Almost nine months ago, I received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder is very common among people who have survived wars, prison camps, and domestic violence. It is common among people who have survived the darkness of the human experience, and the fear and helplessness and shame and sheer soul-deep tiredness which comes from it. There is only so much that the human mind can cope with.
When you’re living in a war zone – either a literal one, or, like me for a very long time, a metaphorical one – you go into survival mode. You put one foot in front of another and seek only to survive. Anger, grief, pain, even fear takes a back seat – until you finally leave. With escape comes safety, and with safety comes the reality of all that you have survived, and all of what you were never able to feel.
Because it’s not enough to go through it all once. Now is the time when every beating, every threat, every insult and act of cruelty, every humiliation and shame is remembered and re-lived. Now is the time to feel everything I never had a chance to. Now is the time to acknowledge every emotion that has been quietly and patiently waiting in line to be noticed – and now is the time for them all to put the boot in.
And you know what? It sucks. It totally blows. It’s completely unfair. It’s shit.
But. You know what doesn’t suck? What doesn’t suck is that I’m going through all of this now because I’ve already survived it. I’m stronger than what was done to me. I might cringe at raised voices, or flinch when a friend touches me from behind. I might have to brace myself before I turn my back on someone, or fight to control the panic attack threatening to overwhelm me – but that’s ok. I got through the really rough stuff. I’ll get through this too.