Trauma Is Subjective. Assault Categories Are Not.

Learn how trauma can be subjective but also differentiated on bettysbattleground.com

Since the #metoo campaign went viral, many necessary and important conversations have begun. We  dragged the truth about sexual harassment and assault into the light of day, exposing the fact that a disturbing amount of people–especially women–have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes. Discussions about support and awareness have taken beautiful seed. Rape culture is finally being acknowledged on a wide-spread scale. But there’s one discussion that, while important, has not been able to take place without sounding horribly offensive. That is the conversation about the fact that not all traumatic experiences are the same.

Let me start by saying this: trauma is subjective. The development of post-traumatic stress disorder and other traumatic responses is not only determined by the inciting event. The victim’s biological makeup, personal history, and support system also play a significant role. As do the nuances of the event, which may not appear in the categorizing of the event. It is possible for one person to be more traumatized by having her breasts fondled on a bus than another person who was forcibly raped–really–simply because of all those factors; even though most people would likely say, if made to choose, that they’d rather have their breasts fondled than be forcibly raped. Our anxieties and personal biases create hierarchies of trauma, but that’s not how trauma actually works. There is no way to say that “my trauma was worse than yours,” and even if there was, it would be a silly, disrespectful thing to say. Take it from someone with PTSD: being traumatized is not something to aspire toward.

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PTSD Awareness Month 2017: “Down The Rabbit Holes”

Tales from the Other Side: A guest post series on www.bettysbattleground.com

June is PTSD Awareness Month

I have been sharing a lot of stories about PTSD this month on my blog. I shared a couple posts about my abusive relationship; one on forgiveness, and the other on what it was like to date a sociopath. This month’s Parenting with Mental Illness interviewee is a mother living with PTSD from years of complex abuse. And the current “Book of the Weeks” is a memoir written by Rebecca Lombardo, who lives with PTSD and BPAD. If you haven’t read that post yet, it includes an exclusive author interview, so check it out!

Today, I will be sharing a very special piece for PTSD Awareness Month. This is the two part story of one person’s struggle to escape, cope. and come to terms with childhood emotional abuse. In this piece, they clearly state that their diagnosis is depression; they’ve never been diagnosed with PTSD. I think it’s important to highlight the fact that all of our statistics and various numerations and labels can never fully encompass all of the people who live in the aftermath of trauma, or who deal with PTSD symptoms.

Emotional abuse doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. It can come in the form of emotional neglect, verbal abuse, gaslighting, manipulation, cloaked insults, outright insults, financial or other control, and aggressive unfounded accusations. Basically, there are a lot of ways to emotionally abuse someone without ever laying a hand on them. Because emotional abuse is often intangible, it can be hard to recognize. Many times, people relegate it as “less important” than outright physical abuse. As we will see in this account, however, emotional abuse often escalates into physical abuse. Even if it doesn’t, the damage is still enormous. Sometimes moreso than physical abuse because survivors are less likely to get the attention and support they deserve

Genelle’s essay also grapples with the phenomenon of abused abusers, and the ways that certain types of people can manipulate their own victimization into an excuse. This is how the piece fits into the “Tales From the Other Side” narrative; it’s the true story about how one father’s mental illness affects his child. It is easy to say trauma survivors deserve uniform compassion; it would be simpler to only talk about sympathetic victims. But we need to honestly address the complexity of trauma, and the various ways it factors into our world. Genelle’s essay does just that, and that is why I have chosen to present it as part of a PTSD Awareness special. This is a two part series, so hang on for the ride; it’s well worth it.

 

Genelle Chaconas is genderfluid, queer, feminist, over 30, underemployed, an abuse survivor, and proud of it. They earned their BA in Creative Writing from California State University Sacramento (2009), and their MFA in Writing and Poetics, graduate of Naropa University (2015). Their first chapbook is Fallout, Saints and Dirty Pictures (little m Press, 2011), and they are currently at work on a new chapbook. Their work has been accepted in over 50 publications. They are currently at work on their first full length work. They are a volunteer submission reader at Tule review, and they hosted Red Night Poetry. They plan to run their own literary publication in the future.

Read about Genelle's experience with paternal abuse on bettysbattleground.com

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Tales From the Other Side: “My Letter to My Sister After Her Suicide”

Tales from the Other Side: A guest post series on www.bettysbattleground.com

“My Letter to My Sister After Her Suicide” is the first installation of my Guest Post Series: Tales From the Other Side

If you have been following my blog, you know that I write about my experiences as a mother who lives with mental illness, specifically; PTSD and (recovering) co-morbid substance addiction as the result of surviving severe, prolonged domestic abuse. There is a lot of stigma around mental illness, addiction, and abuse. I think it is important that those of us who have lived or are living with these conditions speak out so that the world can see what we go through, and also that we are human. Relatable, real, maybe even (gasp) likable humans.

We are not the only ones affected by our conditions, however. The people who live with us, love us, work with us, and know us are also affected, often deeply. Last week I wrote about my recent(ish) suicide attempt.  I shared the letter I didn’t write, but would have written if I had been able to communicate my thoughts and feelings at the time.  This week, I want to share with you the letter written by one woman to her sister whose suicide attempt was successful.

This letter is raw, heartwrenching, and even funny at times. It is, ultimately, honest. I am so honored to be able to share it here.

Another issue that the letter briefly mentions is possible witnessed PTSD; sometimes the people who come in contact with our conditions inherit similar conditions themselves. Witnessed PTSD is less understood than experienced PTSD, but it is the same disorder as mine except that it arises from witnessing a traumatic event, rather than directly experiencing it.

One last thing I would like to say before I share the letter and some details about its author: I have been suicidal. I know that feeling worthless and unloved comes hand-in-hand with wanting to die. And now, having lived through it, I also know that the feeling is a delusion. You don’t have to be popular and constantly surrounded by people to be loved. If you are feeling suicidal, please just know, just believe that there is someone out there who will write a letter like this to you if you leave them. Chances are, you even know who that person is. Chances are, you love them too. Please think, truly think, about the real consequences of your decision before you make it.
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