My Family

My Family

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Living with PTSD

      Its been nearly 17 months since I was violently physically and sexually assaulted. They always say "time heals", however there are many days where I feel like that phrase is just rubbish. My mind tells me I should be in front of this. That this trial is in my past and I should be moving forward by now. I feel as though I should be ready to share my story as an overcomer or as a past victim giving purpose and meaning to those who are just recently experiencing such a tragedy. I've had months and months of counseling, read several books, been indulged in the scriptures, and started new joyful adventures since that day. However despite all of this some days it feels as though my circumstances stay the same and my heart aches as severely as it did in the first weeks, if not more. 
      My life has changed since September 8, 2012 in so many ways. I have a new apartment, new church, new friends and co-workers, and I have a beautiful baby boy on the way. I have experienced the grace of God in my life like never before. I have found greater understanding in suffering and tragedy and finding joy in the midst of those. There is positivity to be found. However, it's not always easy. 
      People move on. Friends and family who were supportive and caring in the thick of the trial have their own lives to worry about, understandably so. New friends may or may not know about my past and it becomes awkward to share the story as so many don't know how to respond. It's heavy. Some days I feel normal, but then I am hit with the reality that my reality is so very different than the lives of those around me. The more time I spend with people, especially other young women my age, I realize how my life is in such a contrast. I begin to feel like an outsider who can't explain those feelings well.  What do I mean? I feel compelled to show a glimpse into the life of a person suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), not to be felt sorry for or pitied but to shed an awareness of the difficulty it is to recover from assault and abuse. 
Often it can feel as though PTSD is in control of my life. 
  • I think twice about everything I do. The words "Is it safe?", or "will I feel safe?" resonate in my mind with each decision I make or place that I go. 
  • I cannot let my phone out of my sight even when I am alone in my small one bedroom apartment for fear of tragedy happening and having no way to contact for help.
  • I flinch at every unsuspecting noise I hear. 
  • Any unexpected touch or hit to any part of my head immediately and physically triggers the memory of being beaten and will send me into an anxiety attack. 
  • I get nervous at the turn of every corner or the opening of every door for fear of someone waiting behind it to cause evil
  • A simple knock on my door when I am home alone is enough to send me into full blown hysterics and anxiety attacks.
  • I cant help but think nearly every man I see is looking for an opportunity to rape and assault me or another unsuspecting woman in the area. 
  • I hear any scream or shout and immediately my thoughts go to the worst possible situation and feel a responsibility to find out if someone is in trouble. 
  • My heart pounds as I lie down to take a nap in the middle of the day for fear of being awakened by a noise, a knock on the door or anything else that would trigger an anxiety attack.
  • I can barely watch any primetime TV show or go to see any movies that many of my friends may watch because nearly every show or movie has a violent storyline or scene that will undoubtedly trigger a traumatic memory for me. 
  • I can be in the middle of a church service and a graphic image of my rape with flash through my mind without warning or a reasonable trigger. 
  • I have to avoid the song "Amazing Grace" at any and all costs as it will cause a very painful trigger for me as it was the song God gave me during my attack. 
  • I encounter struggles with feeling shame even though I know that Christ has redeemed me. 
  • I am often attacked with violent and graphic dreams that wake me up in the middle of the night. 
  • I must endure while people around me (Christians included) joke and make light of violence and rape all the while screaming inside how truly NOT funny it is. 
  • I am anxiously waiting for the time they call me in to testify against my attacker in court and worry that the forgiveness I have felt could not be real. That maybe my forgiveness was really a facade and when I see him new feelings of anger will arise. 
  • Before my attack I felt called to the least of these, to serve amongst the poor and forgotten. Now I feel guilt as my hearts desire is to pursue this calling again but my mind cannot handle the fear and anxiety that comes along with serving in areas that potential new dangers exist. Violence is a big cost that I am not ready to face yet again. 
  • I am thrilled at having a baby on the way, but my heart aches with the thoughts of the evil that exists in this world and how it may affect him. 
     The list could go on, but ultimately its just the feeling that I am different than most of my peers. I hang out with women my age and realize the things they think about and talk about were the same things I did before September 2012. I used to watch those crime shows and horror movies. I used to be confident to walk by myself or stay home alone. However my experiences have shaped a new reality for me. I am not comforted by statistics or rationale. I know that violence can happen anywhere. I grieve the loss of my security daily. 

     I must battle with my faith that tells me that God is with me and I have nothing to fear and the reality that tragedy happens and is painful to bear no matter what. I do not journal this to despair or to complain about the hardships. I truly feel compelled to speak out as a victim and a survivor of sexual and physical assault. It doesn't just disappear. Time doesn't necessarily heal.  Hope for complete healing sometimes seems pointless or unattainable. As a Christian, however I know I cannot let that hope die for I have a genuine and true faith that Christ has set us free and one day He will set all right and vanquish all evil and heartache. 

     Revelation 21: 3-5 says " Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be his people, and God himself with be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be any mourning nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said "Behold I am making all things new.


2 comments:

  1. Ashley, my heart is broken for you. I am so sorry you have had to go through this. It does take a lot of time to heal, but time alone does not heal us. The pace at which you are healing and dealing with this is right on and very expected. There is no way out but to go through. Please seriously consider joining a support group so you can deal with all your feelings and realities that you will find common to others who have had to endure your circumstances. Also, when you are ready, consider becoming a mentor and support counselor to others who have had this tragedy. You will find healing and purpose as you meet with others. Release your family and friends and accept that they can only give what they are each able. Find safe groups and friends that will walk through this with you. "Therefore the Lord will wait(He will wait for you)that He may be gracious to you. and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him. You shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry. When He hears it He will answer you, and though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, Yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anyone. But your eyes will see your teachers. Your ears will hear a behind you saying This is the way, walk in it.
    Whenever you turn to the left or whenever you turn to the left. Isaiah 30

    Ashley, you are in my heart and prayers. Hold on tight to Jesus, you are His responsibility. He will faithfully care for you as surely as the sun rises every morning. (Immerse yourself in Psalms, Isaiah, Deut. and Revelation)The first 3 are the ones Jesus quoted from the most. 22 years ago my daughter died of SIDS. When it threatened to undo me Jesus came to me and literally breathed in the smothering pain onto Himself. I will pray He does this for you. All my love and prayers, Kathy

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  2. "Though You Slay Me" (featuring John Piper)
    Uploaded by Desiring God
    The audio excerpt comes from John Piper's message, "Do Not Lose Heart" (http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/do-not-lose-heart).

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