PTSD can push us to do things we later regret, like getting into fights. (I don’t regret all the fights I’ve gotten into. Ha ha.) But one regret in particular is bothering me today.
A little more than two years after 9/11, my recently-ex boyfriend was in a car accident. I broke up with him because I had become co-dependent on him, and I wanted to get back on my own two feet. But I was still in love with him and wanted to start a family with him one day.
The last time I saw him, we ran into each other in the street. He was on his way to see a play in the Village (Greenwich, that is), and he invited me to come. Inside I burned to go along, but I was afraid to fall back into unhealthy dependence, so I declined. That night on his way home, another vehicle drove the wrong way down the one-way street he was on, striking the side of his van. The door of the van fell. He wasn’t wearing his seat belt. He also fell and struck his head sending him to the hospital.
I found out about the accident a week later. Immediately, I dropped everything and headed toward the hospital. But when I got close, I stopped and turned around. He died the following day.
Why did I turn around? What was I afraid of? I made an excuse to myself that I was afraid he would wake up from his coma and I would become emotionally dependent on him again. How absurd. Was that really my fear? Or did I turn around because I had PTSD and didn’t know it? Was my anxiety spiking at that moment? Were my feelings too overwhelming and paralyzing? I was only a couple blocks away from the hospital after walking across the width of Manhattan to get there. Whatever the feelings, I couldn’t handle going to the hospital. The next day, I got courage and went. By then, he was gone.
It took eight years after his death to realize the loss. I’m grateful for Meetup.com for enabling groups of people to meet for specific purposes. A grief group of young widows and widowers welcomed me and helped me grieve, even though we hadn’t been married. Today, I’m still grieving. I also grieve the loss of the chance for a life and a family together. I’m not sure we would have stayed together, since I now know myself better and think I might have become tired of his habits. I’ll never know. All I know is that it still hurts.
Addendum: Another thing about that hospital is that just weeks after 9/11, I was there having a hard time avoiding pictures on walls of people who were missing, including those with names I recognized among the dozens named by hotline callers. Maybe that was the trigger for that dumb decision.