I truly thought PTSD was reserved only for people that had gone to war, witnessed gun violence or been a victim of a terroristic act. I had no idea that emotional and physical abuse can cause PTSD.
It is the first night after my boyfriend moved out completely. I decide to do what any other emotionally unstable, mentally fragile person would do. Call a guy you dated years ago to see what he was up to. Totally unhealthy, I know, but hey it was my coping mechanism to get me through the night.
He knew that I was fresh out of a relationship and he hesitated at first. I told him it was what I needed. That being, someone to feed me food and drinks and tell me I was pretty.
As I am sitting on the opposite end of the couch, he sweetly grabs my arm to cuddle with him. As he touches my arm, I jerk. My arm shakes as if it were in pain. Not because it hurts. It is the muscle memory of yanking my arm from being grabbed by my ex-boyfriend.
My eyes got really big, as I realized what I had done. He looked at me and knew something was wrong, if he knew exactly what I have no idea. He pulled his arm back and told me if I wanted to cuddle with him, to go for it. I sat there, with perfect posture and just nodded ok.
I remember thinking I can’t be with this guy. What if my ex-boyfriend comes back? He won’t want me if I’ve cuddled with anyone else. There I was. I finally have the strength to kick my abuser out. I am sitting there with a guy I had dated before, one I consider a good guy, and I am thinking about the man that had abused me off and on for 18 months.
Laying there, I am praying my abuser would come back but I know deep down that would be the worst thing ever for my life, the chaos and abuse would start back up. I tell myself over and over that he is a broken man. I could not fix him. He refuses to get help. He doesn’t love me. I can’t sit there and avoid being touched forever because I was scared he might come back and not want to be with me because I am am a “cheater.” I tell myself he is an abuser and I can never be with him again. No matter how bad I want to; which shows how sick you become when you are in love with your abuser. I repeated all these things in my head over and over till I felt more at ease.
Leaning over, laying my head on the shoulder of the guy aka The Rebound. Memories are rushing back. My heart beating 100 bpm. I get up, pop another Xanax (.25 mg so don’t worry) and sit back down. I tell him I am a little anxious with everything but I am fine.
Fast forward, we are in his bed sleeping. Well he is, I am trying. As I start to doze off, I wake up in a panic from a dream that my ex-boyfriend is attacking me. I am hyperventilating. I take another Xanax. It continues every hour, for a total of 6 times.
The next night I am at home. I wake up in fear over and over. Fearing that my ex-boyfriend is going to sneak into my house and kick me in the head. Just like he did the night I kicked him out for good. This waking up went on for weeks, then months. It takes 3 months and changing locks before I sleep through the night without waking up in fear that I was going to be abused.
I didn’t realize what I was experiencing was PTSD. The trauma of abuse is real. My only familiarity with the disorder was the news talking about soldiers returning from Iraq. Thinking I didn’t witness a murder or a terrorist bombing therefore I can’t have PTSD.
I brought up my inability to sleep through the night without waking up in fear and panic and the therapist confirmed, I did indeed have PTSD. My trauma seemed so little compared to those who have seen much worse. She explained it didn’t matter what had happened, big or small, trauma affects people in different ways. It can cause PTSD and I had it.
Once I was able to see that my relationship caused PTSD, I stopped hoping that my sleep would get better on its own and focused on treating and healing my PTSD. I still get those moments where I remember the good times and wonder what if he got help. Then I remind myself this person caused me to have PTSD because he was abusing me. Then the “what if’s” go away and I grow a little stronger each time.
Here are the symptoms of PTSD. PTSD does not have to be caused by murder or bombs. If any of this applies to you, bring it up with your mental health provider!