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This week I’m doing something I never thought I would do: I’ve come back to New York City. For those of you who don’t know this part of my story, NYC is the place of my trauma. More than that, it’s the place in which my PTSD raged so out of control I scared myself. It’s also the place in which I bounced around the offices of medical and psychiatric professionals looking for help that never came. I left the city so that I could heal.
During my years of healing my family took frequent trips back to NYC. I could never go with them. The thought of getting on the plane was enough to trigger me with anxiety, stress and emotional meltdown. The idea of going back to a place that was so riddled with pain and sadness and the danger of my own insanity was too much for me to even consider it. Even immediately after my recovery I had a sort of superstitious feeling that NYC was cursed and I was better off staying out of it.
Now, however, I’m back. My whole family has come back to celebrate my brother’s big __th birthday. And here’s what’s fun about PTSD recovery: Now that it’s all over and solid and I’ve moved so far on with my life, I’m actually excited to romp in the city for a few days. Saturday night we went to a play on Broadway. Yesterday we went to the Yankee game. This afternoon we’re going to the Metropolitan Museum. And while, yes, the ghost of my other sad self is here, and while, yes, I feel sorry for and acknowledge her past pain, I’m loving being here as who I am today.
We can make progress out of that awful place where PTSD drags us. We can shift out of that terrible chaos and find a place of peace. If, according to Judith Herman, a ‘central task’ of recovery is establishing safety, this means not only in the therapeutic environment but also in the physical world. Sometimes, it means (as if did for me) making a drastic change by leaving the place of my trauma so that I could heal in a place that offered me a blank slate.
I’ve heard from other survivors who’ve relocated to heal. It can seem like a drastic move, but everyone I’ve heard from agrees: Sometimes letting go and starting over means letting go of everything, including your hometown. Later, when you’ve tamed the PTSD beast, you can choose to go back — and have a really good time doing it!
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