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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Getting Wet: A Life-Changing Traumatic Event (Guest post: Rory Bristol)

This is a guest post written by Rory Bristol. Read to the end for details on his projects.
There's nothing like being afraid of the element that consists of 71% of both your own body and the surface of the planet you live on. Water. It is terrifying. It is evil. It is full of germs, and wetness. It is gross to the extreme. I am able to get in the hot tub. I am able to swim. I am able to shower. I force myself to do these things because they are "normal" and I am vain. Also, a little (or a lot) of OCD goes a long way when you are afraid of your shower. Germs from the water are better than the dirt from the day. I ALWAYS shower. Even if I hate it.

But germs and wet are only part of the story. Water is a complex element with many iterations. Showers, rain, sinks, drains - water is everywhere. It smells like everything. I can go outside in the afternoon and still smell or taste last night's rain in the air. There is no escaping this monster inside of my head, any more than I can escape my heartbeat.

I first developed an aversion to water when I was a teenager. As always, my parents were good at finding ways to suck. This time, they forgot to pick me up after a field trip. This field trip was no ordinary field trip. It was a weeklong trip to Tennessee to participate in FFA competitions. I was a landscape competitor, but I sucked. I didn't make it to nationals, but I went on the trip anyway, because a trip to Nashville isn't something to turn your nose up at.

So, I come home from this trip, tired, and I wait for my parents. Five minutes passed. Then fifteen. After an hour, the teacher finally said he'd give me a ride home. I declined, telling him that I'd go to a friend's house. I was too embarrassed at the thought of him seeing my house with a collapsed ceiling, much less the look on my parents' faces when they were shamed by someone else taking care of their "problem." So I walked home. It was five miles, but I didn't really mind. I had walked it before, when my parents had failed to show up to performances, or football games. I had to get home after all.
I got about a half mile out of town when it started raining. At first it was a light drizzle, and I was only slightly on edge, because I had a week's worth of luggage on my shoulder. Then it started to pick up a little. I may have started to cry. Then it really started to pour. I had a panic attack. I didn't even know what a panic attack was at that age, so I thought I was going insane.

When I arrived home, I was soaked clean through. My shoes, and my luggage, were full of water. I was also mostly covered in mud, because the last two miles of the walk were on the red dirt roads that made up most of the county's streets. I was sobbing and couldn't stop. My family thought I was being melodramatic. I didn't have words for it. I was disheveled, exhausted, had at least two ruined text books and at least one ruined library book in my bag, not to mention my swag from the convention, and a disposable camera.

I couldn't explain the terror I was experiencing. I didn't know the words "sense of impending doom" which have explained so much of my anxiety since then. I was dysfunctional. I got shaken for crying, being told that I'd be "given a reason to cry." I still couldn't stop crying. I got belted across the back for ruining the books. I got shoved into the wall because I couldn't explain why I couldn't talk. I got pushed over a coffee table when my mother pointed out to my stepfather that they'd have to pay for the damaged books. Then I got punched because the table broke when I fell over it. I was then kicked multiple times for not getting up.

You might notice a theme here. This is one of my most vivid flashbacks. When I get wet unexpectedly, I am slammed into this moment. Out of nowhere, I am a runty fat teenager, in the throes of a panic attack. I am in physical pain, and emotional pain. I feel betrayed, bruised. I feel like a victim.

I get sad when it rains, even if I'm inside. In the rare occasion that I get caught in the rain, I have a panic attack. If I'm at a friend's home and it starts to rain unexpectedly, I've been known to become the guest of an impromptu sleep-over. Thankfully, I've learned to communicate with people regarding my anxiety and PTSD flashbacks. Thanks to therapy, good doctors, my own determination to succeed, and the loving support of my wife, I am able to live a normal life with my PTSD and anxiety.

Despite years of hard work and therapy, I've still not shaken the fear that accompanies getting wet. I'd give a toe (at least) to leave this part of myself behind. For now, I steel myself against the literal and figurative oncoming storms.
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Rory is an emotional badass, able to jump from zero to save-your-life in precisely two blinks of the eye. His superpowers include unapologetic honesty, forgetting the little things, and dragging people back from the ledge. He's also an amazing party trick. Rory's compassion, drive, and love are a result of an upbringing surrounded by felons, drug addicts, schizophrenics, and generally not-nice people. Buy him a beer, and he'll look at you like you have a bug on your face. Buy him a book, and you will always have a place in his heart (or at least his bookcase).

His major work is http://terminallyintelligent.wordpress.com/
Follow him on Twitter: @TerminallyRory

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You can find more stories like Rory's in The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You, now available for pre-order. 50 authors. 50 inspirational stories of overcoming tremendous obstacles. 
Read a few sample chapters HERE.
The first 200 people to pre-order will get a “thank you” in the front of the book, and a free copy of the book The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah.