PTSD Survivors Speak: Recognising and Rebelling, Part 1

I am so often inspired by PTSD survivors who take matters into their own hands and forge recovery their own way. Today’s guest blogger, Katie, is no stranger to that game. She’s guest posted for us before in her fabulous piece, er, ‘Taking Recovery into Your Own Hands’. And now she’s back, with some new thoughts on happiness. But first, a little background….

PTSD: Recognising and Rebelling

I developed PTSD after an incident in 2002. I had been struggling with mentalPTSD, anxiety, anorexia health issues for years before that and was already in therapy for anxiety, depression, an eating disorder and self harm, but by 2002 I was making good progress and was more stable emotionally and behaviourally than I had been in a long time. It seemed devastatingly ironic that, just as I was starting to celebrate the fact that I was actually feeling quite safe in myself for the first time in years, I was traumatised and everything fall apart again.

The PTSD manifested itself in many different and quite terrifying ways. I lived in a constant state of paranoia and hypervigilence, developing overwhelming phobias of the dark and of being trapped. My anxiety reached such unbearable heights I began to feel like I was going psychotic, I was scared of monsters and I couldn’t sleep without the lights and the TV on. After a few months of this my brain could take no more and I sunk into depression. It wasn’t just feeling sad or tearful; it was like I had been completely drained of energy. I was exhausted, I would spend all day longing for the hours to pass and often I would give up and go to bed at 7pm – but then I would spend the night alternately wide awake and terrified, then when I did get to sleep, waking up hyperventilating from nightmares. I started questioning the point of everything, wondering how other people lived without becoming suicidal. Nothing made sense to me anymore.

Looking back, I am not surprised that I eventually retreated back to the eating disorder. It was, however, a surprise to everyone around me. My family, my friends, even my therapist seemed to be incredibly angry with and disappointed in me. They told me that this was bullshit and I should know better. If I started engaging in eating disordered behaviours again now in 2009 and got the same comments I would understand, because I have put a lot of work into recovery and I understand myself and the self destructive coping mechanisms I have used very well. But back then I wasn’t rational, I was barely connected to reality. I was feeling so much pain and fear and I had no energy left to fight, I just wanted to be numb and I didn’t care how I achieved that.

Over the next few years I tried very hard to keep my head above water. My therapist left for a new job without referring me on for further treatment and I did my best to cope on my own. I started university twice, only to have to leave twice, both due to mental health issues. I was in a relationship for four years but this eventually failed, in part due to my worsening mental health. In 2007 I was hospitalised for three months for being suicidal. After being put on and taken off of seven different medications in six months (and discovering belatedly that antidepressants make me manic), I developed a serious digestive disorder which made me constantly nauseous and dizzy for another few months. I was agoraphobic, claustrophobic, emetophobic, struggling with having quit drinking, still self harming and losing weight rapidly.

In early 2008 I started a day programme at a local eating disorder unit and gained a bit of weight, but I was very depressed and kept relapsing. I eventually applied to university again, thinking that having a focus to my recovery might keep me on track. I did a little better for the next few months, keeping the goal of getting back to university in sight. I was seeing a therapist at the EDU and that helped keep me stable. But when I moved away to university everything fell apart again. I was so convinced that I would never cope without the numbing, calming effect of the anorexia that I started relapsing even before I got there. I had to drop out again at a very low weight in February of this year. I sat around at home for a couple of weeks, feeling sorry for myself and wondering what on earth had happened to my life. I was 24 years old with no job, no degree, no partner, no social life, my health and cognitive function were ruined by the anorexia and I had no idea where or how to begin putting my life back together.

Next week: Katie fights back!

Photo acknowledgement

The ideas contained in this post solely represent the perspective of the author. To contribute to ‘Survivors Speak’ contact Michele.


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