Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Being held hostage by your memories. #Flashbacks.
Definition of Hostage
If you say you are hostage to something, you mean that your freedom to take action is restricted by things that you cannot control. Such is the force of PTSD.
Memories are something unique to each and every one of us. They are perhaps the only thing apart from our DNA that truly sets us apart from any other of our species.
They can be triggered by the sweet joyous sound of a baby’s laughter, the scent of a freshly baked cake, or a scene from a movie that we watch over-and-over again. All our senses take part in the remembering process.
The lingering refrain of church bells on Sunday morning and the butterfly touch of a spring breeze on our faces may all take us to places we once inhabited in real time.
But not all of our memory is sweet.
The darker times of loss, the time a love ended, the tragedy that life hands out … but never in equal measure, all those times remain there in that memory and at our weakest moments they will surface, to test our strength, or to force us to become aware, finally, that we are no longer in that place of weakness.
Our memories hand us our self-knowledge, and at times, those memories are the very things by which we judge our own self-worth.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has as a bi-product its own unique way of enabling our darkest memory to surface. These are the FLASHBACKS … I have experienced many. I will share with you one that it still shakes me to recall, in the hope that in some small way I can help shine a light into the darkest of places.
When it came, there was only a fleeting moment of recognition before I catapulted straight back to hell.
It was a crisp August morning, mid-winter here in Australia. I was beyond excited, anxious and happy that morning. I wore a new business suit, my hair was freshly cut and styled and I was ready to attend my second interview, at a firm of Merchant Bankers that were well known and respected, located in the Sydney CBD. I really wanted that job. Hell, I really needed that job. Blowing the funds on the new clothes and hairstyle was done in the belief that I had what it took to nail this position. I had worked in the field for a good many years and my reputation was solid. They had now compiled a short list of five possible candidates, including myself. I liked those odds.
I arrived at the tower of power that rose high above our beautiful harbor, and joined the throng of workers lined up for the elevators.
I have always hated elevators, but twenty-two floors up was my appointment location, and my lungs already knew that stairs weren’t an option.
My life long claustrophobia clung hand in hand to my inability to stand at the front of the elevator … my unease at having people behind me unseen won the argument. I entered the elevator and went to the middle against the back wall … my ass was covered. I smiled, remembering my dear Jamie’s favorite expression, “Always cover your ass, Sass!” The other occupants soon created a wall in front of me, which I escaped by keeping my eyes closed and only briefly glancing up as the lift stopped and disgorged people on each floor.
I believe I had a handle on the claustrophobia, and just breathed deeply.
We stopped again, someone else entered. I watched an older woman, well attired, and confident looking stand just in front of me. She loosened her colored scarf and her perfume was captured and sent in my direction by the movement.
I inhaled that scent. My guts clenched so tight I could scarcely breathe. The nausea was my second warning sign that something was wrong. I took a deep breath to quell the wave of it as it rocked me. That is when it truly began. That smell … the woman who gave birth to me always wore that perfume. I was shaking and attempting not to throw up; I couldn’t move my limbs, for they were weighed down by the concrete of fear.
The fight or flight reflex kicked in and I lunged forward and hit the next floor button. Those brief moments seemed endless, and I had wet myself as I had as a small child when that scent of her would linger long after a beating. That odor had me back in a hell I had long run from. A hell that held me hostage with the memories that even the smell of a perfume could bring back into being.
I was that broken child again, kneeling on the floor and then placing my mouth at the light coming from underneath the locked door in the darkened room. The forty-year-old woman that I now was simply ceased to exist. I was four-years-old again. My back so sticky with crusted blood that the singlet I had been wearing for days stuck fast to the surface. I could feel my control slipping away and could find no logical thought that would both stop it and me from spiraling deeper into that remembered nightmare of pain and darkness.
The lift door finally opened and I half fell out in my haste. I don’t know what floor I landed on, my only coherent thought was escape. I needed a bathroom but couldn’t open my mouth to ask for directions. I headed to a corridor that I hoped would contain public washrooms. I threw up all over the plush-pile carpet in the corridor, and all over myself, not knowing or caring if anyone bore witness to my humiliation.
I found a washroom and locked myself into a stall. I sat down on the closed lid of the toilet and searched for the ability to breathe. I sat with my head down and focused on the tiled pattern on the floor until I could at last see it clearly, that gave me a route back to the immediacy of the moment, the now time, the real time where she had no power over my life … except in my memories. I had no idea how much time had passed. It had for me, seemed like a lifetime. I didn’t think to check my watch. Such is the nature of Flashbacks.
I cleaned myself as best I could, using paper towel and soapy water. I had nobody I could call to come and pick me up from the city. At that time in my life, I was living alone. I inspected myself, grabbing reassurance from the adult face reflected in the mirror, surprised to discover not the child I’d once been, but my grown self. I looked at my reflection for a long time … until I had gathered as much of me together as I could hope for just then. I lightly sprayed on my own signature perfume, in the hope of hiding the stench of my clothing and my fear from the Taxi driver on the twenty-minutes it would take to him to drive me back home to safe haven. I tipped him well.
I recall unlocking the door and resetting the alarm system before sliding down and sitting with my back firmly in place against that door. Nothing and no one could come near me … for now.
I showered, dressed, and then rang the folks that had expected to interview me. I apologized of course. I’d simply told them that I had taken suddenly ill. They thanked me, but they didn’t suggest a reschedule. I was distantly grateful for that, for I knew with absolute certainty that I would never take the risk that that woman could possibly share any space whatsoever in my life. I rated the chance of her working there far too high.
It took me a couple of days to regroup. I thought about and then tried not to think about what had happened. I knew I didn’t want to take the option of isolating myself … not again.
The temptation to reach out for alcohol to numb me against everything was resisted, this time. Being under the influence of the large amounts of alcohol I knew I could consume would make me a loaded weapon placed in the hands of a terrified four-year-old child.
I didn’t sleep fearing the nightmares that experience had told me lay waiting. I needed to cry it out, but I could not.
Finally, after almost three days of constant vigilance, exhaustion claimed me, and I slept. I awoke on the morning of the fourth day and knew that, I had,at least for now, regained control.
I refocused my attention on finding a job.
And life went on.
For those who suffer from P.T.S.D, and for those loving, caring folks that have someone in their lives that are trying to deal with the challenging packages P.T.S.D hands out, please know this … there are people out there in the now of your world that can help you. They will help you go to battle … and they will cheer you on as you win.
Reach out. There will be many loving hands ready to take yours.
I have listed below sites that are available world-wide, it is by no means a complete list, but if anyone reading this needs to learn more, these sites will point you in the right direction.
Help line. 0432 569 589. 7am – 10am. The PPTSG is a not-for-profit organisation, … Its aim is to provide support to those who are suffering from PTSD, anxiety, … officers, and emergency workers, PPTSG provides a family and spouse support function. … He has been through the system & suffers ongoing medical problems of …
Blue Knot Helpline (formerly ASCA Professional Support Line) provides help, … The MindSpot Clinic does not provide an emergency or instant response service. … health conditions, such as post–traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, …
PTSD (post–traumatic stress disorder) can cause fear, anxiety and trauma … information, online programs, helplines and news on mindhealthconnect. … PTSD is a treatable anxiety disorder affecting around one million Australians each year. …. (000) for an ambulance or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.
Trusted information about complex PTSD, including symptoms, causes, diagnosis and … If someone has attempted, or is in immediate risk of attempting to harm … Complex post–traumatic stress disorder describes the long-term effects of …. Helpline 1800 18 7263 Home Mental Health & Illness :: Facts & Guides Get Help …
May 25, 2017 – Calling a PTSD hotline can help people in crisis find the help they need. … that in the U.S., nearly 4% of men and 10% of women will develop PTSD at some … A good first step is to call a post–traumatic stress disorder helpline.
Talk to us · I need urgent help · Donate · Information & … Explains post–traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. … UK. helpline: 0844 477 5774 (Monday–Friday 9.30am–5.30pm) … Provides direct clinical services to survivors of torture who arrive in the UK.
It is normal to experience upsetting and confusing thoughts after a traumatic event, but … The Combat Stress 24-Hour Helpline 0800 138 1619 is for the military … trauma in military and emergency service personnel and also complex PTSD and … Rivers offers treatment for the whole range of post traumatic disorders with the
Welcome to ‘Glimpses Across the Barricades’ This poem was included in the epilogue of my book “Faint Echoes of Laughter”.
In A Perfect World
As I lay snugly warm and safe
Within my families womb
My heart begins a slow sad ache
For another child will cry tonight
Another child will die tonight
What was once their home
will become their tomb
Anger tears me as I read The desperate plead of a child in need How can we continue to ignore The deafening cries from every land? Can the balance be restored or Are we so desensitized to pain That we can’t give Without thought of gain
If I had but one wish to make Then that wish would surely be That when my own sweet child has grown, and if fate so decrees
I’ll hold her own children on my knee And when I lay them in their beds No sad thoughts will fill their heads
For our world will have become a place Where all its children have their space Where no ugly thoughts will touch their minds When faith is restored in humankind
No sweet child will need to cry No hungry child will need to die
We have that power in our hands To make these changes throughout all lands If we can but clearly see That our world is not What it needs to be
Once the changes have been made Each child may sleep with sweet child dreams
Each child will wake to see the dawn Each child will be thankful they were born.
Welcome again to my Poetry in Progress. This particular poem was written in the days after the last of the valiant kids I’d lived with on the streets ended his life. It is one of many poems I’ve written for and about those dear people. All damaged strangers, they took me into their hearts, their home, and their lives. My journey through life was forever altered by their existence and forever bereft at their loss.
Glimpses Across The Barricades
The Tears We Just Can’t Cry.
Dedicated with love to all the kids from ‘The Palace’
Welcome again to “Glimpses Across the Barricades” my poetry in progress.
Today I share with you a brief glimpse of my dear friend, Jenny. I met her on the streets when she was barely eight-years-old. I was eleven. She took her own life several years ago. The world is a darker place now that her sweet soul no longer lights it.
Yes, I did say privilege. Why? … Because it must be so! Motherhood must be regarded as the greatest joy of your combined life experiences.
We hand out special licenses to folks wishing to drive a car. A car is a potentially lethal weapon.
A child created and raised by unfit parents is also … a potentially lethal weapon.
I have written much about the woman that gave birth to me. For that is all she ever was. I spent many, many, soulless, and empty years hoping to find a different, a more palatable and convenient truth. For I so badly needed to believe, that She was damaged, and accordingly had no control over what she caused to come into being.
That thought kept me reasonably sane, in a violent, pain-filled world … that hated world, that world that made no sense to me at all.
But the years have peeled back the blinders that I used for safety, and I have come unwillingly to believe, that rather than an illness that caused her to inflict pain, I was instead her living sacrifice, to be punished upon the ‘altar’ of the train-wreck of her own life.
In order to accept that, I needed to lose the hate. Whilst I’ll never be indifferent, to even the mere mention of her name … that bitter bile of hatred has been tempered over time. Not ever fully understanding what caused her to inflict such vile pain, is simply now just something I have learned to bear. Losing the hate I have accomplished. Forgiving her is a whole other journey I have at last been at least willing to begin.
The joy of giving birth will never leave my mind. Into my freshly awakening soul, a precious girl-child was permitted entry. I have yet to feel a more all-encompassing need to protect another living being. For the very first time in my life I was grateful to have been born a woman.
The greatest love I’ve ever known erupted into my unprepared world.
Her laughter and that boundless lust for life colored my planet with sunshine … as did the never ending fear that I would somehow let her down. That reflected in much darker corners in sombre tones.
My husband and I created ‘Magic’ for her newly awakened self. Her fathers’ loving parents, his brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews all became our willing accomplices, as they fell captive to her joyous laughter. We reconstructed ‘Neverland’ and housed her as the reigning princess within its seemingly impenetrable walls.
All those marvelous days we’d celebrate with the ‘Magic’ element firmly in its place.
Christmas, and Birthdays, Easter egg-hunts, and Halloween. We never granted any excuse to miss a single one.
We sheltered her like a fragrant Frangipani, never allowing even a hint of the cold touch of frost to damage those tender flowers.
And when unheralded, the end of the reign of the King and Queen ruling together united … stormed into her life, at the as yet untested age of eighteen; that precious ivory tower melted like chocolate into untried sands.
She staggered into a world she was unprepared for, for we’d never handed her the weapons or the skill with which to use them.
We lost some years she and I, whilst each of us learned to both grow, and let go. Time was an ally then, and softly the healing leaves were sown.
Please know we’ve journeyed far in those intervening years, and know too, that life is joyous now, and we share our tears our truths and fears.
She asked me to be there, in that precious, priceless, unforgettable time as she gave birth to her son. How lucky am I to be so loved.
My Child’s Child.
He came screaming into his world two weeks earlier than expected. My child’s child … my grandson. I had the utter joy of seeing that look on her face as she craned to see and experience that ageless ‘falling in love with your first child’ moment.
We live together now, my daughter, my grandson and I. She has done me the great honor of asking me to assist her to raise her son.
Wise beyond her years she knew that living with my grandson’s daddy would only end badly for all three of them.
I’ve watched on proudly as she works tirelessly with the little ones’ father to be as utterly fair to each other as is humanly possible.
You will never hear one negative word about him. NOT in the house where his son lives, and grows. The young one loves his daddy unconditionally, which is as it should be for now. My child, grants, to her child, the right to ask questions, and she answers them with as much honesty as an almost five year old can handle. She gives him the ‘fairy tales’ with a hefty dose of magic …. but she also reads to him the darker ones, age appropriate to him.
Which does he prefer? I’m smiling here. For as long as there is no blood shown, or discussed, he’ll choose the dark stuff, every time. He’s relentless in the joy that he sheds when he’s just being a boy.
My daughter yesterday repeated something she says on occasion, which I will never tire of hearing. “Mom, I had the happiest childhood of any kid ever.”
She gives to me freely the greatest compliment I have ever heard.
Her way of parenting is uniquely her own, she teaches and creates using magic, and world truths tempered by her own life experiences, and above all things her all encompassing and unconditional ability to show and give love.
We’ll make quite the proud trio on Sunday Mothers Day May 14th …. My Child … Her Child … and I.
I’m here and overjoyed to be so. I have so many marvelous reasons to celebrate.
I wish you happiness, and the ability to share it with people that you love, on that special day. I am, and will remain, forever grateful for the privilege of being graced with the title of “Mother”.
It is possibly the hardest earned and most rewarding of any title you may have been granted.