“I’ve got your back” were the most important and powerful words I had ever heard seven years ago. I was panicked, wondering how was I ever going to have the strength to get through the next moment, let alone the next day. To risk facing the unknown of my repressed past, while breaking the code of silence that was deeply ingrained in my psyche. In those early days of word vomiting memories that were coming fast and furious, going into one crisis after another, dissociating, and having no sense of safety.
At that point, I had already realized that the hard work happened when you got home, between therapy sessions. The processing of what was talked about during our sessions, trying to incorporate the tools he was teaching me for distress tolerance and trying to feel safe enough to just-sit with it all. At the same time learning ways to manage all the other terrible, awful PTSD symptoms that already had an unrelenting grip on my life.
One evening, as I stood up to leave my therapist’s office, a sense of panic overwhelmed me. Not only panic of what I was facing but the panic of attachment. I knew I would be too much for him, he would bail, he would himself panic and become as frightened by what he was hearing, as I was in telling him. But something happened when I turned around to walk out of his door. He said to me, “I’ve got your back.”
Those four little words hit me with the softness of the kindest hug, and the safety of the bravest shield. I believed him the moment he said those words to me. Even though I knew I had to still fight for my life, my mental health, my freedom from the skeleton hands of the past that kept trying to pull me down each time I made any progress, those words landed through the layers.
That night, I was able to trust that I could handle my journey. I could walk with my head up, eyes forward. Those words made me feel that I would be able to face the past and the resulting effects of my trauma head on. I knew that if I stumble, fall, trip, panic, see monsters, fight programming that my therapist would help me stand back up, dust off, and keep moving forward.
The other night, I had a huge breakthrough. In fact, the leap forward in healing was astounding to me. I could feel it happening, but then it all clicked and I was propelled even further down my path. Wonderful? Yes! Hard-fought and earned? Yes! Frightening because I am now understanding and learning to look through a different lens? Yes? Healing can be wonderful, hard-fought, and frightening. Not because I don’t want to heal, it’s because it is unfamiliar to look at things Not just through the lens of survival.
I understood (which was just a small part of my leap forward) that just because I will come to the end of therapy, that didn’t mean my PTSD symptoms would be gone. In my mind, I had really counted on therapy equaled cured. In my case, it isn’t going to work that way. I will have to manage my symptoms for years and years to come. The effects of my trauma. But that’s okay, it really is okay, because I have the tools to work within those deficits.
When I was expressing the panic, the unsettledness of what was happening to me and how I was going to walk in this new light, this turn in my journey, my therapist without any thought said, “it’s okay, you’re safe, I’ve got your back.” Those four little words again. Just like that evening seven years ago, they again, had a profound effect on me. The most powerful, healing words I have ever heard.
Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph