Living in a constant cycle of illness and recovery is more exhausting than anyone will ever know. To be told at seventeen, when life is just beginning, that you have an illness that will affect you throughout your whole life is absolutely devastating. I’ve always known from childhood that there was something a little different about me. I wasn’t the same as all of my friends, more cautious and definitely less confident. I was around age eleven, when this illness began to properly affect me. I began to self-harm, although at the time, I wasn’t entirely sure what it was but it felt good, took the pain inside away for a little while. After about six months of hiding it, my best friend caught me in the act; she vowed that if I didn’t stop she would tell. It worked! For a while I did stop, not because I wanted to but because nothing terrified me more than people finding out what had happened five years previous. After I was satisfied that she had forgotten I continued with the self-harm and from there my life began to spiral out of control. I began drinking alcohol around the age of thirteen, like the self-harm, it dulled the pain inside me and made me feel like my mind wasn’t against me. My mother never knew and never suspected. I had hidden it; it was me against the world. I would cause havoc in my house and get angry easily. I don’t think there is a door or a wall in my house that survived my violent rages. Whilst my mother never knew, my behaviour led her to believe she had done something wrong and I hated her for it. That couldn’t have been further from the truth, in fact, she was the only constant in my life at that point and probably my only ally. That’s why it was so easy for me to take things out on her. At age fourteen, I found myself worrying about school, experiencing some serious bullying and genuinely thought nobody cared. What was I good for? At that point in time I thought absolutely nothing, would it make a difference if I wasn’t there? One morning as I was getting ready to go to school I saw a box of pills on the counter and thought this is it, the pain will be gone. I opened the box and popped each of the pills out of the pack and swallowed the lot, about thirty pills in total. I went to school as normal and to my disappointment nothing happened. I’m not really sure how I thought it would play out but I suppose it was that immature thinking that I would just collapse and that would be it. I would be in school, so my family wouldn’t have seen anything and that was my justification of how I wasn’t being selfish. I thought that was the day my life would be over, that’s what I wanted but fate had other plans. I arrived home that afternoon to an inquisition as to where the pills had gone; she knew that someone had taken them as the prescription had only been filled the day before. I denied all acknowledgements and went to bed after a lecture about the consequences and side effects of these pills. I was violently ill that night, but I was lucky as I began to throw up around 3am so everyone else in the house was asleep. With nobody able to hear me, nobody would know. That’s exactly what happened that night, but it hit me as I lay awake that maybe dying wasn’t my only option, I hadn’t quite figured out what the other option would be but I knew there had to be something! The next morning I confessed that I had stolen the tablets and that I had taken them. I didn’t go into detail as to why, I simply talked around the facts so that someone would know that something wasn’t quite right with me. I missed school that day in favour of an emergency doctor’s appointment, although the doctor wasn’t the greatest of help, telling me that the pills I took wouldn’t do much damage apart from making me throw up. He told me that most suicidal people would have paracetemol as their drug of choice as it’s much more effective, I was fourteen! He did however; refer me to see a psychologist and a psychiatrist. It took almost three years for me to move up the waiting list and I was already seventeen by the time I had my first appointment with CAMHS (Child Adolescent Mental Health Services). It is difficult to recall this time of my life because in the three years that I was waiting for help, my life had spiralled to a deeper, darker place. I had started working at age sixteen and it only enabled me to drink more, I was drinking excessively and eventually moved on to drugs, when the drug use began I would literally take anything I could get my hands on but after a while cocaine became my drug of choice. I was failing in school, failing everyone at home, failing myself and just generally failing at life. I went to therapy sessions for around three months before I made the decision to move out of my family home, which broke my parent’s hearts, I wanted to be in control of myself. I could do this! I had kept my past a secret, kept my lifestyle secret, I even managed to keep the fact that I had stopped going to school secret, I didn’t need anyone but myself. It wasn’t long before I realised that I was not someone I could rely on! I was well and truly in self-destruct mode! By this point I was a seventeen year old school dropout, yes, I had a job but it was more a hindrance than help, simply used to fund my daily drug habit and pay for the alcohol that I needed. I don’t remember any point after I turned seventeen of turning up to work sober. I could function though, no one at work ever suspected that I had a problem, I was simply the over confident kid that liked to party at the weekends, little did they know what I was hiding. I didn’t care about the effect my lifestyle was having on me, all that mattered was that little bit of happiness I felt when I felt that powder go up my nose, the pain was gone, I was normal! Seventeen was not a good age for me, a disastrous year that began with the loss of my nanny, 9 days after my birthday. I really do think looking back that my drug use completely got out of control around this time. I am in no way trying to excuse my behaviour, I had a choice and I made the wrong one! Therapy began to help though, it was easier to explain the slashes on my arms to a stranger and tell them about my life without judgment. My therapist knew every detail of my life except what had happened on that day in 1997. I knew not to tell her, not because I didn’t want to but because I knew that she would have to involve the police, social services and my family due to my age. That was a risk I couldn’t take! Once I turned eighteen though, she couldn’t do that because of confidentiality. I thought if I can just hold out until then it will be perfect. However, the closer it got to my birthday the more my behaviour deteriorated. I think it was knowing that finally after twelve years I was going to tell my secret, I needed to get it off my chest sooner rather than later. If I had have waited any longer than I did I genuinely think I would’ve ended my life before I got to tell anyone, so in the end I told my secret one week before I turned eighteen. That night after telling my therapist that I had been abused by a family ‘friend’ in my cousin’s home when I was six years old, I waited anxiously, jumping every time my mum’s phone rang thinking it would be either the police or social services. The call never came! It turned out that because I was so close to my eighteenth birthday the confidentiality agreement could be extended, I was conflicted about how to feel. I was ecstatic that no one else had to know however, I was afraid that my parents would ask how counselling was going and if I’d got to the root cause of my behaviour yet. I knew then I would have to tell them. That night (29/4/09) was one of the hardest days of my life, to tell my mum and dad that their little girl had been violated in such a way at such a young age, and have them knowing that there was no way they could have prevented or protected me from it was the most difficult thing I have ever experienced. It turned out to also to be one of the best things though, because it was from that point that I had complete support from my family in overcoming my demons. It was what I needed all along! I went to visit the psychiatrist two days before my birthday and he told me that he believed I was exhibiting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, on 12/5/09; I was officially diagnosed with PTSD and severe anxiety. I was told that PTSD was a lifelong illness with no cure, however many sufferers were able to manage it through various treatments. Not a great start to adult life but it was this start that pushed me to turn my life around. I no longer felt like a victim, I was a survivor! I had always dreamed of going to university and thought now is my time. I’m getting help and no matter how many teachers told me that I wouldn’t be capable of university, I would give it my best anyway, if I failed I failed, at least I had tried. I enrolled on an access to university course, passed and gained a place at Liverpool John Moore’s University, which is where I wanted to go since I was young. I started my course in 2012 after being clean from drugs for 21/2 years. The day I landed at John Lennon Airport was the proudest day of my life. I have worked a lot on my wellbeing in order to be able to stay in Liverpool and have decided that this is where I can finally be free. I am not saying it is easy, every day for me is a constant battle not to be who I was back then, but I finally feel like I am living life on my terms. I am no longer the kid that isn’t capable and blames my past for my reckless behaviour. This year (my final year) has been the most challenging by far but I will continue to move forward with my life. I am now five years clean and planning my future in Liverpool. My next milestone is to walk across that stage in July with the rest of my friends and finally be a graduate. I will be the person I want to be and live the dreams I have always dreamed!
Yes, I have PTSD but I am not PTSD!
P.S. This is an old post.. written in 2015