Better Than “Normal”
By Jacqueline E.
As an adult, I never understood why I couldn’t function “normally” as I saw other people do. I couldn’t hold down a job or function in school with any consistency. I would have frequent bouts of depression and anxiety, and felt displaced from my life. I had a vague recollection of what I went through as a child, but for some reason my brain did not seem to correlate my adult issues and my childhood.
In my early 20s, after yet another abusive and dysfunctional relationship, I decided to move across the country. I had lived in Ohio my whole life. I packed up my little Ford Focus with all my possessions and the $250 I had, and drove west. I did not stop until I got to Grand Junction. I got a job as a server, and continued to barely function in my life.
Ironically, it was only when I met the most wonderful man I have ever known, and married him, that my life really and truly fell apart. Not too long after we married and he joined the Navy, I started to have intense nightmares. Those nightmares started to cause panic attacks, and I began to experience flashbacks. I was having vivid memories of my childhood, and it was like I was living it in real time all over again but this time as an adult. Then my husband was deployed, and had to leave for 8 months. I tried so hard to stay strong while he was away, but I fell apart completely and was committed to a psychiatric facility.
10 years of abuse, along with other horrible memories had all come back to me in a horrible rush. I was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused. I became pregnant as a teen, as a result of that abuse, and was forced to terminate by my abusers. Those memories that were once vague and distant were now returning to me in vivid recollection, every day. I lived in constant fear as a child, and now as an adult all that fear came rushing back to me.
In addition to experiencing depression, anxiety, and flashbacks, I started to become extremely fearful. I became too scared to leave my house, and would cry at the thought of having to go anywhere. I slowly stopped spending time with anyone other than my husband, stopped driving, even stopped going outside. My husband tried so hard to do everything he could to help me, but I just seemed to get worse and worse, now agoraphobic in addition everything else.
At the psychiatric hospital, I had received a diagnosis of complex PTSD, with severe depression and anxiety. But we knew I needed more long term help than just a label. So I started seeing a therapist at Mind Springs Health. I was extremely lucky in that I found someone who was so supportive and caring, and she helped me start the long road to recovery. After I had being seeing my therapist for a while, she recommended EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) to help with the flashbacks that I continued to have. So I began going to EMDR sessions in addition to weekly therapy. I was lucky enough to have another amazing woman in addition to my therapist to work with.
It took years of hard work. There were ups and downs in my progress. But working with these amazing women, having an incredibly supportive husband, and never giving up ultimately helped me to control the symptoms of my PTSD, to understand that I was not deserving of these things that had happened to me, and that I am no longer a victim, but a survivor. I had to work hard, and it was not an easy road. There were times that I did not think that I could continue on.
But the important thing was that I did go on. I learned that I had to do things to aid in my own recovery. I practiced gratitude, acknowledging all that I had in my life that I could be grateful for. I practiced self-care. I needed to take care of myself, treat myself, and in that way learn to love myself. These things along with all the work that I was doing in therapy and EMDR, put me on the road to recovery.
I’ll never be what anyone would call “normal” by any stretch of the imagination. But all those flaws and imperfections, all those scars and bruises, they are all the things that make me who I am today. And who I am is someone who kept fighting when fighting was the hardest thing in the world to do. Who I am is someone who is not made of glass. If you hit me, I will not shatter. Who I am is a woman who has found meaning in using her story to inspire hope and recovery to others. And that person is BETTER than “normal”.