Trina had been pushing the self-destruct button for most of her life. As a teenager she went out drinking late. She got married when she was just 19. But after she had her first baby, the problems got much bigger.
Her mental health took a nosedive. She developed an eating disorder which put her in hospital, and then spent the next 15 years in and out of mental health services.
She self-harmed and made suicide attempts. Trina spent a whole year on a psychiatric ward at her lowest point. It was when she was hospitalised for the second time that Trina had the courage to tell somebody what had happened to her as a child. She had been sexually abused by a family member from the age of four until she was nine years old. All of her self-destructive behaviour was a way of trying to cope with the vivid, terrifying memories.
Looking back, it’s clear that Trina was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She had frequent flashbacks. Certain smells would trigger disturbing memories. She struggled to spend time with her brother’s daughter who looked a lot like Trina as a child. “I found it hard to be with my niece,” she says. “I couldn’t even look at old pictures of myself as a child as it brought it all back.”
Trina was diagnosed with several other disorders: anorexia, bulimia and borderline personality disorder. She went through lots of types of therapy over the years, including drama therapy, various psychotherapies, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) but unfortunately not the type that is specific to treating PTSD. Even when she was spending five days a week in therapy, none of these techniques really helped Trina – she would improve for a while and then relapse over and over again.
Around 2011, the family moved to Camarthenshire, Wales, and Trina decided to go and ask for help from her new GP. She was put in touch with psychologist Debbie Jeffries. For the first time, Trina was given a definitive diagnosis of PTSD, and Debbie suggested trying EMDR.
“I was really sceptical to start with,” says Trina, “but EMDR was amazing, and turned my life on its head.” She spent just under a year in EMDR treatment with Debbie. They worked through every single disturbing memory until their power and vividness faded, and Trina says her whole life was transformed.
After being treated for PTSD with EMDR, Trina’s eating disorders, self-harm, and all her other self-destructive behaviour finally stopped. She can now look at photo albums from her childhood, and even give her niece a big hug.
Inspired to make something positive out of her experiences, Trina graduated with a first class honours degree in mental health nursing in 2016, and now works as a mental health nurse in a nursing home for the elderly. She says, “I want to be one of those nurses who can understand.”