I've been doing pretty well with my depression and PTSD. I've mostly been sleeping through the night, and have been dating a guy who has really helped me overcome my physical fear responses... very cautiously. I felt great!
...until the other night. The other night I was at the gym, and ran into the guy who assaulted me when I was 15. I couldn't even say anything, because suddenly I was doing my best not to hyperventilate or bolt out of the room like a frightened animal.
I started shaking. My breath wouldn't get into my lungs! I felt like I was going to throw up. We soon left, and as soon as we were in the parking lot I told my mother who I'd seen there. She did her best to calm me with food and a short drive in the car, but when we got home I was still anxious and shaking. I was on edge for hours afterward, and couldn't settle down enough to sleep.
Several friends, my boyfriend, and my mother all worked on me to help me calm down. Eventually I was able to relax. However, this got me thinking...
Am I still a scared victim, after all this time? I thought I was better...
The truth is, what happened to me left literal physical scars. They're invisible to the naked eye because they're lesions in my amygdala. That's a part of the brain that often shows damage after severe emotional or physical trauma. That's right! Traumatic experiences can leave part of your brain damaged. Right now I'm trying to combat that damage by seeking therapy again (this time from a middle-aged woman) and by meditation. Sounds hokey? Scientific studies have shown significant improvement in depression, memory issues, and PTSD patients due to regular meditation.
In fact, through nightly meditation just before bed I've been sleeping 6-10 hours a night regularly for the last two months. I was sleeping 3-6 a night. This improvement has been amazingly helpful to my general emotional state and has also successfully lowered my anxiety and stress levels.
But right now, we're going to focus on my apparent relapse. That's all I can think of to call it. When I saw my assailant, I regressed to a terrified 15-year-old girl who desperately needed a good cry. I was terrified. Despite the fact that my attacker had gained quite a lot of weight and I had gained about 30 pounds of solid muscle, I was still scared he would overpower and hurt me. There is no logic when it comes to fear. Your fear response kicks in, whacks the part of your brain that controls it, and you're suddenly terrified even though you logically know you could completely beat your former assailant to a bloody pulp.
Despite the fact that I'm very confidently muscular and trained in several different forms of armed combat, I was still scared that this man would harm me. There were other people all around us. Large men who I'm sure would come to my assistance should anything happen. My own mother who would be more than happy to hurt him for what he's done to me psychologically. ...and yet I wanted to curl up in the fetal position and bawl like a small child.
How much more therapy will I need before I can face that fear and back it down? How much longer will I have to live in fear? Will I have to move away from my home forever for fear of ever running into him? These are the ongoing things I have to deal with, even with my PTSD and insomnia getting under control.
I don't know how to solve this. I don't know how to make this better. I'm scared, and I don't know where to turn except to God for comfort and my loved ones for support. Hopefully it will be enough.