I began writing in April 2018 when worsening symptoms of PTSD and depression stopped me working as an ED nurse. Writing is therapy.
Since engaging with mental health services this year, I have been asked so many times about how I was before complex PTSD
I have been engaged with different services to try and keep me on the straight and narrow and alive, as a result of a further decline of my mental health coming to a year ago. Since then, I have been asked many times what I was like before this condition crept in and seemed to removed everything that made me, me. I can’t seem to answer the question. It’s like my memories and any previous sense of self happened to someone else or don’t belong to me somehow. I’ve also been asked how I’ve managed my mental health since an abusive first five years landed me in care and it’s the same, it’s difficult to remember or imagine myself coping or not coping.
The problem is those early years had a profound effect on me as I had seen a lot and I was never able to relax due to the violence I experienced but I never told a soul. I didn’t want to make a fuss or rock the boat so always did as I was told first time, didn’t cry or ask for things often. I was totally focussed on burying everything as it came around, growing up and taking care of me and my family.
So the result of that was that I have mixed memories of feeling awful and putting on a front and then pretending that it wasn’t the case for fear of upsetting some. It was complicated keeping up with it all and exhausting.
For quite some time around university and becoming an emergency nurse I was genuinely very well both mentally and physically
What I am sure of is that I did get my life together and was doing okay before PTSD took hold. I partied a lot in my teenage years and could easily have fallen right off the wagon but I didn’t, again because I was scared that that would affect someone else too.
University went okay as far as I remember especially when compared with school, I met my best friend there and between us we really had a good time and this is one of the only times I really felt like I was succeeding and didn’t have any concerns about my mental health. I had a small blip at the beginning of my nursing career due to the stress of being newly qualified and working in a busy area but settled down and had everything I wanted, my memory is sketchy at best but mostly, no concerns.
I even mustered the strength to move 300 miles away from my family and friends to live by the sea and my best mate. Everyone I knew at the time kept saying how brave and bold it was, it has taken me until now realise they were right.
This is probably why I’m so certain I am not that person anymore and given the long and arduous journey to get here, it’s highly unlikely to me that I will improve enough to feel like I’m fully and even nearly recovered. A grim thought I admit which often turns to suicide. My apologies for taking it there but I feel it’s necessary.
While I was in hospital both my sister and best mates brought in photos for me to stick on the wall of my room. They thought it would do me good to try and remember these times in the photos in order to try and reconnect with myself. It did work to some extent because I’d put myself in the photo and try to fill in the space around me but I’m still struggling to know the person.
I have to believe that I can learn to reconnect the dots of dissociation to recognise myself
It’s as if the memory was recorded by a camera stood in my place, that’s strange I know but that’s the only way I can describe it. Feeling mechanical, disconnected or fake isn’t all that new to me, dissociation has been a strong part of my experience of complex PTSD.
At the end of the day, I know I have been well. I know that I have the best people around me and that I’ve had good times with those people. Now I need to try to find a way to connect the dots in my life and memories in order to live a more fulfilling life, or so I’m told. Not only that but it gives the professionals to work on if they know where my baseline is or was if it is truly different as I have now come to believe.