Trauma is misunderstood, misdiagnosed and often treated with unnecessary medication. Labels put people in a box. In my case, they left me in victim mode and unable to move on. I was told by a psychiatrist that I would be unable to live without medication and yet I have lived for years without. I choose to recognise my reactions to certain stimuli as normal trauma responses.
I choose to view myself as ‘normal’ (whatever that means) because deep down I always knew that there was nothing wrong with me. I went along with it as I thought medication and treatment would release me from the anguish and pain. It didn’t. It didn’t work. It made it worse because I didn’t need it. I had to cope with added problems. Side effects numbed my emotions until I couldn’t feel anything at all. Anti-anxiety drugs stole precious chunks of my life. There are periods of time that are a blank. I don’t remember my daughter’s tenth birthday party, or my son’s last day at primary school.
That is a huge price to pay in my opinion. It is a price that came with stigma. I was the one with the label. I was the mad one. My family members discussed which side of the family this ‘madness’ may have come from.
Medication and mental health care has a place. I’m not denying mental illness. I’m not denying that I was mentally unwell. I recognise that it’s not ok to feel unable to get out of bed, to lose enthusiasm in the world around you, to self-harm or develop suicidal ideation. It’s definitely not ok to try and end your life. However, (for me) the treatment was WRONG. It was fundamentally wrong, harsh and damaging.
The right treatment was gentle. It was specialist therapy. It was taking part in survivor groups. When I was unable to speak the words I needed to say, it was finding another way to process my trauma. It was writing my story in the third person, then bringing this story to therapy sessions, and slowly, so slowly beginning to read the words aloud. It took weeks…months to do this. Recovery was about finding my voice. It was about telling my story. All of it: not just the parts I felt others could accept. Not just the parts I could accept. It was speaking the worst parts too. It was shining a light on every last bit. It was mouthing the terrible words that got stuck in my throat, then whispering them, then saying them. Abuse. Abused. Rape. Raped. I was. Me.
It is helping others to do the same. It is raising awareness. It is not swallowing pills everyday and wondering why I feel the same way I felt ten years prior. That is the wrong treatment (for me)
It is wrong that, had I taken my own life, the reason would have been one of the labels. It would not have been Child Sexual Abuse or Trauma. Therefore my experiences would have meant nothing in the end. It wouldn’t have been recognised in my life and it wouldn’t have been recognised as a cause of my death.
I know my story will be familiar with many survivors. I speak at length to people about this. It is a common practice to send survivors down this medical path in other countries across the world, not just here in the U.K.
Mental health professionals are quick to look at the behaviour and to try and treat it but in my experience there is far less focus on the crux of the issue at hand and sadly few opportunities, or enough time given to fix it. Six weeks of counselling just doesn’t cut it. Many survivors will have been silent for decades. That can’t be undone in six sessions. They need to learn to trust, to be encouraged and given time to feel able to speak, process and begin their recovery process. They need to find the way that works for them.
And that takes time.
“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time”Leo Tolstoy