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A Love Letter to a Friend Who Also Has PTSD

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I love you even when you isolate and don’t speak to me for weeks. I understand your nightmares can be so gruesome and traumatizing, it seems like too much effort to try to ignore those horrific scenes in your head to chit-chat with me about everyday life.

• What is PTSD?

I love you even when you suddenly become silent and look away from me because something I inadvertently said or something in our surroundings triggers a flashback or bad memory. I notice, but don’t ask what is wrong, I know you feel as though you don’t want to burden me with your pain.

I love you even when you feel numb and don’t seem to respond to my efforts to cheer you up, because just everyday life is difficult at times like that. All that makes sense to you at those times is being in “survival mode.”

I love you even when we go out somewhere and you seem to temporarily ditch me because you need some time alone to deal with flashbacks as they come to your mind. When I realize you are gone and search for you, I might find you sitting alone somewhere staring off into space. You don’t want me to see or know how you suffer, so you go off alone to endure it by yourself, seemingly unaware of how long you were gone or how much it worried me.

I love you when you refuse an invitation to a place that may trigger flashbacks. Even though you don’t tell me why you don’t want to go, even though it’s really important to me that you go, I understand when you make a weak excuse since you are not yet ready to share your anxieties with me.

I love you even when you inexplicably make weird and flimsy excuses not to see me, have me call you, or visit. One day we can be out and about having a great time laughing and talking, and the next day you suddenly drop out of sight. I know you are not ready to share why you may suddenly feel you need long stretches of time alone to deal with all that is going on in your head.

I love you even when you seem too preoccupied with the world inside your head to really see me, to see that I, too, may be in pain over something. My love is strong enough to remember that you care for me, even when the pain inside you is so great you don’t seem to see anyone but yourself.

I love you even when you are strangely silent when I, at times, confide something to you. I know you heard me, and it hurts that you can’t always respond to me as I would like, but I love you enough to remember that your memories of pain can be triggered by the most innocuous of things that I can’t always foresee. Even at these times I am able to remember all the times that you responded to me with so much love and compassion. Your intense suffering has given you a very deep compassion for the suffering of others, and especially for those close to you.

I love you even when it doesn’t seem like you love me anymore. You don’t answer the phone when I call, you keep your curtains closed, and you don’t answer the door if I come over. I can’t help but think, “What about me? What if I am going through something that I need your help with?” I can’t help but wonder if those things ever cross your mind as I stand on your porch with my phone, hoping and praying that you answer the door, or my call.

These thoughts quickly disperse, however, when I look back on all the times you have answered the phone or the door. All our shared adventures, all our nights staying up talking and laughing for hours. All the times you have been there for me as I cried on your shoulder. I never forget any of these things, even when you seem to.

You see, I love the real you, the you that I have not forgotten exists, underneath all your pain, nightmares and flashbacks. I will always love you because even when you feel like you can’t remember who you are underneath all of that pain, I do.

Originally published: March 4, 2016
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