News

PTSD: The Monster Inside My Head

Trigger Warning: This article, and pages it links to, contains information about sexual abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder which may be triggering to survivors.

 

My name is Veronica Fiorini. I am 26-years-old, and I am an incest survivor.

As I write out these words, I still have to pause mid-sentence, because the truth and reality of that statement still brings chills to my body, and unwanted memories to my mind. But I know that staying quiet doesn’t help me, and it doesn’t help anyone else either. I am someone that has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for most of my entire life.  It started from the moment I was born into this world, when the molesting and grooming from my biological father began right after I was delivered out of my mother’s womb, before it turned into full sexual abuse later on in my life.

I love the way Dr. Caroline Leaf, one of my favorite author’s, defines PTSD and its effects on a person:

“He or she has experienced a crushing mental event that fundamentally changed the meaning of their life and altered the brain structurally… During the trauma, he or she did not choose, process, or react correctly to the event – making the thought that became wired in a jumbled toxic mess. As the person relives the event over and over, it wires itself deeper into the mind, becoming a main filter and disrupting normal function. Flashbacks – reliving the bad memory many times a day – strengthen the circuit, making it worse and more debilitating.”

I spoke out about the abuse at the age of 19, and the way that PTSD is described above, is how I’ve had to live since even before that age. Going through all the levels of schooling (elementary, middle, high school, and then college), pretending to be okay. Pretending that I was just like everyone else, when deep down inside, I felt (and sometimes even knew) I wasn’t. I knew I needed help. I could feel my soul crying inside of me for someone, for something, for ANYTHING to embrace me and tell me that the torment in my mind would be over soon.

I would wake up most nights having to vomit because the flashbacks were so intense that my body could not handle them. I would get panic attacks almost daily after finally speaking out at 19 for months on end. I lost many friendships in my lifetime, because many could not understand what I was going through. Many got tired of me sounding like a ‘broken record,’ or felt like failures for not being able to help me, even though I’d tell them they couldn’t.

Fortunately, there IS good news. Through many years of therapy, support from close friends, and most importantly, through my faith in God and through His loving grace, I’ve been able to overcome most of the debilitating effects of this terrible monster that hides under the bed of what used to be an abandoned room in my mind. PTSD may be a monster inside many people’s heads, but it is not one that defines us. It is not one that defines how we have to live. It is not one that will rob our true identity. It is not one that will win.

I hope that this vulnerable message that stems from deep within my heart and soul, will reach someone. Anyone. To let you know that you are not alone. There is hope in life. You are not defined by PTSD, and you WILL overcome it.

 

If you have been affected by sexual violence and need help, we urge you to reach out to RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE or hotline.rainn.org/online.