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Julia Grey


Illuminate documents a PTSD event. 


"...PTSD For those who don't know, it is the body leading the mind and not the other way around. I have been in fight or flight mode since the early morning of December 29; adrenaline pumping, heart racing, body ready to kill. PTSD In spite of knowing better, my body wants to defend me. It can't let go of what happened. My mind knows this. It doesn't matter. The body will not quit. It continually pulls my mind into situations that may or may not have ever existed with people who may or may not have ever existed, fighting a fight that is no longer there. PTSD Technically speaking, there are three hormones that trigger fight or flight. Adrenaline is one, I think the second is epinephrine (it's been a while since I read up on this) and the last is rare. I don't remember the name, but it is emitted by the brain and is the lynch pin in causing the fight or flight response. For people who are sufficiently traumatized (everyone is different) that third hormone never shuts off. What that means, is that the fight or flight response is triggered often and may last a very long time. PTSD My personal record is eight months - two different times. Black holes in my existence, where there is no recollection, no light, no life. The second time landed me in a catatonic state for a number of days - it's nature's way of saying, "Sorry we went too far, here is a vacation". Of the veterans I know who have it, I am lucky in comparison. PTSD There are times you would not be safe, so I live alone. I kill my dreams with medication to keep them from killing me. PTSD I will get through this as I always do. Just know, if I seem angry I am not. I am in fact enraged and barely in control, fighting for my life..."


~ From a note to friends, 2am, January 16, 2017


...thank you to the people who offered love and support two nights ago. Over the hours I watched your comments appear, I was in bed, my voice cracked and hoarse from hours of yelling - my only relief - and using every ounce of fortitude I had to hold on. Even bedclothes became adversaries - beaten, spun and flung - for touching me. I have often wondered if this is the emotional equivalent of burning alive...

From a note to friends, January 18,2017


"I realized last night that there is a short time limit on capturing this, both with imagery and words. That increases the risk of me being pulled back in - I am being as careful as I can..."

~ from notes to Will, January 18, 2017


Today makes 30 days of severe PTSD symptoms. The shouting and swearing continue, uncontrolled. Every noise is a trigger, every trigger a blow to my deteriorating system. The sleep terror/wakeful exhaustion cycle continues unabated. Reprieves from my out-of-control physiology are brief and few. Nowhere and no one is safe. I am hunkered down in my home, unable to leave. I have every conceivable support: Friends who will stay up with me and help me fight, friends who will let me stay in their home (a quieter, calmer atmosphere), friends on call should I need to go into the hospital, psychiatrist, med nurse, therapist, medication, the Veterans Crisis Hotline (their abilities are never to be underestimated), I am a graduate of years of intensive, twice weekly therapy with the same therapist (the reason I am so self-aware and still alive today), I practice EMDR, I have researched my condition down to the physiology that causes it. I am alive because of all of this, but what have I won? PTSD is the emotional equivalent of burning alive. Their intensity and immediacy are the same. There is no ability to think beyond the moment when one's only thought is how to end an untenable pain. Waking is an unending emotional stop, drop and roll. The dreams leave me in a heap on the floor, exhausted and retching, and it is at that time suicide becomes a comfort. The idea that it can all end, finally. I have thought about it often over 34 years of dealing with this. I have never tried. 30 days. No end in sight.

From a note to friends, January 27 


Day 33. The last 30 hours have been calmer. Symptoms persist, but I am often able to talk myself down and sooth, preventing surprises (psychosis - for me this means finding myself in a different place, at times hundreds of feet from where I last remember being, attacking or preparing to attack). Challenges are being met, even if they require a nap afterward. After a very critical few days during which the option of suicide loomed heavily, I am finally feeling safe enough to go near my medication. It seems there is a stand-off in this feud, a crude balance which has allowed me to gain my feet. I've been wrong before, but I am hopeful this is the beginning of the end of this nightmare.


I may be getting ahead of myself, a dangerous proposition, but looking around my apartment I see the devastation and the work that lies ahead. This scene alone is cause for depression. Without help, recovering any sense of order and cleanliness will take weeks, if not months. It is an act of will to carry on.

~from personal log, January 30, 2017

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Objets Nécessaires

1970s issue WT Grant's metal scissors. J A Henckels 10 inch chef’s knife. Car keys with alarm. Lighter. Taser. Rock. from the series "Illuminate", © 2017 Ms Julian Grey

Dream Catcher

An aid for a more peaceful sleep. from the series "Illuminate", © 2017 Ms Julian Grey

Pissing On A House Fire

The positive effects I experience from medical marijuana: it keeps me from remembering the nightmares. It alleviates the weight of depression just enough to help with focus and motivation. It does not stop the dreams or depression. And when the full weight of my condition bears down on me, it is useless. For that there is nothing. from the series "Illuminate", © 2017 Ms Julian Grey

Familial Things

Trusted, familiar things are valuable in confirming the reality that my mind sees, but my body denies. For me it's a snapshot of the two people I call family and a tag from the collar of my dog, Wicca. She is gone now, but my family remains. from the series "Illuminate", © 2017 Ms Julian Grey


Hell. from the series "Illuminate", © 2017 Ms Julian Grey


As the cycle of sleep terror/ exhausted wakefulness spirals downward, nearly every function comes to a halt. Basic daily living activities are not immune: hygiene, food preparation and eating, drinking fluids, cleaning & organizing… Eventually, even the diet of medicines - the only thing left holding back the flood - stops. from the series "Illuminate", © 2017 Ms Julian Grey

Olly Olly Oxen Free

The game that never ends. from the series "Illuminate", © 2017 Ms Julian Grey

(There Is) No Quarter

Sleep is most dangerous of all; especially the transitions in and out of consciousness. These are not nightmares in the typical sense. They are whole body terrors, driven by a broken, out-of-control physiology that leaves me devastated upon waking, physically and mentally, and desperately needing sleep; only to be destroyed by it again. This is the cycle that punched months-long black holes in my existence, where there is no recollection and no life. from "Illumunate" © 2017 Ms Julian Grey


A fitting symbol for the casualties of this condition. A poster child for lost homes, lost jobs, lost friends, lost lovers, lost opportunities, lost dignity, lost lives… from the series "Illuminate", © 2017 Ms Julian Grey

Collateral Dishes

I do not own much and this is the reason why. This will be cleaned when I return to health, in what I refer to as “the digging out phase”. Until then, I cannot allow myself to be further dragged down by what I cannot control. from the series "Illuminate", © 2017 Ms Julian Grey


It is nearly a week past the worst of it. My sleep pattern has constricted and my waking hours are a blasé existence of exhaustion. Nightmares. The outside world remains largely off-limits, its unpredictability a liability. To help preserve my sanity I work when I can, distract when I can’t and sleep when I have to. from the series "Illuminate", © 2017 Ms Julian Grey


The war between body and mind continues, unrelenting, leaving precious little energy to live. Tasks, even the simplest, become monumental. And set backs are final. Familiar voices - even chatting via text or online with a trusted friend - help to affirm the reality my body denies. This alone can give pause to the battle and provide much needed relief. from the series "Illuminate", © 2017 Ms Julian Grey

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