I grew up in a household where I thought life was normal. I thought everyone’s parents fought, thought dad always beat and raped mom, thought playing mind games was normal, I thought this was what everyone lived like. Years later I’d come to realize, NO, this is not normal!
I remember when we were little, my brother and I would take turns with our grandmothers and stay with them each weekend. I found out several years ago that my parents did this to protect us during one of our dad’s episodes.
Years would go by, I’m at college, and I notice I’m feeling different. I feel free, being away from home, I liked it. I missed my family, but I didn’t, if that makes sense; looking back now, I was worried about my mother and brother. After being at college for 4 years, I’ve graduated and moved back home and started working. I’ve noticed the atmosphere within the house is the same, everyone is very quiet, as if they’re afraid to speak. I got a job at a daycare centre, then a job at the public library, then a job at a Chinese restaurant; all at one time. I discovered the more I was away from home, the better I felt and I dreaded going home.
20 some years later, I’m a mental health advocate and now I’m well aware of what I lived with. I haven’t been diagnosed but I KNOW I live with PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as a result of witnessing domestic abuse, child abuse, experiencing verbal and emotional abuse from my father.
How do I know this?
These are 8 signs of PTSD and are what I lived with;
- Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares. After I moved away from home for college, I would have terrifying nightmares. I noticed, unconsciously, that I had to sleep with the radio on. There were and are still tv shows/movies I cannot watch because it triggers me.
- Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma. After my father died, it was quite a while before I could go visit my mother and brother, it was a very uncomfortable feeling. Now, I can visit mom and my brother and I’m okay. I may see something in the house that would trigger me but now I find I can look back at memories with positive thoughts, not the negative.
- Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered. Again, I had to always sleep with the radio on or I would have nightmares; I did this up until 4 years ago. I found it very hard to concentrate at work, especially at the library, I would find myself going to work with massive migraines and couldn’t do much except put my head on the desk until it subsided.
- Witnessing, in person, the traumatic events. I lived in a house for almost 30 years where there was domestic abuse, emotional, physical and mental abuse, as well as suicide attempts and prescription medication abuse.
- Spontaneous or cued recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic events. This occurs most of the time while watching tv/movies. To this day, there are certain things I cannot watch.
- Recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or affect (i.e. feeling) of the dream is related to the events. For the longest time, I would have the same 3 dreams for years.
- Persistent, distorted blame of self or others about the cause or consequences of the traumatic events. When my father died, I can admit that I did blame myself, for years. Despite everything happening, I did try to help him the best I could. But I also wanted a life of my own and do what I wanted, when I wanted and I did rebel. I rebelled to the point I was kicked out of the house, didn’t speak to my family for 8 months, then dad died. I felt so guilty, ashamed and not worthy of reuniting with my family again. I hate to admit that sometimes I still feel guilty and to blame. I must keep reminding myself it was not my fault and I did my best to help my father.
- Inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic events. There are a LOT of situations which happened in my childhood and teen years I don’t remember, I’ve blocked them out. My mother would tell me about certain things and I wouldn’t know anything about them. There are also situations I do remember which I wish I couldn’t. While my parents would argue, I would either sit in a corner in a room or outside and read and read and read; I would disassociate and put myself into the stories, it was much nicer than where I was at that moment.
Today I do still relive my past but not as much. I feel I’m in a good place in my life and now I can live my life at ease.
Anita Levesque is a web and graphic designer, a mental health advocate with lived experience through loved ones; father – bipolar; brother – PTSD, depression, anxiety; mother – PTSD; boyfriend – clinical depression, severe OCD, GAD, personality disorders. The goal with my website, http://mentalillness-doyouknow.com is to focus on personal experiences rather than articles by doctors and medical professionals who haven’t experienced mental illness. Anita writes articles for several websites on topics such as OCD, Addictions, Suicide, PTSD and more. She resides in Stoney Creek, Ontario and interests are photography, reading, music, learning, spending time with her family.