Part of moving out of survival mode, away from the day-to-day struggle of symptom management, has brought great blessing. I no longer fear that I’m going to disgrace myself in front of people whose opinions I care about; I’m no longer desperately hoping that I’ll get through the next rehearsal, the next service, without the beauty of the music searing my soul and bringing on the sort of stripped-bare vulnerability that triggers a flashback, or a panic attack. I’m learning to make peace with the fact that there are certain things that my damaged psyche can’t quite cope with yet; I’m learning to give myself, and my messed up limbic system, a break.
Part of moving out of survival mode has been learning to value my anger, learning its safety and upholding its right to itself, and my right to it. Part of it though, has presented a new challenge, one which I don’t quite feel ready for but which seems to be upon me anyway: now that I’m no longer dominated by the demands of living with post-traumatic stress disorder, I’m forced to come face-to-face with the reality of what actually happened to me.
I don’t want to wallow in it. I don’t want to become overwhelmed by it. I don’t want to be devoured by memories I can’t control, which force me to relive them instead of simply recollect them. I don’t want to become unwell; I don’t want to be unsafe with these memories, unsafe with myself. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt and not keen to return.
I also don’t want to push the reality of my experience away; I don’t want to seal it all up in some mental box and hope frantically that it goes away. For one thing, that feels a little dishonest; for another, I’m pretty sure that the head-in-the-sand approach doesn’t work all that well.
What I need is a way to hold all this stuff, to make space for it in my mind and my heart and my soul, to acknowledge it for what it is, and grieve it, and rage against it, without being destroyed by it. I want to learn to carry it gently. I want to learn how not to give it power.
I suspect, though, that part of learning all of that will involve actually feeling it. How inconvenient.