I have been in therapy since I was 24. When my dad died, I couldn’t get a hold of myself. Everything about me was just…dark. I would come home every day and try so hard to be the best mom I could be to my little boy, but I would always end up retreating into the bath tub where I would sob for an hour. I would tuck my little guy into bed and then write in my journal and sob some more. I could not pull myself out of that hole. And so began my journey into therapy.
Over the next 16 years, I would fight many battles. Anorexia was the toughest fight I would face. Sporadically mixed in with major life changing events was depression, anxiety and OCD. On the outside, I don’t think many people knew I had any struggles at all. But on the inside, there was so much darkness.
I was skeptical of anti-depressants. There is so much stigma surrounding medication. I felt as though I would have to keep it a secret. I’ve been told “oh just go take a pill” in such an insulting tone. I wanted to be strong enough to fix myself on my own. I didn’t want anyone to think I had to take a pill to be “normal”. Besides, I still had a lot of friends, I could still have fun, I could hide my eating disorder for a long time and no one else had to see my tears.
After about a year of therapy, something clicked. I had been blaming all of my pain and torment on the loss of my dad, but the truth was, there was something much more sinister that was festering in my guts.
The first time my therapist mentioned PTSD, I told her she was wrong. That’s not even possible. I was never in a battle field and I hadn’t witnessed the atrocities of war. Then I started reading, a lot. I learned that there are many factors to PTSD. Trauma happens to many people, in many different ways.
I had been raped when I was 12. My mind blocked out that trauma for years. Even though I knew it happened, I could remember every detail, every word that was said, all the shame and the guilt that was all very real, but I refused to face it. Until now.
I think of PTSD as a tree trunk that is rooted deeply into who I am. From that trunk, there are branches that continue to grow. One branch is anorexia because I desperately needed to feel in control of something, anything. Another branch is depression and another anxiety and so on. By not dealing with the root of me, I was nurturing the wrong branches.
Through therapy, I learned that all of my insecurities, all of my troubles and pain and rage and recklessness all had stemmed from the rape and I had to reconcile with that, before I could bloom.
Through therapy, I found my voice. I found my soul again and even though it was a shattered little 12 year old soul, I was able to put all of the messy pieces back together again.
I can no longer feel ashamed that I have to take a pill every day to be “normal”. That word now makes me laugh. What is normal, anyways?
We have to start having these conversations. No one should ever feel ashamed because they need help. We are all just trying to make it. We all want to live our best lives. We all want to feel safe and happy. Isn’t that our goal? So let’s help each other more instead of shaming and blaming and judging.
A certain set of circumstances made me exactly who I am. I didn’t like who I was, so I changed it. I got help. I found support. I don’t really identify myself as a survivor or a victim. I’m just me. I still have that darn tree, but it’s branches are more colorful now. It is beautiful and strong