When I was in college, I was asked by my psych professor to explain in an essay what it was like to have PTSD using only one or two sentences. It didn’t take me long to come up with an answer: “It’s like waiting for the other shoe to fall.” He loved the answer, and I received an “A” on the paper.
If we are listening in apprehension (as we do when we have PTSD), we are hyper-aware of what is happening around us. We know the first shoe has fallen to the floor already, and now we wait for the second shoe to drop. With PTSD, we are stuck in that little time warp. The first “shoe” as it was, is whatever happened to us to cause the PTSD in the first place. We wait for the trauma to come again. And, we don’t seem to move on from that place very fast; if something awful doesn’t happen, then we just keep waiting for it.
Many years have passed since I was in that college class. I’m glad to say that, while I still have PTSD, I don’t spend near as much time waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t enter a room and immediately assess everyone in it to determine the amount of danger I’m in. I don’t relive on a constant basis the trauma that caused my PTSD. There are still some bad days; that’s a fact of life I’ve learned to live with. But there are more good days now and I think having PTSD has, in a way made me a stronger person.