by Rachel Hope
as told to Julie Weingarden Dubin
I’ve suffered from chronic, complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) most of my life. I was badly abused and neglected as a child and experienced serious trauma. I was raped at age 4 and at age 11 I was in a horrible accident. A truck hit me while I was riding my bike. I barely survived, and endured many reconstructive surgeries.
I had most of the classic symptoms of PTSD — nightmares, chronic hyper-arousal, panic and anxiety, which led to persistent irritable bowel syndrome, stomach ulcers, chronic pain and other stress-related illnesses. I also had a sense that my loved ones were about to tragically die any minute. I had difficulty trusting others and, because I was defensive and reactionary, other people had a hard time trusting me. I got startled easily and often jumped and screamed from common things like the phone ringing or someone’s voice.
But despite my childhood trauma, I knew I always wanted a family. I had two children, Jesse, 22, and Grace 4, with “known donors” or elective “co-parents.”
Having spent more than 20 years trying every type of therapy for PTSD with little to no success, I had resigned to being handicapped for life. Although it sometimes seemed impossible to live with months of vomiting or sessions of panic that made it hard to leave the house, I began to accept my difficulties.
In 2005, an assistant at my rental property business researched and printed out all the clinical trials he could find online dealing with PTSD. He told me to pick one. He was disturbed by my predicament and was upset by my startle response — after seeing me hit the floor screaming because the phone rang. He felt that my then 11-year-old son was being damaged by my symptoms. I chose an MDMA clinical trial led by Dr. Michael Mithoefer in South Carolina. It showed the most promise, but it was unconventional. MDMA is the official term for the drug Ecstasy.
I had never taken recreational drugs. All the prescription drugs I had ever been given made me sick or they didn’t work. But after just two clinical sessions with MDMA-aided therapy, I had an immediate 80 percent reduction in symptoms and another 10 percent of my symptoms subsided that next year.
I’m a survivor and I’m able to pass my wisdom and knowledge to my kids. I don’t rob them of their own journey by telling them too much about my past. I don’t want to traumatize anyone with stories of my childhood. I look for ways to teach the essence of what I’ve learned by sharing insights and wisdom about their lives and the current events of our time.
The final stages of recovery from PTSD are about living in the now and not allowing the past to consume our lives. Raising my kids allows me to see what a normal healthy childhood is like. In some ways I’m experiencing the fun that I didn’t get in childhood and I’m playing in a safe zone for the very first time.
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