(Please know that in writing this, in sharing it, I feel incredibly exposed and scared. But something in me knows I must share it. I want to satisfy my instinct to justify why, but instead I’m going with the instinct to let it be and as such here it is…)
So here it is. The truth.
I’m a mess.
I’m broken and damaged and lost more often than I’m not. In between, I write.
Occasionally I get messages telling me of my bravery. How much courage and strength I have. I’m grateful for them, don’t get me wrong, they actually make me stronger just reading them. But the truth is…
I’m not brave or courageous or strong. No more than anyone else anyway.
What I write about varies, but mostly it’s from my own experiences, even if it is fictional there’s always a lot of me in there. I can only write what I know.
And a lot of what I know comes from my experiences of my mental health, abuse/trauma (sexual, emotional, physical, from childhood and adulthood), life, death, grief, loss and everything and anything in between. And yes, I even write about lighter topics (occasionally).
I’ve never claimed to be ‘better’ now or ‘healed’, but sometimes I hear from people who assume, because I put pen to paper on the topic(s), that I am. That is okay. More than okay.
But the truth is…
I am not better or healed.
I am still very much battling, daily, hourly, sometimes minute to minute, with severe depression, anxiety and complex post-traumatic stress disorder. With this comes sleep disorders, physical issues/illnesses and so many complicated effects on my life, relationships, work and general health.
I take medication, go to therapy, I scramble through a whole range of self-help, mindfulness, grounding techniques, I read, I meditate and I write, constantly. I’ve tried pretty much everything I can think of over the years, some things have worked more than others, and more than ever I’m currently looking into my options in it all. Because life is hitting me hard right now and I’m having to accept even with all of this, that I need more help.
In acknowledging this I’m not saying that I’m accepting of it all 100% of the time. I’m not. It’s hard. It’s really hard. So hard that recently I have spent more hours in bed, unable to move, or peeling myself off the floor, literally sometimes, than I care to recall.
I’m not writing this as an invitation for opinions or judgements on what I’m doing or how, or if it’s working or not (yet I’m open to discussion on it all if it’s from a genuine and supportive place), I’m just saying that I’m still in the thick of it and it’s as much of a battle now as it ever was, if not more.
But it’s not only my mental health that I’m battling still.
When I write about my childhood abuse I am of course writing about something that is not happening now, after all I am an adult. But I am continuously dealing with the impacts, alongside recurrent flashbacks, intrusive memories, night terrors and generally trying to piece together a lifetime of confusing and painful experiences.
It plays into my reality. It is a tangled web of horror at times and everyday I’m working to untangle it, navigating my life through a million different triggers, and still trying to live, fully.
And then comes the biggie. Okay, not THE biggie, it all feels pretty big, but the part that is possibly the most current this week…
I am still vulnerable to abuse and to all kinds of manipulation. I have experienced abuse and assaults as an adult, multiple times and some recently.
To say that seems strange. If I know I’m vulnerable, how am I still letting it happen?
The answer: I’m not.
I’m not knowingly letting it happen. Nobody let’s these things happen to them. An abuser abuses, not the other way around.
Even with that, every conscious part of me does everything humanly possible to protect myself from being abused.
But it’s the subconscious cycles that began in childhood that I’m starting to realise are still ongoing. For example, if someone does something to hurt me I internalise it. I blame myself and find anything I can to take their culpability for myself. I am also extremely talented at blocking out certain memories, at ‘moving on’ quickly and letting the memories hit me even harder further down the line.
At the beginning of this year I was sexually assaulted by a stranger. I won’t go into the details, that’s another painful story for another time. The point here is that it was the first time I told someone straight away that I’d been assaulted. Before this incident, as a child and an adult, I have been assaulted, raped and abused and I told no one about any of it until a few years ago.
This incident, whilst traumatic in itself, was a huge moment in my realisation that not only was I still extremely vulnerable to abuse, but maybe now I’d realised it I was taking back some control and becoming less vulnerable. Maybe this was my first step in stopping these cycles.
Yet this weekend I have realised that only three months later I was sexually assaulted, again, by somebody who I was romantically involved with for a short time.
At the time I knew what he did felt abusive. I knew it was wrong. He knew I had issues from historic sexual abuse and he even knew what he had done was wrong – he said so. He knew he had sexually assaulted me. Afterwards he sat with his head in his hands, saying how he should have stopped when I told him to.
He knew. I knew. But I also know how easily triggered I am based on my history, so I blamed myself. I figured it must have been my triggers that made it feel abusive; it was my fault that he felt like he had abused me; I had turned him into an abuser; nobody has ever admitted their abusive behaviour to me, ever, so surely it was me to blame. So I comforted him, told him it was fine and instantly denied to myself what had really happened (this in itself was part of the manipulation, I see that now).
Yes, I carried it. I’ve carried it with me for five months. But not in its true form. I carried it in a box labelled “my fault”.
This weekend I was talking to my closest friend about how easily triggered I am in life. I began using this incident as an example, but as the words fell from my mouth, words explaining how I said “No”, repeatedly and five minutes later he still wouldn’t stop, how I felt violated, how I couldn’t bear seeing him again, my own words hit me in the face as I saw, clearly, I had been sexually abused, again.
With this realisation came all of trauma and feelings that I’d managed to lock away these last months.
I fell apart.
Over the last few days I have broken into a thousand pieces that I’m not sure can ever be put back together. The realisation of this incident, on top of everything else has become too much to handle.
So I’ve crumbled into having to ask for more help, in various areas of my life.
My determination to work all of this out, to get out of these cycles, to understand how and why I am still so vulnerable to abuse, to protect myself, to find a way to live is stronger than ever. But my energy reserves in doing so are near fully exhausted, so it’s a slow process.
Unfortunately I don’t have a happy conclusion here. I can’t say, “this is how it’s going to work out…” or “I’ll be okay, because…”, as I’m still right in the middle of it and in truth, I don’t know if I will be okay. I can hope, but I can’t know.
Yes, I have taken huge steps in seeking help this week. But I’m still working my way through it all and every hour brings a new thought, a new emotion, a new challenge.
So what am I saying? Why have I written this?
Because usually I find it impossible to talk about my current issues. I find it difficult to talk about things that happened in the past too, even if I’m now a more positive place with them, so talking about all this, now, feels wrong, so very wrong.
I know we love to hear stories about how someone made it through; how there is hope because “I went through it too and look at me now.” I get that. I look for that too. We all do. But for me, now, I’ve not got to that place yet, so I can’t write it.
But what I can write is this. Because now, this is what I know.
And yet it feels wrong to write from ‘in it’. To hold my hands up and say I am broken and wounded and feel like I’m losing my mind daily.
That, even as someone who writes about this, who has worked with others in similar situations, who objectively knows a lot about these areas from my own experience and that of others who I have been privileged to support, I am still going through this and I’m struggling, not only with the residual effects of past experiences, but in finding my way through recent, continuously evolving pain and trauma.
So there is it…
The truth (if any of it makes any sense, as honestly, not much does to me right now).