Not a story this time. Sorry folks. Just a moment of raw reality.
I struggled to keep a smile on my face today; it wasn’t a bad day. In fact, I think my students and I had a pretty good day, especially because we went home early thanks to significantly more snow than predictions said this morning. We also found out before mid-day that we start late tomorrow. I love the extra time that gives me at home. My forced smile wasn’t out of a bad mood either. I didn’t struggle with patience with my students; they’re great kids that, for the most part, I enjoy greatly.
But there was last night…
Last night hurt. I know my husband calmed me at least twice from nightmares, night terrors, or flashbacks. I’m a little fuzzy on how awake I was at any given point during those incidents. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how awake I was because once I was fully awake, I couldn’t get the images out of my mind. Gruesome snippets of what every day life used to be like for me. Probably brought on by recent reminders of that life.
And the hardest thing is that some part of me misses that life, misses being one of the first ones there to help pick up the pieces of shattered lives. I feel guilty for that because I know the toll it takes on me to remember, the toll it takes on my husband when he’s calming me down for the fourth, fifth, or fifteenth time in a night. He’s kind, ever so kind, and gracious about it, far beyond anything I could ever have imagined in a partner before I met, fell in love with, and married David. But I also know that even when he is groggy and falls right back asleep, it still disrupts his sleep. He doesn’t ever complain about it. Ever. And for that I am grateful, but in the raw reality of being afraid of going to sleep, I have to admit that I do feel guilty for it.
When you’re fighting the guilt and the flashbacks of PTSD, it’s hard to keep a smile on your face. Even when you’re having a pretty good day and enjoying life. There’s still a part of your mind that is help captive by the battle. You are not fully present in the moment and you feel acutely the tension. In some ways, it is harder now.
That might sound crazy, but the truth is when I was sleeping 2-3 hours a night, constantly fighting flashbacks, barely able to eat, and holding myself together on caffeine and dietary supplements, I didn’t know anything different. A life free of those things seemed only as tangible as some poorly thought out theory. Now, though, I know better. I know that I can go days, even a week or two without nightmares or flashbacks, so when they come back, I find myself terrified that I won’t taste freedom ever again.
I really have two very wonderful things in my life that help tremendously:
1) God. I’ve gained a lot of comfort from reading the book of Job in the Bible at various points in the past year in particular. Part of this has come from the fact that the more I read it, the more I realize that God did not condemn Job for his questions, his fears, or even his cursing the day of his birth. What He does do is answer Job with a fantastic description of Himself as sovereign God. I have never learned so much about God as I have in the past year with several moves, several job changes, and several losses. Rather than becoming more distant, God has become more real to me. I know Him so much better now than I ever could have before. So as I go through another bout of the hardest parts of PTSD, I am still able to have peace and joy even when that smile isn’t super quick to come.
2) An amazing husband. He is one of the ways God has worked in my life. He is one of God’s expressions of love. He’s so patient with me; and he just sent me a song to remind me that I am loved, that he knows I am hurting, and that he’s still right here, by my side. If you need a good reminder of the fact that you are loved, I definitely recommend this song: Always Remember To Never Forget by Christy Nockels (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcLgpFw2_UM). GREAT SONG! Also, if you haven’t checked it out yet, check out David’s (my husband) YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2YD-EKcGgZ14AFo7BobYHA). He’s working on another video to upload, and I am super excited about it!
No matter the terror you face in the night, whether it comes from PTSD or worry or a thousand things you need to get done, I promise you that God is enough and if He chooses to use a spouse or a best friend or some random person on the street to encourage you, give Him the glory first. He is worth it. I promise.