Fall. The time of year that isn’t quite here, but we are on the cusp of if. Where the air begins to feel cooler. Some nights you can wear longer pants. Where fires are lit and football games abound. Excitement fills the air and school starts back and Halloween is peeking around the corner. Soon the apples are ripe for picking and the trees begin their beautiful descent into dormancy.
Fall is beautiful. But fall hasn’t exactly been my favorite in the past. When you have PTSD from past trauma, you have triggers. Things that bring back horrible memories of your trauma. For me, the beginning of fall was a massive trigger. For at least the first two weeks after the first cool day/night, I would be in full panic mode. After the first brisk morning or evening, I could feel the panic building. And then it would continue to build over the next few days. Nightmares at night. Thoughts dancing through the peripheral in my head – thoughts that I would rather just go the eff away. And the anger and frustration would simultaneously build. I was angry at fall. Angry at what I went through when I was a teen in that horrible relationship. Angry at everyone. Angry that it still haunted me decades later. Just angry. Angry at being angry. And panicked. And I hated it. All of it.
It stole my joy for so many years. Too many. I worked and worked on letting it go. I worked with therapists who helped me so incredibly much. Going from nightmares pretty much every night to every week in college, to only once in a blue moon. These women helped me work through my triggers and get to the root of it all.
But that one trigger – fall, that one was a tough one. It would still hit me hard every year. It didn’t matter how far away I was from Raleigh, it still happened. To the point where I would prepare for it. I would ensure I had an appointment with my therapist beforehand to help make sure my mental toolbox was prepared. Over the years, it would hit with slightly less impact. Upon the first thought or nightmare or any of it, I learned how important it was not to keep that boxed up inside my head. I would talk to Jason or a close friend or my therapist. Just getting it off my chest (not projecting on others, just talking) would help me to let go of some of the panic and anger and accept where I was at. It usually lasted about two weeks. Heavy on my mind as I went through the motions of life. And in the last decade, that involved being a mom and wife and back to school and working and somehow not being at total basket-case.
But also sometimes being a complete basket-case. I also needed to get it out. So it would mean many times just closing the door and falling into a heap on the floor and crying. Bless Jason’s soul, he has always been there to listen. Just there. Present and loving and listening.
Three years ago, I got through my final fall where I was triggered. That December I was diagnosed with cancer. My world spun and filled with fresh new anxiety and worries and stress.
But you know what? I had been through some tough shit mentally. So if my body was willing, my mind could get through that heaping pile of horseshit called cancer.
And we did. We got through it. It wasn’t easy. It still haunts us. But we did it.
The last two years I have stepped into fall with a little hesitation and a bit of surprise. I’ll never forget, getting to October that first time (after cancer) and telling Jason that everything felt different now. Cancer and perspective, will do that to you, ya know. Last year, we made it around the bend to fall – and though I did not want summer to end, the panic wasn’t there either. I kind of enjoyed fall. But looking back, I was fearful that the panic would raise it’s hand, while frantically waiving, “I’m right here!!” Because that’s what panic and anxiety does. But thankfully, it didn’t. Other worries would take hold, but not this.
This year fall feels like my favorite drag queen, in full costume, makeup perfect, wig adjusted, bosom heaving, stepping on stage ready to sing her ass off, as the spot light turns on. And I’m front row, center, cheering and smiling just as hard as I can. Fall, in all it’s beauty is here for us to enjoy. And enjoy it I will. No matter what is thrown our way, my past trauma is just that – in the past. Won’t do me a bit of good to worry about it now.
I won’t say that I have forgiven trauma from the past, that is simply too much to pressure and too much to ask of me. So don’t. But I will say that I have learned and grown and moved on.
Our lives are collections of events, things, traumas, memories, conversations, experiences. Take the time to (not over analyze or be harsh or critical) but to learn more about yourself. I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. Nor do I believe that God puts things on us. But I do believe that in all things we experience there are opportunities for each of us to learn and grow. Even through the really shitty things.
I also believe that the universe returns to us what we sincerely put out into it. So this year I’m focusing on love. Putting more love out than I ever have before. Protecting myself in balanced ways (I see you emotional vultures and I’m also sending you love, but from a distance because y’all can just fly right on by). But bringing the love as much as I can. And I hope you do to.
As I’m writing this, Glennon just posted about how an amethyst is created from an imperfection. Her exact words were, “You guys – that thing you think is effing everything up is MAKING YOU BEAUTIFUL.”
So beautiful ones, struggling friends, all of us with our imperfections – YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. You are wonderful. And as hard as it is, you will get through these things that life throws at you. It ain’t easy, but honey we are in this together.
Much love and happy (almost) fall,