I’m alone a lot these days. Justin works Sunday and Monday nights, Tuesday he has class, and Wednesday he has Police Academy. And while I relish my time alone, lately it’s been causing some problems with my PTSD.
When I was first faced with my dad losing his legs, my shrink told me to just give myself 60 seconds a couple times a day to cry and let it all out. And it worked–the bathroom became my little safe place to be afraid or upset, and the feelings would pass like a tiny storm and I’d be fine again.
I never ignore those feelings. I never block them out. But PTSD is a lot different than grief or stress. It’s visual. It’s physical. Your body jumps from feeling fine to being back into that moment or period of time. The jump can be triggered by anything and it’s unexpected and shocking. And when I’m alone and not concentrating on a book, show, song or chore, it hits me hard and often.
I’d tell you about the specific pictures that pop into my mind or the emotions that rush through my heart and leave as fast as they came, but they aren’t really my stories to tell. Just things I watched helplessly, things I couldn’t fight. Things that might break your heart at a glimpse, and there’s no point in that.
They’re just… a face he made. A frown during a happy moment, or a smile in the midst of sadness. His voice cracking, the handful of times his emotions got the best of him. The moments he didn’t know my age or even my face. Or worse, when he knew not only who I was but who I would become, and that he would miss it. Gross, horrible medical stuff. Literally holding his life in my hands, or at least his insulin pump and millions of pills. Sometimes it’s from the decades before; things he missed or challenges he faced, or just holding his arm to guide him through a restaurant. Sometimes it’s the normal stuff, like everything that came after–picking out his last shirt. Calling everyone so my mom wouldn’t have to. Every time my niece smiles at me, and wishing she could smile at him.
So I know I was all set to do P90X*, but these days, when I’m alone with a dvd I’ve watched 20 times, laying on the floor in some push-up or core torture move, and I don’t have anything to focus on or block out the noise, I see those pictures and feel those feelings. It just hits me, and then I’m fine, and then it hits me again and then I recover once more. It happens over and over until Justin comes home or until I’ve poured some wine or until I fall asleep (and we know I can’t count on that).
But it doesn’t happen when I’m running. When my ears are full of beats or a podcast (especially ones with old friends), and I have buddies like Joseph and MJ by my side, and there’s some dumb tv movie in front of me and my legs are hurting and my heart is pumping and my brain is full of endorphins, those feelings and pictures don’t come. Nothing happens.
And these days, at least while I’m alone so much, nothing is what I need.
*I’m still doing some P90X–Kenpo X, for example, makes me feel like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I can’t get enough of it.