PTSD and Awareness

Memories Of The Past

As a young child, I suffered some of the worst abuse imaginable from a man that should have been my protector. I remembered some of it.

I remembered the drunken steps coming up the stairs, the erratic footsteps coming toward my room. I remembered his words and what he said to me.

And I remembered my punishments.

But they ended there. For the longest time I thought either he eventually knocked me out, or I feel asleep.

But that wasn’t the case.

I dissociated. Though I was still me at the time, my memories of it were gone.

Until after the birth of my son.

For those of you that don’t know what this is like, remembering these types of disassociated memories, this is what it was like for me.

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They started small. Some thoughts usually. Something completely random would pop into my head. Maybe it was something he said, or some kind of motion he made.

It was a flicker of a moment I didn’t recall, a thought about being caged beneath his body. And how it felt.

I didn’t understand why I was thinking those thoughts, and they disturbed the hell out of me. Why, after all that time, would my mind start to do something like that.

At first, I thought it was exhaustion, perhaps my imagination went into overdrive. And no matter how hard I tried, they kept coming.

Just like when it started, the briefest of glimpses, or a flutter of a thought, but they started changing, evolving.

Those memories started to become clearer, more vivid. Really vivid. That was when I knew I wasn’t crazy.

That was the moment I realized I was remembering all my mind chose to put behind a wall for safe keeping.

© Sarah Doughty

PTSD and Awareness

After Everything You Took

Sometimes it feels like my bones are all that remains of me. Taking away the constant suffering and pain that comes with PTSD and that’s about all that would be left.

My mind is affected, the way I think, my emotional response is different, my physical responses are different. I think the only thing he didn’t break was my bones. And I’m surprised he didn’t.

Though he made me watch as he broke the ribs of my only friend at the time, a dog. Made me watch as that dog died a horrific death. A punishment, he said.

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Everything about me is tainted by what he did.

It’s not easy, being like this. It’s a struggle every day. Many people don’t understand what it’s like to constantly be afraid, to always feel on edge, like something is going to jump out of the darkness and eat you alive.

That’s exactly what it’s like. All. The. Time. Having a reprieve — any reprieve — is better than nothing.

Even though he is dead and cannot
come after me, I think, deep down,
I will always be afraid.

I’m far from healed, I’m far from being able to function in society. But I keep trying.

If you’re suffering from PTSD like me, you’re not alone. You’re never alone. Don’t forget that.

© Sarah Doughty

PTSD and Awareness, Random Thoughts

Forest of Shadows

In those darkest of moments, I hold on to all that remains with blood on my hands and scars in my heart. In this infinite forest of shadows and forgotten light, I’ve made my home.

All this time I’ve been trying to find my way through the thicket and bramble, catching my flesh on the thorns and craggy branches that wish to keep me confined.

I rip and tear, and tirelessly fight against those prickly restraints, trying to find the way out. The way to you.

It seems, the more I struggle, the more I lose. There are days I feel close, like maybe I’ll finally reach my destination if I can just push through the last of the ridges ahead. But every time I reach their peaks, I’m met with an infinite number more to follow.

I’m running blind, scared, and alone, but I’m still searching for signs that says, THIS WAY.

For the first time in a long time, I found a clue.

One tiny, little breadcrumb that whispered, “Over here.” I heard it. And it reverberated through my soul like the cries of a carrion bird.

I cried back into the nothingness that surrounded me, “I’m here.” Nothing but the vastness of the forest responded.

But maybe, just maybe, they can hear me. And if I can’t find them, maybe they’ll find me. And together, we can make that dark and dingy place a home.

After all, being together is far better than being alone.

Written in response to my husband’s article.

© Sarah Doughty

PTSD and Awareness

A Trigger Response

PTSD is no cakewalk. Far from it. I’ve dealt with it for most of my life, but it wasn’t until after my son was born that it worsened.

It wasn’t overnight.

Slowly, I would hear the voice of my abuser saying things I never heard before in my mind. I’d see events in my head I didn’t remember.

Because I didn’t remember.

My memories came back.
And they were the worst
memories imaginable.

I dealt with them as best I could, but it came to a point that they became to much, especially after I almost died.

It was like the floodgates opened and the worst of the worst were suddenly there. Front and center.

By the time I was forced out of work for good, I was crumbling, drowning, and lost.

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That was because I was in a constant state of a combination of high alert, anxiety overload, and panic. But it didn’t end there.

Depression took hold, which wasn’t surprising. And I was angry at myself. My younger self. For many reasons.

I learned, in intimate detail
what it felt like to shatter.

Everyone is different, in how they feel when they’re overwhelmed by their own demons, but I thought it would be pertinent to share, physiologically and mentally how it feels.

How it happens when I’m falling into a flashback, panic, and anxiety attack.

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Cold washes over my entire body like a flash freeze. It starts in my neck and travels down my spine.

My lungs forget how to operate because I stop breathing for a time as the blood drains from my face as I begin to feel me ears catch fire. That’s when the cold shifts into heat and I break out into a cold sweat.

It feels like craggy fingers
crawling up the back of my neck.

My heart rate triples and my lungs start working again, but with a sensation that no air is actually entering them.

That’s when time stands still. Everything around me disappears and I’m no longer me.
I’m that little girl, cowering in the corner at two in the morning as I hear the sound of his stomping footsteps coming up the stairs.

Footsteps coming for me.

That’s when I’m utterly and completely terrified. And at the same time, I’m lost and can’t find my way back for a time.

Take a minute and think about that.

© Sarah Doughty

PTSD and Awareness, Random Thoughts

Where I am Home

Sometimes it feels like we’re worlds apart. In many ways, that’s true.

Your world is full of color, full of life, laughter, and love.

But mine is everything else.

There’s no such thing as technicolor grays. There’s no blue skies or green grass.

It’s a desolate place.
A place full of desperation
and longing.

I’m stuck on the sidelines, watching life pass me by. Sitting on that bench as everything spirals out of my control.

I constantly question what’s real? What’s left? What would happen if I was gone?

Would anyone even notice?

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In my world, I’m powerless, silent, broken. And that suits me. I was built for this kind of life. He made me this way.

I’m separated by invisible walls, fortified by what-could-have-beens, bitterness, hatred, and memories.

The good parts of me are lost somewhere in there too, but I can’t find them. They’re buried under all the rest, and it’s suffocating me.

All I want is to get to the other side, where there’s no distance, where there’s color. Where I can live again.

Where I am home.

But I don’t know how long that will take. If I’ll ever make it. So I’m doing my best to make this place as comfortable as possible.

Maybe one day, I’ll find my way back to life. Back to you.

Where I can be home for once in my life.

© Sarah Doughty

PTSD and Awareness

When Anger Takes Hold

 There are some moments when I just need to vent. I’m not talking about the kind of venting you’ll do with a friend. Complaining about trivial things. First world problems.

No, I’m talking about a different kind of venting. It’s toxic. It’s water boiling over. It’s one of those things that will blister flesh and leave nothing behind but smoldering blackness.

That’s the kind of anger
I’m feeling in this moment.

It’s in these moments that I turn up the volume to full blast and pound out songs that have a similar angry feel to them. Those pounding baselines. The screams of nothingness.

This is that kind of moment.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m angry about. But deep down, I know I’m just angry with myself.

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It’s not so much that my life is shit, though it is. And it’s not so much that I’m trapped in the hell that is my past, though I am.

It’s because I feel like I’m failing.

All the time.

My temper flares for no apparent reason and suddenly, I’m fuming.

It’s in moments like this, with the music finally blaring in my ears so loud that it drowns out everything else, including the demons of my past that haunt me, that I’m finally able to purge a little bit of it.

My fingers will pound away at the keys, keeping with the pounding beat of the music, and I won’t stop until the music comes to it’s final notes.

Hell, I’ll put
that shit on repeat
if I have to.

These songs will help me focus my thoughts and before long, the pages are smoking with the rage pouring out of my fingers.

This is what it means to write furiously.

This is what it means when you’re so fucking lost you can’t do anything but channel your feelings through your fingertips and into something tangible. Into something creative.

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Instead of using that anger to lash out at someone.

Instead of resorting to violence. Or cutting someone down because it’ll make you feel better.

It’s in moments like this that I’m most reminded of how similar I am to my abuser. And that’s a terrifying thought.

He didn’t have a creative bone in his body. And his anger meter was always boiling over, especially when alcohol or drugs were added in.

I was his outlet.

Just the mere thought that anger like that runs through my veins too, isn’t something that sits well with me. I’d rather wallow in despair than feel like I’m going to explode like nuclear bomb.

But I keep my cool for as long as I possibly can. And then my anger turns into something new.

It’s damn powerful.

You can be sure it’s plenty deep.

And it’s fucking beautiful.

drops the mic

© Sarah Doughty

PTSD and Awareness

The Trigger That Haunts Me

Scary movies were never scary to me, because they just weren’t. Sure, a few had their moments of suspense, but really, I was never, ever downright terrified.

Okay, that’s a lie. When I was six or seven I watched Stephen King’s It and I will never, EVER like clowns. But I was much too young for a movie like that. And since, nothing scared me. I actually rather enjoyed horror.

That was until I saw Paranormal Activity. The movie itself was low budget and gimmicky, and reminded me of a terrible version of an M. Night Shyamalan flick. The suspense built nicely, but it was all fake, and I knew it.

But there was something about
the camera in the bedroom.

It was unnerving, but okay. I chalked it up to the shadows of the hallway and stairwell.

Yet it still bothered me. And then it was the ending that made me feel my first extreme anxiety attack in years.

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You see, I wasn’t pregnant. I didn’t have my son yet. It wasn’t until after he was born over a year later that I started to understand what bothered me so much about that movie.

It spoke to something else. Something I didn’t know about until after he was born.

Memories.

The ending of that movie nearly scared me to death, yet I didn’t have a clue why. I couldn’t even think about it without getting so scared my pulse tripled and I broke out into a sweat, among other things I couldn’t even begin to understand.

I don’t know what exactly triggered those memories to come back, but they did. And to this day I still cannot watch that movie — let alone think about it in detail — without causing my anxiety to skyrocket and send me into a spiral of flashbacks.

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Come to find out, stomping, erratic footsteps coming up the stairs is one of my biggest triggers.

Why?

That’s easy.

That was always how I knew he was coming. And I always sat across from the door, staring at it, as if I might see through it. Hoping against hope that for once, he might just go to bed, instead of turning down the hallway and coming straight for me.

I remembered that much.

I remembered the beatings. The punishments. But thought I passed out after. Or something. What came after was always an unknown to me.

But I remembered. I was wrong. I didn’t pass out. It was so much worse.

Now, I remember most of it. What happened after I checked out. Disassociated.

And I think I will always fear the sounds of ominous footsteps coming up the stairs.

© Sarah Doughty

Photography, PTSD and Awareness

Moonbeams

moonbeams
Pixabay

I always thought maybe the moon would somehow save me.

As I cowered under my windows, sheathed in her pale blue glow, waiting, I thought maybe, just once, it would.

But it never did.

Nothing ever did.

That’s the thing about being such a small child. You’ll pray to anything and everything, for it to come protect you.

Because you’re too small to do anything but cower and try not to cry.

Try not to make a noise.

I spent many nights with the moonbeams shining over me as I awaited my fate, but somehow, it always comforted me.

Even though I knew, at such a young age, that she couldn’t help me. She was still there.

Enduring my pain right along with me. Giving me hope.

For that, I will always love the moon and the light she shines.

© Sarah Doughty

Poetry, PTSD and Awareness

Fresh Ink

The pen’s tip is like a knife slicing onto paper, releasing fresh ink that bleeds into the parchment. It paints a picture of what’s overflowing in my veins. It’s the emotion. The pain. The suffering. All of it, flowing in fresh ink. My lifeblood. My essence pouring out, screaming into oblivion, hoping someone, anyone can hear me. Can you? I’m here. I’m bleeding words. And I won’t stop until I’m purged. Spent. Exhausted. But it’s not long before boils over, overwhelming me again and I’m itching for that blade to scratch once more.

© Sarah Doughty

Photography, PTSD and Awareness, Random Thoughts

Forgotten

Pixabay
Pixabay

Long ago, you knew me. I was a different person. Happy. Blissfully in love with you.

But now, all of that is forgotten. I don’t know who I am anymore.

I don’t remember what it was like to be happy.

Content.

Safe.

I was hit with reality and lost everything else.

I’m nothing more than a memory.

I’m different.

I’m lost.
And I’m forgotten.

A skeleton of my former self. A jumble of missing pieces that can’t be glued back together again.

This is me now.

I’m a memory.

I am forgotten.

And this skeleton is all that remains of me.

© Sarah Doughty