Friday, January 22, 2016

PTSD

This past week our Relief Society had an emergency preparedness meeting.  The meeting mostly focused on what to do if there was an active shooter.  It started out on a serious note where the police officer showed slides with facts about incidences where a shooting took place.  He said something along the lines of, "You never know how someone will act in an emergency situation or in the midst of a tragedy."  Immediately my mind flashed back to the day Laila died.  I saw all the details vividly.  I watched each of us reacting in various ways.   I did a lot of crying that day.  

Suddenly, I was back in the Relief Society room.

My thoughts were now directed to the present topic.  The police officer discussed what to do during an active shooting.  My mind had ridiculous thoughts.  I considered what I would do if there was an active shooter at the church.  How would I protect the tiny kids in the nursery?  He mentioned hiding in a cupboard and I saw myself frantically throwing toys out of the pantry and shoving 18 month old toddlers in their place.  Like they would stay quiet locked in a pantry.  

Next, I thought back to the night the neighbor's friend shot a bullet though our house.  

Then I thought about the strange man that showed up at the church when Mike and the boys were playing basketball.  He kept talking about how everyone was after him.  Mike sent him on his way and then the boys and Mike stayed home for a couple of days in case he came back.  He did, but this time a bishop from the other ward was there.  He bought a bus ticket and took the man to the bus station.  
Crazy, fearful thoughts kept crowding my mind.  I kept thinking about all the scenarios that could happen where my family would be in trouble. 

From that point on, things went downhill for me.  My face and my ears felt so hot.  I felt like they were on fire.  My knee was bouncing up and down at a tremendously fast pace.  I tried crossing them so they would stop moving but they didn't stay crossed long before the urge to bounce them was too strong.

I began to feel increasingly annoyed with the discussion.  The lady in the front row was talking about the time her apartment caught on fire.  She realized her cat was still in the building and somehow she escaped the arms of four police officers who were trying to hold her back.  She elbowed her way out of their grip and ran back in to retrieve her cat.  This was during a time when she could "bench 250 lbs."  I sat listening in unbelief.  Why was she sharing this?  What could her point possibly be?  

The incessant laughing of the Laurel sitting next to me was like nails on a chalkboard.  She laughed at such inappropriate moments.  I felt bad for the police man giving the presentation who kindly listened to the random comments and tried to get everyone back on track.  

I wasn't really sure what was happening to me.  I couldn't pin point why I was irritated or what I was feeling.  I just kept thinking that I needed to get out of that room but didn't know how to leave without making it obvious.  I was trapped between the Laurel and another women.  Instead, I stayed feeling uncomfortably hot and increasingly irritated.  

When the meeting ended I came home and talked through everything with Mike.  He said it sounded like I was experiencing PTSD.  I hadn't really considered it because I didn't have many physical symptoms besides the feverish face and hot ears.  The irritability and flashbacks suggest that I probably was having PTSD symptoms.  

On a day to day basis, I feel like our family is happy and healthy.  I feel like we have grieved and continue to grieve at times.  I know that Laila's death triggered anxiety in the boys and that we have hard days or months but for the most part I feel as though we are happy and stronger.  When something like this happens however, I realize that we are still so affected by her death.  Sometimes it comes at me from nowhere and it almost knocks the breath out of me.  

I realize that I have faith.  I know that God can protect us from tragedy but that he won't always do that.  He protected us from the bullet that shot through our house for instance.  I also recognize that during the trial of Laila dying, He organized things in such a way that on every step He provided ways for us to endure.  So many things point to His hand in the events that occurred during and after.  I have gained a testimony of His love for each of us in the way that I've seen Him bless us with help along the way.  

That said, I have a lot of fear.  I feel guilty sometimes and wonder why I can have so much fear when I should look at my past experiences and say, "Look how strong you are!  Look at what you are overcoming!"  The truth is, I struggle with fear.  I now know personally how deep the trials of life can be.  I have felt sorrow and pain to such a degree that when I consider having to suffer that way again, I find myself gripped with fear.  What if I am not strong enough next time?  What if it is too much?  

Being in that Relief Society room and having to relive that terrible day and work through thoughts of preparing myself for another tragedy was just too much for me.  All I can do is acknowledge that my fear is real and that part of the cost of living a mortal life is having to suffer.  Then, I just have to look forward with faith and remember that the Lord cannot shelter me from all sadness and suffering but He can help me through it.  

The most important part of the Relief Society meeting was when the Relief Society President reminded us of a quote by Elder Holland where he says that one of the most universally disobeyed commandments is when we take counsel from our fears instead of following the command to "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."   John 14:27
  

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