Tag Archives: c-ptsd

Sacred Heart Redux, with some hard thoughts about C-PTSD in crisis times.

Jeweled Sacred Heart lit by fire by Suzanne Forbes March 24 2020I am so lucky to be obsessed with new materials right now.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have the privilege of staying safely at home, and then as if the universe is being wildly generous, I am also really excited about some mixed media work. I made this Jeweled Sacred Heart, which you see here in our hallway lit by actual fire, with the 3D Printer Pen my mom-in-law gave me for Christmas.

Jeweled Sacred Heart made by Suzanne Forbes March 24 2020Like many trauma survivors and childhood sexual abuse survivors with C-PTSD, I am feeling calm and focused.

I’ve been seeing disabled, chronically ill and survivor folx on twitter, Medium and The Mighty talk about how they feel clear and cool. For the first time in a long time, our insides match the outside. This isn’t a good feeling, but it is a different feeling than feeling like you are wrong for how you feel. Or being told you’re crazy for how you feel.

Jeweled Sacred Heart by Suzanne Forbes March 24 2020My nervous system feels lined up with the world in a way that it never usually does.

And I feel powerful, because I’m endocrinologically in touch with all the resources that helped me survive my abusive father, adolescent sexual attackers, professional harassers, and life-long severe depression and OCD.

Jeweled Sacred Heart by Suzanne Forbes March 24 2020It’s true that my night terrors have ramped up, and the nightmares are harder to shake off when I wake up.

But unlike so many chronically ill and disabled folk, I have all my medications on hand.

Who knew that my American habit of hoarding meds, developed in my early 40s when for a short period before Obamacare I was both uninsured and uninsurable, would come in handy? Well, me, I knew. Because I’ve always expected this.

If you’re disturbed by GenXers in your timelines yelling “Wolverines!” and seeming … almost relieved ???, please know: it’s the first time in decades the world’s messaging matches the daily messaging of our C-PTSD endrocrine systems.

Jeweled Sacred Heart by Suzanne Forbes March 24 2020 flame detailI told my husband that I imagined this time when we signed the lease for our flat.

“You did??” he replied, astonished. Of course I did. This, or the water wars, or dirigibles of starving Southern Hemisphereans landing at Tempelhofer Field and taking, deservedly, the food and medicine we should have been giving them all along.

 As an ’80s teenager I used to jolt awake at a crack of lightning in my Chelsea bedroom, thinking, “That was it. The bomb.”

Jeweled Sacred Heart by Suzanne Forbes March 24 2020 on velvetYou don’t ever shake that off; we are all refugees of some terrible part of the timeline or the planet.

It’s just that the West has never wanted to admit it, has never wanted us to raise our voices or amplify the voices of all the other sufferers.

I myself couldn’t really hear the voice of my own trauma until I came to Berlin and got on good German health insurance.

Until I went to the ER and never got a single bill. Until my husband and I pulled ourselves from a burning building.

Turns out social justice is the most important thing in the world.

We all matter. Our burning hearts are one.

Hearts Afire shadowbox

Hearts Afire embroidery

Armored corset body for flying with PTSD.

Armored corset body for flying with PTSD by Suzanne Forbes Jan 20 2018I made these marker drawings on a plane on Saturday.

I have C-PTSD and the last couple of years have been intense. The last time I flew and was strapped in next to a strange man, I had a terrible panic attack and very nearly clawed my way out over him to escape. I only stayed onboard because my beloved brother-in-law and sister-in-law  were counting on me to make their wedding cake! And I take cake very seriously. I could have forgiven myself for not making their wedding, but not for failing to make their wedding cake.

Over the weekend I went to Brussels to help a woman friend redecorate her flat after a breakup.

It was the first time I have traveled in Europe since we moved here three years ago; last December I had to miss a friend’s wedding in Luxembourg because I simply couldn’t handle flying. I was so scared of this flight I asked my husband to come to the airport and help me get on the plane! Which he did VERY graciously and kindly.

Armored corset body for flying with PTSD by Suzanne Forbes Jan 20 2018 in useI’m not afraid of the actual flying part at all; if I’m seated with women in my row I am as relaxed as a slightly claustrophobic person can be in a crowded, small metal tube.

I had checked in early to get an exit row seat, so I would have lots of room on one side at least. But when a strange man sat down next to me and his arms and thighs touched mine, I felt like I was gonna die. (Weirdly, this doesn’t happen much on public transit, where I can get away easily.)

Again, someone I loved was counting on me, so bailing out was non-negotiable. This time, when I started flipping out, I had my sketchbook handy so I quickly made these drawings of an armored corset body* for flying with PTSD. I imagine the spines to be made of vulcanized rubber, permissible for travel. The shoulder, arm and thigh pads are also rubber, so you don’t feel the flesh of the person next to you, and the mesh “NO” skirt snaps off for using the loo. I chose Mother Nature’s warning colors!

The stewards looked over my shoulder at my drawing and moved the man next to me to another row, murmuring, “more space”. My spell worked!!

The flight was relatively empty, and so it could have just been fat bias – as a US 14/UK 18 I fully and completely occupy even larger European plane seats. My friend Suzanne said stewards are sensitive to people who are a panic risk. I think they saw something in my eyes or my drawings and felt it was best for me to have the row to myself.

Gradually I calmed down and the feeling that my vagina was full of spiders receded.

Do other people get that? Like a creepy echoey crawling awareness of the vulnerability of your genitals, when you’re triggered? I feel like if they do, this armored corset body could be a popular garment. Until the day comes when, inch by inch, we make a better world.

*a corset body is the specific name for a true corset that includes a built-in crotch covering of the same sturdy materials. It’s a term used pretty much only in the serious corset community. What Americans call “teddies” or “bodysuits” are called just plain “bodies” in the UK/Europe, and “corset body” seems to be derivative of that.

A good C-PTSD resource.

RAINN’s resources for trauma survivors.