Taraneh K.

@taranehnk | contributor
Hi there. I'm Taraneh. My name means lovesong in Persian. Wondering how to say it? Tara-Nay. You know when you have to summarize your whole being and whole life into a bit of text on a public website? Well, it isn't easy! In sum, I am a big-hearted, passionate lover of God, my tribe, ideas, and yoga. I fiercely and wholeheartedly love my best friend and husband, Justin, and our beautiful son Beren. I also carry the memory of our little girls, Aspen and Elanor, in my heart. When I'm not on my mat or chasing my sweet toddler around, you will most likely find me reading or writing. I love cooking from scratch and experimenting with new flavors and techniques. I usually have a coffee in hand, or I’m wishing for one, and I have saved, raised, and owned more than my fair share of animals in my lifetime. I head to the gym before dawn and savor the quiet time back home before everyone else wakes up. I love being outdoors, sipping wine with friends, and living out my faith. I am a passionate advocate for both veterans and civilians living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as improved support and education for their loved ones.
Taraneh K.

Deciding What to Do After a Traumatic Pregnancy or Birth

In 2016 I gave birth to my son after a challenging and stressful pregnancy. From the first month of my pregnancy, I suffered from a complication called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a condition that causes severe, unrelenting nausea and vomiting. HG causes women to experience severe dehydration, malnutrition and related conditions; nevermind a serious drop in quality of life. Until the development of intravenous hydration in the 1950’s, HG was the leading cause of maternal death. Even today, it can lead to the deaths of unborn children and serious health impacts on mothers. When I was five months pregnant, I had surgery to remove a large tumor (the size of a softball) from my ovary, which ended in the removal of the tumor, an ovary and fallopian tube. My son had a 50 percent chance of dying during the operation, but those were better odds than not having the procedure done at all. I was on bed rest afterwards as the surgery site healed, all the while feeling pressure to get back to work as soon as possible to keep our health insurance. As if this was not enough, I went into labor early, had irregular labor, and experienced medical trauma during the c-section that brought my son, unbreathing and blue, into this world. He survived, and as I watched him and my husband head towards the NICU, I was relieved that he had made it. And then I felt nothing. I knew something was wrong, but there were no words for it, yet. In the months that followed I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by the medical trauma and negligence I experienced during my son’s birth. I also finally admitted to myself that my pregnancy had been a nightmare. Looking back, I have realized the depths of my anguish and physical suffering during those eight months. In the middle of it all, I was determined to keep our son alive and do whatever it took to bring him into this world. That sort of determination broke down my interest in or ability to talk about the depth of difficulties I was experiencing. Even after he was born, I was so worried that someone, even those who are closest to me, would doubt my love for my son, or my gratitude for his birth. I loved him fiercely, more than any emotion I had ever felt, and he was too good, too perfect, too lovely, for me to diminish with my own negative experiences. Traumatic pregnancy and birth do that to you. They place you in a position where your heart is so joyful, so grateful, so overwhelmed by the goodness and beauty of your child, yet your mind is consumed by pain, heartbreak, grief and suffering. You lift your head in the delivery room to see your living, breathing child, and rejoice, while tears of agony flood down your face from the brutal experience you just survived. The dichotomy is disturbing and heartrending. My husband and I had wanted a large family. The more kids the better, especially after we fell in love with parenting our son. Yet the heavy spectre of “what happened” hung over us every time we talked about our family. Instead of questions like, “Do you want to have another baby?” we asked questions like, “Can we handle another life-threatening pregnancy or birth?” We wondered if I could parent my son while clinging to the toilet as I vomited blood from a raw esophagus. We wondered how much help we would need from our friends and family, and whether or not it was fair to expect it or ask for it. We wondered if the scar tissue from my operation and subsequent nightmarish c-section would interfere with my ability to carry another child. We switched doctors, explored options, talked and prayed and prayed some more. We made our choices, choices I hope to write about some day. But more important than what we chose is the face that these choices exist for couples like us. And this is what I want you to know, as you try to decide what to do: To the mama who is trying to decide what to do after a traumatic pregnancy or birth, you are not alone. Even as your friends, family, colleagues or acquaintances announce pregnancies or introduce new babies, or celebrate a beautiful and empowering birth experience, I am over here reaching out to hold your hand as you remember yours. I know what it feels like to lose freedom over your choices, to have constraints of physical and emotional pain burden your mind and heart as you imagine a future for your family. I know what it is like to ask painful questions of doctors when you know the answers already. I know what it is like to tell a loved one that you are pregnant again, and to see the instant concern in their face. I know how tremendously isolating this experience is and how many judgements, questions or opinions you have faced and will face. I know what it is like to want that positive test so badly, but at the same time, to worry. I know what it is like to countdown the days until the scary things start again, while also praying your baby makes it. I know what it is like to need doctors, but to also distrust them. I know what it is like to suffer again. I know what it is like to say never again, but I also know what it is like to say “I choose bravery,” to do it again, and then again. I also know what it is like to lose children and wonder if you should have even tried. I know the deep, deep mourning you have experienced. I know the grief that shakes you to your core. I know the reason you smile at newborn babies even as your heart starts to race. I know why you may want your arms filled by a baby again. But I also know why you may never want to hold another infant again. I know why you are considering this all over again. It is because the love you have for your child is so tremendous, so awe-inspiring, so beautiful, so powerful, that of course you would consider this again. You remember and know and hold on to the beauty found in those early weeks with your baby, the moments that sustained you as your body healed and your heart was mended. The moments when you looked at your child and it hit you: we did it. We are both still here. It is because you are a mother, and because you fought for your baby, and because your story was forged with courage. Your story, with its pain and grief and ugliness, may not end up in a light and airy social media post about an all-natural, candle-lit birth, but let me say this loud and clear: you are a warrior, mama. You already sacrificed your body, your heart, and parts of you that you will never get back. You fought, hard, for your baby or babies, and you have fought hard to come back from that. Your story is filled with bravery and sacrifice, and you deserve to hear that. So, as you decide what to do next, whether it is having another baby, becoming a one child family, or changing doctors to see what they have to say, remember that you are already a warrior-mama. You have nothing to prove. If you decide that what happened was enough for you, make peace with that. If you decide to try again, make peace with that, whatever the outcome. Make the decision that is best for you and your family. Know that whatever you decide, it is your decision to make. I hope you feel less alone and more encouraged. Never doubt the strength that brought you this far; it is powered by a love greater than words could ever describe.

Taraneh K.

Deciding What to Do After a Traumatic Pregnancy or Birth

In 2016 I gave birth to my son after a challenging and stressful pregnancy. From the first month of my pregnancy, I suffered from a complication called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a condition that causes severe, unrelenting nausea and vomiting. HG causes women to experience severe dehydration, malnutrition and related conditions; nevermind a serious drop in quality of life. Until the development of intravenous hydration in the 1950’s, HG was the leading cause of maternal death. Even today, it can lead to the deaths of unborn children and serious health impacts on mothers. When I was five months pregnant, I had surgery to remove a large tumor (the size of a softball) from my ovary, which ended in the removal of the tumor, an ovary and fallopian tube. My son had a 50 percent chance of dying during the operation, but those were better odds than not having the procedure done at all. I was on bed rest afterwards as the surgery site healed, all the while feeling pressure to get back to work as soon as possible to keep our health insurance. As if this was not enough, I went into labor early, had irregular labor, and experienced medical trauma during the c-section that brought my son, unbreathing and blue, into this world. He survived, and as I watched him and my husband head towards the NICU, I was relieved that he had made it. And then I felt nothing. I knew something was wrong, but there were no words for it, yet. In the months that followed I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by the medical trauma and negligence I experienced during my son’s birth. I also finally admitted to myself that my pregnancy had been a nightmare. Looking back, I have realized the depths of my anguish and physical suffering during those eight months. In the middle of it all, I was determined to keep our son alive and do whatever it took to bring him into this world. That sort of determination broke down my interest in or ability to talk about the depth of difficulties I was experiencing. Even after he was born, I was so worried that someone, even those who are closest to me, would doubt my love for my son, or my gratitude for his birth. I loved him fiercely, more than any emotion I had ever felt, and he was too good, too perfect, too lovely, for me to diminish with my own negative experiences. Traumatic pregnancy and birth do that to you. They place you in a position where your heart is so joyful, so grateful, so overwhelmed by the goodness and beauty of your child, yet your mind is consumed by pain, heartbreak, grief and suffering. You lift your head in the delivery room to see your living, breathing child, and rejoice, while tears of agony flood down your face from the brutal experience you just survived. The dichotomy is disturbing and heartrending. My husband and I had wanted a large family. The more kids the better, especially after we fell in love with parenting our son. Yet the heavy spectre of “what happened” hung over us every time we talked about our family. Instead of questions like, “Do you want to have another baby?” we asked questions like, “Can we handle another life-threatening pregnancy or birth?” We wondered if I could parent my son while clinging to the toilet as I vomited blood from a raw esophagus. We wondered how much help we would need from our friends and family, and whether or not it was fair to expect it or ask for it. We wondered if the scar tissue from my operation and subsequent nightmarish c-section would interfere with my ability to carry another child. We switched doctors, explored options, talked and prayed and prayed some more. We made our choices, choices I hope to write about some day. But more important than what we chose is the face that these choices exist for couples like us. And this is what I want you to know, as you try to decide what to do: To the mama who is trying to decide what to do after a traumatic pregnancy or birth, you are not alone. Even as your friends, family, colleagues or acquaintances announce pregnancies or introduce new babies, or celebrate a beautiful and empowering birth experience, I am over here reaching out to hold your hand as you remember yours. I know what it feels like to lose freedom over your choices, to have constraints of physical and emotional pain burden your mind and heart as you imagine a future for your family. I know what it is like to ask painful questions of doctors when you know the answers already. I know what it is like to tell a loved one that you are pregnant again, and to see the instant concern in their face. I know how tremendously isolating this experience is and how many judgements, questions or opinions you have faced and will face. I know what it is like to want that positive test so badly, but at the same time, to worry. I know what it is like to countdown the days until the scary things start again, while also praying your baby makes it. I know what it is like to need doctors, but to also distrust them. I know what it is like to suffer again. I know what it is like to say never again, but I also know what it is like to say “I choose bravery,” to do it again, and then again. I also know what it is like to lose children and wonder if you should have even tried. I know the deep, deep mourning you have experienced. I know the grief that shakes you to your core. I know the reason you smile at newborn babies even as your heart starts to race. I know why you may want your arms filled by a baby again. But I also know why you may never want to hold another infant again. I know why you are considering this all over again. It is because the love you have for your child is so tremendous, so awe-inspiring, so beautiful, so powerful, that of course you would consider this again. You remember and know and hold on to the beauty found in those early weeks with your baby, the moments that sustained you as your body healed and your heart was mended. The moments when you looked at your child and it hit you: we did it. We are both still here. It is because you are a mother, and because you fought for your baby, and because your story was forged with courage. Your story, with its pain and grief and ugliness, may not end up in a light and airy social media post about an all-natural, candle-lit birth, but let me say this loud and clear: you are a warrior, mama. You already sacrificed your body, your heart, and parts of you that you will never get back. You fought, hard, for your baby or babies, and you have fought hard to come back from that. Your story is filled with bravery and sacrifice, and you deserve to hear that. So, as you decide what to do next, whether it is having another baby, becoming a one child family, or changing doctors to see what they have to say, remember that you are already a warrior-mama. You have nothing to prove. If you decide that what happened was enough for you, make peace with that. If you decide to try again, make peace with that, whatever the outcome. Make the decision that is best for you and your family. Know that whatever you decide, it is your decision to make. I hope you feel less alone and more encouraged. Never doubt the strength that brought you this far; it is powered by a love greater than words could ever describe.

Taraneh K.

Should I Tell People About My Trauma?

I was recently asked to “share my story.” I paused. It felt like several minutes passed in those few seconds. I smiled awkwardly at the person awaiting my response. I had to decide. What was my story? The moment when you have to decide to tell your story, or not to, is a nameless feeling. There is simply not a name for it. It is a feeling arising from the difficult choice whether to be honest, dishonest or somewhere in-between. To take the risk of being seen as attention-seeking, or of not being seen for who you are and what you have overcome. To swallow a story, or stories, an answer, or answers, that have come to define your life, or at least largely impact it. To share something that may not be received well, or that is just too big for the audience or the situation you find yourself in. The English language lacks a word to define that feeling. So many of us live with stories that are unsettling, upsetting or don’t make for polite conversation. They are stories that upset people, that some may find hard to believe, that may have political overtones or religious ones. Stories that are so much of who we are, but that we just don’t want to share right now. Or maybe we do, and that is where that nameless feeling comes in. How you feel in those moments, when you have to choose to disrupt the mood of a conversation with your truth or hide your experience because it is unpleasant and you don’t want to be unpleasant — that is a nameless feeling. There’s a long list of nameless feelings associated with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma. Most of them impact the survivor specifically, but this one involves others: their reactions; their perceptions; their empathy or sympathy, either genuine or fake; their words, or lack thereof. The very fact your life story may make another person feel uncomfortable. Your decision to share may be perceived as attention-seeking, or signs of an emotional imbalance, or mental illness. Conclusions will be made, assumptions will fill the room and awkwardness will settle like a heavy blanket. Your decision to share may be perceived as brave, bold and strong. Cheers may rise, hugs may be offered, tears of commiseration may be shed. You may just find a colleague-in-arms, another battle-worn but still-standing warrior. But how do you know? You don’t, and in an instant, you must choose. I am a survivor several times over. Although I am deeply grateful I am still standing, and proud of myself for how I have persevered and for the life my husband and I have built together, I am not happy to be a survivor. That would mean being happy I have had to survive awful things. Of course, my life would have been easier, happier, less painful without those experiences. I sometimes feel envious of people who have not had them. It would be nice to not have the stories I have to tell, the truths I live with. It would be lovely to not have to decide, to live with that nameless, debilitating feeling. But decided, I have. Decide I must. For those of you who have a loved one with a diagnosis of PTSD, complex PTSD, or who has experienced a significant loss or trauma, I hope this serves as an invitation to help the decision come a little easier. I hope that when they want to share, or need to share, you can listen without assuming they want attention, or that they are owned by their emotions, or, worst of all, that the need to talk implies weakness. Remember: a decision not to share is a personal one, with more thought and strife behind it than you can imagine. It does not mean they do not trust you or love you. It simply means… not now. And for other survivors reading this, I wonder if we may call this feeling “story limbo” — the pause that seems to last an hour, even if it is only a second or two. That quick evaluation of the risks versus rewards of being honest. The acknowledgment of what has happened versus the denial of something unpleasant. That moment when your story, and so much of who you are and where you have been and where you are going, is hanging in limbo. I cannot tell you which choice to make, but I can remind you that the reaction of other people is not something you can control, now or ever. I’ll meet you there in story limbo, where we can all look one another in the eye, knowing why we are there, even if the details are fuzzy. And maybe, just maybe, the decision will become easier in time. That night, when I was asked what my story was, I made the choice that felt right for that person and in that situation. And maybe next time, the decision will be different.

Taraneh K.

Should I Tell People About My Trauma?

I was recently asked to “share my story.” I paused. It felt like several minutes passed in those few seconds. I smiled awkwardly at the person awaiting my response. I had to decide. What was my story? The moment when you have to decide to tell your story, or not to, is a nameless feeling. There is simply not a name for it. It is a feeling arising from the difficult choice whether to be honest, dishonest or somewhere in-between. To take the risk of being seen as attention-seeking, or of not being seen for who you are and what you have overcome. To swallow a story, or stories, an answer, or answers, that have come to define your life, or at least largely impact it. To share something that may not be received well, or that is just too big for the audience or the situation you find yourself in. The English language lacks a word to define that feeling. So many of us live with stories that are unsettling, upsetting or don’t make for polite conversation. They are stories that upset people, that some may find hard to believe, that may have political overtones or religious ones. Stories that are so much of who we are, but that we just don’t want to share right now. Or maybe we do, and that is where that nameless feeling comes in. How you feel in those moments, when you have to choose to disrupt the mood of a conversation with your truth or hide your experience because it is unpleasant and you don’t want to be unpleasant — that is a nameless feeling. There’s a long list of nameless feelings associated with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma. Most of them impact the survivor specifically, but this one involves others: their reactions; their perceptions; their empathy or sympathy, either genuine or fake; their words, or lack thereof. The very fact your life story may make another person feel uncomfortable. Your decision to share may be perceived as attention-seeking, or signs of an emotional imbalance, or mental illness. Conclusions will be made, assumptions will fill the room and awkwardness will settle like a heavy blanket. Your decision to share may be perceived as brave, bold and strong. Cheers may rise, hugs may be offered, tears of commiseration may be shed. You may just find a colleague-in-arms, another battle-worn but still-standing warrior. But how do you know? You don’t, and in an instant, you must choose. I am a survivor several times over. Although I am deeply grateful I am still standing, and proud of myself for how I have persevered and for the life my husband and I have built together, I am not happy to be a survivor. That would mean being happy I have had to survive awful things. Of course, my life would have been easier, happier, less painful without those experiences. I sometimes feel envious of people who have not had them. It would be nice to not have the stories I have to tell, the truths I live with. It would be lovely to not have to decide, to live with that nameless, debilitating feeling. But decided, I have. Decide I must. For those of you who have a loved one with a diagnosis of PTSD, complex PTSD, or who has experienced a significant loss or trauma, I hope this serves as an invitation to help the decision come a little easier. I hope that when they want to share, or need to share, you can listen without assuming they want attention, or that they are owned by their emotions, or, worst of all, that the need to talk implies weakness. Remember: a decision not to share is a personal one, with more thought and strife behind it than you can imagine. It does not mean they do not trust you or love you. It simply means… not now. And for other survivors reading this, I wonder if we may call this feeling “story limbo” — the pause that seems to last an hour, even if it is only a second or two. That quick evaluation of the risks versus rewards of being honest. The acknowledgment of what has happened versus the denial of something unpleasant. That moment when your story, and so much of who you are and where you have been and where you are going, is hanging in limbo. I cannot tell you which choice to make, but I can remind you that the reaction of other people is not something you can control, now or ever. I’ll meet you there in story limbo, where we can all look one another in the eye, knowing why we are there, even if the details are fuzzy. And maybe, just maybe, the decision will become easier in time. That night, when I was asked what my story was, I made the choice that felt right for that person and in that situation. And maybe next time, the decision will be different.

Taraneh K.

Should I Tell People About My Trauma?

I was recently asked to “share my story.” I paused. It felt like several minutes passed in those few seconds. I smiled awkwardly at the person awaiting my response. I had to decide. What was my story? The moment when you have to decide to tell your story, or not to, is a nameless feeling. There is simply not a name for it. It is a feeling arising from the difficult choice whether to be honest, dishonest or somewhere in-between. To take the risk of being seen as attention-seeking, or of not being seen for who you are and what you have overcome. To swallow a story, or stories, an answer, or answers, that have come to define your life, or at least largely impact it. To share something that may not be received well, or that is just too big for the audience or the situation you find yourself in. The English language lacks a word to define that feeling. So many of us live with stories that are unsettling, upsetting or don’t make for polite conversation. They are stories that upset people, that some may find hard to believe, that may have political overtones or religious ones. Stories that are so much of who we are, but that we just don’t want to share right now. Or maybe we do, and that is where that nameless feeling comes in. How you feel in those moments, when you have to choose to disrupt the mood of a conversation with your truth or hide your experience because it is unpleasant and you don’t want to be unpleasant — that is a nameless feeling. There’s a long list of nameless feelings associated with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and trauma. Most of them impact the survivor specifically, but this one involves others: their reactions; their perceptions; their empathy or sympathy, either genuine or fake; their words, or lack thereof. The very fact your life story may make another person feel uncomfortable. Your decision to share may be perceived as attention-seeking, or signs of an emotional imbalance, or mental illness. Conclusions will be made, assumptions will fill the room and awkwardness will settle like a heavy blanket. Your decision to share may be perceived as brave, bold and strong. Cheers may rise, hugs may be offered, tears of commiseration may be shed. You may just find a colleague-in-arms, another battle-worn but still-standing warrior. But how do you know? You don’t, and in an instant, you must choose. I am a survivor several times over. Although I am deeply grateful I am still standing, and proud of myself for how I have persevered and for the life my husband and I have built together, I am not happy to be a survivor. That would mean being happy I have had to survive awful things. Of course, my life would have been easier, happier, less painful without those experiences. I sometimes feel envious of people who have not had them. It would be nice to not have the stories I have to tell, the truths I live with. It would be lovely to not have to decide, to live with that nameless, debilitating feeling. But decided, I have. Decide I must. For those of you who have a loved one with a diagnosis of PTSD, complex PTSD, or who has experienced a significant loss or trauma, I hope this serves as an invitation to help the decision come a little easier. I hope that when they want to share, or need to share, you can listen without assuming they want attention, or that they are owned by their emotions, or, worst of all, that the need to talk implies weakness. Remember: a decision not to share is a personal one, with more thought and strife behind it than you can imagine. It does not mean they do not trust you or love you. It simply means… not now. And for other survivors reading this, I wonder if we may call this feeling “story limbo” — the pause that seems to last an hour, even if it is only a second or two. That quick evaluation of the risks versus rewards of being honest. The acknowledgment of what has happened versus the denial of something unpleasant. That moment when your story, and so much of who you are and where you have been and where you are going, is hanging in limbo. I cannot tell you which choice to make, but I can remind you that the reaction of other people is not something you can control, now or ever. I’ll meet you there in story limbo, where we can all look one another in the eye, knowing why we are there, even if the details are fuzzy. And maybe, just maybe, the decision will become easier in time. That night, when I was asked what my story was, I made the choice that felt right for that person and in that situation. And maybe next time, the decision will be different.

Community Voices

For the person googling PTSD

I wonder what made you google it. I hope it wasn't one of the ignorant or flat out stupid depictions of people with PTSD that pop up in movies and on TV. I hope it wasn't because you are afraid of anger or violence. I hope it was because you care about the things people have experienced, and that you want to understand the symptoms and causes of PTSD. I hope you aren't looking for proof that someone you know is weak or unstable. I hope you find out that people with work hard every day to seek the joy and happiness on the other side of their pain. I hope you learn something and pass it on. And if you were googling because you know someone with ? I hope you let them know what you learned, and I hope you let them know you care. Please let them know they aren't alone.
#WritingThroughIt #Trauma #PTSD #PostTraumaticStressDisorder

3 people are talking about this
Community Voices

For the person googling PTSD

I wonder what made you google it. I hope it wasn't one of the ignorant or flat out stupid depictions of people with PTSD that pop up in movies and on TV. I hope it wasn't because you are afraid of anger or violence. I hope it was because you care about the things people have experienced, and that you want to understand the symptoms and causes of PTSD. I hope you aren't looking for proof that someone you know is weak or unstable. I hope you find out that people with work hard every day to seek the joy and happiness on the other side of their pain. I hope you learn something and pass it on. And if you were googling because you know someone with ? I hope you let them know what you learned, and I hope you let them know you care. Please let them know they aren't alone.
#WritingThroughIt #Trauma #PTSD #PostTraumaticStressDisorder

3 people are talking about this
Community Voices

Multiple trauma causes in PTSD #PTSD #Trauma

For those with a PTSD diagnosis it is important to remember that many survivors have multiple events or experiences that contribute to their PTSD. #CPTSD #PTSD #Survivors

3 people are talking about this
Community Voices

To my new #WritingThroughIt family!

Thank you to the small but Mighty group of writers who showed up for today's writing workshop! You all inspire me. I'm excited to chat more this week with our daily challenges for those who want to participate. ✨ You can use this hashtag to workshop writing ideas and share frustrations + dreams. Talk to everyone soon!

#Writing #mightywriters

6 people are talking about this
Taraneh K.

What to Know About PTSD, Sleep Problems and Nightmares

Most people sleep at the end of their day. Some people nap during their day. Regardless of when, where or how they sleep, people do it daily. We have apps that track it, companies that claim to improve it, medicines to promote it. Ask any tired parent or exhausted overtime worker, and they will tell you how much they crave it, need it. Ask scientists and doctors and they will tell you all about sleep’s benefits, from weight loss to stress management to creativity and better moods. Ask anyone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) about sleep, and they just may reply with “what sleep?” One of the diagnostic criteria of PTSD is sleep disruptions, which can come in the form of night terrors, persistent waking, inconsistent sleep patterns, hyperarousal that makes it impossible to fall asleep, or for some, even fear of lying down or closing one’s eyes. For people with PTSD, talking about sleep means talking about not sleeping. Granted, some have found ways to manage their sleep disruptions using medications, meditation or even naturalistic approaches such as essential oils or teas. But for many, and I daresay the vast majority, sleep is a constant battle. My husband and I have banned the phrase “I’m tired” from our general vocabularies because of how silly it sounds to us after using it so many times. It just doesn’t convey what needs to be conveyed. I can commiserate with my friends who say “I’m exhausted” after a bad night’s sleep or an extra long day of work. I get it. I do. I have “normal” tired days too — the ones where there is more to do than normal or the ones with a sickness that makes sleep difficult, or when a little one pops up ready to go at 5:00 a.m. But when I talk about sleep and being tired, I mean something different. It is a kind of exhaustion that lives in your bones, settles in there and starts messing around. Like many with PTSD, I struggle with night terrors. I consider myself a well-managed survivor; I am highly functional, out and about every day and dedicated to my path of healing and thriving. Yet no matter how well I am doing with managing daily symptoms, it sometimes catches up to me at night. There is simply no controlling your subconscious mind. Things I refuse to think about when I am awake, things I have entirely blocked out or things I only think about in controlled settings come crashing in. I may fall asleep quickly, beat after a busy day that followed a sleepless night, only to wake up, wide awake, startled back into my past with a shove, like falling off a cliff I knew was there and was purposefully avoiding. And there I will stay, incapable of sleeping again, doing everything I can to at least rest. Other nights I can’t fall asleep at all, an indefinable panic inching under my skin, making me too nervous to close my eyes or even shut off the light. And there I’ll stay, the hours marching past me, the quiet of our sleeping home surrounding me, reminding me that no matter how well I am doing, no matter how productive, enjoyable and beautiful my life is, my memories are seared into my brain, stuck on repeat. Other nights, the ones that sustain me, I doze in chunks, sleeping for an hour or two at a time, waking up, realizing I am OK and dozing off again in a short while. In the morning, I add it all up to a sleep win. If you do a simple Google search with the terms “sleep PTSD,” you will quickly realize how widespread and problematic this is for survivors. Veterans report hearing bombs going off while sleeping, leaping out of bed into an otherwise silent room, only to lie wide awake afterward. Survivors of rape or sexual abuse may lie awake, eyes wide open, terrified to shut them, afraid to not see everything in the room. The quiet hours of night are often horrifying for those with PTSD. For anyone sharing a room, your sleeplessness can become a challenge for the other person, too. If you cry out in your sleep, you wake up the other person. If you startle awake, jerking out of bed, you wake the other person. If you need to keep the light on, it affects the other person. Enter the guilt of insomnia. One research study by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City found that between 70 and 91 percent of those with PTSD experience sleep disturbance. The study reiterates a truth the study’s subjects already knew all too well: a lack of sleep leads to an increase in the severity of symptoms during daytime hours. In my experience, I know I feel better and more prepared to manage symptoms, flashbacks or memories when I have had the most sleep. I can predict bad days before they come, based on how I have been sleeping. I do sleep. There are some weeks I cannot believe how much I have been sleeping. There are sometimes chunks of time when I sleep so deeply and so soundly my husband jokes that nothing could wake me up. My body seems to suddenly realize how behind it is on rest and soaks up every last possible moment of sleep it can muster. I hope for those nights, those weeks, those month-long stretches, where I have no nightmares, no sudden wakings, no night sweats or sudden panic at the thought of lying down. I have my tricks too, that often help me sleep or at least rest — the scents that calm me, sleeping with one of our dogs every night, having a great TBR pile next to my bed for quick access if I need to distract myself. As with everything else that comes with PTSD, I manage it. I make it work. Sleeping is less normal for me than having trouble with it, and it is a part of my life that although longed for, I cannot reliably expect. I have seen many dawns in my life. My favorite part of the day is when the sun first starts to color the sky, brighter in the winter if there is snow on the ground to enhance its rays, or accompanied by the sweet sounds of birds in the warmer months. I used to think it was because I knew it was done, the end of pathetic attempts at sleep for the night. But now I see it differently. I don’t think in endings anymore. That moment when night turns from darkness to light, and I am reminded to the depths of my soul that even the longest periods of darkness in my life have ended in the mercies of a new day. Never take sleep for granted. There are so many of us who can’t, lying awake in the quiet hours of night.