Last week, I was diagnosed with PTSD. It was somewhat expected. I was not provided with proper mental health care when I was a child, and those who could have provided it were my abusers. So it was not a good situation. Women in my culture are forever minors, with custody transferred from the father, to the brother, to the uncle, or to the husband. I am still considered a minor. But I am not. I am a very powerful lady.
I cried for two days after my diagnosis in a safe, temporary shelter. I had endured what had felt like hell to me. I had been suffocating, full of pain and absolute terror. I had gone through it with the strength of steel — becoming highly accomplished, funding big projects, and even supporting other families.
I thought I had emerged from the abuse unharmed. I thought I was such a resilient person that it wouldn’t affect me. I minimized the depression, eating disorders, obsessions, anxiety, self-harm, and panic attacks that came from feeling helpless, alone, and overwhelmed. I studied the problem and provided therapy for my beautiful self. Everyone who has known me during the past five years would tell you that I am a happy, relaxed, patient, and confident person, free of worry.
Then, I moved out of my accustomed environment, and my apparent calm dissipated into the clouds. I felt as though I were suffocating. I was panicking on the bus. I believed that people thought horrible things about me, and I could not shut the lies in my head up. I saw my abusers everywhere. I heard them in the sound of the water drops as they hit the shower curtain. I slowly deteriorated to my low point of seven years ago. I went into a deep depression, because I thought I was sick in a way that I could neither change nor control.
When I could provide myself with healthcare, I got a diagnosis. And now I am angry. Very angry. It is not me. It was never me. It was someone else damaging me. Who gave them the right to damage me? Who gives anyone any right to damage another person? I want my abusers to provide me with a permanent safe shelter, health care costs, and a proper apology. I want the world to rage with me.
Let me tell you what it is like for me to have PTSD.
Suppose you have a final exam in an hour and you just learned about it. If you don’t do well on this exam, you will not be able to get the degree you have been working for over the past four years. You paid a lot of money for that degree. Imagine the stress and panic of that hour.
Every waking moment is like that for me. I feel immense stress, as though it is a matter of life and death, when nothing bad is going on around me. I don’t have any reason to be stressed on the outside, but on the inside, I am on fire. I am sensitive to everything.
You think it ends when you go to bed, but nope. Every single night for the past three months, I have had the same nightmare, two to three times a night, and it wakes me up in terror. I wake up and cannot breathe through my tears. The nightmare is nothing but a replay of specific memories of trauma I have lived through.
When I go through a situation that reminds me of that experience, I just break down. Normal events are triggers for me. I have been having one to two panic attacks every day. I am having one right now, but I need to write this down for those who are experiencing the same. I feel for you.
I am still discovering what PTSD is about. I’ve tried re-applying the techniques that worked for me in the past, but they just stressed me more. It is different from having the stress coming from an abuser. It is coming from within. You can leave an abuser, but can you leave yourself?
Panicking in public is hard. You need to keep it together — or at least I do, because I am embarrassed and don’t want to bother others with it. So I cry within and grasp for air silently. I cannot be in a place with a lot of people because I will just panic. With my academic achievements, I am more than prepared to give presentations. But with the first opportunity, I completely lose my way and make no sense, sounding like an absolute idiot. Someone else gave this panic to me, but I have to keep it to myself. I need to do well at work to help myself, but I am in constant terror that paralyzes me from being of any use.
There is no switch-off button. I am exhausted. Day and night, I am overwhelmed with no break.
But I am an extremely powerful lady. Extremely. I am not my body. I am not my mind. I am higher. I had control over pain and an uncontrollable situation before, and I am doing it again now by writing — publicly and with absolute confidence — about what triggers my panic attacks.
I have hurt myself twice so far. But I am sick, and I did not cause it, and it is not me who should feel ashamed and embarrassed about it. I told my boss at work. I am open about it. My brain is sick because of multiple injuries of a chemical type that were induced by abuse. Abuse made my body over-produce chemicals that left traces in my brain. And it will heal. Or it won’t. Whatever happens, I will find my balance again.
I’ve been through hell. I became sick, and I am gathering myself. I am doing such tremendous work. I love myself.
Peace.[Headline image: The photograph shows a light-skinned person seated on the floor indoors and against a white wall. Their hands are raised in front of their face as they look to the side.]