The Shift / by padhia hutton

My story is a strange one, but what I have learned is that although there are an infinite number of circumstances possible in one’s story, there is a finite spectrum of human emotion. So the things that we think disconnect us from each other, actually do the opposite. They connect us in really deep and beautiful ways.

I just spent several weeks away at a PTSD treatment center, and although I still go back a few days a week and have a long way to go, I have experienced so many miracles that I want to share.

About 3 years ago, I looked at pictures from where I grew up with someone who was a trauma specialist. I’ve always struggled with anxiety, but in that moment, something happened to me. I now know it was a panic attack so severe that it was actually a dissociative seizure. I suddenly couldn’t see, got a sharp electrical pain in my head, couldn’t feel gravity, felt like I was being sucked out of my body through the back of my head with extreme force into outer space, shrunk down to nothing, lost sense of my body and completely disappeared from my own internal landscape as the images on the screen became IMAX 3D. I hid under the couch cushions for hours. From that point on, it kept happening. Every time I tried to leave the house, in small spaces like cars, anytime noises or voices were too loud, smells were too strong, I had more than a sip of caffeine. My threshold of tolerance had become basically zero.

All this time, I’ve been trying to figure out what happened in that moment. I know that it was a moment where I suddenly felt for the first time like the first person in my story. I realized I had always told and felt my story from like a third person point of view. On some level, I didn’t emotionally understand that it was me in there. In that moment I understood it was ME and I suddenly was smashed with the magnitude of what I had endured. And so that is how I explained to myself what happened in that moment.

But what I realized was that in that moment- what I thought was a moment of clarity, was actually the moment that I began subscribing to the most crippling lie of my life. While it may have been true that I was for the first time experiencing the true magnitude of the circumstances, the story doesn’t stop there. I stopped it there, and became frozen in that. I never realized the story goes on to a very important point- I SURVIVED. I am stronger and larger than anything I have faced. In fact, although feelings have told me otherwise, the truth is, nothing has ever consumed me, digested my soul, overtook me or shattered me. I AM STILL HERE. I am stronger, larger, incredible to have endured that and survived with curiosity about the world and a sense of wonder and the capacity to connect to other people, to want to do good things, to have never lost my song, given up the tiny seed I’ve been carrying to safety, looking for a place that it can grow. It’s a miracle. I am a miracle of incalculable proportions to survived all of that, deeply connected to the essence of who I was. And to go out into the world and everyday try to make my story into a tale of triumph.

From the point of this realization, things shifted. Triggers became reminders of how big I am, how strong I was. It became laughable that on some level the belief was that a strong smell or loud noise could overtake me. To actually find yourself laughing at something that used to cripple you, is a joy I wish for everyone.

I hope that when you look at your own story, look at the whole thing, keep going past the parts where you get stuck. Realize you are everything you have ever needed and everything you want to be, and allow yourself to feel the fullness of that. You just might realize that you are your own hero.