Tracy Porter - The Author
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I initially began this book several years ago, not long after I left my second husband. I had repressed the horrors of my childhood, which did nothing but propel me into one disastrous relationship after another.

If I had been fortunate enough to have been born into a more loving family, my life could have been completely different. Sadly, that was not the case. Instead, I made one bad decision after another until, at the age of 40, I found myself twice divorced, estranged from my child, working in a dead end job, and living in a housing association for vulnerable people. Although there are many who have endured much more horrific ordeals than myself, because I am such a sensitive person I felt that life could not get much worse than what it was.

Being a survivor of child abuse, I developed coping mechanisms to help me get through what is often a very difficult life. These adaptations to my personality have helped me to survive, but they have not helped me to live a fulfilling life. If anything, these mal-adaptations have been counterproductive to the successful functioning of my life and have led me to make many disastrous life choices, which has stayed with me for the duration of my life.

While there are a few survivors of child abuse who go on to make something of themselves and achieve something of importance in their lives, the vast majority of survivors of child abuse enter into adulthood full of self loathing and insecurities, forming relationships that will enable them to re-enact their childhood traumas.

Child abuse doesn’t occur only in childhood; it lingers on and on to affect every aspect of our lives, forcing us to remember the injustices done to us on a daily basis.

Another problem that occurs in the lives of traumatised individuals is do-gooder counsellors who quite often don’t have an idea in the world what it is like to grow up in a home that is full of hatred and violence. The typical counsellor is a white, middle class woman in her 30s. It is all the rage to go into the counselling profession, but many counsellors are quite clearly out of their depth and often do more harm than good when they attempt to force their morals and values on the vulnerable. The vast majority of people in our society cannot relate to a person who has been raped, sodomised, molested, stabbed, beaten, slapped, screamed at, burned, neglected, along with all manner of abuses not listed. How can someone who has not experienced such horrors truly understand what it is like to experience such abuse for years, if not decades.

Because these counsellors are not adequately equipped to deal with the psychological trauma suffered by survivors of abuse, they often encourage victims of trauma to bear their souls and relive the experience all over gain. What exactly is accomplished when one forces himself to relate his experience to another soul when he clearly is not ready to come to terms with it himself? Not much, except more trauma, anxiety and depression.

The fact is that too much counselling can actually be determined to one’s health. A study from the School of Social Work at Tel Aviv University found that people who repressed their anxiety tended to cope with post-traumatic stress better than those who had undergone therapy. Many patients, because they were on a psychiatrist’s couch, cut themselves off from friends and family – which may have done them less good in the long run.

One ailment that I have suffered from almost all my life is high anxiety. At times this anxiety becomes so intense that it borders on panic. When panic strikes, I can often suffer for an entire weekend, if not longer. Those panic attacks, if left unchecked, often propel me into a deep depression, which does nothing to improve an often sombre and anquished personality.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses in the UK. They cover everything from panic disorder, phobias and obsessive compulsive disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder. Each has its own particular symptoms and differs greatly from normal feelings of nervousness.

There are several possible reasons for anxiety disorder, including biological and environmental factors such as genetics, biochemical changes in the brain, and traumatic life events.

Symptoms may include:-

Often there appears to be no particular reason why symptoms occur, since the feelings of panic are dissociated from events that are happening or are about to occur. They can be extremely disabling and have a great effect on the person’s friends and family and their ability to work.

People who suffer from anxiety disorders may also have other mental illnesses, such as depression.

People who suffer from panic disorders have repeated panic attacks that are often difficult to predict. Symptoms include sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, fear of dying or losing control and hot flushes. Some symptoms, such as chest pain, can mimic those of a heart attack, increasing the sense of anxiety. Women are thought to be twice as likely to have panic attacks as men. They usually occur first in adolescence and early adulthood.

Phobias are irrational, persistent and uncontrollable fear of something. Common phobias are agoraphobia, claustrophobia, social phobia, and fears of specific objects, such as spiders or snakes. The fear can be so overwhelming that people go to great lengths to avoid the situation or thing they are afraid of.

People who have obsessive-compulsive disorders resort to ritualised behaviour as a means of overcoming irrational fears. Common obsessions include fear or dirt or germs, a need for absolute absence of doubt, for example, about turning off electrical or gas appliances. The person often realises their behaviour is irrational, but this alone does not dispel their fears. Compulsive behaviour includes repeated hand washing, following rigid patterns of behaviour, such as putting on clothes in the same order every day or avoiding cracks on the pavement.

Many people have compulsive behaviour, but it is only when it begins to interfere with daily activities and relationships that it becomes a serious disorder. Obsessive-compulsive disorders often start in adolescent or early adulthood and may be linked to other mental health problems, such as depression.

Post-traumatic stress disorder follows a severe or terrifying emotional experience. Events that may trigger PTSD include serious accidents, violent attacks, abuse and war. Often emergency staff suffer from PTSD as a result of dealing with trauma. They may experience extreme distress, including unexpected flashbacks to the event, nightmares, depression, detached feelings, trouble being close to members of their families, irritability and mood sings and even feelings of violence. Symptoms usually begin within three months of the trauma, but sometimes they may start years later. Sometimes they last for only a short period, but they may be long lasting if no help is received.

Not surprisingly, being a survivor of childhood battering and other abuse, I have developed a dissociative disorder. I can lose seconds, minutes, and sometimes even hours. The only thing that has saved me from dissociating for longer periods of time is that for the most part I have had to have a very strict routine. I have had a job that I was expected to be at. If it were not for the fact that my livelihood depended on me having to go to work everyday to earn a living, I may very well have dissociated for much longer periods of time.

A persistent or recurrent experience of feeling detached from, and as if one is an outside observer of one’s mental processes or body, such as feeling like being in a dream. During the depersonalisation experience, reality testing remains intact. The depersonalisation causes clinically significant distress or impatient or social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. I can personally recall feeling this way in more critical periods of the abuse I endured. These sensations became apparent to me when I was 16 years old and my mother, together with her girlfriend, decided to torment me. Although I have been left permanently scarred from the experience, it is my mother and her heinous girlfriends who are well and truly sick for having within themselves the capability to commit such atrocities.

The dissociative disorder not otherwise specified is a category of disorders in which the predominant feature is a dissociative symptom, such as disruption in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity, or perception of the environment that does not meet the criteria for any specific dissociative disorder.

Examples include:-

Individuals with dissociative identity disorder frequently report having experienced severe physical and sexual abuse, especially during childhood. Controversy surrounds the accuracy of such report, highly hypnotisable and especially vulnerable to suggestive influences. On the other hand, those responsible for acts of physical and sexual abuse may be prone to deny or distort their behaviour because they are certainly not going to admit to abusing others. Individuals with dissociative identity disorder may manifest post traumatic stress symptoms, such as nightmares, flashbacks and startle responses of post traumatic stress disorder. Self-mutilation and suicidal and aggressive behaviour may occur. Some individuals may have a repetitive pattern of relationships, involving physical and sexual abuse. Certain identities may experience conversion symptoms, such as psuedo-seizures, or have unusual abilities to control pain or other physical symptoms. Individuals with this disorder may also have symptoms that meet criteria for mood, substance-related, sexual, eating, or sleep disorders. Self-mutilative behaviour, impulsivity, and sudden and intense changes in relationships may warrant a concurrent diagnosis of border personality disorder.

Individuals with dissociative identity disorder score toward the upper end of the distribution or measures of hypnotisability and dissociative capacity. There are reports of variation in physiological function across identity states in visual acuity, pain tolerance, symptoms or asthma, sensitivity to allergens, and response of blood glucose to insulin.

Associated physical examination findings and general medical conditions. There may be scars from self-inflicted injuries or physical abuse. Individuals with this disorder may have migraine and other types of headaches, irritable bowel syndrome and asthma.

As a result of my childhood and adult traumas, I suffer from a dissociative disorder that flares up during times of stress. I do not have full fledged multiple personality disorder because my different personalities are still a part of the whole person that I am. I can for the most part remember what occurs during different personality states, but can at times be quite perplexed when I exhibit behaviour that I consider to be out of character.

During those more extreme episodes I will black out the memories and must therefore rely on accounts from other people to piece together actual events. The problem that arises in those events when I have been in a room alone with a person. If any abuse took place it will be very difficult for me to confirm it, since I have no conscious recollection of most of it.

I also suffer from Ganser syndrome during periods of intense stress. This syndrome is common amongst prison inmates, who no doubt have their own particular type of stress to deal with. My symptoms tend to become apparent at work, which I consider to be a prison at times.

I do not go to work because I want to, but because I have to, so for all intents and purposes I am a prisoner for 40 hours a week. The work I do is very unrewarding and I must perform my job as if my life depended on it because my job is my only source of income. I am a slave, therefore, to a job that pays enough to survive, but certainly not enough to live.

Therefore it is quite upsetting to me when I display symptoms at work. Most of the mistakes I make are usually misfiling of documents. Sometimes, however, I will have difficulties posting letters, which can be very embarrassing. It seems a dichotomy really that I work because my livelihood depends on it, but because I must do it under duress, I tend to dissociate the experience in the form of Ganser syndrome.

Thankfully for me I do not remember much of what happened during my more formative years. What I do remember, however, is bad enough to allow me to dissociate much of it. The lasting effect of the condition is that I will dissociate without warning and will lose chunks of time. Were it not for the fact that my work commitments require me to stick to a routine, I would probably dissociate much more than I currently do.

One symptom of multiple personality disorder is that the sufferer will change his handwriting style when another personality takes over. I have at least two distinct styles of writing, which relates to the personalities that come through one style of writing has a straight up and down motion, while the other slants to the right. One time, while taking a message for my boss, I identified that my style of writing changed in mid-sentence and I could feel a slight altering of consciousness. It was at that point that I recognised what was happening and consciously decided to stop the changeover.

My ability to dissociate is so extensive that I can have conversations with colleagues and later have no recollection of them. This, no doubt, holds me back professionally because in order to succeed I am expected to recall the events of the day. I have compensated for this by keeping a record of my work, but it is nevertheless very disconcerting.

I also lose consciousness during stressful situations. Quite often this blacking out is when trying to cope with the sex act, but it can occur at other times as well. For example, I have actually blacked out in the front row of a Deep Purple concert!

In addition to the psychological disorders that I have developed as a consequence of the distress I endured as a child and also an adult, I have a myriad of physical complaints. One condition, which is related to my dissociative disorder is food intolerances or allergies. Although there are many foods that make me ill, the two most prominent foods are gluten and dairy products. Contrary to popular belief, wheat and other grains are not good for everybody.

The fact is that the domestication of cereals, some 10,000 years ago challenged the human metabolic system by altering its nutritional composition. Human beings shifted from their traditional role as hunter/gatherers to food producers. This shift wrought revolutionary dietary changes that, for a number of persons, such as myself, may have proved too drastic for their digestive tracts to adapt to.

The cause of gluten intolerance is still a matter for conjecture. One theory is that gluten intolerance is due to an intestinal enzyme deficiency, which is an inborn metabolic error. Another theory is that gluten intolerance is due to abnormal gluten protein-binding sites on the epithelial cells in the intestinal track. This results in gluten protein-binding to these cells and their ultimate destruction. And yet another theory is that gluten intolerance is due to an immunological defect, which inactivates many of the gastrointestinal epithelial cells. It has been suggested that an intestinal viral infection may also play a role.

Gluten is a water insoluble complex protein fraction present in some cereal grains, notably wheat and rye, and to a lesser extent in oats and barley.

Gluten intolerance is not a new disease, and has been recognised for nearly 2,000 years. As early as the second century AD, Greek physicians noted that diet played a significant role in well being of koiliakos suffers. They observed that bread was rarely suitable to strengthen koiliakos children. In India, intestinal diseases were described in medical literature, written in Sanskrit, as early as 1500 BC. In the second century AD Aretaeus coined the term celiac from the Greek word “belly” to describe the abdominal distension experienced by sufferers of this condition.

Ingested gluten alters the cellular lining of the small intestine in gluten-intolerant individuals. The villi, minute finger like structures on the surface of the mucus membrane that serve to absorb nutrients, are flattened or even absent. Under these conditions, gluten in contact with the small intestine can result in mal-absorption of many, including proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins D and K, folic acid, iron, calcium and fluid electrolytes. Mal-absorption may involve a combination of any nutrients and, in extreme cases, can contribute to high blood pressure, heart irregularities and health problems related to low serum calcium. The condition, if undiagnosed, misdiagnosed or diagnosed properly but ignored, can lead to neurological disorders, intestinal ulceration and even intestinal cancer.

In 1950 a Dutch paediatrician, Dr Willem Karel Dicke, noted that when grains were scarce, children with celiac disease improved. When grains were plentiful the condition worsened.

The symptoms of gluten intolerance are abdominal distension and irritable bowel; pale, greasy malodorous stools; diarrhea, headache, nausea and vomiting, poor appetite, drowsiness after eating, anaemia, weight loss, muscle cramps, which tend to flare up during times of stress.

Gluten intolerance appears to be directly related to a variety of gastrointestinal manifestations. Other health problems too may be related to gluten intolerance. Frequently, when gluten is avoided, these problems lessen.

Many celiacs are also milk intolerant, and milk ingestion produces symptoms similar to those from gluten. Studeis in the 1960’s, conducted in Scandinavia, Mexico and elsewhere, seemed to indicate a relationship between lactose and gluten intolerances. Early intolerance to cow’s milk in the human infant appears to establish receptivity to gluten sensitivity later in life. It is suggested that gluten intolerance is a sequel to cow’s milk intolerance.

There are several conditions that are related to gluten intolerance, to include:-

Gluten has always been regarded as a valuable nutrient. Specialty gluten breads, long available, are somewhat higher in protein and lower in starch than other breads. Traditionally, gluten breads have been used by diabetes and others who are in carbohydrate restricted diets. Gluten breads are made of wheat, rye, oats and barley.

Traditional dieticians continue to recommend the “basic four”, an oversimplified, outmoded concept that gives equal status to grains and protein foods. In daily life grains feature prominently in the consumption of breakfast cereals, sandwich breads, hamburger buns, frankfurter rolls, pizza dough, sweet rolls, pancakes, muffins, cakes pies and pastried. Gluten-containing wheat is the major grain used in these products and represents more than 80% our grain consumption. Currently 165 pounds of wheat per person are used yearly in our manufactured food products, which represents a substantial increase from 137 pounds in 1972. How has this developed.

Grains play a prominent role as substitutes or extenders for more costly animal protein foods.

Grains enter the human food supply, indirectly, in animal feed. The practice of feeing grain was cheap and surpluses were large. The practice continues despite higher grain prices, since it was discovered thaqt grain produces rapid weigh gain (mainly in fat) and allows animals to reach Marcets quickly and profitably. Cheap waste grain products, such as stale, crumbly and even mouldy bakery products, unsellable to humans, are now added to animal feed. Farmed fish, formerly fed meat scraps, are now fed grain based pellets. An unexplored area of concern is the possible health effects of grains indirectly entering animal protein foods via animal and fish feed, and consumed by gluten intolerant individuals over the years.

Over the years the image of the carbohydrate has been transformed. Once viewed as a symbol as food of the poor, pasta has become glamorised and given yuppie status. Formerly considered fattening, pasta is now approved by dieticians for weight restricted diets as well as carbohydrate loading by athletes.

Krystal Love