What It's Like to Love With PTSD
Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced domestic violence, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by clicking “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.
I often describe my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as an ink stain on my brain. I can tell there’s something there, but I don’t know where it begins and where I end. But I know we are one in the same now.
When I was 6 I watched my father take my mother’s life. In that moment I could feel the ink dripping into my brain, my blood, my DNA. Something physiological happened in those seconds that crept into my body and attached itself to my brain.
Since those moments the monsters moved from under my bed to the inside of my head and no matter how hard I try to extinguish them, I know deep in my soul I never will. I gave up believing it would go away long ago.
I wish I could tell everyone I love just how much I wish I wasn’t like this. I wish when I was triggered I didn’t feel like the incredible hulk as every ounce of adrenaline fills my veins and I feel like I could jump out of my own skin and crush buildings and move cars.
I wish I could like surprises and being spooked or my entire body didn’t shake with fear when the doorbell rings and I am not expecting anyone.
I wish you knew no matter how much I don’t want to be like this, my brain is always alert and waiting for something horrible to happen. I look over my shoulder when I walk, I analyze the parking lot when I head towards my car in the middle of the day and I am always, always aware danger is just a second away.
Even when it isn’t. Because it might be. Because it was once.
Only once, and yet I am forever prepared in case it happens again. Because I wasn’t prepared the first time and I will never be caught off guard again, even if it torments me.
My brain won’t let me relax and I know it’s not normal or right or an accurate perception of reality, but it is my brain and it is always tricking me. And as much as I hate it, I just can’t make it stop.
I know it seems like my episodes take me to another place. That’s because I am in another place. I am transported to a crime scene. I’m not safe. I’m only 6. I’m frozen with fear and my heart is pounding and my brain is screaming “Run! Run! Run!” But my body is frozen in fear and I start to sweat and shake and I don’t know where to go.
Sometimes my ears and eyes play tricks on me and I feel like I am really there again. I can smell blood and fear and I am drenched in sweat. And my heart beats and beats and beats and I worry it might explode out of my rib cage.
And I see you look at me and I yell how much I love you in my head. And I pray you don’t give up on me and I wish you knew how much I want to escape the jungle of my misery, but I have tried all of the paths every single day for 29 years and none of them lead me to the truth, to the way I was. Every path leads me back to my disorder, back to my mixed up brain. And I am still covered in ink no matter how many times I wash. I am stained.
But oh, how I love you and how I can feel your love penetrate all of my walls. I see the way your love mixes with the colors of my ink. And we are a work of art.
If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
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