I'm 26, I was abused by my father from age 4 (that I remember) till he died a few years ago. I feel on the edge, all the time. Night after night. I'm really scared. I would like you to tell me what exactly an hallucination is and what the difference is between an hallucination and an intense flashback.
I fear I might be ill or going crazy. I dread nights because I experience things I cannot control I get into such a desperate state that I feel I can't tell what is real and what is not and I cry and can't get out of it and I get so desperate I fear I won't be able to get through the moment.
I feel things and hear a voice telling me I'm going crazy and laughing at me and I see things I cannot make go away. I see a knife and it feels real and I close my eyes but I cannot make it go away. It feels like I'm trapped. I feel it over me. I can't make the images, voices and feelings disappear. When it happens I am not sure what is real. I just feel something terribly bad is happening and I am afraid of losing myself completely.
Is what I'm experiencing an hallucination? Do I have something? It scares me to know it's my mind producing these things. It scares me that I have no control. I hurt myself because that voice tells me to. I cannot control the images I see. I cannot stop the knife or the hands on me. What can I do? Please would you help me? Thanks.
Osita (26 year-old woman) from Argentina
On the basis of what you have written, you are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is not the same as 'going crazy' or 'losing your mind'. PTSD is a NORMAL response to an abnormal situation.
It is a serious and very distressing condition, but it is NOT A LIFE SENTENCE. Others have beaten it, therefore you can too.
However, you do need help. I don't know anything about your personal circumstances, or the availability of services where you live. But if it is possible, you should find a psychologist or social worker or psychiatrist who is able to use 'narrative therapy' and/or 'cognitive therapy'. Also, a technique called 'EMDR' has been used by many therapists to help trauma sufferers.
The flashbacks and nightmares trouble you because you still have a lot of emotional connection to the terrible happenings in your past. Something in your surroundings, or even in your thoughts, triggers a memory, and suddenly you don't just remember, it is as if you were there.
One of the things that can become such a trigger is the fear of this happening. So, because you are terrified of having another nightmare, you think of what you experience in the nightmares, and this brings one on.
Whatever form of therapy is used, it needs to separate the emotion from the memories. I also have had some awful things done to me when I was a child. I can now remember them, and feel little more than a churning in my stomach. And that passes.
You may be able to devise some ways of separating emotion from memory. One of my clients was a lady whose father had abused her over many years. I suggested to her that she write an angry letter to her (dead) father, then ceremonially burn it. She did better: she wrote the letter on toilet paper, then used it and flushed it down. After this, whenever she thought of her father, she couldn't help laughing. It's impossible to feel terrified while laughing!
Other clients have used statements something like this: 'You old so-and-so, you made my life a misery while you were alive. Now you are dead. Good! Leave me alone, I refuse to have you make my life a misery even now.'
I hope this is of help to you. Your aim should be to go forward with your life, and leave the past buried with him.
Good luck, Bob