Content Warning: This post contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to some survivors.
"A Soldier, a Fighter," Anonymous
Note: All survivors who reach out to The Art of Survival are given the option to remain anonymous in sharing their story. Any specific details about the survivor are shared at their discretion, and not the creators of the page.
Throughout my childhood, I was witness to domestic abuse and child abuse. My dad would beat my step mom and my brother, all the while not touching me.
As I grew up my brother grew angry. When I turned 9 it changed to my dad would beat him and in turn he would beat me. In 2014 I began treatment for all of the abuse which happened from 9 years to 22.
During my treatment, I was diagnosed with PTSD and began EMDR treatment. This treatment was designed to separate the emotion from the memory through sensory mechanisms. I had to relive the memory and describe how it would make me feel.
It is gruesome work.
While going through this, a repressed memory surfaced.
At age 12, I had been drugged by my brother and raped by his best friend. Throughout my adolescence and teenage years I was depressed and suicidal. My now ex-husband could not handle the information and began to move away from me.
In August 2015, we got a divorce.
Today, I am still going through my treatment and trying to rebuild my life. The catch is my brother, after years of drug abuse, does not remember any of it.
He remembers the abuse by our dad but nothing of what he did to me. I have not told him and have in fact forgiven him. Part of my journey is rebuilding a relationship with him. It is hard and every week is a struggle but I am stronger and happier than I have ever been.
PTSD is often a term one associates with soldiers. Many people do not realize that there is a war going on here in this country. Domestic abuse and child abuse is a war zone for everyone that lives it. Every day is a struggle to survive and every day we try to find a way to fight back, to fight for our lives.
Being diagnosed with PTSD in a country that does not recognize this war is akin to reliving the trauma all over again. But now, we are fighting for our right to be heard and to be recognized for the war we have fought and a war we have barely survived. Many of the scars I have are just memories I get to relive in my mind and in my nightmares. Every bump in the night is a possible attack. The reaction to either fight or flee has been so ingrained in me that I have been running all my life. I will forever be searching for a safe place.
Being a victim is not something I associate myself with.
I am a soldier, a fighter, and a survivor.
I have PTSD because I have fought a war that is never ending. PTSD is not just for the military soldiers. It is for anyone who has fought to live their lives without someone threatening them. It should be recognized as a mental and emotional trained reaction for everyone.
The biggest fear I have with my PTSD is the fact that people do not take it seriously. I have heard "Oh, were you in the military?" And the shame comes back a million fold when I softly confess, "No, I was abused." And the look on the other person’s face is one of pity.
The look that says, "I am now uncomfortable and will be ignoring what was just said."
Abuse is the pink elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. That no one wants to get involved in. What they do not realize is that it is the longest war this country has ever fought, and no one knows.
About the art:
When this survivor reached out to me, I knew we were gonna end the month with their story. Taking on the topic of PTSD is an interesting one, and we, as a project, will delve further into the topic more next month. So this seemed like a perfect transition piece to end April and enter into May.
The idea that PTSD is only reserved for those with military experience is misconceived and misunderstood. It's called, post TRAUMATIC stress disorder, which means it applies to all forms of trauma. This story does an incredible job showing that even if a person hasn't served in the military, they can be just as strong as a soldier in the way they conduct their daily lives.
Living with PTSD can feel like a burden. A burden that others might not understand. So it's important that our society takes heed of the message of this story and listen to its words. The person who wrote this piece is truly a solider in life, a fighter of stigma and trauma, and survivor of the hell it puts them through and I tried to capture that with the bright background and black splatter — a scheme I don't often use.
Thank you for your story, survivor.
We will be back on Monday with the first story of Mental Health Awareness Month!