His post-traumatic stress disorder and my struggle with him

I tried keep some semblance of my old life: I was working on a book, started a new research project, I was offered a job, and briefly thought about moving us both to Philadelphia. When I wasn’t working, I made appointments and called back: therapists, doctors, human resources, insurance companies, colleagues, family, and friends. Jason continued to go to therapy every week until the scars on his face disappeared. But he was haunted by insomnia – nightmares and increased vigilance did not allow him to sleep at night, and he spent most of the daylight hours in front of the TV, falling asleep and waking up on the sofa in the living room. I scheduled food delivery and left laundry at the laundry. I searched for blackout curtains and white noise machines on Amazon. I fought and fought.

Then I ran away.

On the first anniversary of the beating, I was in Los Angeles on a reporting trip. For the second anniversary, I was on the road working on a new research project.

When I was away, I tried desperately to feel something—anything—for myself. In Helsinki, Finland, to speak at a conference of Nordic social workers, I sat in a 190-degree smoke sauna and then went outside barefoot and almost naked to dive into a hole in the Baltic Sea ice over my head. in black almost icy water, one, two, three times.

In 2016, I was on the road for 147 days. In 2017, I was gone for 97 days.

We needed the money that I had earned through speaking engagements and research grants. But to say that all my travels were materially necessary would be hypocrisy. I wanted a space and time away from the maelstrom of PTSD. I wanted to leave as much as I need to leave.

December 2017 we decided to experiment with traveling together. Before the attacks, we were partners in adventure—driving hundreds of miles down Highway 20, visiting 1930s-era landmarks: sifting through the fossil museum, exploring the Howe Caves, trying to pick our favorite roadside cheeseburger. We passed through the Adirondacks and swam in the Sakandaga reservoir. He ducked under the security railing to take pictures of the dilapidated 19th century hotels while I watched from the car.

We wanted to try and get that feeling back. We used all my Amtrak points to buy two round trip sleeper tickets for a seven-day trip to Montana for my mom’s 75th birthday. In theory, it was perfect: our own tiny aquarium, cruising the country at a leisurely pace. I imagined that we would read, play cards. I bought a tiny electric kettle so we can make tea while the world rushes past.