Have you ever walked in circles in the forest? That heart-sinking moment when you realize you have been here before rather than moving in a solid direction feels a lot like having complex PTSD.
I will take Anthony's advice and try to make a list of trauma (although it is not complete, due to amnesia)
I will take Anthony's advice and try to make a list of trauma (although it is not complete, due to amnesia)
- pneumonia: severely ill soon after birth but was not hospitalized; was held upright all night by my crying and exhausted new father who has mental health issues of his own. Where the hell is my mom?
- earliest memory (<1) is looking up the stairs, wondering if my mom would ever come back. Fear of abandonment.
- (4?) memory of being held over bathtub that appears to be filled with blood that they want to put me in, but I fight, until I realize it's my blood, and I black out
- Being asked to take clothes off and play "games" with my two best friends and my sister on the bed in front of my friends' house guests, Gorge Mullins and his adult daughter, Teresa, who reward us with stickers that we are instructed to place on each others' various body parts, and private parts, which we are then told to rub together while stacked on the bed for their viewing pleasure. The worst part was when my BFF wouldn't speak to me after for a long time, and it was never the same. This man and daughter were my parents friend and went to our church.
- (5?) being awoken to the "monster" shadow who bashes me on the back of the head to stun me and attack/rapes me (I learn to dissociate completely, to black out, when I hear the door open at night.)
- my sister and I see our bedroom pictures "moving" (a la Harry Potter) and tell our mother, who tells us we are being tormented by demons. We are given more Bible verses to memorize, and we are blamed for being "evil."
- (5) going to kindergarten gives me courage to tell my mom about my Dad's touching, which results in three attempts and three sessions in which I am told all the terrible things that will happen to me and my siblings if I ever tell anyone else these things I don't understand. These involve being taken into a bad home and never seeing my siblings again, while they also are taken to bad homes where they are tortured and mistreated also. (I will have recurring nightmares of this for 20+ years because, after all, it's all my fault this could happen.)
- (6?) being awoken when I heard something, and looking down at the lower bunk and seeing my Dad fondling my little sister under her covers while she appears to be asleep: I sit up reflexively, and hearing him make a lame excuse about the window, which he checks, and leaves
- (6?) sharing the top bunk (twin bed) with my sister now, as we are both terrified. Waking up to see her nightgown off and lying flat on the bedspread next to me and some furry animal curled up in a ball snoring on her pillow. I feel terror and do not understand if I am dreaming or what. I reach out to touch the furry, spiky ball, and it shudders but doesn't wake up. I recoil in horror and think I have completely gone crazy.
- Taking the top bunk and not even being able to care if this is to save myself and not my sister. Using her as live bait for my dad. Living in terror he will come back.
- (6?) Waking up one night in the middle of the night and thinking "He's gone. I wonder what happened."
- (age?) seeing my Dad pull my mom upstairs by her long, red hair during a fight
- (1-9) hearing loud fighting, taking my sibs to hide in our room. I herd them into my room, shut the door, shut off the light, hide them in the closet, further away, and hide myself where the door opens so "if they come for us" I will be in between the kids and the "monsters" my parents turned into when they got angry. I cover my sister's ears with my hands to try to shield her from the fear I am feeling from what I am hearing, leaving my ears exposed to listen for any indication they might come for us.
- (7?) being left to watch my two younger sibs at night while parents at Bible study when they start their own church and are gone nearly every night, leaving us alone sometimes. This night there was a terrible loud thunder and lightening storm and the lights went out. I had no way to find a flashlight. My sibs were terrified, so I again, grouped them into the back corner of the dining area, and stood out in front of them with the biggest knife I could find in the kitchen, willing to kill any intruder who threatened us/them. (BTW, I had amnesia for this memory until my sister narrated it, and half-way through her narration, I remembered this memory again.) We don't know how long we waited like that.
- First day of first grade: lunch room. Feeling the shock and awe of discovering that I am not like any other child in the school. Feeling like I am from another planet and wishing I could disappear because I was so obviously a terrified mute creature and these were talking, smiling children.
- First grade, all year: trying to fit in by talking a lot at the wrong times and getting in trouble for not paying attention. Not being able to pay attention, or to make myself focus. Losing time and fading out dissociatively. Being terrified of my teacher.
- Many minor episodes of minor child abuse involving being spanked daily with leather belt and buckle, 2x4 shaped into paddle with our 3 names carved on it, and Ivory soap scum put in mouth. For coloring on the wall or anything really.
Being told daily what a bad child we all were and in need of daily punishment. Mom being on the phone doing PR all day long and ignoring us. I have to mother my two sibs most of the time.
- My mom keeping us in our room to wait for beating from dad when he gets home most days.
- Being whipped naked by Dad and then molested in closed room while mom is with brother. Being forced to leave sister there and very angry not able to protect her or know what he will do to her after whipping and molesting me while she was bent over, waiting, humliated, naked and exposed. Having his big hand covering my mouth and nose while molesting me so that mostly what worries me is that I will suffocate. My lungs ache. I ask him why he touched me there, and he lies, saying he wanted to check he "didn't hurt me" with the whip. I am angry he lied to me, and that is mostly what I remember for 25 years, that he is a big, fat, mean liar. I don't realize he is a sex offender until I am 33.
- (7) While at my loving grandparents where I feel safe, I contemplate suicide by holding my breath. It doesn't work.
- Many instances of bullying and taking pleasure in humiliating, spanking (6th grade) comingled with encouragement to get perfect grades
- 2nd grade. Being shamed for getting an A-. The B was not even worthy of mention.
- (9) Moving to a new home and having my beloved grandpa die of cancer. I am unable to grieve or cry. I feel numb.
- (10) my parents start taking in foster children from foreign countries who don't speak English for medical saving reasons. I end up with two foster sisters younger than me, who I love and worry about, and lose. My mom takes my winter coat from Value Village (it was $2, and we lived in a mansion) that I just got that fall and gives it to the foster sister. I do not have a coat for the winter and nobody notices how cold I am. But I don't say anything to anyone because I feel "ungrateful" as my mom constantly tells me I am.
- (Life at the mansion) Having random episodes when my mom bursts into our room and screams at us for a long time calling us terrible things and shaking us, until we collapse in tears, for no apparent reason.
- Having only handmedowns and Value Villiage clearance items to wear, feeling very ugly as a tween when girls in my class are starting to wear jewelry and lip gloss. Having the worst hair cuts possible, including having most of my hair cut off at beauty schools (so that the Queen mother will always be the most beautiful, after grandma had a painting done of my, and she was jealous). My mother praising the ugly hair cut daily, as I wore home made clothes from color blind grandma, and felt very, very ugly. Eating tons of ice cream every day when I get home from school to numb the pain and getting fatter.
- (11) suddenly being bought real, new clothes (one outfit) that is "conservative" to be paraded up and down the West Coast during their "deputation" or begging from churches for money to go be foreign missionaries for a sudden career change from rich Dentist and part time nurse who forgets her children at school.
- (11) begging grandma to keep me so I don't have to move to Costa Rica, which I know nothing about and don't trust my parents to bring us back alive; she didn't. I cried myself to sleep on the matress that countless people had peed on in the cockroach house with bars on every window. I woke up and found out from my sister that it was not the next day, but rather, she's been worried cause I've been asleep for three days, coming out only to pee in the bathroom across the hall from my bedroom. When she talked to me I didn't respond and appeared to be a zombie. No wonder I felt so thirsty! Mom made no mention of this and did nothing. ( I win a championship for dissociation, which includes a prize in being totally ignored by the parents. )
- (12) I develop depression and my mom decides its best to leave me home alone all day with the maid to do my school work "homeschooling" on my own. I finish my English in 2 weeks, and try to do the math alone and can't.
- (12) my sister is sexually assaulted while walking to school with my little brother, who thinks the man was "trying to steal her backpack." I am really upset. I should have been there, plus my sister's a wreak and has insomnia and my parents, as usual, do nothing.
- (17) I move back to WA, USA. I black out when a male neighbor friend pranks me. I can't figure out why I dissociate. I can't remember my childhood. In fact, I can't remember two days ago well. In fact, I have serious anxiety and depression and....I wish I were never born.
- fast forward to 21, when major anxiety attack watching Isabel Allende movie with an incest and rape scene(s). Go to therapy and diagnosed PTSD with dissociative amnesia for abuse.
- (33) Have flashbacks during sex that hint that the abuse was, in fact, my Dad raping me, and that is my major trauma, for which I have pretty much no memory.
- since that time, flashbacks of what if feels like right after your Dad rapes you in the night and your mommy never comes when you are in shock, crying, and wanting to die.
- Flashback of Dad saying I can't tell Mom because "it would kill her" but me thinking he meant "he would kill her" which explains why I have been afraid of him killing her my whole life with attendant, elaborate homicide nightmares and obsession with detective shows and books for my whole life.
- Now, finally not fearing my fear so much and being willing to do EMDR even if I have to drive 2 hours away over a mountain pass for therapy every Friday.