Friday March 20, 2015…
I walk along my non-descript street in suburbia. My brain feels hazy and I can only see the area in front of me or behind me. Tunnel vision. Heart jumps in fright. I shiver as the late March air pulls at my thin coat.
I stop, stare at the grayness of the sky, the still-bare branches of the trees, buds not yet visible, and feel a melancholy black as burning tar. I had a debilitating PTSD episode at work a few days earlier. It all started with my inability to stand up for myself.
Two yellow, wet foreclosure notices hang on a red door of a vacant house. One side has peeled off and blows in the wind. A strong gust of wind would rip the notice from the door and send it down the street along with random trash. There are many houses like this. So many that all I feel is numb, detached, unreal. I feel hollow inside; a kind of endless empty sadness. Could there ever be enough to fill me? Probably not.
All of the drab vinyl-sided homes look the same.
I don’t know what street I’m on.
What street am I on?
I continue to walk and tell myself to remain calm. This is ridiculous after all how do you “forget” what street you are on? At the beginning of the PTSD I’d get lost, whether it was in California, Indiana, the store, etc. To know this was happening again sends me into a frenzy. I feel myself slipping into the abyss, that space where you can’t trust your own mind. I continue down the street, telling myself to breathe. Get out of your mind. Look at the grass. Look ahead. Look at the street signs.
I see my street and turn down it. The adrenaline still flows through my veins as I come down from that familiar panic. I briskly walk toward home. I’m fine. I notice my small dog bouncing down the street in front of me. I glance at the dirt-stained white shutters on a small rental house. I notice I’m staring and jerk my eyes away as the young woman, probably early twenties, gives me a what the hell are you looking at look. I couldn’t tell her if she asked.
I open my front door, step inside and feel a sudden urge to be in someone’s presence, not alone in my house for the third day in a row. I call my friend and say it’s happening again. I do my best to not act desperate or needy. She needs a quiet place to study and will be over in a few days. The lingering paranoia lifts and I’m back in reality…
When people question the validity of mental illness they have no idea how real and painful it is to live with it. One bad day can create endless disturbances. I will post more in the coming week. It is taking a minute to come back from the events of the last few weeks. The good news is I’m coming back this time.