How I have survived years of trauma and changed my story to change my life…
It is a never ending battle living with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), and I have
unfortunately suffered from it most of my life. I can look back now and have a little chuckle to myself at all the people who thought I had the perfect life, with the perfect family. I was young, beautiful, and
successful, but little did anyone know, I was living with an undiagnosed debilitating mental illness that
behind closed doors wasn’t so perfect and I was out of control.
I now know that my C-PTSD was triggered by several traumas, starting with three childhood traumas
where I found my neighbour’s murdered body, being touched up by a family friend and then being hostage in an armed bank robbery… All by the sweet innocent age of ten. And let me just point out I come from a good family and from a good suburb, so I am proof this shit can happen to anyone.
My parents who love me dearly, instead of taking me to a psychologist to ensure I was ok, thought they
were doing the right thing by sweeping it all under the carpet and tried to protect me by not talking about it, and not allowing me to process my trauma. As a family we all understand now that it wasn’t the right way to handle it and this was the start of my trauma journey. I do believe my parents acted in good faith and had my best interests at heart with the resources and knowledge that were before them. They didn’t have the information and education that we have access to now. So I do not blame them for any of this and they have been my biggest supporters throughout my journey.
At 19 I graduated from the Police Academy. Being a police officer was something I had wanted to do
since I was little. During my time as a police officer I witnessed and attended some pretty disturbing
scenes that you only see in movies. Murders, Fatal motor vehicle accidents, suicides, you name it I saw it all by the age of 23. Seeing all of this retriggered my childhood PTSD and my whole world came crashing down. The thoughts that would go through my head, the stupid decisons I would make, the mania that I was experiencing, I had no idea what was wrong with me or why I was acting that way.
Even though I appeared confident and beautiful I had no self worth and allowed men to use me. I hated myself. I hated not being in control of my head, I wouldn’t sleep, I was constantly on edge and was ruining the relationships I had with my family and friends due to frustration and anger.
For me there was no safe place in the world, not even my home and this only got worse as the years went on. At 24 years old I was sentenced to twelve months in a maximum security prison for doing something stupid for love. I abused my power as a police officer and did a favour for a man who I allowed to manipulate me. I had no idea that this would be the most damaging decision of my life.
For the first three months of my prison sentence I was forced to live in segregation with no windows and only one hour of sunlight a day. This was not for punishment, this was because I was a police officer and they couldn’t guarantee my safety anywhere else in the prison.
I started to go a bit crazy by the third month. I lacked human interaction and I began to hear voices and
talk to myself. Most of the guards were amazing but there were certain ones who were on power trips and would ‘forget’ to give me my medication for days, ‘forget’ to turn the light switch off at night.
Thank God my mumma got me out of there and I was moved down to the protection wing of the prison where I served a further 9 months.
Although prison is a horrible place I wanted to use my time there to make good of a shitty situation. I
didn’t want to be remembered as the ‘bikini model turned police that fell in love with the wrong man’ that the media had me painted out to be. I didn’t want to be the person that resulted in drugs and alcohol to ease her pain and feel numb as this was all I had known. I started to journal my days and started to process my past. I read books and educated myself on mental health and would spend my time listening to the stories of the other women and try to find the purpose as to why I was there. I truly believe that spending 12 months in prison allowed me to be so still within my mind that it forced me to become aware, to be vulnerable with myself and begin the change I so desperately needed. This was where I finally accepted that I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and that I wasn’t OK. I was not weird, I was this person as a result of a shit load of traumatic incidents and when I became aware of this I felt so lucky that I was in prison rather than six feet under the ground.
I honestly thought when I left prison that the ‘black cloud’ I always thought was above my head had been lifted, that it was all over, that all the bad stuff had come to an end and I had been punished enough and my life was about to change for the good. Little did I know that none of this happens without therapy and without seeking treatment. C-PTSD will never just ‘go away’ It needs to be worked on everyday, and that fight or flight response will always be there as it is like our brains have been wired differently.
I began therapy as soon as I left, I tried Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioural
Therapy (CBT) and had fortnightly sessions with my psychologist. I was so blessed when I finally found a
psychologist that didn’t want to ‘fix’ my C-PTSD, she believed that rather than focusing on curing the
illness like many before her attempt, she wanted to go deeper and actually process the trauma without re traumatising me and teach me tools that would help me get through my days and start to heal. As soon as she said this I truly resonated with it as I was so over trying to be ‘fixed’. I have always been told I am extremely complexed with my traumas and by hearing this it made me feel alienated and not understood.
So finally finding someone who believed in me allowed me to trust her process.
I have always said finding the right psychologist is like buying a car, you may need to test drive a few
before you find the right one. So don’t give up or believe you have to go with the first one you find!
I continued to work on myself, on my thoughts, on my triggers and for the first time in my life I felt SAFE to do so.
Unfortunately, my trauma journey didn’t end there. Even though I had been working on my triggers and
processing my trauma I never truly worked on the deep connection I had with myself. As a result of this I continued to enter relationships with men who did not serve me and men who would discard me. I used to say I attracted these men, However now I can confidently say that ‘they attracted me’. They were attracted to the woman that had low self esteem, that didn’t love herself, that didn’t think she was worthy of love. Now we all know the type of men that are attracted to these types of women tend to have narcissistic and psychopathic tendencies and I believe that is why we are ‘drawn’ to each other.
Sadly 18 months ago, I met a man who ‘love bombed’ me and within 4 weeks the cycle of abuse started.
The name calling, the punching the holes in walls, the spitting, the physical violence, the making me feel like ‘everything was my fault’. Yes I had been with crappy men before but this was like nothing I had ever experienced. He would go from being so lovely and amazing to being so horrible and evil.
As women we all know that violence is wrong and I now understand how hard it is for people to leave. Trauma bond is real and something I so desperately which I was aware of growing up. I was so addicted to him, to his nastiness, like he was my bad love drug. He would make me feel so small, so unworthy, yet I would be so desperate for his approval and his affection. I lost my friends, I started to lose my family and the
gaslighting got so bad I really started to question my sanity and what was real and what wasn’t. This man
was so good at what he did, he had me believing that I had multiple personalities and that I used to shake my head and by me shaking my head was me coming back to reality. He would explain that the reason
why there were holes in the walls and the place was turned upside down was because ‘my narcissistic personality came out’ and caused him to do… He would say “don’t you remember what you just did? You caused this, you made me do this”
Finally after 12 LONG months of being with this man the violence got so physical that I honestly believed
he was going to kill me. This was my turning point and I finally left him for good. Over the coming days I
had a sick feeling that he had been tracking me. I searched my car and found a tracking device hidden in
the floor of the boot of my car. I went to the police and am currently going through court proceedings.
My biggest lesson that I learnt from being with this man is that if I want to change my relationship cycle it
starts with me. I need to value myself, I need to love myself, I need to believe in myself and that I am
worthy of love. I started to be vulnerable and admit that I needed to change the story I told myself in order
for me to start healing.
I started to do EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy) and
it has truly worked for me. I have begun changing that story, I have begun to work through my C-PTSD in a way I had never done before. Different therapies work for different people and this is one that has given my life a whole new meaning.
I still believe that there is no cure for C-PTSD, there is no ‘miracle pill’ and that we constantly need to be
aware, and grow on our healing journey. For me just because I believe there is no cure, no final healing,
there are things I can do to ensure that I never have to suffer again. I’m no longer at the mercy of my
C-PTSD and I would not be here today had I not had the proper diagnosis and treatment. The most
important thing to know is that it’s never too late to seek help, and speak up about what you have been
through. I once went to a Tony Robbins seminar and his words stuck with me… “change your story,
change your life” This powerful phrase is now my mantra and I choose to never give up and stop believing
that we can live a happy, fulfilled life living with C-PTSD.
You aren’t alone in this.
Follow Jenna on Instagram @living.life.with.ptsd