Put That Shit Down! : A Story of PTSD aka I Couldn't Think of a Better Title (or, The Tale of the Water Baby)

Summer after my freshman year, life was only getting better (for the time being)! I was smiling a whole bunch! I was an extra in a movie shot at my school (mentioned before, my peak) and when there was time for a break, the family and I ventured to the Oregon Coast.

A classic O'Connor/Behrens destination is Gearhart. My favorite place in the world. My first trip here was two weeks after I was born. We are dedicated Gearhart-ers. I learned to ride my bike there. I have some of the fondest memories of my maternal grandparents there. I believe that so many of these wonderful memories from my earlier years there shaped who I am now. But there was a memory that wasn't so wonderful. In fact, it was traumatic.

Wow, thats a shocker, Ann!

It was a beautiful summer day and my sister, Brigid, and I headed down to the beach for the day. Along with us were our two pals from home. We are all family friends so their mother (who I call, 'Mom 2') joined us as well. 

We had wetsuits (because the Pacific Ocean refuses to be warm) but boy, oh boy were they a bitch to get on and off. I really didn't want to put one on but something inside me told me I should. So, I did. And we were off!

The tide was far out that day. We just kept swimming farther and farther out. We were swimming and body surfing and having a great time but there was also something in the back of my mind telling me to go back in. We were so far away from land. 

We all tried swimming back to land but the tide was strong. From what I recall, after about 10 minutes, it was just me and Brigid in the water. I can't recall every detail as it was a trauma. I remember trying to push Brigid out of the riptide somehow.

It might have been 10 minutes but it felt like so much longer. I was treading water. My muscles were getting tired and I was getting cold. 

Mom 2, an experienced swimmer from California, was on her way for me and eventually saved me. There was a pack gathered on the beach as well as firemen, watching what was happening. I was later told by the chief that if I was out there for another 10 minutes or so, my muscles would have got too cold and I wouldn't have been able to keep swimming. 

I was happy to be out of the water, I thanked everyone, hugged my mom and walked home. When I arrived, I got in the shower and broke down crying. I stayed in bed for days; something I forgot had happened until my mother reminded me years later. I didn't know what was happening. 

My sister and my two friends that were there that day experienced their own feelings about the events. My sisters came months later but I can only speak from my experience.

I still get a panicky feeling when I see underwater shots in movies or documentaries. When I was at the beach last week, I got that icky feeling that I did that day, "are we out too far?" . A few years ago when my family was in Palm Springs, we were all in the pool and my mom splashed water over my head and I completely lost it. Looking back, I'm shocked that I reacted in such a ferocious way. But then again, how was anyone to know? The feelings or triggers still linger even years later. 

One reaction is not more valuable than the other, one reaction is correct and the other is wrong. Reactions are reactions are reactions. Don't doubt yours as they may be telling you so much about your inner truth. 

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