The Flinch has always been there.
I first remember The Flinch when I was a junior in high school. My family imploded from years of alcoholism and abuse. I came forward, telling anyone who would listen that my father had sexually abused me for several years.
Every time I told somebody, there was The Flinch. A physical reaction, like I had delivered an open-handed slap to the face. Or an involuntary emotional reaction that I saw just behind the other person’s eyes; like an emotional smack or a curtain closing.
I saw The Flinch a lot, until one day, it wasn’t there anymore because I stopped speaking. My voice went dormant. I studied hard and worked my way through my last year of high school and then college. I eventually got a job as a teacher and I got married and had kids. All the while, blissfully pretending that nothing flinchable had ever happened to me.
Okay, not blissfully pretending. How about straight up denial? Because I was “over it.” I had gone to counseling when I was in college and I had “moved on.”
Until I had a complete breakdown about ten years ago, and my recovery really began.
In 2006, I realized – against my will, mind you – that I was not done with my grief and trauma. After settling in with a new therapist, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. I started talking again about my abuse and challenges and experiences, my voice paper thin and breaking, my shoulders up to my ears with tension, my stomach knotted with anxiety. Every day, and month, and year, over ten years, my voice got stronger and louder. My nerves smoothed out, and I stood up straight.
In 2015, I began to do stand-up comedy that centered around mental health. While I had some experience doing stand-up, I had not focused on telling jokes about my PTSD, depression, and anxiety, or my childhood sexual abuse. For the first time since I was a junior in high school, I began to say, “I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse” to anyone who would listen.
The Flinch was back.
One of my first recent encounters with The Flinch happened while I was speaking with someone in my local coffee shop. I’m a regular there, and they know me and what I’m about. One of the other regulars said, “Hey, you’re the one with PTSD, right?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“Were you in the military?” she asked.
“No,” I said.
“Then, why do you have PTSD?”
I hesitated for three seconds. Should I tell her the truth? I took a deep breath and said, “I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.”
The Flinch. Right behind her eyes. Not because she was a terrible person or anything, but because she didn’t expect me to say anything like that. She thought that the only people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder were those in the military – and those people are most likely male. That is the most common information people have about this disorder.
I felt the weight of compassion and responsibility. If I wanted to see a decrease in The Flinch then I needed to do something about it. A few mornings later, I literally woke up with the idea to create a website and podcast called PTSD Parent.
Parenting is tough. I know, because I have a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old. Also, PTSD is tough. I know from my network of friends online and in my community that parenting with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is especially difficult. Why not combine a couple of my life challenges to help other people and spread the word about this disorder?
PTSD Parent educates, supports, and inspires all people living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in their homes and families. Right now, PTSD Parent is a website. Soon, it will be joined by a podcast and a book.
Hopefully, I will see less of The Flinch as time goes on. Not because we have become callous to childhood sexual abuse and related trauma, but because we have become better educated, more supportive, and increasingly compassionate.
About Kelly Wilson and PTSD Parent
Kelly Wilson is an author and comedian who entertains and inspires with stories of humor, healing, and hope. Kelly has published a wide range of work for both children and adults. Her latest book, Caskets From Costco, has been chosen as a finalist in the 18th annual Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards, the 10th annual National Indie Excellence Book Awards, and the 2016 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Kelly writes and speaks about finding hope in the process of recovery. She has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. She is the founder of PTSD Parent, a website and podcast that educates, supports, and inspires all people living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in their homes and families. Kelly currently writes for a living and lives with her Magically Delicious husband, junk-punching children, dog, cat, and stereotypical minivan in Portland, Oregon. Read more about her at www.wilsonwrites.com.