Updated: Dec 31, 2020
This month, the conversation has centered around PTSD. If you are going through this, I want you to know you’re not alone. Here’s a snippet of my story, and please reach out if you need support.
It took nine months of therapy and a surgery for me to finally admit to myself that I was suffering from PTSD, but looking back now, I started experiencing emotional shifts long before the assault took place.
Before I started working at the jail, I watched every serial-killer documentary and jail reality show and usually fell asleep to horror movies—which had always been my favorite. Shortly after I started working at the jail, however, I no longer watched movies or shows that involved violence or criminals. The things I could never get enough of suddenly began to disturb me, even early into my time working at the jail. When you watch documentaries about serial killers and see their pictures, you might think to yourself, “Wow, that guy looks so evil.” But working at the jail taught me that evil doesn’t have a look. Some juveniles came from great families. Many were highly intelligent individuals who conducted themselves like model citizens. They appeared clean-cut, and many seemed unthreatening. And yet, they were convicted of some of the most heinous crimes you can imagine.
After a few months at the jail, I couldn’t talk about things that were on the local news. “Did you see the story about the woman who was found in the woods?” my mom would ask. “Did you read about the child who went missing?”
“No,” I would respond coldly. “I don’t care to know about it.” Looking back now, I can see that this was early onset of PTSD.
Every day at work, I witnessed inmates assault each other. Every day, I listened to inmates threaten my life, the lives of my coworkers, and the lives of their fellow inmates. I witnessed inmates try to take their own life on more occasions than I care to count—and I was the first responder to an inmate who had successfully done so. I listened as inmates confided in me about the horrific abuses they were subjected to in their lives. I did all of that for nearly two years, and I later learned that it’s a weight you can’t leave at the door when you clock out of work, despite your best efforts.
Afterward, I just didn’t have any more room for bleak narratives. I couldn’t bear to hear anything I didn’t have to.
When working in the jail, I compartmentalized incredibly well, and everything I saw or dealt with never bothered me—or at least that’s what I told myself. With each horrific thing I witnessed, I grew more and more rigid, internally and mentally building my armor. I was tough. I could handle this. This prevailing mentality stuck with me for years. The first time I started to take that armor off was when I started therapy with Maureen, fifteen months after the assault.
With the help of Maureen, I finally started processing all the grief that I buried and compartmentalized for so long. It took nine months of therapy to admit that I wasn’t “fine” after the assault—which happened fifteen months before therapy. So, in total, it took me two years to get to a place of acceptance of what actually happened to me. Two years! It was a lot of work, and at times it was incredibly uncomfortable and unpleasant.
But I did it.
If you want more information on PTSD, invisible injuries, or recovery, subscribe to my blog. You can read more of my book here! If you or someone you know has dealt with recovery from trauma, feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear your story.