Dates = 2, Me = 0

This guy is going to think I have no elegance, and that couldn’t be further from reality.

Surprisingly (my dating history inspires no confidence in the activity), dating Client’s Brother is still going well. I might even give him a real name next week.

Dates, however, have resulted in a 50% injury rate for me.

On our first date I scalded the hell outta my throat eating pizza that was way too hot. I almost only ever get it takeout or delivery, and in that case I can eat it straight away with no problem. I somehow missed that it would not be so eating pizza right out of the oven. I also did not want to spit out my food. It took 5 days to recover.

Yesterday we went for an afternoon hike along a creek on a moderate trail. There’s a bit of climbing around and walking on rocks to cross the creek in places, and while it was warm enough that the water wouldn’t freeze us, no one wants to hike in wet shoes. We were on the last creek crossing on the way back to the cars and I had carefully made it across. He was ahead of me and kept going when he got to the bank, I stepped on the bank, my left foot slipped and I crashed into a bush, cutting my ankle on the rock I slipped on in the process. Yeah, that’s an attractive quality in a hiking partner.

When I realized I was neither injured (hadn’t seen the cut yet) nor impaled on the bush branches, I started laughing at myself. Whatever, spills happen. I did have a branch of the bush stabbed through the band of my Fitbit next to my wrist, and how that happened without even scratching me I have no idea. By this time Client’s Brother realized I wasn’t behind him, and he and the dog came back to see what was up. I was still laughing at myself and getting off the ground, and the dog kindly removed the stick from my arm. Good puppy.

None of this kept us from kissing in the car before we headed off to separate obligations, and I found the cut when I got home. I almost never have this kind of thing happen to me, but ya know, ya fall down, ya get up, and I’m thankful that I could laugh at this spill.

Paintballin’

I HAVE A SOURCE OF PAIN PEOPLE CAN SEE.

I got the shit shot outta me this morning by my brother and our friends. I liked it way more than I thought I would. There is something really fun about running around in the woods and trying not to get splattered by a high-speed ball of pink paint.

I had the first and last kill shots of the day. I also have a welt the size of a softball on my shin. I can’t comfortably set my right arm down. I find all of this funny.

I am a pansy when it comes to physical pain. I have endured soul-rending emotional and mental pain and gone on about my day, but getting shot with a paintball from 20 feet away at 320 feet per second? Ouch. Except it was a brief ouch before it passed and the memory quickly faded.

I got shot and went on without complaining or dwelling on it. Four of the shots hurt like hell and I took them like a champ. I shook it off and went back to shooting. That was a major step forward for me. And it’s cathartic to have visible bruises.

I HAVE A SOURCE OF PAIN PEOPLE CAN SEE.

It is incredibly liberating in a way, right when I have been struggling so much with the invisible injury of PTSD.

To be clear, this is not about self-harm or some of the other coping mechanisms that some people who struggle adopt. I am so, so thankful that I do not have that challenge on my journey. But I do have a couple of playfully-attained battle scars from running around in the woods with compressed air rifles and some pink paint, and I am taking a moment to appreciate what that has revealed about me.

I Thought PTSD Was a Life Sentence

I finally broke down. I was pissed. Some days I still am.

I live with anxiety brain. I have been diagnosed with PTSD. Here’s how that happened, and how I view it now.

Almost four years ago someone I loved and trusted betrayed me with absolute cruelty. Less than a week later I hydroplaned on an interstate and the hood of my car went under the trailer tires of a semi. I honestly thought I was going to die before the car came to a stop, but I came out of the blur and wreckage with a few bruises and already on the phone with 911. The witnesses to my wreck couldn’t believe I was alive. The wrecker driver couldn’t believe I was making jokes. I couldn’t believe an engine could be in pieces like that. I was in law class the next morning, and didn’t miss a beat until two years later, when I was down to my last shred of sanity and my choice was between leaving my life and starting again or getting help. I chose to get help.

The trauma broke my brain. I maybe could have made it through one event or the other, but I could not do both, and two years later I learned that I wasn’t crazy, I have a diagnosable injury that I can do a lot to heal. I am almost two years into the healing process, and I will have to work at it till I die. Lots of practice!

The trauma that I experienced in less than a week – all of it out of my control – handed me what I saw as a life sentence of frustration, self-blame and much-reduced mental capabilities. My intelligence, my focus and my stamina under stress were blown to pieces, and everything I knew to do to get ahead in life was taken from me when I finally broke down. I was pissed. Some days I still am.

A few months ago my younger brother was badly injured at work and my experience with PTSD suddenly had purpose. I was no longer the weak one, the only one in therapy in a tough family, I was the one with compassion, empathy and Grace. I was the one who could keep smiling, stay positive and support the family’s physical and emotional needs. My injury and healing suddenly set a clear path forward not only for what not to do and say, but what to do to help heal. I have my answer to the question “WHY?!?!?!”, and it’s enough. Even if it did pause my own recovery for nearly three months. It’s enough.

I’m still working through the anxiety and trauma I had before the worst week of my life. I had to learn that I even had anxiety and trauma before. I had to learn there are names and reasons and answers and tools and that yes, I can exercise a certain amount of control over my life. That was freeing. I haven’t forgotten the endless days of pain, the endless tears, the silent sobs, my soul screaming while I was pushed to my limits by something nameless residing in my brain that wouldn’t let me let go. I can’t forget that much pain. If I did, I wouldn’t be able to be so compassionate now.

Life sentence? Maybe. Life changing? Definitely. And good thing, because I am a much better human now than I was before.