She told me it was 10 weeks. In some ways it felt longer. PTSD counseling is an intense process. But, I did it.
When I look back at the way I was when I first went to the fourth floor of the VA Medical Center in Denver to meet Dr. Megan Harvey for the first time, I was incredibly insecure and shy. I would rarely make eye contact with people. I wouldn't speak up. I was constantly on guard. I would find the exits when entering a new space and memorize every little detail before obtaining some sort of comfort. Before stepping foot into her office, I hadn't spoken to anyone about what happened 20 years ago. Not a word to anyone about the highway patrolman and his hands. Nothing about what he said to me. Everywhere I went, I was anxious. Everywhere. In fact, I have been experiencing some sort of anxiety for so long, I didn't know what life was like without it.
At the beginning of this journey, I accepted 99.999999% of how that night had gone down. If I hadn't left the house. If I hadn't been wearing a dress. If I hadn't of been speeding. Now, I'm able to put that responsibility back on him. He was the one who made me get out of the car. He was the one who touched me. He was the one who failed as an officer of the law and more importantly as a human being. I've gone through a lot of emotions over the last ten weeks. If I saw him when I was in week 5, I would have hit him. Today, I'd probably spit on his face and ask him what he was thinking. But, in the end, would I really care what he said? Probably not.
Over the last two weeks, as the end of this therapy approached, I have been very contemplative. And as the appointment was coming to an end, feelings were welling up. Seeing I was on the verge of tears, Dr. Harvey asked me their nature. I was mourning the loss of so much time in my life. So much time lost. So many missed opportunities to meet people, to sit in a classroom, to transition, to work in a rewarding career, to have meaningful relationships. So much time missed living a genuine life.
Today, I can, and often do make eye contact with perfect strangers. I no longer get nervous if someone approaches me. I don't feel nervous in new spaces. And I can hold conversations with people I've newly met. It's like night and day. Often over the last couple of weeks, I've been a little beside myself at the difference. Sometimes, when I'm by myself, I'll sit with my eyes gazing off in the distance pondering what this means for my life now.
I really had no idea how messed up my life was. I had grown accustomed to the anxiety. I hated it. But, in some ways, it had become my security blanket. What would I do if it was gone? Now, I'll have to find out. I'm glad it's gone. And I'm ready for the adventure I'm now free to experience. But, I'm also scared. So scared. How will I perform? Can I succeed? I certainly hope so.
P.S. One or two aspects of the anxiety are still with me. I'm writing this at a Chipotle restaurant on West Colfax in Denver. I just noticed that without really thinking about it, I positioned myself where I could see people coming and going. And I still have a photographic memory. I've always loved that I remember everything as something that makes me different and unique. But, there are aspects of it that I'd be okay with if they went away. If I no longer memorize every little thing about everyone who passes me on the street, I'll survive. I've already noticed some of it dissipating. I've purposefully walked into new places as a test. Not only wasn't I distracted by my surroundings. I was also able to have conversations with complete strangers.