01 November 2013

Moving forward when the past tries to drag you back

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Yes, that is more commonly known as "shell-shock" and frequently occurs in military vets. It also occurs in survivors of domestic violence. Oddly, children are not as likely to have PTSD because the domestic violence situation is their "normal," whereas the adult's brain understands this trauma is not "normal."

So a few years ago, I was at work and had to get in between a large man with dementia trying to hurt a smaller woman. Suddenly, I felt a panic. I had dealt with the man before but never in this context. I had to actually run out of the room once another staff member came in, and lock myself in a small medication closet, falling to the floor and crying. I was in there a good 20 minutes or so, just crying. It was the weirdest experience of my life. I felt utterly helpless and hopeless. I felt ashamed. I felt like I was not present, that I was detached and partly somewhere else. I had some memories of specific past home events over the next few days. I fell into depression.

Eventually, my depression got so bad that I knew I needed help. I couldn't function. All I could do was get my kids to school and get them fed and wash their clothes. We had no quality of life. I cried and slept off and on, but I never slept much at a time due to nightmares. I hospitalized myself and finally began talking to a psychiatrist. He was wonderful! He told me that even though I thought of PTSD as a war disease, I had been in a war zone for 12 years. He had a point.

I began taking anti-depressants and began talking regularly to a therapist. I learned how very vital routine is to my well-being. With routine, there are less out-of-control times where I feel panicky. Sadly, life with four very busy children leaves me with very little routine! I realize I could fight for routine but I am so tired. Too tired to fight. And so depression occasionally rears its ugly head and I feel helpless and out of control again, and then the flashbacks begin. Thankfully I am able to get a handle on it after a few days.

I'm now getting ready to marry a wonderful, kind, gentle man. A man who would never hurt me, never belittle me, never shame me on purpose. A man who prays for me and loves me despite my past. But the PTSD makes me have this fight-or-flight thing emotionally. I push away when I feel even the slightest chance he might do something like that. The offense can be something as slight as looking at me a certain way. I fight imaginary demons - I create them!

One of the symptoms of PTSD is emotional avoidance. I find this to be more true than the "flashback" for me. Though I seem happy and bubbly, it is sometimes just an act. Many times I am just numb inside. Not depressed, not happy, just numb. It is easier to be numb. It is control.

So with a wedding that is looming two months away, what do I do? I say "looming" as a joke, because I love my fiance and desperately want to marry him and share life with him. I want to trust him and the part of me that is "me" (and not PTSD) DOES trust him. He is wonderful. But doesn't he deserve someone who won't sometimes pull back from his touch?

I want to get married. I want to live happily ever after. I just don't know how.

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