In the last three years, I have not only worked through the mental and physical aftermath of the bombings, I have looked at my whole life, my whole being. I've realized I lived in a place of fear for a long time and I feel, in some way, that the intense fear I felt after 4/15/13 was important in bringing my past fears to my attention. It also made me realize that I don't have control over most things. Sure, we have control of our actions, our thoughts, but, we can't control what's happening around us or even to us. We can't control what happens to us at any given moment, we can't control who we lose from our lives, we can't control other people, and we can't control how it all touches our lives. But, we can control how we deal with it.
I read an article recently asking the question, "Is PTSD incurable?" The author had PTSD and she was writing to show you can, in fact, cure it. There are still many who would say it's incurable. I say no, it's not. My PTS was my own, it may not have been as severe as some but worse than others, but it was severe enough to deeply affect my life. The almost constant shaking for well over a year, the debilitating anxiety attacks, the insomnia, the nightmares, the hyperarousal in even small crowds, busy restaurants and stores, the need to get out of those places as fast as possible, the emotional numbness, the way my brain never seemed to stop, and the abnormal irritability and irrationality. It stopped me from enjoying things I once had. It affected my work, my relationships with others, my daily life. Some days, the effort to pull myself out of bed and face the day was enough to exhaust me. After a lot of hard work, it has now been over a year since my last anxiety attack.
I said again and again, that I was forever changed that day. I was. We are all changed every day in some way. It just so happened this change was drastic. I made the choice to not let it define me in a negative way, to get past it. I remember one person saying to me early on, "You will always feel like this. It will never really go away. You just have to learn to live with the anxiety." It was right after my first major anxiety attack. It happened in public, in front of the 99 in Charlestown after lunch with family. I was horrified. I was embarrassed that people saw it, I was overwhelmed by the feelings (like suffocating, crying uncontrollably, and going numb all at the same time). But, when those sentences were said to me, all I could think was, "NO. That is not true. I will not let this take over my life." 3 years later, I feel confident I have proven myself right and the naysayers wrong.
We have this way of accepting that we are forever going to be "sick" or "struggling". But what about if we accept that we do have control over that part? What if we say, "This is not how it's going to be. This is not how I want to live my life." I did just that. Was it easy? NO. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY.
Some of use walk around faking it. We go through the motions. We pretend we are okay with our lives, we pretend we're accepting and working toward where we want to be, but inside, we are too afraid to really let it happen. I did that for a long time and I didn't even realize it. I thought that was all there was to life, that real happiness wasn't attainable. Someone asked me the other night, "What is happy anyway? I mean, who is really truly happy?" The conversation I was having struck me. This man very obviously didn't experience real happiness, he didn't even believe it was possible. He felt life just needed to be accepted as is. This is a belief we feed ourselves out of, oh yes, FEAR, that fear of leaving our "comfort zone" to take the chance at truly being happy. I believe life is too short to live a life that's anything but happy and fulfilling. I got a "Wow, so you really see things differently." Yes, I guess I do.
So, CHANGE. Change is a beautiful thing. Even the bad changes have purpose in our lives, if we really pay attention. I've changed. I am not even close to the person I was before April 15, 2013. I have people regularly (and one just this afternoon who hadn't seen me in about a year) say to me, "You look great. Like, in your face, you look so happy. It just radiates out of you." That is one of the best compliments I could ever receive. It shows that all I've done, all I've been through has been worth the struggle. It has made me who I am right at this moment.
In addition to changing myself, I have also made choices this past year. I made a choice to take a very short sabbatical to Italy last Fall. It only furthered and enhanced my transition into who I am now and it was exactly what I needed. After much thought, I decided to make a move to Italy. After some further thought over the months following, and some changes in my life (ah, that constant changing thing again), I have decided it's not the right time to leave. While I still think I could and would love to live there, I have worked very hard to build my business back up after the hit it took when I was knocked down. I have amazing clients and I am not willing to leave that here at this point. I also have a strong bond with my family and friends and though, I have that with my people in Italy as well, I want to be watching my little cousins grow and be spending plenty of time with those I love, those who have stood by me through everything. So, I will stay, at least for now. I will hopefully go back to Italy annually to spend time with those I love there and take beautiful images of my clients. Who knows what the future will bring. I can't know but I'm excited for whatever the Universe has in store for me.
Two and three years ago, I couldn't tell you that I'd be where I am today. I couldn't tell you I'd attend the bombing anniversary events and not shake anymore or that I could easily and happily stand in the crowd on the street at the Finish line of the marathon again, or that I could feel the immense sense of peace and happiness I do now. That's not to say I am happy and at peace 24/7. I still have bad moments like any other person, but I accept and face these moments in a different way. I hoped these things would happen. I lost that hope over and over. But, as I stood on the sidewalk of Boylston St this year remembering that day completely still and calm, as I stood on the sidewalk Marathon Monday, inspired but the marathon again, as I go through each day, I realize I am so unbelievably grateful for the opportunity to change, grow and find myself and this beautiful life. Always remember, there is only one way to get to the other side and it is through. And you always have the it in you to get there, no matter what.