Last night, I woke at 3.15 AM feeling unsettled and anxious. Again. Usually it’s because of a vivid dream that’s left me fearful, anxious, or angry (even if I don’t remember it). But not last night. It was just the feelings on their own. It can take a long time to shift these harrowing emotions because breathing exercises and mantras only get you so far. Sometimes distraction is the key; I might get out of bed and camp out on the sofa so that I can watch TV until I’m so tired from exhaustion that my body literally as no option but to go into sleep mode.
This is PTSD. One of the ways it manifests at least.
PTSD is what takes me back to the abuse, even years after leaving. It’s the involuntary physical responses to receiving bills or bank statements. It’s the crushing feeling of defeat when something trivial goes wrong. It’s the mountain of guilt for dishes undone or laundry unironed. It is the vivid dreams that take hours and sometimes days to shake. It is the jump or panic when I see a woman with short grey hair and glasses or a man on a mobility scooter wearing a hat.
So many people only associate PTSD with combat soldiers. But those who have dealt with domestic violence, for example, know what it’s like to fight a constant war at home. PTSD is a response to trauma, just as bleeding is a response to cutting your finger. Unfortunately, no bandage is big enough to cover up PTSD, and healing is an intense and long process. And sometimes that processing happens at 3.15 in the morning.