03/24/2014 by syrbal-labrys
It dawned on me this weekend, reading the tales of ptsd affecting entire families and feeling myself flash backwards in my own history, that ptsd really is a sort of psychological time machine. I fell through time and was simultaneously a ten year old girl, putting her dolls in the trash can on maternal orders; and the newlywed who woke up next to a stranger — a man whose own buried childhood trauma had transformed me from the girlfriend into an enemy instead of his beloved bride. It was shocking and difficult and put me even more on edge in a period of personal and marital strife. The last two weeks has been either triggered events or so near that edge as to count as a done deal.
Unfortunately, for me, the thing about being triggered is there is a certain indistinctness to what is memory and what is now. And as I fall further into the sensation of helplessness that often accompanies my own comparatively mild ptsd symptoms, not only does apathy drag me down — but I begin to lose the ability to frame what I am thinking at all. I collapse into a cone of self-loathing ineffectuality. And then every trigger goes hot and anything at all cascades me into reactivity.
Even if I begin acting rightly for a given situation, I soon spiral out of my own control because I cannot accurately gauge the returning reactions of others. Reality feels like it bends around me like a funhouse mirror. I want to be completely alone because I don’t trust any human interaction to be mutually productive. And when the immediate event is over? Depression follows in its wake, the way seagulls follow fishing boats.
A highly triggered day ends with me unable to fall asleep in bed, regardless of my exhaustion, because my own pulse is pounding in my ears. And since near starvation was a feature of my original trauma — I suddenly want to eat ANYthing that looks appealing to convince myself I will not starve again. I end such days prostrate in front of cop shows on television — and oddly, that is where I can go to sleep. An hours long diet of “bad guys do bad stuff, good guys catch them and make it better” themed bullshit somehow comforts me. The wonders of illusion…
Realizing that while triggered or in the resulting depressive state, I am actually incapable of adequately breaking down the experience to write about it means this will likely be the only post, instead of a series. I had intended to discuss my experiences and scarring as the child of a ptsd affected veteran, and separately those as the wife of such a veteran. But it strikes me that being from an older generation of such — my accounts would seem derivative in the extreme compared to the linked stories. And going on at length would not enhance the point I hoped to make slowly in several articles — because I AM currently in an altered state incapable of the clarity I desire.
Let me try, in my mental-mangled state to encapsulate it here. This weekend, my son and I talked about wartime atrocity movies — things like “The Flowers of Nanking”, for instance. Such films make the viewers tear up and sputter “Those goddamned Japs!” And to me, that means the point is utterly missed. The point is ALL wars involve atrocity and on all sides; and yes, some are worse than others. The ones everyone sees highlighted at the war’s end are the atrocities of the losing side, do note, please. That does not mean there are no atrocities by the winners.
And ptsd happens to those who fight in every war — whether they are victims of or perpetrators of atrocity; also to abused children, rape survivors, crime victims….it can be caused by a single traumatic incident or a long string of abusive events. Rather like the commonality of atrocity in war, in ptsd there is a commonality of suffering and pain regardless of which end of the spectrum the person sits upon.
Now? I am taking my triggered, over-wrought self out to water my geese and pull weeds to feed them. If that goes well, I may actually brush my teeth and comb my hair. I may practice a paint technique on a wall or do laundry. Then again, I might hear someone shouting at a dog or a child and I might collapse back to marathoning cop shows..