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When PTSD Forces You Down Memory Lane

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Editor’s note: The following may be triggering for anyone who has experienced sexual assault.

As I sit in a coffee shop, enjoying my beverage, relaxing and reading, a song comes on from the music being played above me. They’ve been playing all kinds of music, but this one is different. I hear this one and I freeze. My body stiffens. I can no longer read. I can’t think as my mind is like a whirlwind of various image from a time long gone. Gone until this song comes on.

• What is PTSD?

I sit in my seat and pray no one is looking at me, as I can feel my stiffen body trembling. I don’t need intervention. I don’t need anyone to touch me.

In my mind I go from the memory of that song to happier times in my life. Like the birth of my two sons. Like the different time I rescued the various doggies in my life. All happy thoughts. And every few seconds in slips a memory of time when I wasn’t in control. A time when I was unknowingly drugged by a long-time family friend. A time when he offered to take me home since I couldn’t drive. And then the place that he drove to and stopped. I said no. It may have been groggy but I said no. It may have been sleepily but I said no. Then one swipe to the head and all is forgotten.

I wake up in my bed, at my parents’ house. I ached from head to toe. It’s hard to get out of bed. And when I finally do I go to the bathroom. Looking in the mirror my makeup is smeared. The side of my face slightly bruised. My wrists and arms, also bruised. And when I pull my pants down my underwear are missing. An image pops into my head. “I’m going to keep these,” he said.

My head is spinning and the grogginess is clouding my thoughts. I strip down and shower.  My body hurts as I move the soap over it. My thighs are also bruised. My knee, swollen.  The song in the coffee shop stops. Now there is a peppy tune. But not for me. I just went down memory lane against my own will. But that’s what post-traumatic stress disorder does to you. Just when you think it will no longer bother you it swoops in, just long enough for you to remember.

The key is afterwards. You have to let it go. You have to make friends with your ghosts. You have to agree to give them your attention, but not all of it. Because now you know how to come back from it. You know that one little moment in time does not define you. It is not who you are. It may have helped make who you are today. But that’s good. Because now you are strong. You can move onto the next song, feeling each muscle in your body relax. Your mind hears the new song and it sings along. Next thing you know you’re tapping your feet. You have made it through the storm. You have the ability to say enough is enough. You have survived.

If you or a loved one has experienced sexual assault or any other type of abuse, you can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

Originally published: April 18, 2016
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