I began to share my story at the beginning of 2021. I am now almost at the end of my story. If you are only just picking this up, please do go back to the first post and read my story in its entirety 🖤🖤🖤
2020 Moving forward
There is a common perception that PTSD is something associated with War Veterans. It is often depicted in movies or television broadcasts as the result of trauma in battle. The reality is, that any kind of severe trauma can trigger the disorder, including abuse in childhood.
I can only write here from my own experiences, which have led to the diagnosis.
For me, there has been the classic case of the ‘wounded child’ within. I felt, I still feel, if to a lesser degree, that wounded child and I think it is because I have never before addressed what happened to me. The memory of such a trauma lies dormant, like an undiscovered volcano, asleep until something wakes it. And then it just cannot help but erupt.
In the human brain, that eruption causes the devastation that can manifest itself as PTSD, leading to unharnessed anxiety, panic attacks, feelings of terror, flashbacks, fragmented images, the triggering of unbidden disturbing memories, heightened feelings and emotions which are difficult to live with or understand.
I have come to realise that a diagnosis of PTSD should never be underestimated. It is a condition that is incredibly difficult and debilitating for the sufferer and also traumatic for those who have to watch them suffer.
When memories are aroused, certain aspects of the trauma, often the feelings and emotions, can be experienced again as if they were real.
Our brains are great at prompting the instincts of survival, but sometimes, when that volcano erupts, we just have to deal with the consequences. It is sometimes extremely difficult to cope with the whole gamut of emotions. On other occasions there can be a detachment from what is happening around the sufferer, numbness sets in, freezing out the present reality.
In September 2020, I was emailed a prayer by the Bishop of Exeter, for survivors of sexual abuse. It spoke of forgiveness and also of letting go of hatred for the abuser. When I read it, I realised that despite everything I’ve been through, I’ve never felt hatred. Perhaps it is because it’s an emotion I don’t generally relate to; I don’t know. I have felt shame, sorrow and anger and deep, deep hurt, but never hatred.
And then there’s forgiveness. How do you forgive those who have caused you such harm? Have I the capacity to forgive? Have I already forgiven them? I am aware that I should know the answer to these questions, after all I am in the business of forgiveness. I am a Priest and I have preached and acknowledged how damaging it can be to hold onto resentment. But the questions still prove difficult for me to answer. What I do know is that I have never felt vengeful. I don’t feel the need to make anybody pay for what happened. It happened, I wish it hadn’t but I can’t change the fact that these things have taken place in my life. I don’t have to see those who sexually abused and assaulted me. One may well be dead. In any case, they do not, by enlarge, play a physical part in my life. I don’t have to deal with that. What I have to deal with are the issues within my own head.
My dad, and the emotional trauma I suffered through his behaviour, is more difficult to deal with. I have been so lucky to have the most amazing support from my family in helping me to take the time to heal from the hurt he has caused me. Throughout it all, I have continued to take care of his affairs and to speak on his behalf with medics and care givers. I have continued to ensure that he has been well looked after, but I know deep down that following this process I cannot invest again in the relationship with him, emotionally as I have in the past. It would be too damaging both to me and to my family. We have been through enough.
Abuse is an exertion of power over a weaker individual. Each person who has mistreated me has abused the power they held over me. They each asserted control over somebody who was at their most vulnerable: a small child a troubled teenager, and then as an adult trying to do the best they can. It was time to take control over my own life. Now it was time to move on.
There is no quick fix. It would be totally wrong of me to ever suggest there is. It takes hard work to try to get better. I worked hard over those initial months of therapy. I had to and I also had to find my own ways to move forward, in order to get back to my work in ministry and also for the sake of my family. I am fully aware that there is still a very long way to go. It is easy for the memories to suddenly run rampant when you are least expecting them to. Once the box has been opened, once the demons have escaped, they always have the power to return. Pushing past traumas, which have been awakened, back into that box is not an option. They cannot ever go back to that place in the brain and be forgotten. Like Pandora’s box, once opened there is no way to put it all back. But I hold onto the fact that the last thing left in Pandora’s box was Hope.