It has been a while since I last posted an Open Letter post. The truth is, they take a huge amount of energy to write. That being said they are some of my favourite posts to write. I find it mostly therapeutic but I also know how many people they have the potential to help.
SO, next up in the firing line is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, more commonly known as PTSD. I used to think that only soldiers returning from the army could get it, or at least, that is where I first heard the term. However, as a result of my childhood experiences (read about that here) even today, somewhat five years later since the last event, I am reminded of it nearly every day. Here is my letter to PTSD.
You are a funny one aren’t you, you’re always there, ever present, but at the same time perhaps the least of my broken brain worries. It’s weird, sometimes I even forget you exist. There I am feeling unbreakable, like no one can ever stop me. Then, out of no where there you are. Like a bulldozer to an old building. Out of no where, you bring me [no, tear me, unwillingly] back down to the ground.
I think shouting or sometimes even raised voices are the worst. I remember, at 16 years old, every night I used to sit at the top of our stairs [just hidden enough out of the way], with my make shift bed of a pillow and blanket, listening. Just listening. Every word, every slam, every crash. I wouldn’t sleep until he did. Often, I would leave my ‘camp’ and run down stairs and try to diffuse the situation. I felt fearless, I was never scared, no words, actions or threats scared me. It was like a rush of adrenaline seared through my veins and I was ready for action. I was always on edge too, if there was no shouting it felt wrong.
However, now, I get that same feeling. Even though I am safe now, any kind of raised voices or cross words gives me that same adrenaline rush through my body and I feel like I need to protect myself. That’s when I realise, I know longer need to be like that. That’s when my heart fills with sadness and my eyes with tears. PTSD, that’s you that does this to me.
I think my next ‘stressor’ as I like to call it [is that even an official word] is alcohol. Specifically drunk men, or red wine. Red wine is the worst. Of course, in a rational mind I understand that not every man who drinks red wine is a mean one. But that doesn’t stop how it makes me feel. If I was a cat, in this situation every heckle on my body would be standing on end. I have to buckle up all of my anger towards red wine and force it to stay in.
The smell is the worst. I remember two things very vividly in my head. The first was during-traumatic event, the other many months after.
The first, was just after I had phoned the police on my Dad. He, as per usual was drunk out of his mind on red wine. Somehow he had found out what I had done, the panic went through his eyes like a deer caught in headlights. Yet, instead of accepting his faults he did one thing that I will never forget. He got right in my face, put his hands tightly around my neck and looked me straight in eye. His words?
‘I’m going to fucking kill you’.
I think he was trying to intimidate me by doing that, but it just made me more angry. Fuelled by the fire ignited inside me, I spat back at him through gritted, hatred teeth, ‘GO. ON. THEN.’ Thinking about it now doesn’t really bother me, but the smell? Red wine, every time I smell it now, I remember that exact situation. The smell of his breath as he told his own daughter he was going to kill her.
The second, not long after we got away from him we were at my Grandparents house. I think it might have been Christmas time. My Mums now husband, was drinking red wine. CUE: Tightening my emotional buckle around all emotions related to red wine. He was a bit tipsy, but I was coping. Until, someone accidentally knocked the whole bottle flying. Red wine everywhere. It was like an explosion went off in my brain. I could no longer contain my hatred for wine. I shouted, screamed and burst into tears. PTSD, that’s you that does this to me.
I have many other stressors, but the last one I am going to talk about is sirens and police officers. I had never had many [if any] dealings with the police growing up. My first, when they came to arrest my Dad for being an all-round prize dick. I don’t really remember feeling anything that day. It was all a bit of a blur, in they came, armed, as that was the nearest response vehicle, and I was SO relieved. Firstly to have survived the previous 10 minutes [the longest of my life] but also because it felt like the end. The end of a very hard few years – how wrong I was. But at that point, I felt courageous.
A few months later…
Fast forward a few months, which is odd because it felt like much longer. The above event was in October and the last was in April. I was at home, alone, having finally got my life somewhat on track, back at college. I was about to put some washing on the line when the door bell rang [Cue: first stressor – doorbells] I answered it straight away, for some reason I didn’t even look to see who it was first [which I had a lot of the last few months due to fear that my Dad would find us].
I just opened it. The otherside? Two police officers. [Cue: second stressor – police officers] They both stood just inside the door, refusing to say anything. I offered them tea, I offered them a seat, I quizzed them about why they were there. Nothing, they wouldn’t tell me anything. Why? They were waiting for my Mum to come home, they were waiting to tell us that my Dad has ended his life.
I remember that moment so vividly. I didn’t cry, I didn’t laugh. I felt nothing. Nothing except the most overpowering feeling of guilt, like the whole thing, a whole life ended. Just like that. That was my reality.
Now, every-time I see a police officer or hear a siren, that’s what I am reminded of. Thoughts so vivid, and so strong, yet to anyone else, a bystander, a friend, and family member would have no idea. No idea, the thoughts contended with each day. Hey PTSD, that’s you!
Nowadays, I am lucky, over the past five years these thoughts and feelings have been easier to manage. It’s not always perfect but that’s just life. I am such a firm believer that the challenges you are faced with in life, you are faced with because you have the strength and the courage to get through them. No one can determine the outcome except you. Therefore, you will never ever know what someone else has gone or is going through. Never judge, question someones actions unless you have worn the very same shoes they’ve walked in.
Have you experienced or know someone who has been effected by PTSD? I would love to talk about it. Equally, if you have any questions about my life, experiences or how I have learnt to deal with things just let me know. I am more than happy to talk about it.