You are shaken awake by the person trying to sleep beside you. You were in the fetal position holding your hands up to protect yourself from an unseen demon. Again, you were screaming for mommy to make him stop. No you’re not 10, you’re 48 and you have PTSD.
PTSD was a medical description first developed to replace what used to be called “shell shock,” a condition when even though the terror physically stopped day, weeks, months or in some cases even decades ago you still are haunted by the all too realistic memories. My regular readers will know that as a child from 3-14 I was habitually molested by a family member totaling over 5,000 times. In November 2010 the nightmares became too much and I sought out help, first while living back in Australia for 6 months then with a new therapist upon my return to New York City. The problem with PTSD, unless you’re military there are huge walls blocking me from most services offered by the rehabilitation community. I have been told I would benefit from a service dog because I have epilepsy, am disabled and permanently in a wheelchair on top of the PTSD which causes another whole plethora of symptoms in and of itself.
Most days, nightmares spill over into the daylight. Suddenly drifting off and losing concentration for a mere second can find me in the middle of a hi-def screaming memory. Even if for but a second it’s terrifying none the less.
To people who don’t know me they wonder what the strange woman in the wheelchair is suddenly crying about or why I just fall into convulsion or why is my face ticking? They are physcogenic non-epileptic seizure responses to terrors caused by PTSD episodes. To the untrained eye you cannot tell the difference between them and epilepsy and even to people like me who live with and through them on a daily basis we cannot discern the difference. When we can discern the difference, there is nothing we can do once we’re in their midst.
So to the medical, rehabilitation and therapy providers out there who do discern tear down the walls. Please, although my horror was not in some foreign land fighting a war, its my terror none the less and I need your talents just as importantly as the brave wounded warriors. Our government is finally seeing the light and getting them help.
To those who might wake up in a new relationship next to an infantile human screaming in the fetal position, run if you must, but if you choose to stay it’s a rough ride. Know your love can make it easier one middle of the night loving hug after another.
To my readers, when I say I had a rough night I wish I meant the cat was loud next door or a siren on the street below kept me awake, but more likely the rape when I was 3 years old that kept going for over 50 years in my mind was playing on hi-def rerun. We’re not asking for sympathy and please don’t say “oh I understand” because I pray to all the gods that you don’t.
Blessed be. I have therapy tomorrow so if anyone wants to hang out in Manhattan drop me an e-mail because the first half is going to be hell and you can only make it better for just a few minutes, but I’ll take as many minutes as I can line up.