All You Stole and All I Gained: A Letter to Post-Traumatic Stress

The words below are garnered from my journals during the height of our family’s experience with untreated PTSD. They are not direct quotes. They represent the themes I saw over and over again when I reread my daily journals.

I’m sharing these words today, because it’s time. June is PTSD Awareness Month. And for me that awareness extends beyond knowing it exists. Awareness means putting a name and face to what we’ve heard about PTSD. Once PTSD is humanized, it’s much harder to villainize, or regard as something that only happens to “those people,” or “others.”

As I’ve dug into the research and learned things from my job, I’ve also begun to realize that the feelings expressed in my journal entries are not singular to me. They’re not anomalies. They are pretty common for people who experience the effects of trauma, and I want to normalize that too.

~

Written July 26, 2019 about my life from 2013-2016

I need something, anything, to dull the constant noise in my head and anxiety surrounding my heart. Life is insane and I am I at my wit’s end on how to handle it. No scratch that-control it.

I want control. I want a crystal ball. I literally want anything other than what I have right now. If my kids were older, if my husband were home more, if I found the right Bible study, or had the right amount of time, I would no longer feel shitty. I am convinced these things, and more are the answer to all that ails me. I am convinced that if I could just do life a little better with a few more tools, I would not feel like crap.

I would want to get off my couch and do the laundry. I would be able to do something creative like start a blog or an Etsy site. If only all of the tools would magically appear, and time would stretch to my liking.  Then, then I would do all the things and life wouldn’t feel so hard.

Despite the desperate search for new tools to motivate and change me, two things remain the same, the crumbling state of my marriage and the deteriorating relationship with my oldest son. I cannot hold it all together. I cannot bend and twist and grasp and claw to make these two things better. At every turn my efforts appear for naught and I am left crying into my journal once more.

~

The pain, fear, and self-loathing that leap off the pages are hard to read. I have so much compassion for that girl today. Man, she really tried her best and day after day her best didn’t look like it was good enough, like it was doing any good.

This is the twisty world of a family living in post-traumatic stress. Only one of us went to war, yet all four of us wear the cloak the heaviness that comes from living constantly on edge.

Constant fear. Constant high alert. Hypervigilance. Interrupted sleep. Binging on ice cream. No energy to do anything necessary yet all the energy to do something fun, therefore avoiding feeling any pain.  Panic. Chest pain. Tight shoulders. General irritability with everyone and everything.

This is the twisty world of living in post-traumatic stress. It stole my joy. My ability to connect with my husband. It stole the tender moments of first steps and first words. My spark of creativity. My partner.  It colored my whole world gray-that non color-blah. A steady and constant valley-for years.

Oh, PTSD how I loathe thee and all you stole from me.

And I never want to hear your name again.

I never want another family to suffer. I never want someone to come home from war and feel alone in his own house. I never want a family to continue to live in fear long after the Homecoming pictures are posted because everything about their loved one is different. I never want you to affect someone’s career. I never want to hear that you took someone’s life because they didn’t have the support to learn how to quiet your pervasive symptoms.

I hate you. And in the words of Eric Church, “If I could only kill a word…” you would be it.

Yet, you taught me so much. You taught me courage. You taught me vulnerability. You taught me to let people in past the façade. You taught me that I need a Higher Power. You taught me to ask for help. You taught me to stand up for myself. You taught me how to do hard things. Eventually you taught me that I can only heal myself and that healing is journey. You taught me compassion. You taught me how to see the hurt in others and how to reach out a hand. You taught me the importance of community and how to create it. You taught me that a broken heart is where the Light gets in and that the cracks are how other people connect with me. You taught me so much.

You taught me to grow.

And to grow is to erase the “D” and turn from disorder into new opportunity:

Post-traumatic Growth.

7 comments

  1. Thank you, Jenny Lynn. You write beautifully — and capture the family experience of PTS so well. Most importantly, you’ve identified that the way out is “through”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was beautiful, Jenny. As someone who’s come through PTSD myself, it was so relatable. Thank you for sharing and helping other people with similar experiences realize they’re not alone!

    Liked by 1 person

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