Living with PTSD – By Nikki Mattocks

SAFMH News Room

PTSD is an anxiety disorder which is caused by a distressing event. It causes people to relive the event through flashbacks, nightmares, unwanted thoughts/images and physical sensations. It can also come with avoidance (desperately trying to avoid anything that might remind them of the event), feeling on edge and self-harm. The important thing to remember is that it is treatable (mainly through therapy and medication) and it can get better.

I have been diagnosed with PTSD since I was 14 years old. I experienced trauma as a child in the form of being sexually abused for 6 years by a family friend. It was horrific and devastating to lose my childhood.

When I was 14, I experienced another traumatic event, and I went on a downwards spiral of abusing drugs and alcohol, self-harming and hearing voices. I was desperate to escape the warzone in my head. This is when I was diagnosed with PTSD.

But in reality, I had been living with it since I was first abused at the age of 6. I got the nightmares, I got the avoidance, I got the pain, and most of all, I got the fear. That’s what PTSD is to me, it’s pure fear. Feeling terrified all of the time, the thoughts racing so fast you can’t even breathe. The waking up in the middle of the night saying ‘no stop’ because you don’t know what’s real anymore. Getting sweaty palms when someone wants to shake your hand in case, they grab me. The seeing someone who looks like the perpetrator so I literally stand in the middle of the street and pee myself. I’d love to be able to say this is all in the past and it doesn’t affect me anymore, but unfortunately that wouldn’t be the truth.

Every day I wake up feeling scared of the day ahead. Every day I go to work scared that I’ll be humiliated by wetting myself on my break. Every time I go on dates, I’m scared because if I get close to someone, they might hurt me. Every time I have sex, I cannot be sober as I know I’ll have a panic attack. Every day I go to sleep terrified of nightmares. Every day I live like this. And its hell.

Going through the trauma was hell. But reliving it every day? To me that’s worse.

Luckily there are ways to manage it. One way I help myself is by using grounding techniques, which help me to stay in the here and now. The most useful one for me is the 5,4,3,2,1 technique. You say 5 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.

Another way I help myself is by using positive affirmations, I remind myself that I’ve gotten through my bad days before, and I can do it again. I look in the mirror and I tell myself that I’m worthy, I’m valuable and I am loved. I also go to therapy every week to talk about what happened and learn to process the event and understand how it’s affecting me now, so that I can learn how to change it and manage the symptoms of PTSD.

Here is a poem I wrote to my ex (who abused me) recently, to tell them I’m moving on, and I hope that you can too.

Every breath I take
Proves I can live without you
All these feelings of loneliness
Is something I’ll get through

I might think I need you
But you are not the sun
You are not essential
To me living on

I’ll get my independence back
One day you won’t cross my mind
You are just one person
You are not mankind

I know that this will hurt
I know that you’ll move on
But I deserve the best in life
So I’m glad that you are gone

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