Thank you, Sarah Olson at Third of a Lifetime, for bringing up a question that needs answered.
Do abused children get / have PTSD, and should the mental health community be addressing PTSD in abused children?
Lets see . . . hmmm. Nightmares from age 3 to 45ish. Got to where I enjoyed them; never had a so-called ‘wish fulfillment dream” that didn’t end badly. (That’s where the novel “The Boy” came from – a dream in 1976). After 15 or 20 years they were merely . . . interesting, except for one, a ‘life dream’ – which my poor wife witnessed the effects it had on me for the next 3 days of a beach vacation. Yeah, it gets in the way of enjoyment, folks. PTSD: the gift that just keeps on giving, eh?
As a young child I had ‘triggers’. A raised hand – I’d flinch, guard myself. Always on guard – ALWAYS. (Even asleep, for when HE’D come in – and there were 3 we had to fear – constantly.) When I took martial arts I made a lousy sparring partner – I blocked everything, including ‘demonstration’ blows. Oh well. Go figure. It was an excellent survival tool, don’t you think? Still is.
A touch: sexual connotation, especially from anyone older, or my own age. Or younger even, come to think about it, cuz’ the guy that groomed me used me to recruit other kids. (oy vey! Saying that HURTS, man! We hug that child, but still . . . ouchie ouchie.) PTSD my butt. This crap hurts, ya know? Think about it. And no, voices are saying, you are NOT brave you are STUPID fighting fighting…. okay, guys, shut up (sigh). Life is a dream, and all my dreams nightmares. Go figure. Fun fun under the burning sun till your brain goes dead. Been there, done that.
Abused kids have triggers. Abused kids have thoughts. Given the symptoms by WebMD (a minor list):
- Reliving the event = check. Even as a child I relived the shame of the guy who used us for sex mocking us afterwards – over and over again, to this day. Very hard thing on us.
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the event: yes – quarreling adults triggers anxiety. So do kids screams. Did as a kid, too.
- Feeling numb: Waiting was the worst. Did you know waiting can hurt really bad? Dad liked to make us wait – and we’d ‘go away’. Docs say I have a huge pain tolerance. I tell ’em: it’s not that it doesn’t hurt. I just ‘ignore’ it. And sometimes . . . go away.
- Feeling keyed up: (alert for danger). Please see that about guarding. We were always alert for danger, but alertness doesn’t do you good when that danger can’t be avoided nor controlled. It just makes things worse. (See the ‘feeling numb’ thing again?).
- Physical symptoms for no reason you can think of (called somatic complaints) – I don’t know about this one. There was so much pain – how do you define?
- Feelings of shame, despair, or hopelessness: defines my life for 40 some-odd years, even as a child.
- Difficulty controlling your emotions. WE are good at the appearance, being DID/MPD we can ‘control’ it. But we also had some rage problems that we far, far, far out of control. Like many abused children, we abused things, like poor kitty and dog.
- Problems with family or friends: Wait. THEY were the problem, right? And friends – hard to come by when you move all the time.
- Impulsive or self-destructive behavior: Can you say ex-junkie? And I was an impulsive child who didn’t care if he got hurt bad. Sometimes I just wanted to be dead anyway. Lots of times. It just seemed like it would be easier.
- Changed beliefs or changed personality traits. I was MPD by the time I was 13. We had major changes at 5, 8 or 9, 10, 13, 21, 26, 28. List goes on.
So yes . . . I think the mental health community needs to treat child abuse survivors, and many abused children just as they would a soldier who’d just come back from a battle where he’d been seperated from his unit for years, beaten, tortured, dehumanized, perhaps raped . . . shall we continue the list, or are you all starting to get the picture?
Yes, poor children: you get PTSD, too. And like a cruel joke from Sandy Claws – it’s the gift that just keeps on giving . . . for life.
Treat ’em with love. And lets get the ball rolling on this one, folks. It’s about time.
M3 & JW, with Crowd sorta angry about this stuff. (Don’t they already KNOW this? My gawd . . . sigh).