I seem to be having trouble stringing words together into coherent sentences. There are about a million things I want to write posts about but this has been taking up a lot of mental space lately so I’m going to start here.
Trauma. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about trauma, about what “counts” as a traumatic experience. Rape, abuse, war, near death experiences. These are the things that come to mind when we think about trauma.
But is it possible to be traumatized from experiencing long term mental illness? I know parents on the Around the Dinner Table forum have talked about experiencing PTSD-like symptoms after helping their children recover. But no one has ever mentioned if their ED kids have had that experience. I don’t know how else to describe the thoughts and emotions I have about the years I was ill but was it “bad enough” to qualify as traumatic? I have flashbacks, vivid, intrusive flashbacks about using ED behaviors. Memories wash over me without warning and I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. Memories of using ED behaviors, memories of being so scared I was going to die alone in South America, memories of being so suicidal, of holding knives to my wrists or sitting in high places.
Is it possible to be traumatized by things you yourself did seemingly of your own free will? I think about things I did when I was sick and I know that if I had done them because someone was holding a gun to my head or threatening me in any way, they would count as trauma. But if the only “person” threatening me in any way was the voice inside my head, well, then what?
I went through periods of promiscuous/risky/self-destructive sexual behavior while I was sick. Its not something I usually include when I tell my story. I don’t know what words to use. It wasn’t rape. It was never rape. I put myself in those situations. I didn’t say no. Hell a lot of the time I actively said yes. But I was terrified. And mentally ill. And never sober. And it always hurt. And always cried and sometimes even when I cried they didn’t stop. And it sure as hell felt like someone was holding a gun to my head and making me do it. And I had flashbacks and panic attacks during sex for years afterwards. So it wasn’t rape. But it wasn’t good. And I know that if anyone else told me those things had happened to them I would call it trauma. But I can’t quite seem to use the word in regards to myself.
I don’t know. I don’t know why I writing about any of this. Its just in my head and I’m kind of hoping getting it out helps a bit.
2 thoughts on “Trauma”
I have often said that the only traumas that my daughter suffered were those inflicted by her various mental illnesses. She has had several EDs over the years and has had other severe mental disorders from as far back as she can remember that cause her great pain. She has much somatic pain as well, but not from a physical illness that you can cure.
You ask “Is it possible to be traumatized by things you yourself did seemingly of your own free will?” The key is in the word “seemingly”. By definition, what you did under the influence of mental illness was not rational and was not of your free will. Mightn’t it be even more traumatic if pain inflicted upon you comes from within yourself? It is possible to escape from someone else who is traumatizing you. When your behavior is dictated by your ill self or you are in mental/emotional pain from the inside out, you can’t fathom how to escape. You can’t understand why it is happening or how to make it stop. I can’t think of much that is more traumatic than that.
Just because you said “yes” to the sex doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape. You don’t have to say NO or fight it. If any part of you didn’t want the sex, and if you felt like someone was holding a gun to your head, it was rape. You might not want to call it that, but I would. I’m a rape victim, multiple times over. And what you described in this post sounds exactly like rape.