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Living with Hepatitis C and complex trauma.

I’m new to this site and I guess like most, sharing one’s story can be challenging. Even though this site is for people living with Hepatitis C, I always fear the stigma associated with the virus and in my case, living with complex trauma as well. I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, Geno-type 1a in 1996. At the time, I was told, “Don’t worry about it, you might not get sick until you are in your 70’s!” The reason I was tested was that I was feeling very unwell and felt that maybe I might have acquired the H.I.V. virus. My Doctor at the time tested me. In a follow-up visit, he informed me that I did not have H.I.V. yet, had tested positive for Hepatitis C. I was unsure what it meant? I was told not to worry about it and just to get on with life. Yet, I remained feeling unwell.

About when did I acquire the virus

I suppose I acquired the virus as a young person in the late 1980’s. You see, I came from a home situation that was abusive in every way, and as a child, I ran away from home many, many times. Always to be brought back by the police, and yet never was the home situation investigated. I remember wanting for someone to come an adopt me as a child, I was a runaway child beginning at six years old until my teens, many times. I was exposed to drugs at 12 years of age.

My situation got worse

At eleven years old, myself and about 90 elementary students experienced a situation where a 14-year-old with a gun held us hostage in school, shots were fired and yet, thank God no one was killed, it affected me deeply. This was in 1975 before this was something that happened in schools, before events like “Columbine”. Yet, for an already abused child, this was devastating. Home was a hard place to be, school was a hard place to be too, as I was bullied due to being so withdrawn, now this event had happened. So, being at home and going to school became hard. Time went on…
At sixteen years of age, I eventually fled my home once more. This time to the streets and many horrible things happened there to me. I need not go into it. I was “on and off ” the streets during the early 1980s for about 8-9 years. I experienced so much trauma in those years and of course like most street entrenched people I used drugs to cope. In the early 1990’s I began to make some serious attempts at recovery, yet it was difficult to stay clean, as when I got clean and was drug-free the memories and trauma was unbearable. It took many times for me to get clean. When I finally did get some substantial years of recovery, it was then I was to be treated for the first time in 2002, with Interferon and Ribavirin, after seven months I was told the viral load was left unchanged and treatment was discontinued. Further treatment was not available to me. I felt really ill, and thought, “now, what ?” Because I was a non-responder, further treatment was denied.

Life after treatment

Life continued on, and though I was clean and sober, I encountered a major depression after treatment. I suppose that because the treatment had failed, I began to wonder about my future, now I was living on a disability pension of $811.00 per month, and my rent was $650.00 for my tiny bachelor apartment. However, I had secured a weekend employment situation in a recovery home where I did support peer-based counseling for eight hours per week, so during treatment and afterward, I could get by.
Over time it became difficult to continue at the recovery home and I had to leave. As the years went on the effects of trauma from the past became unbearable and the memories and the effects of severe trauma played heavily in my life, and I was hospitalized many times and suffered many, many break downs. However, through it all somehow, I have summoned the courage to confront my primary abuser legally, and also the situation that happened in my elementary school. After many years of legal documentation and hearings. I was awarded funds for trauma-based counseling and received some good care. However, the years of doing this were very, very hard, as the legal framework required all events that happened in detail. This was really, really hard as it also entailed video disclosures as well.
Sadly, although I had to go through the years of legal hearings and subsequent counseling. Once again, I became ill mentally and required hospitalization and was placed on many drugs that, of course, were not good for my liver. I became very toxic and gained a great deal of weight. Once again, my life spiraled out of control. The memories of my life and living with Hepatic C became unbearable.

Change in lifestyle

Approximately, just over two years ago, something happened for me. I wish I could explain it. Yet, somehow, I came off all the Psychiatric drugs, slowly I weaned myself off. I focused on meditation and prayer. I still experienced the memories and nightmares, the body sensations of trauma as well. Yet, I said to myself that no matter what, I was going to heal ! Where this strength came from, I do not know, yet it came, and little by little, my life began to change.
Today, although I’m still living with the effects of complex Trauma, I do not take any drugs at all, I do not smoke, my diet is strictly vegan, I live a life where I meditate, and prayer has become central to my healing as well. Although, I’m isolated and do not have any social life to speak of, except a dear friend a fellow trauma survivor with whom I share an apartment, somehow, I have survived through all this. Today at 55 years of age, there is some hope and my faith is very strong. This week I started EPCLUSA, and I hope that it clears this virus once for all! In my life I’ve experienced a great deal, I’ve encountered and seen things a child and youth should never have to experience. Yet today, I’m alive! I have survived.

Sharing my story for others

I share this story, not for me. Rather, because I know that there are so many people suffering the diagnosis of Hepatitis C, and who are also survivors of intense trauma. Be it individuals who, are Veterans and have combat trauma. People who suffered early childhood abuse, and or domestic violence. Or maybe those who have been first responders and suffered trauma. See, the nature of trauma can sometimes lead to substance misuse and addiction. Sometimes, it could also be a health care professional, a Doctor or nurse. There is substantial data showing the level of people diagnosed with Hepatitis C and P.T.S.D, and many of those living with Hepatitis C have a diagnosis of Trauma. When it comes to Stigma, these two diagnosis’s carry huge societal stigma, due to lack of knowledge and in terms of trauma, due to how the media paints those living with mental health issues like P.T.S.D.
So, I hope that maybe someone relates to this story and although this site is about Hepatitis C and Trauma might be “off-topic”, the fact is….living with Hepatitis C is also a traumatic event in one’s life as well. So, this is a little bit of my story, “Hepatitis C and Complex Trauma”, as mentioned sharing this is hard due to stigma, even here on this site!

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