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PTSD and Finding the 'New Me'

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It happened way too fast but so slow too. The lights, sounds, smells, and motion stay forever, dull at times and unexpectedly double edged. Sometimes I forget parts like the last void waiting to be filled in the thousand piece puzzle. I get angry because I want to remember so I can be sure. I even think at times it may be better that the film roll of my memory is damaged. Spinning and standing still, sirens, the sound of a helicopter and saw, loud voices and repetitive questions, my reflection… these are my demons I battle. These are my triggers. I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I left her back there, the old me.

• What is PTSD?

She was wild and free, methodical and compulsive, broken in many other ways. She was a beautiful mess of life and love. She was still struggling with so much she didn’t show. She was the one who was trapped in a car afraid of death and all her mistakes, so many faults, and the vast unknown. The memories flooded my mind, and immediately I had to fight them. Not this time, not my family, not again. Then it went black. This was no longer in my control. I had to choose to trust.

In 12 days those few minutes driving a car altered me in ways I could never imagine possible. You think you know yourself and your power but know nothing until it’s gone. She was gone. The moment I realized I wasn’t me anymore is when I couldn’t let go of memories my reflection reminded me of. Memories of the crash, my brother’s years ago, my parents’ struggles with that, relationships I didn’t have, all flooded me through a mirror. I was scarred more than physically, and the emotional depth of the wound was deeper than a canyon. My ability to control was gone, I was reliant. I was “weak.” I was robbed.

totaled car
My car after the accident.

Reactions, routines, and reality have to be faced. No one rushes in with pistols in hand to ensure the perimeters are secure. You can’t hide or pretend you are a perfectly stitched together doll. People stare in a blatant rudeness without being able to ask why. Then you find hope in the children who are so bold and ask. A little girl says, “You’re face is still pretty.” I feel the paralysis and the constant numbness. Sometimes at night it feels so numb I can’t take it. Between the numbness, physical pain, and flashbacks there are nights I don’t sleep at all.

You have to live the reality. You may cry, yell, scream, your relationships may suffer. You have to regain what was stolen even if it takes more time than you want. You are told this is normal at a time you know normal never existed. I still miss her. There’s a sense of guilt as if I abandoned myself. Treasures we usually perceive to be irreplaceable but the truth is they are. New treasures can be found. A new you can exist. Find your map and mark your X. I choose my path and am not defined by the path but how I travel it without fear.

Thinkstock photo by Antonio Guillem

Originally published: November 21, 2016
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