Are we ‘broken’ ?

“And then I felt sad because I realised that once people are broken in certain ways, they can’t ever be fixed, and this is something nobody ever tells you when you are young and it never fails to surprise you as you grow older as you see the people in your life break one by one. You wonder when your turn is going to be, or if it’s already happened.” Douglas Coupland

The USA Surgeon General states under the category of mental health:

… severe and repeated trauma during youth may have enduring effects upon both neurobiological and psychological development altering stress responsivity and altering adult behaviour patterns … these individuals experience a greatly increased risk of mood, anxiety and personality disorders throughout adult life.

On Tuesday nights I have a telephone consultation with my psychotherapist and last night this was the question I asked her. “Am I broken? Can you ever mend me? It’s just too hard”. She patiently took me through the complexities of Complex PTSD and the ‘see saw nature of the condition and how it is one step forward, two steps back. Chronic suicidality is a very complicated condition to treat as it has so many triggers normal life is dangerous in itself. It is a minefield just negotiating a standard day never mind a day when depression or trauma is present. She is so infinitely patient with me and never seems to tire of explaining the impact of sexual abuse and resulting Complex PTSD.

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder describes the long-term effects of severe, prolonged or repeated trauma, particularly due to child abuse or domestic violence. This has a wide range of effects on personality, identity, memory, mood change and emotional regulation.

  • an inability to control the emotions
  • periods of losing concentration (dissociation)
  • blanking out or losing memories
  • difficulties with a sense of identity or body image
  • physical symptoms that can’t be explained medically, such as headaches, stomach aches, dizziness and chest pains
  • disturbed relationships and cutting oneself off from other people
  • an inability to trust others
  • being vulnerable to abuse or exploitation
  • self-harm, suicide attempts and substance abuse
  • feeling ashamed or guilty
  • difficulty controlling emotions

My biggest struggle is coping with the chronic suicide attempts and the toll this takes on my family. It results in repeated clinic and ICU admissions. My family is so supportive. I marvel at their resilience particularly given our youngest is high functioning autistic. My partner is a tower of strength and keeps the ship moving forward.  With such love and such amazing professional psychiatric support I should be able to be healed but somehow sexual abuse breaks something inside you that cannot be ‘fixed’. The abuser ‘breaks’ some part of your personality and persona. They crush something invisible that I just do not seem to be able to heal. I think it is the destroying of your innocence at such a young age, your trust in those your place faith in, those who have care of you. In my case my parents. Once the love of a child’s parents has been destroyed a piece of the child dies with it. My psychotherapist firmly assures me that she can heal that ‘broken piece’. I want to believe her so I continue to see her. She is my lifeline despite my suicide attempts. So the question remains. Am I ‘broken’?

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