Tag Archives: PTSD

Here We Go Again

Last night…I had what I suppose one would call a flashback.

Oh dearie. How can it be that like clockwork, the brain starts to recall the traumatic event that it knows was so so so so wrong, so awful, so dreadful, so terrifying…and it starts to play it all back in vivid detail?

Photo by Tobi on Pexels.com

The heat, the scent of grass, feeling thirsty, darkness, weakness, animals screeching…the brain connects these and sends me back, right back to that night.

Fickle! Me?

Woman, Portrait, Lovely, Fashion, LuxuryMy emotions have been more temperamental than is normal this past month. I know why. Perhaps you know why, it depends on whether you have had the patience to read any of my longer posts. But adding to the challenges this month (I have had a lot of flashbacks to the night I was attacked and the events leading up to that night) seems to bring, is the accumulative effect of tiredness over these past months. Working at least six days a week is wearing me out. But I have a little time off ahead of me.

dfhagifaWhat I will do on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday has been a question for a while. I have lots of options. But I have been reluctant to commit myself to anything…because I don’t want to feel tied down to anything. I want to wake up when I feel ready, and do whatever I feel like, without feeling obligated to keep a promise to someone.

I have chatted to a friend of mine roughly once a week for the past few months, and today she said I was fickle. I asked her what she meant. She laughed and said it was frustrating to her that I kept changing my mind.

Apparently, from week to week I have said things like, “I just don’t want to be alone during those days,”…then a week later, “I think I just need some time on my own,”…then a week later, “I’ll go crazy if I am all on my own with these intense thoughts and feelings,”…and then, “I just need to sleep and shut out conversations and chit chat about the virus and the economy and everything exhausting”.

Woman, Watch, Girl, Lady, Clock, JewelryAt some point I told her, “I have lots of plans to keep myself busy, sorting out clothes and books, cleaning out the insides of all my cupboards and drawers, and giving everything a really good clean.” When my friend reminded me I had suggested I would do lots of spring-cleaning, apparently I replied, “I don’t want to be stuck indoors, I want to be out walking in the fresh air.” Yet on one occasion I told her that though I love walking, “I’m not sure walking on my own is good for me, because if I am downhearted I end up sobbing while I walk.

Even this week, when I found out Jack was coming home, I said, “I am going to go up to see him and sit outside on the grass while he obeys the 14-day quarantine and sits out on his balcony”. Later I thought that was not wise, and I told her today, “It’s not a good idea for me to go near the place I was attacked.”

dsfafadgafMy poor friend!!! Can you imagine how confused she is listening to me? I love her so much! I hate it when she tries to give me advice – it is always terrible advice – full of cringe-worthy cliches. But she is a very lovely friend nonetheless, and I love that the two of us always find things to laugh about (we have both had some painful challenges to deal with). We are looking forward to meeting up for a coffee at some point. She’s in a county outside of London, and I have not used public transport since February. But when it is safe…she is one of the people I am longing to see.

Anyway…as soon as she said I was fickle…I could not help think of Rigoletto…but as you all know, “it is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind!!!”

Woman is fickle
Like a feather in the wind
She changes her voice and her mind
Always sweet
Pretty face
In tears or in laughter, she is always lying
Always miserable
Is he who trusts her
He who confides in her his unwary heart!
Yet one never feels
Fully happy
Who on that bosom does not drink love
Woman is fickle
Like a feather in the wind
She changes her voice and her mind,
And her mind,
And her mind!

 

Preparing For The Worst Of It

This awful time is looming. I have a couple of days off work – at last and thank goodness! I want to relax and chill. I have decided to do all I can to prepare myself for a pleasant few days – buying foodie treats and some half-price champagne (no tennis to watch this year – except replays but I am not missing out on strawberries and champagne).

I have been putting together a playlist on YouTube with happy songs, not sad songs, and I have a couple of books that always cheer me up at the ready. I am going to chat with everyone who is very close to me. At least Jack is here in England. I have decided I don’t want to travel up there just yet. It will bring me a stone’s throw from where a security guard found my battered body.

Summer, Poolside, Red Hat, Strawberries

Hopefully on my own I will push the awful memories out of my head. One thing that I am struggling with is the heat. The night I was attacked was the hottest day of the year…(and it was hot during the night too) – record breaking hot. I have been waking up repeatedly at night convinced I was lying in the undergrowth on Hampstead Heath – it fills my chest with a traumatic shock and takes me some time to recover from.

 

The Rough And The Ready

Close-Up, Eye, Eyelashes, See, WomanLast Friday I was struggling. I was on edge all day. On the verge of panic. Unable to cope with all the multi-tasking I have to do at work. I became tearful at work when I thought of weeks more of this intense pace stretching out in front of us, without the chance to break away and go and visit Goldfinch in Australia. I wanted to run. I didn’t know who from or why. But I wanted to escape.

This is how I felt five years ago. I was cornered. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know who was safe, who I could trust. Friends and colleague were talking about me and Jack. I had no idea exactly who was saying what, except for those who blazenly taunted me to my face. Every aspect of my life was touched by the slanderous gossip, name-calling, accusations, undermining of me as a person and my sincerity or integrity.

Ambulance, Wear, Interior ViewYou know where it led me. I went to a park after a night out with friends because I did not want to go home. I was the victim of a crime that night and woke up the next morning in an ambulance.

But around a month before that night, I remember a small incident. I escaped my part of London and travelled to the other side of London for a social event. My sister Milly was there. I met some new people who had been working with her on a project. There were some deaf volunteers there too. Milly and I both learnt British Sign Language when we were teenagers.

I remember saying goodbye to Milly and her husband when they dropped me off at the train station. Somebody had given me a gift. Two bottles of wine, one red and one white, I recall. As I walked towards the train, the gift bag gave way and the wine bottle smashed on the concrete floor. There were glass and wine everywhere.

fdshhgdhsvMy main concern was that glass was a hazard to other people. I searched for a member of staff asking if they had any cleaning equipment to clear the glass. I would have done it myself. I asked if they had a hazard sign or cone or tape, to warn other people. The station employee said just to leave it and they would sort it out. I was so anxious. It was my fault. It was my fault there was dangerous glass on the station floor. It was hazardous to other members of the public. I wanted to fix it. I stood rooted to the spot, determined to be a warning to other people that there was broken glass and they must be careful. I became unreasonably emotional and ended up in tears.

It wasn’t really the glass that was upsetting me. It was the situation in my personal life that was overwhelming and was completely taking all the joy out of life. The effects of tiredness and stress can accumulate. If you become isolated with a challenge and do not know who to trust you can become desperate in your thinking. Its as if you are cornered, they are coming at you from all directions, you want to escape. I wanted to fix it. I was ready to accept some responsibility for the situation between Jack and I. But the relationship between us was so strained back then…he would not speak to me.

annie disappointedSo, when the wine bottles smashed, I just fell apart. You know the expression “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. I was in a flood of tears. I didn’t know what to do. A guy came over to ask if I was alright. When I explained I had dropped the bottles and now there was broken glass all over the floor, he responded by kicking the glass to the side of the wall (so it was less hazardous I suppose) and telling me not to worry, accidents happen.

Well…last week, those feelings were coming back. Every summer since I was attacked I have a rough few weeks. I have flashbacks of events from that night. But I also seem to relive all the stress and anguish that led me to go to the park that night. I had wondered if having made peace with Jack things might be different this year. They don’t seem to be. I am having waves of panic, sleepless nights, dreams recalling some of the most stressful situations I was in five years ago, those same feelings of being cornered, under attack, needing to escape.

I actually think I might be having a worse time so far this year. Perhaps that is because I am cut off from friends and family socially. Perhaps the accrual of tiredness because of work has made it hard. Normally my life is graced with variety. I am involved in different work, different projects, I work with different people, in different locations. The past few months have been the same…every day the same. The feeling of wanting to escape is growing.

Fear, Woman, StopAt the end of this month it will be five years since that night. It is still the night that took me away from my chosen career, my chosen home, my world, my purpose. It is still the night that left me with severe injuries, blackouts, headaches, nightmares and fear of whom I could trust.

People say such silly things. Someone said to me again the other day “everything happens for a reason”. If only I could sent fire to that expression. Do people think about what they are saying? It was also recommended to me that I focus on the positive and what I can do to help others. Yes yes, I know that having experienced a traumatic event myself and gone on to do marvellous things, I may be able to be of assistance, inspiration, a source of practical advice to someone else. I do realize that we learn things when we go through challenging experiences and we can develop precious qualities and we may be able to help others. But really!

The truth is my life has been like broken glass ever since that night. My life is in pieces. But I am a positive person and I do make the most of my situation. I keep going. I keep smiling. I keep singing.

Hooded Man, Mystery, Scary, Hood, HorrorBut still…it’s back again. The waves of panic, feeling cornered, feeling overpowered, under attack, nowhere to run to, noone to turn to, nobody to trust…it comes back. I ended up on my own at that park because for so long I had put a brave face on, I had kept going, kept working, kept smiling and kept singing until I shattered like broken glass.

The brain is powerful. The things that cause flashbacks are varied…the smell of grass, the smell of men, the warm weather, feeling dehydrated, feeling there are excessive demands on me.

When I was on my way home after work last Friday night there was a man walking towards me. He was carrying a grocery bag. As I neared him, his bag burst open and glass bottles of beer smashed onto the road and beer began running down the hill. It took my brain back to that night I dropped the wine bottles at the station just a few weeks before I was attacked.

I watched the guy. He shrugged and laughed and carried on walking.

jhvbdkjxhfbIs that what people want me to do I wonder? Shrug, laugh and carry on. These past couple of weeks have made me realize that despite it being five years, despite being busy, despite having the longed for peace with Jack, despite so much else that has happened on a positive note…the memories of despair and the memories of trauma are still there. They leap out at me from the shadows of my mind.

I think I am in for a rough few weeks.

 

I Must Have Tried A Thousand Times

I wanted to write a post about a moment that my sister Mandy was hoping would cheer me up…but it actually had the opposite effect. So, although I am no expert in mental health, I am only describing my own experience, this post describes the emotions I dealt with within the first few weeks after I was attacked. How just a silly little thing can knock you all the way back to Square One, well, it knocked me anyway. I had never been so sensitive and exposed emotionally (and I am glad it did not last long, because frankly it was exhausting!)

nutshells.jpgFor those who don’t know much about the past few years for me…here it is in a very quick nutshell:

Life was pretty perfect…a male friend (Jack) and I seemed to be getting on well, lots of other people took an interest in us and started teasing us, then rumours started, then he moved into the flat I was living in, more rumours, now we were very awkward, more rumours and gossip, then we had a chat…he said he loved me.

Woah! Then we were less awkward, then the rumours and gossip went wild, then I found out he may have been feeding the rumours, then we had a kind of argument, then we became really awkward, then I moved out of the flat, then the rumours became even worse and became nasty, we were more awkward and then were more rumours. Then the rumours changed, gossip spread that I was having an affair with another man, a married man, his wife screamed at me at a very public occasion.

I tried again and again to sort things out with my ex-flatmate, he was very hostile, I started sinking into despair. I went to a park on night because I did not want to see him, a stranger with ill intent was also there that night, the next morning I woke up in an ambulance after a security guard had found me.

Now…if you did not know that had happened, you might not have understood what I am going to describe next..

After I left hospital in London I went up north to stay with family members. At first I was just sleeping and sleeping and sleeping. But when I started to feel I was up to a more normal routine, my sister Mandy was eager to plan activities that would distract me. I appreciate how well meaning she was.

I wanted to show some enthusiasm for her ideas. She wanted to take me to all sorts of places to visit, beautiful parks and gardens, farms, zoos, quaint cafes, all sorts of places. And eventually we did go to some of those places. We went for walks in the countryside and National Trust properties in the North of England.

Those activities did help in some ways, although that was a very strange time for me emotionally. I was not at all myself. Not at all. I remember PTSD being a subject for the counsellors I spent time with. To be honest, I never concerned myself with labels and diagnosis – I just thought I would heed the practical advice I had been given and take one day at a time.

I ended the counsellor appointments after a couple of months because I didn’t think they were helping at all. I might or might not write a post about the counsellor that made me determined that nobody was going to come to see me anymore. He was such an idiot. Honestly, it makes me cross even now to think of how unprofessional he was. What they did do, and I am glad of it, is help me to recognize that I was more traumatised by what they described as bullying (the taunting and rumours that had developed around the relationship with my flatmate for over two years and his hostility when I tried to resolve the misunderstanding between us), than I was the physical attack I had been a victim of.

As Mandy was going through her list of suggestions for days out she decided she would share with me the new album her husband just bought her. She told me enthusiastically how fantastic this singer was and this was her latest album. She selected her favourite song and pressed play and asked me to listen to it.

 

I listened. I looked at her and I think she saw what was happening to me. It was an awful awful feeling of someone else, someone with an amazing voice, singing words that cut your heart to ribbons of pain. She realized that had happened as she saw me break down in heaving wheezing cries of agony. That sent me back to bed for several more days in outbreaks of distraught sobbing.

Poor Mandy. I think she realized that when you have someone who has been through such a traumatic experience – you just can’t introduce intense emotion in any form at first. Well, at least that was my experience – I could not handle those intense emotions. For a while I had to be allowed to be numb. It took me time to be able to deal with emotions again. For some time, I found just busying myself with housework and household laundry and reading information books was all I could do. Exposing myself to emotions came slowly and carefully.

That level of intensity and those powerful lyrics that touched on such a terribly raw nerve completely debilitated me.

It’s funny, because three and a half years later I can actually enjoy that song, (after all it is a beautiful song by an amazing singer) but I remember the first time I heard it – it was totally the wrong time for me!

….Hello Jack!

Hello from the other side!

I must have tried a thousand times….