The Times They Are A Changin’

Henry Wallace said “the only certainty in life is change.” He also said some other things, but that was the part I took away.

Before I left for Scotland last January, my boyfriend at the time told me that, yes, things would change while I was gone, but that the big things–whatever they were–would mostly remain the same. Although that boyfriend and I have not been together for a while, his reassurance was something I held onto my entire first year here. During my week-long trips back to Minnesota in April and July, the time was too short and my schedule was too busy to really notice that, as much as I’m sure he thought he was right, he couldn’t have been more wrong.

In the last few years, I’ve gone through a lot of changes. And I know that’s to be expected. Hell, I’m in my 20’s. The 20’s are the decade of change. And I also know that my life could be worse, much worse. But here’s the thing, no matter where you are, what you have, or what you know, when you realize that your life has basically flipped 180 degrees, there’s no quote, no piece of past advice, no reassurance to keep that fact from hitting you like a ton of bricks.

Some people are particularly good at coping with that part of life, and Lord, do I envy those people. But, although I can cope with whatever travel mishap, late assignment, or sick dog the world throws at me, the 180-degree life flip is not something that settles well with me anymore.

Here’s the thing: I fight a daily battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It all started when I evacuated from New Orleans to avoid Hurricane Katrina. I can’t explain how it happened or what specifically caused it, so I’m going to refer to PubMed Health to give a basic description of what PTSD is.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you’ve seen or experienced a traumatic event that involved the threat of injury or death. … The cause of PTSD is unknown. Psychological, genetic, physical, and social factors are involved. PTSD changes the body’s response to stress. It affects the stress hormones and chemicals that carry information between the nerves (neurotransmitters).

For me, this resulted in a strong sense of disconnection from the world to say the very least. So, in the years before I left Minnesota to come to Scotland, I put a lot of energy into connecting with my environment there, to making it feel like home. And when I left for Scotland, my biggest fear was that my life there–the one I had put so much effort into building up–would crumble to pieces.

It’s hard to explain how much effort it actually takes to connect to people, places, and things when you have PTSD. Before Katrina, I wouldn’t have understood it either. But now I envy people who are comfortable just diving in to a new world. And even if it’s not actually a new world, that’s what it feels like. The world I knew before no longer exists. It is a new world to me.

So, during my three weeks Stateside over the New Year, I had the chance to realize that the life I had there before Scotland had completely changed and that the life I had built there had, in fact, crumbled to pieces and, specifically, Minnesota is no longer home (nor is California, but that’s a realization I made a couple years back).

The only refuge in the pile of rubble was my dog, Maddie, who doesn’t seem to have any concept of the passage of time or a realization of the change in dynamic in her immediate environment. She is as loyal of a dog as they come, and I’m thankful for that. I only wish I could have her with me now as I try to figure out how to get through this all. She was my unwavering support the first time I had to find my way and it’s hard to imagine doing it without her this time around.

It’s difficult to explain, in a public forum, everything that has changed without ruffling feathers, so I’m just going to leave my vague explanation of the situation where it is.

I know I said there’s no quote that keeps the change from hitting me like a ton of bricks, but there are a couple pieces that help me to remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I hope that, if you are having a hard time of it as well, the pieces help you to remember the same.

The Serenity Prayer (an excerpt), by Reinhold Niebuhr

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.

Invictus (an excerpt), by William Ernest Henley

I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul.

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