(tw: mental health, life after DV, medical trauma, recovery)

It’s strange. When you’ve had yourself dissolved away by another person and by trauma how long it takes to make things go back to normal. I’m here listening to the radio, an allegedly crappy station, drinking tea also allegedly crappy, spent the morning playing videogames, walked home alone in the night, drank and hung out with other men and had conversations with men, bought on an ice cream for myself and my man friend and I didn’t feel guilty. I didn’t owe anyone an explanation. I didn’t have to explain where I was, who I was talking too, didn’t need to think of a lie to cover my tracks, or bring someone to monitor my actions or think about whether I was flirty or offended someone.

Even though its been a few years out of a bad relationship, it still amazes me how much they took away. How long it took me to feel safe and be myself again. I’m still working at it, but so much has come back. That relationship and the PTSD changed everything. Both stripped away everything I was and who I was and replaced it with nothingness and made me feel like an undead monster. A ghost who haunts places with forgotten meaning. A werewolf with a violent temper. A banshee wailing for justice. A robot with broken AI. I was dead. A corpse that single mindedly wandered and spread the plague. Whatever I was had rotted away. But I was never a human.

Now, I listen to the radio every day. I can play videogames, go out with friends and eat whatever I want and I don’t give a fuck. I can say “no.” I don’t have to behave to satisfy his expectations and hurt feelings.

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I don’t have to chain myself up. I don’t feel like I infect people with my presence.

I graduated DBT awhile ago and focused exclusively on the trauma work. DBT skills made me grow up. It healed what had been taken away and made me strong enough to endure what I needed to in order to heal my PTSD.

Back in March I was officially declared resolved of PTSD.

It can happen.

I don’t have flashbacks. I don’t feel as much pain in my body. I’m not scared all the time. The nightmares are less frequent. No intrusive thoughts. I still hate loud noises, but I am better at managing things that startle me. I don’t have the numbness, instead I have feelings. I have a lot of anger, and I’m okay with that. I have a lot to be angry about. I’m an angry person and that’s okay.

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There’s always the possibility of it coming back. There’s a seed planted and there’s a chance it will grow, and I have to trim it back and watch it. Don’t ignore it and let it strangle everything. Keep that shit in check.

I’d like to tell you it was easy. But it wasn’t. It was a lot of work. A lot of remembering and experiencing things I wanted to forget. Exposure therapy. Art making. A lot of feeling it and not wanting too, but needing too. I’d like to tell you that I became the person I was again, but I didn’t I became something different because that person can’t exist anymore. I mourn their loss. But they are still part of me, I’m myself, but not my old self. I’m different. I rose the dead, but as promised they come back different. Probably why I like the Death Knight narrative in World of Warcraft. I am undead, but I am free from the control of the Lich King. I’m crazy pissed about it, but I am also super powerful.

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I completely remembered that I was wake during surgery. I had always doubted it because it seemed like too much, but once I remembered all the bodily pain the pain I experience daily went down because I remembered what the body was trying to tell me. The trauma of being literally ripped apart alive. I’m not gonna go into details. But after remembering that, it was really awful (so awful), and coming to terms with that it’s like I got stronger.

If you are struggling with mental illness know that it can be resolved. It’s hard and you’ll need a great therapist (it’s a privilege). My therapist is amazing. But you can live again. It’s not going to be perfect but you are working towards the best version of you and that is far better than perfect or normal. You’ll want to give up, because it seems hopeless and it’s super painful, but even the slightest change can make things different. It’s okay to take breaks. You’ll need to retreat and recover from time to time. But once you feel that difference, or the possibility that it could be different it changes everything. It’s slow. It’s gradual. There are days when it feels like you took so many steps back. It’s hard when you have to feel all the stuff you don’t want to feel. But once you do, it changes you in ways you couldn’t imagine.

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I still get angry, but I know why I am angry. I tell people (when relevant) that what they are doing makes me angry

My triggers are manageable. There’s no numbness, and I’m better at self soothing.

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I bought a car. I use to be afraid to drive, and now I can manage it.

I joined an organization to help change rules in women’s health to make sure what happened to me won’t happen to anyone else. (It makes me very nervous, but I am standing my ground.)

I complained and complained to organizations.

I stand up for myself regularly and I can say no. (Still scary, but it’s getting better)

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It doesn’t feel like every movement or choice I make is filled with pain or anxiety anymore. When it does upset me, I can take care of myself or call a friend to support me. (I also return this favour)

I’m kinder to myself. (It’s still a struggle, compliments are really hard for me still)

I don’t think about killing myself anymore.

Before I was so debilitated, couldn’t get myself to do these things.

I’m not saying it easy. I’m not saying there aren’t going to be set backs, there are but I am able to take the damage better than I was before. I’m not promising it will work for everyone. But it worked for me. I don’t think I’ve been as happy with myself in a long time. I have days when I don’t look over my shoulder and worry.

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Here I am listening to my music, my radio station and I have no guilt. It’s small. but it means something to me. I’m helping medical professionals write new guidelines to help women like me. I’m not hiding in a corner. I’m scared, but I can handle it. That’s a big thing.