A Puppet's Life: PTSD Pulls the Strings

1976: I’m running along the street on a beautiful day in Berkeley, California. I’m wearing running shorts and a t-shirt and enjoying the breeze as I skim along in my running shoes. I feel that I can run miles. I look up into the sky and see a series of bright white fluffy clouds. Something though is curious about one of them. There’s a slanted streak that seems to be piercing the cloud. In fact, it is downright impaling the cloud. It’s a fork, stabbing my body. I am a piece of meat, punctured by a sharp object. The sunny day full with promise and beauty is poisoned by a thought. I stop running and feel tears coming on.

2011: For some reason during my morning meditation, eye mask blocking out light, I think about that cloud image. I remember how a fork in the cloud of my body impaled a perfectly sunny day and notice that my eyes lock into a back and forth pattern. I feel them moving right, left, right, left. I am stuck in a PTSD moment and realize that back in 1976, I was stuck then, too but didn’t know it. Seeing the picture in the sky while running–an innocent cloud punctured by a thin streak–had set off alarms of horror.  A baby sliced into, causing panic and pain. In my meditation, I coach myself to breathe, knowing I am safe. Now I understand these types of flashbacks, but as I think back over all the many years I’ve lived ignorant of the effect of the early surgery on my life, I realize that I’ve often been a puppet, dancing unconsciously to the rhythms of post-traumatic stress, an early trauma pulling my strings. Understanding the workings of PTSD has given me my life back. The stage is mine to master–to dance the vision of my soul.

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