“I had told a friend of mine [at school] that I felt like dying, and had a plan to kill myself. She told one of the teachers, and they said the school couldn’t handle me anymore.”
“She would run my head under the faucet, kick me, grab me by my hair and shake me, take things from me, throw away my things, forbid me to come upstairs from the basement…”
She loves music, listening to bird calls, and reading. Although she’s just in her early twenties, she’s already been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and dysthymia. Her diagnoses follow a difficult and abusive childhood.
What makes Sveta’s story a bit different from most stories of PTSD and abuse is this: she’s also blind.
Although she can perceive colors and shapes, and distinguish between light and dark, that’s the extent of her visual ability. The blindness affects everything from her ability to escape triggering situations to her anxiety coping strategies. Her parents still largely control the minutae of her everyday life, so Sveta finds herself struggling to carve out her own strategies for controlling her environment.
Summer: Have you always been blind, or were you able to see at some point in your life?
Sveta: I was born 3 months and 2 weeks early. I was put on oxygen because I couldn’t breathe. The result was that not only could I breathe, but the blood vessels in my eyes grew too fast, forcing the retina and the eye apart.
SB: And you suffer from an anxiety disorder, correct? Do you mind sharing your diagnoses?
S: I have been diagnosed with dysthymia, also known as chronic depression and complex PTSD, which is like BPD but to a lesser degree.
SB: Do you feel the dysthymia was always present, or did it develop at some point in your life?
S: The dysthymia was always there for as long as I can remember. My parents used to make fun of my love for minor keys saying, “You only like songs where someone dies”. This, of course, isn’t true. I like the minor key, not the death. It happens, sometimes, that songs where someone dies are in minor keys. It also happens that in songs in minor keys, sometimes, someone dies.
Has anyone ever accused you of malingering — that is, faking sick? It’s all too common for those of us with illnesses that can’t easily be detected by the untrained everyman.
Do you think it’s possible to become grateful for our anxious suffering? Can we learn from it? Is it just a painfully uncomfortable downer or can it help us to grow?
When all the tests came back with the medical equivalent of academic straight A’s, I was dumbfounded. I asked my doctor why I felt such strange sensations when others did not.
If Angie’s name sounds familiar to you, there’s good reason. In early 2010, Angie made the news when she live-tweeted her abortion after an IUD implant failed to protect her from pregnancy. Unlike most women who elect to abort, Angie found herself in the national spotlight because of her decision to go public.