The PTSD shadowlands are a place of darkness and pain. There is no escape it holds me trapped, unable to move. It chokes my screams in my throat, my stomach convulses, heart pounding then in terror simply wants to stop. I watch over and over and over again the blood, vomit, torn limbs, heads ripped from bodies… for some it is being held down and raped, over and over again. The horror never ends. So much evil. My child brain knew no peace. Parents at war, even when I should have found a place of safety their poison, their violence never ended. My mother’s need to cause me pain, to make me scream, break me. She did not know that I had long since passed through to the disassociated state of the PTSD Shadowlands Dweller. And again and again I would try to find my normal in this life – to feel pain, to be abused was the only life I knew. My wrists, my ankles bled from being scratched at – barely noticed blood would soak my clothes. A pain that never ends. It leaves me barely alive. Unable to live today there is only that. The PTSD Shadowlands.
This is a place where there is no light. There is no joy. Happy people just annoy and deepen my sense of isolation. My strangeness in a world I cannot hope to be a part of. I deflect, I dissimulate, I hide behind smoke and mirrors. I kick you away from me. You with your reality tv shows, cop dramas and shopping – always shopping. You are utterly alien to me.
I lifted the shotgun muzzle, neatly tucked it under my chin. I thought how neatly it fit under my small chin, almost made for the job. My toes, ever dexterous reached around the trigger, safety off. I just needed the pain to end. Just the noise to stop. I can’t watch him die anymore. I can’t hold back the tears. They fall unnoticed. I am silent but dying. Dying before all you shiny people’s eyes – you do not understand and if I told you, you would judge me, reject me, call me psychotic. You would write me nasty texts telling me to stay away from you and your family. Nobody wants somebody this damaged.
Better to end it. One push with my toes and it ends.
I long for silence.
I want the noise to stop. I want to feel no more pain. I do not want to hear their screams. I do not want to see the flies on the stiff grey lips. I can’t keep living barely alive. Disconnected from everything. I can’t feel physical pain. I have always watched fascinated at the things that can be done to me and yet I feel nothing. There was probably a time, briefly when I was very little that I could feel … but I can’t remember it.
There is one small voice inside me that is not dead. That has always pushed me to keep going. It cries out for help.
It was enough.
I am here today because of that small voice that would not give up. It was barely alive, it was suffocating.
But it was enough.
I am alive today because the universe gave me friends to walk by my side. Who pushed me to standing. Who would not let me walk alone through the badlands. Through the shadowlands. My journey through them was my own, but they walked with me. Quietly. They laughed at me, made me laugh at me… They baked me bread, they baked my child’s cake when to do so was impossible for me, they took me out for coffee and told me about their lives … they kept me connected to the here and now. Bit by bit, I have slowly come alive.
Not the walking dead that I was in the PTSD Shadowlands.
I am whole.
I understand more about the world than those who have never been traumatized can ever hope to. I can see pain in others and I give of myself to them because I know that I am here for that purpose. I enjoy the sun. I enjoy the light. I make mistakes and I laugh – I understand that these bumps in the road are part of the great continuum of life, not life ending.
I will never be without my ghosts but they visit me now as old friends; I can connect to them when I need to for others. To empathize with their journey I ask my ghosts to explain it to me, sometimes that is hard and leaves me shaken, but I know I can return to the living. I startle and I freeze. I faint if somebody shouts; but I do not mind these quirks of mine. I simply get back up, pat my skirt down and say oh well… shame I wasn’t wearing a tiara.
I know when a new friend is toxic, instead of being drawn to the abuse I kiss them goodbye gently in my head and carefully do the ghost walk backwards out of their sphere. You see, I have learnt to love me. To love my courage. My strength. I love my mistakes – because they show I’m alive, truly alive. Not dead and simply existing, waiting to die.
Peer support isn’t an option. It’s a lifeline and one that everybody with PTSD must have. Simple as that.