Oh Hello PTSD

“Power on through. You can do this. Power on through. You can do this. Power on through. You can do this.”

I was walking along the unfamiliar pavement, rapeating these lines outloud (to my embarrassment) to myself, getting that slightly burning wheeze that comes from cold air, fast walking, a general lack of fitness … and panic.

I’d pushed the button to get off at the next bus stop, but I hadn’t known until that moment that this bus didn’t stop at the bottom of the hill, but went round to the next road. I had already been running late, now I just couldn’t think about the time.

When I say ‘I just couldn’t think about the time’, I mean I actually could not think about the time. I had to tell myself my watch was running 10 minutes fast and that everything was going to be ok.

Otherwise I was going to run away.

I know, because I’ve done it before.

You know what? I made it! I made it to work, my boss didn’t say anything about the time, work happend, I left, I still had my job. In my book, that’s a win.

It turns out, I’m needed in my job, I want to be there, I feel like I’m in the right place. But I left feeling heavy, sad, disappointed – those last 3 minutes before getting there had been a big fight.

The buzz of the first two weeks of working again is settling into normality. The drive to prove myself capable and entitled to this job is melding into the reality of beating my fears every time I go to work; of knowing that most people don’t even know that ringing that doorbell is an act of courage every single time.

PTSD becomes a part of my everyday life. Has probably been for longer than I’d be able to admit. It doesn’t become easier, but it does become a wierd kind of normality. Do I forget it’s there? Um, no! I don’t forget the nightmares that happen every night or the 13 times I have to check the front door is locked before I can go to bed. Do I try to minimise it’s impact on my life and pretend that I can do whatever anyone else can do without it causing negative affects? Abso-flipping-lutely I do!

The reality comes sneaking up behind me and knocks me over the head. PTSD is a real and living thing in my life and sometimes, it can be cripplng.

This morning I made it to work and everything was ok. This evening I didn’t make it out to homegroup and I sobbed into my knees with frustration and shame after my husband accepted a lift there (despite not wanting to go) and I stayed at home.

I felt like I had failed and I felt so small and pathetic. Once again I had oh-so-very-publicly demonstrated that I am Not Normal.

I meant to go. I even got the bus home instead of walking so I’d have enough energy to go to homegroup and be normal and stuff. But the car giving a lift only had one spare seat, so was very happy to come back for me … but I would be causing an extra lift (I HATE it when people have to put themselves out for me) and I’d have to do it alone with a man …

My throat started to close up and I actually froze mid-conversation. Dam. I thought I was being normal … right?

Both me and my ever-lovely husband knew right then that I wasn’t going to be going. I tried to tell myself it was still going to happen … somehow.

But I got supper just that bit too late. The doorbell rang while L was atill eating. I wanted to run and hide but had to answer the door … I have this cringe-worthy need to fill any silence that could be interpreted as awkward when I’m tired or nervous … I was both … I knew I wasn’t going, I guessed that the kind-but-still-male person knew I wasn’t going … and knew that I knew that he knew … and L went when he had worked longer, harder, more frustrating hours than me …

And I stayed at home and sobbed into my knees. Even though I hate crying.

Oh, hello PTSD.

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