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This four-part article was written exclusively for PsyWeb.com by Catherine Vincent. She explains how her chaotic childhood gave way to PTSD as well as what she has done to overcome the disorder.
My mother met my stepfather when I was 15 years old. After only a month of knowing him, she allowed him to move in to our home. He was filled with rage and would either ignore me or yell at me.
A few weeks later she married him, and a few months after that they decided to move to a rural state where my mom’s relatives lived. I wanted to run away from home but felt too powerless and helpless to go through with it. Three months after we moved one of my relatives took custody of me, for reasons that have never been made clear to me.
I remember hearing my mother's new husband telling this relative, “Take her and do whatever you want with her.” I spent my summer bouncing around from relative to relative. No one wanted me with them, not even the relative who had gained my custody. By August I was living with a new relative and attending high school. In the winter my mom’s husband was arrested by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Immediately after my stepfather was arrested, the relative I was staying with at the moment told me he didn’t want me in his home anymore and that I needed to move back in with my mom, so I did. My mother regularly visited her husband in the federal penitentiary. They both demanded that I start visiting him in prison as well, something I tried to avoid. During these visits, which were through a glass window, he would make pointed sexual remarks at me. My mom didn't stop the comments and did nothing to protect me. I was only 16 years old, and at the time his comments felt like threats. I was very afraid, isolated and confused.
My relatives had all abandoned me, and I was left with no one to turn to. I would sometimes dissociate and unplug from the world around me. During these times it felt like everything I did was completely unreal and dreamlike. A few months later my stepfather was transferred out of state, and my mom's communication with him ended shortly thereafter. Both my mom and I tried therapy for a brief period. I don't remember much about it, except the uneasy feeling that the therapist gave me. I never trusted the therapist but went anyway because my mom was adamant about my going.
In Part III of this article series, Catherine discusses how stress had overtaken her life during her college years and how she was finally able to heal with the help of EMDR psychotherapy.
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