is inspired by real life events and challenges perceptions about the impact of abuse amnesia and societal prejudices towards the maladaptive behaviours of victims.
As a psychological suspense novella written in the first person style of a journal, Fractured has been variously described as “pacey, accessible, brave and beautiful.” But beneath the ease and simplicity of the narrator's prose and the enigma of her disappearance, lies another more complicated story; the abstruse – outwardly imperceptible, shattering of her personality, while her actions become increasingly dominated by the need to avoid unpredictable danger triggers and flashbacks.
Deborah Rawlings is twenty-three years old when she suddenly flees her hard-won job as an outreach worker at Rainbows End Hostel in London, leaving behind a bundle of handwritten papers hidden beneath the floorboards of her old bedroom, only discovered years later by a plumber repairing a burst water main. Fractured is the result of the charity's decision to publish the papers in the hope of tracing Deborah.
The story of her life unfolds exposing fragmented, and, at times, startlingly vivid, memories, written with the calm emotional detachment typical in severely traumatised people who have numbed out and shut down their feelings in order to function in everyday life. 'Debs' has the added help of prescription drug, citalopram, to manage her moods as she delves into the past, hoping that writing and sharing her story will bring to light “the truth.”
We learn that despite her poor to average school grades, and the low expectations of her parents – who, according to Debs, “don't know her,” she's fiercely career-minded and determined to study A-levels and go to university, to do something worthwhile with her life. Debs has a true warrior spirit, and won't be beaten, despite the obstacles she faces, and the victimization she endured in her dysfunctional family home, nicknamed Colditz Camp.
In the pursuit of her cherished career ambitions, however, she is constantly assailed by the emotional battlefield that is the legacy of her childhood. This is compounded by disastrous encounters when she arrives in London to live with her cousin and work to save up for college. Nowhere feels safe, and one thing after another reinforces this belief. To the casual observer, Debs may appear inept and naive in her decision-making, destructive in her actions, but anyone familiar with Complex PTSD will begin to recognise the unconscious survival mechanisms driving her, ultimately leading her towards unhealthy repetitions and re-enactments of past abuse, culminating in five tortuous years of captivity as the sex slave of a wealthy businessman.
By the story's conclusion, she seems to have found a way out of the nightmare, but has she? Is it possible for someone who has endured a situation where they felt no control over their body for a prolonged period to return to normal after a course of antidepressants and no counselling support, no validating response from another human being? And besides, what is normal anyway, if you've always had to deny your instincts and disconnect from yourself to survive?
Toward a More Trauma Informed Future
Fractured has the potential to raise awareness and increase understanding of the life changing effects of suppressed traumatic memories and the exhausting, disorienting experience of living with the resulting hard-to-regulate emotions and feelings of alienation common to Complex PTSD. As the author of Fractured, it is my hope that this little book could just reach into vulnerable sections of the population and lead them to communities like Out of the Storm (OOTS) where they can receive support and guidance in the forum and information on the latest books and studies on trauma recovery and healing. There are certain topics that only a survivor can truly understand, and OOTS provides a safe space where feedback is grounded in experience and compassion. Indeed, connecting with others at OOTS can be transformative, as I have found, providing encouragement towards making bold, life enhancing decisions, and offering comfort on rough days. In the same way that stumbling across a survivor's site opened the door to knowledge and recovery to me twelve years ago, Fractured could just help someone find a way out of their own personal nightmare.
Child abuse, sexual violence and exploitation are endemic in our culture, it goes without saying, and ignorance and stigma have been used as weapons to silence victims for centuries, condemning people to a life on the margins and/or a shortened lifespan. Many young people, like Debs, are not even aware that their addictions, panic attacks, depression, self-harm, social withdrawal etc, may be symptoms of trauma which can be helped with the right approach. Too often, it's only when crisis hits later in life that the penny drops. Sadly, judging by the feedback in the OOTS forum, misdiagnosis is widespread and victim blaming common, with attitudes, even in the psychiatric community, still narrowly focused on correcting “faulty thinking” and suppressing unprocessed, overwhelming emotions and problem behaviours with drugs. Harsh judgement and the minimization of distress by professionals compounds a pre-existing sense of hopelessness and despair, feeding Big Pharma's parasitic grip on victims.
The relentless institutional pathologising of people with labels attached to symptoms of interpersonal trauma is partly to blame for the stigma. Thankfully, here at OOTS, there is a wealth of resources on trauma-informed treatments and guides to choosing an appropriate therapist to aid people in their recovery. Because, after all, let's not forget, Complex PTSD is not an illness, disease or even a disorder, it is an injury, as brain-imaging studies have shown (Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score, 2014). Parts of the brain change to adapt to persistantly threatening environments. Complex PTSD could more accurately be termed "Cumulative Traumatic Stress Injury (CTSI), as called for in a recent OOTS poll, because it occurs over a long period , generally years, and for many, this is an ongoing living situation with one or more abusers, rendering the word 'post' obsolete.
“We are on the verge of becoming a trauma-conscious society,” writes Van Der Kolk, in his seminal work, The Body Keeps the Score. We still have a way to go, but we are getting there.
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About the author
Anna L. Bragga is the author of Fractured: Memories of a Survivor (Volume 1) available in paperback on Amazon, Kindle, and very soon via retail outlets worldwide. In addition to writing fiction, Anna also makes films and works as a freelance journalist. She founded UK-based Conscience Media in 2010. Website: https://www.consciencemedia.co.uk/; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Facebook: @AnnaBraggaAuthor; Twitter: Anna_Bragga. Illustrations provided by UK graphic artist Steve Browne.
Fans and followers of Debs can find out what happens next in Volume II by keeping an eye on Anna's Facebook page and Conscience Media website.