I am aware that other abuse survivors read this blog. This has made it difficult for me to think about writing an account of what has been going on with me recently.
This year has been a tremendously stressful year. As is often the case I’d did not appreciate this because much of the stress was caused by the renovation of our house and of our wedding. I really did not think that I could complain about these things.
I still do not really understand how I could have de- stressed.
After the SKC show in August when John was rushed to hospital from our bed-and-breakfast I remember very little. Oh I remember certain things happening but I do not remember them in order and from August until last week things are pretty much a blur.
There are two things that I know really did stress me. Whitney’s four-day labour and the news on the TV.
The news regarding Jimmy Saville was very disturbing. I tried to ignore it. However, although I was not abused by this man much of the news reporting harked back to the 70s. This triggered off many memories for me. I began to not sleep well. My thinking became disordered. By that I mean I began to have illogical thought patterns.
I was unaware that I was being affected. I was still swimming as much as I could but I stopped communicating in the way that I normally did with my friends on the telephone, on Facebook, and even here. Needless to say I also did not communicate with John nor with my doctor despite the fact that my physical problems were growing and my falling over was becoming really rather dangerous.
Through this period I also had two government interrogations with regard to my health status. Talking about my health makes it very difficult for me to stay detached and thus the pain became more intense.
I also became much more forgetful and this affected my medication. I either would not take it at all or take too much because I had forgotten taking it. And I continued to not sleep well.
Then it happened. I had a series of flashbacks and night terrors which led to a full-blown panic attack.
Leading up to this I think I knew that I needed help but I was feeling very ashamed. I think I knew full well what was happening and I felt just too ashamed to tell anybody.
I really believed that this was never ever going to happen to me again. I went through six months of hell which started in September 07 and finished around about March 08. That experience was probably the worst of my life but the result was that I began to live a life in full colour instead of the monochrome life that I had lived up until then. I came out of that fully understanding at gut level that the abuse truly was not my fault and that the only reason I had been abused was because there was something wrong with my abusers and not with me.
I thought I was clear of my past for ever and that I could not experience that level of pain again. I believe that I had got to the very root of the pain and I had expelled it. I certainly felt that this pain could kill me and the physical pain of releasing it was absolutely tremendous. I physically hurt more than I thought possible. Most especially in my gut. I have since taken medicine twice a day that stops the constant contractions.
My thinking really went to pot. I stopped going out and if I had to go to the supermarket I went very late at night. I began to believe that my doctor would lose the trust she had for me if she knew the state I was in. I really believed that everybody would think I was a fraud and that none of my recovery had been real and most importantly the experience I had five years ago which truly had left me feeling born again. The best way I have found to describe the difference between Colin pre-spring 2008 and Colin Post Spring 2008 is the difference between monochrome and Technicolor. It required no effort on my part. The colour just came into my life and stayed.
PTSD can be a real bugger. It sneaks up upon you. At least it did me. It started with little overreactions, with little illogical fears, in such little ways it is hard to detail. It eventually builds into the glaringly obvious but by that time denial has kicked in really strongly. I believe not just in me but in John also. He says that he noticed that I was changing and becoming how I used to be before a crash was coming. Yet he also cannot pinpoint exactly when. It may be unfair to say that he was in denial because even if he said something all went to my doctor I doubt very much that I would have said “well actually yes I am having problems.”
Much has happened very recently which has slowly been bringing the colour back into my life and although we are not there yet.
I have had two 3 hour hospital sessions where I have been questioned and prodded and tested. Although I was dreading this and felt rather resentful, I’m now very glad that I was referred to the fall clinic.
The tests show that my body reacts just as it should in somebody with the disease processes that I have. I had no idea at all about this and this is one of the reasons I feel very relieved.
I think only other abuse survivors will understand why I’m so pleased that my reactions and symptoms are true to form. You see, as a child I was always labelled a liar and disbelieved. I was also taught that one should not complain and that one should just get on with things and not be such a sissy. Consequently, this is how I have approached my illness.
Instead of the acceptance that I thought I had I instead had a very unhealthy way of dealing with it. I truly believed that with enough determination, and the pain meds that I finally gave in and took, that I could live as if I did not have a disease. Not only did this contribute considerably to my crash but I now think it is probably why despite everything I have done in the way of exercise I have progressed quite a lot since 2004 when I was diagnosed.
I have been under reporting my symptoms. I have been not telling the truth when I am asked questions about how I cope. I have not deliberately lied. My answers were in accordance with the don’t make a fuss attitude.
For instance, my answer to the question “can you shower yourself?” My answer has always been yes. The hospital physician asked me to explain step-by-step how I showered. My answer showed that in fact I cannot shower myself because I do not do what a normal person would do. I dress over a wet body because I am unable to dry myself. John noticed this when I showered at home, which is not usual for me. He asked me why I was sat with towels wrapped round myself. Was I not getting dressed? When I told him that I was waiting to be dry he pointed out that this meant I was not capable.
I have to learn how to pace myself and how to admit that I cannot do something or that I need help. I also have to learn to accept help. I think I did that today. I was in a shoe shop with John and three other friends. One of my friends asked me if I would like them to do my boot laces up. I almost said “no thank you” but I realised that this was one of those times that I should say yes because bending even from a sitting position to try and do my laces up is time-consuming and painful. I did not feel ashamed or embarrassed. Instead I felt taken care of. I was pleased with myself for accepting the help. It is only a small step but at least it is forward.
I also had a good, very good, session with my doctor. Not only is my trust in her back, yes I realise that my fear that she had lost trust in me was in fact me losing trust in her, but I now know that she really does understand me. She told me that many people were negatively affected by the Jimmy Savile affair. She said many were my age and had been either children or teenagers in the 70s. This was helpful to me, knowing that I was not alone. We also discussed my medical needs and my underreporting to her. We both know that we have some work to do here.
I have also accepted an appointment at an incontinence clinic. This is a big deal for me but at least I finally brought the problem to the attention of my Dr’s. I might add that it was John I first broached the subject with.
As I have so often said with my fellow abuse survivors in mind, we never recover but our flashbacks and times of distress, the nightmares, the fear, become less and less as time goes on and as we work on ourselves. I said as I was taught, and as was my experience, that the incidents that cause distress became further and further apart and much less intense. As you can see, I did not see it coming and when I did I was too ashamed to admit to it because I felt I was letting everybody down.
I can now see just how stressful this year has been and how the combination of events both good and bad all came together and in so doing brought me to my knees.
It is important for me to recognise that I got through this much more quickly and much less painfully than before. Although I did experience terror I was able to deal with it effectively because of my past experience.
As I have said and I continue to believe, we never truly recover we only gain the strength and insight to live with it without it destroying us and our lives. I am still here and I still have a very good life. I have learned much from this episode.
I am very surprised to find out just how much attitudes that were given to me by my family and society at the time I was growing up regarding keeping a stiff upper lip etc have infected me. I also was very surprised at how reluctant I am to ask for help and most especially to let anybody know just how I am feeling.
My very first reaction to pain, to feeling pain, is to feel ashamed. When I broke my foot, I was about 14, I’ve very clearly remember how it felt and how much I wanted to vomit and also just how much shame I felt and how I did not cry and I hated myself for wanting to. I still feel this shame with regard to my disease and its effects. I know how illogical it is and how damaging it is and I am aware that I need to work through this, that it is my fathers attitude that has been forced upon me. I do not need it and I do not need to continue to think the way I was taught to think. (It is always astonishing to discover just how much we have taken on board what we have been taught. It can make me very angry when I realise just whose ideas I am living by.)
What I am about to share now I share only because I really do not want to. The grief I experienced this time made me very angry when I realised what this particular nugget of pain was about. It was about the little boy Colin still wanting to be loved by his father. When I heard myself say this I was infuriated and embarrassed. How the hell could I possibly want that man to love me? I am not sure where I am with this but I am aware that it is not me now but me then. At least I have got that out. I never know during the buildup what is going to come up. I am not even aware of anything wanting to come up. So when it does and I hear myself say whatever it is I am always taken by surprise. It is only this time that I have also felt very angry, not to say confused, at the feeling expressed.
Thank you very much if you got this far and I hope that it is of some benefit to you.