05 May 2010

A day in the life, stuck in the sand

As many of my posts are, so is this one-- I need to study, but I'm stuck.  Writing often helps me identify why and where I became stuck, and that's often half the battle.

Today started at about 0200 this morning, when I went to bed.  I still don't like to sleep.  It's not the sleeping that I don't like, it's the dreams that happen while I'm asleep.  I am trying to convince me that my dreams sleeping are no worse than my daydreams, but I'm not always sure that that's true.  (I have really odd, really disturbing dreams sometimes.  They're not nightmares, or maybe they are.  They're just effed up.)

As usual, alarm clock at 0705.  The power in my apartment went out at around 0615, because my clock radio was flashing 1245 when my eyes opened.  I set my phone's alarm just in case, and today that turned out to be a good idea.  Maybe being a little paranoid is good sometimes.  Anyway- out of bed, shower, get dressed, run for the bus.  I've discovered that I can leave my shoes untied when I leave my apartment, and get to the bus stop a minute earlier.  (Whatever works, ya know?)

On the bus-- full, as usual.  I carry about 35 pounds of books and laptop, which ends up on my lap when the bus is full.  It's not comfortable being on a full bus, it's a little disorienting and a lot closed in feeling.  It's not like I'm going to get up and walk around, but I usually feel a little crammed in.  When the bus is full, it's usually a few minutes behind by the time I get to school.

That means I have to walk a little faster to my morning coffee place, and it's later so they're busier and the line is longer.  The line for coffee is in the lobby of an apartment building, so people are trying (some nicely, some not) to squeeze through the line so they can get out and off to class.  The guy in line ahead of me has to order a caramel-machiatto-blended-takes-ten-minutes-to-make-ccino, which requires that the barista invent a new manufacturing/preparing process.  Dude, I just want a refill of medium blend, leave room for cream, k?  Gotta go.

Get to class, barely on time.  Prof is already starting to talk, so find a seat and set the backpack down, turn off Pandora, set coffee down, desk unfolded, notebook out, pen moving when it hits the page.  Start taking notes.  Fifteen minutes later, dude strolls in looking for an empty seat.  He bypasses three open aisle seats and insists on sitting in my row.  Stop writing, lose train of thought, flip desk up, grab notebook, move coffee cup, stand up, glare at late guy.  Finally sit back down, get notebook, pen, and coffee resituated, scramble to catch up on notes.  Eventually get caught up.  Fifteen minute late guy boots up his laptop (volume all the way up, of course).  Digs in his backpack and pulls out several envelopes, which require being ripped open with as much noise as possible while talking to friend on the other side about why he's getting bounced check notices in the mail.  (Your checkbook is fubar because you show up fifteen minutes late for your math class, hoser.)

Class continues.  Now I've gone beyond hurried and stressed, and hit the triggered level-- the lecture hall is full of desks that creak, desktops that make noise, people coughing, sneezing, typing, talking, and generally making lots of noise.  I'm trying to keep up with the notes and maybe take something away from the lecture, but now I can't concentrate because I'm triggered and every little noise that someone makes just makes it worse, and so I'm fighting with myself to take the best notes possible for the rest of the class.

Class done.  Off to study, have an assignment due this afternoon.  Stop for breakfast in the union, which is usually a quiet place in the morning, except for one worker lady who yells to everyone and talks to herself.  She wants to stop by my table to talk.  I don't want to talk, I want to eat my breakfast in peace and quiet.  Go away.  I don't hate you, but please go away. 

Hang out at student veterans' office for a while, work on homework.  Trouble concentrating, trouble focusing, but I manage to get the assignment done, and manage to feel a little better for doing so.  Head to my next class, stop for lunch on the way at cafe in the same building as my class.  Watch the clock tick closer to my class as guy ahead of my in line counts out pennies to make exact change.  (Dude-- plastic.)  Whip out my student ID with meal plan, one swipe and I'm through the register and opening up my sandwich.

Make it to this class on time; first part of the class is group presentations.  My group presented on Monday, so we be chillin'.  Groups had about 20 different topics to pick from, we all picked the same one, so now we're hearing the same presentation as we all already gave.  Again.  They're all finally done, so TA gets to lecture.  She brought her four year old to class (!!!), who is now bored because Mom's not paying attention (because she's trying to lecture).  This class, I usually don't have any triggering issues.  Today-- okay, look.  You're wasting my time with material we've already covered twice, and your kid doesn't understand quiet, and you don't understand that you're not doing your job if you bring your kid and he keeps you from teaching anything useful.

Class over, back to the student vets' office, where I still am.  Haven't got much accomplished, still have an assignment due tomorrow and finals starting Sunday morning.

I'm telling you about all of this so that you know, and I can remind myself, that the problem with PTSD is this-- stuff that most people deal with, without a second thought, builds up over the course of a day.  It's not the same stress that everyone else feels, it's different.  You touch a hot stove, your finger starts to burn, you pull it away, and that's that.  These little triggers throughout the course of a day stack together like legos until you've got a pretty tall stack.

So, when it's 1930 and you haven't been able to get shit done since you got to the office at 1530, the reason isn't that you're stupid, or that you don't want to get anything done.  It's because your brain, once it gets into that triggered mode, stays there and it's difficult to get it to switch gears.  It takes time to learn how to deal with and neutralize each of the triggers you deal with. 

It's hard to do.  I'm still figuring it out, and I'm not there yet.
Being stuck on studying is exactly like being stuck in the sand. 


  1. I'm exhausted for you! My husband has the exact same issues. We were on post Tuesday, he was getting fitted for a dress uniform he needs for a trip to DC next week. People measuring him, asking questions, turn around... hold your arm like this... try on another jacket... try on this shirt... what patches do you need? Then there were soldiers interrupting to ask the assistant questions about the new dress blues. Holy hell he was exhausted, emotionally drained and stressed to the max when we were done.

  2. The hard part is that once it starts, it's a snowball rolling down the mountain-- you can see it rolling downhill, but you can't stop it until it comes to a stop at the bottom of the hill (or, runs into a tree).

    Good to know it's not just me. ;)


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