Sunday, 19 February 2012

On PTSD, Survival and the Inadequacy of Language

I get bursts of creative energy. Sometimes, with a clear head, I can write for hours. At other times, the language fades. Words become insignificant, meaningless in the face of so much pain. Any energy I have is directed to surviving, just getting through, a day at a time, an hour at a time, a minute at a time. The pain is so raw, the re-living of the abuse through PTSD so real, so vivid, that I feel as if I'm losing my grasp on sanity.

I feel as if I'm falling off the edge.

I lock down. I'm absolutely alone here, returned to my past, a ghost in my present. Different feelings, different phases: terror; muteness; the futility of actions or words; and when all the energy's gone, a hard cold empty feeling of detachment that nothing really matters including me, that they can't really touch me. They can do what they want to this body, they may laugh and taunt and threaten, call names and shout and shake and beat and fuck the body, but I've gone. I'm floating on a sea of nothingness.

Some things my mind blanked out, though in recovery, and over time, some of these blanks have filled in. I couldn't always detach myself, and even when I did, I can still have memories, just one step removed. It's like watching myself on video, I am a voyeur in my own life. The images remain, technicolour, replaying when I sleep or sometimes anyway. Something triggers me and I'm gone, magically transported back there, no tardis required.

I sleep with the light on, and barely even then. Scared of dreaming, but scared of my thoughts lying awake hour after hour. The night looms, interminable, the fragile grip on sanity of the day stretched to a mere thread, at breaking point. The body, that is to say my body - the splitting I did to survive what they did to me continues - doesn't help. Muscles tense and tire, old injuries ache, and now the exhaustion from night after night of broken sleep has taken it to the point of fainting, of collapse. Both body and mind work against me, telling me I am in danger now, making me re-experience what happened then now.

Words like 'horrific' or 'nightmarish' seem inadequate. Vocabulary offers only some approximation for what I am experiencing. Without the drink and drugs I see and feel things more clearly than I did when they were happening. Beginning to talk about the pimping, the constant violence and abuse is terrifying, even if I know it's the right thing to do, which I do. Hearing my voice saying this stuff aloud, naming stuff, and hearing it spoken back, someone else's reaction, is painful beyond measure.

Am I glad not to be on my own with all of this? Hell, yes! It's taken more than four and a half years in recovery to find the right person to talk to, someone I can trust. Knowing it's the right thing does help - to a degree. Alone with the knowledge of my past, with the PTSD and constant replays, coping alone has been an incarceration of the worst kind. Isolated with the wreckage of my past, the scars, the humiliations, the beatings, the rapes have eaten away at me like a cancer. I have always known that this was something I needed to sit down and talk about face to face with someone just to have some shot at survival, should that chance ever arise. The writing helps too. I am freer in my writing than in my speaking with this stuff, though I knew it could never be instead of talking with someone.

Now I am beginning to talk and it's scary and confusing. So many emotions! So many voices tangling in my head, messages tangling in my head. Say it, don't say it, I'll kill you if you ever tell anyone, no one'll believe you, they'll hate you, they'll think you're disgusting, they'll judge me, they'll think I deserved it, you did deserve it and they'll know it, what if they say the wrong thing and belittle it, you could get crushed, trust no one they'll always let you down in the end, this stuff'll kill you if you don't talk... on and on. The thoughts are endless. They circle and confuse, round and round they chase in this tired head, while this tired body hurts and aches, vomits and shakes.

It's hard to get much clarity of thought when both body and mind are trapped in a nightmare. But I have one major thing going for me, for which I thank God. I am a Survivor. I know what I need to do to stay clean and sober, to survive, and I am bloody minded about my recovery. Nothing and nobody will de-rail me from that. So I may get abusive comments on my blog; I may live in a society saturated with porn and churning out pro-sex industry shit 24/7; I may be struggling to sleep and function right now. But I shall continue to survive and to do what is right for me even when that is difficult and I feel lost and like I'm going backwards. I shall continue to challenge the sex industry's lies in whatever small way I can by giving voice to the reality of being prostituted, being sold. I have faith in myself although at times I doubt even that. Because what you gonna do? Give up, shut up and fuck yourself up as the men who abused me would wish? I don't think so. I'm beginning to build a life and find a voice because they may have taken everything they could from me but they couldn't take that. I'm still here, battered and fragmented and exhausted, but still here.


  1. Angel you are so spectacularly gifted. This is powerful and searing. I hate it that you know what that feels like, but your words remind me i'm not alone. What a great gift. Loads of love to you, xoxo

  2. What you write about is such an important part of all survivors' experiences. The trauma that changes our way of being in the world. Love lov love xoxo

  3. I know that feeling -- when you're scared to fall asleep because you'll dream. Love xoxo

  4. Hi Angel, I dont know how to say it, other than your posts about your PTSD and splitting/dissociation help me get insight into my own CPTSD and dissociation. And Im thinking maybe your ptsd is Complex PTSD, not single ptsd. I empathize with you a lot. Thanks for being so open and vulnerable, its very strong. Take good care.

  5. Angel, this breaks my heart. In the sheltered life I've lived I can't imagine living in survival mode 24/7. You mentioned thanking God that you are a survivor. I believe in God and will pray for you. Not just for survival but for joy and peace. I have a friend who was recently healed from 30+ years of addiction and the associated behaviors. I had prayed for him for all of those 30 years, so I believe it works.

  6. Dear Angel,
    I've come across your blog through a fb share with one of your entries. I know the words you speak from the deepest of my heart. You don't know me but I feel like I've known you forever and been through with you. I myself, have been raped (date raped) when I was a virgin, abused by my step father since I was a child and mother at times. My biological father neglected my mom and I when I was 3 months old. After my childhood and teenage years I have viewed sex as only a way of identifying my self worth. But my dear Angel, please do not let that happen to you. Your body is God's temple and it still is. I was only saved last year at the age of 21. When I was in high school I put up a front with a happy smile and all sorts of family problems and hopeless romantic love battles. At 18 I moved out of my house by myself and worked three jobs to support myself through an apartment that I rented 2 blocks away. I worked as a dancer at a nightclub in Philly and there got involved in pornography and prostitution business just to get enough money. I sold drugs, my body and you name it. But the days go on even if the nights are hard. There will always be the next day for you and I. I graduated high school with honors and earned a scholarship for Penn State University. I am a Junior now studying English and Health Policy Administration. I consider myself just like every other girl with a big secret I hide inside my heart. I danced, sang and did theater in high school and middle school. It really is the only things I can rely on. No one else knows my history or as much as I go through. Reading your words makes me realize that I'm not alone in my battle to survive. Sometimes I still cry at night and the pain still lingers, but you know, the days will always go on. I've had my share of suicide attempts and spending my time in institutions and money on medications. But you know, I just though, why let them win? I can overcome this. The men that tortured me would love to know that I am still struggling. So instead of letting them know I am still hurting, I go on day by day and do my school work, hang out with friends. I use to be a cuter. I did drug abuse and alcohol abuse and drug abuse. And fall in love too easily and get hurt too much with the thought that every man looks at me, looks at us as "too much". I just want you to know that I will pray for you and there are people out there fighting for girls like you and I. Like the guy's post share that I came across your blog. His a pastor at the university. It just really really touches me everything you've said and know that there is another that I can relate to. I'm still struggling with my faith in God and trust in other people, especially men, but let me tell you, there are good once out there. And you and I will one day have a happily ever after. I'm praying for you, oh how I will pray for you. My own fellowship prays and fights and raises money for prostitution. But let me tell you from a previous survivor that your pain will go away and there will be a day when you can at least PRETEND to be just like everyone else. My dear, you are an ANGEL, and you better believe it. The Lord loves you.

  7. "I'm still here."

    Which the johns never were or will be.

    Keep being a miracle, Angel.