We all have a story. Life is our own story. For years I have been battling with the demons in my mind. To a person on the street, I look and act normal, but behind the smile, there is pain. I am twenty two and I have Complex Type II Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have been diagnosed since I was fifteen. For the last ten years, I have felt trapped in myself, scared to talk. In between the past and the present. I was thirteen turning fourteen when I was physical, sexual, emotional abused by two older girls and raped by one of their boyfriends as they watched. I was attacked within the first month.
I was at boarding school at this time, just started secondary school ready to enjoy life and within three weeks of me starting school the first attack happened. Through these six months, I lost myself, stopped eating, constantly in fear of when the next attack would happen. The attacks happened at night when no one else was awake, taking me from my room and dragging me to an empty dorm. I never knew what to expect, it was easier to not fight or struggle because the worse the attack was. I would be stripped naked, with the increasing amount of attack the more “inventive” the two girls became. The two girls would lay everything out on floor, and a bath would have already been run. After every attack I would be taken into a bathroom, they would watch me wash the blood of my body and watch me get dressed into new clothes. The two girls were very “clinical” in a sense, they would make sure I washed the clothes I was wearing before the attack, and anything they had use to hurt me. They would make sure that I put it in the sanitary bins in the toilets.
At the beginning, they started leaving me a letter with tallies that mark how many times they had hurt me. I would freeze, panic, fearful of what would happen next. In the later stages the girls left photographs of what they would do next, such as hanging me, dismembering my body and cutting me open. I thought I was going die and in some way I wanted to die, because it was harder to stay then go, holding the physical and emotional pain inside. Becomes more distant and lost in a world of torture. I lost my dignity, my love of life and myself. One of the two girls was suspended, I know that was the time to go, to leave. I rang my mum and she came and picked me up and took me home. I was safe, but still frozen from the attacks. I came home, started a new school hoping to leave the past behind me, but during the year and a half at my new school, slowly the pieces of the puzzle were unravelling.
I started having nightmares, images of the attacks in my head, my personality changed and stages without eating. In the summer, my dad worked away for six months. It was going to be just my mum, brother and I. Within a matter of weeks of my dad leaving I stopped eating and drinking; this continued for two months, in and out of general hospital and then finally admitted into an in-patient mental health hospital. I was having flashbacks and being NG Tube fed and sectioned under the Mental Health Act. I hit rock bottom, couldn’t even remember the date, or what year it was, but slowly I put on weight. I started to talk, about small amounts of what had happened to me, but I never felt safe enough to disclose everything. I took two years of being in and out of hospital across the country, then recovering, starting work and then becoming unwell again. It finally took me till last year in 2014 to disclose everything.
For the first time I felt safe enough to write it down and start the long process of dealing with the attacks. At this time I was still fragile, having flashbacks lasting four hours, disassociated and my body freezing unable to move for half an hour or longer. At times I lost hope and attempted suicide, but with the support of my family and my therapist I slowly started getting better. I was discharged and came home. My parents had sold the house, we spent a year renovating to pay for my medical expenses. The plan was to see my therapist, once a week and start living life again. I started to live, going to see a concert, going out for lunch and enjoying the small moments, which we all overlook in life. Finally, learning to hug my family knowing I am safe with them and waking up with a smile on my face. These are very small things in life that I used to take for granted but when life changes in a moment and your world goes into darkness the smallest things can bring happiness.
At the moment, I still need treatment and help. For years I didn’t have a voice, too scared that people wouldn’t believe me or my attacks would come back and hurt me again. I have been through every emotion, happiness, grief, angry, loneliness and fear, but I wouldn’t change anything it has made me the person I am today. I have learnt to accept my imperfections that we all have. I hope that one day I am in a warm loving relationship, one day have children, be able to live independently and enjoy life to the full. I have a long road ahead, but I know things get better, I know in the end I will be alright. I am human being, a young adult wanting to life but at the moment somewhere in between. I still fear my attacks, I would like to see justice, but reality I will never be strong enough to do another police interview.
I also want to address that, after reading this, would you look at me differently in the street? In the UK we don’t talk about mental health; adults, young people, children get misdiagnosed with borderline personality disorder, or bipolar and many others, when they have PTSD. I believe we need to open our eyes and stop judging people with mental health problems and help them; not just health professional but family, friends, people you know and don’t. There is no shame is saying I have a mental health conditions. If I’d broken my leg, people know how to fix it, but because PTSD is a mental condition people doesn’t understand it because there cannot see it. It is time to talk and change people’s views and opinions.
I have only just learnt I have a right to be here. The past does not define me, but has made me stronger. I am patiently waiting for one day to feel free for the tormented of the past. I know it will, I know it wont always be this way but with the undying love of my family, I know I will get there.
© Rosie Burnham