Could the way we process trauma be key to understanding mental health?
PTSD isn’t just for soldiers. And the study of traumatic events, especially suffered in childhood, is evolving. Examining our lives in the context of past trauma is key to coping with it, says Sam Hancock
I was raped by someone I didn’t know after a day out drinking with a friend. After being called a liar by the first person I confided in, and facing a difficult experience with the sexual assault officer on my case who was impatient, pushy and outwardly judgemental of me throughout my police interview, my mental health deteriorated to such an extent that I completely withdrew from the world. I quit my job and spent the majority of my time in bed, unable to move. I experienced panic attacks multiple times throughout the day. I felt a huge amount of anxiety, insomnia and complete exhaustion, alongside feelings of guilt and the sense that I’d somehow brought it on myself by being in that position – because I was drunk.
“I withdrew from friends and normal life, and I began unhealthily controlling my eating habits. I was depressed – I know that now. When I did manage to get out of bed, and sometimes the house, I relied heavily on alcohol which I quickly realised numbed my emotions and allowed me to put on the happy face that the people around me needed… the one that made them feel comfortable. It all spiralled and before I knew it, normal life became drinking multiple times a week and being out until 9am with a different group of people each night.
“I developed a sense that I was untouchable. I remember so clearly thinking: ‘I’m so broken, there’s nothing left to take. I’ve experienced the thing we all fear, so there’s nothing left to be scared of.' That’s when the anger started, and I began channelling my pain into shouting at my family and those close to me, accusing them of various wrongdoings. Now I realise I was trying to place my anger somewhere, anywhere, because I couldn’t put it on the person who really deserved it.