Author’s Note: While this story is a work of fiction, there are events and descriptions of symptoms that could trigger someone with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you think you may be triggered, please think before reading further.
Contrary to the cultural stereotype, I like visiting my family. I like sitting with my parents and reminiscing. Contrary to what people may believe, I enjoy hanging out my sister. I like the normalcy of it all. I like feeling okay. I like not feeling isolated.
But... Then I get quiet. Lucy notices and gives me a reassuring smile. She can tell I'm pulling back from those around me. My parents sometimes notice and sometimes not so much. Maybe they pretend not to notice so they don't need to acknowledge. It's been hard dealing with my PTSD, for them. I switch back and forth from sympathizing with their difficulty with it and feeling like they don't understand at all. How could they understand? There were times, when I was the worst of my depression, where I know they didn't understand. They couldn't understand the not eating, the insomnia, and the anxiety. It was hard, I guess, for them to process. I would sit in my room all night processing. Insomnia gives you plenty of time to process; at least a good 8 hours a night on average.
My mother knows I want to talk to Carol tonight. My mom and I had our talks a while back. I think she has mixed feelings about whether or not talking to my sister is a good idea.
Carol doesn't notice when I get quiet at dinner. We don't spend time together like we used to. Maybe she doesn't know the difference between me being engaged in conversation and me isolating myself.
Dinner was really good. My mom made some of my favorite foods. Chicken cutlets, yellow rice, roasted vegetables. It was delicious! After dinner, we sat at the table for a bit. I looked over at Carol and made a motion with my head towards the door. Up until this point in the night things had been good. I knew, though, it was now or never for this conversation.
I've been thinking about this conversation for a couple months. As part of my therapy I've been trying to work towards vocalizing my issues without yelling, crying or shutting down. Carol and I need this conversation. We used to be so close, and I don't know if we can ever be that close again, but I hope that we could be closer. I hope that this person who has known me since day one could be a source of comfort in the ocean that could sometimes be my isolation.
We go outside and start walking. Neither one of us wants to talk first. We start with the easy stuff: TV, movies, etc. After a couple minutes, we are quiet again. Ok... Deep breath... Here we go...
"I wish we could talk things out."
"A lot of stuff happened with us. Fighting and conflict."
"I'm sorry." She avoids looking at me.
"I'm not starting this just to get an apology. I want a real relationship with you. I felt so alone back then and I need you to understand that you didn't make it any easier. Now, I still feel isolated sometimes. And, I think it's because I have so many unresolved feelings about how things played out when my PTSD was first diagnosed." Just get it all out there. Now or never, right?
"I know how I was back then. I'm ashamed I wasn't there for you." She's starting to hold back tears.
"Carol, please don't cry. I just want you to understand."
"I do. I know I didn't let myself understand before. It was hard for me to see you go through it and I should've been there to help you, but I know I wasn't." She continues this explanation for a few minutes.
I'm shocked. I've gotten the bland sorry from her before, but never something so much more heartfelt. She is sincere this time, making eye contact and everything.
"Vinny, I'm sorry." She's crying now. No hiding it.
I stare at her. "It's okay..."
"No, it's not." She cuts me off. "I was awful." She's been holding this in for a while, it seems.
"It is. I mean it. I want us to be able to move past this. I know we have more work to do but I think we can get there if you want to as much as I do." This is more question than statement.
"I do. I love you, Vinny." Before I can answer she gives me a huge hug.
"I love you, too"
A little while later, Lucy and I are on our way out to the car. We get in and start driving. It's been a couple hours since my talk with Carol. I'm still processing.
Lucy breaks the silence. "So..."
"Carol and I talked. It was good. I think we'll have to talk more but I think this was a good place to start."
"What did she say?" Lucy likes getting specifics.
"Do you think it was sincere?" Lucy knows the history.
I pause. "Yeah, I do." I take a deep breath. Suddenly I feel less isolated from my sister than I have felt in years. I feel like this small conversation has changed the way we will interact. I choke back some tears. These aren't tears of sadness but relief. The relief that this was one small step in the right direction. One more step towards feeling like I'm not isolated, like I'm not going through this life alone.
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