Begin Again, Begin Again – CPTSD, the Great Struggle
(warning: this post concerns a subject that some readers may find distressing)
The sunshine of this morning seems like a memory of a different world as I listen to the heavy rain blattering overhead in the darkness of a February night near Falkirk. Marley has placed herself – oh so inconveniently – on the floor by my feet. Stretched out the full length of the narrow corridor that lies between my dinette seat and the mug of tea brewing on the kitchen counter, she’s letting me know, in her not so subtle way, that she’d “quite like to go for a walk now if that’s okay Mum”.
I feel her eyes drilling tenaciously into the side of my face as I type. Emotional blackmail of the highest degree. Fluffy white fur wrapped, and liberally scented with finest eau de dog.
My eyes flick to the travel mug waiting patiently for a splash of milk, then to the time, and finally to the ceiling where the merry rain continues to play enthusiastic jazz drums to the soaring singing of the wind. I want to write. I really want to write. But indecision has tied my hands for a long time, and even as my fingers move over the keys and the words form in my head I am unsure whether or not to put them down on this page.
But putting them down is, I think, exactly what I’m going to do.
Demons are nibbling at my heels and whispering threats in my ears as I dare to begin, and I do not know if this story is the right thing for my life – privately or professionally – but it is my story, and if I do not tell it then I don’t think I will ever be able to write this blog in the way that I have always wanted to.
And so I will begin. I will try to be short, I will try to be swift, and I will give little at all by way of detail. But I will give a trigger warning before I go any further. As the title tells you this post is about CPTSD – complex post-traumatic stress disorder, but not the PTSD I suffered from my medical traumas in 2022. If you do not wish to read anything about childhood trauma – if this may trigger or upset you – then please close this page now and do not go any further.
For everyone who remains I will begin.
For most of my life, since a very young age, I have loved books and the Arts in general – dance, fine arts, music, poetry, performance, and dreams of travel occupied the biggest parts of my young mind. Especially books and travel.
As I grew just a little bit bigger than tiny, those dreams stayed with me all the way, and the biggest, brightest, shiniest of them all were the dreams of being a novelist and the dreams of travel.
Little me soaked up books as fast as I could persuade the library to lend them to me, and “the book parcel” was always my favourite thing of all on Christmas mornings. And with every page that I read I dreamed that one day my very own books would sit upon my bookcase. Side by side with those of the authors I loved the most.
As always, in every great story, there was a great darkness ahead that our tousle-haired little hero (me) could never have foreseen. But unlike in so many stories there was no monster waiting in that darkness. For as I have discovered monsters – real monsters – don’t make a habit of hiding in the darkness. Real monsters bring the darkness with them, dragging it hidden behind them, and cast it like a giant net over their victims when there is nobody else to see.
My monster was a person I should have been able to trust. A person who disguised themselves as someone that everyone would trust. A person who could hurt me with impunity and from whom I believed I had no possible means of escape. Like so many so-called “survivors of child abuse” I told nobody, for fear that telling would bring harm to the people that I loved.
And so began a life of silence. Of secrets. Of being somebody that I was not. Dreaming of solace and safety, but squaring my shoulders to the load because I thought that carrying it alone was the right thing to do. Nobody spoke of these things “back in the day” and the feeling of being alone, an alien, in this terrible, awful, incomprehensible “thing” sank into my bones like flames of ice.
A lifetime has passed since those days of monsters. And those childhood dreams of books written and strange lands travelled have been my constant companions through every day and step of that lifetime. But though the monster is far behind ,and no longer even living, that net of darkness that was cast upon me as a child has also travelled alongside me through all of my years. Today that darkness has a name and its name is CPTSD.
There are treatments for these traumas now – treatments that can give veterans and people like me our lives back. But they are not easy to come by. Many of us are, like I have been, locked in silence by our experiences, and by the added trauma that has often come about by our failed attempts to get help from police officers and doctors in the past. Attempts to break out of our silence are so difficult and distressing that when they are unsuccessful the walls in our head that we built to contain our screams become even thicker than before.
But now, after last year’s brush with fresh PTSD, I cannot go back behind my walls. I will not go back behind my walls. I want to be a writer, to write this blog as fresh and honest and pure of a thing as I can make it be. I want to send beautiful, wonderful novels out across this little planet that we all call home. And It is beyond me now to be able to cast my voice out into our world from behind the gnarled thickness of these old, old walls.
Sometimes CPTSD makes even the simplest of things impossible. It carries those flocks of whispering demons in its depths, telling tales of unworthiness, hopelessness and failure. And sometimes, to defend from those demons, I hold my dreams deep, deep inside the walls that trauma built around me in those early years. Walls that thanks to modern science we now know by the words” brain damage.”
But although this damage cannot be undone, our brains are remarkable things. We can build new neural pathways, reroute around the old scars, and take our lives back from the trauma.
I have been fighting the monster and its darkness for a very long time now, and although I was alone in my secret prison there were always bright lights in my life as well. My amazing mother, my strong, kind, clever brothers, friends that I adored. And of course there were books, the Arts, music, nature, science and my dreams.
Once upon a time I needed those dreams to keep me fighting through the darkness, and I could not risk losing them. I don’t know if I can risk losing them now, but I want to try. I need to try.
And so it is. The story of “Pip and the Great Struggle.”
I would like to say I will write a blog post every day or two now – but I don’t know if I will. I will try. And the posts I will write will not be “how to” and “travel tips.” I’m not going to try and tell you what you can read on any tourist information website or on wikipedia. I hope not anyway, because that was never what I set out to do.
The posts I hope to write will just be me, Marley and Jay, as I attempt to show you the world through my eyes, and the myriad ways it changes us as we travel through it together. I hope those posts will be full of beauty and wonder. But sometimes, as is the way of the world, there will be darkness too. And I hope you will join me on finding paths for us all through these clumps of darkness and back out, into the light.
See you on the road.