Laying in bed last night wondering why my PTSD has come back with such a vengeance. The dreams I can almost handle. I’m to the point in most of them that I am aware that I am reliving a nightmare event but that it really can’t hurt me this time because, well, because there is nothing on earth I can do to change any of it. The dream seldom stops and the pain in my heart seldom lessens through that awareness but at least I know, someplace in my mind, that I’ll wake up and the world be a million years later again. I almost understand PTSD dreams in the way that I understand that we really don’t control what our neurons do when they fire while we sleep. They just fire away, ridding our minds of some things, reinforcing others and, damn it, reliving some, too. I almost understand PTSD dreams, I just can’t stop them right now.
What I don’t understand is why I feel like I do when I’m NOT asleep. Why do I feel so worthless, so apart from everyone else? Why do I flat out fear people, not that they may harm me (although there’s that) but that they may see below the mask and discover what I’ve tried to hide for so many years? Why has PTSD come back like an old enemy or bully that just got busy doing something else and then remembered that I was out here and living and getting older and it decided to come back for a wee visit?
I actually spent some times in my life when I wasn’t in this dark place. There have been times in my life when I almost forgot what was below the surface. I was almost happy. I’ve gone months without the nightmares. I’ve felt useful in the world. I was able to deal with people without that straight up alertness and on point awareness that I’ve felt the other 95% of my life. I had a great job for 28 years with just an occasional visit from PTSD. I went to college and got a degree and fixed cars for a few years and only felt PTSD peeking out from the darkness now and again. I fathered a son, was married four times (okay, that’s pretty much one of the markers of PTSD, so there’s that), lived here and there and in the Philippines and was able to almost function like you “normal” people do.
So why do I feel like my life actually started 18 years after I was born? Why does it feel like the first time I saw someone near me get torn into chunks by an explosion was my real birth and my life began at that instant? I was around on this tiny planet for 18 years before that and went to school in Kansas and moved to California when I was 13 and knew people and had birthday parties and a brother and sister and, well, all that “normal” stuff. It took 40 some years to find out but I apparently even fathered a beautiful girl child before that instant. I had lived on my own, hitchhiking around the country for years before that instant. But when I think back on my life, my brain seems to have suddenly come into existence the instant that fellow died.
And, hey, want to know something I find very interesting about that instant? I haven’t the slightest clue who he was. Not the slightest. I’d just been in-country a few days, found out that what I was trained for, fixing radars that didn’t exist, wasn’t in great demand so off to the infantry “on loan” I went, and he was just this guy standing there while we were gearing up to walk patrol along a road with the minesweepers and one instant he was a person and the next instant he was meat and I never knew his name but that was the instant the life I’ve lived for forty some years since began. Thousands of miles away an entire family lost somebody special to them and I was the closest person to him and I got parts of him on me and I never knew who he was and everything forever changed. Hell, I wasn’t even one of the guys that body-bagged him. He just disappeared from my conscious existence in about 30 seconds.
That doesn’t seem fair to him, either. But it is what it is.
But that still doesn’t answer the basic question of why do I still feel so worthless and separate and why do I break out in mental sweats whenever I have to interact with other people? Apparently I can do it because I just spent two days doing it with my son getting him into his two college classes and I did it with a minimal amount of expressed anger and frustration on my part, too. I can go the market and buy food or to the book store to get the boy some of his favorite “bearskin bikini babe warriors with swords and dragons” books he loves to read. Granted, I don’t want to be there and I don’t talk to anyone I don’t absolutely have to but I can do it. I can do it. But why does have to be so hard?
I got to comparing the times that my PTSD was sitting on my soul like an angry entity and the times that I was actually able to spend days, even weeks or months, living the same kind of life, almost, that everyone else seemed to be living.
PTSD comes in hard and sudden when I have too much freaking time to think. I cannot shut my brain off at the best of times but when I have nothing I am accomplishing and nothing I can wake up knowing I will be doing that I enjoy or, at least, that keeps me busy, that’s when the brain runs into overdrive and all those people and sounds and screams and silences come back. It is when I have nothing important to think about that my PTSD sneaks in and says “I have LOTS for you to think about and remember and despise yourself for. LOTS! So let’s start our little jaunt down memory lane with………..” and I’m off.
So it seems that keeping busy is what helps keep PTSD at bay, for the most part. Don’t talk to me about drugs and therapy and the “forgiveness of the lord”, either. I’ve tried them all and they’re all either placebos or silly stories for frightened children. Keeping busy is what I do best, I guess.
So I try to do things that force my mind to focus on things I can still do. I’ve tried to return to what I did for 28 years but, without the words ever being spoken, it is obvious that my experience and training and knowledge are irrelevant since I’m 62 and they can hire some 20 year old kid that doesn’t know a wire from a garden hose and train him for half the price and wait ten years for him to be half as useful as I would be my first day on the job. Age discrimination is illegal as hell but it is rampant.
I’ve tried to use what little creativity I possess to design for some web stores I opened. I have hundreds of designs for Progressives and Buddhists and Christians (the REAL kind) and silly stuff and birthday stuff. Doing that helped but with so much stuff sold on sites with huge advertising budgets mine just got lost far down the Google lists and I don’t find much satisfaction with doing that if so few ever see it.
The reality seems to be that even those efforts aren’t doing much, either, both because I can’t advertise them nor get any sites to review them or maybe because they aren’t that good. I was pretty proud of them, but that’s just me.
So, now what? How do I find some way to occupy my tiny brain and stop this laser focus on things and events and people that are all a thousand lifetimes and a million events ago? That’s the new question. At least it’s a question, though, and I don’t feel completely lost in space. That’s the worst feeling, isn’t it? When you know you feel like shit but haven’t the foggiest notion of how to clean away those feelings and get focused again. Knowing some sort of solution’s a start and, as one of my sillier heroes said in one of his movies, “Baby steps. It all starts with baby steps”. Just where do I start those baby steps, now?