WARNING: The following blog post is very graphic and will disturb some readers. If you have PTSD, this account could trigger you. Despite this, I had to get it out of my head and try to think through what happened.
The silence was deafening, but we all knew what was coming. I don't know if I held my breath for seconds or minutes. Time has ceased to have meaning when they fired on their own troops.
I startled awake and felt the familiar pain of bile burning the back of my throat. As was becoming the norm, I had woken up from the nightmare choking on my own vomit. I scrambled out of bed and ran to the bathroom. I vomited repeatedly into the sink. I dry-heaved for an hour, unable to clear the bile from the back of my throat. When the gag reflex receded, I continued to salivate and spit for another hour. I finally dared to look up and didn't recognize the person staring back at me. My face had a gaunt, almost skeletal quality to it that I hadn't seen before. My eyes were swollen and red, the blood vessels in my eyes inflamed.
"I thought things were getting better"
That's a common thought that runs through my mind every time I start to physically recover from my nightmares. It finally sank in yesterday that the nightmares seemed to be their worst after the deepest and darkest moments of my latest episode have receded far enough for me to see and recognize the insanity that others call 'hope'.
I was too exhausted to sleep after that moment. I somehow didn't let on at work that I had this horrible experience Friday night into Saturday. I was afraid to go to sleep last night and slept fitfully until something woke me up. I had only been in bed for an hour or so, but my heart was racing and I didn't know why. Determined to fight this feeling of complete helplessness, I ran for my iPad, plugged in my earbuds and turned on the Phillip Phillips. Something in one of his songs vibrated through me and I finally felt at peace.
"Gone, Gone, Gone"
I'd listened to this song many times before, but the lyrics never really registered until last night and I knew I had found an anthem that would put my mind at ease and always remind me that I wasn't going through this alone. I had the love of my wife, friend, family, and even strangers to keep my head above water - even when I didn't have the strength to keep myself afloat. So this one's for all of you - You Know Who You Are.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.