May There Always Be An “&”

CW: Sexual trauma, PTSD, suicide

Mental Health Month is ending, but I’m here to tell you, MHM never ends.

I’ve heard that your bravest day is the one you continue to live when you wanted to die. I’ve passed this on to friends but I never knew I’d have such a personal connection to what exactly it meant until this year.

I’m living proof being shattered doesn’t mean life is over. I’m lucky I had others to help pick up the pieces of me & for the mental health team that I’m currently with.

I’ve been in intensive PTSD therapy for quite a few months. So far my experience has been very mixed – just not finding the right match for a therapist I feel comfortable enough to bare my entire soul and broken mind to.

Therapy is both great for you physically and mentally. But it also comes at a price – a very hefty one. The toll that my mind and body were put through mentally just became too much after years of being far too humiliated to actually utter the words “rape” to anyone. It took me 7 years to finally tell my parents about my assaults. Unfortunately, there were multiple.

The thing is, when you experience any kind of sexual assault/abuse, you feel dirty. So dirty that you scrub your body until your skin bleeds. So dirty that somedays you take multiple showers and that’s all you can do. It’s a type of dirty that you feel would expose your uncleanliness to the world.

With uncleanliness, comes shame. And that shame comes like a monster — and in a tsunami of waves. Why couldn’t I protect myself? Chose better people to put my trust in? Then the questions soon turn into guilt. “If my family knew what happened to me, they may never look at me the same again”. Or “What if they think this is my fault?” (I know they didn’t). But most of all, I knew the hardest part would be seeing their faces and knowing how much they had to digest in a very small time.. with a very manic daughter.

I had been ill and in & out of the hospital nearly all winter and things were taking a turn for the worse for me, mentally. Eventually, during the last inpatient stay of last year, I actually became manic from being pumped with so many IV steroids. I went for about 6 days of no sleep before they finally placed me on a bed alarm because I was walking 24 hours of the day. In the middle of a really bad physical state, my mental state was completely deteriorated. This was the first known “trigger” that brought on very traumatic feelings for me. With the steroid-induced mania, my head wasn’t in the right place and this hospitalization was a crumb of hopelessness for me.

I thought “coming clean” would put some weight off my shoulders. I mean – it had been nearly 10 years to the day of my first assault… why was I just developing night terrors, more severe panic attacks and what soon became an official diagnosis of PTSD? I was helpless.

I did the right things. I got out of the hospital. I ended up with a PICC line. I went to therapy, I took the meds, I did the homework. From that point forward, I thought I was putting 100% of myself into self-care.

I knew what I had was an injury; one that resulted from my rape. But at the rate my brain and body were failing miserably to hold each other up, I knew there was nothing left for me to do. So, I gave up.

A couple weeks ago, I did the hardest thing I ever had to do – come to terms with what was happening to my body and my mental state. I was absolutely depleted of all rest and wasn’t finding appropriate coping mechanisms to actually help me get through panic attacks, flashbacks, and episodes of major shock. A few days before I sought treatment, I was in an absolute panic.

I knew what ahead of me was by far harder than anything anyone had ever done to me.

I came to know that I was actually in shock. I guess it can hit at any time, especially if you don’t seek professional help at the times you really should. It didn’t take me long to realize that my sleep cycle – or lack thereof, was causing me to become manic. It was shortly after that I became desperate for help instead of isolating myself like I had been doing for weeks and even months as I recently began to experience intense flashbacks I had never remembered before. I went down a hole very fast and soon all I was capable of was crying in a fetal position. And then the tears stopped. And all I could do was stare at a wall.

I knew the minute I had no interest in seeing my niece and nephews one evening, I needed help. I needed it that night.

Though I was seeking treatment before my hospitalization, it wasn’t the right kind for me and we have now found a more suitable therapy for me that will be intense, hard and it will hopefully break down walls I’ve had built up for years that I just could not emotionally or physically climb out of. It’s going to be fucking hard if I’m honest. In-patient in a psych unit wasn’t the hard part; it’s the transition home and beginning to edge on dangerous thoughts.

The bravest thing I’ve ever done was choosing to seek help. I have zero shame that I was hospitalized or that I sought care. I’m so thankful to my family & best friend who has supported me beyond belief.

I sought help for my deficit the way anyone should with their health – I sought care for it the moment I knew something was broken. This obviously wasn’t a physical type of broken – it was mental and emotional. Nothing could have prepared me to wake up after a night of sleep and experience excruciating PTSD shock, never wanting to wake up.

Life isn’t perfect. The hardest part of my journey will begin as I enter a new type of therapy. I will be challenging, it will be intensive and it will break me down – I’m trying to be as open-minded as possible.

I’m still fighting like hell to be here.

But I’m glad I chose to stay. I will always believe there is a before & an after.

ill always have a before & after.

DISCLAIMER:

If you are struggling & in need of resources, please see below.

I’ll never not urge someone to seek health for their mental health. (yeah, a double-negative – arrest me. I’m passionate)

Call 1-800-273-8255

Lifeline: To speak to a counselor now, please call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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