Ray’s Rays, Number 20
Living With PTSD
Radiance Angelina Petro
What does it mean to feel safe in this world? What does it
mean to you? How does it feel for/in you?
Have you ever felt safe? Felt safe for long periods of time
and/or just brief glimpses? What do you do
when you feel safe or unsafe?
I can say for myself I have yet to feel utterly
and truly safe—ever–no matter the situation,
circumstances, or company. My body/mind/spirit/heart
is so hypervigilant, so on the look-out to be hurt again,
so ready for something horrible to happen–
some form of violence, some shaming, some rejection–
it’s ingrained in me. Something is about to happen–
something bad, something scary, something really, really
wrong. How do I live with this sort of deep trauma?
It’s day-to-day. I don’t describe myself as “healing,” so much
as being able to exist in this world in a somewhat
present, compassionate, creative way. I have wounds
that may not ever heal. Certainly there are scars
that won’t ever go away. There are memories
and visceral experiences inside that may not ever fully
drift into the void. How do I keep moving?
I try to build little glimmers of safety—moments
when I feel relatively safe. Who am I with when I feel
a tiny bit safe? What am I doing, or not doing?
Where am I? What time of day is it? Again,
no matter how safe a situation and certain people
may feel safe to me, there is always the impending
terrible thing that’s about to happen—usually
of a violent variety—something horrible happening
to my kids and loved ones, some sort of accident
happening to me or those I love. But that being said, there are times
I can gently, tentatively sink into a sense of safety,
and I am learning to be deeply grateful for those moments,
to help create more of them for myself as well as others.
They help me remember safety is more or less possible
for some periods of time.
And yet, in this world of terrorist capitalism, far-right
extremists, environmental devolution, racism, violence,
viruses, and unpredictable weather extremes, it is very
difficult for me to feel truly safe, even when I’m in a “safe,”
situation. What helps me? Conscious breathing, writing,
and reading poetry, listening to a making music,
drawing, looking deeply at a flower, practicing some sort
of mindfulness and gratitude, my meds, my therapist,
being a part of healthy communities, helping others,
doing little, secret and anonymous acts of kindness, finding
funny memes and sharing them, reading, watching silly TV shows,
embodiment meditations, movement meditations,
and sometimes pleasuring myself sexually.
Living with complex PTSD sucks, and yet,
it is also livable—in the sense that I am able
to survive day-to-day. There is no finish line
to grieving or healing, or resolving, but there are
moments, little, and sometimes big, experiences
of joy. I hope you experience them too. I hope
you have safe places and people, and things to do
when it all gets too scary. They say, “this too, shall pass,”
and it’s true. And sometimes knowing that
doesn’t help a goddamn bit. In this moment–
the one in which you’re reading this right now–
may you feel safe, held, and able to seek, and receive,
and share support. It may totally suck. But you got this.
It may or may not, get better, and yet–here you are.