This is a two-part piece written by Natalie, my first guest blogger. Natalie has PTSD, and this is part two of her story.
Trigger Warning: Child sexual abuse
I carried on my studies, graduated from University, got a job in the music industry, all the while I battled with intense nightmares, dissociative episodes, sleep walking, panic attacks and flashbacks. It took another 5 years before this was diagnosed as PTSD. 5 years of absolute exhaustion, 3 years on an NHS waiting list to get treatment then I was finally admitted to the Traumatic Stress Clinic at St Pancras Hospital, London. Working and staying busy had been my coping mechanism so I was admitted as an outpatient, therefore no one ever truly realised how severely unwell I’d become. I didn’t sleep a whole night in over 2 years, it was sometimes paralysing. However, I completed my EMDR treatment last year, which I would highly suggest to anyone who has PTSD, it is harrowing but worthwhile.
I am now sat here, 30 years old, 20 years on from when all this began and I’m no longer afraid to share my story. It is so much part and parcel of who I am as a person, but it doesn’t define me.
I do still suffer the effects of PTSD, I have good and bad days, I always will. But I am sharing because I want people to know that the diagnosis is only one part of who you are as a person and you can still be whoever you want to be, even with it.
Living with a severe mental illness is terrifying, fighting against the ghost in your own brain is one of the hardest things in the world. There is still so much stigma attached to mental illness that to suffer from one is seen as a sign of failure, of being broken but that is so far from the truth. If you break your leg you have a plaster and people give you time to heal, if you suffer a mental injury no one looks at that the same way, but they need to, these injuries need time to heal too.
I do not look like someone that has PTSD. My diagnosis isn’t my defining feature but it is still a huge part of who I am. People always talk about us like we are victims, not survivors, we are survivors. We are also the people you don’t see, the person at the checkout, in the queue for the bus, your closest friend, we are the ones fighting those invisible battles, the silent warriors. We might not be physically wounded; with scars you can see but we are still fighting every day. And I pray that we are going to win.