Saturday, August 1, 2015

Little Victories

As I continue to build my life in spite of having PTSD, I have come to appreciate what I refer to as the little victories.

The "little victories" are things that were once easy for me, day to day things like grocery shopping, filling my gas tank at a self-serve station, long road trips alone, going to the theatre, being out in crowds at concerts or other public events. Doing things on my own and being able to be alone.  These things were commonplace for me 13 months ago.   They were things I loved to do and did frequently all my adult life.

Then in August of 2014, everything changed.   Witnessing a violent crime left me with PTSD and it changed my life. 

Since then, I have been working to build a new life.  Finding my way through sleepless nights, moments of panic, doubt and frustration. I have a lot of really good days; and some not so good.

What I have learned through all this is to appreciate the little victories and this week there were a couple of them.  The biggest being a road trip alone to a friend's cottage.   Two years ago I wouldn't have even given this a thought, I would have just hopped into my car and gone. Now, it was a very conscious decision and even deciding to go caused a fair amount of anxiety.   The driving itself wasn't the problem, it was the thought of being stuck in traffic and even worse, the thought of having to stop on the way for gas or a bathroom break.   It was challenging and at a couple of points during the drive I thought "I can't do this" especially when traffic slowed to a crawl and I felt trapped and the panic began to rise.  I somehow pressed on.  Then I needed to stop for gas.  It was late on a Friday afternoon, it was a highway stop, so it was busy, so very busy and so many people walking around.  I sat in my car in the parking lot, unable to get out and not willing to drive over to the gas pump.  I knew I was being irrational but knowing didn't change the panic I felt. 

I ended up texting my SO.   He was supportive, calming, and kept texting me until I felt that I could go fill my gas tank. Unfortunately, just as I started to fill the tank a guy came up behind me. He scared the hell out of me.   He was just someone giving a demo of a car product, but I didn't see him approach me and to turn to find someone standing right next to me was just too much for me to take. I stopped the pump, told him I wasn't interested, almost bolted into my car and drove off.  Problem being that I had only managed to put $25 worth of fuel in my car which meant I'd have to stop on my way home to fill up. Yet it was still a little victory because I DID pump gas at a busy station and I didn't have a full blown panic attack; I was simply shaken and a call to my SO was enough to calm me down.  

I made it to the cottage and the relief and happiness I felt was enormous.   It had been over a year since I had driven any distance alone; this was and is one of those little victories that mean so much especially since I really didn't know if I would ever be able to drive long distances alone again. This proved I could and would, in time, be able to travel as I once did. 

Another was going to Stratford to see a play with my SO.  Granted, it was mid-week and the theatre was only 2/3 full, but I was able to be there, surrounded by strangers and still manage to enjoy the production without feeling anxious or overwhelmed. 

They seem small, simple things.  In truth they are, yet through the lens of PTSD they are big for they represent progress; signs that I am moving forward and my life is mine to build each and every day.  I can't change what happened to me, however, I can choose how to build a new life; one I define for myself rather than allowing what happened and PTSD to define me. 

We all get to choose how we move forward. Whether it's through traditional or non-traditional therapies, the choice is ours to make.  There are a lot of therapies available; if something doesn't or isn't working for you, try something else.  You are the best judge of what and who you need to work with to work through your PTSD and build your life anew.

While my work continues to be helping others make the most of their lives, I find myself especially wanting to help those with PTSD because I know what it's like to live with it.  I believe it is possible to build a new, happy, healthy life and we don't have to struggle alone, we simply need to find the right therapy and practitioner to guide us along the way.