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“So, Lukas. Why are you here today?”

Where do I even start? My mother died when I was four. My dad’s a recovering alcoholic. When I was 17, I fell in love with a boy, and when we finally kissed, we also witnessed a triple homocide. I saw so much death that year. I caused so much pain: to my dad, to Philip, to Helen and Gabe. To Rose. I did so many things, said so many things I wish I could take back.

I am now 21. I am married to the love of my life, have a degree in math and a career in motocross. I was Rose’s best man and my dad finally checked himself into rehab. Everything is so much better than it was.

But there are grey clouds to every silver lining.

“I have nightmares. It started when my… crush and I experienced a triple homocide and I had to save him from the killer. From then we had to hide— well, I made him hide the fact that we’d seen anything. We kept it hidden for so long. Even now I flinch at loud noises. I was diagnosed with PTSD about 2 years ago and never really did anything from that diagnosis because I couldn’t afford to come out with another ‘issue’. Being gay and getting people to take you seriously is difficult enough, but coming out with a mental disorder on top of that is unthinkable.”

The therapist in front of me writes something down on her pad, eyebrows furrowing.

“Then what has brought you here today, if you don’t mind me asking?”

I chuckle slightly. “My husband, actually. He’s terrified for me. The murders hit him in different ways to me. The killer, he— he got to… got to his mom. She was a drug addict but she was getting better. He was devastated and fell into a depressive episode for a while. He’s a lot better than where he was before, which is why he wanted me to get help. I think he wants me to get better. I want to get better.”

She jots more down. Chews her pencil for a while. My chest is getting tighter and the middle of my palm aches, making me clench my hands into a fist. Her eyes zero in on it.

“Do you ever get panic attacks, Lukas?”

“Yes.” My voice wavers. Talking about it still hurts. I don’t know if I’m ready yet. I feel tears well up.

“Now, Lukas, I want you to focus on your breathing. Try and count out of sequence, and just breathe in and out. Deep breaths, now. You’re okay, Lukas, you’re okay.”

I breathe in time to her words and my racing heart finally begins to slow down slightly. My chest is still tight and my hands hurt and my teeth are grinding furiously still but I’m beginning to calm down.

In and out. In and out.

Philip uses the same technique with me except he rubs my back, kisses my forehead, or strokes my hair. I miss him, which is ridiculous. He dropped me off 5 minutes or so ago and I already miss him. I love him so much I can hardly breathe.

“Are you thinking about your husband? You’re smiling.”

“Yes I am. His name is Philip, and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without him. I love him more than anyone else on the planet.”

Thinking about Philip makes me feel lighter. Freer. In control and capable of helping myself.

“Please, tell me more.”