"I'm back in the saddle again
Out where a friend is a friend
Where the longhorn cattle feed
On the lowly gypsum weed
Back in the saddle again..."
Maybe I'm channeling my late grandparents. Maybe I've just seen Sleepless in Seattle one too many times. Doesn't really matter.
What matters is that yes, it's been quite a ride.
I've always been able to pound out my thoughts easily, until after.
One of the first things my therapist (god, I hate saying that -- it doesn't even sound like me) asked when I started seeing her at the end of summer for PTSD was if I had ever written about what happened in Oslo? I might have laughed in her office. The office that yes, upon my first visit I confirmed DID contain a COUCH. A real therapists office.
Write? Me? You're kidding, right?
But she wasn't.
Turns out she isn't a mind reader.
I'd never been on a therapists couch (except for that one time when I was a crabby teenager...) and I really didn't know what I was supposed to do or say. It was a huge step to be there but I was getting tired of the nightmares, the fear, the flashbacks, the panic and the SCARED. Between nightmares and my awesome hot flashes (hello old age!), I wasn't getting much sleep. I'm a worry-er by nature, but now I was worrying everytime anyone left the house. And yes, I mean EVERYtime. I jumped when I heard loud noises and panicked during situations that I never gave a 2nd thought to before. Crying and I were "like this." Tight. Inseparable.
Hence, the therapy.
I learned that even though I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do or say, I was pretty good at it (meaning, I never shut up). Still am. I see my therapist (I can actually say that now, although I TRY not to advertise it) about every 6 weeks. And if I need to talk to her between appointments, I can call her - like the time in November when I had an all out freak out while picking up my daughter's 9th birthday cake. That was fun.
I'm also learning that this is a process. There is no cure. There is no quick fix. There is no potion I can take that will let me forget the things that ultimately brought this to the surface. Although I've made a lot of progress since August, it's a private progress. Most people don't know. They don't know that I need a prescription before getting on an airplane, or going underground at Hoover Dam (I did that!). They don't know that behind my smile, I'm still a little scared when I'm in the city or in a big crowd or at the movie theater or driving over a bridge. They don't know that in the last 7 months, I have relied on deep breathing more than a thousand yoga classes could give me.
At the doctor's office today, for a simple completely unrelated matter, I noticed a mental health magazine in the plastic, possibly (no, definitely) germ-riddled shelf in the exam room. A MENTAL HEALTH MAGAZINE. Usually those shelves are filled with either pregnancy publications or AARP magazines so this was quite a surprise. I didn't have time to read much of it but it's existence made me smile. And not a hidden deep down smile, but a real, content, little smile that yes - the world is an okay place and yes, so am I. And I'm not the only one because hello! there's a whole magazine about taking care of your mental health.
[It was like finding out that unicorns really DO exist]
I pretty much don't have nightmares anymore and the flashbacks are becoming less frequent. But I still think about it at least once a day. I still startle, but I don't panic (as much) when something scary, violent or awful happens (could be because I never watch the news anymore either). I'm surrounded by people who don't judge, who laugh with me (okay, maybe AT me too) and who help me navigate my way through this. I couldn't do it without them.
PTSD and the anxiety and panic that comes along with mine isn't anything to be ashamed of. It's far more common than most people realize and the sooner we open up the dialogue and actually TALK about our mental health just as we TALK about our physical health, the sooner the stigma will dissolve. What I'm trying to say is, I've had more conversations about childbirth, periods and menstrual cramps than I've ever had about this - and that's just not right. It's time to change that.
My friend Kim and I - Out where a friend is a friend