Saturday, August 20, 2016

Like A Thief In The Night

It's been two years since the incident that caused my PTSD happened.  My life has changed dramatically since that fateful day. There are times when I feel I have come to terms with my new reality and then there are times when I long for the life I had pre-PTSD.

For me, PTSD has been like a thief in the night.  It has robbed me of so much.  Just like any robbery, you notice the big stuff that is missing first; the stuff that is obviously gone.  Yet as the initial shock wears off, you begin to notice other things are missing and as time goes on the list seems to grow longer and your sense of loss, frustration and hurt increases.

It's hard to explain what the last two years have been like for me.  The initial shock and terror; the sleepless nights, the nightmares when I did sleep.  The fear of being alone battling with the fear of being around people.  I was shattered, I felt fragile, lost.  Thankfully, I sought and got help early. However, while it made a huge difference in my ability to cope, it couldn't return me to the "me" I used to be.  I miss that me; more than words can say.

My sense of peace and being safe was stolen from me. I couldn't sleep, didn't sleep.  For the longest time I would consider it a good night if I got more than two hours of sleep a night.  Sleeping pills didn't help and the lack of sleep made me feel weak, fragile, brittle.  In the past I never worried about "being safe" I just knew I was and that allowed me the freedom to travel alone, to go wherever I wanted when I wanted. After the incident I had trouble even going grocery shopping alone; I felt robbed of my freedom.

Also stolen was the joy of driving.  Oh how I loved to drive.  Anywhere, everywhere, I would hop in my car and go.  I didn't think twice about travelling alone, going on road trips which were literally thousands of kilometers long.  Traffic and construction never bothered me.  As long as there were tunes to listen to and I was on my way to somewhere, I was happy. For months after the incident, I struggled to make the 30 minute drive to my boyfriend's home.  Traffic caused my heart to race; being stuck in gridlock would give rise to panic. Even stopping at traffic lights was stressful, pedestrians and jaywalkers all became potential threats. Even though I am much more comfortable driving these days, the joy of driving is no longer with me. I hope it will return; it was my bliss.

With time and help, I was able to adjust to my new way of living.  Then I got called to testify as a witness; twice.  Each time I had to go over (and over) what I witnessed. Afterwards, I felt spent and like I was right back at the scene, reliving it all over again and reliving the symptoms the initial experience created.  I felt robbed of the present and pushed back into the past, not once, but twice.  Stress, anxiety, and the feeling like I was living in an unending nightmare is how I felt after each court appearance.

After each court appearance, I waded through months of sleeplessness, moments of blind panic, days where I struggled to get things done. I had family and friends checking in on me.  I know they were worried; perhaps even a little afraid for me and they didn't know what to do to help me.  Funny thing is, I didn't know what they could do to help either. Days became weeks, weeks became months. There were a lot of bad days and also some good days. Then, slowly, the good days began to outnumber the bad until once again I was adjusting to a new norm.

I hoped, after the second court appearance, I would be able to put this all behind me once and for all so I could focus more on the present and future and the life I am now creating. Unfortunately, I will have another court appearance in 2017.While I'm not looking forward to being on the witness stand again, I am looking forward to an end to this chapter of my life. In the meantime, I'm working on staying present and taking each day as it comes.  It's been exactly two years since the incident happened and I can thankfully say in recent months I have had far more good days than bad; though sleep is still elusive at times.

While I have lost so much,  I have gained a lot as well.  The incident changed my priorities and reminded me how blessed I am to be alive.  I very easily could have been "collateral damage" killed because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet I am here. Yes, my life isn't the same, but in some ways it's better.  Now I make time and take time to be with family and friends. Its not always easy, but I don't put off spending time with those who matter because who knows what tomorrow may bring.   I also speak from the heart, I no longer just assume people in my life know how important they are to me; I tell them often. 

Most of all , I was fortunate that I got help literally a week after the incident. I opted for non-traditional modalities which included hypnosis, Timeline Therapy and Neurolinguistic Programming. The same type of work I use with my clients because I know from past experience it works. I have found I am stronger than I ever believed, even though I have moments of weakness.  I have gained a level of knowledge and understanding which allows me to help others through whatever challenges they face. 

It's hard for friends and family to understand the long term impact trauma can have; let alone grasp the multitude of ways, both big and small, it changes your life, thoughts, beliefs and even your values.   Yet when you realize there is help available (both traditional and non-traditional) which will help you move forward, then there is hope for you to have a happier, healthier life.  Seek out what works for you; if you aren't getting results, try something else and keeping trying until you find one which gives you the results you are seeking. You know better than anyone what is right for you; and it's all about you getting the help you need in a way which works for you.

While some days life is rough, believe there are better days ahead.  Ask me,  I know and I can help.

~ Bren 

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