Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Aftermath of Abuse

Growing up, I never heard of PTSD nor did I ever correlate your past affecting your life in the future. I was in high school before I realized something was really wrong with the family structure I grew up in. I knew my dad was strict because I had been teased by other kids about it. But I think as my fear of him grew, so did my awareness that this was not normal.

I was the youngest of six children. My mom and all of us were abused at the hands of my dad, physically and mentally. It started with whippings, to beatings, to being lectured for hours, kept hidden in the house, getting hit and beat for things we were made to say we did but did not. It was constant turmoil riddled with fights and arguments as my mom tried to fight back or fight on our behalf. My parents would go weeks ignoring each other after a fight. They divorced, and separated twice but eventually remarried.

Aside from the sheer terror I felt every time my father entered the same room, or called my name, the worse part was his belief that all women were whores. He told us if we were let out into the world we would do nothing but sleep around. He talked against my mother so much that my other sisters began disliking her. They still struggle with a relationship today. He tried to make us four girls believe that basically we were worthless. I believe he loved us, but his upbringing made him hate women at a very early age.

I think he had PTSD over his mother dying when he was 13 and felt she left him. He saw his sisters have children by different men and instead of understanding why they chose to move on he looked at them at whores. Perhaps girlfriends cheated on him. I don’t know. I just know he took it out on us girls. We cooked, cleaned, washed clothes, ironed, and did school work. After high school, there was no life but to care for the family

I graduated high school at 17. A little early because I skipped the 5th grade, against my father’s advice. But he moved us from Arizona to Alabama when I was 10 1/2 so I went straight into the 6th grade. At the time of my graduation from high school, my oldest sister was 24 years old, had never gone to college or worked. Most kids I went to school with didn’t even know she and my sister under her existed. They were not allowed to leave the house.

The summer I graduated, I guess my dad knew I was gonna be trouble so he made it a mission to let me know in no uncertain terms was things going to be different for me. He made our home into a prison. We lived in a double-wide trailer. He nailed shades to every window and padlocked the doors from the outside. When he had to work, we were locked in the house, literally unable to leave. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I thought if I left, things would be worse on my mom and I didn’t want that. But I sure daydreamed about it.

My father had neck surgery in November 1992. Two days post-op, he suffered anoxic brain damage. He choked after being given an extra dosage of morphine that the doctor discontinued earlier that day because it caused him to hallucinate. The tired nurse on duty was asleep and he went 12-14 minutes without oxygen to his brain. She had been working over her 16th straight hour.

My father was the strong figure, the backbone, however corrupt, of our family. He was a brilliant man, a poet, musician, singer, and scholar. But he had an undiagnosed underlining mental illness. He lived 16 1/2 years in a vegetative state unable to speak, move, or do anything. He was unable to evoke that trembling fear that abusers bring their victims anymore, but the damage was done. I’m not sure he even knew what he was doing until it was too late.

Through it all I learned how to be submissive to a fault, I learned durability-to stick it out. I learned how to be afraid, how to be gullible, and how to look for a leader instead of being one. None of these things were good. As a result, I stayed in a nine-year abusive marriage, have had phobias that include agoraphobia where, as an adult, I was afraid to leave my own home. I suffered from social phobia where a group of MY own friends would freak me out if they surrounded me. It took me years to realize I could open a blind or a window or could sit in my own home with the door unlocked. Unfortunately, my children learned these behaviors and suffer from them now.

Today, I am finally coming to grips with my fears and learning how to get off from under the weight of my PTSD. I want to show them if I can do it so can they can too. I began performing plays on stage for hundreds of people last year and have conquered social phobia. I still have a time with agoraphobia but once I force myself out at those times I overcome it one bout at a time. I took curtains completely down in my kitchen facing my back yard. It took everything in me to not cover those windows back up. There’s are deep-rooted fears and anxieties I face, but I am trying to conquer. I’m getting there. One day at a time, one fear at a time.

By the way, the day my father fell ill, and I saw him lying there unresponsive, I forgave him. I prayed for his recovery daily. I became a nurse to prevent what happened to him happen to anyone else. I learned he may have been paranoid schizophrenic and/or bipolar. I hold on to the fact that I know in his own way, he loved us and for that I am grateful. I wish he had wakened from his coma to meet his grandkids and see that all women, especially my mom, my sisters, and myself, are Queens.


Valerie Collins
Valerie Collins
Valerie Collins was born in Tucson, Az, the last of six children. She has loved writing since a child but decided to pursue a career in Orthopedic nursing. Shortly after her marriage and birth of her first child at the age of 22, she was diagnosed with the chronic pain disease, Fibromyalgia, its subsequent conditions, illnesses, and syndromes. Once the disease disabled her in 2001, she revisited her passion for writing poetry and short stories and has accumulated over 100 poems and spoken word pieces over the years. She became a member of the International Society of poets in 2002 and The International Who's Who in Poetry in 2006. She currently is a member of Realistic Poetry International, Who's Who Among American Business Women, and Women of Facebook Create. Her accolades include 2005 Poet of the Year. She was awarded both the Outstanding Achievement Award in Poetry and the Official Commemorative Poetry Ambassador Medal while serving as a Poetry Ambassador associate in 2007. She wrote a play entitled “Fix Me Jesus” in 2012 for Alabama 1st COGIC State AIM Youth Convention Competition drama category which was awarded second place. Currently, she is in rehearsals for her second stage play for the local playwright, Shawna D. Moore which will be on stage in August 2019. She is in the process of compiling a two-volume poetry book entitled My Poetic Life: A Memoir of Love and a book detailing her life with Fibromyalgia, entitled Behind the Walls of Silence. In July 2018, she created her first blog site My Poetic Life (The Book) as @vfurrmstheblogger to act as a launch for both books and it has taken on a life of its own. She also owns a small crochet business, Val's Gifts of Warmth, where she sells her handmade crochet items.

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  1. Valerie! Bless you for sharing your story. Your traumatic history likely affects your health in other ways as well. My mother was more covert in her abusive ways, but it still affected me emotionally and physically. My father was an alcoholic and because of this he wasn’t involved in much of my life. I too stayed in an abusive relationship for eleven years being groomed as you mention.

    I hear your story. I feel your story. And you are a Queen. You’ve stuck it through terrible times. You understand your behaviors and try to grow past them. That is the definition of courage! It’s scary but you keep doing it. Your children are lucky to have your grit as their example.

    Do you know about ACE Scores? It may help frame some of these issues. Dr. Nadine Harris Burke wrote a book called The Deepest Well. It gave me such a powerful perspective on my history and my life. And she’s the first Surgeon General of California. Women are powerful.

    • JoAnna,
      When I wrote this, I was asked to be interviewed by a friend who is writing a thesis on PTSD. I didn’t dare think to post it. But then I thought maybe somebody will see they’re not alone and things can get better. I hadn’t heard of that but will certainly give it a read. Thank you for your kind words and for letting me know I’m not alone. You too are a Queen!