Yep, that’s the one thing that I have learned about PTSD. Even if you think things are good, they can turn hard in a blink of an eye. And when you think there is no way in hell that things can get harder you find out that unfortunately, it can and will get harder. Yesterday was one of those days.
My kryptonite is newborn babies as a baby is at the very heart of my PTSD and resultant moral injury. A baby or even an image of one can derail the most positive day in a snap of the fingers. I am reduced to tears, strickened by panic, steamrolled by emotions. It is terrifying and causes waves of guilt and shame. To Coles note it, I become a mess.
So, recognizing this evil control that babies have over me, my psychologist and I have begun to do exposure therapy to help deal with the reactions I have. What is exposure therapy you ask and how do you do it for babies? Well, let me tell you, its not as complicated as you might think. Basically, for the bulk of my session, I sat there with a picture of an under 3 month old displayed on the laptop. I could look at it for as long or as short as I would like and give as much attention to it as I felt I could handle. Let’s just say that I was glad that the laptop would time out every once and awhile because despite having the ability to look away, it was tough knowing that the image would still be there when I looked.
I was spent by the end of the session and just wanted to bury my head in the sand and avoid everything and everyone. I got home and napped. I tapped out and needed to escape for a while. And that is the norm after a heavy session. I need to turtle and protect myself for anymore triggers while I recharge. So, I did the self-care needed and got ready for the evening and family time. Things seemed okay until I was relaxing and watching TV. Mid sentence while talking with my wife about something, I happened to look up at the TV and there is a commercial playing for an upcoming episode of a show and there is a new-born baby being held by a doctor. That right there did it.
All the self care, the rebuilding myself up to get ready for the rest of the day was gone in an instant. My hard day that became an okay day collapsed into a heap of destructive rubble that seemed like an impossible task to overcome. My hard day was now a fucking hard day with all its splendor and might. That really is how fast things happen fr a person with PTSD. I survived it, pushed it down, boxed it up and tried to forget about it so that the rest of the evening wouldn’t be ruined. It didn’t really work but it got me to bedtime and a chance to escape into dreamland.
The funny thing about it though is that today, I woke up and the hard day is gone. The images and the memories they bring are not front and centre. I feel “normal” or as close to it as I think normal would feel like. But I know to accept the moment as it happens and not to dwell on it because in the blink of an eye, the hard knocks could show up without warning.