March 20, 2010
Catching a gnarly cold is one of the best ways to make you stop and take stock of your life; nothing says ‘chill out, man’ than the left side of your face feeling like it’s suffered a minor stroke because your sinuses are swollen shut.
Nothing brings you back down to earth than having to stay in bed. Nothing reminds you of your body like a full-blown germ invasion. Nothing makes you feel more alive than laying awake, until the sun rises, with a fever, aching and unable to breathe properly.
Then you have that really amazing moment where you take a shower after three days of festering, and you’re standing there under the scolding jets of water trying to remember the last time standing still, butt-naked, ever felt so good…
I’m unsure whether I’d be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and quite honestly, I don’t want to talk about it (just add another log to the fire…) but I recognise most of the symptoms: nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance, emotional numbing, being on-ball all the time, 24-7, look over my shoulder, just in case anything like that happens again…
Someone did say it to me before, asked me if I’ve ever had it investigated. I’ve never thought about it.
I don’t like pyscho-babble and so avoid it where I can: have you guessed one of the facets of this trauma?
I try to understand me and I hope somewhere along the way, it’ll help others experience that ‘it all fell into place so beautifully’ sensation for themselves.
I’m not diagnosed with PTSD and I personally don’t care about the labels here but it puts a name to what I want to share with all you lovely people: reliving bad things that have happened isn’t like getting upset over the death of your kitten Fluffles two years after they got squished by that huge SUV. On your birthday. Admittedly though, that’s pretty traumatic…
Reliving the bad things brings it all back – the guts flipping, the sweating, the swearing and shouting, the twitches and the smells and the overwhelming sensation of ‘get the hell away from me’. You don’t want to cry so you choke it back and then start to distract yourself in unusual ways – rhythmic body movements are so soothing, like turning your head one way, then the other.
They’re not even memories, they’re a constant stream of images like someone has gone and hammered a photo slide-show into the center of that bit in your brain where you visualize things. You know the place…
Nightmares are worse because you can’t push them away like you can the images you face in your waking day – in a nightmare, the bad things happen whether you like it or not and unlike a good dream, you never wake up when stuff gets nasty.
You have a hard time remembering the good things. Good things? There are a lot of those about and there are amazing people you know who remind you of them and make you feel free and alive and loved… but you can’t help feeling a bit silenced. Blank.
Reliving the bad things is not a choice. Nobody would put themselves through it if they knew they could let it go. But this is like getting stuck in a great black mass of living tar. You can pull all you want but for every tendril of hurt you manage to escape from, there will be at least three more wrapping themselves around you.
It takes patience and skilled breathing to be released for even the smallest amount of time.
I said to a friend that suffering is for the same people who believe sacrifice is necessary for happiness; suffering can make you strong but only in that you survive it. Even better if you can resist making it your identity.
It’s not always a matter of being able to let go; I can let go, with time especially, but that doesn’t mean it’ll let go of me.