Last night I attended a volunteer and donor appreciation event. Simple enough, right? Go out, talk to folks, eat, drink, laugh, be merry. It used to be easy. My sister Nat wrote about a similar experience in her post: Just a Dinner Party, I’m going to use her format to show you the interior storm happening that you don’t see and can’t hear, but perhaps when you finish reading, you will now have an understanding of it.
Logical Brain — This will be a fun night, you’ve been to this in previous years and you meet new people and share lots of hugs with all your favourite PFLAG Moms. And there is nothing in the world that beats a PFLAG Mom hug!!
PTSD Brain — Eww, people. And why does the roomie continually slam doors and drawers, raised by wolves? Can we please buy some rubber bumpers to put an end to this once and for all? Why not just have your eardrums removed and you won’t have to listen to it any longer.
Logical Brain — Pick the next thing in the closet and wear that today – remember comfort, will be standing for 2-3 hours. OMG, all my favourite people in one room!
PTSD Brain — I could stay home and catch up on podcasts and all those movies I downloaded from Netflix. It’s starting to build up and if I stay home, I can put a big dent in it. Besides… Eww, people.
Logical Brain — Hop in the shower, and get dressed, and let’s go to Starbucks… coffee is a good thing and maybe you’ll find a downloadable version of Nat’s documentary. Oh boy, PFLAG Mom hugs, you know how much you LOVE PFLAG Mom hugs!!
PTSD Brain — Eww, people. Don’t bother with your hearing aids, you need new ones anyway, and all they do is make noisy places louder. Maybe it’s time to consider earplugs. I hope there’s a place I can see the door just in case. But 3 hours? Can you just drop in and leave?
Logical Brain — Okay, at the bus stop and finally, here comes a bus, will be there soon.
PTSD Brain — I hate transit, because, eww, people. Why is there always some fuckwit with an oversized backpack or bag who slams into the side of my head every time the bus moves… just as bad, if not worse than the bloody subway. Remember the GO train on Monday? All those seats used for bags and such because people didn’t want them to get wet on the floor. Yeah, eww, people. You can’t ride the subway unless you get off at every stop for a breather. See, this is why I stay home, it’s just easier. Can we please hurry up and get to my stop… I can’t wait to get off this damn bus!
Logical Brain — Okay, we’re here, early is even better, maybe we can lend a hand with setup.
PTSD Brain — Door is there, coats are there, how many steps from coats to door… can this room be any smaller? See? People don’t read signs, big sign, private function until 8:30 and people just wander in anyway. Damn, there’s no wall behind me anywhere, I hate having my back to the room and, eww… people.
Logical Brain — Pull it together chickie, time to generate some happy and chat with folks.
PTSD Brain — It’s getting too crowded in here, I need to get out, the walls are closing in.
Logical Brain — Pop outside for a quick smoke, take a breather and enjoy the quiet. (Get off my ass, I gave up sex, smoking is all I have left.)
PTSD Brain — What time is it? How much longer? Maybe I should have brought my hearing aids anyway, I can’t hear sweet bugger all inside. The louder it gets, the louder people get, to the point they are yelling and … okay, start scanning the room, gotta be a quiet corner… no, can’t find one. Dammit. Check phone, only 40 minutes in… can we go home now? Shit, hyper-vigilant plus plus plus now.
Logical Brain — Just paste on a smile and power through it like before.
PTSD Brain — Eyes are starting to sting, I can’t let this happen here. Nothing more embarrassing than crying in front of people. Let’s go, can’t hold on to the mask, need space and peace. Can’t hang on to the mask, can feel my nose start to run, go get coat and leave quickly, not lasting until the party ends this year and beyond. Shit, I hate this so much.
Logical Brain — Go! You’re about to meltdown and cry in front of too many people… get out!!
PTSD Brain — Dammit, where is my coat… oh, it was moved to another rack… geeze! I need to leave, don’t put it on here, just go straight to the door and put it on when you get down the street a bit. I can just feel the eyes rolling as I make my escape. I’m so tired of this, and there’s no warning, some days fine, other days, feel like it’s 7 years ago. I’m dying of embarrassment on the inside. Finally get to bus stop and can’t hold back any longer, start crying. Dammit, shut it down, you’re being stared at by some street junkie… man, I’ve smelt some horrid things in my time, but this boy reeks so bad, maybe I can say my eyes are watering from the stench. Pull it together until you get home… just put on a dead expression and stay there. Don’t talk to anyone, if you do, it’s going to all come spilling out. Just get home as fast as you can. This sucks so bad, I used to love being out and talking to people, making new connections, sharing a laugh. I used to.
Logical Brain — You have PTSD and affiliated mental illnesses. You’re going to be managing this for the rest of your life.
PTSD Brain — Thanks for the reminder, leave me alone, I want things the way they used to be. Enough of the logic, I hate you. This used to be easy, and there’s no warning, sometimes things are good, sometimes things are horrendous. I fucking hate this every single time it happens. Will I ever be repaired?
Logical Brain — I miss the way things were too.
Love forever and a million days more to my Sis, Nat, for everything, simply everything. Much of what I do these days is possible because of her input and inspiration. Including borrowing her format to give you an idea of what is happening on the inside at times. People think these things play out over extended time periods. No. This was literally a few minutes of my day, stitched together into a teachable moment.
And even in the midst of it, there were moments that touched my heart and soul when friends reached out. Thank you Heather, for picking up on it right away. Courtney, I owe you many hugs when I see you in May, make sure you collect them please. Kim, as ever, you just get it, thanks for the hugs, send some to Tiff for me as well, please.
To one friend, thank you. As I thought, even more than a decade later, there are still days when it all goes to shit for both of us. We will have much to compare notes on in the coming weeks, and again this summer when you observe one of my moments of behaving like a professor (glasses, whiskers and all, Professor Kitty ready for action! LOL). I owe you one, and I’ve got you.
Ashley, you always seem to have the perfect thing at hand at the right time to do whatever is necessary. Definitely joined at the mind sister… and we still have our writer’s jam session and movie night to plan.
Cathy, you are most definitely a soul sister. And that gift from you on Monday was squeezed, hugged, and cried on last night… it’s like you were here to handle things… bigger hugs than Monday’s are owed, you really have touched my heart and soul, sister.
So, before you roll your eyes when one of us has to make a quick exit, pause, feel, experience, and for once; understand. I’d gladly trade it all away to be able to function as I used to without always running a mental checklist before saying yes to a party or event. Even with all the progress made, and the high-functioning status, a combination of auditory and sensory triggers can be tripped in sequence and you have to make a beeline for the door, and last night the noise levels plus crowded room combined to set off a perfect storm in my mind.
And yet, despite all this, like my fellow mental health warriors (and I wish this club was shrinking instead of growing), I remain Proud, Tough, Strong, Determined.
Much love is sent to all of you today. I’ve got you.