Blogs Reports

Trauma


Reported by Tess

Published on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023

Accommodation Isolation Mental Health Support and Relationships Trauma
Blogs Reports

Trauma


Written by Tess

Published on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023

Accommodation

Isolation

Mental Health

Support and Relationships

Trauma

What do you do when you are told by a psychologist that you likely have PTSD from your homelessness?

When I experienced that this week, I was relieved. It feels like with a name/label/word for what I’m experiencing there is an explanation and a possibility of letting go of the baggage. I feel the same with my other diagnoses – the labels are explanations and evidence that I’m not doing something wrong or that I’m not a bad person, there is a name for what is happening and with that releases some of the need to beat myself up.

But since that conversation I’ve been thinking about what the psychologist highlighted as being part of the PTSD and those original triggers all happened prior to becoming homeless. The things that happened in the lead up to being evicted are what makes me mute whatever I’m listening to/watching, and retreat from windows when there is a knock on the door or a bang on a window. I know I’m safe living here, rent is paid in advance, I have a good relationship with the landlords, but still I’ll hear a knock at the door and I’ll have to fight the urge to crawl under my desk. Even when I’m expecting someone I’ll panic. I’ll feel shaken for a while afterwards when I have answered the door, regardless of who was there.

The triggers are things I don’t think about until a doctor asks me directly about them – they are just things I think of as how I live my life. I have to open envelopes/emails/messages from anyone official immediately before the anxiety kicks in. I have to decide if I’m going to answer the phone when it rings before I see who is calling. I have to make sure I leave the house at least every three days so I don’t run the risk of it becoming a fortress I dare not leave.

They are mechanisms I put in when I was rehoused based on what I’d been through building up to the eviction.

Could something have been done at the time to lessen the long-term impact?

Perhaps. I was completely isolated before support services came in and without someone being present with me the whole time I’m unsure whether anything effective could have been done. My post being diverted to my support worker could have worked but by then I’d long stopped opening any envelopes. Having someone to call when I was afraid? There were mental health numbers I could have rung but I didn’t trust anyone.

What I really needed was to be removed from that environment and given a new start. A new start in somewhere that wasn’t a block of council flats with a thin plywood front door, a drug dealer in the flat beneath mine, concrete floors and massive windows overlooking a main road.

I got used to being scared. Feeling scared became my ‘normal’. I associated that flat and the house I was evicted from with fear. I still do. That block of flats will be demolished this year and I want to be there to watch while it happens – part of me needs to see that I won’t and can’t return to that place.

The difference between knowing and feeling is where I’m trapped now. I know that I can’t go back there. I know that the responses I have are disproportionate and unhealthy. I know that a knock on a door is not a threat. But my feelings, my instincts, my body.. that all doesn’t seem to know and keeping those things in check prevents me being able to relax and prevents being able to fully move on. It’s like part of me is still in that house, a part of me is still in that flat, a part of me is still sofa surfing – and I don’t know how to reconcile all these bits of me. I don’t know how to feel united within myself. I don’t know how to be unafraid.

Written by Tess


Hi I'm Tess, I work for Groundswell and have a long history of mental illness. During a particularly bad patch I sofa surfed for a while. I have a very opinionated cat and live near Manchester, although I'm formerly from Stoke-on-Trent.

Read all of Tess's articles

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Accommodation Isolation Mental Health Support and Relationships Trauma

2 thoughts on “Trauma

  1. This was an eye opener to read tess mate, I go through a very similar battle but for different reasons, iv been pondering the idea of sharing my story but didn’t have the courage like so thank you for sharing this 😀 👍

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