Today is what they call a bad mental health day. I feel like a piece of crap that got walked in on someone’s shoe. If you saw me now, you’d see nothing more than a woman typing away with an intense look about her.
You wouldn’t see the panic that’s one unreleased sob away from engulfing me. Or the concrete wrecking ball of yuck hanging in my chest; its malevolent stillness a promise of untold damage to come.
Surely one of the saddest symptoms of C-PTSD is how it all happens below the surface. An abject failure in most aspects of life, creating a persona is one thing I’ll admit to having a talent for. It was a survival mechanism for long enough that it comes naturally now. I couldn’t be the child my family wanted, so in order to be loved, I learned to fake it.
I learned that you must be all things to all people to survive this wilderness.
Who shall I be today?
How can I be me when I’m so unsure of who that is? All I really know about her are her weaknesses, failures and not-good-enough-ness. I don’t know how to just ‘be.’
What set me off this time? Listening to well-meant constructive criticism on my work (in my other life). Nothing they said was unkind or unreasonable. During the in-coming feedback, I was able to see parts I agreed and disagreed with plus ways I could improve.
Analytically, it was a successful interaction but inside, I was dying.
I am finely wired; the slightest criticism pre-empts a paralysing descent down the hot spiral of shame.
And then the voice pipes up:
What were you thinking? Of course you’re no good at this.
How embarrassing that you thought you were.
How mortifying that you put yourself out there thinking you were.
People think you’re ridiculous.
They’re all laughing at how self-deluded you are.
You’re a joke.
Expecting people to pay for the shit you churn out?
Who the fuck do you think you are?
The voice is my constant companion. It sounds like my mum and is relentlessly vicious in tone, day in day out. Jeering, mocking, belittling, sneering, humiliating… destroying me.
In my family, big displays of emotion are deemed attention-seeking and selfish. I’ve had years to craft an unruffled exterior while my insides burn. But sadness follows shame, and guilt gnaws at the corners of my soul. These are the times I question everything while the voice leaves me in no doubt about my failings as a human.
I’m an embarrassing imposition in the lives of all who know me, it says. I’m a millstone around my kid’s neck.
‘Everyone would be better off without you.’
This is C-PTSD.
It’s a leap from receiving criticism to contemplating death in less than one, short hour.
It’s the endless self-flagellation, the toxic fog of shame, and the constant, exhausting pretense that I’m an emotionally balanced person.
It’s deactivating my social media because suddenly I can’t bear for one more person to see me.
It’s pushing everyone away and retreating further into my own broken head.
It’s a never-ending scream for help that nobody will hear.
And I am so tired, Nobody.