Letters to Linda

I can open doors and invite her to walk through.

Sometimes you go through hell so that you can help others through it.

If all of the pain that I have lived with for the past few years can be used to help someone else who is in pain. It’s worth it to me. Not because I’m that self-sacrificing or any kind of imagined hero, but because it gives my pain a purpose, and it isn’t wasted. If someone benefits, whether that’s me or another, there’s purpose, and I find peace in that.

Having a platform to speak about my experience with PTSD (traumatic car wreck) in a way that I don’t feel compromises me the same as speaking about my other PTSD-causing experiences (traumatic abuse and sexual assault) gives me the freedom to say things that I find many trauma survivors don’t feel the freedom to say. When your trauma comes with shame, the last thing you want is for people to know. It’s why I don’t talk about being in an abusive relationship. I don’t want to re-live it, I don’t want to explain it and I don’t want to hear what most people have to say about it. Car wreck is different, it’s much more socially acceptable, elicits sympathy and the stupid comments don’t hurt as much (anymore).

Through a series of mistakes and judgmental attitudes (mostly on my part), I ended up at a coffee shop earlier this week sitting across from a woman ten years younger than I, who I will call Linda. After a brief conversation that you can read about in the post link, we got down to purpose. She asked me about my experience with PTSD, because she also has it. She was exposed to violence in a Mexican drug war and later to sexual abuse from a group she thought were her friends. In a story that felt so familiar, she didn’t realize for a long time that the violence was traumatic, or that the abuse was not ok, and that she wasn’t able to exercise choice. It left her empty, detached, obsessive and ashamed.

“Normal” things are triggers. She’s working so hard to hear a bachelor’s degree, but she has a hard time focusing and her grades suffer. Groups are uncomfortable for her at best. Her friends don’t understand and don’t try to. She’s ashamed of her response to “normal” things and hates that people perceive her as cold and disinterested. She’s dating a guy who loves her for who she is and is trying to learn how to support her, and she’s scared she’s going to sabotage the relationship because she doesn’t feel that she deserves to be loved. She doesn’t feel that she has access to mental health care, and she is swirling around in anxiety, not knowing what to do to break free.

That was, and to some extent still is, me. I’m further along in recovery, so I have a bit more clarity, but that is me. I don’t have to say I understand, because the energy I give off in response to what she says communicates how deeply I understand. And accept. And don’t judge. And I know how hard it is to ask for help. I know how hard it is to even understand what’s happening, or why all you want to do is lay in bed and watch tv. Why you torture yourself with negative thoughts and why self-harm is so attractive.

I’m not a mental health professional, I’m a client. And I can’t fix people, I gave that idea up already and my life improved drastically when I did. I can, however, share my experience with her in a way that meets her where she is. I can open doors and invite her to walk through. I can explain why she experiences some things in the way that she does, and I can give her the space and support to recover in her own way and her own time.

I think in this instance giving is the gift, and it’s one I want to share on my blog, so I’ll be posting the letters in the hope that they multiply the encouragement and acceptance for whoever will benefit from it. ❤

A Hero Stepped In

I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal to replace the light. Wrong.

I’m pretty used to doing things myself. While it would be ungrateful and selfish on my part to claim that I don’t get help and support, I often don’t have what I need. People see competence and assume I can handle it, because I mostly do. I don’t see a choice, and asking for help often seems unnecessary because I can usually figure it out.

I meet up with my business partner every Saturday morning to walk several miles and talk business, the world and gossip. It’s great fun, and I pick up bagels for his wife and I on my way. He doesn’t eat gluten so I usually get the side eye, but I live for Saturday morning bagels. Client’s Brother, who I will call David, has had a lot going on the last few days, and we finally got to catch up last night. He asked if it was too late for me to come over and I said yes, because bagels and because I had early morning plans and because I was feeling a bit skittish after a couple of days of not really knowing what was going on or how I fit into things. Laken, your advice was great, I was just supportive and held myself in check a bit. It paid off, because I counter offered to come over this morning with bagels after walk and talk, and it was well worth being supportive and understanding and not reacting based on my worries for a couple of days. We had a lovely day together, and stayed in a couple bubble.

Until I left and he noticed I had a headlamp out on my car.

It has been very cold here and the wildlife are out frisking around. He lives a bit out of town and was concerned about me driving home at night with a light out, so he dug around under my hood until he figured out how to remove the burned out light. I had just enough time to get to the nearest car parts store to get a new one, and I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal to replace the light.

Wrong.

A couple hours later, after I had called to let him know neither I nor the guy at the car parts store could figure this out, he had removed the low beam light and all of its housing and wires and whatever and put it all back together with the new bulb. In the cold. In the dark. With a manual that was not nearly as helpful as it could have been. He didn’t once complain or get overly frustrated or say anything negative to me, he was just happy that I was safe and he could do something for me. Same way he’s calmly knocking down my walls, taking care of me and making me think that whatever magic it is that we have could actually work out.