Natalie's Story: Part Two

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.

Natalie's Story: Part One

This is a two-part piece by Natalie, my first guest blogger. Natalie has PTSD, and this is her story.

Trigger Warning: Child Sexual Abuse

I’ve started this post a million times but never really knew where to begin, you see, I don’t fit the stereotype of someone with PTSD.  I’m 30-year-old, I have a highly successful career in the music industry, I live alone in Central London. To an outsider I am comfortable. I’m happy. I have an active social life, my weeks are filled with drinks, gigs, football matches, all those things you’d expect of a young music professional in London. But beneath it all lies a battle, one I’ve fought for 20 years. See, behind this façade I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have never been in an active combat zone, I’m not a veteran coming home from war, the only war I have ever fought has been a lot closer to home. Behind closed doors which I’m going to open, not just for me but for every person who has felt they’ve needed to keep their story locked away. I’m afraid, I’ll admit that.

My story begins at 10 years old, when we lost my stepdad. He died suddenly, in a motorbike accident, on the 13th October 1996, a day forever etched in my memory. He was 36 years old. His death rattled my family to its core, my mother was only 30, the age I am now, writing this, the difference being she had two young children to look after. So she bounced, she coped, the problem was she bounced into the arms of the wrong man. This man saved us all, he picked up those broken pieces, he made us feel like a family again, he was incredible, on the surface, but beneath that lay a deep dark secret. One which no one would believe for a long time and one which has changed the course of my life. I have to interject here that I genuinely believe with my whole heart that he did love my mother, however, over the next few years I was subjected to the most horrific sexual and mental abuse at his hands. I was an impressionable teen who was made to believe that if the truth ever came out my mum would hate me because I was “having an affair” with her boyfriend. During this time I coped, I threw myself into school work, sports, music, anything to keep me out of the house. I passed trials for Manchester United, I wrote musicals for my high school, I was that all round overachiever who you’d never suspect had things going on at home, I hid it well. Even my minor breakdown, where I thought cutting off all my hair in an attempt to make myself unattractive went unnoticed (aside from the odd bullying comments about being a lesbian or pre-op trans).

It wasn’t until I was 15 that I finally got him out of my life, after an ultimatum and a bloody nose, that I started to build a life for myself. After a couple of failed relationships I met the love of my life and moved to London when I was 20, a week after I arrived I had a phone call from the police. He had been arrested and they wanted me to testify, so I did. I told my story to a courtroom of strangers, it was the most difficult experience of my life, I was torn apart, every aspect of my short life was dissected for the world to see, my mental health picked apart but I did it. I did it and carried on. He was convicted. I continued with my life, but I didn’t realise the impact it had until much later.

***Part two will be published tomorrow at 8AM GMT / 3AM EST.***