When There Is No “Before”

I’m at a point where I’m sort of doing “normal” things okay – like food shopping and other shopping. You know, I can survive better because I can do these things on my own. Yes, these are big things to me but also… “normal” people do other things – I don’t know, hobbies and things. Don’t get me wrong, I have hobbies, just none that require me to go somewhere alone.
And here’s where I hit a snag of sorts and this applies to other issues of mine too sometimes.

If you read my timeline of abuse, you can see that abuse started at a young age… too young for me to remember it happening. I had anxiety by 6 or 7 years old. I’ve probably had PTSD the vast majority of my life… like maybe 2-3 years without it when I was very young.
For me this means there is no before the abuse. I have no regular me to go back to. I have no activities that I can think “I used to love doing that before this happened… I’m going to aim to get back to that”. There is no template for a me without C-PTSD for me to work from.

Sometimes I wonder if I would have been naturally more outgoing, more confident, more able to take advantage of the opportunities thrown my way. Would that girl have put up with bullies? Stayed in an abusive relationship? Who would I be now? Where would I be now if I hadn’t been abused? I guess I’ll never know.

I can only build on this somewhat rickety foundation that I have. Throw out the bad, fix up some things, a little duck tape here and there and hey presto! Wait no that doesn’t look like the picture on the box!
It might seem like I’m over complicating this, and perhaps I am. Really I can do whatever I decide I want to do. I do have interests to build up on after all. But I guess what I’m trying to portray here is that this sort of goal is a bit more… fuzzy.
Shopping is clear. I want to get my shopping without rushing and without anxiety. Shopping may not always be fun but I’d like it to be anxiety free.
Hobbies, clubs, social things? What’s my goal here? Just to not have anxiety? Or what? How do normal people “feel”?
I’m not even sure I’m making sense here.

In a way not having a before can be a good thing. I don’t get the pressure from others or myself (because I pressure myself!) to get back to before asap. And I’m not making light of anyone who is in the situation of having a before because I can completely see how that is also very difficult but for different reasons.
However, not having a before to get back to isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. It’s starting to scratch like a child going through all the phases of wanting to learn an instrument, going to scouts, dance classes or whatever is of interest that month. Trying things, maybe not liking them – maybe losing interest. Maybe deciding it was a stupid idea. And yet, that’s how kids build their confidence and their independence.

Better leave it there, I feel another whole posts worth of stuff coming on about “arrested development” (which may or may not be the correct term!). Not to mention it’s 1am.

– Vin

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Therapy Update: Getting There

Here is that positive post I’ve been meaning to get to for a while now.

I’m making progress! And yes I am kind of surprised at this myself.

I’ve been using CBT to work with my psychologist. I have many issues but we’ve been focusing on my anxiety and panic attacks when out on my own somewhere – which didn’t happen very often because of the anxiety.

There was a point in my life where I would hardly leave the house at all, I managed to sort that out in my own way and I eventually would leave the house and go out with friends, but only with people that I trusted.
But that still left me with the problem of not going anywhere on my own and that’s kind of a problem in work/education particularly.

This may sound completely silly to some or all of you but I can now go to the supermarket on my own and into town shopping on my own. It still surprises me that I can do this without having anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a few moments of tensing up because my brain will sometimes switch to anxiety because it thinks I should be anxious, but it goes after a few minutes so I can ride it out and know it will go away.
Like I said, it probably seems silly but for me this is a huge accomplishment!

And yet… I still have a long way to go.

Having a job still scares the shit out of me. In some ways this is a whole different thing that being able to go shopping – because I have to stay there with people who – chances are – do not understand. In a work place, I feel trapped. It’s like being in that silence of being abused all over again.
But we (psychologist and I) have agreed not to worry about this right now, as we have a different plan in mind and so this is not an immediate problem that needs addressing.

Plus there’s my many other issues to combat – trust issues, nightmares, sleep (or lack of!) and maybe some day I’ll get to some off my PTSD/Depression/Anxiety medication?

Oh boy, that’s a lot of work ahead! Onwards and upwards!

-Vin

Sleepless Self-Loathing

Since I can’t sleep tonight, it seems like a good time to blog about my sleep issues right? Although I must point out that I am tired – just can’t sleep so this maybe a bit filled with spelling mistakes.

I really don’t know what it is with sleep. I love sleep, but sometimes it just fails to come to me. I seem to go through bouts of being able to sleep well and then out of the blue, I have a night (or two, or three…) where either I don’t sleep or I won’t get to sleep until 4-5am.
Also I seem to sleep better in the day when I have a nap, I get more deep sleep.

Is it PTSD/Abuse related? Oh… probably. Isn’t everything in my damn life?!

I put a fair bit of effort into attempting to get good sleep and keep some sort of routine, because I know what it’s like to be up all night crying and begging for my life to be taken from me, then at some point after sunrise falling asleep for most of the day – or trying to operate on not only little sleep but a depression fueled night. It is not good. Had to stop doing that – and opening my curtains in the day too – that helped. I digress.
I don’t have a strict bedtime – usually between 10 and midnight I’ll be off to bed but I have my little wind down routine and all – it works pretty well but apparently it can’t get rid of bad nights of sleep completely.

Where does the self-loathing come into this? Well this may have something to do with this particular night of sleeplessness. Sometimes, there is just no escaping, no forgetting, no ignoring the fact that PTSD affects my life. I can say that I have come a long way in the past 10 years and it’s been a really slow, laborious journey but I’m still not free from the affects. And I can’t help thinking, really – is it worth it? Because I don’t know, maybe yes I am getting better but I’m damaged goods and frankly… maybe I always will be.

I think I’m depressing myself more. That and I can’t bring myself to write much more on that subject. I don’t want to go back to being all “what’s the point?” but there are sometimes when I wonder still.

I suppose I should attempt to sleep again.

Hope your all having sweet dreams!

– Vin

Anxiety Setback/Pause

I never ended up posting about all the positive stuff as I promised in my last post because all the things I posted about in that post set my anxiety off really bad so bad I’ve had to seriously reconsider my friendship with this person.

For 4-5 days I was having major anxiety like I haven’t had in years – in the house, whilst watching TV. My heart pounding, mind racing and body shaking. It was bloody awful.

When I fallout with someone or something happens to set off my threat system and therefore my PTSD, I expect a certain amount of anxiety and whatnot when the event happens. Heck I even expect to take a few days to recover because it tires me out. But I did not expect this and when it happened the day after the whole fallout, I did sort of brush it off and thought well… it will go away. Obviously I still need to work on my threat system going overboard but for right now, this will go. I’m just still a bit stressed about it all, etc.
But when it happened the next few days as well – when I’m not even doing anything, just watching TV and sitting – I’m not going to lie, I was getting pretty scared.

Scared this was going to last a lot longer, scared I’d relapsed back a good few years. Was I really going back there, back to those times? After all the work I’ve done to get where I am now? What the fuck will I do if I am relapsing and going back there? I’m not sure I have the strength to walk that path again, I could be approaching 40 before I get back to where I am!

And oh yeah, lets try not to panic about going back a few years because lets face it with anxiety this high in a relaxed environment, I’m creating some perfect thoughts here to bring on a full blown panic attack.

I decided I would give it a week and if it was still bad, I’d have to do something about it either via my GP or my physiologist.

Thankfully the anxiety stopped by day 5 or 6.

It hasn’t set me back, so I guess you wouldn’t call it an actual setback – more like a pause in my normal “healing” process. Hence the title of this post.

It did however also completely tire me out. For the next week I slept 10 hours or so at night and then had a 3-4 hour nap in the afternoon.

I think I’m sort of back on schedule now!

– Vin

I Hate Liars

I really do also hate coming back posting with a negative because I’ve spent the past 6 weeks really working hard in CBT and other areas of my life – so I apologise for this but there will be TWO posts today and I’m going to get the negative out of the way first.

I hate liars and it’s really no secret that I hate liars, I might not tell everyone the deep down reasons why I do but generally people know I hate liars.

Well… lets just say I got lied to. I’ll spare all the details bar it was a so called friend who knew perfectly well how much I hated liars. Not to mention they have lied to me before.

Being abused, having PTSD and having a mental illness which people don’t understand and run away from, doesn’t make you trust people much at all as it is.

You might consider us close, but you won’t know how much I don’t tell you for example.

I cannot stand liars and I don’t keep them close to me. They can’t be trusted. I don’t see any reason to lie unless it is a life or death situation.

And then there is how much it sets off my PTSD. You lied to me and now I’m shaking and crying because a threat is too close to me. I let someone in who couldn’t be trusted – not into my deepest darkest areas, but still… too close. My OCD is creeping back… could I have prevented this? Maybe if I didn’t play that song. Maybe if I’d have done one of my old routines. Maybe this wouldn’t be happening and I wouldn’t be here with this sick empty feeling.

I don’t understand how one makes choices to hurt someone who they claim they care about. Once can be an honest mistake, but lies don’t tend to be an honest mistake.

I’m at a loss for words at this point.

Time for a break, then I’ll be back later to write about positive stuff!

-Vin

Timeline of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Mental Illness – DAY 8 OF MENTAL ILLNESS AWARENESS CHALLENGE

wasting-time

So Day 8 is What age you were diagnosed at? At what age do you think your symptoms began?

Okay, wow this in a minefield of a question! For a lot of this I can only give you rough ages, as I was either a child or well in a daze of trying to kill myself but I’ll try give you an easy to follow timeline so that you can see the progression of my abuse an illness(es).

For reference, I’m 28 now. Please note, once a symptom has started, it doesn’t go away. It’s carried on until I say, it’s better or gone.

Age 2 or 3: I’m not sure if I had any “symptoms” as in physical or mental back then, nor do I actually remember any abuse – but I remember a number of times been told off for being or saying something rude. Not like a swear word I picked up but things a toddler shouldn’t have any idea about.

Age 6 or 7: Hello anxiety! People who looked a certain way would freak me out, I can remember thinking “please go away, please go away” (they weren’t harming me in any way, they just really scared me), I would not go anywhere alone. If I had to go to toilet during class, I would run like mad to the bathroom and back. I can also remember being so anxious that I would sit on my hands to keep myself from shaking and help keep myself from fidgeting.

Age 8: Abused. (This is the one time I remember and it was the last time it happened).

Age 8-9: After an argument with my mum (nothing at all related to abuse), I discussed running away with one of my friends (as in I talked to them about it, not they were going to come with me). This is when my depression and hopelessness set in and I couldn’t cope with change anymore. That friends family and mine has a disagreement and he wasn’t allowed to hang out with me anymore (we were neighbours), I completely lost it and cried. This was possibly the first time I felt I didn’t want to be here anymore – though I don’t think I thought about actually dying or killing myself.

Age 12: High school, big change and I’m not taking it well. I’m doing great academically but during school hours – I don’t talk hardly at all. Maybe 5 words all day, even to the people I sit with in class and at lunch time. They make fun of me not talking, so I talk even less. I’ve also developed OCD. Anger and meltdowns start to become common place.

[NOTE: At this point in writing this I’m finding it really hard, I never think about all these things all together like this. I know they happened of course but… it’s hard to see it all written down.]

Age 14-15: My OCD is pretty bad. I have a morning routine I stick to and I have before bed routine too. I’ve been late for school a few times because of my compulsions. I’ve also started skipping school, at least one day a week. I just can’t cope with school as much anymore. I don’t get caught, as I know the signs they’re looking for in someone who truants (no I’m not giving anyone any tips! I’m not proud of it!).

Age 16: School got a new employee especially to deal with people who skip school. I switch tactics to cope and fake illnesses to my mum – not as much as I skipped school but I can’t cope with school still. Panicking about finishing high school, I choose a college course that is completely wrong for me but that is “the right thing to do”.

Age 17: Sleep schedule is fucked. 4am bedtimes, 8am wake ups and college full time. I’ve no idea how I was even awake in the day nevermind survived and passed most of the classes. Depression is bad. Thinking of suicide. Self harming starts.

Age 18: My granddad (my abuser) dies. I’m not happy… or sad. Just numb. Anxiety increases to panic attacks. I miss a lot of classes at college, but with the help of my tutor I pass.

Age 19: I’m just going to say it – by this point, I was completely fucked. Suicidal, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, OCD. I’ve no idea at this point that I have PTSD. I’m living my life in fear and my every decision is based on how safe I feel. I have meltdowns and if someone close to me brings me into an unsafe situation… I was super pissed. So angry. I couldn’t understand why myself at this point but I was just so determined to keep me and the people I loved safe.

Age 20: Anxiety diagnosed and depression suspected. Therapist an idiot, so I don’t go back.

Age 22-23: A fuckton of bad things happen in my life, which I won’t go into. But I’m pretty much at my worst point ever. I’m crying myself to sleep, I’m barely eating and I’ve tried to kill myself several times.

Age 24: Got my OCD under control. Started taking Citalopram for my depression and anxiety (luckily for me, I later found it this is what they use to treat PTSD).

Age 25-26: Started abuse counselling. This was not a medical person so no diagnosis work was done. Suicidal thoughts and self harm thoughts are lessening.

Age 27: PTSD diagnosis.

 

Not going to lie, that was … difficult to write. Actually I don’t really have any words or energy left to “summarise”… so I hope this helps someone reading this. I’m now going to take a shower and eat chocolate.

– Vin

Do you think there are any triggers or patterns to how your illness(es) effects you? – Day 7 of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge

I know I know I’m taking way too much time doing this challenge, but here is Day 7 – Do you think there are any triggers or patterns to how your illness(es) effects you?

First off, if you want to know what my mental illnesses are, check here.

There are plenty of triggers, there was was a point where pretty much everything was a trigger because it involved putting my trust in someone or something other than myself.
Of course I get the normal triggers from child abuse in the news, or on TV or sometimes just what someone says. I guess you would call them direct triggers – the kind that everyone expects to happen.
Then there are those that remind me of that time period in my child hood – like those felt tip pens with a thin end and thick end or I don’t know I can’t think of anything else right now but sometimes those things can trigger me – because it takes me that to that time and the general feeling of it.
There are also the ones related to my abuser, things that remind me of him like the smell of tobacco – not cigarettes, but tobacco – when you smell it close up. Or horrible green unscented soap. Peas in a box that you soak over night to rehydrate them. *shudders*
I guess you would say they trigger the whole PTSD package.

There are other things that trigger my anxiety or depression – because of PTSD, like being lied to or someone being drunk around me.

I’m really not sure that I’m explaining that very well!

As for patterns…

Monday I go to my psychology appointment, so Sunday evening is usually anxiety filled.

It’s not a rigid pattern but I seem to go through phases with my sleep. Every now and again I have a few nights where I can’t get to sleep until 5-6am or I keep waking up.

I think that’s pretty much it.

-Vin