This is one battle that you cannot ask others to fight for you. You can have allies, but they cannot see the enemy. It puts them at a significant disadvantage. I have seen several of my relationships be destroyed by the war happening in my head. It is beyond frustrating when all I want to do is be whole, but pieces of me are being chipped away by a condition that is just beyond my control. The fact of the matter is, you can hide PTSD very well until something sets you back. It doesn’t even have to be a trigger that sends you slipping down the hill. It can be good things, too – like optimism and hope.
Now, I am not saying that happiness is a bad thing. I am saying that some things must be taken with a grain of salt. Recently, I felt like I was on the up and up. Really, I was beyond happy. School was going well, I was making friends, things were good with my family – I could not see a single cloud in the sky. Then, a person walked into my life. This person was as bright as the sun. He was warm and safe and stable. I paused on my climb up the mountain and just thought, “This is it. I’ve done it. I’m happy and I have someone that makes me happy. I don’t have to fight anymore.”
PTSD is tricky like that. It is almost like bipolar disorder in that sense. You can have almost manic-like episodes in which everything seems perfect and you’re perfect and nothing could ever possibly go wrong again because you’ve got this. Unfortunately, like with bipolar disorder, there is always that crash on the other side. The trauma, even when deeply buried, has a way of working itself back to the surface – and boy is it scary when it gets there.
This person had no clue what he was walking into. I like to call my life a minefield at the moment and he happened to step right on one of those suckers. Try as I might to cover the explosion, he saw every nasty bit of it. I spent two weeks spiraling out of control. Many of those close to me know that I have struggled with self-harm for many years. After two years of being clean from this habit, I turned to a razor to ground myself. The cuts I made were not deep, but they were there and that was enough to warrant a reality check. Did I really have my condition under control?
This is not a battle for the faint of heart or those with a persistently idealistic attitude. It is a fight for those with the strength to dig in and keep pushing even when you are beyond exhausted or irritated or stressed. This is why I refer to PTSD as a solitary fight – because how can I ask another to fight an enemy that they cannot see? How can I ask this person to shoulder the blows that they do not deserve?
I will lose this person due to the battle. Very few can withstand the constant thrashing of the waves and I can never ask anyone to. This is why being a lifeguard is so tricky, you know – because those who are drowning are very apt to panic and pull down their rescuer. With 20/20 hindsight of those I have dragged down with me in the past, I feel that cutting him loose is the only option. I’ve struggled with it – fought with myself as I try to establish an anchor elsewhere. I had thought that I could lean on this person for anything and that was a very big mistake. I allowed myself to lose sight of the peak of my mountain and imagined that this person could help me navigate the rest of the way. Therein lies the mistake – I have to find the path to my peak all over again, and I have to do it on my own. No relationship – whether it be friendship or something more – can be healthy until both people involved are healthy.
You see, with PTSD, you have to be your own anchor in the waves. Asking anyone else to do it is unfair because, like we talked about before, they can’t see the waves coming. They have no clue when to brace for impact.
So, then, where does that leave us – those who are struggling to stay afloat? Well, a lot of the time, it leaves us alone. People who do not understand this condition often grow frustrated with the behavior of those who have it because they cannot see why we are not getting better. They may think that we simply don’t want to be helped. If I could tell these people just one thing, it would be that: yes, we want to be helped. We are trying, but this is a two steps forward, one step back kind of battle. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate being alone more than just about anything. It terrifies me. Unfortunately, that is often the reality of PTSD.
I don’t want it to be. I want to be able to hold onto someone when it feels like the waves will surely pull me down forever. It has taken me a very long time to understand that I deserve an anchor, but it takes time and patience to find one. So, I keep walking. I pray for guidance and continue pushing my way up the proverbial mountain. I keep kicking when the waves crash.
I hope that you can too, whatever your struggle may be. I hope that you can be your own anchor until you find the person that you can trust to be your safety net. I hope that you know that the sun rises every day and that you can send your burdens down on its setting back at night. There is always another tomorrow waiting with endless possibilities. I know that being alone is terrifying – even as I write this, I am being weighed down by the loneliness. But – I know that the sun will rise again and with it will come another reason to smile. It will bring another good run, another dance party, another hug, another reason to just be alive.
The fight is lonely, yes – but the victory is so sweet.