I didn’t really escape surviving unscarred




FROM NEW BOOK BY KATHIE COSTOS---untitled so far



1 IN THE GARAGE



PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, strikes after a traumatic event. That is the only way it it comes into someone’s life. The question is, “How do you keep if from taking over your whole life?”

Simple! Learn how to drive it!

Just like the day you got control over a vehicle for the first time, there were things you needed to learn. You needed to know how it worked, as well as the rules of the road. Someone had to explain it to you, guide you, and support you as you gained enough control to be free to go wherever you wanted to end up.

Most people understand the vehicles they drive a lot better than they understand the vehicle they live in. We know how to make the vehicle go forward, decide the speed in which we travel, and the way to get there. Yet when we switch gears in our lives from victim to survivor, we settle for staying trapped in the garage!

How is it that we have come to believe the misery following surviving “it” is all there is for us? Who told us that suffering is normal and permanent, almost as if it is the price we pay for living through something so terrible, our lives were on the line?

First there was the shock of what happened. Then came the questions. Why did it happen? Why my? Did God do it to me or spare me? How do I get over it?

Then comes the nightmares, flashbacks, mood swings, paranoia, doubt, and hopelessness. Joy replaced by anger, Love replaced by mistrust. Hope eroded by nothing to hope for.

Then comes family and friends turning away from us. We push them away while we suffer in silence, at the same time we expect them to understand us and be there for us.

We start to believe we do not deserve anything good at the same time we think we are entitled to everything we want. That is life on the roller coaster we hitched a ride on.

It all gets worse if we do not know how to use the power we have over our lives. To move our “vehicles” forward requires the knowledge it can. This vehicle is our bodies where everything that makes us “us” lives.

So what!? That was yesterday.! Today you get the keys to your vehicle, a driver’s manual and GPS. You even get a park assist.

Like any vehicle, it doesn’t matter how fast it can go, if you don’t have fuel. In your case, the fuel is knowledge to empower your healing. That is where we being. 

FUEL GRADE depends entirely on you. 87 will get you average results. 89-90 middle range results while 91-94 is the highest octane for optimum performance. Survivors deserve the best they can get. 

The first car was the Model T by Ford. It could go about 40 mph and ran on gasoline or hemp fuel. According to Forbes, the fastest car now is SSC Tuatara, which hit speeds up to 330 mph! That is how much things can change because first people think it can, and then figure out how to do it!

Your fuel can from the history of humans. Surviving trauma, dealing with all the questions and struggles of the shock can be found in the pages of the Old Testament, especially within PSALMs. We’ll get into that later. As for the scientific research, that goes back to the Civil War but reports going back to the Revolutionary War caused the thought process of those who thought if they understood it, they could figure out how to heal it.

When veterans were coming home from war, there were all kinds of titles given to what they were suffering from. About 40 years ago, it was called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after Vietnam veterans came home and fought for the research and funding, so they could figure out how to make a difference in the lives of other veterans.

What that ended up leading to was what regular people end up with after traumatic events. the problem is, the research done in the last couple of decades, is not as good as it was in the beginning when people were just learning about it.

Much like when we learned how to drive a vehicle, we learned the rules of the road and how to drive properly, including getting it into a parking space. Now folks want a button to push so they won’t have to learn how do to it, along with self driving cars so they be a passenger in the driver’s seat. Just like now, some people wake up one morning, read a news report about PTSD and then think they can start a charity to “do something about it” without ever discovering what it is in the first place!

I survived over 10 life threatening events. More if you count hurricanes. During the 15 years I lived in Florida, there were a lot of them but the first one, Charlie in 2004, was the hardest to get through. Since I won’t focus on this in the rest of this book, good time to let you know that we moved to Florida a couple of months before it happened. You can look it up online and discover how Central Florida was impacted, but what you won’t find is what it was like living through it. Needless to say, I wished our movers left the boxes so we could go back to New England. That summer, we were hit by 3 hurricanes, plus Ivan, which thankfully, missed Central Florida.

I don’t dwell much on them, but that is probably because I had survived far too many other events that could have killed me for most of my life. The first 4 hit before I was 6 years old.

Let’s get all of them out of the way now so that when you read the rest of this, you’ll understand that I am a very experienced driver of my own life.

Before my 4th birthday, a car accident. My Mom slammed on the brakes right in front of a hospital. I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and flew from the backseat into the windshield. My head it the glass enough to shatter it and my chin hit the dashboard. Soon I was getting stitches in the emergency room.

A few months later, my family did our usual Saturday night treat. Mom loaded up paper bags with popcorn, while my brothers and I got into the station-wagon with my Dad and headed off to the drive-in theater. 

Before the movie started, my brothers had the job of keeping an eye on my while we went to the playground area. There was a “big kid” part and a “little kid” part. I was not allowed on any of the big kid stuff without one of my brothers. 

I was a tomboy and they knew it. Somehow I managed to get away from them, climbed the high slide without any fear at all, since I had been up in many times before. Then when I reached the top, it dawned on me that I was alone for the first time. I was terrified! Too afraid to slide down it, too many kids behind me to go down the ladder. I froze at the top. A kid behind me got tired of waiting. He gave me a hard shove. I went over the edge.

I landed head first. By the time my oldest brother found me, he thought I was dead. He carried me back to the car and I finally opened my eyes.

Another trip to the hospital. The doctor checked me over, looked at the X-ray and then told my Mom to take me home so that I could get a good nights sleep.

The next morning I woke up with my eyelid swollen so much I couldn’t open my eye. I also couldn’t talk right. They brought me to the Children’s Hospital. Another X-ray and this time, that doctor looked at my parents and told them, “She is very lucky. She should have died twice last night.” Not that I could have…but I should have. 

It turned out I had a fractured scull and and concussion. I spent a week in the hospital. My brain changed! It was what we now know as Traumatic Brain Injury.

This event almost destroyed my family. My oldest brother blamed himself. My Dad blamed him too for what a 4 year old decided to do. My Dad turned into a violent alcoholic after that. 

Even at the young age, when I got out of the hospital, I knew there was something wrong. My parents were being nicer than usual to one another. My brothers were more watchful over me, but there was something not right. A few months later, my Dad started coming home drunk… and nasty.



In my young mind, I thought that if I could break my head again, they’d be OK again. The yelling would stop. My Dad would stop going after my oldest brother and we’d be back to the way we were. I sat in my bed and smashed my head against the wall over and over again. All it did was give me a headache.

In those years I ended up with shingles, had another stay in the hospital when I had to have my tonsils removed and a series of accidents because I was a klutz on top of being a jock.

The drinking and destroying the house, the drunk driving and fights he had with my brother continued until I was 13. I was home sick from school and he came home early from work. He started to destroy the living room when he threw a chair. I was laying down on the couch and jumped up just as it hit me.

My Mom kicked him out of the house. Months later he finally decided to stop drinking and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. He moved back in about a year later and never touched another drop. 

Next came a car accident on a highway so bad the car was totaled and people were shocked I walked away good enough to push the car from the passing lane to the breakdown lane. The ambulance brought me to the hospital after that. Turned out I was in shock.

By then, I met my first husband. After a couple of years of dating, we got married when I was 21. It was good at first but then he tried to be emotionally abusive, but I didn’t let him get to me. One night he came home from work and decided he wanted me dead. He had me down on the floor with this hands on my neck when our landlady banged on the door screaming she had called the police. We were only married a year and a half but I had no problem filing for divorce the day after the police took him away.

I kicked him out and got a restraining order but he kept stalking me. My parents thought I’d be safer back with them, so I moved out of the apartment. He kept stalking me.

He was an auto body guy and always had different cars but all of them were loud muscle cars. That sound sent me into flashbacks. 

One night, I was on a blind date with a few friends at a local bar. He walked in and started to give my date a problem. I told him to meet me outside and he did. We stood within striking distance of his favorite car and I grabbed a 2x4 board. I told him the next time I saw him, he would regret it. He knew exactly what I was willing to do to get him out of my life.

I didn’t see him or hear his car after that. 

It turned out that he didn’t stop stalking me. When I met my current husband, “Jack” and we decided to get married, I had to get in touch with my ex-husband for an annulment so that I could get married in church again. The next day, while Jack was eating breakfast at a diner, my ex walked over to him, introduced himself and said, “I’m Peter. You’re marrying my wife.”

Jack said he was lucky that he wasn’t eating steak and eggs that morning. It was then we understood that he had been stalking both of us all that time. There is no way he could have know who Jack was or where he’d be otherwise. The engagement notice was not in the paper yet. 

“How could I not know?” That question caused paranoia to start taking over. I spent months looking to see if I was being followed. Then I got busy…and stay busy so I wouldn’t have to think about it anymore. I had a wedding to plan for and new future. 

Most of the time, I was able to hang onto hopeful thoughts. That was whenever I heard the sound of a muscle car, flashbacks were constantly taking me back to that night he tried to kill me. Nightmares came back but i didn’t talk about them. I always had strange dreams, so I passed them off as nothing more than that.

Jack was dealing with his own PTSD from Vietnam. We met in 1982 and my Dad, also a veteran of the Korean War, said, “He seems like a nice guy, but he’s got shell shock.” When I asked him what that was, he told me to go to the library and learn. The thing is, I wondered why I didn’t have it after all I had been through. No matter how much I learned about it, I did not get the fact that I had a mild case of it. All those years, each time, I came to terms with it, dealt with it and moved on. Shock wore off and so did the nightmares and most of the flashbacks, mood-swings, paranoia, anger and everything else, subsided until I heard that sound of an engine revving.

We moved from Massachusetts to Florida and that sound still freaked me out until I knew he was gone forever…and I started to like that sound again. That was when I had to face the truth!

Yes, I was in denial. In the years after I met Jack, I read countless books and articles, mostly about veterans with PTSD. I wrote books, thousands of articles, created hundreds of videos on PTSD and never once noticed I had it too. I went into therapy a few times and no one noticed it. It was not until a cousin sent me the obituary notice that my ex died, that it dawned on me…I didn’t really escape surviving unscarred.

We will touch on some of the other times later in the book, but by now, you know I do have more than a basic knowledge of how to drive the vehicle I live in. Hopefully, by the end of this, you’ll be a master of your own vehicle!


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