The Sunday Edition: Memory, PTSD, and Family

j_elationj_elation I never really knew what it was that made me absorb nearly every detail of my surroundings. You might notice the mess that is my desk in the cover photo, but be mindful that I seldom if ever lose things. I can remember where I put every thing I’ve ever seen or touched, every conversation I’ve ever had, and every slip of paper I’ve ever put somewhere. Not phone numbers though. Which is weird. Of course, the reason I’m talking about this is it may not be true anymore. A couple weeks ago I wrote about #MeToo and within that article I recollected a conversation I had with Shrimptoast… Except, I didn’t. As it turns out I got some details of the story incorrect and that basically never happens to me. I mean yeah, I’m known for embellishing details from time to time but that’s not “Fabrication” that’s “Exaggeration” (bite me brothers’o’mine). But completely miss-remembering a conversation? That’s new, and it’s freaking me out more than the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

And I’ve only known I’ve had PTSD for a short while mind you. The cleric who married my wife and I was the first person to tell me. During pre-marital counseling he asked me what time it was and I instantly told him. He then asked me to describe the clock and without breaking eye contact I told him every minute detail. He then queried if he were to ask me any detail about the room, I’d probably have the answer? I responded yes. He then asked me if I knew that wasn’t normal and if I knew what PTSD was. I’ve known half a dozen police officers and I’m casually and intimately acquainted with 3 soldiers along with working with at risk youth and adults, so yes. I knew what PTSD was, I just didn’t know I had it. And this was a big thing for me. It was scary. I never really understood why it was that I tracked every person in a room, or why it was that I could read the smallest of facial and body expressions with ease, or know where every thing in my house should be. It was just stuff I could do. And I can’t begin to tell you how stupid I felt when he talked to me about it, and lead me to realize exactly where it came from. It came from my mother.

(See? Cleric. C’mon… just look at him. Tell me he’s not about to cast mass cure light wounds)

It was a big decision for me to talk about this. As a rule — and I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before — I don’t talk about what happened with my birth family. And while I’ve been encouraged to break that rule on many occasions, I’d always refused. Even going so far as to delete conversations on my Facebook wall that might loosely touch on my family. But here I am. I’m going to break my rule. Because talking about mental illness, including PTSD, is important. And what I can offer to this is this; it doesn’t have to be from a wholly nightmarish situation. People think that PTSD comes from events that are universally considered horrific. War, witnessing a death or suicide, surviving a gun fight, being raped, or almost being murdered. But the truth is it can come from almost anything including repeated trauma, and that’s where mine came from. From age 12 or 13 my home life wasn’t the most pleasant in the world. I wasn’t quite “The Child Called ‘It’” but it wasn’t exactly a stable family either. One of the trauma’s I experienced, likely where my constant Hyperawareness comes from, was having everything I said and did called into question. I was once relegated to the kitchen table for an entire Saturday and not allowed to leave because I announced I learned that cold water heated faster than hot, and hot water froze faster than cold. And despite producing my science text book to back my claim, I was just hit and screamed at for being stupid, and this wasn’t an isolated event.

These sorts of scenarios would repeat themselves over the years, often getting significantly worse. To compound the problem, whenever I would tell someone about these situations or attempt to confront my mother I was told I was lying, and often berated for bringing it up. And that’s important to. By the time I was 13 I was roughly the same height as my mother and significantly stronger. In spite of this I still wouldn’t hit her of course, constitutionally I can’t hit girls, but never the less my mother moved more into verbal abuse both mentally and emotionally. Physical trauma is not a requirement for PTSD and how a person is affected by PTSD is also wide ranging. For some it’s panic attacks. For others it’s reliving traumatic events as triggered by dreams or even random sounds or music. For others, like myself, it’s Hyperawareness. And after suffering from PTSD for the better part of 15 years… I know it seems strange, but to discover that my PTSD is winding down ever so slightly has weighed on me. Again, I understand it sounds strange, but not as strange as you might think. It’s like driving in a shitty car that always squeaks, until one day it just stops. No warning. Nothing you did it’s just… the squeaking stopped. It’s — probably — a good thing and you’re glad but… the questions still weigh on you. Where did it go? Is something else wrong? Why was it squeaking in the first place?

And I may never know why it stopped, or if it’s really stopped. Maybe it’s just fading in and out, who knows. PTSD is a complicated beast, which is why people shouldn’t do this on their own. If you think you might have PTSD, or you know someone who might, getting help is important. Family physicians today are far better equipped to deal with these issues and can be notified. Don’t have a family physician? Well depending on where you live there’s still help for you. Most hospitals and clinics have pamphlets with available resources. In the US you can find the PTSD Hotline here at MentalHelp.net, an amazing group that can talk with you about what’s going on, and direct you towards the help you need. In Canada you can access the PTSDAssociation.com online with dozens of resources available.

I can’t promise you it’s going to get better. No one can. But I can promise you that you are not alone, and that there is help for those who seek it out.

– Have a good’er.

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