“The rain had been falling steadily all morning and now it had finally eased up. Puddles marked low points in the pavement beneath grey threatening skies…..”
Her heart began to thud in her chest, her hands shook ever so slightly and her fingers stopped finding the right keys. There was fear eating at her insides, threatening to spill outward. She pressed on regardless.
“The radio crackled, interrupting the conversation between she and her partner seated in the cab of the ambulance. “Medic 45, call for priority 4.” She sighed and smiled wryly at her partner, “What now? Someone doesn’t want to go to work today maybe.” She giggled at the thought but left it unspoken. It had become one of those mornings and it wasn’t even 10am yet.
“45, go ahead.” She responded into the mike……..”
Her heart thudded again, harder this time, sucking the breath out of her. She raised her head from where she was beginning to get lost in reverie and inhaled slowly and deeply, her fingers poised on home row waiting patiently for her to collect herself again. She could feel the threat of tears and she scolded herself harshly. “Stop it now. It’s been five years, you’ve written this once already. If you want the memoir published, this has to come out. This is the centre of this story – the start of the story.”
Her heart continued to pound. Her breathing continued shallow despite her efforts to deepen it. Finally she slammed the lid of the laptop. Each time she looked back to the keys she was afraid she’d look up and be back in the cab of that truck again, having never left; the day starting all over again. She knew that was a ridiculous thought, 5 years of counseling and it still felt possible – even though she knew better, the fear was still there. It was always the fear.
A tear rolled down her cheek. She wondered if she’d ever be able to get this story out. Even worse, she wondered if, by the time she could get the story out, anyone would want to read it, let alone publish it.
Her mind drifted. Crunch of gravel. A left turn. The feel of the steering wheel beneath her hands. A sewer grate draining water from the roadway. Red brick. A wall? Sign. Right turn. Driveway. Building. Lots of windows. Around back. Long parking lot. Another building. Blackish windows. Low parking rail. Speed bump.
She could feel her nose getting numb. She wasn’t breathing. Her forehead felt light, filled with air, like she was floating. An ice cream headache without the cold? It was hard to describe. Her eyes were staring, they felt stuck; it took conscious effort to move them. Her head moved as if in slow motion. Pressure just under her ribcage, where her ribs meet. Burning? Heavy? Pressure – that’s all. Tightness. Like a cramp. Her breath was so shallow it was hardly there.
Her eyes showed her the room. Flat screen TV on a long cabinet. Fish tank on the bookshelf. Fish swimming unaware of her. Paintings, wall, the words seemed lost. Foggy. Far away.
Her mind showed her other things. Man in a white shirt. Elevator doors opening onto a carpet. Carpet – gold, red, patterned. Hallway. It felt like a movie. Tunnel vision. Moving down the hall. Like a camera on her shoulder had captured it in every detail. People gathered around. Nosy. Door. Opens. Blonde hair. Perfume. Warm breath on her ear.
If you were to come across her at this point, you may or may not notice the look, that look in her eyes. The stare. She sat on the couch but she wasn’t there. She glanced as if in slow motion around the room, struggling to see the room around her. Her mind locked in a battle, as if divided in two and each fighting for control, for supremacy of her very presence.
She felt the pressure in her belly change. A low rumbling vibration. She was only becoming aware of the vibration when the noise came. It was a low growling. She snapped her jaws shut, shocked. Her heart sped up even more. Thud-thud-thud-thud-thud. The growl was hers, she was instantly ashamed. She knew what was happening, what was about to happen. She had to stop it. She forced her head to move faster, looked up to the ceiling. Eyes searching, desperate for conscious ability to suppress the automatic movie playing out in the background of her mind. Tears began to fall faster now. She craned her neck toward the ceiling, opened her mouth to do what she was taught to do – name the objects, colors. The sound issued forth. “Awwwwwwwrrrrrrrrrrrrr” She snapped her jaws shut again, clamping her hands to her mouth.
Her lungs sucked in air. Her legs began to curl in toward her, she inadvertently curled into a fetal position. She hissed through clenched teeth. Hssh-Hssh-Hssh. Her breathing hissed rapidly inward hardly exhaling but with every exhale came, “awwwrrrrr, rrrrrrrrrr” as she struggled to regain control of her vocal cords. Her hands were now on her head above her ears, as if trying to physically hold herself together.
Thoughts flew in and out of her consciousness rapidly. Talk. Words. Count. Look. See. Name. Then desperately a word struck her, Scratch. Her hands came from her head, found one another and as nails began to rake across skin creating long red welts, pain invaded her consciousness and drown out everything else.
Her lungs heaved, as if released from some confinement. Air rushed in filling them. Her nails continued to keep slow stroking painful pressure on her forearms. She became aware of how tight her muscles were, she consciously outstretched her legs, more pain. Her head was beginning to feel heavy. Normal heavy. Weight on her shoulders, her neck, like it’s supposed to be. She shook her head back and forth. Her eyes moved more easily around the room as though they too had been released from some sort of grip.
As her chest worked to bring precious oxygen to her body, she could feel every muscle begin to let go, release, get heavy, relax. She looked at the TV. “TV” She said to the room. Her vocal cords now fully under her control again. “Painting.” “Colors.” “Yellow. Red. Bright. Orange.” Her breathing began to normalize with each word.
She shook her head slightly. Raised her eyebrows, feeling the sensation of the stretch in her facial muscles. She opened her jaw and wiggled it. She closed her eyes and silently thanked God.
She looked back at the laptop. She gave it a sad frown.
“Not today. Someday.”
She sighed, stood up and went to get a cool cloth for the screaming welts on her forearms.
*****Author’s Note: I may not have completely captured it precisely, but this is what it feels like from a personal perspective to experience a “disruptive memory” caused by PTSD. It’s called a “trauma trigger event”. It happens when I try to write my personal story and anything that triggers reminders of the precipitating event. Just thought I’d share it with you. I manage when I can and write when I’m able. Hope you understand.*******