Welcome to Writer's Workshop Wednesday! This is my way of paying it forward to all the people out there who want to start writing, but don't have their own blogs yet, or who are established writers that are looking to appeal to a different audience. I have also opened this up to those who would like to post anonymously about topics that are too difficult to write about publicly. Each week, I will host one or two posts by different writers.
I hope that you enjoy this series, I hope you find some new writers to follow, I hope this helps them out and I hope we can all learn something from them.
This piece is from the genius behind Razorblade Brain. She is a magnificent writer and one of the people I've come to know in recent times as a true survivor. She chronicled the hows and whys she got here on her blog over a year long period, and if you've got the time and the stomach for it, it's well worth the read. You can find her blog here and her Facebook page here.
Resilience and hope, these are the things she embodies.
I give you Razorblade Brain.
I am no longer clinical….
I say these words often. Partly out of pride, partly out of disbelief. It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was considered to be a girl with a clinically diagnosable mental illness. Not so long at all. If you knew me in the “bad times” you wouldn’t believe that I could get to a point of not being clinical, either. At various points in my life there was a laundry list of things I couldn’t do: Drive at all, drive for more than 5 minutes, drive at more than 40 mph, drive in rain, be in rain, listen to the radio, work, leave my house, receive a hug, have sex, accept a compliment, go to school, sleep, eat…..the list is endless.
I’ve been out of treatment for about a decade. I’m free from the life altering panic attacks. The ones where I was convinced I was dying or going crazy or both. Where my heart threatened to explode at any moment. Where my brain seemed to forget how to breathe. Where I felt I had a rubber band around my neck and I would slip into unconsciousness at the next moment (which would’ve been welcome at that point except it never came. It was just terror, with no reprieve.) I’ve crawled away from the quagmire of major depression where I had no will to exist and only stayed alive because I loved my mother, so instead carved the emotional pain that I was feeling into a physical representation all over my skin. The obsessions and compulsions that used to rule my entire existence are mostly fleeting thoughts now. But I am, and always will be, the girl with PTSD.
After experiencing childhood sexual abuse, teenage/adult sexual assault, a devastating weather event, a lifetime of poor relationship choices, and a never ending anxiety cycle of “first fear-second fear,” I was finally diagnosed when I was about 21 with the monster that is PTSD. And yet, I was thankful. It was a giant relief to hear that the diagnoses of the past were incorrect. None of them ever seem to fit anyway. I wasn’t crazy, or bad, or born wrong, or ruined. I was delighted to hear that counting license plate numbers, living in fear if I heard a certain song on the radio and perceived it as an omen, not willing to leave my house (and a host of other things)…these were all normal for someone who had my affliction. Normal. Expected. Treatable. Manageable.
I don’t think that one particular thing works for everyone. Some people don’t respond to different types of medication or therapy. You have to find what works for you. And it is work. After completing several goals in my life I can say with absolute confidence that obtaining mental wellness was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. My doctor told me that pharmaceutical and CBT therapy could only do so much and the last leg of the journey would have to come from me. That last piece of the puzzle is different for everyone and I would have to figure out what I needed in order to fully heal. What I needed, I found in something that was right in front of me. I watched it every day and it never hit me until that one instant. What I needed, I got from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I put on a random ep like I always do and came across S2E19. I did dishes while somewhat paying attention and I heard Giles’ words:
“Forgiveness is an act of compassion…it’s not done because people deserve it, it’s done because they need it.”
For me, that was my missing piece. I would shout off the rooftops as a proud survivor/feminist that nothing was my fault. I attended and spoke at several “Take Back the Night” rallies. I waved that “No Means NO” flag and shouted louder and harder than anyone about rape not being the victim’s fault… but deep down…I had those recurring thoughts of “what if I had told my mom, dressed different, never gone to that party, bar, house; been better, done better, cried more…” and all of those are expressions of guilt and fault.
In order to be at peace with the events of my life I had to forgive all who had trespassed against me; and I had to forgive myself. Some of that was easy; some was so effing difficult - seemingly impossible. But the greatest gift that I have given myself on my journey of healing is that of forgiveness. It doesn’t erase the fault of others, but what it has done is released the anger, fault, and guilt from myself. It wasn’t given freely; it was and is hard work. It began as a minute by minute process and got better from there. It’s still hard work and at times it goes back to that day by day or minute by minute deal. It has taken years and creeps back up every now and then and I have to utilize the coping skills that I have both learned and developed on my own to keep well. But I am okay. And all those people who stole the innocence and freedom from me don’t deserve my forgiveness, but I do. Letting go of the weight from my own shoulders was worth it, even though it meant forgiveness for them, too. And I deserve that freedom from hatred every day.
I’m the girl with PTSD. I am no longer clinical, and I’m okay.
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