17 January 2011

Back for yet another semester

It's the day before the semester starts, yet again.

It's also the day when 20 years ago, I was putting on chem warfare gear in the middle of the Desert.   It seems so long ago, and yet I can hear the SCUD alerts.  I still remember which way to run to get to the underground bunker.  Time isn't a time line for me.  There's not much difference between yesterday and today.  That's what PTSD ultimately does to you-- it causes you to lose where you are in time.

At this point, the last two semesters are in the past, where I cannot do anything about them.  One bad semester, followed by one pretty good semester.  I'm at least pointed in the right direction.

I've been a little isolated from campus over the break, even though I work on campus.  It's quiet around here when most of the students go home for winter break.  Those who left are back now, maybe sleeping and maybe not.  I enjoy the quiet during breaks.  There's a low hum on campus, since buildings are still partially occupied.  Most of the staff, and some of the faculty, are here over breaks.

I pretty much know the drill now.  I know which buildings all of my classes are in.  Two of them are in buildings that I've passed through, but never had a class in, so finding them will be part of the adventure tomorrow.  It's still hard to believe that this will be my third semester here, and that it starts for me at 1100 tomorrow.  I'm excited, and anxious, and a little scared.

Starting this semester, all of my meds are pretty much kicked in.  I take one pill (bupropion) in the morning, and again at 1500.  Then I take 1 1/2 sertraline, and usually four trazodone before bed.  I occasionally get headaches, and for those I take Extra Strength Excedrin (which is pretty good stuff).  I think that the combination of pills will make this semester even better.  Fall semester was validation that I could do well here (especially considering all of the rather desperate moments I had during that semester).

I've also been here long enough now that I know a fair number of people, many of whom I consider friends.  Outside of the veterans group here, I don't advertise that I'm a veteran--  most people here seek to blend in, and I've found that to be a good strategy.  Most of the people I know at work know I'm a vet, but it's generally not an issue.  I've worked with other younger students, and haven't had any problems either.  I fit in with twenty-somethings better than I fit in with my own age.

Still, though, I get anxious.  With all the meds, sometimes my hands shake to the point where if anyone's paying attention they have to notice.  I try to hide it when my hands are in earthquake mode.  I suspect that all of the meds somewhat enhance the effects of caffeine, aka my coping drug of choice.  I'm still gonna drink my coffee though.  Maybe not as much.  I have gotten better at removing myself from situations where I'm triggered; I suppose at some point it would be good to not have to avoid crowds and noisy places, but at this point heading down the hall and outside for a minute or two does the job.

It is possible to get through college with PTSD.  I have an associates degree and an improving GPA to prove it.  Tonight, I'm reminding myself that while it's not easy, ever, I'm getting a little better at this college stuff.  It's taken therapy, medication, disability support, and just plain determination.

Right now, though, I need to get some sleep.  Tomorrow's gonna be a long day.

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