Once the storm is over – learning to live life to the fullest with Complex PTSD

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

― Haruki Murakami

A voice had been found. I started writing and some days got out of bed, had breakfast and just wrote all day literally. The words just came flooding out. At times I just ended up in the corner of the room sobbing or sitting on the bottom of the recess of the shower as the story came out. I found myself writing in Gaelige a language I had no idea I even remembered let alone could still write in but it just flowed.  It helped enormously with psychotherapy and with working my psychiatrist. It explained a lot of the confusion going through my brain. I was finally able to sort out a timeline because as I was writing dates were inexplicably falling into place. Work I had done under EMDR made more sense as it was given context and names were put to faces. It was true as if a fog had been blown away from my brain and clarity had come. However, it made me more dangerous to myself. It increased the suicidality. The revelations offered no peace just more pain. Suicidal attempts increased and yet I still could not stop writing. I was driven to get my story on paper. I wanted to bear witness to the deaths of those poor children. Stays in the clinic became longer and my mother’s personality became ever stronger and domineering driving the suicidal urges. Events took a nasty turn for the worse when I became temporarily homicidal and declared that if my Psychotherapist and Andrew interfered in my suicidal plans I planned to kill them. I openly admitted to it under EMDR and later without it. It had to be reported to the police. This lasted two months. I was deadly in earnest that’s how committed to killing myself I was and now I was threatening others I loved who intervened in those attempts. I could not be assuaged from that path. I was single-minded in my thinking.  We increased the psychotherapy sessions and I remained in the clinic.  After concentrated EMDR and a change of medication and a leap of faith by Andrew, they discharged me from the clinic to home. My mother made no appearances at home and I had no flashbacks. I had self-harm episodes but no suicide attempts. It was a very tense time for everyone.  I could not be trusted to be left alone under any circumstances so that level of supervision on a 28 acre property is very difficult. Andrew and I are incredibly lucky we get on so well as we spent an enormous amount of time together !!!!!!   However, as time progressed I had the opportunity to reconcile a lot of what I came to know and as I say the writing has been therapeutic and has been a necessary part of the process both for my family, me and certainly will be in bringing justice to Aisling and the other children.

Coupled with EMDR, psychotherapy, dedicated professionals, medications and the love of my family I am finding a way forward. It’s rocky at times. Different voices from the past win the battle and consume me but my present life is rising from the bomb site of my brain and rebuilding a person able to live with the memories and finally grief for the lost children I could not save. I comforted them and relieved our joint experiences as best as I could. Where once in my mind my best was not good enough now it’s slowly being accepted as the only alternative a four to eighteen-year-old had available. To be a survivor one has to accept that one was a victim first. That is happening very, very slowly and painfully and while the suicidality is ever present and ubiquitous and a tantalising solution on those days of battlefront flashbacks, other days I can live. Truly live. The taste of a salty sea can be safely enjoyed as a swim not an escape through drowning, a crispy hard carrot can be confidently chopped for a laksa without danger to my wrists. I can spend an hour a day, maybe, that is not consumed by ways to harm and kill myself.  I can be with my children and remember what they have eagerly shared with me the previous and maybe even tantalisingly hope that I could hope to plan for the next day. I might even remember the next day what they told me the previous.  My memory can be of the previous day’s activities not just ones of Ballyculchie and that room. My condemnation of those that ignored us and allowed such atrocities to continue and stood by in silence or actually perpetuated the crime is absolute and there is no forgiveness there.  I have to learn to forgive myself first and not blame myself for Aisling’s death. Darling Aisling in her oversized uniform and a head full of such mesmerising stories of her world at the school or our sometimes joint story of escaping on the back of the ceramic ducks outside the room on the wall.  I deserve her forgiveness first before I can give any to anyone else.  Such is the positive progression to the present and rescue from the tentacles of trauma wrapped around my brain.

Since my brain has released it’s demons and I have been forced to relive the first eighteen years of my life to vainly try and make sense of the other side of humanity I marvel at my partner’s love and his unconditional support and caring.  There has never been a word of condemnation or disbelief. No recriminations at repeated suicide attempts, self harm, the deception of alcoholism. The subversive attempts to buy Nembutal online and what that cost us financially as I was scammed by the criminal underbelly of those that prey on the vulnerable.  No blame.  I am assured of my children’s love and support too. They have never wavered, guided by the security of their father, one of life’s great human beings. Partners are the hidden heroes of rescuing the broken in society. The silent warriors of living with the reality of mental health and the damage it can cause.  Through them we crawl back to a life in the present, slowly but in the knowledge that you have a staunch ally at your side.  Aisling and Cieran were my first loves as a child. Andrew has been my first and only love as an adult. The only adult I can completely and totally trust knowing in total surety he will never betray me in anyway. Despite everything I have put him through I am still convinced of that unwavering trust and devotion knowing he loves me still. It’s unconditional. I can say that with such belief because I can reciprocate it despite my sucidality. I know that sounds ludicrous. That I could be so committed to killing myself yet so unconditionally love this man but that it is the cruel nature of the Disorder PTSD. It totally and completely fucks with your brain is the only description for it and I have no control over it. It is a desperately sad situation for our close knit family.  He gave me four of the most wonderful children who matured into amazing adults I admire.  In my darkest depths I have to clung to the life raft of my families love.  When the tentacles of abuse wrap themselves around my brain and highjack my world I have to learn to default to love not guilt. The guilt is the main scaffold my personality is built around.  Guilt brings shame, self-hatred, self abomination, crippling negativity where the reality of what is real and present is lost.  It is an abyss of mortification, negativity,  and debasement. It is of absolutely no consequence that the guilt is deserved, real or imagined but emotions and feelings brought with it are invasive and steal your ability to live in a world that is truly actual and real.  It is important to realise that shame and guilt are not one and the same, being closely related, but one being a feeling where you do not meet your own standards of behaviour and one an emotion impossible to  hide. Impossible to escape.  It is insidious, obsessive and makes you feel totally worthless and alone. It brings with it untold despair impossible to escape.  Of all the emotions and feelings that I have relating to the first eighteen years of my life and subsequent realisations, guilt is by far the most crippling and the primary driver of suicidality.  It is not until this guilt is absolved and redemption sought, if it ever can be, and I am forgiven by the children I left behind, that I will have a will to live.  Until such time I work hard at staying with the family I so dearly love and appreciate the enormous support of professionals and a few loyal friends who have managed to stay with us throughout this turbulent journey.  Where there is life there is hope and life can be good once again. Never give up the battle.

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