Just when you think you’re ‘normal’ again

My last relationship ended quite amicably, we went through a lot together. My PTSD symptoms came to a head during the two years that we knew each other. There were too many times that he’d say or do the simplest of things and I would end up snapping…or break down and collapse in hysterics. I thought it was all over as far as innocent actions triggering the anxiety side of my PTSD. I thought it was all over until a few days ago.

There’s a man who’s been in my life for quite some time now. He is one of the most kind, gentle and caring people I have ever met. My parents are mid separation and he has been so supportive of me. He has even been a shoulder to cry on when I’ve been a blubbering mess. The thing is though, he has absolutely no obligation to be there for me but he has been. As kind and gentle as he is and as much as I trust that he would never do anything to hurt me, a few days ago he triggered my PTSD. We were just sitting and chatting, I was likely being my usual irritating self. I don’t recall the exact details but it led to him holding my arm still so I couldn’t move. That moment triggered it. As my anxiety rose I asked him a couple of times to let go…until it felt like I was yelling it.

I apologised to him later during the day, it seemed like he’d barely noticed I’d snapped. What I didn’t tell him was that it’s not the first time almost the same thing has triggered an anxiety attack. It first happened a few years ago, only about eighteen months after I’d left Brent. A guy I’d known for more than five years wrapped his arm around me and held me tight and commented “You’re so tiny”. It felt like he was pinning me down, he only held me tight for a few seconds, my chest tightened and I felt as though I couldn’t breathe so I yelled at him to let go. Luckily…I’d not long told him about the night I left Brent, so he knew exactly why I’d reacted that way.

Unfortunately, the second time it happened was with my last boyfriend, probably one of the first times he saw me break down. I told him as little as I could about my past because that’s what it is, past and it shouldn’t affect the present. However, as I mentioned before, that relationship was when everything PTSD began to rear it’s ugly head. He’d get upset with me because he would do something playful or make a joke and it’d trigger something in the back of my mind and I’d flip out or hyperventilate and collapse in an hysteric heap. Every time it happened he’d asked why I just hadn’t told him not to. It’s impossible to explain to someone what will trigger PTSD, not until it’s actually happening.

That’s just it with PTSD. You don’t know when it’ll pop up, you don’t know why until it actually happens. I thought those days were over, I thought men could be playful with me now and I would be fine…but I’m not.

It was and it didn’t

Pregnancy isn’t supposed to be painful, it’s also supposed to show up on a home pregnancy test by six weeks gestation but it was and it didn’t.

There are two reasons all of this is so fresh in my mind at the moment. The first is that one of my siblings is expecting their first child and the second is that this week I have another operation scheduled to treat my endometriosis.

I went to work the day I had gotten the results from the doctor, at a job I’d only begun two weeks earlier, a few days after leaving Brent. It only seemed fair that he knew what was going on, I had no idea of what I wanted to do with the pregnancy and it wasn’t just my baby. I text him that I needed to see him to talk about something. He was so convinced that I had done so wrong by him and refused to see me, nor would he answer my call. So, in true twenty-first century style I text him three words ‘I am pregnant’. Which, as I suspected, got an a response. It may have seemed immature, or unfair to tell him that way but I’d tried to do the right thing which is more than can be said for the way he treated me. His reaction was essentially go back to him or ‘get rid of it’.

My mother is a trained counsellor, growing up, usually unbeknownst to me, she was always counselling me. Whether it was always intentional or not, this time she knew that she could only be my support, and not a counsellor. I still needed to speak to someone who could be objective the pregnancy and the situation surrounding it.

 

 

…but it isn’t supposed to be painful

At twenty one years old, after being with the same gynaecologist for eight years they decided it was time to go in for a laparoscopy. As suspected, thanks to my mothers history; endometriosis was the cause of agonising menstruation and all the lovely symptoms that go with it. From the time of that diagnosis every medical professional who learned that I have the disease would tell me that I should ‘have children yesterday.’

I have always had in my mind that I won’t have children until I’m married. I was raised in a relatively normal family structure, so my children deserve the same. Armed with the knowledge that the longer I leave having children, the more I risk being unable to do it naturally, Brent took advantage of the vulnerable state I was in and I no longer had the contraceptive pill.

At the time, my life in general was fairly stressful and they say menstruation can stop due to stress. They also say that you can feel when an embryo embeds itself in to your uterus. After an unusual sudden feeling in my uterus one day and missing a period, I took a home pregnancy test. It was negative. I had agonising pelvic pain for almost six weeks, it would drop me to the floor. However, after a third negative pregnancy test, all different brands, with the instructions followed meticulously, no morning sickness, and my medical history I had to put it down to stress from my tumultuous relationship or endometriosis.

I had been back in the safety of my parental home for two weeks when I just couldn’t handle the pain any longer so I went to see my doctor. He seemed to agree with me that perhaps I’d contracted an STD as “pregnancy isn’t painful” but for good measure he added an hCG ‘pregnancy hormone’ blood test in to the mix. I had the bloods taken that afternoon and was given a container for a urine sample to bring back the next morning.

I have been going to the same doctor since the day I was born so I know his medical secretaries fairly well. When I walked in the next morning with the sample and she told me the doctor wanted to see me and asked me to wait a moment, I knew exactly why he wanted to see me. I was sitting there with every imaginable swear word going through my mind because I knew that results for syphilis, hepatitis and HIV would take more than 12 hours to process. The only thing that could have returned results so quickly was hCG.

My doctor called me in to his office, I sat there as he calmly told me I was pregnant and we went over the next steps. He gave me a referral for routine pregnancy blood tests and I went home. My mother and I have always been fairly close, but I think even someone who’d never met me would have seen how white I was when I walked back in to that house.  She was in the kitchen, I stood at the bench and without words she asked what was wrong and all I could say was ‘I’m pregnant.’ Just like my doctor and I, she was shocked because ‘pregnancy isn’t painful’.

Pregnancy isn’t supposed to be painful but my memories, memories that I’ll share another time, they are painful, more now than they have been in a long time.

I know how you feel…

‘Good morning! Merry Christmas, I went through something really traumatic once in my life and I’ve let it affect me forever, so now that I’ve been getting help for it I understand and know how you feel.’

I was controlled and abused; mentally, physically and sexually, for months. ‘I know how you feel’ is the absolute most inappropriate thing to say to anyone with PTSD, as chance is, you have no idea how they feel.

It’s true, I’m fragile and I have no issue sharing my experiences with those who wish to listen. However, I don’t use the negatives of my life as an excuse for behaviours and I don’t use them to get attention. Still to this day, very few people know the extent of what really went on. The reason that I do not sulk to every person who will listen to my woes, is that I will not allow the trauma and less than ideal things that have happened in my life to define me.

I am genuinely concerned for the person who decided Christmas was an appropriate time to speak to me about their trauma, and compare their understanding of PTSD to mine. The moment I expressed concern over their sudden change from depressive to manic behaviour, the response was but look at all of these the unfortunate events of the past year and it’s just my time to be happy. This person has been using some unfortunate, not traumatic events, to get attention for too long, and I have suddenly stopped succumbing to it. It’s fine though, there are people in this persons life who will be quite happy to flock to the attention seeking childishness. They see the personal gains of being in this persons life, as soon as they no longer think they need you, they’ll disappear from the face of the earth, just like in the past.

It’s fine to talk about trauma, it’s not fine to think that you can understand what anyone else has gone through. Particularly when your trauma is probably your excuse for not really being there for me when I needed you most…

What’s in a name?

‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.’ – Shakespeare

It’s been more than four years since I left him, yet only recently can I hear or read his name and not feel as though I’m being strangled. Now, I take a deep breath and pause to remind myself I’m safe, that just because someone shares his name  does not mean they share the same personality traits.

I’ve spent quite some time deliberating over whether to use his name in my writing. If I use it, writing about him and his impact upon me would be so much more simple. I want to write it right now, yet in this moment, as I consider this my heart rate is accelerating.

I cannot let him have control over my thoughts, he held that power for far too long. For that reason here it is:

Brent, it truly is just a name.

Past is past, so I thought…

Generally, from my experiences; past partners are not something you talk about with your significant other. I’ve always thought that the past was irrelevant; the present and the future are all that should matter. Unfortunately, he did not agree with this and went snooping.

I’d been in hospital for an emergency day surgery on a cyst, nothing major. He’d waited at the hospital for me most of the day and when I was allowed out of recovery I knew that something wasn’t right, he was distant and short spoken. I was still fairly under anaesthetic affects and in a fair bit of pain. We got to the car, and he began yelling ‘Why did you have to be such a slut!’. Of course, I had no idea where this had come from for him to then go on that he’d been through old messages on my phone between myself and an entire two ex boyfriends. He apparently had major issues with the sexting nature of these messages, it’s pretty normal to be facetious with your significant other right?

He yelled the same words at me over and over for the entire forty minute drive home. I wasn’t really in a state of comprehension so all I could do was cry and apologise. I look back and wonder why I let things continue after this, I really had no reason to be apologetic. He had gone looking for trouble, the messages were all from before we’d met and they were so far down the inbox I didn’t even know they were there. Who goes scrolling down an iPhone message inbox just to go find what you can delete from your own phone? It’s the past so it shouldn’t matter.

This day was when his abuse began. It started with control, he made me agree to cut off all of my male friends. He had it in his head that every male friend I had just wanted to get with me. The next day, he took me to change my phone number, to be sure that I cut off all the people he didn’t want me to contact. In hindsight, I question why I obliged to this but I loved this man, I saw a future with him so thought it was an easy sacrifice to make so he was happy and trusting.

If only I’d realised this was just the tip of the iceberg.

The perfect beginning, it starts small

You’ll always hear professionals say that domestic violence (DV) starts small. Everyone I knew thought that I the most confident person who would never tolerate a violent partner. They were wrong.

In the beginning it all seemed perfect and I didn’t see it coming. Many people wonder how could someone so confident be so naive? Because it does, in fact, start small.

We met when I was taking leave from a degree that I was apparently good at, I’d always had excellent grades. It’s been seven years now so I don’t even recall why I was taking that break. After we’d been together for a while, he learned I wanted to return to university. He seemed very supportive and wanted me to focus on full time study.

I was working a job I didn’t love and had met this man who had swept me off my feet. He encouraged me to leave my job, and ‘we’ decided that we could afford to live very comfortably solely on his income. At the time, I thought that gesture made him the most wonderful man in the world. I just wish I’d seen his ulterior motive.

It turned out, that wonderful gesture was only the beginning of his controlling behavior and eventual physical violence. I had to leave that degree, and will unlikely ever go back due to the PTSD effects my life with him caused. Whilst this brief return to study was the beginning of the hardest time of my life, it was also the perfect beginning of some friendships, two ladies who have become life long friends.

It can start small, so small that nobody will see it coming.