I’m Still Living with PTSD from My Father’s ‘Punishments’

**Trigger warnings for abuse and suicidal thoughts**

By anonymous

I’ve been attending psychotherapy for just about two years now because I deal with these two nasty little buggers called anxiety and depression. Honestly, I’m quite open about the fact that they’re something I deal with. This varies, of course, but I think I’ve come to terms with them being in my life. I have good days and bad days, and sometimes lengthier periods of each. I try my hardest to not let either of one define me to the point where I don’t like to use the words “suffer” or “struggle” when talking about them. Right now, they’re a fixture in my life, but I’m pressing on.

Something I’m less inclined to share about is the fact that I struggle with PTSD over an…incident that happened a little over two years ago. Two years ago, my father hit (reprimanded?) me in front of my two siblings because I behaved badly. I honestly don’t remember the exact reason why – I may have cursed earlier that day – but he said that it was because he was fed up with hearing my mother complain to him about my behaviour, so he needed to take action.  And 21 slaps later – the number of lashes paralleling my age at the time – he had. My father is a Bible reading kind of man – and he was once again trying his best to be what he considered biblical. My siblings were there to watch because I was supposed to be the example. They were to steer clear of similar behaviour unless they too wanted to experience the same thing.

I was raised in family who culturally believes that it is acceptable to reprimand their children for bad behaviour up until they’re married – maybe even after? I don’t know, it’s unclear to me – so I am stuck between the thoughts of “Well, I should have expected this to happen” and whether “I don’t really know if ‘I deserved it’ is entirely correct.” Because that was the explanation, of course. I had deserved it and I was expected to move on after I had been corrected.

Only I didn’t. Two years later, at 24 years of age, I didn’t expect to be triggered in a freshman level theology class of all things. But I was. All it took was one scene where a husband beats his wife in front of their children, and I had to bolt out of class, crying for five minutes. I don’t even remember what the movie was about, or the rest of it. When I returned to class, I sat frozen in the back of the classroom. Reliving it. Picturing it. My therapy session the next day left me feeling so exposed. Raw. Confused.

It wasn’t the first time I was triggered. Over the last two years I have relived the event in nightmares, only I was also a spectator like my siblings had been. Honestly, immediately after the incident I felt – not fine, but I sort of understood where my father was coming from. He had said that he didn’t want to do it, but he was forced. Looking back, I’m so entirely grossed out and horrified by the justification and how he washed his hands of the deed. I shiver just thinking about it.

I consider myself a Christian. I have a belief that wasn’t forced on me. But what happened to me two years ago has no doubt affected me. My father reads his Bible every day and believes that his action was justified by it.. But how am I supposed to agree with him? If Christianity is meant to be a religion that preaches love, how am I supposed to believe that what happened to me was justified? If this was meant to be an example of love, I’m sorry, but I can’t subscribe to it. In the aftermath, my faith dwindled. Could I worship a God that allowed this to happen? It’s not a new thing for people to justify their wrongful actions with verses from the Bible. But there were so many times when I would ask myself if perhaps I’m the one in the wrong because I did not read my Bible as frequently as my father did. And that maybe if I did, I would finally understand his justification. And then there are times where I want to turn away from God because if he condones this, I don’t want to subscribe to that kind of religion.

The saddest part about it is that my dad had been the parent I was closest to. And now, there are times when I want to say something to him, but I can’t because I don’t see him the same way anymore. And it breaks me so much. I know I can rely on him when I ask him a parental duty related favour – when my dear friend visited me on my birthday weekend he drove me to the airport and we talked in the car. But that’s it I don’t know how to talk to him anymore. Not like I used to. Because I remember and I’m scared: The look on his face, the anger in his voice – it all makes me  cry. I don’t go home because I’ll say something out of line, and I’ll get a text from my mother saying, “Dad heard you curse. You better stop before he gets mad.” But then what? Will it happen again? So I don’t go home. I stay in my dorm because it’s easier to be away from them than having the “what if” answered.

I’d like to say that I can just toss it aside, but honestly, being back in New York with my family has made the terrors more frequent. My work is suffering because of it. It doesn’t even matter how much Adderall I take. I can’t bring myself to write or concentrate on anything. So I drown myself in Doctor Who episodes. I’m supposed to be graduating, but I can’t do any work.

How am I supposed to explain this to my professors? Sorry Professor, can’t do work because I can’t concentrate, because I can’t get out of bed, because I keep thinking about this thing that happened two years ago and I don’t know if I’m right or if I really did, in fact, deserve to be hit, and I just can’t think right now, but your class was great.  But I need to graduate and get out of New York. I’ve already signed a lease in Orlando to go back to work at Disney and I need to do what it takes to get me there. Right now, being here is suffocating me.

My therapist says that because of my PTSD, I am inclined to believe that any good experiences I’ve had over the last two years haven’t taken place, like spending the last year in Florida and working in Disney World. Sometimes even I don’t believe it. Did it happen? I have the pictures to prove I was a performer, but I feel so removed. It doesn’t feel real. It feels like I’m not actually going to get away, but the alternative scares me, because I don’t want to go back home.

I don’t hate my father or my mother. She says I blame her, and maybe she’s right. All I know  now, is that two years on, I’m still dealing with this. And I’m not really sure what to do besides keep going, of course. But my brain is mush. I can’t even tell my parents about how I’m affected by this more than I care to admit –- that the nightmares still happen and that some days I can’t get out of bed. And even though I feel like I more or less have control over my depression, some days I feel like this would all be much better if I just died, because then it’s over. These days I don’t really think about killing myself – maybe there’s a small part of me that believes I don’t have that right. But I do wish something would, and that my time would come soon, so then it would be all over, and I could finally rest and not worry about any of this: Never being good enough, never doing the right thing, graduating on time, or choosing the profession my parents want me to. It’s family honour and all that rubbish. I’m tired and I want it to be over. Please, can’t it be over?

The truth is, I don’t know if things will ever get better. I feel like moving is a good first step. I need to be removed from the experience. I need to be able to be in New York and not feel like my childhood hometown is tainted by this traumatic and (hopefully) one-off thing. And I feel like working at the Most Magical Place on Earth will help, because then I’ll get to see families at their happiest and feed off of it. I love my job because I get to contribute to that happiness. And maybe I’ll begin to heal. But right now I need the time and space for it.

 

Image Courtesy of Adi Constantin

  • Maura Hart

    deeply sympathetic. i am suffering in a similar way, from abuse from nuns in a catholic orphanage. however, that you are still christian i found astounding. myself? i reject their mythology of a racist, capricious murderous, raping, pillaging hateful, vengeful god. and i see every day, how they reject their zombie jeebus and follow only what they want, which seems to be a lot of mysogyny , greed and racism. good luck to you