Today’s Guest Blogger is Susan who is a subscriber to youwillbearwitness.com. It is about CPTSD and how it affects her. Thank you Susan for submitting your article.
Will I ever be ‘normal’?
This is a bit of a pointless question, rhetorical really, we all know there’s no way I’ll ever be a ‘normal’ person.
We are all shaped by our experiences; it influences us more than we care to admit and I’ve been shaped by countless dangerous, abusive and extreme circumstances they have such an impact on me as a person that even though it may have been decades ago it has stayed with me.
I suffer from CPTSD – Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – and like it’s famous sister PTSD one of the symptoms is flashbacks.
To truly understand what a flashback feels like – though everyone’s experience is different – for me; it’s like falling and drowning at the same time into utter darkness then my gut tightens, I shake, I start to hear crying and screaming and my limbs feel like lead. I try to speak but I can’t breathe and I’m taken to a time in my life where I felt my life was at risk – I see it all over again. It really feels as if you have to go through it all over again.
When you have CPTSD these flashbacks can be of many incidents as it’s usually linked to sustained periods of abuse as well as multiple types of abuse, whereas PTSD can be caused by one isolated incident.
When I was 11 I was nearly kidnapped – not the first or the last time this would nearly happen. I was raised in the countryside and was overly trusting so when a guy with a minibus(van) said he was a provisional bus service for the local council I believed him and happily took trips with him into the local town with my brother.
He was very inquisitive he asked me lots of questions about who I was, what my life was like and I answered all of his questions
Then one time we were supposed to both be picked up at the same place at the same time but my brother wasn’t there so I travelled with him alone. I didn’t feel uncomfortable straight away but while driving he asked if I wanted to sit in the front seat I said yes and he told me to climb through – this was my first warning I thought it was odd that a bus driver would allow a child to climb through while driving I knew it was illegal; both my parents had allowed us to do that while driving and had both been pulled over!
So I climb through and sit there and we start talking soon I notice he keeps touching my leg and that turned into rubbing – this was my second warning, he was touching me and I knew it was sexual.
Then he said “How old are you, again?” I told him I was 11 He replied (and I quote) “Really cause it’s my daughters 12th birthday today and she’s having a sleepover, would you like to come?” I said I had to get home and he started telling the most perfect 12th birthday I could think of – tents in the living room, karaoke, a midnight feast – just the kind of party I would love.
I knew it was too good to be true and I knew I was in trouble. I started watching the road waiting for the turning to my village to come but my gut told me he wasn’t going to take it he tried to persuade me that it’d be fine and that I could call my mum from his house and he’d explain and she’d be fine with it all I could think was “I bet she wouldn’t” – even my mother who is probably a good contender for ‘The Most Neglectful Parent Award” would definitely NOT be okay with it!
I tried every excuse, I told him I had homework and he said “But you’re home educated, you’re so smart you don’t need to worry about that,” I told him my mother would be worried and he said “She’s a single mother with four kids I don’t think she’s mind!” I realised he’d paid a lot of attention to our previous conversations and this only fuelled my fear.
As the turning came up I noticed he did not slow down he was acting like he didn’t see it but I knew it was deliberate – this was my final warning – as the turning passed us by my heart sank into despair but as soon as it did my brain turned on and a calm steady voice told me to take off my seatbelt and unlock the door without him noticing so I started to pretended that he’d convinced me and he relaxed a little so as not to notice.
I thought of just jumping out but I looked out the window and it didn’t seem like an option – we were going too fast for me to just jump out. Remember it was the countryside and short of livestock and the occasional train crossing there was not much traffic.
Luck however did strike me – there were two or three cars in front of us and then a large hay-truck started backing onto the road we came to an almost complete stop.
I slid my arm to the handle and BOLTED I ran to the verge and through a hedge across a field and into a wooded area I sat down on a tree stump and my brain said “Stay where you are, stay still, be quiet”.
I stayed on the tree stump for nearly two hours then I got up walked out of the woods and started walking back home, alone.
When I got home I told my mother what had happened and she seemed almost excited like I’d had a fun adventure, she said she would report him to the local authorities but like a true contender for “The Most Neglectful Parent Award” she did not.
It was not an adventure. It was yet another experience of total fear and hopelessness, I felt so vulnerable and alone I was totally at his mercy. I was only 11 and yet again I had to save myself from yet another adult who was crossing some dangerous boundaries.
I have lived these moments over and over again I relived all the thoughts that passed through my mind like; “He’s going to rape me.” “Why isn’t anyone here to help me?” “What do I do?” “Why is it always me?”
I’m constantly reminded how hurt I was that my mother didn’t do anything – didn’t even get a hug!
I’m constantly reminded of a time when nobody was there, that no one helped me where I would’ve loved nothing more than to be rescued and how worthless I must be for no one to even try.
It’s as fresh in my memory as the day it happened – this and much, much more swims around my head all day every day giving me real life examples of why I’m not a normal person.
I can’t just ‘forget about it’. It won’t let me move on. It just keeps attacking me.
It makes me act strangely; to this day I don’t like sitting in the front seat, I avoid being alone in cars with male drivers, I keep one hand of the door handle and the other on the buckle.
This is second nature to me and it makes up part of who I am. I’ve had to save myself so often that it doesn’t even occur to me to ask for help, I’m so used to having to fight alone.
I try to move on, I try to have every day as it comes and want to have a more prosperous future but I’m so used to being attacked I’m stuck in a defensive mindset just waiting for the next bad thing to happen.
I suppose what I mean by the question is not “will I be ‘normal’?” It’s “Will I ever be accepted for who I am now by society in general?” and perhaps even more pertinent “Can I accept who I am?”
From my experiences thus far I fear the answer is “Probably not”.
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