The aftereffects of trauma are often invisible to the naked eye, but very much the new reality for someone experiencing it day in and day out. This letter acknowledges what I have heard firsthand from some of the bravest souls I have had the privilege to work with. Whether you are a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) survivor needing to hear these words, a support person wanting to know more about what their loved one is experiencing, or someone just wanting to know more about PTSD because you are realizing it can happen to anyone at anytime and want to be prepared, please read on.
I see you. I see your efforts every day. I see you fight to live life as normal as you possibly can, but with the added weight of your trauma. I see you. I see you fatigued because your sleep was restless and filled with awful images and reminders. I see you walk into a room and immediately identify the exits, maybe even moving closer to them. I see you. I see you grapple with the thought of having to feed yourself but terrified of going to the grocery store because of the people who might not be respectful of your personal space, all of the lights and sounds, and decisions you have to make in an anxious state. I see you. I see you want to be close and connect with your friends and family, just like always, but hesitate to share your new world view and so you withdraw or hide under blankets to feel safer. I see you flinch with someone’s physical touch because you no longer know what is a safe one. I see you avoid the most normal things, like a type of transportation, because it is no longer something that lets you travel but now might as well be a death trap. I see you eye the calendar closely to watch out for significant upcoming dates and anniversaries, knowing you will have to work extra hard on those days to survive. I see you no longer enjoy the things you used to love because your constant height of anxiety does not allow you to even focus on it. I see you. I see you absolutely hate the thought of scary movies and haunted houses, because now everyday is exactly that. I see you physically feel the impact of rushing adrenaline, sweat, heart thumping, panic when you feel triggered by any reminder. I see you.
I see you and when you are ready, I will listen. I will listen about your new world view. I will listen to your questions about why this happened to you. I will listen about your fears. I will listen to all of the details of this traumatic experience. I will listen to the energy you put forth just to get out of bed in the morning. I will listen about the nightmares you had last night. I will listen when you tell me what you need for support. I will listen. I will listen when you want to celebrate a small or major milestone in overcoming your fears. I will listen as you learn to adapt to your new way of life and careful selection of battles you choose to fight. I will listen to understand, sit with you, and let you feel you are not fighting this alone.
With every sincerity,