[TW: sexual abuse]
When did you first come to understand that you have PTSD?
I came to know of PTSD in my second year at university. I had been struggling for a while with anxieties, lack of confidence and clarity with my thought processes. At the time, I was distancing myself further from others, becoming reclusive – turning to escapisms that masked my past trauma.
I decided it was time to get to the bottom of these feelings and luckily my university had a solution! They offered six counselling sessions which let me speak to someone who could offer me advice and support. He took me through a psychotherapy course which led me from my childhood years all the way up to the present. From the most major and disruptive experiences, he recognised that I had PTSD.
What does it feel like to go through PTSD? What symptoms do you experience?
It feels like you don’t understand yourself I guess. Like a huge blockage from yourself and the rest of the world. It requires truth to the self in order to get past it, not hiding from your past but allowing it to be a positive influence for what makes you you! But before recognising you have PTSD, the past can seem to haunt you in lots of ways that you may not be aware of.
I struggled mainly with my relationship to men. One of the reasons I suffered with PTSD was due to sexual abuse which I suffered from when I was 17. I blocked this out and didn’t acknowledge it until I was older. It completely altered my view on males. I struggled to see them in the way I do now. Now, I am able to have good and wholesome relationships with them again. I mean, my conscious mind knew that males weren’t solely drawn to having sex with females, but due to my traumatic experience my subconscious mind needed healing and time to draw out the negative past experience.
This led to all kinds of reactions. One of the main symptoms was escapism I guess (drug misuse), but this only furthered my anxiety and depression. I would have suicidal thoughts regularly, not able to stay in a job longer than a month as I wanted life to be busy. Drugs and frequent job changes would allow for that mask to form, the busyness distracting me from times to think and process. But this was my way of digesting. I lacked a place of calmness in my life at the time, I was angry but suppressed it.
I’m interested in the way you describe allowing our past to be a positive influence on ourselves… could you expand on that?
Well, we each have life experiences that could be seen as negative. But we’re never going to let go, get to a content place and space again if we carry them and view them as a burden rather than an experience which can teach us. We’re constantly experiencing life lessons, some at the time may feel ugly and awkward but perseverance brings reward. And can often be used for the betterment of not only ourselves but others.
Is that something therapy has helped you with?
Definitely, but it’s also down to ourselves. Therapy can give you the space to talk things through and figure things out, but we’re responsible for our own mind and action.
Does therapy tie in with spirituality in any way for you?
Definitely, it’s a tester really. And after each experience you learn more about yourself and your spiritual practice. How to ground yourself again, how you reacted in certain situations, and what to do or not to do. And for me each experience reinforces that meditation and self-reflection time is so beneficial.
Could you tell me more about what methods of meditation or practice that you use?
Yes, we each have our own way I mainly use energy / chakra balancing. So when I sit to meditate I focus on various parts of my body that may feel either shaky, uneasy or in pain and balance them using breathing methods!
How would you describe spirituality? How did you come to find it?
For me, spirituality is a means of getting to know the self and the world around us on an energy basis. It has allowed me to transform my everyday perspective and values into ones which see us all us great big balls of energy manifesting in physical bodies.
I believe it has always been with me, but I came to understand and know more of its presence during my teens when struggling with how I viewed food. I would often either not eat or over-indulge. This led to delusions with how I perceived myself, my body and my abilities. I started off using positive affirmations. Telling myself I was whole and could do life, that I was capable. My journey and views have grown and deepened through time with patience. For me, it’s the best feeling and way to live life!
I carried out this interview with my friend Kayleigh, to whom I am so grateful for her openness in talking about such a personal and difficult experience in her life, and for sharing her ways of coping.
What is your experience of coping and healing with PTSD?