01 April 2010


Adrenaline. Usually referred to with the word "rush"-- it's one of the chemicals involved in your body's response to stimuli. For a person with PTSD, it seems there's always too much and not enough at the same time. I crave the rush, yet can't get anything accomplished when the adrenaline's pumping. This is by design. Your brain isn't supposed to be able to solve math problems when there's a hungry bear on your ass. It's supposed to help you deal with the bear that's mistaken you for sushi (aka, the bear's dinner).

I've been digging into my binder of things PTSD this week, looking for answers. Why can't I study and concentrate like I need to, to get my homework done, to learn? What's the problem, working too much, not sleeping, not eating right, not adjusting right, what what what? One of the stuck points I've been trying to address is simply walking into class, sitting down, getting my stuff out, and aiming my mind on the lecture. When I think about going to class, I see images of particular people (who I don't even know) and I get freaked out anxious. WTF? It's college, not war or Christmas with the family.

Answering questions and thinking about things, I looked for sources of misinformation and feelings about things that aren't logically correct. I realized by the end of the worksheet that the adrenaline rush may have nothing to do with the people in my class, the professor, the room, or college in general. It may be the reason I'm there-- the material that I'm supposed to be learning. It may be the math that's the trigger.

The way things are supposed to work, when you do something you like, something that feels good, you perk up. You feel happy.

My earliest notion of stuff that felt good was stuff that actually felt bad, so my sense of happy is sometimes difficult to figure out. Stimulated, as in "my brain wants to put more effort into this", is what you're supposed to be when someone says "Here's a math concept. Prove to me that you understand it." Stimulated for me often means "something bad is about to happen or is happening, and since you've survived these types of things by turning your brain off, that's what's gonna happen now." Which is the exact opposite of what I want. I need my brain to be turned on.


Here's my morning routine: up at 0700, with seven hours of sleep on a good night. Usual morning stuff, shower, get dressed, make coffee, hopefully enough time to grab breakfast. Check the bus schedule online about a thousand times to see when the bus will be here. Can't find shoes, can't find keys. Make sure everything I need is in my backpack-- twice. Three times. Shoes are still tied, now they're knotted. Can't find ear buds. What's the weather like today?

Grab, pack, grab, pack, jacket, backpack, hat, out the door. Now the bus is going to be five minutes late. (Shit.) Wait.


On the bus: there are really scary people on the bus some days. Most of the time, the majority of bus riders are students (high school and college) and random people going to work. But there are some really scary people that ride the bus, and they make me uncomfortable.

People talk. Not converse, but talk. I think they're all deaf, because they talk loud enough that I can't drown them out with Pandora. Can they please shut up? The rest of the world doesn't care about the babymamadrama.

The bus usually fills up. My backpack is pretty large, but I try and move it to make room if the seat next to me is one of the last ones left. It reminds me of high school sometimes-- I was one of the first people picked up in the morning, and the seat next to me stayed empty until it was the last seat left.

Do I look that scary, that pissed off, that PTSD in the morning?


Arrival on campus. Half of the bus is students who are all getting off at the same place. I usually have to run someone over to get to the door-- that big backpack again. I have to walk several blocks to get to class, then up a hill, then up a ramp, then up some steps, then down some steps, into the lecture hall. It's half full already, which limits my seating choices.


In class. Noise. People moving stuff around. There's always some dork that arrives ten minutes late and wants my to fold my desk up so he can sit in my row, which is usually just as I've managed to get settled.

In one of my classes, there's this guy that challenges everything the prof says. When this guy talks, it's like he recites. He reminds me of a robot-- C3PO.

In another class, same room, half of the class is on Facebook playing *ville for most of the lecture. Or talking. Or, like the dork I end up sitting in front of, breathing, sneezing, coughing, moving the desk around, and in general being a distracting pain.


I mention all these things because they add to the level of anxiety I feel-- for most people, these are all probably just momentarily annoying. Once I'm triggered, once it starts, it's not something that I can just turn off. Things build on each other, and build and build until I'm in full on defensive survival mode.

The brain isn't built to solve complex mathematical problems when there's a bear on your ass.

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