I've sat here struggling to write an introduction for this guest post. I haven't been able to come up with anything. To know "Anonymous" is a #blessing, for real. She is brilliant. She is talented. She is so damn giving it's unreal. She is the picture of a good person and she's funny. She is strong. To know her, you would never guess what she's been through. Never. We've been talking about her coming "out" with this on my blog for a while and we both felt that the holidays are the perfect time because it is a true lesson in forgiveness and love. I'm going to give you a little bit of a warning - buckle up and prepare for an emotional roller coaster. Enjoy and please show some love to Anonymous and remember, she's no victim, she's your new hero.
Hello. My name is Anonymous.
…only because I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I have never wanted anyone I have ever met to feel anything but love for me (“love me please” syndrome). Because I am O.K. Better than O.K., really, by almost every account. Do I wish I could change the outfit I wore in my third grade photo? Sure.
I have no other way to get to the topic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, save to gut-punch you with the trauma. So here I go. I apologize. If you are faint of heart, look far, far away.
Before and until the age of ten, I was beaten, strangled, raped by more than one person, drowned more than once, spanked with nail tipped boards, had my hands tied behind my back until my wrists bled while someone pegged a soccer ball at my face over and over, and tortured-down to a puddle in every sense of the word- physically, mentally and emotionally.
Years went by. Years of vicious trauma. Years of my mind screaming from inside and my face smiling beautifully on the outside. It happened over and over. And in ways I could never truly explain in words, not even to myself. I stayed funny. It was my thing. I was a popular child, an excellent student, lead in all the plays, beloved by my peers and teachers.
Truth is, I never should have made anything of myself. I never should have believed in myself. I never should have developed into anything. Ever. Statistics tell me that.
But here I am. Ready to take a stand and tell you that normal human beings suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, caused by extreme and real child abuse. Not the P.C., every bad decision you make rearing your child, media-hype “abuse”. So frequently associated with military service, I’m ready to tell you what P.T.S.D. looks like on a “civilian”. I went to war alright, I just didn’t fight a foreign enemy. He was close and he was brutal. And quite frankly, I do believe, at the time, he wanted me dead. And I knew he wanted me dead. And I was horrified.
Imagine for one second what that must feel like to a child. How the developing brain would process that information….and store it.
I grew up never knowing what love really meant. The people who were supposed to protect me either turned the other cheek or never cared to notice. To this day, I still don’t have that answer. I never felt safe. I was in perpetual hyper-vigilance, feeling a sense of terror that most people never know in their entire lifetime- not even once. It was my lot that my abuser was very closely related to me, had unfettered access, and would even warn me at the beginning of my days, “I’m going to kill you when you get home today.”
Ahhh, enter fight or flight…..or for me, FIGHT NEVER FLIGHT. CUE BODILY INSTINCTS. Enter them, NEVER EXIT THEM, THAT IS.
Victims of true trauma- they go one way or the other- they either over-achieve or grossly underachieve, both results of their awkward and unruly sense of self. Me? I’m the WAY over-achiever. Always seeking that next great validation that would make me believe I was something worth something. Man did I achieve some stuff. And oh how I wished I could have told someone how I felt. Three people in my entire life know about HALF the story. Three people…out of hundreds. And only the easiest parts to tell. Always wanting to spare someone the pain of knowing because it hurts me to know they have to know. I would rather suffer the silence than share the suffering.
So there I went, on my paths of achievement, always as far away from those memories as possible. Ignoring the difficult, silencing the nagging inside, pretending. Until my body felt as though it could no longer snuff the ache. Cut to me, 22, waking from what I thought a dream, gasping for air, being held underwater in my childhood pool. Ignore it, I thought. Just a dream. My dog at the time, awoke next to me and licked tears from my face I did not know had escaped my sleeping eyes. It was then I knew he was my dog soul. That’s another story. I’m sure you are on the edge of your seat for that one.
The dreams continued, feeling more and more like re-enactments and I continually hit the ignore button. I had work to do. Ignore it. Ignore it again.
Ignore it until the work was over. Law school was over, the end of my achievement trail. And then the trauma brain-cup runneth over, literally. I couldn’t walk on my law school graduation day because my brain entered the delete button, shut down my entire body and quit working. I couldn’t raise my head, for lack of neck muscle control. I couldn’t walk for lack of leg muscle control. I couldn’t think without triggering tachycardia.
Doctors felt it must be multiple sclerosis, a brain tumor maybe. Numerous tests and rigorous negative medical investigations later I remember a doctor saying, “you know sometimes, a person’s body stores trauma for years until it can’t hold it in any longer…has she suffered any trauma?” I raised my head and a new shot of adrenaline hit the light bulb switch over my head. DING DING DING.
Suffice to say, the other person in the room quickly answered “no” and we were out of there. We would continue to medically investigate.
I knew then. I knew. And my heart hurt so bad I thought it would explode. I knew that for some reason I was suffering the trauma all over again and this time I was old enough to fight back and couldn’t. How can you fight your own body…visual circa Jim Carrey in “Me, Myself and Irene”. Believe me, at that point, if I could have kicked my own ass and it made a difference, I would have gone APE SHIT on me.
Nothing I did made a difference, not even medicine, but I was out of bed and functional in six months and back to trying to make big times of myself. And I did. Some more. Just for funsies.
…and this is me now, although very few people know it. I will be relaxing in front of the television and all of a sudden rocket shots of adrenaline are pumping through my veins. Enough that you can see my heart beating through my shirt. My brain fires off for no reason in my sleep as though I am being attacked by death itself. With so many years under my belt fighting fictional bears, you would think I would find it rather mundane. No such luck. It doesn’t ever get less scary and I still have night terrors. Sorry husband. I seek professional help these day and I pipe up when I feel it necessary.
Me: So my fight or flight response is messed up and pumps adrenaline for no reason at odd times. Can you make that stop? It feels terrible. Like I’m going to die, actually.
Psych: Seems like you have a good grasp of what is going on. That is rare with panic attacks. Most people don’t.
Me: I think I have PTSD with severe panic disorder.
Psych: WOW. Over-achiever are ya?
Me: Yup. We done?
Psych: Your amygdale has stored all of that trauma and doesn’t know how “not to” fire off. I’m not sure it is fixable. (Wow! Its broken FOREVER??? AWESOME.)
Me: Can you take it out? My amygdala- I don’t think I need it. I feel like common sense will tell me if I need to run from, say, a bear…..
Psych: I would laugh but I know you are serious. You can’t remove it, it helps you “feel”.
Me: Do I have to feel?
Psych: You are being funny again.
Me: I’m always inappropriately funny.
Psych: Did you know most successful comedians suffer from severe depression. Their sense of humor is a coping mechanism.
Me: Man, that’s depressing.
He laughed. And I felt good. I made a shrink (sorry p.c. police) laugh. I don’t suspect that happens too often. Another success for my little book o’ achievements. Yeah, that’s about how big most of them are.
But he went with it. He knew I knew. And I was right and didn’t want to physically hang on. My heart and mind are over the bad parts. Truly and wholly. I actually speak kindly with the person who participated in these horrendous actions against me (I say it that way because the person is a different person now and I forgive them those days).
The memories don’t go. My body clings to them. I still suffer PTSD attacks and severe panic for no apparent reason, which at my core seems horrifically unfair. But I fight that “unfair” feeling (fighter, remember?). It is my challenge and I accept it. I have to- what else is there. If I wonder “why am I suffering this all over again?” Where does that get me? If I wish bad things on people, even that person in particular, then I suck as a human being, in general.
Not-so-odd segway: I know religion is a weird topic. That seems strange to say, already having said the things I have, but people get weird when you drop the G-bomb. Like, would rather hear about abuse than God, weird.
I didn’t believe in God until I was 37. Not that I did not consider a God, just that I had settled myself on the fact that he did not exist. There was no way- in my right mind- I could believe that if a God existed, he would choose to and let the things happen to me as an innocent child that happened to me, so he must not exist. Easy peasey. Simple pimple.
At 38 I realized I was wrong. And I can’t even really explain it (not a very good, Kirk Cameron type “witness” am I?), save to say that one day I grabbed a Bible and started reading (Proverbs to be precise)…and a lighted warmth came over my heart that made me realize I was a WARRIOR. And I had a heart that was built for forgiveness. I mean that is what I am BEST AT IN THE WORLD. And I could literally change the world….because of, not in spite of, what happened to me. And there AIN’T NO WAY TO DO THAT ALONE… and maybe, just MAYBE, I suffered such horror that ONE SINGLE OTHER LIFE would be changed by words that come out of my mouth or actions that came from my person. And I choose to hold God’s hand whilst I attempt to conquer evil.
I am still trying to figure out life with P.T.S.D., but I know these things to be true: I love heartily, I live passionately, I care, consider and console like you would not believe. People who know me think I am funny, kind and talented. I’m the best friend you could ever have and your biggest champion when you need one. I am NO victim. Don’t feel sorry for me for one single second. I would never be who I am if I had not experienced what I experienced as a child. I am an achiever and a warrior and no one will EVER tell me any different…or take from me what I GAINED from my suffering.
Yes, what I GAINED. Now tell that bear behind the tree he best re-think his attack plan.