Why I’m Finally Ready to Share My ‘Alive Day’ With the World
If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
June 27th is my “Alive Day.” Coincidently, that is also PTSD Awareness Day. For those not familiar with the concept of an Alive Day, it marks the date someone had a traumatic and/or near-death experience. It is meant to take the power away from the negative event and transform it into a positive celebration that you are still alive.
Alive Days are intensely personal, and traumatic anniversaries can be difficult for those of us with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some people celebrate openly, but many others quietly acknowledge the day with their own personal traditions.
I’m one of the latter. Up until this point, I have kept my Alive Day to myself. I was too afraid of the emotional roller coaster I associated with that day. I didn’t need to add other people’s judgments (or perceived judgments) into the equation.
Then something changed. I decided to go public this year. Even after I made that declaration (to myself), I struggled trying to decide if I’d even publish this or mention it on social media. My anxiety made a valiant effort to persuade me to scrap the whole thing. Yet, in the end, I knew I had to share my Alive Day with the world. It was finally time.
Maybe I decided this because 10 years is enough time. Maybe I was inspired by my family members who have routinely celebrated their own Alive Days. Or maybe it’s because I’m finally comfortable speaking openly about my PTSD. But deep down, I know it is because I had spent nine years wishing I hadn’t survived and this is the first year I’m happy to be alive.
That is going to be really hard for my loved ones to hear, but it is undeniably true.
After that day, I was a hollow shell of my former self. It was all I could do to just survive. I thought “just surviving” was going to be as good as it got. I’d accepted that life was never going to be the same. My PTSD would always be there in the background. I’d always be damaged, broken. Barely surviving was my new “high bar” standard.
So, how did I celebrate an Alive Day when I wished I hadn’t survived?
Some years, I had full-blown panic attacks or major PTSD relapses. Other years, I desperately tried to ignore the day and pretend it had no meaning. Others still, I spent the day alone in quiet introspection. The one thing all those anniversaries had in common was that I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to call any attention to the day or to what it meant.
Then, last year, the pattern broke. I missed it completely. I honestly forgot. When I remembered a few days later, I was overcome with a sense of wonder. My months of therapy had actually paid off. I had begun to break the consistent hell-loop. Yet, I still did nothing to celebrate. I just made a quiet note to myself and then promptly ignored it.
This year, I am determined to make it different. I will actively celebrate the 10 “bonus” years. I will recognize that I not only survived, but I managed to build up a pretty kick-ass life despite the setbacks that come with PTSD.
Problem is, I don’t know how to strike an appropriate balance between celebrating being alive and the somber nature of the day. Just making this public doesn’t seem like enough, but is a step in the right direction and that’s a start.
If you have your own Alive Day story, I’d love to hear about it and know how you honor the day.
Samantha Bellinger is the author of “Screw Your Wedding” and an event planner living with PTSD. She helps other people with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other related illnesses plan their weddings.
For more information, visit her at www.620events.com.
Photo by xoutcastx on Unsplash