Last night I had a flashback in my sleep. It was intense. One of the more intense ones that I have had in a long time. I should have known it was coming. My mind was telling me all day that something wasn’t right. I just couldn’t put my finger on what was off and, to be honest, I’m still not totally sure. Lucy is amazing, though. I wish I could show her better how much I appreciate her. To make sure I was going to have a good day today, she made me breakfast and even put a little note on the nightstand for me. It read “No matter what battles we fight, we fight them together. Love, always.”.
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). This story might be triggering, the readers discretion is advised.
It’s the weekend, so that means we have a light schedule of errands, relaxing and friends. This morning, I am supposed to go have coffee with a buddy of mine, Nick. We have been friends for a long time and he knows about my PTSD. We don’t discuss it too much, but he knows it’s there. He was there for me when I was at my worst, and didn’t judge me for it. He saw me depressed and suicidal, but didn’t treat me like I was different or had some disease. He heard my story, not just listened but heard, and didn’t treat me like a glass doll. He’s the type of friend that everyone with PTSD really needs; doesn’t push too hard and doesn’t let you completely shut everyone out.
I got to the coffee shop a little early. Got us the good table by the window, in the corner; private enough to talk if we want, but open enough to people watch. Here he comes now.
–“Yo, Vinny my man! How’s it goin’? Nick thinks we are still kids, in our 30s.
“Hey, Nick!” We do our little 1990s throw-back of a handshake, then head over to grab some coffee and food.
Back at the table, I can tell something is on his mind. “What’s going on?”
–“Nothing. Nothing at all. You?”
Liar. “Let me guess, you spoke to Lucy.”
–“She means well, Vin. She was just worried. You’ve been doing so well. What happened yesterday?”
–“I know she does. I just wish she hadn’t gone to you.”
–“I just want to forget sometimes. You know? I just want to forget what happened. I want to ignore the PTSD. I want to know what it feels like to not have experienced trauma. You guys just don’t get it. I spent so long depressed and wanting to commit suicide. You can say all you want that you understand. Every therapist, doctor, social worker, family member, friend can all say that they understand, but those are words. I wouldn’t wish that understanding on you or Lucy in a million years.”
–“Okay, okay. I get it. I don’t understand, but what you don’t understand is watching your best friend go through that. You don’t understand how helpless it can make a person feel.”
–“I’m scared for you. Sometimes I’m scared that I’ll wake up to a phone call that you’re gone, no matter how much better you get.”
–“Guess what… me too. I’m scared that all the progress from therapy and time will just be erased in a moment of traumatic panic. That I will lose my control over my mind and over the trauma that still sits there in a dark corner I try to avoid looking at. PTSD is often associated with depression and suicide and drug addiction, but they forget that it can also be associated with tremendous guilt for how it impacts the ones I care about most and fear that all the fighting could get erased in the blink of an eye.”
–“You have nothing to feel guilty for. I wanted to be there for you during that time. We all wanted to be there for you.” Nick wasn’t my only support, but he was one of the best parts of my life back then.
–“I hear you. Part of me even believes that. However, I still have a hard time accepting it. Who would want to go through with me what I barely could through myself?”
Nick gets really quiet now. We have this conversation from time-to-time. It typically goes in the same direction and we end up in this stalemate. Guilt and fear are two of the most overbearing emotions I deal with sometimes. So now, while he looks off in to the coffee shop, I sit there and know that he has no answer. He knows I’ll keep answering the same way. He knows that the guilt is such a big part of me that there is nothing he could do or say that would change it.
–“Look, Vinny. I’ll always be here for you. No matter what.” Sometimes this is all I need to hear; all I want to hear.
My phone rings on the table. It’s my sister. Nick and I look at each other and take a couple of deep breaths.
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