on post-traumatic stress disorder
Like physical trauma to one's body, emotional trauma can leave an eternal scar. A scar that won't disappear no matter how much cocoa butter you smother it with. A scar that unwelcomely hangs around...making you uncomfortable because it's just there.
After trauma, most go through a grieving or healing period. Often--in fact--most times, the individual moves on from the event that caused them such distress and goes on to live a "normal" life. For 3.6% of the population, this is not the case.
Without going deeply into the complex, underlying factors that contribute to one's susceptibility to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), genetics play a huge role as well as the presence of anxiety, depression, or other mental stressors that the individual already lives with.
I'm speaking today solely on my experience living with PTSD.
I wake up to myself kicking. It's, what, 3 a.m.?
I'm sweating. My sheets are tangled around my calescent body, and my hair is stuck to my tear-stained cheeks. My throat aches and feels raspy--like I just was at a wild concert the night before, singing loudly. But I wasn't at a concert. I was just screaming.
I frantically look around my dark, somber apartment. Lunging for the closest light possible, I switch it on and assess my surroundings. I'm alone. Am I safe? I'm not sure yet. I have to be positive.
I hesitate. I stand and hastily inch toward the bathroom to turn the shower as cold as possible. I immerse myself only long enough to rinse the perspiration off my body and awaken me enough to think clearly. I'm safe. I think.
I dry off and head back into my dimly lit room. My fan hums, and I'm glad it does, because I don't think I could handle complete and utter silence.
I half try to remember what my nightmare was, but the other half of me tries to think about absolutely anything else. The first half of me wins, and I remember. It was a flashback. It was the same damn flashback as always.
I don't fall back asleep that night. Or any other night that this happens, which is usually three times a week... on a good week.
Three times a week that I relive one of the traumatic experiences I have lived through and it feels just as real as when it first happened.
To me, though... this is progress. This used to happen every night and several times throughout the day. I have no identifiable triggers at the moment except my wild, imaginative, sleeping mind. This came through a lot of therapy and my own healing process.
I wake up to a voice. It's, what, 2 a.m.?
I'm sweating. I'm thoroughly unaware of where I am or what is happening. My hair is stuck to my cheeks.
I dazedly look up in my dark apartment. I see a figure. A male figure. I slide away as fast as possible. Threat. Threat. Threat. Threat. Run. Get away. Protect yourself.
It takes a while. Seconds? A minute? Before I realize that this figure is not going to harm me. He's here to protect me from myself. From my memories.
Will I always be scared like this? Will it always take me a moment to trust that this is not a threat? I'm not sure. I'm still writing my story.