I’m running. I don’t know where I’m going; I just know that I have to keep running. I have to elude him. If he catches me, it’s over… and I’m not ready for that.
I’m not ready to lose control.
But I already have. No matter how fast I run or where I hide, he finds me. He grabs me, squeezes, and gets that disgusting grin on his face as I slowly fade in his grasp.
I wake with a start, furious and terrified, sweating and shaking.
Wide-eyed, I look around the room. My heart is racing. The room is silent.
I look at my bedroom door. It’s locked. Still. Everything is still.
It bothers me.
I get up and turn on my lamp, walking around my room.
Once the coast is clear, I sit back down on my bed and sigh. It’s 4 AM. I have class in four hours. So much for sleep.
It’s not night terrors that keep me awake, but it’s pretty damn close. The name of my monster is PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Affecting about 7.7 million Americans, PTSD occurs after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event such as rape, abuse, assault, car wrecks, natural disasters, or combat exposure.
PTSD sufferers experience a loss of control and feelings of intense fear. Though many people have stress after a traumatic event, PTSD is a whole different ballgame – it disrupts your life.
Up to 80% of people living with PTSD experience problems with sleep, often due to nightmares that force them to relive the traumatic event for months or even years after it happened.
For me, it was an abusive relationship that lasted from 2010-2012. Abused verbally, emotionally, sexually, and physically, I was terrified of him. He had full control over my life, my feelings, my body.
Once I escaped, those feelings didn’t go away. I experienced nightmares, hyperarousal, feelings of guilt and shame, depression, and frequent flashbacks.
Cue phone call from Trey – an old friend from high school who asked me if I wanted to catch up one night. I took his offer.
We went to Chili’s and started talking over mojitos. We hadn’t seen each other in years, but he could still tell that something was off. When he asked about it, I hid my hands in my jacket sleeves and looked down. I was nervous as hell.
What if he called me stupid? What if it WAS my fault and he points that out to me? It would shatter me…
Somehow, slowly, he got me to open up. I talked… and he listened. He didn’t judge me. It was refreshing.
Later that week, he invited me out with his friends to do karaoke at a local pub. I was hesitant, but decided I had nothing to lose.
I needed that night. I needed those people. I wouldn’t have made it through that summer without them. The support I received from them was amazing.
I had decided that I was going to chase my happiness, no matter what that meant. They were there for me 110% every step of the way.
They didn’t shame me for my darkness or pretend it didn’t exist. They embraced it, accepted it, and loved me more for it. I was just shocked at how much these people could love.
It didn’t matter if it was 2:30 in the morning. If I had a PTSD nightmare or a panic attack, I could call any of them and they would either talk me through it or show up at my door step with Oreos, a box of tissues, and a big hug.
My roommate, Alex, went above and beyond the call of duty. A criminal justice major, she asked her professors about my case and gave me all the information she could. Staying informed helped to quell my feelings of chaos and helplessness.
I could sit on my bed crying, and she would just hold me and rub my back, reassuring me that he wasn’t coming back. She, like my other friends, knew how to be a good friend.
It wasn’t even the fact that they knew how to help – it was that they were willing to try. Years of good advice couldn’t have helped me more than they have. Just by being there, a tremendous amount of my pain healed.
PTSD may disrupt and ravage my life – but it won’t take over it. And I have my friends to thank for that.