The Art of Accumulating Trauma

Last night, at 11pm, I laid in my bed in tears. I felt overwhelmed. I had finally come to terms with the fact that I was still sad. That after 5 years, 3 of them being on medication for major depressive disorder and even going to therapy, I am still sad.

Yesterday was a beautiful day. It was sunny and bright, with green surrounding the french countryside that I’m staying in. Monet’s house is a 20 minute walk from mine, with lush gardens and beautiful architecture. My mother was upstairs writing, putting her time and effort into her dreams and ambitions. My father was packing to come and meet us in France, so that we can vacation as a family soon. And yet, I spent the whole day in bed. I got up to eat a whole baguette and practically nothing else. I didn’t go to the washroom until it was an emergency. I didn’t even think about showering or brushing my teeth even though it’s been four days since the last time I had.

When I laid in bed last night, I was talking to the person who means the most to me. We’ve been through a lot together, seen as we’ve been together on and off for three years. And I broke down crying unexpectedly.

You see, I’ve been telling myself for months that I’ll be getting myself together soon. All of last year, I promised myself that “I’ll start next week.” But next week rolled around, and it never happened. So I was sitting, watching a video about how to quit smoking, because I’ve picked up the habit which turned into addiction. And the man in the video said something that caught me off guard. He was explaining that he had held all of his emotions inside and used smoking as a de-stressor for 15 years, until one night he just let it all go and cried it out.

I hadn’t realised until then that all the bad habits that I had accumulated were a result of how I was always feeling. So it was 11pm and I was crying my eyes out, on the phone with my boyfriend who was trying to console me. It seemed so simple of a solution.

But my issues aren’t simple. They’re accumulations of years worth of trauma. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD. I’m a survivor of sexual assault and rape. A survivor of two abusive relationships. Someone who has gone through chronic pain since they were 12. Trauma upon trauma upon trauma built up in my life. By the age of 13, I had been the victim of an emotionally abusive relationship by a man who was 6 years older than me. I’ve been sexually assaulted and raped in 10th grade, with trauma added to the fact because of abuse from a relationship. I’ve now got a back brace for my scoliosis, which is meant to bend my ribs back into place, causing more pain to my already nearly unbearable chronic pain.

Although the accumulation of trauma formed my PTSD, the suppression of my feelings caused my sadness. PTSD is complex and hard, and it doesn’t follow any set of rules. There’s similarities between those who have PTSD, certainly. But it is never completely the same. I have complex PTSD because of everything that I’ve talked about and more. And it hinders my life in many ways. My panic attacks are hard to handle when I get triggered. I’m never sure what the trigger will be. I have nightmares and bad dreams about trauma. I’m hard to handle because of my large emotional range and the volatility of them.

But as my boyfriend put it last night when I was crying and asking him “why does it have to be me?” Because of what I’ve been through, I am now incredibly brave. And kind. And understanding. And outspoken. And strong. He always tells me that I’m strong.

I’m going to get myself together, and the first step for me is sorting through my feelings and letting go. Because PTSD lingers. It always lingers. But if I bundle up everything that I’m feeling for the sake of everyone else, then my happiness will not come first. And I deserve my happiness to come first.

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