First of all, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to all of you for sending such warm, encouraging, comforting comments our way after yesterday’s post! It was a good reminder about why blogging can be such a powerful way to connect with other human beings and I was so inspired and touched by all of your words.
If you haven’t read our first post about PTSD, check it out HERE.
The following is a timeline that I wrote from Kyle’s perspective. It’s based on the most regular/daily of our experiences with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and our many, many conversations about his feelings. My hope is that reading it will be encouraging to those who may be struggling with a variety of emotional/mental health concerns and that it might be educational/useful for the countless family and friends who want to support someone with PTSD. Again, this is one survivor’s experience of the condition, not a textbook guide by any stretch. Kyle proofed this for accuracy and thought.
*WARNING: This post may be triggering for some people. Please take care of yourself and don’t read if you are not feeling emotionally safe.
6:20 a – We take Madigan for a walk. I can hear the footsteps of people behind us on the sidewalk and my eyes immediately search for anything I might be able to use as a weapon. Just in case. The couple pass us without incident but I do not relax for another ten minutes.
9:00 a – As I walk into work, a motorcycle backfires and my hand leaps to my chest of its own accord. I force myself not to react further.
11:48 a – I smell something or I hear something and there’s that sensation again. I look down at my feet. I feel as though I am in the body of a stranger. My arms and legs don’t seem to belong to me.
12:35 p – Meet Elizabeth in a restaurant for lunch. We are seated at an open table and my back is to the door. I hate having my back to the door. Spend the better part of the meal conscious of the waiter bussing the table behind me. I count the number of exits--one, two, three—and wish we had remembered to ask for a booth.
4:31 p – In the grocery store, a guy brushes past me and I have to close my eyes and breathe deeply to keep from curling into a ball on the floor. I want to curl into myself so that nothing can touch me or see me.
6:08 p – At a friends’ house, the room gets crowded and people are talking over each other. It is very loud. I excuse myself and head for the bathroom where I sit in the dark and quietly sing something familiar.
6:09 p –I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and though I know that it is me, I don’t recognize the person staring back. I seem distorted, misshapen.
7:45 p – Elizabeth wants to know why I was acting so weird at so-and-so’s house. We begin to argue. I snap and say something to her. I don’t actually know what I have said because everything sounds and feels very far away but she looks hurt.
7:46 p – Unbearable images, like flashes of light, are racing through my mind. I swallow and try to take deep, slow breaths.
7:47 p – My heart feels like it’s being squeezed out of my chest and I am sure that, in a moment, I will not be able to breathe.
7:48 p – It’s like I’m in a room with four walls and windows. I can see out. I can hear everything. But I can’t leave the room. Nothing can come in here. I’m safe here.
7:49 p – Outside the room, Elizabeth is still standing. I know her hands are on my knees but they aren’t my knees right now. She is crying.
7:50 p – She stomps loudly. “Kyle,” she says. “KYLE. KYLE KYLEKYLE!” she almost screams, wanting me to answer her, to flicker, to twitch, to let her know I’m still alive. My eyes are open but I might as well as be an unconscious body. She is frustrated, furious maybe.
7:51 p – I feel something. Elizabeth has pressed my fingertips to the edge of the sofa cushion. “Can you feel that?” she asks me. I nod but I cannot speak. She’s trying to ground me and later, I will tell her how much I love her. Later, when I can find my voice again.
7:52 p – It’s okay to come out, I tell myself. Just walk through the door. It’s safe. It’s safe. It’s safe. I don't move.
7:54 p – Elizabeth is begging me now. “Please come back to me. I’m right here. Sweetheart, you’re scaring me! Please come back.” I want to but I feel frozen.
8:04 p – I am talking again, reacting again, and Madigan has wormed her way onto my lap. Feeling her warm, furry body against my chest is soothing. I have left that little room inside of myself but still, I do not allow myself to feel. I nod when she asks me if it was a flashback. She is sorry, she says. She didn’t mean to trigger me. I tell her she didn’t.
10:44 p – We climb in bed and I reach for the remote. “What do you want to watch?” she asks. This is a ritual. We do not sleep in the dark, do not sleep in silence. We play movies during the night hours, cartoons mostly. They are familiar, easy. They make it harder for the nightmares to get in.
10:47 p – Elizabeth lays her head on my shoulder. “I love you,” she yawns sleepily. “I love you, too,” I whisper.
Again, thank you all for reading and continuing to be so supportive and kind. Your own stories inspire and encourage us so, so much. Next post, we’ll be talking about PTSD from the partner’s perspective.