PTSD and Other Varied Hobbies

PTSD is a bitch. It is a sickness that lives in your heart and mind and soul and there is no cure beyond time, understanding, compassion, support, and love…all of which are in too short a supply these days.

 I was first diagnosed with severe PTSD around April, 2007.  I had just left my very abusive now-ex husband and fled with my daughter, her clothes and toys and sundry, my guitars and computer, the clothes on my back, and a small suitcase of my other clothes.  I had sessions with a forensic psychologist who had worked on serial killer cases with the FBI since the 1970s and semi-retired recently.  Yes, that means he helped with Dahmer and other such killers during that time.  Which was interesting for the let’s-get-to-know-each-other talk.  He also re-diagnosed me with severe bipolar disorder.  This man, like so many doctors before him, tried me on a myriad of drugs, many of which I can scarcely recall now.  One nearly gave me a heart attack, some made me sleep for a full day, others made me want to break everyfuckingthing in sight.  and put it back together painstakingly. And break it again.  We discussed the hyper-focus prominent in many folks who suffer from bipolar, and the need to focus that nearly mimics an OCD sufferer’s need to do a certain thing X amount of time.  We discussed the deep anger that was aroused when interrupted during those hyper-focused moments.  We discussed how to lessen the rage.

During this time, I was also seeing a fairly incompetent neurologist for the severe migraines I was suffering that, it was thought, were both a product of the grievous head wound my wonderful ex gave me and the PTSD.  I was also visiting surgeons to set up surgery for the wrist my ex broke the same night he split my head open.  I swear, I was seeing more doctors and pouring my heart and history out more than the myopic stories you can find any hour of the day on the Lifetime channel.  Before this, I was not exactly silent about my life, but I was never that open about it either.  And just getting out of a highly abusive relationship, I can tell you “sharing” was well below the bottom of my “to-do” list.  But I did it.  I knew I needed to, because I was so fucking shut off from the entire world, I barely knew how to talk to anyone any more.  I was so lost in my own head, I could no longer see outside it.

Funnily enough, even as I was driving away from my ex, terrified he’d borrow someone’s car and follow me, I knew his actions were no reason for me to distrust everyone.  As I was running through all possible scenarios for him following and how I could possibly keep my daughter safe, I already knew, deep down in my thoughts and way high up in my conscious, that his actions were NOT “the norm” and were no reason to place wariness on the backs of those that had done nothing to earn it.

Let’s fast forward 8 years, to now.  I rediscovered, remade myself in the 18 months following my self-extraction.  In the next 6.5 years, I began dating, going out, experiencing life again.  I danced, I laughed, I loved, I lost, I LIVED.  And one day, I got an intriguing message from a man, a mutual friend of several friends.  We began talking and a romance began budding.  It is over now, for reasons that do, and do not, matter here.  Between 5-6 months ago, I was seeing a man who was very interesting, fun to be around, intelligent attractive, amusing.  For whatever reason, I opened up to him and it helped me.  Which may not seem like much, but I can generally tell anyone what I’ve been through, and it is rather like discussing a text book in that I feel nothing.  With this guy, I was able to share and let go of some things.  That, unfortunately, led me to experience some of the truly dark sides of PTSD for the first time.  At the beginning, I had disassociative issues, insomnia, all that..the relatively light side.  After I opened up to this man, I began experiencing nightmares that made every other nightmare I have ever had seem like dancing through candy corn fields with laughing ponies and cutesy puppies.  These dreams were total re-enactments of every horrible moment I experienced with my ex-husband.  In wretched detail..down to the smells and sounds.  I never remembered them the next day.  In fact, once I opened up and began letting go, I forgot every god damn thing that happened, so it all.. ALL..began plaguing my dreams.  I remembered he had done detestable monster things, but I didn’t know WHAT.  This went on for about 8 months.. And I began also experiencing vivid flashbacks while awake.  And I hurt people.  Not badly, min, but I hurt people I cared about, thinking they were him, that I was back there.  I fought back in ways I didn’t at the time, as if my subconscious was trying, finally, to exorcise the demons of guilt running rampant in my head.

For all of you who wish you could forget a certain time/experience..believe me, if you knew what “forgetting” entailed, you would never fucking wish that god damn shit ever.. EVER…again.

Finally, the flashbacks ended.  The nightmares ended.  I will occasionally now, with far less regularity, see something on a movie or smell something that will give me a severe anxiety attack or pang of the fight-or-flight syndrome, but I am fully awake and lucid for these.  You will likely have no clue how grateful I am for that.  Becoming lucid after a flashback is a terrifying confusing ordeal, to say the least.  But the number and regularity have dramatically decreased in the past few years.

But I have had a new monster take up residence in me, wearing the banner of PTSD… Memory loss.

My neurologist (and yes, I am shopping for a new one) has stated he sees no reason for my memory loss.  He said the same in 2007.  You see, my brain was supposedly not damaged, though the wound is over the memory and impulse control centers of my brain.  Which basically means I may have retrograde amnesia the rest of my life, as well as short- and long-term memory loss since the incident, as well as a toddler’s ability to control my impulses.  But then, I may suddenly, one day, remember everything that ever happened to me.  I may once again have back my near-photographic memory.  It is a fight every god damn day to control my impulses.  My entire being feels like it is a caged animal trying to escape, some days.  Even when I am happy.  And the frustration borne of a loss of skills to remember is extreme.  Some days, I have to stop and think to try to remember how to tie a shoe.  And if I try to remember something niggling at my memory from the past, if I pursue the thought to try to catch all the remnants of memory, I can give myself such a horrendous fucking headache.  And it saddens me a lot.  I know that I had a lot of truly great memories, I can feel it.  And they are gone.  Some days, I will suddenly remember entire blocks of my life and I feel a vestige of my former happy self and then.. gone. Just like that, just that fast.  Quicker than a blink or breath, they are gone and I am left wondering what I was just thinking about.  I know where I am, who I am what I am doing, but what I was thinking about is completely gone.

And the memory loss is critically impacted by stress.  As I have learned so horribly since January 2014.  If I am upset or arguing with someone, I will have no memory of anything they said within minutes of its end.  I will remember I am upset and a general overview of why, but not a single fucking word they said.  I will remember patches of what happened, but it has no sound in my head.  It is rather like watching a VHS tape that has been damaged.

A couple years ago, I began drinking.  Because it was the one legal way I could just unwind a little.  I didn’t drink every night or every week or even every month, but when I drank, I fucking drank.  Which was fine unless I hit my head, which was a trigger for the flashbacks.  Then that cleared up quite painfully.  Then I was drugged..and now I black out every time I have more than 4-6 drinks.  I will completely know what I am doing during the black out, I will make every decision consciously (I have even written them out while blacked out with my entire thought process), but I will remember NOTHING the next day/when I sleep (even for a few minutes) and wake back up.  This is a hindrance to anyone I am around.  I’ve a few people who understand where it comes from and don’t mind, but it is not fair to them.  And I don’t drink to escape, I drink to quiet the screams in my head, just a little.  I drink with the intention that this short period is a “time off”, not a state of consistent or constant being.  My total “heavy drinking” period lasted about 2.5 months a couple years ago, and I have never had the desire to revisit it.  But every few months, I want a complete and total bender to sleep well, in silence, just one night.  But hey, considering I had a seizure a few months ago, that is out of the question now, also, as alcohol can bring them on quicker.

When you have PTSD whispering its bitter fuck yous in your ear, sometimes you just want a ball gag in that fucker’s mouth, if only for a few hours.  Sometimes, only in some substance do you find the nightmares quenched, the voices silenced for a short sweet hours.

PTSD on the brain...the heart..the soul.

PTSD on the brain…the heart..the soul.

Trust. Ahh.  I did not have trust issues after my ex-husband.  I developed those a few years later.  I kept them at bay, mostly.  I still gave people chances.  And my biggest weakness is when I love you I fucking love you.  I am a loyal motherfucker until you give me reason not to be.  And even then, I tend to be loyal until you prove yourself unworthy a couple times.  I give more chances that people deserve, when I care.  Don’t get me wrong, if I don’t truly care about you, I will cull you from my life so fucking fast, you will feel like you were just in a hurricane, spun about for hours with no ceasing until you are suddenly dropped without warning.

Life is far too short for the fucked up people who will use you to their own ends but give little back of themselves.

Despite knowing this about myself, I have refused to change. Until recently.  I KNOW not everyone is a sack of putrefying shit.  I know not everyone lacks worth.  I know not everyone is abusive, or a liar, or a thief.  But when you have two people you genuinely love and trust abuse you in similar (though not exact) ways, even if they are years apart, you have to stop and take stock.  Especially when you feel something inside you break and crumble to the ground.  So I will say it again, louder, for the folks in the back:

PTSD is a bitch. It is a sickness that lives in your heart and mind and soul and there is no cure beyond time, understanding, compassion, support, and love…all of which are in too short a supply these days.

No amount of medication can heal you.  No amount of therapy is going to fix what is broken.  You will only get so far with all that, though it CAN help, immensely.  At some point, the healing must be taken over by the time, understanding, compassion, support, and above all, unflinching unconditional LOVE of someone.  Someone who, any time day or night, will take your calls and texts.  Who will drive to you, no matter how far you are, just to hold your hand and stroke your hair.  Someone who will hold you while you scream and rail and sob as the weight becomes too much for you to bear.  Someone who will not ask, but will simply take some of the weight and carry it themselves, until you can shrug it off and let it go.  Someone who will show you every step of the way that you can trust them, that you can love them, that they will be there NO MATTER WHAT.  Someone who reminds you to keep moving when you linger unnecessarily, who will make you stop and look at what’s right in front of you in all its beauty, someone who will just hold your hand and say nothing.  Someone who loves you and lets you love them, fully, without excuses, without recriminations, without hesitation.  Someone who may not understand your pain, but who understands YOU.
The worst monsters you will ever experience live inside your head.  They are your fears and memories and guilt, and sometimes your hopes and wishes.  I have long stated I don’t fight my demons; I dance with them.  But they take every chance given to take control.  And when you are abused by the person, or persons, you trust most, they have so many chances.

I know I usually end these on a positive note, but not this time, gentle readers.  This time I am ending with this…..
The demons in our head are no less real for not being able to stand in front of us.  They will eat away at your integrity, your love, your trust, your body, your life if you let them.
Fight.

For all you’re worth, fucking FIGHT.
Some days, you will win.  Some days, you will lose horribly.  But always try to treat people well.  Always.  You never know when you might need their kindness, their love, their support.  And if you know someone who needs it, give it to them.  Don’t let them become a statistic just because you thought everything is going to be okay.  Life goes on, but for some of us, a battle is always waged inside our heads.  A battle you might see little of.

Be good to the people around you, even if you don’t know them.  Even if they don’t, in your minds, deserve it.  Don’t take their shit, oh no! But be good to them.  A smile, a hug, a laugh..these are the currencies of the soul.  You never know what demons you may one day have as dance partners.
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