A Metaphor for Life with PTSD
Nothing special was happening. My partner was on the bed, smoking a cigarette. I was at my desk, in my chair – a frequent occurrence. The pup was lounging on his back, just under the corner of the bed he frequently tries to make a meal out of. The lights were low (which is terrible for video conferencing, but amazing for me not getting migraines), and nothing interesting was on the browser. I think it was just my Facebook feed.
Suddenly, the moment looked brand new. Even though nothing about the environment had changed, the way I felt about it had changed. Everything was awash with novelty, the way sunlight bathes a room. Even though my memory said nothing was different – everything felt different. And it was the good kind of different. I felt a satisfied nostalgia – the opposite of saudade or hiraeth – a lot like the feeling of coming home after a long vacation.
It was an odd moment to return to, though – we’re not out of the woods yet on a lot of different fronts. So why now, and why the sense of wonder and possibility? The only conclusion that makes sense to me is that, emotionally, I’ve come from elsewhen – probably the future – to guide things toward their ideal outcomes.
Talking to my partner about this, though, I discover that it’s far from my pet mythology alone. We’ve concluded that the non-linear emotional self is a symptom of PTSD – that in emotionally escaping our trauma, we unstick our emotional selves from our physical/mental selves (which seem to rely more heavily on the wetware). And even if it’s Fluffy Bunny Bullshit™, it helps me make my own narrative make sense. This way, being struck with the emotional freight train of my trauma, it’s a side effect of being unstuck. Those moments have their own gravity. They pull us back, willing or not. But we can also use the effect to our advantage. We’re uniquely poised to steer the timeline, if we do it by feel, on the fly, by the seat of our pants. We just need to trust these moments when they present themselves. Learn to recognize the sense of potential, that anti-saudade. Learn to use it to aim for The Best of All Possible Worlds. And maybe – just maybe – we can even avoid some of the future trauma that will have unglued in the first place: there’s plenty of room for paradox in this model.