Trauma makes you feel unimportant, but you matter #NoNormal

Rowan discusses how post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has affected her life, since experiencing sexual assault as a teenager.

True Stories

Rowan no normal

Rowan was sexually assaulted as a teenager and experiences PTSD

I’m Rowan and I’m 22 years old. I’m a student from Derbyshire and recently started studying a Masters in Psychology. I love to play the ukulele, and my other interests include poetry, true crime documentaries, and fashion.

I found myself unable to be clean

When I was diagnosed with PTSD in March 2018 I had been exhibiting symptoms for years. I was sexually assaulted when I was 13, and I found myself unable to be clean. The memory of their hands felt branded into my skin. At the time, I didn’t understand that it was PTSD I was experiencing. All I knew was that I didn’t feel clean, and the memory of the assault replayed in my mind sporadically, whether I was awake or asleep.

I didn’t have much experience with positive male attention

Although my parents are still together, my Dad has always been detached from my life. As a result, when boys would chase me around and corner me to unhook my bra, I thought it was a joke. On a school ice skating trip, I was cornered on the ice rink by three boys. They touched me inappropriately, then continued to chase me around the rink, despite there being teachers and other students everywhere. Nobody noticed. I was invisible. The next week, I told a teacher and made a statement. The boys were excluded. For two weeks. Yet nine years later, I still experience the repercussions of their ‘joke’.

Leaving the house is challenging even to this day

Other events in my life have caused complexities with my symptoms. I have significant difficulty sleeping, and when I do sleep I have nightmares, or distressing lucid dreams. Sometimes I feel invisible, and other times I feel burdened by the weight of peoples’ eyes. I am easily startled, and am frequently labelled as ‘paranoid’ by friends and family. Although I love to read, I haven’t read a book for leisure in years because I cannot concentrate on the words. My mind is constantly trying to keep tabs on my surroundings.

I still feel burdened by my condition

I have achieved things like passing my driving test, and obtaining a first-class degree. But the ongoing trauma throughout my adolescence has caused my emotionally unstable personality disorder. I have become agoraphobic, and at the moment I have great difficulty going to places alone, especially to places I don’t know well.

When I am hyperaroused, I use grounding techniques

For three years I was under the care of a community mental health team. During this time, I had a course of cognitive behaviour therapy, which didn’t work well for me. Recently I bought myself a big fluffy keyring that’s really soft. When I become distressed in public I hold it, so that I can experience a positive sensation. Even though it might look childish, it’s a wholesome feeling that reminds me of happier times when I was younger. I also use tea tree shower gel, because it creates a tingling sensation on your skin that genuinely makes me feel clean without harming myself by scrubbing my skin.

Trauma is not your fault

No matter what happened to you, no matter what you saw, you are not to blame. Please be kind to yourself. There is no shame in seeking therapy, or medication. You are worth helping. Your life is important, no matter how unimportant the trauma has left you feeling.

Next Steps

  • Rethink Mental Illness offers advice and support on mental health. Visit their website or call The Rethink Mental Illness Advice Service on 0300 5000 927, 9:30am - 4pm, Monday to Friday.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 15-Oct-2018