Dragons

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“I want to tear myself from this place, from this reality, rise up like a cloud and float away, melt into this humid summer night and dissolve somewhere far, over the hills. But I am here, my legs blocks of concrete, my lungs empty of air, my throat burning. There will be no floating away.”

-Khaled Hosseini

Fear – Evans Blue – The Pursuit Begins When This Portrayal Of Life Ends

“Guilt reflects and then leaves the rest to me. It started with a flash of light. A fist’s grip was loosened just a bit. There’s a constant slip out of the positive. Grace and hope I’m sure are on the way. It ended with a twist of fate. Hearts are breaking just a bitSo you killed more precious lives then you had let live. All the fear and all the cares of the world never forced themselves into my arms. It was your fear that helped me. Your fear that got me to move. Straight from your heart into their sight. For shame on you. Who cares about me anyway? It’d mean so much if you’d just save me. Save me.”

Meet Kristin

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Several weeks ago, I had the privilege to interview a close friend and fellow trauma survivor. She is my twisted sister and heterolifemate. She helps keep me sane and she listens to me on the days when I’ve lost all sanity. She’s always there supporting me through whatever mess I’ve gotten myself into or whatever mess is going on in my head! And believe me it’s a mess over here! She is an incredibly talented writer, wonderful cook, exceedingly smart student, an amazing Mother to my favorite boy, a very hip lady style-wise, and a wonderful friend. As a survivor of domestic violence and sexual abuse, she has worked with a local foundation “People Against Rape” spreading hope and awareness to other survivors. Kristin shares her life with us on her blog “Fate Always Loses Hold”, where you’ll see bits of writing, book reviews, songs to live and die by, and of course updates on her life and my absolutely brilliant Godson Jude! If you want to meet a really groovy chick, she’s the epitome of groovy sipping coffee, wearing one of her librarian sweaters, reading classic literature, and catching up on all her BBC shows!  I urge you to go check out her blog! In the meantime, read the interview I conducted with her below and please leave rad comments!

1. How old were you when you first experienced trauma?

I was 18. I experienced both spousal rape and domestic violence. The trauma lasted for five months.

2. Has your trauma changed you as a person?

Yes it has. It’s given me serious trust issues. For a long time it made me feel worthless and broken. I felt like the trauma had taken something from me that I couldn’t get back and that it would always define me. I thought I would never live a normal life. Though I still struggle with the trust issues, I have managed to let go of the feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. It changed my views of love and relationships. I’ll never take anyone at their word again. Instead of believing someone when they say they love or care about me, I watch their actions instead. My views on what constitute a healthy relationship have also shifted, which I consider to be a positive change. I’m less trusting and it takes me a long time to open up to someone.

3. Has your trauma changed your views of the world and humanity?

In some ways, yes. But I’ve always known that humanity is kind of a mixed bag. I think if anything it’s expanded my views of what really constitutes evil. I used to think the things that made someone a bad person were obvious. But I’ve learned that it can be subtle and covered up under the guise of love and devotion.

4. Have you sought out therapy to deal with your trauma?

Yes I have. But I waited quite a while to start. I’d been struggling with symptoms I didn’t understand for at least two years before I finally entered therapy.

5. Were you diagnosed with post-traumatic stress? What were your feelings upon being diagnosed?

Yes I was diagnosed when I first entered therapy. I found an amazing therapist. When she first asked me why I was seeking treatment, I told her that I had been raped and physically abused by the man I married. She was the first person who called it rape and told me that it wasn’t my fault. A part of me felt relieved because there was an explanation for why I was struggling so much. Not just with the flashbacks and nightmares, but in every aspect of my life.

6. How has your disorder affected your life and personal relationships?

I pushed people out of my life constantly. I didn’t let anyone get too close. I didn’t share my trauma with friends or family. I waited for friends and boyfriends to mess up so I would have and excuse to end the relationship and blame them. I refused to be vulnerable, talk about my feelings, or trust others. It was nearly impossible to have any kind of relationship. There were a few friends that stuck through it with me despite it all. And when I started therapy and started to deal with my trauma, it only brought us closer.

7. What symptoms of post-traumatic stress have you presented with?

Nearly all of them. Flashback memories, recurring nightmares, reliving the traumatic event, avoidance of behaviors, places, or people that reminded me of the trauma, inability to recall parts of the trauma, decreased involvement in significant life activities, decreased capacity to feel certain feelings, expectation that one’s future will be somehow constrained in ways not normal to other people, difficult falling and staying asleep, problems concentrating, hyper-vigilance, irritability, angry outbursts, impairment in social relations and occupational activities. I also experienced dissociative symptoms. Depersonalization- watching oneself act, while having no control over a situation. I especially experienced depersonalization in social activities and in romantic situations.

8. What symptoms have been the most difficult to overcome?

I think the feelings of hopelessness about the future, difficulty maintaining social relationships, difficulty with school and work, the sleep issues, and the trouble concentrating were hardest for me to get over. The flashbacks and nightmares were awful but they only lasted for so long. The other symptoms were constant. I felt like I had a concrete block on strapped to my chest all the time. The PTSD was such a heavy weight. It took away my ability to hope, dream, trust, and love.

9. Have you gotten to a place where your disorder no longer affects you? Do you believe such a place exists?

Not completely. Just last year I had a panic attack while out on a date with a very nice person. We’re not dating anymore but we are friends. He’s a genuinely good person that I do trust, but for some reason I just didn’t feel safe around him. In the middle of a movie date with him I started to have a panic attack. Recently my boyfriend and I got in to a fight (I call it a fight but really it was more like a civil discussion) about our sex life. I was feeling really overwhelmed and scared. My gut reaction was to just bail out of the relationship and never talk to him. Because having a conversation about sex and my PTSD was that scary. But I opened up to him anyway and it actually helped our relationship. He confided some insecurities and concerns he was struggling with and was supportive of my needs and concerns too. A year ago, I would not have talked things through with him. I would have just bolted. I think you can develop better coping skills. I think you can learn to suppress the false beliefs that PTSD puts in your head (the ones that tell you no one will love you, no one wants to deal with your trauma, everyone will leave you eventually, etc.). But do I think there’s some magical place where you never have another nightmare, never have another flashback, never relive the trauma, never jump when someone sneaks up on you? No, I don’t. But I think PTSD can become manageable. I think you can get to a point where it doesn’t define you or how you live your life.

10. What would you most like to say to others struggling with trauma and/or post-traumatic stress disorder?

I would say that the trauma you experienced isn’t your fault. That seeking out therapy is something you should seriously consider. Though a diagnosis certainly helps you start to deal with the trauma, it’s only a first step. Many symptoms can be managed with medication or just good old fashioned talk therapy. There are also support groups. Though every trauma is certainly unique, you aren’t alone. You are not the first victim of abuse. Don’t isolate yourself. No matter how you’re feeling, don’t let yourself end up alone. You don’t have to share every detail of what you’re going through with your friends, but don’t let your PTSD ruin your relationships. Friends and family are a great life line to have while you’re dealing with all of it and they can make an extraordinary amount of difference. I would also say that once you’re willing to look your illness and trauma in the face, it can get better. You can work through some of your symptoms and the false set of beliefs that PTSD forces on you. I would like to specifically address victims of sexual abuse with the following- It’s not your fault. You are not alone. You did nothing to deserve this. I don’t care what you were wearing, what you were doing, how much you had to drink, or what you were under the influence of, you were not asking for it. You were taken advantage of by a sick, cowardly person. No matter what your relationship with the attacker, they had no right to abuse you. 1 in 6 women (nationally) are sexually assaulted in their life time. I believe the current statistic in my state (South Carolina) is actually closer to 1 in 4 women. And 2/3 of those people know their attacker. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a boyfriend, a teacher, a spouse, someone they met at a party, or some other acquaintance, they know the person that abuses them. It doesn’t matter if the person that assaulted you was someone you were in a relationship with. It doesn’t matter if you’d had sex before. What matters is that they raped you. Don’t let anyone make you feel that any of this is your fault. I’d also like to recommend the following resource for victims of rape and sexual assault: rainn.org . For those you who are ready to get help they have local and national resources where you can find counseling, an anonymous hotline, and steps on how to report a sexual assault. For those you who aren’t quite there yet, or wish not to report (which is entirely okay and completely your choice), they also have a great section about Self-Care for Survivors and for Family and Friends of Survivors. There’s some really helpful info in there about how to maintain friendships and relationships without feeling more overwhelmed.