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Sufferer Thinking of addressing my past trauma head-on

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Dailyshifts

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I’m new to the forum. I was diagnosed with chronic PTSD only recently but I knew I had it for well over a decade, and it’s been making me very angry and sad lately.

I experienced a traumatic event in college. I didn’t get abused physically. I was dealing with severe depression at the time and I made a mistake in school that ultimately resulted in public humiliation, a brutal Google record, a severely tarnished academic record, major consequences to my career and grad school aspirations, and most importantly my mental health, which was already very complex before the incident occurred.

When the trauma happened, I was in fight or flight followed by intense self hate. I never explained the truth about why I made my mistake, that I was severely ill. Social stigma in academia and public spheres around chronic mental illness, as I’m sure you know, is so deep that disclosing truth can make matters far worse. I was trapped at that time, and all I could do was acknowledge my mistake and apologize, which I did repeatedly. It didn’t matter. I was pulverized in the press, by administrators etc and even threatened with expulsion. There are still articles out there to this day.

Lately my anger has been intense. I think about this event daily, and in the past I thought about it at least twice a week. Many different common things evoke memories and anguish about this event.

I started writing an essay about it a few months ago. I’m contemplating pitching it to a few magazines, websites and newspapers. The challenges are 1) to tell the story means disclosure of private health info, 2) it could lead to abuse online, further damage to career prospects etc and 3) the people in power could very well ignore it and pass the blame to me Ie ‘It’s not my fault this guy happened to have a mental illness’

The major upside is that I think publishing the truth would make me feel stronger. I also think there are several valuable lessons in my story, namely about people’s tendency to judge without asking questions and to treat others with zero empathy. There’s also something in there about the flaws in making an example of someone.

In my case, there were many ‘abusers’ — at least 8. But there are two in particular, the two who decided to name me publicly, who are always on my mind, one of whom I knew fairy well, the main one who, intentionally or not, buried me and left me for dead.

I’d love some advice. Direct messages especially. I don’t know anyone who I can talk to about this besides my psychologists and my psychiatrist. My wife doesn’t quite get it, but she’s supportive when she can be. And almost all the abusers are still alive.

I’m starting EMDR soon. I’ve done CBT but didn’t get much help from it. I do talk therapy twice a week. I’ve always been medicated.

My anger and sadness interfere with so much these days. Work, relationships, focus, sleep. There’s something about being chronically mentally ill before a traumatic event that makes that event have so much more impact. Many other people would just bounce back. I got destroyed and my brain is my greatest weapon and my worst enemy.

Thanks
Me
 
#2
I’d love some advice. Direct messages especially. I don’t know anyone who I can talk to about this besides my psychologists and my psychiatrist. My wife doesn’t quite get it, but she’s supportive when she can be.
No direct messaging here, sorry.

What are you looking for advice about, specifically? Publishing?

Anyway, I'm sorry that happened to you and I hope you find healing here.
 

Dailyshifts

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No direct messaging here, sorry.

What are you looking for advice about, specifically? Publishing?

Anyway, I'm sorry that happened to you and I hope you find healing here.
I’d love to know what others have learned from addressing trauma head-on like this either by confronting an abuser or by publishing their story and sending the piece to the abuser and others involved.

And thanks for saying you are sorry. I didn’t get much support from my friends when this happened. Everyone moved on but me. These days even a like on Instagram by one of my old college friends often makes me think about the trauma instantly so I rarely communicate with them at all, and only one of them ever knew anything about my mental health challenges. Ironically, that one friend was a psych major and now a psychiatrist. He never even contacted me after my downfall. Not once.
 
#4
Sounds like you want revenge. I have heard of people confronting their abusers but no one who's published anything and then sent that to their abuser. Sounds like a very roundabout way to go about it. If you want to talk to your abuser, just do so. However, everyone I know who has done so has come away disappointed.

Is it revenge you want? Or healing? Those things are not compatible.
 

Dailyshifts

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Sounds like you want revenge. I have heard of people confronting their abusers but no one who's published anything and then sent that to their abuser. Sounds like a very roundabout way to go about it. If you want to talk to your abuser, just do so. However, everyone I know who has done so has come away disappointed.

Is it revenge you want? Or healing? Those things are not compatible.
It’s both.

I contacted the main abuser a few months ago and a second person who was complicit and I asked them if they ever considered after the fact if I was ok. The main abuser didn’t reply. The other person said ‘I hope you’re ok. It must’ve been hard for you at the time.’

It’s more than revenge though. It’s about these lessons in life. There’s so much here to absorb. And I’m just one person with one story.

Some people take ownership and find healing (and challenges) by telling their stories in public forums like books and websites. I imagine it’s a bumpy road, but owning it probably aids in the healing process.

**OP here. Couldn’t edit my last post so adding something else here.

A lot of my drive to tell my story is about mental health awareness. The trauma is the mechanism through which to tell that larger story. I have aspirations to go beyond the trauma story and write about my experience with the healthcare system, for example. I also do a lot of research on psychiatric topics.

I was watching the Jeffrey Epstein documentary on Netflix and while my trauma is incredibly different, I connected with it immensely. One of the ladies talks about how she just wanted someone to listen to her. I don’t think I’d ever get an acknowledgment from the abusers but some people would read it and learn something from it, and I’d have said my truth. My biggest fear is that I’ll die without ever having told the truth. I was born with severe mental health issues and I’ve lived a secret life pretty much forever. I’m sure there are people here who can relate to that.
 
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#6
Hi @Dailyshifts , welcome!

I'm finding it difficult to give you advice without knowing the context of the mistake in your behaviour and the roles the others played in that. Saying that, I'm not asking or telling you to say any more as if you wanted people to know the full context you would have said. However, I think advice is only going to be fully informed advice if the full details are known. Anything else, is speculative.

Are you in therapy now? You say you have your psychiatrist and psychologist to talk this through with. What do they say? I'm assuming they know the full details, and that is a safe place to discuss it.

My gut reaction to your wanting to publish something about this is: that's a bad idea.

I had public humiliation. My public humiliation sounds different to yours. But I get the wanting to overcome that by being public. However, no one else sees our feelings, our lives, or holds them in the same level of seriousness than we do. Which means I highly doubt you are going to get the resolution you desire by going public. It's an internal process you need to go through to work through your feelings and find inner peace about it all.

The wish to raise public awareness about mental health. That doesn't need to involve writing about your mistake, the fall out, and your interpretation of others behaviour (I write it like that without knowing the context of the situation). I think what people will fixate on is your mistake. Rather than your take on why you made that mistake and how you were not supported.

If you want to raise awareness of mental health: do it in a less personal way and join charities. Join campaigns. I think you might get more success that way.
 
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Dailyshifts

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Hi @Dailyshifts , welcome!

I'm finding it difficult to give you advice without knowing the context of the mistake in your behaviour and the roles the others played in that. Saying that, I'm not asking or telling you to say any more as if you wanted people to know the full context you would have said. However, I think advice is only going to be fully informed advice if the full details are known. Anything else, is speculative.

Are you in therapy now? You say you have your psychiatrist and psychologist to talk this through with. What do they say? I'm assuming they know the full details, and that is a safe place to discuss it.

My gut reaction to your wanting to publish something about this is: that's a bad idea.

I had public humiliation. My public humiliation sounds different to yours. But I get the wanting to overcome that by being public. However, no one else sees our feelings, our lives, or holds them in the same level of seriousness than we do. Which means I highly doubt you are going to get the resolution you desire by going public. It's an internal process you need to go through to work through your feelings and find inner peace about it all.

The wish to raise public awareness about mental health. That doesn't need to involve writing about your mistake, the fall out, and your interpretation of others behaviour (I write it like that without knowing the context of the situation). I think what people will fixate on is your mistake. Rather than your take on why you made that mistake and how you were not supported.

If you want to raise awareness of mental health: do it in a less personal way and join charities. Join campaigns. I think you might get more success that way.
Thanks for the reply. I’d explain the details but I’d then be identifiable, with some good detective work, and I’m not ready to take that risk. Only once I make a firm decision on disclosure would I take that plunge.

I go back and forth on this all the time and it’s symptomatic of my mood shifts. Sometimes I have this strength to speak the truth about it in a wide forum, and other times I have the clarity to recognize how the risks likely outweigh the rewards. The risks are most evident when I read almost anything on social media and come upon so much hate, prejudice, and lack of compassion. I’m extremely sensitive and living among all the hate, whether I live a double life or not, is so hard to swallow. I know that not only would my abusers likely not acknowledge it, but many would attack me for being who I am. And even those who acknowledge it would acknowledge it and quickly move on—it’s the abused who has to find a way to heal.

I don’t have the answer right now but I’m trying. I talk to my psychologist about this all the time. He knows every detail. He knows me best. I’ve also discussed this with my psychiatrists, my wife, and family. I have hopes for EMDR. I also do self-guided DBT. My healthcare costs are very high and I haven’t been able to find an in network DBT specialist.

You’re right. PTSD is a challenging thing to convey, like so many other mental illnesses. It’s difficult to help someone else understand how you feel. I often use comparisons with my brothers like ie ‘you know that time you had a panic attack? Well, I experience that a couple times a week and back when this trauma happened I was in a constant state of panic for months. But these days it’s different and I often have non-epileptic seizures, too, in which my entire body jumps repeatedly like I’m being given streams of high voltage to keep my heart beating.’

My psychologist is on the fence about me publishing something, or attempting to. For a long time he was in the camp of ‘write for yourself and don’t publish it’ but these days he isn’t sure. Over time I think he’s recognized the pain I’m going through and he wonders himself if disclosure might help me more than hurt me. But we often talk about his and my fear that if I disclosed, I couldn’t take it back, and what would happen if I regretted it? Regret is relentless. I watched my father live his final years buried in regret for things he’d done when he was ill. He hurt us emotionally and financially, and I would never fault him for it. Severe mental illness can own you, and for those who resist or abandon taking their meds, it’s ultimately, in my view, the stigmas carried by society and family that indirectly cause patients to go off the rails. To blame patients is to overlook the larger problems.

I have been self-medicating with cannabis since I was 13, and when I use it, I often come to the realization that my drive to disclose is based on a false sense of other people’s capacity for empathy. I trick myself into thinking others will care. It’s wishful thinking. Most people wouldn’t care, and some would attack you, especially in today’s climate.

Last night I thought again about another path: to write about it and send it to specific people, the abusers and a few close friends from that time who never showed any support or even contacted me. This was my first intuition when I began contemplating the notion of telling my story, but I decided it wasn’t enough, that the abusers would only be prone to listen if the story was made public. Maybe that’s an oversight. Maybe writing about this and sending it to a handful of people is an approach with benefits that outweigh the risks. It still leaves open the possibility of someone taking my story and doing what they want with it, though, and having my story leaked would be the worst outcome of all. Even addressing this with the abusers via phone carries this risk because people talk. That’s a primary reason I never told the truth in the first place. A slice of society has changed and there are improvements, but they’re small and most live in fear of people who are chronically mentally ill. My trauma was over 15 years ago, and even today that campus is not exactly progressive.
 
#8
abusers would only be prone to listen if the story was made public. Maybe that’s an oversight
Why would it being public make them listen? They can deny. They can say you got it all wrong. They can say that's your interpretation but not how they saw it?
Like I say, I don't know your specifics (and I totally get and respect your reasons for not going into it), but in my experience: abusers never take responsibility! They don't care. If they did, they wouldn't have abused in the first place. But I'm just going from my experience of people abusing me who didn't give a moment's thought about what they did. I don't know whether your situation and those people are different or not.

Maybe there is a different way if you want them to acknowledge what you were going through and how their behaviour impacted. You said you contacted two recently and one didn't respond (yet) and the other did with a note of recognition of how hard it was for you. Maybe that is the avenue to go down (if you feel you need to go down this road). Talking to them? Rather than doing something public? I imagine writing an article about them (warranted or not), is going to get their backs up and on the defensive. I really really don't think it's going to give you what you want from them. People don't take kindly to being shown their flaws.
But a one on one? Maybe they will have a view about what happened and why they behaved that way that will give you some peace?
Who knows.
Ultimately, only you do.
 

Dailyshifts

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Why would it being public make them listen? They can deny. They can say you got it all wrong. They can say that's your interpretation but not how they saw it?
Like I say, I don't know your specifics (and I totally get and respect your reasons for not going into it), but in my experience: abusers never take responsibility! They don't care. If they did, they wouldn't have abused in the first place. But I'm just going from my experience of people abusing me who didn't give a moment's thought about what they did. I don't know whether your situation and those people are different or not.

Maybe there is a different way if you want them to acknowledge what you were going through and how their behaviour impacted. You said you contacted two recently and one didn't respond (yet) and the other did with a note of recognition of how hard it was for you. Maybe that is the avenue to go down (if you feel you need to go down this road). Talking to them? Rather than doing something public? I imagine writing an article about them (warranted or not), is going to get their backs up and on the defensive. I really really don't think it's going to give you what you want from them. People don't take kindly to being shown their flaws.
But a one on one? Maybe they will have a view about what happened and why they behaved that way that will give you some peace?
Who knows.
Ultimately, only you do.
I spent some time on the phone with my therapist today and I came to the conclusion that the right thing for me is not to publish something. But I may take my writing and send it to my abusers. I don’t care if they acknowledge it. I want to say the truth and inform them what they did even if they don’t care. My one reservation with doing so is that any one of them could take my writing, or the personal information I’d share, and do what they want with it.
 
#10
That's great you've come to a decision, with the help of your therapist, about not publishing something. I hope that gives you some resolution to the situation.
And you don't need to rush the decision about sending them your writing. Like you say, pros and cons with that. You'll just need to make sure you can handle all the possible consequences of it if you decide to do it.
 

Dailyshifts

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That's great you've come to a decision, with the help of your therapist, about not publishing something. I hope that gives you some resolution to the situation.
And you don't need to rush the decision about sending them your writing. Like you say, pros and cons with that. You'll just need to make sure you can handle all the possible consequences of it if you decide to do it.
Yeah. At this point in time there’s no clear path but I do feel my current approach of not telling them the truth is going to make it harder for me to heal. I wish there were a way to share written words with someone that prevents them from taking screenshots etc but it doesn’t exist. But if I write constructively and in a balanced way—and my draft is both—then I think the likelihood they share my writing with anyone else is slim since it exposes the consequences of their actions. I think the worst case scenario is they tell other people I’m a troubled person who wrote them about my health issues. Well, that doesn’t bother me. What matters to me is taking ownership of something that’s owned me for so long.
 
#12
Recover first

Then send it into the world
Because sending it now, before you are done with therapy and stable enough to handle the rejection you may get from those you want to change is a huge risk. Your ptsd comes from public communication and rejection. What will you do if they take what you write and use it against you in a public forum simply to humiliate you again?

Ya...people are evil. If they did it once they will do it again
It might be better to be sure you have all the coping skills you will need in place before going down that road. Then when you do you can be confident that you are doing it for the right reasons no matter what the outcome.
 
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