I didn’t think I would live to see thirty. Now I’m thirty-seven and finally enjoying my life doing all the things I missed out on due to trauma. I’m stepping out into the world and handling life with Anxiety, CPTSD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Autism and Chronic Pain.
A few years ago my health was poor; I had a health overhaul, came off a medication and lost four stone. My mindset changed. Where I used to be an expert in hiding my “flaws”, I’m now open about things. I now have a community, a tribe, a solid base and so much hope for the future. I’m now being creative, singing, dancing, planning a business and connecting with people. The mask is off. This is me.
I was born into an environment that was scary. I was always in fear of my dad’s explosive anger. He had high expectations that were impossible to meet and my mum was very timid. It was a childhood of constant anxiety and fear. From a young age I drank, smoked and self-harmed to cope with big emotions.
My parents divorced and my mother brought a new partner into the house – another controlling man. I suffered from anxiety and depression, but was not supported. I was called lazy. I was now used to this kind of verbal disapproval and feeling inherently bad. He left and another one moved in. I was sexually abused and started having panic attacks, leading to agoraphobia. Another one moved in. The first time he met me, he mimicked me and made fun of me. He used to bully and make fun of me, especially in drunken rages. Controlling behaviour, dominating my mother, devaluing me. I was picked on, degraded and criticised.
My mum was passive, never standing up for me. That’s the most painful part. The person who raised me should have loved and protected me. At the age of nineteen I left home, drifting from house to house and my mental health problems got worse. I thought I was broken and that I was the problem.
When I had boyfriends, the dynamics of abuse and controlling behaviour were reproduced each time. I had no boundaries, no self-esteem. I was dealing with a life-time of trauma, undiagnosed PTSD and I had little support or guidance. I existed but I’d had enough of this life.
I had to find the right support for myself to find my own way out of the darkness. I was no saint, but looking back, all through my early life, I needed support and I didn’t have it. I have been using mental health services since I was twenty. At one point I was sectioned which was re-traumatising. I needed support and understanding but the health services didn’t always provide this and often made things worse.
The changes came slowly. The first was a therapy group that suggested distancing myself from the family dynamic narrative. It helped me to see things for how they really were and why I had so many problems in life.
I was unaware that Emotional Abuse can cause PTSD or that it was what I was experiencing. I’d repressed memories, I’d have flashbacks, living in a state of constant fear and became physically unwell, having to use a walking stick because of my chronic pain and fatigue. I’ve had to learn a lot on my own, to heal my nervous system, my flight and fight instincts and how to stop reacting whenever my brain senses a threat. I’ve experienced mental health stigma.
Another change was attending Hillcroft Women’s College. It would take me a lot to get there. I’d have panic attacks but they were welcoming. My confidence grew in a safe environment. They supported me to pursue education, retaking Maths and English GCSE. It was an empowering place.
Another shift was joining Fastminds, a local support group for adults with ADHD and Autism, helping me to understand how my brain works. I had no knowledge of Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs) effecting brain development; the leading cause of Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLd’s). Getting reasonable adjustments for ADHD, PTSD, or any Neurodiversity is a fight. I’ve had to battle for my basic human rights at every step. I understand it’s not me that’s broken.
I’ve had to take control of my life and say, ‘Fuck this shit!’ That could be the title of my autobiography if I stop procrastinating!
Another huge shift has been the Sisterhood choir. When I first joined I was still very isolated with agoraphobia. It’s been the place where I’ve been able to work through a lot of issues. I’ve confronted crippling anxiety to get up in front of a crowd and sing solo. I’ve had to believe that I am worthy of people listening to me, healing my low self-esteem. It’s through singing that I’ve come out of my shell. I’m facing my fears and traumas one at a time. I am understood, I feel supported, valued and loved, but most of all I really enjoy and can be myself.
People may try to limit me but I am enjoying proving them wrong!
Looking towards the future with hope, I’m thinking of sunshine and rainbows, liberated from the shackles of my past.
I know the best is yet to come.