It feels like your mouth is stuffed with cotton. Like your body is literally petrified. Like every cell in your body is screaming but no sound comes out. Like you’re frozen in time.
The number one priority is to run but you can’t move at all. You’re trying to break through this barrier to get to the other side — whether the other side be the awake world or just simply free of the weight of anticipating the violent impact. Your mind frantically puts all of your willpower towards escaping. It’s like you’re pulling on a thread, waiting for that magical moment when it finally snaps and breaks.
Scream. Fight. Repeat.
And then the tension breaks. The screams finally escape but they’re not as loud as you think they would be. The tears and the uncontrollable shaking starts. Am I safe? Do I have to keep running? Where am I? What’s in the shadows? Was it real? Maybe? No. No, it’s not real. Am I hurt? Not physically, just emotionally. It was just a dream.
I have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it never goes away. I’ve had it for years. I’ve been to years of therapy, and I have gotten it to a point where it is manageable in my life. Apparently, that is the acceptable outcome for such severe PTSD — making it manageable is the best outcome. I still have an exaggerated startle response. I still have difficultly staying asleep (although, I really can’t complain because it’s much better than what it was before where I couldn’t really sleep at all). I still am hyper-vigilant. I can tell you where each of the exits are in a room and what’s the best place to hide if need be. I hate it.
My insanely good memory feels like it has gone to hell. Who wants to remember the excruciatingly painful moments of the worst times of your life? Sometimes it’s a page in a book that transports me back to the time where I first read that page and the bad memories around it. Sometimes it’s a scent. Sometimes it’s a particular time on the clock. It is like an instant time machine to the past, and I often have a hard time staying grounded in my current surroundings. I feel like I’m in this terrifying, isolated bubble and my mind is switching off when I need it the most. There are tricks that are supposed to help you, but it sometimes feels like they lose their efficacy over time. Fortunately, these occurrences seem to be more sparse in my life as a counterbalance.
For the most part, I try to avoid most of my triggers – violence, uncontrollable anger, and loud noises. I generally avoid most violent television and movies, but it is insanely hard to do so because violence permeates the media. Buffy is right under my cutoff line for violence. Doctor Who flirts with it. Most mainstream superhero movies are under the line, but the recent slew of Batman movies have been far over the line. It always shocks me how most people are so desensitized to violence in the media.
Every time I have a nightmare, I think, “When will this insanity stop?” I am fortunate that I’ve gotten to the point where I assure myself that this nightmare was the last nightmare, and I shouldn’t dread going back to sleep for the rest of the night. It’s getting easier and easier to be optimistic instead of falling into anger that my life is like this. People who just meet me don’t know that anything is wrong — that reminds me that I’m not broken. People who have known me for much longer can see that I’m progressing and dealing with it better and opening up more — that reminds me that I’m a fighter.
And that’s what matters the most — I didn’t let PTSD overtake my life.