Exit 13

Life is finally worth living.

After so many years, I got my life back.
And as an outsider, watching from the distance, I was able to see it all as clear as the ocean waves that hit my feet.

It’s been three years since that day.
The day that I told myself I served no purpose to the world, to my family, and to myself.
And with no purpose, but a heart full of pain, I didn’t really see the point in trying anymore.
I gave up on myself.

I was checked out mentally and as a result, trying to check out physically.

There was not one piece of me that felt like this world wanted it around.
No matter what the evidence showed me to support otherwise, I didn’t believe I deserved life.
In brief moments when I did feel to be “part of the world”, I would remove myself as quickly as possible.
The discomfort of happiness, the fear of losing it, the belief that it was real, and for me, was too much.
I shut down. I ran.
As if discovering a bridge to a beautiful unknown land, to only break it down in attempt to protect from any bad that could find its way across.

I was waiting for my life to end.
To be taken.
Somebody was in fact going to hurt me, it was just a matter of when and who.
So as a soldier prepares for battle, I was on guard every day…waiting for the enemy.
“I’ll show him” I thought.
Catch me off guard again, good luck ass hole.

But let me tell you, none of us are built to be soldiers.
I repeat, not one of us.

Our neurologic system is designed to make routine of our behaviors.
This means, tell a man to become a soldier, build a mind that anticipates attack and protect, and that is all that soldier will ever know.
No matter what environment, what potential of threat, or in what context.
The solider never leaves.

And this is what happens with our soldiers when they return home.
This is what happens to victims of all kind, who face trauma that their brain was never prepared to make sense of.
It becomes them.
It became me.

I was constantly "in danger".
Physically in body and emotionally in heart.

There would be times during the day or night, when I would walk in the city and anticipate fighting off an attacker.
Drive and see a car coming to merge with traffic, and brace for collision.
Stand in line to buy something with a man behind me, I’d alert with preparation to fight back.
Kill if I had to.

Mentally, in every aspect of life, I was determining how I would protect myself and fight back.
At night in bed, I would consider all the places I could hide, in case of a robber or familial intruder.
I would wake up in sweat-soaked clothes and sheets, after another “too real not to be real” nightmare.

Terrified of guns, and unable to trust the humans who work them, I sought security in a dog.
Page, now 8 years old, is a female German Shepherd with the spirit of mother, friend, protector and god.
She was, and still is, my everything.

If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have been forced to participate in the world as much as I did.
To experience slight moments of joy, unforced smiles.
And most importantly, to find enough cause to continue fighting as long as I did.

I imagine part of me was doing it for her.
It would be too selfish to leave her behind.
How would she ever understand how much I loved her if I left her.
Something the child brain of mine felt all too well.
To take the blame.
Try and make sense of abandonment, good luck.
But then again, animal brains are not as stupidly complex as the human one, so maybe she would have coped better in the years to come then I did as a result of the first few years of my life – living in fear of threat, and confusion of what I deserved from the world.

Driven off the road, hiding in closets, throwing up in sleep, watching my sister get kidnapped.
Fear of threat, something I experienced way before that night at 18 years old, held by gunpoint to the head.
If anything, that night just further cemented for me everything my brain believed about life.

But thanks to page, and her canine intelligence, I didn’t try to end my life right after I graduated college.
She pushed me to try and love, believe in myself, take back what I deserve.
And that went great from 2010-2014.
Until I got a letter in the mail letting me know that the third gunman, the one who faced me at the register, was caught by state police and being tried for all prior warrants.
Years of crime.
Numerous alias names.
A lifetime of sentencing.
And they needed me to help make it happen.

And without effort, my brain forgot about all progress it had made and there I was again, a child hiding from a father, a teenager hiding from a gunman.

I don’t know if you have ever gone to court against someone who did wrong against you, but take it from me, it is a terrifying and completely unwanted experience.

For me, having to relive a life that I had left behind, a night that I had locked away inside of me, brought me back to those emotions and my brain followed suite.
Neuroplasticity, I talk about it a lot…because it works…is the term used to define how the brain is always changing and adapting to new environments, feelings, and beliefs.
Tell the brain you are happy, you become happiness.
Tell the brain you are scared, you become fear.

For three months, numerous court dates were pushed and pulled, and my brain had to remain in that night.
The trauma replayed in my mind (and body) every day as if it was live in front of me.
Living the movie.
Living the nightmare.

I brought Page with me to the police stations, court house, you name it.
That dog didn’t leave my side.
I couldn’t function without her.
I did what I had to, I left and didn’t speak a word to anyone about it.

I found a doctor who would give me elective knee surgery to make sure I could keep running away.
I pushed away people that loved me.
I obsessed with my career, power and financial gain.
I avoided family.
I drank.
I drank when drinking wasn’t enough.
And little by little I closed down.
I died.

Meanwhile, Page actually almost died, during an Addisonian Crisis, which led to her diagnosis.
My sister got pregnant and was soon to welcome my first niece.
Friends got married.
Life kept moving so quickly and I could never catch up.
I could never move past being a hurt, scared child.

I participated in the days, but my mind was so wired for battle that I couldn’t come home.
So instead, I tried to find a new home.
One with god.
And for the next two years, immediately following Nora’s birth (my niece, and best friend).
I tried over and over again to escape the mind I had created.
One that convinced me, and vise-versa I fed with belief, that life was going to be full of pain and suffering, and that I was destined to be hurt.

And since I wouldn’t stand for seeing someone else rob me of life, I had to take control and do it myself.

But luckily, I had angels around me.
Friends that didn’t ask questions or guilt me.
Family that didn’t leave me.
And a dog who reminded me how important I am.
And by the miracle of God, and the science of Neurology, here I sit today in awe of the life I have earned.

I forgave myself.
I released my pain.
And now, I try and witness purpose in every day.
To accept love.
To share my past.
And to release all judgment that comes along the way.

Now that it is here, life is filled with moments.
Moments that when in full presence, I can stop and watch as the movie of my life, with awe and amazement, knowing that I deserve all of it.
That I saved my life and in doing so, made one that I could never imagine possible to me.

In the process of coming back to life, having to make a life worth living, all the things that were missing before, have fallen into place.

I’ve fallen in love with life, with myself, and even crazier, with another human.
Sorry Page looks like three is company.

Yes, life looks different, and damn did it need to.
But I would be lying to say I didn’t work out the exact way I needed it to.
If life as I currently know it, is “as good as it gets”, I would be the happiest girl in the world.
Living each day, with the youthful heart and spirit of a child.
The child I had inside of me all along.
Waiting to be taken care of.

This is why I find such joy in being with children.
I feel like them.
Happy without cause.
Excited without reason.
Energized and curious for life.

Now a day, instead of holding it all in – happiness and sorrow equally – I share it.

I excited when joy becomes me, as if feeling it for the first time.
And all I want to do is share it with the people I love.
Spread it to those who haven’t yet but need it.

To a viewer, or friend, they may see childlike behavior, silliness, and even over-excitement.
Maybe even to the point where it can be overwhelming, annoying, confusing or “a bit much”.
I guess if I too witnessed this in a person close to me, I would feel a little taken back.
Judging their ability to find so many simple pleasures and wanting to share trivial things that bring them a smile.
Judgment that is, in the way we face the mirror and reflect “where is this for me?”.


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