Tri-Umphant Living

This Is Me. #FacesOfPTSD

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There’s been a movement going on and I’ve been hiding from it. A movement to highlight the many extraordinary faces of PTSD beyond our limited definitions of it. I hide when I’m scared. It’s what I do. I hide and I get stuck and I feel trapped by my own fear until I can’t take it anymore. Until I feel like I am suffocating and my ribs will crack. Or my heart will implode. Then I come out. Sometimes kicking and screaming from sheer desperation. Sometimes crying and timid. Sometimes both.

I’m a little bit of both right now.

I’m navigating so many of my own vulnerabilities these days. I have days when I feel powerful and ready for Ironman Texas. When I can see the woman I truly am and embrace the work I have done to get myself here. I have days when I get incredibly frightened by some seemingly insignificant thing in my daily life — my children not listening to me, my husband asking me a question about why I did what I did, or simply being exhausted — and I’m catapulted into my past. A flashback, triggered by fear. I feel panicked and paralyzed. I believe not only can I not do the race, but I can’t do anything at all. The shame spiral starts spinning and I am once again the worst human being on the face of the planet. I don’t deserve to do anything. I’m a lost cause. I am helpless. What’s the point? — I will always feel this way. I will always be unprotected by my mother. I will always have been sacrificed for her own selfish needs. And anyone who has a mother who abandons them so profoundly must be incapable of anything. Right?

Wrong. It is these old beliefs and fears that leave me hiding from a grassroots movement. Afraid to be seen. To reach out. To connect and break the cycles of abuse which are fueled by silence. Knowing the inner workings of our minds doesn’t ensnare us, it does just the opposite. Embracing ourselves fully and wholly sets us free because only then do we have the awareness to make different choices for ourselves. We empower ourselves by seeing all of ourself with compassion, love and courage.

Dawn Dawn captures this so well in her discussion of PTSD and this campaign on her blog here. Dawn writes:

If “women and PTSD” is searched, one is left believing a female with PTSD is in a constant state of falling apart.That is another misrepresentation. Those who suffer with PTSD usually do so while raising children, working 9 to 5 and/or taking care of necessary day to day tasks. Survivors are professionals at looking “normal” on the outside. People that suspect they may be experiencing PTSD, who go searching for faces and information to identify with need to see images that look like PTSD in the real world – faces of moms, dads, children, teachers, social workers, cashier, nurses, etc. They need to see the real #FacesOfPTSD. Faces that look like mine.

When I was first contacted about #TheFacesofPTSD campaign I was afraid. I thought — I can’t do that. I cannot label myself. I can’t pigeonhole myself. I cannot brand myself by a diagnosis because I will be trapped by that diagnoses forever. It will forever mean that I am a face of PTSD. Period. The end. It will imply that I am stuck because of being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

But that’s fear talking. That is the abuse system that was my childhood home. Keeping me afraid to step out. That is, in fact, PTSD rearing its ugly head and stoking the fire. I’ve met many amazing people through my blog who share similar stories. They are the faces of PTSD too. Check them out. Come see them — Here. Here. And Here you can join the event and add your own remarkable face to the page. Checkout my Counter Stool Face Book Page. I’ll be sharing more stories there.

Yes. I have PTSD. Yes, I will always have to navigate the undercurrent-hum; the voices of a sexual abuse system that ran through my childhood home now whirr through my adult mind so many years later. But I am navigating them! I am. I’m not frozen by fear. I battle it head on every single moment. And that is me refusing to be a victim. That is me choosing to not let PTSD call the shots or trauma play the trump card. It’s me owning my life. It doesn’t get better than that.

Taking care of myself can be arduous and tiring. Sometimes, for a moment, I’ll find myself thinking that I really don’t want to bother doing the things I love to do. I get afraid to stick my neck out and claim the things that matter to me because it’s risky and there are repercussions. Or there were when I was a child. But not now. I’m safe now. And I have to tell myself that constantly throughout my day. I am safe. The way I respond to stress — the way I experience this intense push-pull feeling inside of myself — is exhausting. Being brave and being afraid simultaneously. Feeling so stuck and needing to move. I live my life afraid of just about everything. Can you imagine how much effort it takes to live life when you are continually scanning the horizon? But it gets easier. Being self-aware and embracing the challenge instead of turning away from it makes it possible to learn new ways of relating to ourselves.

Some days are harder than others. This week is harder than others. I have to continually support myself and my choice to race. I have to manage my past trauma and terror and try to stay present in the here and now. I had to decide to join this campaign despite the knee-jerk reaction to hide. And … it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday which really is the final straw that might break me. Mother’s Day makes me want to run away and hide in a dark small corner where I will never be found. I really want to shut down. But I’m fighting that urge head on. With lots of tears, too much anger and a whopping dose of compassion. I have to be compassionate towards myself. We all do.

Last year I wrote about Mother’s Day here and if I may say so myself, I was quite eloquent about it. But today, I don’t feel very eloquent. This year, I’m here to tell you that I absolutely hate Mother’s Day and I am holding my breath and myself so tightly just waiting for the wretched day to be over. So I can breathe again. Maybe next year will be different. My guess is that it will be. We’re constantly growing and changing. Thank goodness.

Check out what these amazing women are doing. If I can do it, you can do it. This I know. Take care. Be brave in your living! Much love.

15 replies »

  1. On Mother’s Day stand on the podium and proudly wear your first place award. You broke the cycle, an almost insurmountable task. Your children giggle, laugh and are loved. What better award can there be? You earned it in the laughter and love that you kids shine with. You instilled that. Claim the day and be proud. I am proud of you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh dear. I didn’t mean to make you cry but I think I know those tears, those of feeling touched deeply.
    I hope you can turn the day around into one to celebrate all your hard work. Because you changed the past by giving what you were not given. That is worth a BIG party!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t say I know what you are going through, only that this holiday holds a lot of potential for so much pain as you described. To see others that have what we wish we had and wonder why? And the anger. You are talking to original rage beast. That I can say I do understand.
    I am glad you found some relief in expression. That helps me too!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mother’s Day is for YOU. Claim it as yours because your children wouldn’t want you to hate a day that celebrates you for who you are to them.

    This is the first post I’ve had a chance to read today and if I don’t read any others, I will feel complete. I wish my brain would’ve let me write something like this but since it didn’t, I’m going to live through your words because you speak for so many of us. Much love to you Jessica! I’m so grateful for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jessica, in my eyes you are strong beyond measure! The joy you have brought to your family is testament to your will to rise above. I will never say I could understand the pain you have endured, but the grace you show to others and the inspiration you provide is real. So if I can offer my support, though from much too far away, in times when you need it, know that I and many others love you and are there for you. And I am in awe of you. Be well, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You are so so brave and strong!!! I am so proud of you. You are beautiful both within and without. I know how hard it is, how we battle those voices everyday. You and I and so many others but we always come out kicking and fighting! Sending much love to you!

    Liked by 1 person

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