Saturday, 8 November 2014

Living Life Through The Haze Of Trauma

Despite a number of studies on the subject, the understanding of the long-term, permanent changes psychological trauma can inflict on a person is even today still a very immature topic. The appreciation for the daily ordeal those afflicted with post-traumatic conditions like PTSD and DID have to go through is therefore also very limited. To the average person it seems unimaginable that you can't just put 'something bad' just behind you, like a bad memory. Even many psychologists and psychiatrists today reject the possibility that someone would suffer PTSD without having spent some time on a battlefield.

"You don't have PTSD. You haven't fought as a soldier." That's (paraphrased) what a psychiatrist of Dimence in the Netherlands told me a few years ago. This despite even the official manual for psychological and related disorders (the DSM) having acknowledged a long time ago already that any type of traumatic event has the possibility of culminating in PTSD. Whether a traumatic event actually turns into a long-term affliction, which is to say a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depends on a number of factors.

One factor is the type and severity of the event. Generally it is something which takes one so far outside of one's comfort zone that it shatters the ability to feel safe afterwards. A battlefield is a good place for this, but things like long-term abuse, severe physical violence and the like can occur anywhere and any time. For me what caused my PTSD and DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) was about a decade's worth of questioning the true nature of my body, discovering my intersex condition and becoming caught between the wildly differing conclusions of the Dutch and German medical communities. Five years worth of having Dutch psychologists and physicians trying to convince me that I am supposedly transgender, just a boy, crazy, biologically male, going to the extend of apparently falsifying medical evidence and reports.

Based upon how regular people respond to me and see me, I can only conclude that I do not have the body of a male and I am in fact intersex, though without any further medical help it's a chapter of torturous uncertainty I won't ever be able to close. This basically means that while I have PTSD, the underlying trauma which caused it is still there. I'm still trapped on the very battlefield which originally trapped me. I have to live in fear every day that it'll be my last. I have to find joy in the few moments of relative safety before I am forced into no-one's land again, praying to uncaring gods that I won't be shredded to bloody bits.

Even if nobody is actively threatening me with physical violence and to any random outsider it seems like I am doing well, especially after leaving the Netherlands and with it seemingly the bad memories behind. Trauma is never left behind. Nor are pressing, frustrating questions about one's own body. Unless I could leave this body behind I am tortured every day with the fact that I am still failing at life because I don't even know what I am. This induces a constant state of panic and restlessness in me.

I already have a hyper-acute sense of hearing and smell which wasn't such a big deal as a child, but after suffering these traumas it's even more of an issue. While I have my own apartment where I should feel safe, I feel constantly threatened and unsafe. There's nothing concrete I can point to, of course. It's just with noises that make me feel first agonized, then terrified, then frightened out of my skull. The ticking heating system is a major source and the reason why I do not use the living room any more as the sound is just too strong there.

Hearing the upstairs neighbours walking. Low-frequency *thump* *thump* sounds on a regular basis. It annoys me on some level, but it also terrifies me. I cannot bear to hear it for very long, but have to drown it out with some other noise or music. While lying in bed small noises. Something ticking here, something going *plonk* elsewhere. It brings me to full alert with my heart thumping in my chest, unable to sleep again for another half hour at least. Without earplugs I'd be a proper insomnia patient.

And even then there are the memories and dreams. Half-remembered dreams and nightmares related to things I'd really like to forget about. Regular flashbacks during the day. Sights and sounds bringing back horrible memories. Interpreting things said or written by others in a completely wrong manner because of some memory sneaking in and morphing it into something completely different without me noticing. Same with social situations, or on the work floor. Moments when you have to fight off paranoia about your co-workers or random people on the street or in stores. Your own mind is projecting your fears and memories onto your environment until it feels like every moment you're alive is just reliving the past over and over.

Then there's seeing bodies. Human bodies, especially those of attractive women. They make me feel bad, reminding me of my failure to get answers and live my life. Then there's sex appeal and just plain sex. Seeing images of women in sexually suggestive poses, even on calendars at work, is painful and horrible. Being reminded that there's such a thing as 'sex' fills me with agony and disgust. Virtually every memory I have of it is negative. I wish nothing more than for sexuality to vanish completely. Yet knowing that it's always there and that I'm not immune to it either due to it being programmed into my very genes is an agonizing reality I'm not sure I can accept.

I know what has to be done to resolve this negative cycle: have a surgeon do a proper examination, perform whatever surgery is possible with the female reproductive organs and associated tissues as I was born with so that I only have certainty and resolved questions and wishes there. This would hopefully also finally allow me to put behind the trauma I suffered in the Netherlands due to the constant denial of my very body's existence. Unfortunately I have not succeeded in finding such a surgeon. The one I had an appointment with for surgery in July this year went silent and hasn't bothered to respond to any of my communications. I keep trying new options helpful individuals offer me, but I very much doubt that there will be an end to this torturous existence.

The fear that I might be wrong about what this body of mine is after all leads me to constantly hold off on actually putting behind all these questions about what in the world this body is. I still don't know what I am seeing in the mirror. I'm just feeling confused at what I see of this body. It makes being alive a torturous thing and leads to the unfortunate urges to harm and destroy this body as I cannot help but see it as the reason for why I have to feel terrified every second.

I wish to be happy and carefree. I want to feel safe, but I can't. I try to shield myself from the cruel reality of my tortured existence by surrounding myself with happy things with no negative connotations, but reality has a way of sneaking through any defences. I don't ever want to feel the cold metal claws of trauma grip onto my brain again, to feel despair and pain wash away any possibility of reason or coherent thought until I am nothing more than a sobbing, pitiful wreck lying on the floor.

I must find a way off this battlefield, but I fear there is no end to it. No escape. No salvation. Just this unending nightmare which doesn't care whether I'm awake or asleep. I fear it won't end until I finally die. And that's probably the most terrifying thought of all.


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