Twisty Turny Part Two: PTSD Does Not End When the Threat is Gone

I have shared openly about the trauma that I experienced after my husband and son were injured in an accident in our home. A fall down the stairs left Jeff with a shoulder injury, Benjamin in the NICU with a traumatic brain injury and me holding the pieces. The bomb of trauma exploded, leaving a broken family in its wake. At the time, both Jeff and Ben were seriously injured and I stepped into the role of caretaker, working to keep everyone and everything moving. It was only once things settled down that I realized I wasn’t okay.

photo by Ashlee Burke photography

It’s been nearly three years since that day, and so much has changed. Yet, while so much has changed and so much progress has been made, I’ve found myself continuing to deal with PTSD. I’m better- for sure, but there are times that I realize that PTSD doesn’t end just because the immediate threat is gone.

I think that’s the biggest misconception even by our closest loved ones. They see that Ben is “okay”, and think that I should be too. But my body remembers- somewhere deep down inside, my brain remembers. It just takes a threat, or a triggered memory to start a reaction. Trauma does that- it lives inside of you.

The other day, I was driving down the road and an ambulance and fire truck, sirens blaring, pulled out in front of me. It had nothing to do with me other than causing me to pull over for a moment, but I was immediately transported back to that day, memories of those sirens and lights at my own home.

And then, it was gone.

That’s the difference- my difference. While PTSD is still very much present in my life, my ability to deal with it has changed. I’m able to separate then and now, and view the trauma through a lens of reality, rather than distorted by fear and emotion.

The same goes for my sweet Ben. For so long, I lived in fear- waiting for another accident, one that, would this time, take him from me. Guess what? It hasn’t happened. He is living and thriving, a sweet miracle for me to witness every day.

There are still times that I’m shrouded by the shadow of PTSD, but I’m learning to live. I’m learning to let Ben live. Together, we are working to navigate a “new normal” that includes a hyperactive mama just trying to find her peace and a sweet boy that finds adventure in every moment.

Baby steps.

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