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Elizabeth Shane: Life Beyond Words

In this prose poem, Elizabeth Shane lays out the complexity of PTSD - the struggle to resolve conflict, expel shame, acknowledge truth.

Elizabeth Shane

Words once spoken cannot be returned. Whether asked for or not, a diagnosis is given. Truth heard in hushed sounds within my head. Dare I say it out loud or has shame clouded the reflection misted over? Wipe away the residue or maybe not? Perhaps I can pretend time has frozen. Underneath, everything can remain the same. Who do I trust? Perhaps I will board the runaway train. No return ticket required for an unknown destination.

Yet somehow, I know. Deep within the core of my soul, no lines need be told, the story is permanently etched, unwanted carvings, pieces taken, one day, one month, one year, claiming hostage of mind. Scrambled thoughts running out of space to hide until now. With clarity comes fear. A flickering moment when sense prevails. Is this what it means to lose control, lapse of time, recurring flashbacks, dreams of the day become reality of night? On guard young soldier, be ready for battle.

Is this what it feels like when words dance across crisp white lines of a blacked-out landscape? Resignation or acceptance? Defeat or acknowledgement? Men in white coats tiptoeing around, like dots of clouds passing by. Hush and be calm. The first moment, each occasion and every reoccurrence. It’s not a flurry of madness or a clock whizzing rapid hands around a pounding heart. Stand down young soldier and fight no more.

Say the words again but louder. At first it will crush the breath from your chest as your mouth gasps a ghostly whisper. Imagination has not fled in shock. This is PTSD. I will repeat slowly. This is PTSD. Complex. Misunderstood by those in unworn shoes. A body wants to flee but my eyes hold a steadfast gaze. No more stigma, no more hiding, no more shame. My mental illness has been given a name. Strength comes with knowledge, knowledge comes with power, power comes with freedom, freedom comes with a voice. My voice, your voice, our voice, one voice.

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