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7 Lies C-PTSD Makes Me Believe (and the 1 Truth I Hold Onto)

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Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

“If I would have just done what I was told, he wouldn’t have hurt me.”

I have regular flashbacks of things he did. After everything happened, I spent so much time listening to therapists tell little 7-year-old me that it was not my fault. I never remember thinking it was. Not until the flashbacks occurred during (what was supposed to be) my last year of college. In some of those flashbacks I get mad at myself for not being “smarter” and for not “listening better.” Why was I stupid enough to ask for a second slice of pizza? I should have known that he would have taken the opportunity to force me two eat two full pizzas by myself and shame me for getting sick in public… not to mention what happened afterwards. Why didn’t I just keep my mouth shut on the stairs and ask a question?

• What is PTSD?

“I’m making this a way bigger deal than it actually is.”

How would anyone believe these experiences were real when even I can hardly believe it myself sometimes? None of this stuff is happening. My brain just decides to catastrophize and remember and I am just constantly being sent to my past trauma, like my head is some kind of sick time machine. I need to just “suck it up.” I held it off for this long. I need to just be better and suck it up.

It wasn’t his fault. He was drunk, high, mad, etc. It’s hard to imagine anyone could do the things he did to anyone, not to mention a little girl… There must have been something wrong…. He had to have been drinking or doing drugs or something… It couldn’t have been his fault. He was supposed to love us.

“If I would have been stronger, prettier, smarter… things wouldn’t have been so bad.”

There are a few flashbacks I have now that make me wish I could have done things differently then. I tell myself things would have been easier if I could have just been stronger and smarter… at 6 years old.

“I need to be handling this like a freaking adult.”

I was totally fine… At least, that’s what everyone thought. Sure, I had some self-destructive behavior, but I never fell apart in front of anyone and now so many people know. My best friend tries to console me on an almost nightly basis because the memories trick my brain into thinking they are a current reality or anxiety takes over in my mind and I can’t go to class or work or get out of bed and I have to just clutch my blanket. A 23-year-old should not be feeling like she’s 6 years old. That’s pathetic… Right? I should be able to push through the pain.

“No one is ever going to fall in love with someone this damaged.”

How could anyone love someone this broken? Sure, I am funny during the day when I am not trying to control every aspect of my life, but that can all change in a moment because of literally anything. Someone touching my shoulder unexpectedly, or a spontaneous change of plans can send me into a panic. No one deserves that in a relationship. Even if someone did see past all of my damage, how could they possibly stay? It would take a miracle and things like that don’t happen to people like me.

“I am never going to be able to trust anyone, being this damaged.”

I have about four friends right now and only one of them has permission to see me break. I trust her with my broken pieces, but I don’t trust that she will want to stay. I have never trusted another man completely. I can’t trust anyone completely. It is actually impossible and I may never be able to be completely vulnerable because I feel I am even uglier beneath the surface.

“I am never going to be better.”

I fear it’s gonna be like this forever. Last year, all hell broke loose in my brain. I could barely sleep alone. I dropped out of all of my classes, had between six to eight flashbacks and panic attacks per day, started self-harming, contemplating suicide and feeling like I was dying on the inside. I got help and started getting better. Actually better — like one panic attack a week or less some weeks and I felt pretty good. Then all of a sudden, I get a phone call that triggers me and I feel like I’m starting all over again. I start having flashbacks again and spending time in my bed in the fetal position instead of going to class. I have to take medicine to go to sleep again so I don’t wake up in the middle of the night from flashbacks. I start waking up screaming in the middle of the night again… This is my earthly forever, isn’t it?

But here’s the truth:

The truth is he hurt me way more times over nothing than the three times I can remember doing anything remotely provoking. What he did to me was not OK and I did not deserve it. Sometimes poor choices warrant punishment, but reasonable punishments do not include childhood abuse. Those things were not OK and I did not deserve them.

For a while, I tried to cope with everything by blaming it on his alcohol consumption. But the reality is, he assaulted me in times of sobriety as well.

I don’t know if it’s true that he was just an evil person or if he had some sort of personality disorder or what, but honestly that doesn’t matter. Whether he was held accountable for his actions in the court of law or not is irrelevant; I believe everyone will be held accountable one day and it is not my responsibility to figure out why he did what he did.

It’s not my job to handle my trauma perfectly, just as it is not my job for me to perfectly understand all of the what’s and why’s. I survived. It is in the past, but sometimes it comes back to haunt me. It is my job to take care of myself. This includes having people I love to help me through, going to my therapy and doctor’s appointments and setting myself up for success. For me, this looks like recognizing the things that trigger me into feeling anxious or remind me of the trauma and acknowledging my feelings, and doing what I need to do to be OK. Keeping my room clean and being ahead on my homework are very easy ways for me to not feel out of control in certain areas of my life. Also having a schedule written down for each day so I know what to expect often helps with that. There are a lot of aspects of PTSD I cannot control, but is important to take charge over the things I can control.

The last three lies are probably the ones that make me feel most vulnerable as well as the ones that are hardest for me to accept. I am no less worthy of love than anyone else. I do have a lot to offer in a relationship and the reality is, I don’t think I would want to marry someone who couldn’t hang when things got hard anyway, but I think that’s just something that crosses my mind when I am at my lowest. Trusting is hard for me, but when it comes down to it, trusting is a choice. I am in control of who I trust, but I also need to consider that while trusting is a risk, it is also much harder to feel safe if I choose to not trust everyone. It is a battle because my broken mind says I need to shut everyone out because everyone can hurt me, but my heart reminds me that love is worth it. Shutting myself off is no way to live.

I think the thought, “I am never going to get better,” has gone through my head just about every day this last week. I’ve said it a couple times to my best friend and she smiles and shakes her head. I start to get frustrated and then I remember why. She smiles because I have gotten so much better. This week has been a bad week because something triggered my PTSD. It has been extremely hard for me to ground myself, regulate my emotions and remember I am in an environment where I am safe, loved and happy. I have been having flashbacks and night terrors and panic attacks, but I also have not shut down. I have not contemplated suicide as even an option. I have not been tempted to self-harm, and each morning I wake up and remind myself I have the choice to fight. Some nights it gets to be too much and I go to bed because I don’t have enough energy to fight, but that’s OK. It’s OK for me to be tired. It’s OK for me to feel a little bit broken. But I am better than I was, so that is proof enough for me, that I will get better. I am choosing and fighting to get better. I am gonna be OK.

Unsplash photo via Emiliano Vittorio

Originally published: July 5, 2019
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