Sometimes i feel the need to explain – a blog about ptsd

This isnt a blog asking people to feel sorry for me or apologizing for something i dont need to apologize for, but it is simply giving a bit of insight into what goes on in my head sometimes so that as my friends you can understand me better and also shed light on something that isnt really talked about much and very few people actually understand.

I suffer from chronic post traumatic stress disorder and have done so for a number of years even though i was only formally diagnosed in 2008 by a psychiatrist who had a special background in treating ptsd in war veterans ( more on that later) This comes as a result of a range of predominantly sexual abuses ranging from the first in 1997 (my 14th birthday) till the last in late october 2010 when i ws attacked on my way to a friend’s party by a stranger.. Most days i am fine.. I would say a good 6 out of 7 days of the week my symptoms do not bother me.

Sometimes they do. There are situations i cant handle, places and people i cant be around because they remind me too much of things i dont want to be reminded of.. I had to awkwardly ask people to stop sending me birthday cards because they would remind me of that particular day. A typical reaction includes visually reliving the event to feeling as though im being followed to as much as visualizing the perpetrator from the corner of my eye or at the foot of my bed. My symptoms are often unpredictable, severe and can occur either nightly or daily. They manifest themselves in extreme anxiety often at their worst an inability to leave the house and a terror at being alone. I have had at times friends take turns in staying with me because of my abject terror. This makes relationships work study and productivity in general extremely difficult. Concentration is almost impossible at times and during the very worst days i am completely bedridden. Like today.

In society we conceptualize ptsd as something that return soldiers experience, that with enough working through the symptoms will simply evaporate over time.. I have seen countless psychologists and counsellors over the years and although i am seeing excellent people at the moment – trauma does not simply evaporate. It remains. It diminishes and often flickers like a lightbulb but it never just goes away…

But then again i consider myself one of the lucky ones. I have access to therapy. I enjoy creativity and my life is full of relationships that give me joy. I have learned over time that things will get better that the distance between good and bad days will get longer. Ultimately it is hopeful. It is just waiting that hurts.

If you see me looking a bit unsettled please ask. Id do the same for you.

writers that inspire me (part one)

Gabriela Mistral.  Late Chilean writer, part of the famous chilean literary tradition.  She was a protege of Pablo Neruda who fought to have her educated as it was not seemly during her time for a woman to be educated.  Most of her writing was banned during the dictatorship as part of the crackdown on culture and are just being recovered today. She was also labelled as crazy as a young girl for talking to the birds, trees, and sitting in the sun reciting and formulating her verse.  I am in great awe of the tradition as not only did it yield exquisite poets (mistral, neruda, marti, etc) but it survived dictatorship and  continues to inspire many chileans today. I am grateful in a  way that Mistral herself didn’t face dictatorship as she passed away in 1957, but in an ironic way, it was her writing that bore the brunt long after she left the earth.  Many of her poems are originally published in Spanish, with a few surfacing on the internet in english. I find they are somewhat lost in translation having a tiny bit of spanish under my belt. I wish i had enough Spanish to read them in their proper form. This is one of my favourites of hers, translated from Spanish by Ursula LeGuin,  (who’s probably part of the writers who inspire me list i plan to blog)

the stranger (La Extranjera)

She speaks in her way of her savage seas
With unknown algae and unknown sands

 She prays to a  formless, weightless God,
Aged, as if dying.
In our garden now so strange,
She has planted cactus and grass.
The desert zephyr fills her with its breath
And she has loved with a fierce, white passion
She never speaks of, for if she were to tell
It would be like the face of unknown stars.
Among us she may live for eighty years,
Yet always as if newly come,
Speaking a tongue that plants and whines
Only by tiny creatures understood.
And she will die here in our midst
One night of utmost suffering,
With only her fate as a pillow,
And death, silent and strange

More on the reclaiming slut issue

Since i posted previously i learned that there is to be a similar event held in melbourne and adelaide.
I now know that this event is about not blaming survivors of sexual assault or at least that is one component of it but i still think there are different ways of going about that.. In adelaide some feminist friends have told me they plan to attend this march with the banner “no one is a slut” – i think that speaks to a far more powerful reclaiming of our own identities than trying to win back a word that i dont believe can be truly anything other than negative.

People i have spoken to liken this to the way queer and nigger have been reclaimed by those communities. I dont believe they completely have. Its not politically correct to call someone a nigger but ive heard it happen. homophobes still call us queers.. Language that is meant to dehumanize will always do so as that is its intention. Buying into using the language of the oppressor will only further oppression – forgive me for sounding far left but it is true.

To me the most important word to be reclaimed is woman. Women, adults, people of age are often called girls in order to infantilze them long after theyve become women. I stopped being a girl when i had my first period, yet i am constantly referred to as a girl. There is also the dehumanizing references to women as animals – bitch, chick, amongst others. These are Rife in popular culture and deliberately designed to keep women from being seen as people.

As the tori amos quote goes “people are saying they are just words, what are you talking about, but they do matter, words are like bullets” so let us be critical of language in whatever form it takes.