Part I.


Jean, Age 9

The following post, Part I and Part II, is my attempt to describe my internal experience of trauma when I was a child and later, when I was a woman living in a domestic violence situation.  As I mentioned in the introduction, this morning I realized that my inner battle appears to be over–the white flags are up.  Am I healing?  Yes, I believe so.  I am, as people say, “cautiously optimistic.”  However, PTSD and C-PTSD can be healed, and after so many, many years of internal struggle, I believe I am at last experiencing the peace I have worked so hard to achieve. 

As I wrote this first section, I felt a deep sadness for the little girl I was.  Nobody knew I had been sexually abused by  the neighbor woman or abused by my parents, and nobody knew how hard I struggled to do what I was supposed to do at home and in school.  Nobody knew about the war inside me and the constant screaming and sobbing.  There simply was nobody I could tell.  And even if there had been, what could anyone have done?  During the 1940s, probably nothing!  I might have been sent to an asylum, in fact, diagnosed as being schizophrenic. 

Thank God that we now know about C-PTSD and “parts”!  And thank God for the rugged spirit of my Scottish coal-miner ancestors.  They didn’t give up, and neither did I!  

As I was drying my hair this morning, I suddenly became aware that my head was quiet. The hairdryer was the only sound I heard. When I turned it off, I thought of the song “The Sound of Silence”: My head was silent. Peaceful. “Do you suppose the war is over?” I asked myself that question, wanting to answer “Yes!” but afraid lest I be wrong.

When I was five, I thought the violent activity in my body was butterflies, huge butterflies batting their wings against my insides. I tried to trick those butterflies by bounding out of bed as soon as I opened my eyes, thinking that I could somehow leave those pesky insects in my bed if I got up before they did. At that age, the war was confined to my stomach. By the time I was old enough to go to school, however, the battle had spread to my head, and I knew I was dealing with more than just butterflies: There were people inside my head, and those people were fierce fighters!

But how did those people get inside my head? I didn’t know. But I was certain there was a war going on inside my head because I could feel that war. I felt the unrest and the anxiety, the battle for my consciousness. I sensed the artillery fire and the explosions of land mines and grenades. I could hear the screaming and the dying. The moaning of those in pain. But who were those people? I didn’t know them, or so I thought. And if I didn’t know them, why would they be fighting in my head? I didn’t know—I just didn’t know.

I remember sitting at my desk in the elementary school classrooms. In those days, the desks were nailed to the floor. The desks, like the teachers, were immovable. As I sat at my desk, I, too, was nailed to the floor. And the battle raged within me. I was tied up, gagged, and held hostage in my classroom as the battle raged within me. The teacher closed the classroom door, my stomach lurched, and I knew there was no escape. I didn’t always make it to the bathroom before I threw up.

In the upper grades and junior high school, the academic material became more challenging. I worked hard at forcing my mind to think when I needed to think. I pushed myself until I thought I would, like Humpty Dumpty, shatter into tiny bits and not be able to put myself back together. Thus, I managed to override the violent sounds in my head most of the time, but even when I was at the blackboard solving long division problems or complicated multiplication problems, I could hear the gunshots and the screams in the background. By then, I was aware that there was more than one place in my head—a thinking part and the part where the battle raged, and I became an expert at forcing myself to access the thinking part so I could get my schoolwork done.

By the time I reached high school, I was so good at thinking and dampening the sounds in my head, that the battle noises seldom bothered me. Oh, if I deliberately tuned in to them, I could still hear the screams, the sobbing, the crashing of metal on metal, the shattering of glass, but normally the war remained beneath my awareness. For the most part, my thoughts predominated, and I heard my thoughts and not the battle sounds. This relatively peaceful condition prevailed until sometime in 1980, and when the battle noises in my head broke through in 1980, I knew I needed help!

End of Part I
Part II Coming Soon