She’s lying in her bed. She looks over at her night table to check the clock.
She has to be at work at 6AM, but she’s wide awake. She is so tired - exhausted in fact. But her mind is racing. Thoughts she doesn’t even realize she’s thinking play on repeat in her mind.
“I’m so alone. I’ll never get past this. I’m not strong enough. They would not accept me if they really knew.”
She feels her heart start to beat faster, and she feels the very familiar dread that comes at night, when she is all alone in her room. The dread that when she falls asleep, the nightmares will come. The dread that she will have another panic attack; that she will stop breathing. The more she thinks about this, the more her breathing becomes short and shallow.
She can’t catch her breath. The deeper she tries to breathe, the more she can’t.
She starts to panic.
“I can’t breathe! My throat is closing! I’m dying!”
Her breaths become shorter. She tosses and turns to try and distract herself from her panic. She grabs the glass of water on her night table and takes several gulps. Her lips are ashen and her hands are clammy. Eventually the panic crashes like a wave on the shore, and her breathing begins to normalize. But she is never really at peace because she knows it can hit her again, with no warning.
She is discouraged because today was a good day, she thought. Why is this happening again?
Eventually, after tossing and turning for what seems like hours, she falls asleep. At 2AM she wakes up screaming. Her whole body is in a cold sweat, and she has tears on her cheeks. She’s sitting up in bed. She feels the covers between her fingers.
“Is this real?”
She takes a deep breath and looks around the room to orient herself. Then she starts to remember the details of her dream. Hazy at first, then the pictures come back more vivid and real. He is beating her, and she can’t get away. He’s holding her down. She can’t move. His hand is over her mouth. The rest of the night she tosses and turns, uneasy, dreading another nightmare.
Her alarm goes off at 5AM, and she wakes, groggy and dreading another day.
This is a post for a series on what it is like to work with someone who has PTSD. Every woman that is in our program at Amirah faces PTSD.