I’ll bet you’re wondering how the ‘event’ I spoke of last week transpired and I’m going to tell you but I’m trying to get it all straight in my head first.
As you know, I’ve been incapacitated for the last decade or so with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and as one of my close friends reminded me the other day, I used to be unable to leave the comfort of my own home. She reminded me what I was like when we first met; that I was terrified of the outside world and I barely ever left the house. She and I were and still are, always discussing goals and at that time, one of mine was to get out of the house more.
I reinforced my goals by writing them down in my gratitude journal, and this goal started with “It would make the day better if,” and I finished the sentence with: I could sit on the front step of the house for five minutes. At first, I never thought past five minutes because I wasn’t sure I could get past one minute, let alone five. I’ve learned that it’s important to set goals that are achievable and will help me to move forward instead of setting goals that might push me over the proverbial edge and set me back.
Prior to setting this goal, weeks would go by without me opening up my front door let alone poking my head outside, so like I said I needed to keep it simple. Although, if I’m honest, I’ll admit that it wasn’t simple at all, especially in the beginning. Some days were unpretentious, but others were impossible and during the first weeks, and months it felt like I would never get through the first five minutes, let alone gain the courage to leave the front step, but things have completely changed for me.
I’m honestly not sure how long the change took or what the process was because like most other PTSD warriors, I live in my head and I lose time and lots of it! In fact, there are lots of times when I feel almost like I’m waking from a long nap and I think that’s why the changes I make in my life seem so subtle, but who knows?!
What I do know is now that I’ve awoken from this nap - the one that has felt like it’s been going on for at least a decade – the changes were anything but subtle! When I look back on the last decade I can only compare it to a competition like the Iditarod, which they call the last great race on earth! I’ve come miles and miles; circumvented enormous mountains and even larger crevices, searched almost impenetrable forests, and crossed tundra that was so bleak, I never felt like I’d ever be a part of it. But and it’s a huge but, with Laddie by my side as part of my dog team, I’m racing towards the finish line finally believing in myself and that this time I have a chance to win.
Honestly, my head is spinning, and I feel almost giddy and off-balance. I know it’s been over a decade since I’ve felt this way; the date on the calendar says so and I know there were times during the last ten years or so that I truly felt like life was just passing me by, but things have changed and I no longer feel the need to live like a tiger pacing around in a cage.
I am not that scared little girl anymore, I’m a fucking warrior! I’m sorry for the profanity, but as I wrote the last two words of that sentence, it finally hit me, and the tears started rolling down my cheeks. I truly am a fucking warrior and the realization that I’ve come so far is subsequently awe-inspiring to me and I had to sit here and cry while I let it set in.
I, with the help of my dog team, went to a celebration this past weekend where there were at least sixty people, which in the past decade was unheard of for me. Moreover, when they called out Laddie’s and my name, I stunned them all because of instead of waiting until after the graduation ceremony to take pictures, I took in a deep breath and stood up. I looked down at Laddie, who was looking up at me attentively and I told him to stand. Then we proudly walked to the front of all those people and we stood beside our sponsors until everyone was finished taking pictures of us.
Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, it was still extremely difficult! As I was standing there looking out at all those people I started to get that feeling I get just before a full-blown panic attack, and my head started to shake. Then I felt my skin start to flush, and I knew I had to try and make eye contact with Gary. He was sitting in the very back of the theatre, close to the door; it was where I felt the safest, but now I couldn’t see him.
I strained to see him without being noticeable to the people taking pictures, but I couldn’t see him. My head felt like it was shaking uncontrollably. It felt like it was going to shake right off my neck and roll onto the floor, the worst thing was that I felt like everyone could see what was happening to me. I felt like I was coming unravelled and I knew that if I didn’t get myself under control, I was going to end up in a corner, curled into a ball, but then Laddie nudged me and the next thing I knew was that we were walking back to our seats.
So, there it is! I’m feeling a sense of freedom I haven’t felt in a long, long time and I want you to know that I believe you will too. It may seem like healing and learning to live with PTSD isn’t happening or like it’s taking forever, but the changes are happening, and I think you need to trust in that. If you allow yourself to trust in the process you will become stronger, so strong in fact, that one day you’re going to realize that PTSD is something you live with instead of it being something that defines your life.
Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.