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progress

Every year on this date, I have almost too many emotions to find the words for. I could say a million things, and seemingly none of them will ever be enough. It’s one of those days I find myself thinking, “no one could possibly understand how I feel,” but still feel compelled to share even just a little piece. I cannot change the past; I was given a future for a reason and I know my reason is not to stay silent about the ways in which I am blessed.

Four years ago today…my life hit rock bottom after a car accident shattered my world, my sense of adventure, and filled me with grief for a woman I had never met and regrets for an event that left me blaming myself and questioning the fabric of my life as I knew it.

A few months later, I packed up my new Subaru and left for college with white knuckles and a lump in my throat. I made my mom ride with me in my vehicle so I didn’t have to make the drive alone.

My brothers used to live in the town I attend university. When I first moved here, I remember my first solo drive from campus to that house. It’s about a 6 or 7 minute drive with very little traffic. I turned my GPS on, even though I thought I knew the way, and… cried the entire drive. This was a real-life occurrence for me… terrified of driving in any capacity after my accident. This wasn’t the only time something like this happened, but this instance sticks out to me, even four years later.

I now live in that same house. I commute every single day to and from campus, sometimes in the middle of a pitch black South Dakotan winter night.

In moments like these, I remember that progress is happening in my life every single day and in each little moment when I force myself to do the scary thing.

I’m still not okay with what happened or okay even driving in many scenarios, but I’m okay. I am grateful every day, specifically today’s date, to be alive and well. I am making progress, slowly but surely, and making myself proud of the smallest, seemingly insignificant things….

like driving home.

always,

alex

If you or someone you know is suffering from trauma, trauma-related anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, here’s some resources:

PTSD is not reserved for soldiers or military veterans, however; anyone who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or life-threatening event, like a car or plane crash, torture, robbery, bombing or terrorist event, rape, murder, or any other violent situation, may be prone to developing PTSD.

– San Diego Treatment Center
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right in the feels

Emotions, or feelings, are not everyone’s favorite thing to talk about.

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But…The past few weeks in my honors interpersonal communications course, we’ve dedicated our time to learning about, expressing our own, and understanding others’ emotions.

I’ve always known that I’m an emotional person. I have always thought that I wore my heart on my sleeve and my emotions were fairly easy for others to understand, to read. During this three-week exercise, however, I’ve learned an incredible amount about myself and others in my class and even beyond the classroom doors.

Each person in my class was assigned to find a short video that portrayed either how they react to/handle/express emotion, or a video that made them feel a certain emotion. However, we were told to simply find a video that we could explain how it fit the theme. It was a fairly wide topic, I thought nothing of the complexity of this task while sifting through youtube and then my own brain to find a video. In the breadth of this topic, I soon found, each of my classmates found a different perspective.

Several of my classmates found humor the best way to handle emotions and emotion situations. Many others evoked feelings with music; from “Fight Song” to “Cough Syrup” to “Over the Rainbow” to “Concrete Angel” to “Brave” to “If Today Was Your Last Day” —  all of these songs had powerful meaning, some of which I had never before thought about or experienced when hearing that song. The videos, too, held powerful messages packed full with emotion. Another classmate simply attached a satisfying video of a sponge reacting to water being poured on it. He explained that he, like the sponge, soaks up the emotions of those around him and then internalizes all of it. Another spoke about letting emotions out via physical activity and camaraderie on his football team. Another explained how when visiting Greece, she experienced feelings in a place and that place now holds deep emotional meaning for her. Another included a video, entitled “I Don’t Understand God” about how faith is unwavering even throughout confusion and hurt. He explained his desire to be a pastor, and how his faith allows him to feel and express emotion. Another disclosed his depression. Another, her ADD. Myself, my PTSD. Another, his battle with cancer throughout high school. Another, whose routine surgery gone wrong may have left her unable to have children.

Each of us feels, experiences, and discloses emotion differently. For some, it was difficult to stand up and admit to their feelings or their struggles. Others spoke openly.

I always thought that I wore my heart on  my sleeve with my emotions. Some of this, I’ll admit, is true. I cried during many of my classmates presentations. However, I also realized that, like so many of my classmates, my struggle with PTSD may seem well hidden. I’m a positive person, who feels many positive emotions each day. But I struggle, I fall down, I cry. I had no idea that my classmates, who’ve been in my class all semester, had dealt with the issues that they had the courage to speak about during these presentations. It made me realize that we are truly never alone.

What I also realized: emotions are sneaky. They sneak up behind you, they sneak into your mind. You can’t even control which ones end up ‘on your sleeves’.

I have gained so much respect for my classmates. I enjoyed getting to see their perspectives on life and struggle and happiness and all the things in between.

This exercise truly opened my eyes to the depth of what every single person feels. We all feel different things, care about different things, get hurt by different things, feel happiness from different things. If there’s one thing that college has done for me, it has sure opened my mind and my heart to other people’s differences.

My (amazing) professor ended the lesson with these words, “I guess that’s why I don’t like adults as much as my students. Adults get hard. They lose that capacity to understand and appreciate and challenge themselves with others who are different from them. Don’t lose that, folks. That’s a beautiful thing.” 

New Challenge: Accept that others feel as deeply as you do. Open your eyes and your heart. Don’t be afraid to feel.

A friend of mine has recently been struggling, and she has questioned everything she has been feeling. I caught myself saying to her, “You have every right to feel everything you feel.”

You really do.

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and here’s me and my cat snuggling.

…sometimes that’s all you need when you’re feeling emotional.

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My heart says go…

…but my brain screams “STOP!”

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Let’s start with the positive: I absolutely, positively, face-hurts-from-smiling, belly laughter-causing, can’t describe it in words, LOVE my life lately. Of course, this is due to the amazing people in my life. My friends, boyfriend, parents, brothers, coworkers, classmates… I feel like I’m on a sugar rush. This kid in a candy store has broken into the post-Easter candy sale on Starburst jelly beans. (my favorite)

The positivity that has flooded my life lately has been exhilarating. Never before have I felt so uplifted by my friends and truly learned to love myself as others do. I am truly blessed, happy, and loved. Let that be known and shown that I am so grateful!

…With this happiness, however, comes the downward spiral of the end of the semester. Not only is the stress of classes crashing down on me, but the thought of leaving these people, this campus, and the happiness that revolves around my everyday life here at SDSU… the very thought is excruciating.

Of course, people say “We’ll see each other this summer!” And I say, “Yeah, I hope so!”

The key word: hope. Hope is the thing that allows me to persevere through my fear. Hope keeps me going.

The PTSD, the fear, the anxiety… it doesn’t go away. Sure, in the safety of my dorm with my friends, I rarely feel it. However, the second we decide to leave, to get in a car, it all comes at me full force.

I’m terrified to leave this summer, because I know that all the visits I wish I could have, I wish I could drive to, may not happen. My heart says go, but my brain screams “STOP!” because that’s what PTSD does to me. The most painful part: not only am I allowing my PTSD to control my life (and to make me miss my friends horribly), but it will hurt the people whom I love and care about so deeply.

Saying goodbye in a few short weeks will be so, so hard. I guess that’s the beauty of it. Winnie the Pooh said it best:

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I hope to keep pushing past my fears each day, and I’m still continually thankful for the people in my life. It feels embarrassing to have PTSD; It’s horrible to feel like a bother. Thank you to the people who attempt to understand and are willing to make it work for me.

I’m going to soak in every last minute of these last few weeks with the people I love and revel in this amazing happiness that has come into my life. I will ride this sugar high as long as I can. The people in my life are just so… sweet. 😉

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always,

alex.