I was walking down Main Street the other evening on my way to an event. I had my headphones in and I remembered how last April and May, I would just walk because I didn't know what else to do with myself. I would put on my headphones, listening to the same songs on repeat and walk. I always took one of two routes. One was walking down Main St and into the Navy Yard, finding a spot to sit out on Pier 4 and the other was walking down Main St. and ending up in City Square Park or the Training Field on a bench. I would just sit there. I would try to remember the events of April 15 because it was very frustrating to have a missing piece of my memory and hours of spotty memories. I would try to go over what I was feeling and what I had been learning about how to deal with it. Or I would sit there and not think of anything. No matter what, I didn't feel like I was there. I had a long time where I felt like everything was happening around me and I wasn't a part of any of it. Most of all, I felt alone, a feeling I still carry at times. For the first two weeks, I felt pretty numb with waves of anxiety and emotion and constant shaking. Then, I felt a sadness inside of me that I couldn't shake, though friends and family helped to give me moments away from that feeling. That feeling is still there inside of me. I felt it as I walked to the event the other night. I had the realization that for a few days, I had been listening to the same 3 songs, which is exactly what I did last April. I had the urge to sit on a bench in the park but the snow made that difficult, so I decided against it and just went to my destination. I had a sad feeling hit me and the anxious feeling in my chest but, I took some deep breathes and pushed it all away.
I attended an event a couple of weeks ago. It was a paint night for The Next 26. A small group of people got together after the bombings and saw all of the events taking place. They wondered what would happen when those events stopped. They saw a need for sustainability and knew people would need positive events to attend for longer than a couple of months. This was the 17th event. I had first heard of them from a friend and was connected with them to take pictures at their 19th event this coming Thursday where survivors and first responders will be reunited for a night of bowling and fun.
After the event, I was speaking with a couple of women I've met through all of this. I was told about a few things that were frustrating. One was that they had met/spoken with people recently who said they were there that day and were still finding things difficult. This included people who saw a LOT. When asked if they had any support, these people all had the same response, they didn't know where to get it. The thing about this is that you can't just go to anyone. I went to a therapist last April and May. She was great and I liked her but it wasn't until I found the support group and therapist that was specifically for victims of violence and the marathon trauma that I felt I found what I needed.
Now, more than ten months later, it is horrible that people still don't have a clue where to go for help. The other thing was that a tribute/ceremony is being held on April 15. I always figured they would do a remembrance on that day. I always thought I'd possibly attend it, a way to be around people that understood and would be feeling the same thing I was. It will be a day that everyone directly affected will need extra support and comfort. It's not the event itself that upset me. It was the fact that it was limited to only physically injured individuals who are part of the One Fund. Not only is the event being planned by the One Fund, City and State excluding many people who have not only been pretty much ignored, but it is even excluding people related to those on "the list". If people on the One Fund list had two or three family members with them that day, they all can't even attend because it is limited in the number of people each person gets to bring. There is nothing planned for the rest of the people.
This all made me angry. I never thought that there wouldn't be an option to go to some sort of tribute on the anniversary. I always figured that I'd see as it comes closer if it would seem too difficult to attend such an event, but I never thought I wouldn't even have the choice. But, more importantly, there are people who need that more than me. I have some people in my life who, even though they have never been able to fully understand, have been extremely supportive of me and would come and be with me that day if I asked. There are other people, people I've met along the way, that do not have that support. There are people who are just now realizing or have been over the last few months that they are more affected by what happened than they even knew. Anyway, this was the final straw for me. There were little things I wanted to do over the last ten months, ways I wanted to advocate for those people with PTS and with "lesser" injuries from the marathon. But, I didn't know how and I felt overwhelmed by it. Now, I still feel overwhelmed by it, but I realize that with my connections, I'm in a position to try my best to fight for those people. As I have moments of anxiety and sadness increasing and have been sleeping less and having flashbacks, I think about the other people who haven't been able to keep going and get some part of their normal life back. I still don't feel normal and I know many others don't either.
I used to walk into a party, event, room full of friends and/or family and feel completely at ease. I was very social no matter where I went unless I wanted to hang back and observe for some reason. I now feel uncomfortable in many situations that used to be easy. I now can't focus on people i'm talking to in a crowded room without constantly looking around me and checking my exit strategy. Sometimes, it's easier than others. But, I know people who witnessed last year's bombings and haven't worked or have barely worked since. They don't have support at home and they need help. Others who got back o their life are silently struggling because "no one will understand" or they "feel guilty about how they feel" since they were not physically injured. This is not okay. And so, I'm working on changing this in any way I can.
This does seem promising. I spoke to some elected officials this past week. One pointed out having met people from Watertown recently, that those people were still not sleeping through the night and were still having anxiety (this trauma is NOT just limited to those who witnessed April 15th but also those affected April 19th). Another spoke about how there should be support even for neighbors and friends of Martin Richard and his family (true!). The last spoke about his own experience there that day. He opened up to me about the guilt feeling, about the nightmares (which was very similar to ones I had before and i'm sure many other people have), about everything. The thing we realized was that people don't know where to go but they also don't think they have a right to ask for help if they are only suffering emotionally and with anxiety and loss of sleep. However, this takes a large toll on you, believe me. It eats away at you and it sucks. I work daily to fight it but others don't have that in them. They need help. This isn't even just a demonstration of how ignored and unaccepted PTS is in regards to this traumatic event, but to PTS in general. There are many degrees of it and from many kinds of events and situations. But, let me fight this battle first and then i'll move on to that. :)
So, that's it. I'm trying to fight for people going through it, I'm feeling the weight of the coming months, and i'm continuing to fight to be the person I was a year ago. As always, thank you for reading, even if it's not many people. It's nice to know that even some care.