Patriots Day

6 Whole Years

6 whole years since the bombing. It feels like a lifetime ago and yet it’s not very hard to find myself back at the finish line in my mind. The sounds and what my eyes took in are still so clear like no time has passed at all. The confusion and shock linger too. I sometimes wonder how something I know to be true can still feel so unbelievable.

2,190 days have gone by. Some felt ordinary while others have dragged on, filled with mental challenges. And I was one of the lucky ones so I can’t imagine what some of my fellow survivors might be feeling today as we all work to move forward the best we can.

April 15, 2013 was the day my life, and the lives of so many others changed. Some gone forever. Others physically changed. The rest of us, mentally altered just enough that our lives too would never be the same. In many ways that day feels like a line in the sand. I know for me I think about my life now in two parts – before the bombing and after. The Elena I was before feels so far away from the Elena I am today. She feels like a distant memory. Once in a while I find a picture of myself before the bombing and I feel like I am looking at a stranger and that’s hard for me but then I realize that my hopeful, positive, and patient demeanor hasn’t changed and I think those characteristics have given me the strength to live and grow through this season in my life. I thank God for giving me those gifts so long ago. I believe it was in His plan to make me that way knowing what I would one day endure. He is so good.  As I look toward my future, I feel confident in my plan to continue sharing my story and healing journey with others. I know it has helped others.

This week I received an email from the mother of another Boston Marathon bombing survivor who is now deep in his struggle with PTSD. He needs resources, support, and to know he is not alone. I called on my survivor friends and together they recommended many specialists in his area that he can now call on as he hopefully chooses to heal. This is a gift! This is why I write here and it’s why I speak out and share my story. This is my calling and I won’t stop. Survivors of mass shootings and acts of terrorism from years ago are taking their lives every day and they don’t have to. I will work in their memory each day to share my message of hope for healing. Their pain and mine should have meaning and I believe it can inspire other victims to move forward with their lives if they choose to embrace the journey.

So today, 6 years later, I choose to move forward and carry the many lessons this experience has taught me. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to see my life through PTSD’s lens and to use that vision to help where I can.

 

Be the hand of a hopeful stranger

A little scared but your strong enough

Be the light in the dark of this danger

‘Til the sun comes up

A Safe Place To Land – Sara Bareillles

Recovered

We are home from Boston and finally recovered from jet lag! 

I want to thank all of you; my family and friends, and followers for the prayers and love you sent my way during our trip. I felt it all in the form of the most beautiful peace during our trip and I believe they also helped Jeff push through the most difficult marathon in over 40 years.  The weather was terrible!

In the month leading up to the anniversary of the bombings I found myself overcome with symptoms of my ptsd. I shared this with my trauma therapist as she worked to help me prepare for the moment when I would confront the finish line with my kids in tow. My head was full of self-doubt; how could I keep myself together in those crowds, with all those triggers, and take care of my kids too? I realized I was trying to fit all of my plans for that day into a box.  A place I felt I could control. As I went through the motions of the EMDR session I was reminded of a time when I was a girl. My family and I were in line for a roller coaster at an amusement park and I was dreadfully nervous.  The roar of the cars of the track, the screams coming from the riders before me, and the uncertainty of what I would face on the ride were too much for me to take. However, those memories became muffled with the feeling I had once I stepped off that thrilling ride. I felt light and free, I was happy, and I felt confident because I had not let my nerves keep me from conquering my fear. This ah-ha moment became my motivation for the finish line. I decided I was going to embrace the experience for what it was and let is shape me instead of trying to fit it all into a space in my mind that I could control. 

I wanted to share that with you because I think much of life is a roller coaster ride. Full of ups and downs. Twists and turns. Moments you dread and those which take your breath away.

I sure hope that my life is full of more ups. More exciting moments that take my breath away.  Less of those that leave me lying in my bed trying to escape the world.  Either way I know my life will be lived fully and beautifully. I owe that to those who lost their lives on April 15, 2013 at the finish line, I owe it to Officer Sean Collier who was murdered by the bombers, and I owe it to all the survivors – those physically and invisibly injured. I owe it to my family and all of you.

I wrote a reflection for Maria Shriver’s website and it will be live soon. I will share it as soon as it’s published. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy some pictures of my family from our time at the marathon.

 

Trailer Trigger

New Year’s Day morning my husband and I were laying around with the kids and snuggling into our bed to watch the Patriots game. This isn’t new for us but something new happened while we were watching the game that sent me running out of the room covering my ears. The trailer came on. The trailer for the movie that is set to premier very soon about the day that changed my life and thousands of other’s lives (I write this not knowing the title of the film, the premier date, nothing… I don’t think I need to).  When I caught my breath, I realized that I hadn’t been triggered by the first few seconds of it that I had seen but that I had been angered.

As I am still receiving bills from my hospitalization, paying out of pocket for the EMDR (trauma therapy), medications, natural supplements and hypnotherapy I need so that I can be a decent mom, wife, friend, and grounded human being, a movie will be entertaining crowds of people and I have no say in it. I was there wasn’t I? I’m still paying for the aftermath aren’t I?

Soon people will pay money for a ticket and plop down in their chairs and throw popcorn in their mouths while they take in a flick based on a day that I lived and can’t forget. Awesome! Hollywood will be capitalizing on an event in history that our very own citizens died in, were injured in, and are still suffering from every day. Why? The reason simply cannot be so that we, as a country don’t forget what happened.  It can’t be used as a reminder for Boston to stay “Boston Strong” and it sure can’t be used to remember all the innocent victims who lost their lives.  It’s being used to entertain people and I think that is wrong. But I am going to use it for something else, something greater I hope.

I went to therapy the following day and the first thing my therapist said to me was, “I thought of you this weekend.” I knew exactly what she was talking about, she had seen the commercial too.  She isn’t the first person to say this to me and she won’t be the last. So I continue to move through life in my protective bubble I’ve built – no news watching, no Facebook scrolling, and no energy spent on what is happening in our world. I’ve learned that I must completely focus on what is happening in my world, in my body, the conversations going on around me, and the situations I put myself in at all times. Can I go to that restaurant? Did I get enough sleep? Is that food going to irritate me? Can I stand spending a day at the aquarium with my kids?  Will it be too noisy? Will there be too many people? These are the questions I constantly ask myself as I go through my life.  My therapist reminded me of something very important that day after my trailer trigger; I have a greater confidence now and I have better tools that I can use to cope that I didn’t have before.  Most importantly, I have to believe in myself and have faith that when I see those images it doesn’t mean I will go backwards in my growth. Nothing scares me more then moving in that direction again.  

The timing of this film seems so ironic to me given what I have gone through mentally the past year, my recent hospitalization, the birth of this resource, and largely sharing and accepting this event as part of my life’s story.  I know that God has perfect timing in everything He does.  He is calling me not to be angered but to be blessed by the opportunity to hopefully reach more people with my message during this time. He is showing me that this film may be giving me the chance to share my journey with more people and so for that I will say thank you to Mark Wahlberg for his work about a city and people that we both love.