A reader writes in sharing her experiences related to being medicated by mental health professionals rather than being given support to process her trauma. She goes on to share the dubious miracle intense periods of flashbacks can be.Dear Ask Amanda, I resonated with a lot of things that you shared in your video. I also survived some [traumatic] things as a child, a preteen and then as a young adult. I have wrestled with not just forgetfulness but with a fractured sense of self. I have really clear memories under certain circumstances, but most of the time I am almost asleep. I realized over three years ago, the exact thing that I did to myself over time. I was steadily driving myself crazy and literally tearing myself apart. I would hide “things” from myself (whole years are blank) and those “things” were parts of myself. I bottomed out and felt suicidal. I am faced with a challenge now that is so much better than not feeling or not remembering. Whenever I would try to get help from a therapist or doctor I would be told that what I was doing was denying my own responsibility for my own actions. No shit. But I couldn’t explain how profoundly this affected me. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I read up on the characteristics of those who suffer BPD and found out about symptoms of hypochondria and delusion. This explained why they always seemed to minimize my issues. It fit their diagnosis so they stopped listening when I told them about my symptoms. They slapped a label over me and tried to pump me full of drugs. I have never found the drugs they gave me worth the effects they induced. I would get some clarity, but the side effects would make me miserable. After weighing out the results of medication there was no benefit. Side effects can negate any positive results if the side effects are negative. I felt like I was always going to be alone with my problem and that eventually I would have to take matters into my own hands. Death is the cure for all ills and I was very sure that I would kill myself. I had a minor miracle that I threw away three years ago. It came together all at once and I remembered so much at one time that it was freaky. I also knew what emotions I felt instead of playing a guessing game. It was like mashing broken glass together. After my miracle [of remembering what happened] I ended up throwing it all away because I felt too dirty to stay for the miracle [of healing] and too worthless to deserve it. I numbed up and later when I was alone in the dark I threw the whole night’s experience into a hole in my head and screamed for something to take it all away. I had had enough. I spent the last three years in the usual fog until I started coming out of it this past Fall. My miracle [of remembering what happened] came back around, but it is a lot further away. I remember that night three years ago so clearly that I am afraid that it is a delusion. All I really have is hope and the momentum of having consistent memories. Finding this blog is helpful because I also have some other problems stemming from hiding parts of myself. I am not sure if I can find my place in the world but I am starting to have a little faith that I have one.
I appreciate the strength and courage it took for you to write to me and share details of your story. I know that feeling when resonance takes place between one survivor and another, as if there is a light of hope that finally shines upon dark and broken places where I had previously thought the sunlight could never reach.
I would like you to know that it is normal for us to try to force ourselves into forgetfulness. Creating blank pages in the books of our lives. By doing this we create a false sense of safety and security; attempting to exist as if nothing happened. All an attempt to live as a hidden self, where we are able to numb the pain. However ingenuine, this self often has saved our lives. So many of us would have broken under the horror of what we had lived through and the violence perpetrated against us, therefore ending our lives or acting out in violence against others. We exist in a dichotomy of not only being victims, but being given the patterns of being perpetrators as well. This realization is often absolutely heart shattering for most survivors to face. You are not alone.
I want you to know that you are not broken or bad for choosing to shut down after all of those memories came pouring back to you. Anyone would drown under such a tidal wave. We are human and there is only so much one can process at a time, which is precisely why compassionate and respectful processing facilitators are so important. You do not have to be alone in your efforts to remember and restore your life — to piece together the pieces. I have found it important to ensure I am safe and grounded prior to delving further into uncovering memories.
I would like to sincerely apologize to you for how you have been treated, medicated and diagnosed by the mental health community. BPD criteria has been changed in the DSM-V. It is and has been clearly evident that BPD is simply an umbrella diagnosis given to survivors of trauma, as it encompasses such vast and often unrelated symptoms. Many have suffered under the ignorance and neglect of professionals who would seemingly prefer to diagnose and medicate rather than facilitate a dynamic and engaged healing process with their clients.
I feel you are blessed with the hope and momentum you refer to. It is such an inspiration for other survivors who are suffering as you have. It is my greatest hope that this blog will serve as a resource for you along your journey. You have a right to exist, and a magnificent role in this world…one you may not be aware of yet, but one I have faith is being revealed to you the further you progress along your pathway of healing.
Thank you for your courage to share with me, I am honoured by the trust you have instilled in me. Let me know if there are any areas you would like me to write about or additional questions you have.
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