Some days it is hard to love myself.
Today is one of those days.
Some days I wonder who I would be without this PTSD.
I want to know what could have been, if the abusers didn’t win.
Who would I be if I wasn’t shaped by what those people did to me?
I am on hyper-alert. My senses are sharpened to the slightest movement or sound; immediately noticing a subtle smirk or frown. My body is tense and ready to fight. But I can never be sure if I’m paranoid or right.
My mind is always at the defense, ready to state my case and stand my trial. I make snap judgments and assume the worst. My nervous system is tattooed with a survival manual.
My reflexes learned how to be a step ahead of the attacks that always came; prepared to guard my honor and ward off the blame.
I’ve mastered the art of reading between the lines. Shallow breath, darting eyes – mind games and word traps I’m quick to recognize.
Playing detective, constantly on edge – my testimony is told by unlikely witnesses: my own skin, blood pressure, metabolism, my muscles. Chapters of my story are written on pages of medical bills.
On bad days my verbal processing center shuts down. It’s difficult to follow what’s being said or articulate what’s wrong; I stutter and falter. My face flushes with the shame and self-disgust familiar to survivors.
On good days I’m still haunted by the me that never was. I feel her, but I don’t know who she is or what she does.
If only she would talk to me – show me what it would be like if I was never given PTSD.
Sometimes I think about what potential lived inside that little baby born on a stormy August afternoon thirty years ago. Is her potential still inside of me or is she a ghost? Am I honoring her memory? Am I fulfilling her purpose or at least getting close? Some days I long for younger me, willing her to come alive.
Or do I have it all wrong? Perhaps a lesser me entered the flames and came out the other side refined, forged in the fire. The perilous journey making me determined and strong.
Without trauma I could be happier but probably more shallow. Maybe I was fated for this journey, but I’ll never know.
I do know I’ve gained wisdom, experience, empathy and compassion. I know I’ve developed resilience and character and faith. I’m a fighter and a survivor – but what will the healing process create? Who will I be when this label becomes a smaller part of my identity? Will I lose myself? Will I find my true self?
Or is this fluid, ever-changing, adapting, always growing and morphing and evolving me, the only me there ever was?
All I can ever really do is embrace the now, commit to the process, look for the beauty within the chaos. I can celebrate my victories and focus on what I have more than what was lost.
And while other people’s actions have been huge in shaping the person I am, that was the extent of their power. I still get to decide who I am becoming, and the best part is, they’re not going to like her.