Monday, May 11, 2015

Eight Months Later

It's been eight months since I witnessed a violent crime and subsequently ended up with PTSD.  My journey thus far has been....challenging. One generally associates PTSD with those who serve in the military or are first responders (rightfully so), yet there are others, who, like me, were in the wrong place at the wrong time and witnessed or were victims of a horrific act. 

In the early days, I was just numb, unable  to sleep, I couldn't be in crowds and ironically I also couldn't be alone.   I didn't think I had PTSD: I figured as soon as the shock wore off, I'd be fine and life would return to normal.   The shock wore off, but life didn't return to normal. 

I sought help, I got help; and in the process I also learned first hand what it's like to live with PTSD. In the first couple of months people were shocked to hear of my experience and were sympathetic. Yet as time ticked on, they found it difficult to understand why I wasn't back to my usual self; why wasn't I over it, after all, it happened months ago, all I needed to do was just let it go.

I wish it was that simple.

You see, the incident changed me in a way most people can't imagine or even begin to understand; though I believe those with PTSD know what I'm talking about.  Something within me shattered; it's difficult to put into words.  Perhaps it was my faith in the goodness of people, or justice, or God, or something else that I can't quite name.  What shattered was something that "made".  A part of me that has always existed and now doesn't.  It changed my perspective, it shattered my beliefs, it left me with a void within me which is hard to define and even harder to explain. So like almost all PTSD sufferers, I generally don't talk about it with anyone; not even my SO who happens to be a first responder.  How ironic, I had been worried about him ending up with PTSD and I am the one with it.

So often people will have an experience which "changes their life forever".   Usually, it's a positive experience; a chance meeting, an amazing opportunity, just being at the right place at the right time and being blessed in some way.  It is life changing in the best possible way.  My life changing moment was something horrific rather than something wonderful.

There are things that I had always done without giving them a second thought; things like travelling alone or even being home alone. Neither of which I can do right now.  It frustrates me. It angers me. I feel that I have been robbed of the life I have always had and left with just a shell of a life.  As rotten as that is, it is also a blessing. Why?  Because I'm alive.  I could have easily been killed.  So I feel it's up to me to find a way to move forward; to make a difference, to build my life into the life I want from this new place.   The life I had is gone, the life I have is mine to do with what I want.  I'm just stubborn enough to refuse to let an act of violence define me and rob me of the rest of my life. 

Those with PTSD need to talk about it to someone who can relate to and understand what it's like to have your world changed so dramatically.   Often that means sharing with others with PTSD.   Together we can support each other and find ways to move forward. I'm willing to help others find their way forward too because even though our experiences may be vastly different, we understand each other in ways most people can't.  

So on I go with my new life and my work and with the hope that I can make a difference.