Making sense of PTSD
Having now left an abusive relationship I found that struggles began in other areas. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) became a daily (and nightly) problem. For me this didn’t make any sense, here I was now free of any form of abuse -although I was struggling with depression. Yet I was experiencing all manner of ‘flashbacks’. Furthermore, there was no initial trigger or understanding why they were happening. The worst was waking up following a bad dream thinking she was in the room with me.
Having to admit to being a male victim of domestic abuse (especially sexual assault) was extremely difficult. Perhaps these episodes of PTSD was a way of venting this frustration against a world of whom I considered did not care – this was enforced and endorsed by the police who failed to react or support me in my claims.
My experience of PTSD
Enduring any length of abuse whether physical, emotional, sexual or psychological will leave some form of mark. Some domestic violence survivors, like myself, will suffer PTSD. Suffering these emotions does not indicate any form of weakness. I have had to deal with my PTSD which has made me relive my ordeal through flashbacks and nightmares that have interfered with my ability to function normally on a daily basis. This has often left me tired or uninterested in doing daily activities. Further symptoms are listed below
The symptoms of PTSD can include
- Intrusive memories of the abuse – this can come following certain songs or smells or even being in certain places at certain times. There are no strict rules to this – it can just happen anywhere at any time.
- Loss of interest in other people and the outside world – I found that I isolated myself from friends and was happy to stay indoors.
- Insomnia (see my post on depression and sleep)
- Agitation – I found that I would often jump at the slightest movement by other people
- Depression – (see my article on depression)
- Overwhelming feelings of sadness, fear, despair, guilt or self-hatred. I questioned my self worth. If I could allow one person to do these things to me what was my true worth?
- Physical pain that migrates throughout the body. I experienced headaches and joint pains.
- An inability to imagine a positive future (why depression makes you feel guilty)
Following research I found that these symptoms will last for at least a month and can occur either directly after the trauma, or be delayed, beginning six months, a year or 20 years after the abuse has ended.
Everyone recovers at their own pace. As a minimum you should be seeking help and support from your doctor.
I had to move to temporary accommodation and as a result I registered with the local GP there. I must stress that from the outset they were fantastic. She took the time to listen to events and and aftershocks. I was prescribed medication for both my depression and my sleep problems (see my relationship with medication).
My work supplied and paid for counselling sessions. Initially, I was cautious about sharing my thoughts and experiences with a complete stranger but she allowed me to work at my pace.
I wondered if the effects of abuse would ever go away. Yes, I am still jumpy at times and I still experience thoughts following certain triggers but I recognise these now and can prepare myself for this. I have not fully recovered but I sense a certain amount of freedom from PTSD. There was a time when I stayed silent about the abuse but a part of my recovery was to share what happened either with friends or by writing it down (via this blog), medication, counselling and a slow recognition of my own self-worth.