OCD after Trauma

This morning I cried because the glasses in the cupboard weren’t lined up in the right order. I  hide myself away and cry every time someone asks me what I’m doing to try and overcome how I feel about the kitchen cupboards or the pegs on my washing line or the way I tuck the duvet in when I make the bed or how my kids toys are tidied away and I want to scream at them that I don’t want to overcome anything I just want them to keep their hands and their opinions out of my cupboards.

I have trauma things happened to me that were depraved and inhumane and if I need things to be organised correctly to feel like I have some measure of control in my ever spiralling life just let me.

I have had my basic human rights violated over and over again for years on end I’ve been stripped of the right to make my own decisions or say what happens to my body and you might not ever lay a finger on me but your judgment feels just the same.

I don’t need to be your version of normal I need to be my version of surviving.

This space I’m in, It might not be forever I’m not buying it I’m renting but right now it’s the only thing I have that feels like home and I know when you try to dismantle it even with your good intentions it’s because in your mind you want me to be free but I don’t feel free I feel homeless. I don’t feel safe, I feel lost and cold and scared and alone, so the next time you meet someone like me please can you remember that you being uncomfortable with where they live doesn’t make it your job to move them.

If you take only one thing away from this post let it be the understanding that every time you judge someone you are pouring salt into the wound that already broke their heart, I know its frustrating especially to watch someone you love struggle but they will find their way so much quicker if you can be gentle and instead of telling them how, start asking them what they need to feel safe.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric disorder in which a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, like war or sexual assault. With this disorder comes the presence of recurring symptoms, such as intrusive memories, flashbacks, nightmares, negative changes in thoughts, and persistent avoidance of trauma-related cues. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, on the other hand, is an anxiety disorder that occurs when a person gets trapped in a cycle of obsessions and compulsions. This disorder is marked by recurrent, intrusive thoughts or images, and intense urges to perform mental or behavioral rituals. 

The overlap between these two disorders lies in the symptoms of unwanted, intrusive memories or thoughts, repetitive behaviors designed to reduce distress, and avoidance of triggers that may cause these intrusive thoughts or memories to occur. The difference is that while the repetitive behaviors of OCD are performed to prevent an imagined threat from occurring, the repetitive behaviors of PTSD are done to avoid reexperiencing traumatic memories.

(Maulik K. Trivedi, M.D.)

From the Sky down

How did the world get so full of information 

every minute of every day reality tv and 24 hour news

and who thought it would be a good idea 

to fit it all right here in the back pocket of my jeans

all the information and the miss information 

and all the truth is out there but it’s hidden buried beneath the propaganda and the curated lies 

don’t get me wrong sometimes it is the good

but it’s mostly just the bad and the ugly with a filter slapped on that’s supposed to convince us that we want it

and everyone has an opinion on everything hiding behind their keyboard with the belief they’ve earned the right to share it

and no one is brave enough anymore to just admit when they don’t know

because what does it mean if the whole world fits inside your phone and it’s smaller than you are but you’re still not big enough to contain it

So we shrink ourselves down trying to make ourselves bigger

because it all so conveniently fits inside the palm of our hand as we loose time we can never get back scrolling on the device we built for connection that’s causing all this separation

while they tell us over and over again that if we would only keep on striving to do everything they said

while they sell us this dream that if we just invest enough hope and we sacrifice our mental health we can get lucky enough to go viral and catch a break or two that will turn this life around

and if that happens someday we could maybe have an Instagram feed that makes us look like we’re the one that’s normal

if we start again from the ground up maybe we could could be enough to fit inside their mould and that would make them proud

and I tried for a while I really really tried 

to shrink to conform to fit to fit in but fitting in just made it clear I didn’t have anywhere I belong

when it all came down to it I wasn’t built for this and it was a little late in the day I’ll admit but I realised I’m a bird

and I couldn’t spend my life swimming inside their fishbowl

and if those of us that are born to fly really want to change the world if we want to overcome

We have to be far too busy building something beautiful from the sky down to ever stop and listen to the voices that want to cage us.

– Louise Alexandra Erskine

Dating with CPTSD

Dating with trauma is complicated there’s no one size fits all option for how to deal with life. Sometimes you can meet someone that aligns with you in ways you daren’t have imagined possible that fits you like a glove, and sometimes that still isn’t enough because you aren’t both in the same space when it comes to overcoming triggers or because you are or because you just aren’t brave enough to let each other in far enough to see past it.

Dating with trauma is I guess something I underestimated – we could easily have gone on for months without a bump in the road and maybe then we could have faced one together when it came, but timing being what it is that wasn’t our story here. We both hit triggers incredibly early on which I maybe we should have expected but we didn’t and we were both blindsided by it and it broke my heart at a stage I probably shouldn’t have even been that invested but rightly or wrongly I found someone that I could see myself falling for and more importantly building something with, and that’s hard because in a lot of ways it’s no one’s fault it didn’t work out that way nobody is to blame, there’s nobody to be mad at and I felt powerless so I did the only thing I could and gave God a good telling off he didn’t deserve, secure in the knowledge he could handle it and I wouldn’t break him.

I’m sure if I wanted to I could blame myself or I could manufacture some reasons to blame him or blame my ex or his ex for causing the trauma we couldn’t see each other past, but that wouldn’t change anything or fix anything and at the end of the day I know the thing that broke me also built me and I don’t regret the journey that led me to become who I am today.

The woman I’ve become is incredible and I love her but I’m also under no illusion that she has a long way to go and needs a lot of grace to get there. 

I made the mistake of interpreting my present through the lens of my past and so did he and that hurt us both. We dragged pain and resentment and insecurity into a situation it didn’t belong in. So while what we had was incredibly good and should have been something we were celebrating we fought all the wrong battles on all the wrong levels and pushed each other away.

All I can do now is attempt to understand my part in it all and how and why I reacted to things the way I did in the hope that I won’t ever make these mistakes again, but allowing for the fact I probably will and if not these then new ones and I have to remember to be gentle with myself and with others and remember that tough love doesn’t work on hurting people including me.

I understand a little better now that when you’ve never been allowed to need anything there’s a complicated bag of emotions involved in admitting that you do – it’s hard to ask for something you’ve never been allowed, it’s harder still to figure out how to do that without treating the person your asking for it from like they’re the same one that intentionally deprived you of it not just someone that doesn’t understand you yet. It’s hard to know if you’re allowed to call or text, and when you have to fight a huge battle inside yourself to reach out to someone first and they don’t reply it can feel like an unbearable rejection even though it isn’t.

I understand now what a giant chasm there is between knowing your own worth and trusting someone else to see it and trusting that they don’t need convincing of it and that not everything has to be fought for. When conflict is all you’ve known and you’ve only been told that you’re worth nothing and shown that you mean nothing it’s hard to let go of feeling like you have to prove that you are – so that’s what I did I fought a fight that didn’t exist and broke the thing I was so desperate to protect.

I didn’t just break it either I pushed it past breaking point, I needed a reaction to feel like I mattered I lived too long on a rollercoaster where being hurt meant the same as being loved and I needed to be yelled at or punished somehow to feel like I mattered. So when I wasn’t and someone else’s pain wasn’t being thrown at me I felt like there wasn’t any there because he didn’t care. And it felt that way even though I knew it wasn’t true and even though he explained that he needed time to process and was sorry he shut down.

Trauma bonding is no different than any other addiction so even though I’ve been a long time out of that situation my body still doesn’t quite know how to not need it and I guess maybe it’s true that addiction never goes away you just learn how to control it and that scares me because I so deeply want this part of me gone. Inadvertently in the end I didn’t mean to but I I guess I was testing him or testing God because I wanted to be fought for, but the painful truth is I shouldn’t have needed to be. 

For a little while I thought I found someone that could see past all of that in me, that somehow because so much of my story is out here for everyone to see that he would somehow have enough insight to be ready and understand what he was getting into, he didn’t and that wasn’t his fault it was mine. I know I needed to learn all of this but I wish beyond everything else there had been a way for me to learn it without hurting him. Not just because I have to carry the weight of that with me now but because I know he does to.

Now I have to live with knowing I broke something so good and hurt someone incredible that didn’t deserve it because I couldn’t just give it time and not pick it apart, in the space of the uncertainty all the voices from my past resounded like clashing symbols inside my head – relentlessly all day every day until I drove myself out of my mind and in the end it hurt so much and it felt like no one cared that it hurt or wanted to understand why it did so I killed it on purpose because I talked myself into believing it would be easier. I ran away foolishly hoping that somehow he would see through it and ask me to stay. It isn’t. He didn’t. I was wrong and now it’s so much worse.

Disappointment hurts and so does hope all I can do now is own my mistakes, learn from them and take the time to heal again. If I’m being honest after I’ve done that I don’t want to try this all again with someone new, I don’t want someone else to make me feel any of the things I felt with him I want to save them and protect them because they’re all I have to show for the heartache, but in time I suppose that will change and until then I refuse to live life afraid of leaning into the storm when it comes. 

Somewhere out there is someone that will be ready to face all of this with me and for now I am grateful to have learnt a little bit more about who I can be, I’m grateful I learned I could enjoy affection and that I could feel safe with someone and that just for a moment I could rest my face in their neck and breathe them in and they could feel like home. I’m grateful I learned how much courage I have even if I don’t always show it in the right way and I’m grateful all of it happened even if it was too short and hurt like hell because I’d rather drown walking on water than not get out of the boat. 

My Husband’s a Rapist

Somebody referred to my (now ex) husband as a rapist recently and it shook me. It might seem crazy more than three years after I left but I had only considered my experience living with an abusive partner, you’d be surprised how big the leap feels between knowing you’ve been raped and considering your husband a rapist. 

The conversation progressed and I began to share my experiences with the couple of friends present. I was fine during the conversation but in the quiet afterward I could feel myself beginning to come undone so I said goodbye and cried all the way home. Now here I am trying to be a little braver, because those tears deserve a voice and because I am working so hard to overcome it all and not let this last chapter of my life define the core of who I am.

Sexual trauma is still triggering for me, its something I’ve had to really battle over recent years, and is not something I have as yet managed to overcome completely. I still haven’t found the courage required to date again after all this time own. But it isn’t the rape that haunts me its what comes with it, the coercive control, the way I learned to perform for him in spite of myself. Don’t get me wrong the first time your husband rapes you its a shock but you rationalise it, somehow convince yourself it didn’t happen or you imagined it or there was just some sort of miss-communication. And then he’s so sweet and loving over the next few days that you find yourself sweeping it under the rug, until it happens again, and again, that’s when the real damage begins it doesn’t start or end with the betrayal of being purposefully hurt by the person that’s supposed to protect you, its the way your behaviour changes until you think nothing of the way you constantly betray yourself. 

Its the way you realise firstly that’ll it’ll all be over so much quicker if you just don’t waste time saying no and its the way that develops as you learn to perform the right way, to move the right way, to do or say the right things to get it over and done with quicker. Until your sex life is essentially real life porn, there’s no connection, no intimacy, no trust there’s just you performing, trying to be enough that you don’t have to hear how its your fault, how your so boring he has to make up for your inadequacies and so for your own sake you make sure its good enough to get the job done as quickly as possible so you can get to the part where you lock the bathroom door and try to clean your skin hard enough to scrub away the shame. 

Coercion is subtle, its comments made to sound like compliments but that hurt like hell, comparision’s to ex lovers or pornography while you’re still in the middle of it, It wasn’t until very recently, that I realised just how messed up that was, both the idea that I was supposed to take those kind of things as compliments and that he was making sure I knew he was thinking about someone else while he was with me. All I knew at the time was that it hurt, I don’t know if I couldn’t or wouldn’t process all the little things. Probably it was little bit of both. But eventually I stopped having hope and accepted that these words were coming no matter how much I tried to please him and I learned to survive them and so many others, and I could get up and walk to the bathroom without looking back as I tried to block out the words and stop the tears from falling. 

If I were you I’d be thinking ‘if it was so bad why didn’t you just leave’ and you’d have a point but once in a blue moon it wasn’t vile, it wasn’t cruel it was poetry and he was made out of magic and that’s what kept me holding on. When you’re caught in the thick of it its so easy to forget that magic is just a fancy name for illusion. I didn’t stay for how violated I felt after he made me rape myself I stayed for the broken man that climbed into my scalding hot bathtub and sat soaking wet in his pyjamas crying over how sorry he was, mostly I 

stayed for the unshakable belief that he was right and all of this was my fault.