I have just arrived home from seeing my GP who has been keeping an eye on me while my Psychotherapist is away for two weeks. The appointment went swimmingly. I presented well, was chirpy, communicative and answered all the questions to her satisfaction. She was thrilled. “You’re doing so well Erin. I am so impressed”, she said to me. “You’ve coped brilliantly with your Therapist being away this time. I am so excited, I think you are really turning a corner”.
We went to Sydney to see my closest friend for lunch this week. Drove two hours there and back. Had a perfectly pleasant repast in her beautiful apartment overlooking Sydney Harbour, everyone chatting amicably exchanging news of work, children, books read and overseas trips coming up. She commented to me in a text that I read as we drove home, “You’re in fantastic form. It’s so good to see you back to your old self again. Well done. Thanks for making the effort to come up”.
Last week my horse of seventeen years companionship died. I was heartbroken. He died of a Lypoma which is a horrible death for a horse. The Vet came out straight away and tried to save him. It was too late and we had to put him to sleep but it wasn’t a peaceful death. His circulation was so bad due to the twisted gut that it took ages for the euthanasia drugs to work, so he struggled right up to the very end. His paddock mate Nellie, who has been with him since they were six years old was unbelievably stressed at his death and was just not coping with being on her own in the field so we had to find a friend for her. She, like him, was an old horse so we could not waste any time in finding her a companion. We put out a Post on Facebook to the Horse Rescue sites and found a beautiful pony needing a new home. Simba arrived yesterday and was delighted with his new abode. He’s settled in straight away and Nellie has bonded with him instantly so we could not wish for a better outcome.
My daughter has been nominated for an AFI Award for a new film she is in and the film itself has won several awards at Film Festivals. She’s about to commence a season in a play for Sydney Fringe in an exacting, challenging role that she is loving playing. Not bad for your first year out of University. The two older boys are working happily as Lawyers in their respective jobs, stimulated and reaping the benefits of all their hard study. The youngest is completing his final year in High School and taking his last exams in seven weeks. His application to his studies is outstanding and he’s achieving good results in all his assignments. We’re proud, happy parents.
So you ask all seems on track Erin, what’s the post about? It’s about the scourge of Complex PTSD and chronic suicidality that’s what. Despite on the outside everything appearing Honky Dory and perfect, I am like a duck paddling on the water. All appears calm on the surface but I am paddling furiously underneath to stay afloat. I can barely get out of bed with anxiety. The flashbacks are horrendous coming at me fast and thick like treacle. All sound is amplified to the maximum level, colours are too bright and vivid. I am reminded of a great Tolkien passage:
“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it, there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Day to day existence and living with Complex PTSD is full of perils. I awake in the morning having no idea what the day will bring. One day can pass uneventfully where I am able to go about my work and life just normally and living life to the full like anyone else. Oh, those days are joyous and to be treasured but they are few and far between. They are peppered loudly and intrusively by days triggered by flashbacks which plunge me into re-experiences of past trauma that was devilish to go through once but almost worse to go through twice. Make no mistake, a flashback is not a memory. It is anything even closely resembling a memory in the way we commonly know it. A flashback, or involuntary recurrent memory, is a psychological phenomenon in which an individual has a sudden, usually powerful, re-experiencing of a past experience or elements of a past experience. These experiences can be happy, sad, exciting, or any other emotion one can consider. The term is used particularly when the memory is recalled involuntarily, and/or when it is so intense that the person “relives” the experience, unable to fully recognise it as memory and not something that is happening in “real time”. The reliving is a total assault on my present sensibilities, transports me back through smells as acute as an heirloom rose; taste real as a recently eaten repaste; visuals vivid as a 3d movie in high definition with the power to completely block out whatever is presently happening around me in reality. I am transported back to the event in totality not just in memory. Anyone in the room currently with you no longer exists. They disappear down a tunnel of reality in which already a tentative grip is severed. Loved ones no longer exist. All that exists is the event which may have happened thirty years ago in clarity that is as sharp as if occurring now. The physical pain of rape is experienced. My vagina screams in agony and the shame of the invasion of my privacy devours me, drawing me further into its poison ivy tentacles intertwined in your brain. All you can smell is the heavy, heady breathing of the rapist. Fetid alcohol and nicotine-laden breath which is all consuming becoming the only life air keeping me alive. No longer do I smell the sweetness of the living child I have just kissed. They do not exist in this flashback of thirty years ago.
So I am presenting well at the moment, as so many with Trauma Disorders do, but do not be fooled. We are bubbling cauldrons of emotion underneath and dangerous because of it. My suicidality is high so no longer am I safe. I am making plans to harm myself to gain relief. It’s a well-worn path, unfortunately. No one is asking me the right question of me. Ho I ACTUALLY am. Am I suicidal? Am I planning? Do I see a future? Can I see a way out of this quagmire? Honestly, I can say I am not doing too well. I will need to enact every strategy I have learned through Psychotherapy. My PTSD Triggers and Safety Plan