I didn’t know I was having a fight-or-flight response. For 23 years. A response that sent me flying outside of my body — dissociating — every time I became triggered. When there was too much sensory input. When I became too overwhelmed. Every time something took me back to my childhood. To my trauma.
While living in a fight-or-flight state, I wasn’t connected to my body. Which led to many extreme complications. Complications like fainting, having high fevers, rashes, hives, allergies, insomnia, chronic pain, digestive and reproductive issues, depression and anxiety and six neurological disorders. Complications that were indicators of trauma I didn’t know I had experienced. Something I only started to understand once I had access….
I’d been struggling again. And was feeling suicidal. So I decided to make an appointment with yet another psychiatrist. It had been three years since my last psychiatric evaluation. I was long overdue.
It took me months to get in with this new natural psychiatrist. Then I was assigned a PA. I like the PA I see. She listens. And seems to genuinely want help. Not something that’s always….
It was March of 2018 and my third attempt at medication in three years. To try to ease my troubled mind. I had tried drugs before — prescribed or not — but this time, I was more desperate than usual for one to work. Because it wasn’t just myself I was trying to save, it was my marriage. My husband and I had recently experienced another incident. Another episode of me unconsciously going after him. Attacking him.
Followed by me attacking myself. Another menstrual cycle had come and gone, and I still didn’t understand what came over me each month. Making my body do things I didn’t want it to do. Like I was possessed. Cursed. Under a spell….
I performed onstage for the first time when I was 15. I don’t remember the part I played, but I do remember the feeling of being onstage, of being accepted by the audience, of being understood, of being someone else. I continued performing onstage through high school and college, but what I didn’t realize until much later was that I spent my entire life performing offstage, as well.
I am neurodiverse with sensory processing disorder (SPD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD) diagnoses, which makes it difficult for me to function in society, but I hide, or mask, my pain, so I’m more accepted by others. So I’m less different. Playing a role. Because of my neurological differences, every sound, smell and touch causes me to have a primitive reaction: I fight, flee or freeze…
For as long as I can remember, receiving sensory information causes me to have a primitive reaction. Touch makes me want to crawl out of my skin so badly, I scratch at it as if trying to get out. The sound of a knock on the door makes me jump from my seat and gasp for air. If the sound continues, I become frightened. Scared for my life. Paranoid. Then, I blackout. A smell, like fish or someone’s perfume, makes me enter into an altered state. Like when Bugs Bunny turns into a monster. My primitive dukes always up, ready for a fight.
Until the age of 35 (I am now 36), I just thought I was crazy. As I’m sure everyone around me did too. But here I am. Ready to share what happens to me. Because if it wasn’t for others sharing, I don’t know where I’d be….
“Beautifully put, Jenna! I am a former journalist of 30 years, and now an MBSR teacher, working with first responders. PTSD is a huge undertaking. Thank you for sharing this.”