Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (ptsd)

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Silver Linings

Silver Linings

Stories of Gratitude, Resiliency and Growth Through Adversity
also available: Paperback
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What I remember most is what happened after.

I’m sitting in my car, staring out the windshield. It’s raining, and it’s late, maybe 3 or 4 in the morning. The wipers are on but the car is not. I watch them spread the rain across the windshield (badly on the right side, that wiper has been broken for years). I listen to the rhythmic squee for a while, staring, not quite able to turn the car on and drive myself home. My thoughts don’t seem to want to take an order. I’m not physically hurt, I’m fine. I’m fine. I think I’m fine. But I left my best friend’s house at 3 or 4 in the morning in the rain because I needed to get the hell out of there. And now I’m sitting here across from his apartment, listening to a broken windshield wiper, not getting the hell out.

I don’t know how long I sat there before I finally figured out I could turn the car on and go home. Sometimes I try to remember, really get the details in order, sort out what happened, go back to the beginning and think it through til the end, but it’s difficult, like trying to get ants to walk in a straight line. It gets mixed up with other memories—the other times he’d tried to touch me when I didn’t want him to. Or when pushed me into a dark room and locked the door behind him. Or trying to leave earlier that same night, sitting on the stairs, my coat half on, him pleading with me to stay, me making him promise nothing would happen. I remember enough, anyway.

When a bad thing happens, you have to survive twice. First you have to survive the thing itself. You have to be physically alive after the thing has happened. That’s certainly key to the whole process. But then you have to survive again, to get through the consequences of the thing that didn’t kill you. You have to figure out how to be a person in a world where your trust in people or your faith in what you think the world is has been shattered. Survival is a gift, but not always the kind you want. Sometimes it’s like the worst of Grandma’s Christmas sweaters, because still existing after a terrible thing happened is confusing and painful and sometimes itchy and definitely comes back every Christmas.

So survive we must. However long it takes, we need to create a container of safety before we can start dealing with the devastation of sexual assault. We need to see that whatever we had to do to survive at the time was what we had to do, and we survived, goddammit. It doesn’t matter if we smoked ten thousand cigarettes or dated all the wrong people or pushed away everyone we cared about or drank ourselves to the bottom of the ocean. Your desire, your will to power, your creativity, your ability to love and connect and fuck and feel don’t completely die unless you completely die. Whatever happened, if you’re still alive, you can heal.

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