March 1st brings many bittersweet feelings and memories for me. It is the anniversary of my car accident. It is also Brain Injury awareness month.
That day I posted to Facebook a blurb about the accident and how far I’ve come, how far my family has come since that day. I have had an overwhelming response to that post. In addition I had many people walk up to me and share with me their story. This all got me thinking. What I was hearing opened my eyes. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I knew I had to change my post. Each story was unique. Yet there was one common thing that I kept hearing as they talked. I heard their fear. A disabling fear of what they went through that has left a lasting impression with each of them. It’s PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Whether it controls us or just gently reminds us in various degrees, we are each trying to mentally deal with the fear of our tragedy that has been left ingrained deep in our hearts and minds. We are terrified that it will happen again. Most of us are afraid of dying, but us survivors almost did. We experienced what none of us want too. Our deepest fears came true. A curtain was lifted and we are now on the other side. We know what can happen when our deepest fears come true. And they did. When catastrophe struck we see and hear it all. The screams, the crying, the sirens. We feel the pain. We see the blood. No matter how hard we try to close that curtain and block those memories, for some of us, the chains of PTSD stay wrapped tightly around our feet. Years later when we are healed and only pain and scars remain, the fear and anxiety never leaves us. Some days it controls us and follows us like a big black cloud. On the good days it is like a little pebble that we can hide in our pocket and maybe even forget its there. I call it the crazies. Even though it does not mean we are crazy. It does mean we are afraid. It does mean we are human. We just don’t want our worst fears to come true. Again. It means we are scared to go through life sometimes. Because we know how bad it can hurt. We all experience the crazies. No one is exempt. It affects us all to one degree or another. But we hesitate to talk about it. Why? I realized that survivors crave to be heard and understood. We connect in some deeper way. Maybe it’s the crazies that keep us linked. That secret fear we keep inside. So I’m changing my post to say what it really should. The whole story. I left out my daily struggle with PTSD. But i’m not hiding it anymore. I want you to know I struggle. Every day. But more importantly I want you to know that I succeed. Most days I win the struggle. And I want to tell you that you can win too. I embrace the crazies and love who I am now regardless of the things about me that aren’t perfect and pretty. I hope those of you that struggle can do the same, because you should. I hope there will come a day when we aren’t afraid to talk about it. PTSD is real. For me it has gotten better, but not without fighting it every single day. And not without help and not without talking about it. Now I fight it with out medicine. I am strong enough to fight it with my words and thoughts. It’s a wonderful feeling. If you are suffering, get help. And don’t give up until you do. You are worth it. Keep fighting. Besides, aren’t we all a little crazy? And that’s okay. So, let’s try this again……….
12 years ago, March 1st, 2002,my family survived a horrible car accident. It changed our lives forever. It got better!!!! I was looking through pictures trying to find the photos of the car and what I saw made me realize how much fun we have had since that day. We have lived our lives on purpose. And I thank God everyday for all the “extra’s” I’ve been given. Like watching my children grow into adults, graduations, weddings, a wonderful son-in-law, kisses from my grandson, new friends, old friends, snuggling, staying up and watching the stars all night with my man, hearing “good morning beautiful!” every single morning, travelling to Boston, Maine, Texas, California, camping in the car, hiking ALL the trails in the Sawtooth mountains from Stanley to Sun Valley (on just 1 and a 1/3 of a lung and crying and yelling when I make it to the top)…..just a few of my favorites. The list is endless. Each day is a blessing. No matter how much pain I’m in, or how much confusion or fatigue my TI causes me. It does not matter how tightly the chains of PTSD are wrapped around my mind and leave me terrified to walk out the door and live. We don’t let the crazies win. We choose to be happy and succeed. We enjoy every single day. I’m so proud of my amazing kids and how they have succeeded regardless of our struggles and for being the incredible blessings I live for. I thank God for my amazing husband who has never left my side and has been with me loving and encouraging me every single day. I wouldn’t be where I am today with out you Dan. You are my cheerleader disguised as a tough guy. Remember, No matter where you thought you would be in life today, except where you are and make it the life you want. You might not have ended up where you thought you would, but life has a way of putting you right where you should be if you let it.