PTSD is a monster. An ugly, sneaky, frightening beast patiently waiting until all is quiet to attack. It sits like a dormant virus waiting for just the right combination of conditions to reactivate. After all this time, it still packs the same frightening punch as the very first time it knocked me down and overtook me.
It is a delicate balance to stay centered post trauma, and the video my mind replays a thousand times is extraordinarily easily set into motion through the most imperceptible of triggers. Thoroughly unconscious of the subtlety of opening a bedroom door to the outside on an unseasonably warm February day, of walking into the bathroom to get ready for church, of pulling open my makeup drawer, my brain remembers. The tears precede the actual conscious memory, and the cascade that follows is as unstoppable as willing a heart attack to end. A primal system which is designed to protect is now an overloaded circuit gone awry. I am swept up and transported back to getting ready for church many Sundays ago, and that gut feeling I pushed away that something was going to happen.
I no longer wonder what would have happened if he had gone to his sister’s house that day as he said he was, or speculate if he had ever intended to or just told me that to get my guard down. I accept that he planned it in advance, that my going to church delayed his execution that day and that is why he argued for me ‘to get my priorities straight’ and stay home with my family when I insisted I was going. I accept that he had to shoot me while he could, before I left the house again to meet my friend Gretchen for our walk at the park, and before I moved out of the house to my friend Mary Ellen’s.
I have mourned the man I loved and the relationship I hoped for. They have been removed from the equation. What my brain has so efficiently stored is the abject fear, the deepest sense of foreboding that I couldn’t pinpoint in the confusing escalation, then the calmness before he struck.
This beast is in me, of me, a foreigner living within. PTSD is an unwelcomed house guest I wish it to univite, having overstayed its usefulness. Yet it stays to remind me, protect me from what it processed and stored as not safe, insisting the threat still exists. All the unwrapping and reprocessing can’t fully erase an instinct of self-preservation so deeply embedded. I’ll never grow accustomed to the interference into my peacefulness, the awful feeling of being dragged along the process. Even though I understand it on an intellectual level, it is paralyzing and emotionally exhausting.
Today I gave in and let it run its course. What once felt like defeat I have now relabeled as self-care. There will be other days for church, other times when I am able to keep the door firmly closed and the monster at bay. Today I’m slowing it down and sitting with it.
Yield to overcome. Tao