Genuine Connection

Until recently, I didn’t realize how much I valued it — why certain social situations or environments exhausted me, left my body with a sense of hollowing grey, extra weight that I wasn’t used to carrying.

When I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in January, it was both relieving and scary.

The diagnosis gave me access to an internal window.

I was very out of touch at the time, very emotionally disconnected.

Feeling things sucked a lot, and while the Alissa of years past would have commanded a room of unhinged emotions expertly and with ease, the current Alissa had to physically remove herself from emotionally intense situations.

Whenever something or someone touched me emotionally, instead of leaning into the feeling, I pulled back violently. It seemed as though I was trying to use and stretch a muscle that had existed in a vacuum for months prior. 

I was afraid. I was afraid of emotions, and so I was afraid of other people.

And what’s the one thing you have to eliminate when you’re trying to help others, especially those who are unfamiliar or hostile toward you?

Fear. I had to get rid of mine.

The Treatment

PTSD comes with a whole host of symptoms and associated issues; for starters, anxiety and/or depression.

After being looked at way too closely by some docs who asked me questions about myself ad nauseum – as I hazily wondered how I survived writing college essays – I decided to begin therapy in lieu of an ongoing medical regimen.

Don’t get me wrong — meds are helpful for lots of people, but I had this hunch that therapy was going to work for me.

It did! Therapy is unlimited in what it can accomplish for individuals. Seriously, try it sometime. 

With encouragement from therapy, I slowly became comfortable with my own issues and how they had redesigned how I related with others. I unpacked the boxes in my brain and opened each one, until the cardboard and dust had all been swept aside. With everything out there in the open, I could begin to see me again.

I also made some moves toward trusting others, which was difficult. But with some amazing friends working behind the scenes and the support of my family, I’ve come a long way in a short amount of time.

My head and heart no longer feel overloaded all the time. In fact, they feel pretty excited — ready for life and love; ready for adventure.

After two years of not being entirely sure what was going on, I finally feel like myself.

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My feeler is fixed now (pumping blood and everything) but I think it knows it was frozen in carbonite or whatever, because now I want to befriend EVERYONE.

So if I meet you and start asking you a zillion questions about your existence, don’t be alarmed.

I just think you’re an awesome human specimen and you shine bright like a diamond.

The Conclusion [sort of]

Living includes a lot of the same struggles as it did before, plus the fact that I’m a recent college graduate on the brink of adulthood (and all of its horrors, gasp).

But, hey, bring it on. Life is exciting and full of possibility.

And people are wonderful, good; they’re immeasurable in what they can bring to this world.

I just needed to stop being afraid of them long enough to remember this.

I feel that familiar tug to help, the blazing fire within me to defend others — especially those who cannot defend themselves.

What I’ve always wanted is to connect with those around me, to help them discover light within themselves, or rediscover, if they feel overtaken by their own darkness.

Only when I let go of these endeavors, only when I lie down and let someone else do the work, do I feel some of that heavy grey seep into my chest again.

I’m still a person living with PTSD, but that first part is important — I’m a person living.

It’s good to be back.