So this is the deal, the PTSD story. Its hard to write, its hard to know where to start. So I’m using the words of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson as a guide, of sorts.
The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. “Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?” he asked. “Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
But starting at the beginning doesnt really make sense. I cant start at the end, because I don’t know what, when or where the end is or will be. So Ill start with the diagnosis and work through, a bit like Roald Dahl’s Wonkavator, not an elevator…..
Elevators can only go up and down. But the Wonkavator can go sideways frontways
Charlie Bucket : And backways?
Willy Wonka : Yup roundways, and squareways. Just press the key and Zing! You are there! By now pressed all the keys! Except one! Go ahead, Charlie! Press!
So sit tight and press the button. Read away. And if you don’t like it, don’t read it. I’m ok with that, because again, its about me and its my story and I need to write it to help me. Or you can go read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – its about as twisted as this stuff!!
PTSD – what is it?
So the diagnosis is PTSD. People love labels, people need names for things, people need an explanation. PTSD can manifest in different ways for different people. Whilst there are ‘textbook’ signs to tick boxes, the actual signs and symptoms are variable and very much individual. So when I talk about ‘PTSD’, this is MY PTSD, not anybody else’s PTSD. Because we are all different, collectively different, but still ‘same-same
Blackdog institute provide this snippet for us:
What PTSD does do to me is multifactorial and ever changing. Some things are transient, some things are intermittent, some things are permanent. And some things are just plain scary as fuck. Crippling Anxiety, depression, hyper-stimulation, exhaustion, lack of concentration, insomnia, fear, nightmares, flashbacks, triggers, and of course, the gift that keeps on giving – seeing weird shit. Everywhere. Makes life interesting.
What PTSD doesnt do to me is make me stupid. I’m not stupid, I’m not an idiot, although I can be, and I can do stupid things. I’m not unintelligent, I’m not lazy. And sometimes I laugh inappropriately, because I feel that if I cry, I just wont stop. Ever. I function like a ‘normal’ person, most of the time. And the times I don’t function, you probably wont see, if I’m lucky.
Most of my family, friends and acquaintances, know that I have spent 23 years as a paramedic. Most of those years were at the highest clinical level. Some of you know that that means, but loads of you don’t . I will explain that further in another blog.
Most of my family, friends and acquaintances also know that prior to being a paramedic, I was in the Navy. I spent 8 years serving my country and the majority of the experience was absolutely fabulous – yes, I did make lifelong friends. What most of you don’t know though, is that whilst I was in the Navy, I was sexually assaulted, whilst at work, twice. By senior sailors. So if I cast my mind back to pre-assault and the person I was pre-assault, I think that’s where the PTSD life possibly started.
The first assault occurred at HMAS Coonawarra, in NAVCOMSTA Darwin, by a POROT. I will never forget it. I will never forget his name, or his face, or his filthy fetid brown beard. I had just turned 18, I was a small statured kid. I reported it to my boss and because i was ‘just a WRAN’, I was moved out of my job in the COMCEN and sent to the TTY workshop. Still in the same building, but not on his shifts. Then they moved me to Humpty Doo, thankfully.
I’d created a stir by reporting the assault, and that upset the applecart. I was not supposed to report it, because, you know, in 1988 it was just what happened to the young girls in the Navy….it was, you know, ‘just a joke’, and the boys just ‘having a bit of fun’.
The second assault occurred on HMAS Tobruk. Again, a senior sailor. Again, I reported it. But the result this time was that because I sat next to other men in the mess and hang out and stepped with other men, it really wasn’t an issue and I didn’t really have a problem with men being in my personal space.
I remember being devastated when I was told this. I also remember the fear when this leech followed me when I was on duty and doing my rounds. He eventually caught me alone a second time, pinned me agains a bulkhead with his hand around my throat and told me what a bitch I was for dobbing him in, that he knew he would get away with it because he was a married-ey (navy term for married man) and that he was going to make my life hell. And then he reported me for supposedly not doing rounds properly….
But the final kicker was after these two assaults. Because I wasn’t fucked up enough from that. From being a kid, assaulted by dirty old sailors, and subsequently not being protected from the same. I thought I would make myself safe, I thought I better take control, because the Navy wouldn’t, and so I quickly got married…..into a domestic violence situation, to a man with a love of guns. The marriage ended the night our neighbours called the police because they thought he was killing me. It wasn’t the first time.
When the police came, they took me upstairs and they found, sitting on my duchess two shells for his gun, which was downstairs, where he had held it at my head. Not sure who the two shells were for, because there were three of us. Me, him, our baby.
To cut it short, it went to court. The Navy sent our Divisional Officer with him to court, for support, but nobody was sent to be with me. I had to go alone. He had his gun licence removed and was forbidden from handling or using weapons. So the Navy put him on the Standing Sea Guard – which is a squad of sailors who do official parades etc, in formation, with rifles.
The standing sea guard practiced on Fleet Base at Garden Island, where I worked. He was legally not permitted to hold a weapon, and here he was, literally 20M away from me, with a rifle. I was terrified. So I did what I thought was right, and called the police. He was on a Navy base, so they had no jurisdiction, but they reported it to the Navy Police. My Chief also reported it to the Captain of HMAS Kuttabul, but he didn’t think it was a concern or a threat, having my violent ex-husband outside the doors of the health centre, with a rifle.
I’m glad he didn’t think it was a concern. I did. I’d come to the realisation that the Navy wasn’t going to keep me safe. That being a female in that institution at that time put me at risk and that I didn’t want to be near my ex-husband, with a rifle. So I discharged and ran. My Chief knew I was leaving and one or two friends. Other than that, nobody. I couldn’t risk being stopped from moving as far away as I could. I had to get myself safe because my employer wouldn’t. They could have, but they wouldn’t.
The real tragedy with what happened in the puss (Navy), is that it was not uncommon for this to happen to girls in those days. It was not acceptable, but it was accepted. I’m hoping that it is different for girls now.
So I think this was the start of it. This is what first started my ‘control’ need. I thought that if I am in control, I can keep me safe. If I am in control, I can keep others safe. Ive now discovered that that shit doesn’t work.