Edinburgh girl speaks out about life with Complex PTSD and what it's like to suffer in silence
Wherever Veronica goes her loyal companion Stirling will follow, but hidden below the surface is a fully trained Assistance Dog specialised in PTSD response training.
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Whilst a vast amount of people demonstrate PTSD symptoms in their day-to-day life, only 4 in 100 people are diagnosed each year with this overlooked hidden illness. This is the case for Veronica, as she suffers from a common misdiagnosed condition known as Complex PTSD (C-PTSD).
Veronica developed C-PTSD after various ongoing traumatic experiences as a child through into adolescence and started developing symptoms such as anxiety from a young age. From the moment she was born her family was in a state of chaos as her brother was diagnosed with cancer just two days after her being born.
She said: “It was just an incorrect correlation between two events, of me being born and then my brother being diagnosed with cancer at the same time. Obviously it was incredibly challenging on my parents and subsequently caused a lot of tension and stress in the family from there.”
Growing up, Veronica and her siblings were seen as ‘prodigy kids’ and were pushed by her competitive family nature of overachievers to thrive under extreme pressure. Stress became a normality to Veronica from the early stages of school achieving consistent top grades which only peaked during her 20s juggling the stress of university and working full time.
Eventually Veronica burnt out after enduring a long term relationship controlled and manipulated by domestic violence. She said “by the time I was 20 I had severe low levels of cortisol in my body because it had been kept at such a high for so long.” By the time Veronica reached the age of 21, her immune system had weakened and mental complications had consequently translated into physical health problems.
Veronica said: “I ignored my body’s signals to stop. I couldn’t slow down”. She began feeling that nothing was safe within her surroundings and had constant apprehension wherever she went, which caused her cortisol health issues. In addition to this, Veronica suffered highly from insomnia and amnesia of the trauma she was objectified to.
C-PTSD caused an emotional numbing for Veronica and a fear of entering into close relationships. It is due to her condition that she has suffered a shift in self perception, viewing herself as the villain, rather than the victim, and feeling like damaged goods.
Symptoms such as muscle memory have become a daily challenge for Veronica, as any touch of her neck or arm will cause her to re-experience a traumatic event she went through in the past. She said “It is common that the predator doing the violence often uses their own mental health issues as an excuse for their volatile behaviour. It is by them using controlling methods that allow them to put the victim in a vulnerable position.”
During 2021 Veronica decided to relocate to Scotland which she said has become her “safe haven”. This was when Veronica concentrated on her own well-being.
“I started doing the opposite of what I’m used to doing, or I questioned my thoughts, and that was when everything changed for me. I found my identity,” she said. It was through this that she began learning about the brain, and how she could re-programme her own in order to recover from depression.
With the help of Stirling’s companionship, Veronica said she is able to control her PTSD, rather than let it control her.
“With him by my side it keeps me calm which reduces the risk of any serious C-PTSD symptoms occurring, so just him being there is all I need,” she said.
The bond between Stirling and Veronica is non-breakable and has allowed Veronica to now say that “happiness is achievable”.