C-PTSD: Flashbacks and fury
Carefully tiptoeing around fragments of my mind strewn carelessly about has become one of my specialities. Shoving my fears, furies and dark memories into boxes is a craft. I am a skilled "bitch face" and I have a 2:1 in "Leave it at the door".
I am the Queen of Compartmentalisation: or so I thought.
In a well intended, but totally misled, bid to "stay strong" (whatever the hell that means), I have been striding forward like there's no tomorrow. I've been shoving memories, feelings and thoughts into dark corners of my mind like, as a child, I'd shove all my toys under the bed. There's only so much of that you can do though, huh.
Finally, my room is clean (metaphorically speaking - my real room will always be 'classic piles'). There's literally nothing on the floor. No mess. "YASSSS QUEEN, YOU'VE DONE IT!" I think to myself, before sticking on another episode of Drag Race. I live with my best friend now, she's ace. My dog has finally calmed down just enough to be allowed into my room at night. I own a set of plates that are only big enough to hold one Oreo each. Life is good.
I can finally breathe; I feel safe.
But the "under the bed" part of my mind still hasn't been addressed and it is starting to cause me problems.
Temporarily guarding myself from the horror that I have emerged from was absolutely necessary. Now though, the necessity is that I clean my room again; thoroughly this time. Safely and slowly.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a major mind-wobble and, as I fell asleep, I heard it: the key in the lock, the door slamming, heavy, angry footsteps. I jolted out of bed and, shaking, checked the house. Nothing.
I have always had very vivid dreams, especially at heightened periods of anxiety, but nothing that compares to these Flashbacks I have been having recently.
As awful as living with anxiety can sometimes be, I can at least see myself through it (albeit a frightened version). There's no such reassurance in PTSD. Control is a crutch I use to help me hobble through my panic attacks, the lack of control I am now experiencing makes me feel like I am losing my mind.
Over the last few weeks I have found myself angry. Not really a feeling I have very often recognised in myself. There have been several occasions where emotion has poured out of me suddenly and I cannot shake this raw feeling of rage. I'm furious.
It feels so goddamn unfair that I am STILL working my way through all these complicated feelings. Is it not enough that I survived the abuse itself? Why do I now have to deal with all of the echoes it's left behind?!
It's like I have felt just safe enough to open up all my windows and doors again, only to find that the calm was just me - standing in the eye of the storm. Sure, the worst has probably past, but this time my fucking windows are open.
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is different to PTSD in that it results from repetitive exposure to trauma. It's usually, but not always, found in victims of abuse. While some of the symptoms it causes are similar to PTSD (hallucinations, disassociation, terror and difficulties in regulating emotions) C-PTSD is often delayed and accompanied by a change of the way the suffered perceives themselves.
To outsiders looking in, it might seem as though the person is exhibiting symptoms associated with Bipolar Disorder or BPD or has had a complete personality overhaul. From the inside, it feels very much like I'm going crazy. Within a week of that first flashback, I sought treatment.
So now, slowly (and with the help of my therapist), I'm going to gingerly pull out all the shit I hid under my bed. One by one, I'm going to examine each item and I'm going to find it a "proper" place.
I owe it to myself to let the vulnerable in, and out. I need to start letting myself REALLY feel again. I deserve real experiences and connections again and I'm not going to be able to trust the people around me until I risk trusting myself.
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Suggested reading: Dear Stephen Fry