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Trying to cope with PTSD
I am new to this forum and am hoping I can seek guidance and any assistance from those willing to take the time to read my post.
I have recently been diagnosed with PTSD from a sexual assault incident that happened within the work place starting two years ago. I was assaulted by someone I trusted and looked up to aka my manager. It started off with just comments about how my boyfriend and I ended our relationship and how I could do better, this led to other more inappropriate comments. He never targeted any of the other girls as they all had partners and as I felt so low from my break-up I was an easy target. Things progressed to get worse through the year and I was sexually assaulted in an office before he was moved to another location. I never said a word as who was going to believe me over a well respected manager. I finally told one of my friends at work and when our new manager started she let it slip what had happened to me over the course of the 2 years. My new management informed my regional manager and the case was investigated but before the accused could be informed he got a tip off from someone and quit his job before he heard the accusations against him. My work then decided to sweep it under the rug after they found in my favour and I was told never to mention it again.
In February of this year I had a mental break down after two months from the investigation and all I could think was how I wanted to end my life. I ended up leaving my job that I loved so much due to my PTSD and not coping. I have always struggled with depression and anxiety since my dad passed away 10 years ago. I was going so well after meetings with my amazing therapist that I’ve seen for nearly 10 years but this week has hit me like a tone of bricks and I’ve cried every night wishing the pain to stop. I feel like I can’t tell my mum, who I live with, as she feels since I’m medicated I should be on the right track and not feeling how I am. I am already ashamed. I’m struggling to get back into the work force and to find who I once was as a person. I feel everything has gone down hill from friends, family and the guy I was interested in. I lack confidence and struggle to see the good anymore but I’m very good at hiding it all with a smile so no-one thinks anything is wrong by looking at me, but it’s eating me inside.
Any assistance or advice would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you - MacGirl7.
Welcome to the forums and thank you for sharing what must be an overwhelmingly difficult experience for you right now (as well as when it occured in real time). We are so sorry that this has happened to you and hope that our wonderful community can offer you some support.
In the meantime, we have also sent you a private message to offer some extra support. Please know that you are not alone with this and if you feel comfortable, please keep sharing with us about how you are going.
Hello and welcome to the forum. This is a good place to be as just about everyone who posts here has a mental health difficulty of some sort. While our experiences (and diagnoses) are different we can all relate to the pain it causes. Please fee free to post as much as you wish.
Shame is a common feeling yet there is no reason for you to be ashamed. You did not make your manager assault you and most certainly did not want it. I feel disgusted at his behaviour and especially for targeting someone who was vulnerable. That's really low. He clearly showed his guilt by leaving before the investigation could get started. Sadly it is often the case that someone can be respected and be seen as a good person while they use their power to target someone. It would not be surprising to find others who have been at the receiving end of his behaviours. Probably women who have left the company rather than complain.
I am sorry you felt you could not continue in your job though I can see how difficult it was being constantly reminded of these events. I can understand the company telling you not to speak about it. Did they offer you any counselling etc? I know you have your therapist but it would have been nice.
I wish I had the words to tell you how to get through this time. We are all so different and manage pain, grief and recovery in different ways. You will get through this. I know it's so very hard at the moment and I do feel for your pain. You have a good therapist who is already helping you over the loss of your father. Please accept my condolences over this.
How do you manage your life from here on? My own experiences have taught me the value of family and friends in these situations. I had a similar experience and felt I had not received justice as the person responsible got off with no consequences. He did get the sack but was already planning his new business anyway. I felt cheated and abandoned.
It's been five years and I thought I was getting over it but it came back when I was triggered by something that happened to another person. It is hard. I wanted you to know your feelings are normal and there is no shame in this. I also know how we can feel it is our own fault however illogical though that is. Where emotions are concerned there is often no logic and regret can be so corrosive.
Please keep posting here.
Thanks for your honesty and courage to share your experience. Your story and feelings almost mirrored mine word for word and I can only imagine how hard it has been not being able to tell your mum, it took me ten years before I told anyone. It wasn't your fault and everyone has the right to go to work in a safe environment free from people like your boss.
As for advice I can only speak of what worked for me, we are all different and will respond differently to different therapies. I have found talking about my experience with someone I trust really beneficial, I blamed myself for years and felt so alone and ashamed but once I opened up I begin to move forward, it wasn't easy but I encourage to keep searching for the right support I found using more than one mental health professional really helpful as I could focus on my PTSD with one and depression with another, but that's just me.
You may not find the right fit straight away but there is hope and there is so much support available.
I struggled with my perpetrators not being prosecuted, there was no justice and it made me angry for a long time. I still get triggers and have flashbacks but overtime with support I have learnt to recognise and manage them much better. I have learnt so much about PTSD and know that I'm not going crazy, my behavious, thoughts and feelings are totally normal for someone who has experienced trauma.
I struggle at times to reach out myself but know how valuable it is to do so and how much better I feel afterwards.
I still ring beyondblue or other support lines because you don't need an appointment, just pick up the phone and have a chat, it's free, anonymous and an easy way to engage with someone who is trained to offer support.
Thanks again for your honesty and courage, your awesome.
For immediate relief breathing exercises are a pretty safe bet, deep slow breathing helps to slow any panic attacks and gives you something to focus on other than your trauma and whatever post trauma behaviours/thoughts you have. It is a long term process and you are now aware that things can come up at any time, mostly when you are not ready for it nor expecting it, that means you have to find your set of techniques and strategies that work for you. Trust me, there IS something or things that WILL work for you, finding them and practicing them is the hard part.
One thing I have found that PTSD sufferers are very good at is standing outside themselves and 'watching' how you are reacting or behaving and then asking "Why ?" of themselves. Knowing your triggers can also be a great help. We all know in hindsight that something we did was maybe a bit silly or a reaction we had wasn't 'needed' but that doesn't help at the time. If you can 'step outside yourself' it helps to catch those things right at the time. Having tools you can use 'at the time' is something we all need to get, to develop and they are different for everybody because we are all individuals.
You may notice I am not even bothered with the past event, what caused it all, what I am upset about, what I am interested in is how I react, what I do, now, here in the present, do I have the tools to control my mental behaviour, to calm myself down to the point where I can look at the present and make my mind run more smoothly. That's the key. If any of this sounded ok and maybe a 'bit' helpful, feel free to discuss anything you want with me at any time.