Living with PTSD

Living with PTSD: A Letter to an Old Nemesis

by Tess Bacchus

Living with PTSD is a new series by one of our staff writers, Tess Bacchus.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a group of stress reactions that can develop after a traumatic experience/s.

Dear Nemesis,

It’s two am on a Sunday morning towards the end of October and this is my goodbye letter to you. I have decided I am going to fucking conquer you. Beat that motherfucking fear of you where you no longer have any power over me. I don’t know when it started but I know it must stop. I will stop it. I will beat you, my longtime nemesis, if it is the last thing I do.

Here is how I will vanquish you: I will stand in front of you for five minutes. I will not do anything. I will not talk on the phone, brush my teeth, or withdraw into the realm of my imagination. Nothing. Just stand here and ride out the fear and anxiety.

Attempt one went something like this on Friday when I first decided the fear must end; I walked into the bathroom, closed the door, and stood there. I stared at the mesmerizing image of the tree on you, you fucking shower curtain. The shower curtain, I have had to check behind every-fucking-time I have walked into that bathroom for the last nineteen years. You have changed over the last nineteen years but not the fear nor the compulsion to look for the monster hiding behind you. For about a minute I thought I was going to be okay. Oh no. I was not. I could feel the familiar icy finger of fear crawling up my spine. My chest tightened up. My breathing became shallow. I started getting light headed. My knees buckled, and I fucking ran the hell out of there.

Attempt two went pretty much the same with a couple of exceptions. One, I left the door open. Two, I lasted almost two minutes. That was about a minute longer than attempt one.

I have spent my weekend living my life in between my attempts to vanquish you, my old nemesis. By Sunday afternoon, I was up to attempt number seventeen, I am also up to almost 4 minutes. I am fucking determined to beat you by Monday sunrise. I pause in my writing of this letter as I get up for my eighteenth attempt  . . .

. . . I am now sitting here drinking tea and watching the sun come up on Monday morning, I am still not able to stand and stare you down for five minutes, but I have also not reached out and looked behind you once in seven days. The urge is still there. And the fear is very much still there but I can stand next you and I can brush my teeth and I can withstand the shaking of my knees. I can pee without reaching for you first. I count this as a win. I am winning, you stupid son of a bitch!

-Tess Bacchus

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