self-love

An Open Letter To PTSD

Content warning: This letter discusses sensitive topics including PTSD, mental illness and gun violence.

Dear PTSD,

I heard stories about how intrusive and adherent you were. From the moment you came into my life, a desaturated filter fell over me. I felt branded, like a product of a situation I didn’t want to be associated with. With your label branded on my skin, I was the “survivor,” the “victim” and the “traumatized,” when all I wanted to be was me. I didn’t ask for the constant butterflies, the jumps through my skin like an electric shock, the panic attacks, the flashes back to that day. Who knew you would be the first one to keep me up at night and get under my skin? 

purple ribbon domestic violence awareness month Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

I hated how you made me feel like I always had to walk on eggshells, and how you made every situation feel like the end of the world. I hated having to feel like the main character of a horror movie, waiting for the monster around every corner to come and take more joy from my life. Every day you manifested into a new kind of evil, a larger power that took complete control over my mind, and I felt powerless. But it wasn’t just you. It was never just you. You invited anxiety, depression, dissociation, derealization and depersonalization into my mind, and they quickly made themselves at home. My brain quickly became my own worst enemy, my own greatest fear. With you in power, every noise was a trigger. They’re not gunshots they’re fireworks, they’re not gunshots they’re fireworks, they’re not gunshots they’re fireworks. I knew you were only trying to help me. I knew you were trying to protect me from the dangers of the world, and I get it. The world is scary. But I couldn’t live my life constantly worried about the what-ifs, disconnected from reality and with the memories of that day projected within my mind. 

I was told that there was no getting rid of you. I was told that I’d have to learn to live with PTSD. But I knew I couldn’t live like that anymore; I knew I needed to find a way to heal and not just cope, because frankly, the breathing exercises and yoga weren’t cutting it. So, our relationship expanded beyond us and a therapist came into the mix. I tried psychotherapy. The first thing my therapist told me was to not call you "my" PTSD. You do not belong to me, you are not a part of me, you are just an unwanted guest. That gave me hope that you wouldn’t be a part of my life forever. So I tried EMDR, but it really only made me more comfortable talking about my trauma.

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

As soon as I started losing hope in ever getting better, my therapist told me she had recently trained in a new type of therapy called “neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).” I was willing to do anything to get rid of you. And in three sessions of NLP, I felt free from your clutch. With that, your brand was wiped off of my skin. My life felt saturated, beautiful and worth living again. I had enough room in my mind to grow. To learn. To love. I was me again. A stronger, happier, free-er version of myself. I could go to Disney World and enjoy the fireworks show and I knew they were fireworks and not gunshots. I could hear glass break at a restaurant without having to rush home. I could see lights flash without being sent into a dissociative episode. I felt hope for a future without you dictating my mind. The grief was there. The sadness was there. But you were gone. And I could deal with that. 

So, PTSD, I knew I had to cut toxicity out of my life, and that started with you. Maybe our relationship wasn’t entirely bad. You brought me pain, but you also brought me growth. It took lots of hard work to finally get rid of you, but without you I wouldn’t have ever gotten the chance to share my story and help others who have also had to deal with your constraint. So take that, PTSD. You tried to bring me down, but you’ve only made me stronger. I’m grateful for the strength I’ve gained and the power you’ve brought me now that I’ve finally conquered you. You were my greatest enemy, but now you’re just another obstacle I’ve overcome. So thank you for the lessons learned. Thank you for giving me this experience so I can give others hope for healing and growth. And by the way, stop making people think it will never get better. It always gets better. 

Sincerely,

A girl who healed.