Diagnosis code: 309.81

“I’m changing your diagnosis to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”  I thought my doctor was joking. I’ve never been to war, I’ve been abused, but not as bad as that!!!

My doctor was serious. I had just spent the last 45min. describing the frustrating things my brain and body were doing and my failure to control them. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety all my life. I take medications for both. It turns out the symptoms of depression and anxiety are just that, symptoms, not a cause. Their roots go deeper than I realized.

I’ve been seeing this doctor for over 2 years now, and working steadily towards what I thought was the end of the line of being “free.” I’ve spent years recovering from my childhood abuse. I felt I was finally getting to a place where the gaping wounds were scabbing over, and some turning to scars. I wasn’t hemorrhaging anymore, and yet I had all these symptoms: nightmares, trouble sleeping, random episodes of crying, anxiety, hyper vigilance, not able to be in a crowd w/o feeling exhausted afterwards or panicked during, isolating, easily over stimulated, exaggerated startle response, disassociating, memory problems, not able to concentrate, always tired, hyper sensitive to human touch, panic attacks, not able to watch certain movies or shows because they “upset” me so much, random sounds or noises making me feel like I’m going to climb out of my skin. bouts of pure exhaustion for no apparent reason.

When will it end?

“you may have adrenal fatigue syndrome from being in a constant state of anxiety for such long periods of time” Oh great, one more thing to add to my list.

The doctor thumbed through my chart, reading her notes, and we rehashed my childhood experiences: abandonment, betrayal, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse, spiritual abuse, witnessing others being abused, sexual abuse….

“Wait, I don’t remember discussing the sexual abuse.”  Oh?

” We talked about your dad being inappropriate and pinching your butt, was there more?” I was molested starting at age 4 and continuing on by different people through about age 12.  I said it as if I was reading off a “to do” list. Oh and a guy in high school attempted to rape me my senior year.

My doctor set my chart down and leaned back in her chair. The look of shock evident on her face. “You’ve been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder!” So, this is “normal?” I’m not crazy?

“Why haven’t we discussed the sexual abuse before this?” I don’t know, I thought I had, it seemed secondary to the other issues I was trying to deal with.

She immediately went into what she wanted me to do self care wise, what I was to continue doing, books, support, and other alternatives to help the healing process. Like I said, I didn’t think she was serious at first. As It turns out all that “other stuff” I was working on getting over may not have been the main cause of my symptoms, it may just be the “secondary issue” that is the main problem.

Here’s what I’ve discovered since then. In my 20 some years of on and off counseling I’ve never explored the issues of being sexually abused. I don’t know why, or how it was missed, but it was. This was startling for me to realize.

It started at such a young age,  and after the first incident I tried to tell my mom. She waved me away in annoyance, as I tried to explain an event that I didn’t yet have words for.  I never tried to tell again. I was silenced and conditioned by my abusers, there were 7 of them over the years. It was so prevalent that it became another confusing, unwanted “normal” of my crazy childhood. It seemed to be a lesser abuse compared to the other things.

Maybe I just wasn’t capable of  handling these issues until now. Maybe because the actual act of sexual intercourse never happened, my mind minimized it as less harmful than the other abuses. I ‘m not sure.

So I’m reading and re-reading and finding out that there are things I do “naturally” that are actually common coping mechanisms of abuse victims. Things I thought were normal, ways of behavior and thinking I thought everyone did.  It’s terrifying and freeing, but mostly really, really scary.


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