One of the things
that’s been hammering
at me recently
is not so much my past
— which is killing me slowly,
but the knowledge
that I’m not everything
I can be.
Contrary to popular belief, anyone can have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. I’m living proof of that. The condition can come about at any point in someone’s life if they’ve experienced something traumatic. Everyone’s experiences and symptoms can vary. There’s also a more advanced form of PTSD that most people don’t define. It’s called complex PTSD. This is the result of a very long list of traumatic experiences, often spanning years.
This is what I live with. This is how my life is. And I’m willing to bet there are more out there going through something similar.
I’m a prisoner within my body. I’m always anxious, on edge, waiting for something to come after me. My time, every day, is spent desperately trying to center myself. But I’m also in physical pain. My head hurts constantly. I’m talking bad headache kind of hurt. Often, it’s a migraine. Sometimes I’m in so much pain I can’t do anything but hide in the dark. Yet my daily goals remain the same.
Stay calm. Avoid drama.
Stick to the same therapeutic schedule I set for myself, and write furiously.
One of the biggest stress relievers I have in my toolkit is allowing my mind to immerse itself into the world of my novels. I become someone else for a time. Whether I’m writing or I’m editing. If I’m too worn out or hurting to do either of those, I’ll write a few lines of poetry.
If I can’t transcend my brain into someone of my own creation, or immerse myself into some line of thought, then I’ll do it through someone else and read. I’ll live the life of a character for a little while.
Sleep is an issue, and it’s twofold. The first problem is that I rarely sleep at night, while it’s dark outside. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why that is, since I spent my childhood sitting awake and waiting for my abuser to come for me and do what he wanted.
But it’s more than that. I can only sleep for a few hours at a time, because the nightmares are so terrible, I wake up feeling the pain I endured in them for hours. Often, I awake from a nightmare and immediately panic. Sometimes it takes over an hour to go back to sleep. But often, I’m unable to sleep afterward. Not even sleeping pills can change that.
So while I’m awake,
focusing on what it takes
to keep myself from spiraling
out of control with anxiety,
I rely on coffee to keep me coherent.
In doing all those things, plus so much more every single day. I don’t stop. I can’t stop. Not even long enough to shut everything off and devote my attention to anyone. I can’t hold a conversation without having my phone nearby, waiting for me, should the need to arise to jot down a note, reach out to a friend — by friend, I’m referring to strangers I’ve met online through social media that are going through similar problems, the people that understand what it feels like to fall apart at the seams — or I’ll read a few beautiful lines of poetry just to feel something else for a few moments. And then I’ll heave a sigh of relief before returning to the topic at hand.
Being in public is worse, especially when there’s a lot of people around me. I start to feel trapped, vulnerable; like someone could sneak up on me and hurt me, because I can’t keep track of everything happening around me. I can’t protect myself. That’s called hyper vigilance. And it’s not something I can turn off, just like my startle reflex and triggers. These are the moments I’m reminded that I’m no longer a member of polite society. Because I can’t even be in society without feeling afraid.
Some of my family understands what I’m going through; some of them don’t. Some of them have no idea why I’m stuck at home all the time, doing the things I do. And that’s because I want to keep it that way.
But those people that know what happened, and everything I went through, are dealing with added stress because of my past. Because of me. I keep waiting for that moment when they finally reach that point where they give up on me.
Leave me behind.
That’s another one of those things courtesy of PTSD, those irrational thoughts. The thought that eventually, I’ll be alone.
I’m constantly reminded by these people that it won’t happen, and they’ll stay with me. Yet here I am, fearing that more than anything else. But day in and day out, they are here, watching from the other side — where freedom is — and they see the hell I’m in. But they can’t help me. They can’t cure me. There’s a good chance I’ll never be cured.
As much as I want to talk to them, tell them how I feel and how my PTSD is ripping me apart, I can’t. I’m stuck here, silent. I’m paralyzed by my past, unable to speak, unable to initiate affection, with the exception of my son.
That kills me more than anything. My walls are so damn fortified that I can’t get past them, or open a door for them to come in.
Something as simple as
reaching out to hold someone’s hand
is impossible to accomplish.
But I keep trying. I keep working on peeling away that wall, bit by bit with anything and everything I can use. It could take me decades to get through that wall. To heal. To be free from my past.
If I can’t tell them anything else, I hope they know I’ll never stop trying. I’ll never stop doing what I can to improve. I’ll never give up. I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to get through all those blockades until I reach them. Even if I never find my way through, at least they’ll know I will never give up.