Lee's Story: She Let Go Of The Past And Began To Fly
I’m one of the feral ones—a GenXer born as the hippie era was just starting to fade. My earliest memories are of repeated, brutal sexual assaults that set the stage for decades of bad decisions, being an easy mark for bullies and predators who labeled themselves as “nice guys,” medical problems, and an underlying anxiety that I could never shake. My unconventional childhood had phases of relative safety and good memories, but you can’t just shake off the traumatic stuff, no matter how many times people tell you to simply “learn to live with it.” In an effort to drown out the vicious ghosts in my head, I became an overachieving perfectionist driven to work every minute that my eyes were open, and I self-
medicated at night to numb myself to the monsters hiding under my bed and in my nightmares.
As perimenopause caused hormonal chaos, I could no longer outrun my past. A mental health crisis, coupled with a new chronic pain from fibroid tumors and endometriosis, hit shortly after I turned 51. I was diagnosed with Complex PSTD (CPTSD). Suddenly the broken jigsaw puzzle in my brain made sense. I could step back and see the whole picture. Every medical problem that seemed random lined up with a traumatic event: a cancer scare as an emotionally damaging first marriage wrought havoc, my first round with tonsillitis at the age of 46(!) during a stressful move, and chronic pelvic pain during a big career change. The list goes on. As the chronic pain grew worse, medical gaslighting added to the trauma. I was told I wasn’t really in pain. A near-fatal adverse reaction to a common medication made the CPTSD worse. As the toxic effects ravaged my nervous system, hallucinations became entwined with the nightmares. Shaken to the core after 3 ER visits, I retreated to my mom’s house for a few weeks to
recover and wait for surgery. I finally had the hysterectomy—on the 28th anniversary of the accident that took my brother’s life. Someone who had no business being behind the wheel sped out of control and went up over the curb as my brother walked to work. I’m now navigating a whole new layer of
trauma based on the chronic pain that kept me mostly bedridden for a year. Due to low staffing levels during waves of COVID, every appointment was delayed at least once. The ultrasounds and biopsies. Surgery itself was rescheduled a total of 5 times. The triggers from childhood are old, familiar enemies. And now? I’m an eternal student, always learning. Even taking a mundane vitamin makes me nervous after finding myself under attack from a common pain med.
Somatic therapy has helped me understand the physical burden of trauma and break free of the cage that held me. It's not all in your head. It’s embodied so deeply that constant muscle tension and anxiety become the norm. My mind may tell me my current situation is safe, but my body has been stuck in freeze mode for decades. Hence the medical problems. I’ve been working in the field of healthcare for nearly 10 years but didn’t recognize my own warning signs that I needed help. Now I’m as vocal as I need to be. Probably even louder, just to make up for lost time. I recently trademarked my own brand as a patient advocate and I write about the symptoms and alternative treatments that have worked for me.
I write about coming to terms with living with CPTSD well into perimenopause. I love science writing so it’s a great way to nerd out and my creative soul is healing through shadow work. I just wish I had understood all of this a long time ago.
Beautiful Disaster spoke to this GenX survivor because I’m an old punk rocker, Goth girl, and misunderstood misfit with a fighting spirit. I found beauty in the designs and strength in the words, not only on the clothes, but from the community of survivors who share their stories here (thank you all, by
the way!). I’m a novelist and artist, and the brand aligned with so much of my style and outlook. When I first found Beautiful Disaster, the Butterfly print with the words “Just when she thought everything was falling apart, she let go of the past and began to fly” spoke to me. After giving my credit card a rigorous workout with a number of other favorite items, along came the print that appealed to the kid who grew up in a seafaring family that goes way back (with some interesting stories that have yet to be told!). The tattooed mermaid bearing the motto “Don’t test my waters unless you know how to swim” has a deeply personal connection. And I had the look for it, too. After I had the hysterectomy, I decided to celebrate
cronehood by dying my hair green to embrace my inner bog witch. Then I dyed it teal for PTSD awareness. There’s a lot to do, and I’m no longer going to let the past hold sway over me.