Mental Health Awareness Month….
I promised a post for Mental Health Awareness Month….
And here it comes… in all its honesty.
This will actually be two posts in one.
Because of recent events; because many wounds have recently been opened; because my demons are strolling; I have chosen now to write about what I battle daily.
Some may say that this is not the best time to do such heavy work; but I disagree… What better time is there than when you’re feeling everything, when everything is raw, when your self-doubt is weighing heavy, and your demons are strolling?
You can’t help but be completely, brutally honest under those circumstances.
Now please, as you read my words, understand, there is not a lot truly known about PTSD. There are ‘best guesses’…. There are some physicians and psychiatrists and counsellors who are more knowledgeable than others… But really, it all boils down to one simple fact… It deals with the brain and the brain is still one of the biggest medical mysteries in the human body.
Why did I end up with it but other people who saw the same places I saw come home relatively unscathed or make a complete return to normal life? When did it actually start for me? Was there a point of no return; a point where my brain could have maybe recovered but once I hit that point, there was no going back? Was there one event that caused it or was it a lineup of events that occurred one right after the other right after the other that pushed me over the edge?
No one knows the answer to any of these questions.
All we know is that I battle daily.
Sometimes I’m brought under harsh scrutiny because of it:
“I’m sorry ma’am. You’re more than qualified for the job but perhaps this isn’t the safest environment for you to work in…. ”
“I’m sorry ma’am. You’d be a great fit for the job but we feel that you may become a liability…. ”
“You suffer from PTSD. We all know that you’re unstable.”
“Can you explain to me why it is that you need this medication at this dosage? This seems overly excessive.”
“I can’t even consider getting to know you because well, to be honest, you scare me.”
I have heard all of the above. It has touched every aspect of my life from professional to medical to friendships to even relationships.
I watch my ‘friends’ scatter when a bad day comes along and a call goes out that I’m having a bad day and I need help because I can’t leave my house.
I watch potential partners start rolling around in their heads the possible consequences of being near me… Basing those consequences on what they think they know about my condition and about me.
I feel the bite of the cold and callous comments that come from people that I’m trying to get to know, trying to test the waters of dating, with when my brain can’t process the information given to me and I need to ask more questions, or re-ask the same questions… Or heaven forbid… Just talk about it because I can’t make sense of it because my brain is broken and won’t let me…..
I feel the weight of judgement behind every cold, callous, hurtful word or phrase that is tossed out while people; whether it be ‘friends’, professionals, romantic partners, or complete strangers; try to ‘deal’ with me while I’m having a bad day and losing ground in my battle against PTSD.
If you think calling me crazy doesn’t affect me; you’re wrong.
If you think judging me and telling me to get over it helps me; you’re wrong.
If you think anger and callousness and harsh words will get your message across when my brain is stuck; you’re wrong.
What you have actually just done with all of those actions is caused me damage.
Unfortunately over the last 24 hours, I have heard each and every one of those things from someone who claimed to care… Who I thought I could trust.
I thought wrong.
How hard do you think I am on myself on a daily basis… Hell, on an hourly basis?? How hard?
Let me tell you how hard I am… And how little I need reminders of how crazy I feel I am at times…
There are times I’m so hard on myself for forgetting… Or for not being able to string a sentence together… Or for not being able to go to a store… Or walk down my street… Or hell, even leave my damn house… So very hard on myself that it’s crippling… And all I can think is how many more days can one person be expected to go on trying as hard as I do sometimes just to make it from moment to moment?
From the outside, most people would think my life was normal… They would see little glitches, little quirks… But they could shrug it off as just ‘my way’….
But if you were to look closer you’d see the actual struggle that it is sometimes just to make it from moment to moment.
See, in me, my flavour of PTSD, it causes a lot of memory issues… So if it wasn’t for the alarm in my phone, my numerous calendars, my stacks of Post-it Notes, my popup reminders in my computer, my email reminders to myself, my notepad in my phone, phone calls from friends, texts to myself…. Well, there are some days, literally, that I can’t remember that at this same time every morning, my Wee has to catch the bus for school.
Yes, it can get that bad.
There are days I forget nothing… Days I forget some stuff… And then there are days where forgetting is all I do and I’m left crippled by it.
And hating myself for it.
And then there are times of stress and what that can trigger. There’s nothing like trying like hell to have a conversation with someone about something, anything… And then something is said or there’s a look or a smell or who fucking knows sometimes… And before you know it, I can’t string two words together without stuttering like an idiot…. Or losing all of my words all together… And then all I can do is cry. I shake, I sweat, my teeth chatter… I want to scream but I can’t even find words for that…. It’s like all verbal abilities have been sucked right out of my body. Sometimes this can last for seconds… Sometimes for hours. When Wee was in the hospital for surgery, I was a stuttering mess….
And I hate myself for it.
And then there are the times I try… I try to go out… Have a nice evening out with friends… Go to a restaurant… Go out.. Have fun… And then the looks start because I need a table in a specific spot so I have to ask to be moved or I need THAT chair, no not that one THAT ONE…. Or something else happens and if it’s not handled properly before you know it I’m under the table and the whole evening has gone to hell because if you’re lucky you’ll be able to get me out of there quickly and quietly… If you’re not lucky… Well, yes, I have had to have paramedics called to remove me from restaurants, movie theatres, bars…. Even the grocery store…
No where is ‘safe’ in my mind some days…
And I hate myself for it.
And then there are sound and smells and the fallout from even the simplest noise or the most common smell…. You drop a glass… That’s what you hear… You drop a glass… I occasionally hear that… But often that will cause a full out tailspin that, if not handled properly, will have me hiding in a closet or under a table until my brain can wrap itself around the fact that there is no problem here…
And there’s nothing like being in public when there is a noise… A sound that sets me off and starts my brain down the wrong path…
And I hate myself for it.
And let’s not even talk about what can happen when the sun sets… My mind can become a three ring circus of nightmarish proportions…. Every clown is Pennywise… And every demon screams.
And, even if I manage to make it three or four hours without dreaming, my bed is still soaked in sweat… I sweat… I get hot and I sweat at night… Doctor’s think it’s freakish how incredibly hot my body gets at night… With medication, without medication… It doesn’t matter… My temperature soars and I sweat.
But more often than not, I do dream… So I wake up a sweat-soaked mess choking back a scream… Or crying… Or even just not aware of WHERE I am….
Some nights I sleep with the lights on…..
Some nights I feel it’s safer for me to not sleep at all…..
And I hate myself.
I look at situations every day… Every moment of every day… And I analyze them in a moment… A split second… Is there something off with this and what do I need to do to protect myself? It was a skill taught to me… Hammered into me… One that helped me survive… One that obviously I mastered… Because I’m here now… Still… I’ve survived. But that can mean that if even one thing seems off, I pull out my microscope and I start to analyze everything… Look for exactly where the problem is… And usually my brain gets ‘stuck’… So it can’t let it go… Not until I have the answers that I need to satisfy my brain that there is no danger here.
It’s like someone pulling a fire alarm in a fifty story building… And one lone firefighter is sent in to find the fire… But is there a fire??? Or is it a false alarm? You don’t know for sure so you have to check EVERY room, every corner, every dark place… You have to poke and examine until you know for a fact that there is no danger.
It’s an exhausting process. One that most people don’t understand and can’t comprehend.
Do you think I enjoy quizzing you about things until we’re both slamming our heads off the table??? NO. Do you think I’d like to be able to just let shit go? Yes. Do you think I like the fact that the weirdest things can feel like the world’s biggest threat to me personally? NO. NO!! I don’t enjoy any of it. NO!
In fact… I hate it… And I hate myself for it… Because it has been the destroyer of more relationships than I can shake a stick at.
But I can’t help it.
So I hate it.
And I hate myself for it.
But, a good friend of mine Melissa said to me today….
“You shouldn’t be made to put anyone under a microscope.”
And it’s true… If I’ve pulled out my microscope, obviously something has happened that has triggered my survival instincts and my training… And now work needs to be done by everyone involved to put that to bed properly…
And calling me crazy and telling me that we’ve gone over this and you’ve given me answers is not putting anything to bed properly; that just feeds the hate.
So, through all of this I’ve learned to calculate… To assess… To re-assess…
I’ve learned not to push my luck…
I’ve learned to walk a fine line….
And I’m trying to learn to embrace who I am now… How my body and brain act and react now…
And hoping like hell that maybe one day, when I’m being walked out of a store by paramedics, or I’m acting abnormally, or I’m moving tables in a restaurant….. Or I’m just having a bad day and can’t go outside… I’m hoping beyond hope that one day I’m not met with a course of ‘you’re crazy’ or ‘she has PTSD; she’s unstable’… I’m hoping instead to be met with compassion….
Because perhaps if there are enough compassionate people in the world, helping those of us who battle with this disorder instead of judging us, labelling us, and calling us crazy… Perhaps we’ll find a way to be compassionate to ourselves and more accepting of the things that we need to do to make it from one minute to the next…
Perhaps then I wouldn’t look at my pile of Post-its with scorn.
Perhaps I could accept what my brain and my body has become and feel less hate towards myself.
Because there is only so much self-hatred you can handle in one day.