozac. I remember my family physician asking me if I was sad and I remember for the first time in my life one of my feelings had been identified.
Mental health professionals are there to diagnose you and when trauma has been the norm in your life you have a tendency not to talk about it. It wasn’t that it was uncomfortable, I just couldn’t identify it because I didn’t know what it was. I figured every home was just like mine and I didn’t see there was a problem with it. I also didn’t realize I was taught to be secretive, not telling anyone what was happening in my own home. So even though I was being sexually abused by my then-husband, I never mentioned it because I thought it was my failure as a wife and who wants to share such shame with their therapist anyway.
So, instead of it being trauma-based therapy, it became what’s wrong with Me. I fit all the criteria of Child Sexual Abuse. This is when many therapists were jumping on the bandwagon of repressed memories and convinced me that it had to have happened even though I had no memory of it.
By this time, I felt crazy! I wasn’t eating and waiting to just fade away to nothing. I wanted to be invisible! I was leaving the house as soon as my husband got home from work and driving the streets all night until it was safe to return right before he went to work. My husband worked where I was getting therapy. I signed a waiver so he could get all my information from my therapist.
Next trip, the mental health ward for an eating disorder. I was eating every meal there so it couldn’t have been that. Then the diagnosis, Bi-Polar! They put me on Lithium almost immediately, I couldn’t talk and could barely walk. My husband filed for divorce while I was in the hospital and now with a mental health diagnosis who would ever believe me.
I limped on, being medicated for years with no good outcome. Because of my diagnosis, many mental health providers wouldn’t even try to think outside the box! As the medication kept coming, the farther I would sink into the black hole that had become my life.
I finally made an appointment with an independent provider and asked him about Cymbalta. My body was racked with pain and by this time I was a total bed patient. I had no quality of life what so ever! The Doc put me on Cymbalta and I was taking 200 mg of Trazodone to enable me to sleep at night. Just so you know that is a high enough dosage to put a large animal to sleep!
The new Doc closed his practice and I found myself once again shifting things around trying to find another psychiatrist. I found a clinic and to give you some idea of what some of these places look like, they have an armed guard sitting in the waiting area with the patients just in case one of them loses their shit.
8 years later I would still be on this regiment. I was being treated for chronic depression and still tremendously tired and only able to stay out of bed from anywhere from 2 to 5 hours.
We have become a medicated society. There is a pill for everything these days and I think we all want that easy fix. What you may not know is that these medications numb your affect or feelings. In my opinion, they are also very dangerous especially if you are in an abusive situation and I was! You can put up with much more before you are stirred to anger or even leave.
I was beginning to forget simple words and I would find myself searching for the word who, how or what as it spiraled in my brain just far enough out of reach that I couldn’t grasp it. I was tested for Dementia and Alzheimer’s only to find out that I scored very well in cognitive function and memory so what the heck was wrong with me?
I would find out much later that I was experiencing is Aphasia. Aphasia is usually associated with people who have had strokes or a head injury, but it is something that is also being noticed more in PTSD patients. I was repeating myself, forgetting words to enable me to form sentences. This is exactly what untreated trauma looks like.
A year later I would talk to my provider and with her help wean myself off all the meds. Now, I had a whole different set of problems to deal with. Remember, I was numb for the most part of 27 years and now my emotions shot from a 10 to 1,000 within a few months! When my kids saw me, they told me I no longer looked like a Parkinson’s patient. I knew the tremors had decreased substantially because I was finally able to put toothpaste on my toothbrush without it ending up in the sink.
I cried at the drop of a hat and I was angry! My father had passed, and I came home from being at his bedside in a hospice facility to living with a full-fledged predator! The things that I denied or pushed aside came right into the forefront of my life.
I had been living with a Covert Narcissist with Anti-social Personality Disorder, a full-blown Sociopath, for the last 5 years! Talk about a wake-up call, but this one saved my life!
Going to the women’s shelter was the best thing that could have ever happened to me! Even though I didn’t understand much of what they were telling me, they knew what I had been through, it was just a matter of removing some of the thick brain fog I had to empower the seeds they were planting to grow.
I had a cognitive therapist contact me and I started on that journey as well. It is kind of funny because this therapist tried as well to diagnose me right away. If I would have been naive in the whole process it would have been more damaging for me as it is for so many others who have walked in my shoes.
I looked Bi-Polar because I was still on a roller coaster of emotions. I was being stalked, harassed and all my online accounts were either broken into or the attempt had been made and my dog of 11 years had been killed. I looked like someone with Borderline Personality Disorder because I felt so betrayed and abandoned. My life changed in an instant when he used physical violence. I saw the world as black and white and dangerous because everything had been ripped away including any sort of denial. I felt vulnerable and naked and my safety was at risk on a level I had never experienced before. I wasn’t depressed because I had a constant adrenaline rush and cortisol overflow. My stomach lining was burned, and I was nauseated and in pain.
A short time later I was standing in the front window of my home frozen as I watched my neighbor assault his mother. I literally stood there shaking as if the whole thing was happening to me. I couldn’t reach for the phone, I couldn’t call for help, I just stood there. I could no longer watch television without disappearing into a scene where the offender was hovering over me holding me down, his face appearing larger than life. I would drive places and not know how I got there because I was in a dissociative state. The nightmares were horrible! The same scene playing over and over, the evil that was spewed out or a different scene but same evil. I also found it difficult to tell anyone my story. My whole body would react to the point that I would tremor and my teeth would chatter. It was as if someone had sat me on a block of ice!
When the cognitive therapist tried to diagnose me my counselor at the women’s shelter just laughed. You can’t diagnose someone coming out of trauma, it doesn’t make sense to even try. Although the cognitive therapist was some help she was unable to grasp the full spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse and what it does to the victim. She ended up leaving the clinic to help veterans with PTSD not even realizing she had a patient sitting in front of her that was beginning the long recovery from the same ailment.
For the first time in my life, I saw the psychiatrist who would get it right because of the help I received at the women’s shelter. I was finally able to articulate all my trauma from the beginning of my life to present. I didn’t have Bi-Polar, I never did, what I did have was C-PTSD. Then with a lot of searching, I found the one cognitive therapist in my area that is an expert at treating victims of Narcissistic Abuse as well as PTSD and C-PTSD. When the last assault took place, it blew the lid off what I had already been dealing with most of my life.
I have gone from abuse victim to now survivor. I am present in and haven’t been inundated with the fatigue the medication had caused for most of my life. Matter of fact I take a holistic approach and will never again take another mind-numbing medication again because I don’t need it.
Healing has not been an easy feat! I have struggled and some days it can still be rough because I am clueless in many social environments. Just going out to mow my lawn took an incredible amount of courage! I avoided going to the store and other daily tasks because it would put me in hyper overdrive. I barely left my home for the first year!
Now, I enjoy the warmth of the sun on my skin, I take my dogs for walks and I am moving slowly as I meet new people. I have a whole new outlook and it is beautiful because I know I will never allow any type of abuse to come into my life. I also don’t date and that’s fine for me because I have so much to explore. I have never known the freedom of not being anxiety-ridden or walking on eggshells or even being safe until now.
If you’re new to all of this I hope this small bit of my story can help you to better navigate some of the situations I have found myself in over the years. You must be able to feel the pain of what happened to permit you to move through it. It is imperative that you find a therapist that can not only recognize trauma but have the knowledge to treat it. This I found was the biggest dilemma the mental health community faces. Healing is not only about the wounds you carry but finally taking control of you and your recovery.