Eight signs you grew up with a Mental Illness

I grew up in a household where I thought life was normal.  I thought everyone’s parents fought, thought dad always beat and raped mom, thought playing mind games was normal, I thought this was what everyone lived like.  Years later I’d come to realize, NO, this is not normal!

I remember when we were little, my brother and I would take turns with our grandmothers and stay with them each weekend.  I found out several years ago that my parents did this to protect us during one of our dad’s episodes.

Years would go by, I’m at college, and I notice I’m feeling different.  I feel free, being way from home, I liked it.  I missed my family, but I didn’t, if that makes sense; looking back now, I was worried about my mother and brother.  After being at college for 4 years, I’ve graduated and moved back home and started working.  I’ve noticed the atmosphere within the house is the same, everyone is very quiet, as if they’re afraid to speak.  I got a job at a daycare centre, then a job at the public library, then a job at a Chinese restaurant; all at one time.  I discovered the more I was away from home, the better I felt and I dreaded going home.

20 some years later, I’m a mental health advocate and now I’m well aware of what I lived with.  I haven’t been diagnosed but I KNOW I live with PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as a result of witnessing domestic abuse, child abuse, experiencing verbal and emotional abuse from my father.

How do I know this?

These are 8 signs of PTSD and are what I lived with;

1/ Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares.  After I moved away from home for college, I would have terrifying nightmares.  I noticed, unconsciously, that I had to sleep with the radio on.  There were and are still tv shows/movies I cannot watch because it triggers me.

2/ Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.  After my father died, it was quite a while before I could go visit my mother and brother, it was a very uncomfortable feeling.  Now, I can visit mom and my brother and I’m okay.  I may see something in the house that would trigger me but now I find I can look back at memories with positive thoughts, not the negative.

3/ Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered.  Again, I had to always sleep with the radio on or I would have nightmares; I did this up until 4 years ago.  I found it very hard to concentrate at work, especially at the library, I would find myself going to work with massive migraines and couldn’t do much except put my head on the desk until it subsided.

4/ Witnessing, in person, the traumatic events. I lived in a house for almost 30 years where there was domestic abuse, emotional, physical and mental abuse, as well as suicide attempts and prescription medication abuse.

 

5/ Spontaneous or cued recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic events.  This occurs most of the time while watching tv/movies.  To this day, there are certain things I cannot watch.

6/ Recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or affect (i.e. feeling) of the dream is related to the events.  For the longest time, I would have the same 3 dreams for years.

7/ Persistent, distorted blame of self or others about the cause or consequences of the traumatic events.  When my father died, I can admit that I did blame myself, for years.  Despite everything happening, I did try to help him the best I could.  But I also wanted a life of my own and do what I wanted, when I wanted and I did rebel.  I rebelled to the point I was kicked out of the house, didn’t speak to my family for 8 months, then dad died.  I felt so guilty, ashamed and not worthy of reuniting with my family again.  I hate to admit that sometimes I still feel guilty and to blame. I must keep reminding myself it was not my fault and I did my best to help my father.

8/ Inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic events.  There are a LOT of situations which happened in my childhood and teen years I don’t remember, I’ve blocked them out.  My mother would tell me about certain things and I wouldn’t know anything about them.  There are also situations I do remember which I wish I couldn’t.  While my parents would argue, I would either sit in a corner in a room, or outside and read and read and read; I would disassociate and put myself into the stories, it was much nicer than where I was at that moment.

Today I do still relive my past but not as much.  I feel I’m in a good place in my life and now I can live my life at ease.

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