September 14, 2020
You Know that You Have PTSD, Right?
My story is one that echoes so many others out there – one of a foundation built on childhood trauma, sexual assault, the death of a parent, miscarriage, postpartum psychosis and a road that eventually led to a diagnosis of PTSD.
My story is not much different than so many others out there. It is one that I have heard time and time again, but only once I opened up about the pieces that have broken me. The years of breaking that I have endured, and how I have actively chosen to lean into the vulnerable moments. The breaths between. The cracks, the spaces. The places where I have planted new roots and have chosen to put my healing above the comfort of others.
In 2018, I sat on the therapist’s couch with my husband and she looked at me, right straight through my eyes and said you know you have PTSD, right? It had honestly never occurred to me that I had built a life on trauma, that I was living within the waters of a brain injury, because that’s what PTSD is. It’s an injury to your brain…our brain’s beautiful, yet not helpful, way of protecting us from the horrors we have experienced as human beings. But when she said it, it made perfect sense.
I had spent nearly 37 years living in a hypervigilant state, always expecting something to happen. And why? Because it became my defense mechanism against repeated sexual assault. It became a safe place for my mind to go when the grief of losing my father became too much weight to carry. It became easier to live in the dark and let the grief, anxiety, depression, and trauma swallow me than face the demons and truth of what had happened.
So, why is sharing my story important? Because it’s not just mine anymore. It’s of he and her and she and them. It’s of him and they and me and I. It’s of you.
It all changed in the moment that she said you know you have PTSD, right? It changed because it became so abundantly clear that it was time for me to choose my own survival and healing as more important than the comfort of others. It became clear that to get to the life that was waiting for me on the other side of the trauma, I would have to unravel in my vulnerability. I would have to actively choose to sit in that discomfort, so that I could live.
When we can actively choose ourselves. When we can look in the mirror and say I am important. My healing is important. The comfort of others is not. There is much power to be had.
I often find myself saying to others that there is life on the other side of fear, and hope on the other side of darkness. I know this because I have lived nearly my entire life wrapped up in the fear that someone would hear the truth and look at me with sad eyes. I have lived nearly my entire life wrapped up in the darkness, and has assumed that that is all there was to the life I was supposed to have.
How wrong I was!
I wish someone had shook the shoulders of my 14 year old self and said you’re worth more than this. I wish someone had looked me in the eye and said I believe you when I told them of the assaults I had experienced. Instead, I was met with hostility and disbelief. I was blamed when I should have been held with compassion and nurturing.
What I didn’t realize is that I would become the very person that my little girl self needed. What I didn’t realize is that one day I would write her story, I would share it with the world and show how much resilience there is when you live a life built on a foundation of trauma. What I didn’t realize was she was me, and I was her.
My story is not much different than that of so many others out there. And it is my hope, that by sharing it and breathing life into the truth that others will find their own voices. That they will look at themselves in the mirror and say I believe you and Your healing is more important than the comfort of others.
By leaning into that vulnerability and facing the lived experiences that I have carried for so many years, I have given myself permission to live the life I want. Fully and completely.
And so can you.