Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, better known as PTSD, can strike at any time, especially when you least expect it. I haven’t had flashbacks in a very long time. This morning I woke up almost two hours early to memories of things that my ex-husband did to me. They weren’t merely memories, but sets of visual images in my mind, playing as if projected onto the wall, and I was in that motion picture and those things were happening to me all over again. It was scary, frightening, and exhausting. My mind and thoughts were racing. I knew I needed to get out of it, but I was somehow drawn to it, trapped in the cycle. I would close my eyes and try to think of puppies, but that only lasted two seconds before the images came back.
Panic and anger ensued. I imagined scenarios that didn’t happen, which could have and should have happened. I should have run out naked on to the street after having been sexually abused, and cried for 9-1-1 and I should have been questioned by the police. He would have been arrested then. There would have been evidence. If only I had done this at the time, in 2008 and in 2009 when things were at their worst, when strange men would come over at night. There would have been evidence. Cash exchanging hands, illegal prostitution. How else could those strange men prove that their semen ended up on me? I would have been swabbed and have had a thorough physical exam in an Emergency Room. Police would have gone through the home and found the two external hard drives with illegal underage pornography on them. The old email accounts that were used to pimp me would have still been active and accessible. Cash negotiations for sexual acts, all written by my abuser. Explicit and tarnishing photographs exchanged. There would have been evidence.
But I didn’t. I knew it had to be kept a secret. I loved my abuser. I loved him, who he used to be, not what he had become and the abuse itself. I knew that his life would be over and his pristine reputation tarnished had I gone to the police, had I involved law enforcement. I knew I couldn’t allow that to happen, because we had a future together, no matter what else happened, and because he claimed to love me back. If I loved him, the theory went, then I would be willing to do anything, and I mean, anything, for him.
I am having to take some deep breaths. Focusing on my breathing calms me. I live a dual life. I have the one life in which I was tortured and abused and every sexual injustice was committed against me and I was traumatised enough to try committing suicide multiple times and then subjected to a long series of Electroconvulsive Therapy treatments, thereby losing years of memories, in order to not kill myself. The other “me” goes to work five days a week, smiles at co-workers even when she is not happy and distracted by traumatic and anger-inciting memories, gets along with everyone, services customers with an upbeat and professional voice, feeds herself, showers regularly, remembers to take her psychotropic medications because without them she knows that she would end up in an abysmal pit of self-destruction including financial instability and possibly institutionalization.
The two “me’s” exist and I don’t know how to integrate them. I am both and I am neither. I don’t want to be either of them. I just want to be me, as a whole person. I want to be me without the trauma. I want to have a job that I love. I want to be excited about life, and I want to look forward to the next day, the next week, the next year. I want to travel and to have wonderful experiences and make fulfilling memories. I want to have a close relationship that is trusting and secure and in which I can open my heart fully. I want to be able to share sexual experiences with one person exclusively, to devote myself to that individual whilst being my own person, to have sex be beautiful and not about control. I want to have consensual sex. I want to be able to say “yes” and agree to making love. I want to be able to appreciate my whole body instead of looking in the mirror and being dismayed each time. I want a life not filled with despair and fear and anger and panic. I want a life outside of work where I do things on the weekends instead of living my life locked inside the four walls of my dark bedroom where I know that I will be physically safe. I want to be motivated to exercise, to increase my natural mood-lifting endorphins. I want to be surrounded by people doing pleasurable things like eating and hiking and sitting down for coffee instead of surrounded by doctors and nurses in intensive care units. That last one I do have. All in all I want to have more of a life that is worth living.