Dear Friend with PTSD
You just got out of my car and I’m left trying to decide whether to cry, pray, or follow you. You had a flashback, some might call it an episode. A brutally unfair symptom of PTSD that interrupts a perfectly lovely cup of coffee with a friend or a breezy summer drive with memories of horror and pain.
Just minutes before, you had put on a song you wanted me to hear and I was humming along and driving. You had been laughing and talking, but things got quiet for a few minutes so I glanced over and you had drawn your feet up in your chair. I asked if you were ok and I touched your back. You flinched and shook your head no. You were trembling.
I drove back to your car and you fumbled to gather your things. While I begged you not to drive, you hurled yourself out of the front seat and ran like someone was chasing you to your own car. In a few minutes you got out and ran inside the building to vomit. This was a bad one. I drove away with my chest heavy with sadness, but relieved you were inside and not behind the wheel. I knew you didn’t want me to stay, but leaving you alone there was excruciating.
In a few minutes or hours, you will begin texting apologies. You’re so ashamed that you’ve “ruined” another day.
If there was any magic pill I could hand you, it would be one that could remove the shame you feel over this particular struggle. I would love for you to see yourself with my eyes in that moment when a trigger takes you unwittingly back to your traumatic childhood. All I want to do is just be there while you get to the other side.
If you had asthma, and an attack came on, I would hand over your inhaler and speak calmly and encourage you to breathe in through your nose and out your mouth. If you had a food allergy, and there were nuts hidden in your brownie, I would jab your thigh with your Epi pen and drive you to the hospital.But there's no Epi pen for trauma. Click To Tweet There’s no inhaler to slow down your breathing when a trigger slams into your beautiful brain against your will. There’s nothing I can do except love you and let you go. I can tell you again that I’m not sorry I said Yes, I’ll be your friend. I’m not sorry to bear witness to your stories of trauma. I’m not embarrassed or offended by your need to suddenly leave and be alone. I’m not angry or unwilling to wait for the healing to come.
It is going to come. A wise friend of yours once said that your healing is set in stone. And to that I say yes and amen. In the meantime, same place next week? I can’t wait to see you.