I caught up with my psychologist recently. We were talking about the fact that while I’ve come a long way since leaving my ex and receiving the PTSD diagnosis, sometimes it’s still hard. Sometimes it’s still really, really hard. And sometimes that gets me down, and I found myself uttering the words: I should be through this by now”.
Once we’d finished the discussion about the importance of not playing the game of placing pressure on myself (admittedly, this is a conversation we’ve had on several occasions before) the psychologist told me that, given how long I lived in the fraught terrifying tension of a war-zone, she’d expect it to take another year before I really felt that I’m through it, that I’ve put it behind me. And far from feeling a sense of despondency (really? a whole year?), I felt a sense of relief. Thank God. Thank God that I’m only at the half-way point, because if this is me being almost finished with the healing, then my healing capacity is shit. Thank God it gets better; thank God I’m not doing as badly as I feared. Thank God there’s more to come, thank God I’m not stuck, bogged down in my own refusal to move through this healing process as quickly as I should (and there’s this should word again!).
I’ve always known where I’ve been going in terms of my healing. Now I have a sense of where I am in that journey, how long it will take to get there as well as how long it’s been. Now I have a barometer by which to measure my progress. By which to normalise myself. Thank God.
But I was thinking about it afterwards: why did I need that barometer? Why did I need externally-imposed parameters around my own experience of healing from these terrible things that happened, repeatedly, to me? Why did I need a “professional” affirmation that I’m doing ok, when I know myself that I am? Why can’t I just be satisfied with the validity of my own emotions and my own experience: I feel it, I’m not hurting myself or anybody else, therefore I’m ok?
I don’t have all the answers to these questions. Partly I do: I know that I don’t trust my own experience. I don’t trust my own emotions. I’ve learned to fear them, to judge them harshly. I’ve learned to bury my own fragility and I struggle when overt symptoms of PTSD – have you ever tried to disguise a fully-fledged panic attack? – make my vulnerability apparent. I’ve learned to feel guilty for not being ok, even as I’ve learned that I’m not allowed to be happy either.
I’m getting better at all this. I’ve pushed myself to be more open: I have PTSD, I’ve said to my friends. Not all of them, but some. And not one of them has judged me. That’s my job.
It’s a job from which, at some stage, I’ll be handing in my resignation.
On a completely unrelated note, this is my 150th blog post. I just thought that was worth mentioning.