This post deals with sexual abuse and might be triggering for some readers.
“Trauma does not discriminate. Nor does it end when the abuse does.” - Grace Tame, Australian Of The Year 2021.
It’s the day after Australia Day; the first day back of the school year.
I kiss my children goodbye and wave them out the door. Make coffee and sit in the despondency of my exhaustion. I had plans today. So many plans. So many things I was looking forward to achieving on the first day to myself after six exceptionally long weeks of juggling part-time work and full-time parenting.
Watch Grace Tame's Australian Of The Year 2021 speech here. Post continues below.
Except, I didn’t sleep last night. Again. I’m not sure I could tell you the last time I slept all night and woke feeling refreshed. I’m not sure I ever have.
See, I’m a victim of childhood sexual abuse. I was abused and raped by someone within my home from the ages of seven to 12. Most days, and nights. Sometimes more than once each day. Because of this, I suffer from Complex-PTSD, a condition resulting from ongoing or repetitive exposure to traumatising and highly stressful situations.
More than 20 years later, sleep remains difficult for me because of the way childhood trauma affected my brain during the developing years. The amygdala, the brain’s centre responsible for detecting and processing fear, triggers a fight-or-flight response at the threat of danger.
After trauma, the amygdala remains hypervigilant, meaning it continues to see threats everywhere, leading to panic attacks and anxiety. This fight-or-flight response can still occur decades later, either consciously or unconsciously, and often out of nowhere.
There is also somatisation, which occurs when psychological distress is converted into physical symptoms such as muscle tension, migraines, digestive issues, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. This is seen often in trauma survivors who have unprocessed trauma, suppressed emotions or repressed memories, who experience chronic physical pain even though their pain may be unable to be medically diagnosed. It is even more common for survivors of trauma who have been unable to voice their experiences. The body remembers even if we choose to forget.
In the quiet of this post-summer morning, I struggle to find the energy and motivation to begin my day. I am, most days, strong in mind and body. I have overcome that which sought to overcome me. I have done the hard - impossible - work of healing.
I am a woman with drive, determination, passion, and a willingness to work hard to achieve my goals. But today, I am defeated. Consistent lack of sleep and relentless pain leave me worn. Today, I have nothing.
There is a message from a friend, “You HAVE to see the speech the Australian Of The Year gave last night. Wow.”