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31 October 2011

No, I don't sleep. Much.

I've been watching, or let's say following, the news more and more lately. Some days it seems like the country is tearing itself apart. Demonstrations, riot police, arrests. The economy is in the shitter, and someone keeps flushing. Society is being divided into those who have, and then everyone else. The everyone else, or at least the ones in tents, want to spread the wealth from the few to the many. It's a noble effort, I suppose. It's a bit anxiety inducing, too. I've read enough history about populations that got tired of the way the people in charge were doing things, and decided to do something about it, that I fear something very large and very bad will happen in the (possibly near) future. I expect that it'll be war.

There are plenty of opportunities in the world. If something happens, I don't know who the warring parties will be. My little voice says something will happen.

Good God, I hope I'm wrong.

One of the questions on many PTSD related questionnaires is "Do you feel that somehow your future will be cut short?" And lately, I've been answering "Extremely."

I had this same feeling of dread right before I enlisted, back in 1987. I felt certain there would be a major war in the middle east, and certain that I'd somehow be involved. Yes, I worried about that. It was more a worry of when, rather than a worry of if it would happen. It was that little voice inside my head. One night, standing on the roof of a villa in the outskirts of Riyadh, I heard that voice chuckle lightly, and say "See? Told ya so." Since then I've learned to trust that little voice, those hunches, those feelings. That little voice is my brain looking for the worst possible outcome, and preparing for it.

That's one of the things PTSD does to a person. It makes you always aware, always looking around, always evaluating what's going on and trying to map out a conclusion. In junior high school, when my parents were splitting up and there was the implied threat that I'd be locked up in a psych ward, I thought about running away. I had it all worked out. What I'd need to take, where I'd need to go, where I'd try to ultimately end up.

The same thing happened when I was married, when I fully realized that there was an end in sight. I spent  a lot of time thinking about what I was going to do to keep myself alive. I actually had to implement some of those ideas. For extra money I sold the books my ex had left to Half Price Books. I was also working, but $7.25/hr doesn't buy much, even when you're working 40 hours/week. For several months, I had $25/week to spend on food. Ramen, mac and cheese, hot dogs, pork and beans, cheapest brands available. I knew how to be thrifty anyway, but I mastered the art during that winter and spring. Had the bank foreclosed when they said they would, I was completely prepared to live out of my car.

I've spent the first few hours today looking at pictures from World War II. The Atlantic has a 20-part series of photos that's fascinating, and it hooked me and wouldn't let go-- while looking at some of those photos, I could picture my city, bombed and flattened. It's bad enough when you remember what actually happened to you. Worse is when your brain makes up shit that might happen to you. I've been thinking about what I'd do, where I'd go, how I'd survive.

What I have not been thinking about is the amount of classwork and studying I need to get done. I'm behind anyway, and this weekend would have been a perfect time to get some of that done. It's not that I don't want to think about it, because I actually want to get caught up. It's that my brain is so engaged with preparing for the worst, which may never actually happen, that there's nothing left to deal with the present.

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I've been asked, "How do you come back to the present when you're dealing with flashbacks?" For me, it's when I yawn and feel tired, exhausted, used up. That's how I know it's over, for now. That's where I am right now, I'm tired. So I'm going to go to bed, and hope the dreams aren't bad, and try again when I wake up.



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