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The Scream - Edvard MunchPost traumatic stress disorder. I know I have it. However the triggers are still hazy, unclear.

It seems to be a word, or a feeling, or a visual. Something stupid.

Like, I’ll see a guy on the street who looks something like him. I know it’s not him, but he looks close enough for my heart to start racing. Or, I’m in the shower and some anger rises up. I start talking to him, telling him things I wish I could have said. Or – sitting with my therapist.

One second I’m there – walking down the street, washing my hair, conversing with my therapist. The next moment I’m gone. To a room outside of time and space.

It’s just happened. Only hours ago. It’s just happened and I’m there, dealing with the overwhelming feelings of shock, pain, distress, fear and panic.

Like a very strong tide, I’m simply swept away from the shores of rational thought, and I’m surrounded. The tears rise up and don’t stop. My heart beats so fast I’m amazed I don’t die right there. My body temperature rises and I’m sweating. All potential for thinking about anything else has gone.

I’ve been abducted from my world and transported to a place where the trauma never goes away. Where it’s sharp and pointy, looking for a soft place to gouge. Where it’s all I can do to remember myself.

It lasts as long as it lasts. I descend into a place with no windows. Others can see in if they happen to be around, but I can’t see out. It’s dark in there, this place.

Sitting in my second session with my therapist (I think!) I go to pieces. I stop hearing what she is saying – no, I can hear the words but they don’t make any sense. She hadn’t said anything particularly challenging, and neither had I.

My memory isn’t so great these days but I think it was just an evocation of emotion. It accumulated slowly, sneaking in behind my defences as silently as fog.

My other senses started to fail. Sight, sound, touch, taste. It all became about feeling… pain, sorrow, incredulousness, sadness, fear, terror,

The coughing started. The normal breathing patterns went away. The shaking began. The non-stop crying, like a child.

It’s like being at the top of a slippery dip and without warning I’m going down. There’s no shortcut, I ride the length of the slide from top to bottom.

My therapist did give me some tools to work with:

  • You have to catch it when it comes and tell yourself to stop
  • Its important to tell yourself you are safe, that its over now
  • Try to catch yourself at the top of the slide
  • If you can’t, then try to get off as soon as you can

So far, they’ve helped a bit. Well, a little bit. I know it’s a matter of practice.