On the 22nd October, I went to see a specialist in trauma for an assessment.
From the moment I walked in the room I had tears streaming down my face. They just ran. No sobbing, or crying noises, just this steady run of water down my face. Its hard to explain these tears. It is like a welling of grief. Unstoppable. It is not like I am crying, but nor is it like my eyes are running. It is just a continual physical sorrow. And I don’t i know why it happened there. For the first time in weeks I’d left the house. For the first time in weeks I had blow dried my hair and put make up on. I wanted to make that good impression that used to come so easily. I was there to speak factually and accurately about what I have been experiencing. Not to emote. Not to ‘show off’.
From the first moment I was there I felt it was ok. Safe. The walls were cream coloured. The light dim. There were bats crashing into the window now and then. I could see them catching flies in the ivy. When I sit in any room for the first time, I look. I take the walls and the windows in. I look at the art work and the arrangement of things. Its not just so it feels familiar. Its also for a focus. When things become too high for me I can look at something, disappear into it. Concern myself with its shapes and colours and then I don’t have to feel things anymore. Its a trick I’ve had all my life.
But here I was raw. Here I was open. Its because this, for me was either going to be the end of the road or a junction at which my direction would change. I didn’t want to and couldn’t control which. But I was there to be found or lost.
We talked, me and this kind man. He asked me what I experienced. I told him – a terrible fear that never quite leaves me. A sense of lying when I talk about myself. Absences that last seconds – but which come again and again. Disrupting every thought (“the train standing at platform one will be diverted to Pogle Junction”). A sense of danger in everything. Even in my home, where I sit and wait to be found and taken away. No sleep, then endless sleep. Anger that sweeps my sense away and guilt that overwhelms me. An inability to do things – simple things. Like opening a door or moving a towel upstairs. A complete inability sometimes to move my legs. or to move. At all.
He asked me what had happened to me. So I told him about dad dying and Mum running away. I told him about being hit. I told him I knew what my sister did to me when I knew what she’d done to the women on the ward at the secure hospital. Her fingers inside them. Displaying them. I didn’t tell him about her trying to set me on fire, but I did talk about the times when she held a knife at my throat and said she’d kill me, and how she told me once she would burn off every hair on my body one by one, flicking a lighter on and off in my small dark bedroom overlooking the cherry trees.
I told him about the years on my own in the back room – not allowed out in case I upset my step father. I told him about 2 summers spent as a teenager in hospitals waiting for mum to die and then her dying and my unpreparedness for that to happen. I told him about being dragged across the floor of my living room by my hair by a man I married too young because there was no where else to go.
I also told him about my writing and my brain. About the passion I had had once for my work and how that had gone when I saw first hand what the system I’d been working for did to people. I told him about working with the cleverest people I had ever met and finding different ways to think about things. I told him about my brilliant husband and how even though things were hard right now I felt so lucky to have him and the dogs.
And he listened. And he asked what I wanted. I said I wanted the remaining part of my life to be happier. I said I wanted to use my mind again and do the work I know I can. I said I wanted to be able to leave the house and look at the sky again (because living without a horizon is the hardest thing in the world). I told him I wanted to not feel scared all the time.
I also told him how frightened I was of ending up diagnosed with a serious mental illness. How frightened I was of the pigeon holes. But at the same time how frightened I was of never being better. Of this being my life. I told him I wasn’t prepared for this to be my life. And I’m not.
And he looked at me and he said I wasn’t mad. He said that what I had said made sense – *even* the madness of it. And he talked about how trauma works – that it is not just in the past, but in the present and the future too. That trauma results in a confusion of feeling and emotion and response and identity. He asked me then if I ever felt that I was talking about someone else and I said no, but that I always felt like I was lying when I talked about me. Even though I am not. And he said yes, that was the same thing.
Then he told me that I had not PTSD which relates to one or two traumatic or life threatening incidents, but cPTSD – or complex post traumatic stress disorder. That the intrusive thoughts I experienced were emotional flashbacks. That the fear I felt was due to hypervigilance. And that my sister – who had the care of me as a baby and a toddler and who has dominated my interior life ever since – was a hugely complex, highly toxic relationship that was still causing me harm even though I had not been in touch with her for over two years . And we talked about narcissistic supply – that is how narcissists will find someone vulnerable to meet their need for control.
So then we got to talking about how this could get better. He said there wasn’t an easy fix. I was glad of that. The glib assurances of various practitioners have brought me nothing but pain when again and again I fail to jump through the recovery hoop and straight into their off the peg solutions. I had come to see him about EMDR, but he said that would only be a part of what we could do. he set out a plan.
The first stage would be to do a more formal assessment – to spend some time taking a history, understanding the events of my childhood and early adulthood. We’d then start to map them out – to untangle the various traumas from their impact on me. He wanted to start by focussing not on my relationship with my sister, but on other areas – my Mum, ex husband, work. My sister was the bass and we would turn her down for a bit so we could what was happening on the other channels. And as we did that we would start looking at how I could deal with my reactions to that – how I could – I really could – learn to deal with the fear, the dissociation and the toxic grief that is making my life currently barely worth living. And he told me I wasn’t mad. That what I was experiencing was a normal reaction to an enormous weight of trauma.
He gave me hope. I felt that thing I’ve written about so often – unconditional positive regard. I felt elevated. I felt like I wasn’t the worst, most damaging, terrible person I had begun to believe I was. I knew (briefly, cos its gone away a bit now) that I could be the person I used to be – bright, compassionate, committed, active – again. I have very good snake oil detectors and felt no oozing of that – just a bright steady stream of hope.
He offered me 16 – 20 sessions of trauma focussed psychotherapy. He said it wasn’t something that could be dealt with in a few sessions of EMDR or CBT. We talked about how I could fund it. I’d told him we had no income at the moment beyond a monthly pension of £500.00 and that we were living off the kindness of friends. But I said I had already asked some people and they had said they would help me find the money for the therapy.
And that’s why I am telling you this now friends. Some of you have already helped and some of you have said you will help. The therapy is going to cost me £800.00 between now and April next year. I have no resources. I don’t have any work. We are struggling just to survive right now and have been for about two years. The insecurity of that has taken a huge toll of me, but it is so much worse dealing with it while I am so unstable and scared.
There is no one person I want to own this apart from me. And if I could I would pay for this right now, the whole amount, right away. But I can’t. And if I had £800.00 I don’t know that i could spend it on this – just because we are so poor at the moment. But I need this. I need your help. And I have no pride left.
Anything you could give would be helpful, but the more sessions I can pay for the better I will feel. Please will you consider making a donation to help me cover the costs of this absolutely critical help. I have tried to get help through charities and I have tried NHS services, but there is nothing they can or will do to help me. Please would you think about it? Thankyou x
paypal account: paypal.me/lettersetti