Living with Trauma Pt. 2
Second Session of Therapy — 5/24/2017
Before leaving Dr. Nelson’s office I felt better. He explained Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the effects it can have on a person’s mood and thought process. I understood what was going on and why. I am “reliving” my assault every day and I’m mentally being taken back to what Dr. Nelson said was my first traumatic experience — my high school sweetheart dying.
It was September 18, 2010 and I had spent my entire day with him and my mom at my brother’s high school for a football event. At that time our relationship was falling apart — we argued, and I remember feeling like I wasn’t “in love” with him anymore because of everything we had been through in the last year. When it came time to leave, we went our separate ways and my best friend called to invite me out. I went home to get ready and tried calling him to let him know I would be out, but he didn’t answer or reply to my text messages so I finished getting ready. I remember standing in front of my mirror when his sister called to tell me that he was passed out in the bathroom and wasn’t breathing. I took it serious, but at the same time I didn’t know if she was pranking me so I called my best friend and made up an excuse as to why I couldn’t go out with her. I ran to my parents’ room and told them we had to go to his house ASAP, but they thought it was a prank, too. “This better not be a joke, Sarah!”
“Why would his sister play such a mean prank? Did he tell her to do that? It’s not funny. Maybe she is telling me the truth. He can’t die. He’s too young to die. What happened? This better not be a prank. My parents are going to be so mad at me if it is. His sister wouldn’t do this to me though. I don’t want him to die.” I remember my heart starting to race as the thought of losing him began to fill my head. My heart wrenched and I started to panic. I changed my clothes and ran back into my parents room to hurry them when my mom yelled at me, “Don’t rush your dad!” I went outside to wait in the driveway by the car as they took their time to come out. I remember my chest getting heavy, my heart and mind racing, wanting to be there already to see him and know that he was alive and well. A part of me felt like he had died already though.
My parents finally came out of the house and we got in the car. I remember just staring out the window with the same thoughts going through my mind hoping it was just a prank and praying that it wasn’t. When you get a call like that you really don’t know what to expect. She told me in such a nonchalant tone that it almost sounded like she wasn’t worried and she didn’t care. Should I not be worried then?
As my dad was exiting the freeway and coming to the end of the off-ramp his dad called me and he was crying. In his broken English all he said was, “Raul no more”. He died. My boyfriend died. He died 5 days before my birthday and two months before our 3 year anniversary. He was gone. Time slowed down. We pulled up to his house and the paramedics were already in the upstairs bathroom with his body. Nearly his entire family was outside crying and holding each other. I could hear his mom inside screaming and crying as her sisters tried to console her. It was surreal. I didn’t want it to be real and I was in the middle of it all. I went up to the door when a medic told me I wasn’t allowed to go in. Then the other medics started walking down the stairs and out of the house with the supplies they used to try and revive him. I turned around to face the street and just fell to the floor. I remember my vision was blurred and it was almost as if some part of me left my body. I was there, but I wasn’t there. My mind was distant and blank. I could hear my mom crying as she pulled my arm to pick me up from the floor, but I didn’t want to get up. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to believe that what was happening was real.
I managed to get up and I called my friend to tell her he died. I remember laughing to myself because saying it out loud sounded like it was a joke. It wasn’t real. Why was I calling to tell her that? He’s not really dead. He didn’t just die. If I walk into that house and go upstairs to see him I know I’ll see him — alive and well. Maybe if I go upstairs, he’ll wake up. If he feels my touch, he’ll wake up. If I kiss his lips, he’ll wake up. He needs to know I’m here so he can wake up. Why won’t they let me go upstairs?! He is so close, but so far. I just want to see him. I know he’s OK. I know he’s ALIVE.
I walked into the house and saw his mom lying on the couch still screaming, still crying, her sisters were still consoling her and trying to calm her down. I walked into their kitchen and just sat at the table. I made another phone call, and again, I didn’t believe what I was saying. My mother, father, sister and brother-in-law were standing before me telling me I had to go back outside because I couldn’t be in the house. I refused to go outside. I refused to move. They were talking to me, but I wasn’t listening. I remember my brother-in-law telling me it was going to be OK and the only thought that came through my mind was, “What the fuck do you know!” so I yelled at him to “Shut up!”. Somehow I ended up outside in front of his house and the coroner arrived. We all stood outside as they went in and upstairs. We all stood outside and watched them wheel his lifeless body out and into their truck and leave…
We all went in the house. I went up to his room and just sat on his bed as I looked around. I was just there with him. I was here with him just days ago. How could he have died? How could he have left me? How could he have left his family? Why? Why was this happening to us? Why was this happening to me? How could God let this happen? Why didn’t He stop him?
There was stillness in the house. Death was present and laughing at us all. And everything was still going in slow motion. I felt like I was there, but I wasn’t there. Suddenly the world felt cold and cruel. God was an evil being with no regard for us. He had no power over anything. And everything that happened in the world was bound to happen regardless if I believed in Him or not. We are vulnerable beings. We have no power over anything either.
His brother and I sat on his bed together holding each other. He was crying. I felt like I couldn’t cry anymore. I became numb. My sister came upstairs to get me. I don’t remember walking out of his room. I don’t remember walking down the stairs. I don’t remember walking out of the house. I remember standing on the sidewalk and a man was telling my parents that they had to keep me away from his family because they needed to grieve. I was grieving, too! I hated him for saying that. I don’t even know who he was. What did he know anyways?! We got in the car and left. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay and wait…wait for him to come back. This couldn’t have been real. This was just a cruel joke.
I didn’t realize how traumatizing that experience was until Dr. Nelson pointed it out to me. Talking to him made me realize that I blame a lot of my bad decisions and horrible experiences on that one experience. He said it was normal. People with PTSD usually find themselves in situations where they are bound to experience trauma and be a victim, again. It’s a pattern the brain falls into without the person realizing it. Although I found clarity in what I’m going through and have been going through, therapy is making me feel like my emotions are overpowering me. It’s as though my emotions have developed this new-found energy within me and it’s starting to affect me daily — mentally and emotionally. Dr. Nelson confirmed I have PTSD. Knowing that alone has made sense of a lot. It has also made me realize that what I’m experiencing is far greater than me.
My emotions are a villain living within me that has taken over my mind. Now that I realize that, I’ve given it power. And it’s power I don’t want it to keep.