violetcheetah: (Default)
You probably don't want to read these dreams; they involve nuclear holocaust, and living but rotting bodies (chiefly mine), and non-functional bathrooms. I post them in part because these are themes that come up in my dreams with an exhausting regularity, and in part because it was somewhat unique to have three archetypal-for-me dreams in the course of two nights. If you have been curious in the past about what I meant when I referred to "armageddon dreams" or "bathroom dreams," this post will give you examples. If you are also curious about the kinds of dreams that I gather are common among trauma survivors, then read on.

Read more... )



violetcheetah: (Default)
Thursday, March 10, 2016

When the event occurs in my shrink's office, there are rarely words. Often there aren't even thoughts that I try and fail to put words to. There's just a -need-. Not a need for a certain thing — or not a thing I am aware of — just that I need something, something I don't have, perhaps something that doesn't exist in the first place. After the session, I try to write it down, explain what I remember of what happened, what I felt. Often the best I can do is recall other times I felt the same thing. Or other times I -think- I felt the same thing because my actions were the same, or because the image of that other time was in my head in the office, or comes to mind now. I like facts, hate hypotheticals, and it's frustrating, but it's the best I can manage.

Last night, after the session, I tried to explain why I had needed to stand. Because the chair was… not right, somehow. I needed to be somewhere else. Really, what I needed was to run, to go out the office door and out the front door and then… well, I don't know. And I knew, barely, at the time, that it wouldn't do any good, that I would go out the office door and it wouldn't be right, and out the front door and it wouldn't be right, and down the street, and another street, and to the river, and across the bridge. I needed to be somewhere that didn't exist, and I was barely able to hold that certainty, and so I didn't run. But I still had to stand, because my feet needed to be moving, shifting my weight from one to the other and back again, sometimes backing up a few inches, or stepping to the left. I had to do that, because it was close enough to running that I could keep myself from running, and I knew if I sat in the chair, my body would suddenly bolt without being remotely in my control, and I wouldn't want to run but I would run anyway, and I would never stop.

It wasn't an urge that started in the office, not because of something we were talking about; in fact, we hadn't really started talking about anything yet this session. It had been there all week, most of the previous week: the incessant need to be somewhere else. At work, during my mid-shift break, I would stand by the chair in the break room and not want to sit down. My feet ached, my knee ached, and eventually it was necessary, but it wasn't where I wanted to be, and it was nearly intolerable. I shut the urge off, several times a day, because in public, there are consequences for doing "crazy" things.

I tried to explain in what I wrote after the session, and my shrink replied in part, "It sounds terrifying…" The word stopped me as I read it, made me want to shake my head, because I didn't remember terror. I had made -noises- like I was terrified, but the only name for what I remembered feeling was not-rightness. No-place-ness. Burning, itching, infuriation that there's no place that's right, not right, -how- is it not right, what's not right? It's not safe. There is no place that's safe. It doesn't exist. I run toward something that looks right, or try to crawl inside, and — it's not there anymore. If I go to a place that seems safe, it stops being safe when I get there.

Because I carry within me the opposite of safety.

Safety is a fundamental particle in the mental universe. It's a quark or an electron, a building block that everything else, everything larger that has any importance, contains. Everyone absolutely has to have it. I have to have it. But I am its anti-particle. Either I am that ant-safety myself, or I contain it within me, I don't know. But either way, I feel as if I am mainly composed of anti-safety. Which means I can never touch safety. I can't exist in the same place. It's dangerous to even try, because when I reach out and touch it — and I always, incessantly, knowing better, reach out toward it — I annihilate both the safety and part of me. If anyone is close by, the shock wave could rip them apart. At the very least, it propels them away from me at breath-taking speed. Or maybe propels me away from -them-. And what if the safety isn't the place, but the person themselves? Will I obliterate them?

My core is hollow. That's how it feels. I sometimes peer over the edge, and occasionally fall in, and there's never a bottom; I always have to dig my fingernails into the wall and drag myself out, because otherwise I will fall and fall and never stop. That seems impossible. There has to be a bottom. But if the bottom is safety, and I am the opposite, then when I hit it, I destroy it, and keep falling until the next bottom, over and over, and each time I also leave a small crater in myself, crater after crater, until it feels like what's left of me is just tatters that will scatter in the wind.

It's just a metaphor. I get too attached to metaphor, and I feel like I shouldn't do that, that it's indulgent. It isn't real. But it -is- language; it's words, a story, a narrative, something my mind can clutch when there is nothing else that makes sense. It isn't real, but perhaps it's close enough to truth for now. It's not safety itself, but perhaps it's at least a buffer, something that neither matter nor anti-matter will destroy, that will allow me to exist in the same room as the safety I crave, will even allow me to reach, to press my fingers against the smooth glass of the metaphor without having to worrying about who or what I might obliterate.




violetcheetah: (chess)
I really didn't want to post this, because it's terrifying to think about people I know reading it and knowing this is part of who I am. Which is why I know I need to post this.

Trigger warning for... I don't know, hospitals, psych holds, loss of free will, non-consensual restraint.

-----


June 18, close to midnight, I went to the Beth Israel E.R., because the arrhythmia had morphed into chest pain. They did an EKG — which I knew wouldn't show anything because it's not that kind of chest pain, it's sharp and focused, not crushing and all-over — and sent me back to the waiting room until they had a bed. The bed they had was in the hall. People passing, loud, smells, people passing smelling like smoke, like alcohol, like perfumes, the pneumatic tube thing across from me making its air-brake noise every couple of minutes with no warning, a man yelling, a man snoring. I don't know when it stopped making sense, when I forgot the present; I never did completely, but it didn't help to hang onto the edges of the here-and-now.

They wheeled my cot down the hall to a dim room, the world flying by like in a car sitting backwards, and the room was dark, but I wasn't in Kentucky, I wasn't anywhere. They were annoyed, I couldn't tell what they were saying, I was saying something but I don't know what, and they were annoyed and wheeled me back, and then people were standing around me asking things, saying things, one of them smelled of cigarette smoke, and they wheeled me into a room with a glass front, and slid the door closed, and I knew it wasn't my bed growing up, but it had side rails and it felt so high, and exposed, and no way to get off of it because of the rails except to slide off the foot, and I , I don't know what I felt, if I felt anything, maybe terror, I don't remember the feeling, just the knowing I had to not be on the bed, that it wasn't safe, exposed, so I slid off the foot of it and sat on the floor between the side and the wall, and then there were two or three of them, not just annoyed but angry, "I'm not doing this again," I think someone said. Telling me to get on the bed, I could get back on myself or they'd put me there, and I knew, I should just do it, but I couldn't make myself, and I couldn't explain, and someone said they'd get a blanket and it'd be nice and comfortable, and I think that was when I felt the terror, I don't know why, just, the coaxing, cajoling, that was what my brother had always done, no force, just pleading, almost. Then there were people holding me, four limbs, hanging in the air, and I could see myself screaming, bucking, kicking, and I was ashamed, and just, just confused, why didn't I just do what they wanted, and they held me four limbs stretched on the cot and someone wiped I guess alcohol on my thigh, I was wearing a skirt and they lifted it and rubbed something cold on the back of my thigh, and I looked and could see the syringe, and my throat burned from the screams and I think they couldn't hold me still enough, I don't think they ever injected it. Ativan, someone said somewhere in there, I recognized the name and knew I didn't want it, it makes me feel dead.

A woman came later and said I had to get undressed, for the chest x-ray. She said I could get changed myself or she could do it for me. So I undressed and put on the gown. She said they'd put my clothes in the corner with the rest of my stuff, but that she had to go through my bag to make sure there was nothing dangerous, and no pills, so I took out the pills I keep and she put them in a plastic bag and left, and then didn't come back, and at some point I dozed off, maybe they did give me the Ativan, and when I woke up my clothes were gone, and my backpack was gone, and I asked and she said it was behind the nurses' desk, and I said she'd said it could stay with me, and she was annoyed and said it couldn't be in the room, and I asked why they'd needed to take the meds out and search it if it wasn't staying, and she said they never keep patient belongings in the room, and she left.

The morning and afternoon were a blur of trying to doze, or just trying to find a position where my head didn't hurt and I could stop being. I got up to pee, and the guy watching near the nurses' desk saw me and nodded, and when I came out a woman told me I should have told him I hadn't given a urine sample yet, but no one had told me they wanted one, she was annoyed at me but it didn't make sense. I talked to other people, or they asked questions and I answered them, I guess, asked for numbers to call, friends, my shrink, my psychiatrist. They called M, I didn't want her to know, didn't want her to have to deal after having just had to deal with her mother, but they wouldn't let me leave alone, or strongly recommended against it, or something like that. So she came, and waited, and waited, and finally I went home, and I got up the next morning and went to work.
violetcheetah: (Default)
There are two main aspects to my job at the USPS; people work in two-person teams on each machine, with one person "feeding" unsorted mail into the machine, and the other person "sweeping" the sorted mail out of the "stackers," which are arranged in four rows of 50 to 75 columns, looking kind of like a big wall of PO boxes, only with little flip-up gates instead of doors. You sweep the mail from each stacker as it starts to get full, which sounds simple, but depending on the type of sorting the machine is doing, and the mail you get, the stackers may fill up in sudden and unpredictable ways: stacker 15 fills up, and you empty it and 10 seconds later stacker 119 halfway down the big machine fills up, and so on. That's the type of mail we usually run on my shift. But Sunday night at work, Finness and I were running "first-pass" mail, which usually has stackers all filling up slowly and steadily at the same time, and sweeping is pretty methodical and mellow, especially for the first half hour, when about all the sweeper does is clear the occasional (or not-so-occasional, depending) jam. The lack of anything to do usually drives me crazy and I'd rather feed, but Sunday I went with it, and Finness and I were just generally talking and joking as he fed, and the machine jammed, so I strolled about a third of the way down the machine to deal with it. And I smelled smoke. Not burning rubber from one of the many belts, but wood smoke, or paper. This does happen sometimes, if a piece of mail gets caught somewhere and doesn't cause an actual jam: not actual fire, of course, but enough friction to blacken the paper. But not that often. And this was pretty strong.

So, one of the things my father used to do when drunk was threaten to burn down the house with us in it. I used to be terrified of fire, and yet compelled to watch when we burned burnable trash, because otherwise I'd spend the time while the fire was burning worrying about it going out of control. I needed to watch and be prepared. So that was going on in my head at work, smelling this: a desire to run before the house burned down, but also needing to know what it was, where it was, to figure it out and fix it and stop something bad from happening. Of course, in the present, nothing bad was going to happen. A piece of paper getting so hot from just friction that it bursts into flames? No, I knew that wasn't going to happen. But the smell, and the not-knowingness, triggered an adrenaline dump and a need to do — if not to run, than to stay and rectify.

I couldn't identify the spot it was coming from, partly because of the overhead fans blowing, maybe; all I could tell at first was it was somewhere in the middle third. I discounted the last third or so of that, because the fans would have wafted the smokey smell that direction. So I started at the far end of where I thought the smoke could be coming from, clearing the stackers of mail. I started at stacker 130, and worked my way forward, up one 4-row column, down the next. It was getting stronger. Eventually I was pretty sure it wasn't on the bottom row, because the smell wasn't as strong when I bent close enough that the ceiling of that row was inches from my head. A couple more columns up, I was sure it wasn't the next-lowest of the four rows. But I kept clearing all the rows because they needed clearing, anyway, and because I needed that methodicality to feel like I was in control, I think: no emergency here, no urgency, just doing the job like normal. Then I got to stacker 52, and I found a flyer, flimsy like a small sale bill, with the edge caught under a belt, but in such a way that the belt could still turn, just kept grinding away at the paper. I got Finness to stop the machine and I pulled the paper out, its edge charred, with a drop of congealed... Ink? Lamination? I don't know... brown-black stuff on one corner. I'd found it. I took it up to the feeder; Finness marveled at its condition; it was done.

And then the terror hit. He knew from a previous conversation we'd had about my issues with fire, and he's seen me melt down way more than I was doing now, so it wasn't surprising, and I didn't have to do anything as far as working, so I stood and let my hands spasm until the run of mail on that machine was done, and then we moved on to another machine, and I said, essentially, I'm going to sit down, on the floor, and it doesn't mean I'm freaking out any more than when I'm standing, I just need to be sitting. So I sat, and grasped my shoulder where it vibrates, and I was jumpy but okay, so I just stayed like that, still not understanding why I'd delayed freaking out until the smoke was done. Then I realized what I'd been thinking while I was looking for the source of the smell, even while I wasn't consciously aware of thinking it:

I'm imagining it. I'm making it up. There's nothing here, I'm being a drama queen, just pretending there's something here to get attention, and convincing my own self at the same time so I won't have to admit I'm pretending. I was actually so sure of this that I convinced myself so thoroughly that there wasn't anything there, that when I saw the paper, I still didn't entirely believe it. I had to show Finness and see his reaction to be sure it was real, and when it was real, that was so at odds with what I believed that I... The world was not what I thought it was, and it was terrifying. Even though I was right. I was so sure I was wrong that when I was presented with objective evidence that I wasn't wrong, I nearly lost track of the present because of the cognitive dissonance.



violetcheetah: (Default)
From last week's writing workshop. The prompt: Start with the following line, and don't let you pen/fingers stop writing: "That long-distant day when your father took you to discover ice."

-----

I am supposed to write without stopping, but just saying father is enough to paralyze me with scenes, or flickers of scenes, ominous but unformed, the memory of the feeling without the memory of the event.

The flashback I've been having recently is an actual flashback, a "real" flashback. It used to be that I'd slip out of my body and hover over my left shoulder, and I was remembering a feeling, that moment before something happens, but I couldn't' remember the actual event, or events. I felt that something's-going-to-happen feeling all the time growing up, so the flashback was just of that eternal moment, hundreds of times over, infinity squared inside a black-hole singularity. My mind would swirl — I always tried to remember the event, any event, it seemed like if I could just put a scene to the feeling, it would stop. But my mind played dozens of scenes at once, all superimposed over one another on the movie screen until it was just a blur of grey and black.

Now, though, I end up in that night with the gun. Not when he fired the pistol into the wall, not once I'd turned the swivel rocker around and could see the gun pointed at me. I am in that moment in between. I have heard the first shot in the bedroom, known and not believed what it was, heard the second shot and known and believed, and in a second I will be turned around and see the barrel in front of my father's swaying body and vacant eyes. But I have not yet turned, and I do not yet know what I will see, I just know it will be bad, and it may be the last thing I see, and I need to see it, I need know what's going on, whatever it is, it's worse to not know, and right now, I have no idea, and so every possibility still exists, so many variations of blood and smoke and holes, and none can be ruled out.

I can hear the echo of the shot. I can hear it in my shoulder, the back of my left shoulder, as if there's an eardrum vibrating above my scapula, see, I was sitting sideways in the chair, my back against the left chair arm, my right side against the chair back enveloped in the curve of the chair, and my left arm, my left shoulder, out and exposed and I felt the sound there. I am 41 now and it happened when I was 16 and I saw a shrink for 18 years, not counting the crappy shrinks before him, and I described the scene dozens of times, hundreds, to shrinks and friends and in writing, over and over, and not until a week ago at work did I remember feeling that sound in the shoulder, the shoulder I hover above when I dissociate, the shoulder I look over when I don't hear someone behind me, always exposed, always cold, burning cold. I never gave it a thought; I was born with that shoulder dislocated, that collarbone cracked, probably too big for my mother's small birth canal, it's not uncommon, and I did a repeat performance of the same shoulder and collarbone at a year and a half. It's my earliest memory. Not of falling off the bed and dislocating it, not of the doctor's office. What I remember is standing in the kitchen, I remember the tabletop taller than me, and I'd just dropped a crayon, and I was left-handed, very left-hand dominant, but my left arm was in a sling, and it apparently never occurred to me to just pick up the crayon with my right hand, because what I remember is reaching over with my right hand, pulling the sling off my elbow, reaching down and picking up the crayon and standing back up, and then crying because my arm hurt. That's the shoulder, it's never been right, always too loose, prone to popping out of place, weird-feeling, just not right, but not cold and hot and vibrating with the sound of that small snap that wasn't even that loud. That feeling was that one night, and after all these years I know where I am when I'm not here, and it's such a relief to finally know, even thought it hasn't made it stop happening.



violetcheetah: (Default)
[Long, overly personal, and possibly freakish and incoherent to anyone who hasn't had a PTSD flashback, or whatever hybrid I have.]
Read more... )




A child

Jun. 16th, 2013 10:49 am
violetcheetah: (chess)
Another piece from a Write Here Write Now workshop. There is no deeper meaning to my posting it on Fathers Day.


-----

I don't like children. I was a child, and when I was a child, children made my life hell. Well, adults did, too, but that was expected. When I'm with children, I expect them to say something aloud that I always think everyone around me is too polite to say, and it isn't that I can't bear that they are -thinking- it, I just dread the awkwardness after it's released from their mouth, the mother shushing them and saying, "We don't say things like that out loud."

My friend Heather called one day, and after a few minutes of small talk, she said, "Well, I'm finally pregnant." I blurted out the first thing that came into my head, which would have been bad with pretty much anyone else I knew because it would have been "Oh God," but with heather it was "thank god."

When Tani was about 18 months old, she asked if I'd be interested in baby-sitting him one evening a week while she and her husband took a literature class together. It was about two years after I started the drug cocktail that calmed my PTSD and lifted my depression, and these days I felt like I did a pretty good job of passing as normal, but I was still passing. "You seriously trust me with your progeny?" She glared at me over her glasses, an "Oh please" look, but there was a split second before she rolled her eyes when I saw something. She did. She trusted me. She knew everything about me, about who I had been, and she's not a fool, and she trusted me with her child.

My "shifts" with him started after dinner was over, so it was pretty much just: play with him for a couple of hours, change him into pajamas, and gently bear-hug him on the couch for fifteen minutes until he went from wailing, "No no no" to rubbing his eyes to sleep. Playing with him turned out to be easy. Mostly, I built towers out of blocks, and he knocked them down. We could do that for an entire evening sometimes. Sometimes he'd reach out after the third level and shove, sometimes he'd wait patiently, his head cocked, perhaps curious about some pattern of blocks I was using.

One night, he wandered away while I was still constructing. He'd never done that before, and I felt a little pang, wondering if the last time had truly been the last time we'd play this game. But I kept adding levels, whether he cared or not, eventually using pretty much every block in a cantilevered marvel nearly four feet high. I turned around and watched him in the sun room, making truck noises with his Tonka bulldozer. "Ta-ni," I sing-songed. I had to repeat it before he looked up. And then he saw. His eyes and mouth formed perfect circles before the grin started, the cat-like glee at impending destruction. He ran in his drunken stagger past me, lurching to a stop a stubby arm's length from the tower. He drew in a breath, flung his arms forward —

But not all the way. His hands stopped a couple of inches from the tower, his eyes and mouth round again. Then the gleeful giggle, his hands back in mid-air, and he stopped again. He looked at me, flapped his hands while abject joy radiated from him. He stood there, laughing and dancing and anticipating, for probably two minutes. He was not yet two years old, so two minutes of delayed gratification was an eternity. Finally, he reached out, slowly, deliberately, placed both hands gently on the blocks, and slowly, deliberately, shoved. He stood stoically as the blocks collapsed with their wooden cacophony. In the silence, he turned to look at me again, gave a deep, satisfied sigh, and plopped down on the floor by the rubble.

That was the night I knew I loved that kid.



Flashbacks

May. 26th, 2013 10:44 am
violetcheetah: (peter)
I wrote the following at last Wednesday's Write Here Write Now workshop.

Read more... )

violetcheetah: (Default)
Wrote the following tonight in a writing workshop. Please ignore typo stuff: I was not looking at the screen as I typed, and I don't have the emotional energy to proofread it now, but my urge to share it trumps my perfectionism this time around.

-----


everything is something else.

We are all having the same experience, but I'm having another experience at the same time, I'm not the only one, of course, but you can't tell now, looking at the faces in the stockroom, the numbness or fear or tears, you can't tell if the expression is for today, or for 20 years ago.

Everyone says it seems surreal. Unreal. For me, it's real times two, times 8, and a déjà vu that amplifies it. There's the boom, more like a thud, there's the second one, and I think, I know that rhythm, not just the rhythm but the feeling, the way my chest feels, not sinking, but lighter, filled with helium, it sounds so pleasant, but I have dreams where I'm floating, and everyone talks about flying dreams wistfully, but mine are miserable, because I can't get down, I'm pushing against the ceiling, and I won't sink to the floor, everyone else is on the floor, or under the tree that I'm tangled in. and that feeling you get at the top of a roller coast, just as the bottom drops out and your heart lifts into your throat, and it's giddy and fun because it's only a second, but in the dream it's eternal, the crash is coming, I'm going to hit the ground but I never do, I just keep waiting, and now I'm floating and sinking and I'm desperately trying to remember, why is that double-thud so familiar, it's ridiculous that it's so important, -this- is important, right now, but I've got the get that other scene, it's the only way to finally hit the ground and walk, walk among people, if I can't remember I'll be preoccupied for eternity, déjà vu but it really happened, something really happened, right, it's a real thing I'm remembering, right, why can't I place it. I sit on the stockroom floor surrounded by sweatpants as coworkers pass, "did you feel that?" as if anyone didn't, thumbing their smartphones and relaying the fragments of news they can find, and I wish they'd quit distracting me from distracting myself with sorting pants so that the thing I'm trying to remember can sneak up on me, like a song lyric you've not heard in years, so familiar, and finally I remember the pistol, the crack, not at all like on the cop shows and yet I'd known, my back turned, I could see him pointing it but until I turned it might not be real, and perhaps this is an electrical fire under the street, they blow a couple of manholes off every year, I know it isn't but of course I'd think that because I'm a catastrophist, I always think the worst, and a drama queen, panic for nothing, and then the second crack from behind me and I turn and see the barrel, and now it's finally okay, because I can hear the lyric, can move to the next verse and then to the next song, my feet are on the ground and I am walking with everyone else, and I am only here, only now. Except I'm already half in tomorrow, when I will dig in the dirt in my friend's yard and plant the bulbs I dug up last summer and forgot in the shed, I will plant them tomorrow and they won't bloom next year, not after half a year out of the earth, but maybe the year after. Walking past the back bay bed, under the falling magnolia petals, I am already planting in her yard tomorrow.

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Violet Wilson

October 2016

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