Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

On the Rare Mornings I Feel Too Much

On the rare mornings I feel too much, my heart slams itself against my trachea and the world nestles hard on my esophagus. It is not unlike a hummingbird flinging itself against a still, sharp, rain-washed window.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, my breathing collapses upon itself, repeatedly, like someone squeezing my cheeks together in a vain attempt to release the smoke inside. Breathe, baby but I can’t. I never can. My brain is on the fastest merry-go-round and I fight to not faint. I fight to remember and remind myself that I am more than one of PTSD’s lovers.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, I feel like I’m betraying J. somehow. I hear his voice instructing me to balance my thoughts, to breathe, to speak truth aloud, but this merry-go-round of death is too quick, too cunning. It knows my soft spots and how to exploit them, so that all I want is to curl up cat-like in my bed that’s always a little too warm—even with the fan on—and never move again. It takes an act of the supernatural to not be afraid on a morning where mantras and breathing techniques prove themselves inadequate. Maybe, if I statue myself, he won’t find me.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, I wonder why my friends are my friends. I question if they only tolerate me. They tell me they love me, but warn me, as subtle as a caterpillar crawls up the flesh of a human arm, to “get over” my trauma because it’s been seven years and “don’t you wanna move past it?” It is seemingly trite advice for a body—a life—massacred by trauma and memories. Or maybe, I’m just projecting my insecurities into places they shouldn’t be.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, I hear my mother quoting the Bible, the part that says, “Be anxious for nothing…” and I want, ever so much, to body slam both her and Jesus.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, I throw myself into the jaws of theology to let my analytical mind escape the acidic rain of my tortured hippocampus, the part of my brain that loops trauma memories on repeat like a good 90s song. I can’t be PTSD’s lover when I’m reading A. W. Tozer and C. S. Lewis.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, the world keeps moving. No one cares. People walk and drive to work, to church, and to the bar. Children are picked up from school or ballet or karate. Wives try to remember who they were before they became mothers, and husbands cook a meal most chefs would envy. I wonder what Heaven tastes like.

On the rare mornings I feel too much, I force myself to cook breakfast, if for no other reason than “my body can’t survive without food.” I watch the sunset in all its glorious wonder and eat whipped cream from the can. I fight to remember and remind myself that I am not one of PTSD’s lovers, and that trauma doesn’t own me.

Posted in Poetry & Mere Musings

Sometimes It Doesn’t Work

The therapist says, “Stay with me.”

What he means is “don’t dissociate.”

Don’t let the midnight swallow you whole

and make you forget how beautiful the sunrise is.

“Don’t let his words papercut your skin

and transform it to burnt ashes

to be tossed in some lonely, cold fire later.”

He means, don’t dance with the devil, or even fight him

Slit his throat.”

 

And most days, I do.

Most days, I’m more demon slayer than distressed damsel,

more conqueror than conquest.

But tonight, in the quiet, 

I let the silence get to me. 

I let it eat my shard sliver of confidence

in a silent surrender.

 

Swinging between two worlds,

of times long past and should-be forgotten,

and of the times here and now,

with the therapist and my trauma I can’t trample.

 

And God says, “My grace is sufficient 

and my strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

God’s grace is sufficient

and the therapist tells me, “don’t dissociate, stay here.”

Are they mutually exclusive? Complementary? 

Like a wing’d creature still moves 

through the azure sky with hurting wings, 

I can still be made strong in my weakness.

Maybe the therapist was right.

Perhaps God knows what He’s doing. 

All I have to do is trust the process.

 

But that’s hard right now.

So tonight, I’ll cry and wash away 

the trauma with tears and trepidation,

wake up in the morning, and scream into a pillow.

Because sometimes, it just doesn’t work.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Post-Nap Writing Session 1: Panic Attack

You find yourself in a room with a man from your past. You do not know or remember how you got into this room, whether it is a hotel room or part of a house. The only thing you know is you’re with this man. Now, this man never reveals his face. But you remember, from some long-ago memory, his skin, like polished leather. You two are lying in bed together. You are dressed; he is not.

He starts to touch you but not in a way that implies he is merely after sex. His touches are soft, careful, sensual, like the way a friend comforts you after a breakup or a death in the family. He slips his hand under your shirt and settles on the space between your bra’s ending and your waist’s beginning. It’s an unusual place for a hand to rest but you don’t move it; you don’t say “no” or “stop,” or even get up and remove yourself because you’re comfy there. You know to run from the stranger in the streets, the Boogeyman behind locked doors, but the homie you comfy wit? Nah fam, he not gon hurt you. He’ll just make you a little uneasy at most, nothing to worry about…

And then you wake up.

When you awake, you still have the image of him in your mind, his fucking gentle hands memorized, and suddenly, you can’t breathe. You’re gasping for air and clutching your chest as the fear rips you apart. You try to remember your surroundings instead of focusing on how a short slumber undid all your wonderful. And then, the memories—your actual trauma memories—start flowing through your damaged hippocampus and you can’t stop it. The thing that hurts the most is this:  it’s the gentle touches, the warm embraces that kill you. 5 years of fucking PTSD and it still gets to you. He still affects you.

You will live through this.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

As You Heal, You Will Hurt

“…What year is it?” I asked J. near the beginning of our session as I tried hard to ground myself to reality. I’m safe. I’m safe. I’m safe.

“What year do you think it is?” He, being the therapist that he is, never gives me a straight answer; always opting for me to figure it out myself. Usually, I appreciate this about him but Tuesday, it gravely annoyed me.

“…2006?” I hesitated before answering because I was attempting to logic my way out of a middle school flashback; my efforts were futile.

“What makes you think it’s 2006?” he asked. No judgement, merely curious and wanting to gain understanding.

I don’t remember my answer but I do know that was the beginning of the end for me, at least that day. That session ended with an intense panic attack (brought on by another flashback) that took me a little longer than normal to come back from, even with J.’s help.

~

After reminiscing on the session, I grew frustrated with myself. Even while in the session, after the panic attack, I was frustrated.

“I should have better control!” I yelled at J.

“You will, with time. You’ve already come so far.”

“No! I need to be better, stronger…” (cue mini panic attack)

“Give it time. You’re still healing.”

~

As healing starts or progresses, you are going to hurt. It’s ironic and sounds a little backwards, doesn’t it? You get a little stronger and unknowingly put ridiculously high expectations on yourself to do everything you can to prevent yourself from ever being triggered by the trauma, and when a trigger or painful memory materializes physically in the form of a panic attack or rage or fits of crying spells at odd moments, you think you’ve failed and punish yourself.

But as you heal, after a while, you find that your old coping skills don’t work anymore. You get tired of your arms stinging in the shower after a relapse; the harshness of life you used to chase away with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, or with a rum and Coke, doesn’t go down as easy anymore. For me, I’m finding that the places I finish growing up in are the same ones in which I heal.

Abandonment and abuse in childhood gives way to independence and strength in adulthood. Sometimes, the scars itch, and on days when I’m tired of being strong I scratch them, but they are more often forgotten memories, reminders of where I’ve been and how much I’ve grown. I still have a ways to go, as repressed memories emerge from the past like the Loch Nest monster rising from the murky, dark waters into the autumn sun. Is it scary? Hell yea, but I’m healing. Come hell or high water, I’m healing even though it hurts.

Posted in Stuff No One Talks About

Panic Attacks Make Recovery Worth It

I know how to stop myself from having a panic attack.

Sometimes, it doesn’t work.

On the days that it does, it makes recovery seem like within the reach of my fingertips. On the days when it doesn’t, on the days when I hide in my bed, under my bedsheets, hiding myself from the world, recovery seems like some kind of sick joke someone would tell to just be a jerk. Like telling someone who’s drowning to just “think happy thoughts” or “you need to fight harder against the waves; that’ll save you!”

Panic attacks make recovery worth it. When you’re not fighting an enemy, the victory seems… stale like crackers that have been left in the pantry two months past their expiration date. Panic attacks aren’t always hyperventilating, hands covering, protecting ears from triggers or familiar faces, eyes covered to hide sounds that remind you of the things that your nightmares are made of.

Sometimes, panic attacks look like a silent scream in the middle of a prayer session. Contortions as you silently fight against your body, wanting to let it all out but you can’t because you’re in public and you have to control yourself. You wouldn’t want others to think something’s wrong, now, would you? Of course not. Don’t be silly. So, you hold it until you get alone and then you can let it out. Silently scream or actually scream into a pillow… or the air.

Sometimes, panic attacks look like an open chasm of broken tears. The kind of tears one would make when one steps on glass—barefoot—in the middle of the night. Almost as bad as stepping on a Lego. Almost.

Panic attacks aren’t always hyperventilating. Sometimes, they look like anger. Sometimes they look like numbness… like void… like nothing. Sometimes they sound like you picking a random color, maybe blue or red or magenta, and naming everything you can think of that’s that color to trick your mind into thinking: “You’re not crazy. See? You have control. You can still recognize colors, cars, shoes, books and… purses and… blankets. Anything to forget the touches, kisses… angry, loud, cacophony of voices… see? You’re fine. You can recognize the TV and your lamp that’s on your desk. And the tea bags. And the books that are scattered all over the room. And the car outside. And the green grass outside your window. You’re not having a panic attack if you’re in control, right?”

I know how to get rid of a panic attack. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t. The days where it doesn’t… are the days I fear. They do nothing more than validate the thought in my head that I don’t actually have control, that I can’t get better.

One day, this’ll be over. and I’ll be happy again. And won’t automatically look for the negative things in a good situation. One day, I’ll be at peace. No more fear or panic to control me. One day. But until that day comes, panic attacks make recovery worth it.