Sunday, June 27, 2010

Measured Breaths

I'm lying in bed trying to slow my breathing down. I'm trying desperately to stop myself from hyperventilating but controlled, even breaths just aren't coming. Tears roll down my cheek, unnoticed, as I focus more and more of my energies on taking in air deep into my lungs. Images flood my mind on fast forward and as each scene clicks past my consciousness my breathing quickens. Each in and out is like a knife in my chest. My heart races and I ball my hands into fists pressed against my eyes.

I want to call Quiet Confidence to talk me down, but I'm not sure I can speak on the phone. I don't want to call at 2am only to have him hear sobbing and my out of control breathing. Even larger than my desire to hear his voice is the fear that he won't pick up. The thought of reaching out and discovering that he's not available is terrifying. It is untested territory. It is easier to go it alone than call and have it confirmed that I really am alone.

Mr. Intellectual was full of unfulfilled promises and an inability to be supportive of me and it has forever tainted me. I remember the nights when I was suicidal and desperate calling out for help and he would refuse to come see me. He didn't even want to talk to me on the phone and his indifference to my pain pushed me further into the darkness. I remember the way it made me feel and how I lost respect and love for him over his behaviour. After we broke up I never wanted to feel like that with another person, especially someone I love.

That is why I lay at 2 am concentrating on the in and out of my breath while abhorrent images scream through my minds eye. It is easier to hear the next day that I should have called than to call in the moment and find myself listening to an answering machine instead of a real person.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

In Season

Sweet Cherries are now in season on the farm. It has been really nice to walk out to the field in the early evening for some fresh cherries straight off the tree.

I like the quiet and seeing the progress made in the orchard. It is a world apart from what I do during the day and reminds me of my roots.

Empty ladders, left by the trees to be picked tomorrow.

I like to contemplate my work as I walk through the rows of trees. Or just think about life and how I'm feeling. It is a good time to check in with myself emotionally and work through things that are bothering me.

Cherries that didn't make the grade for market are dumped on the ground to be worked under.

The farm is a great place for some quiet contemplation. It also brings me back in touch with the rhythm of the seasons. If you live in Ontario now is the time to look for fresh, local sweet cherries at your farmer's market or grocery store. However, beware that what you're looking at might be cherries from Washington state, not Ontario - so read those signs carefully, or ask questions.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More Than A Hug

I close my eyes and let the sensations wash over me. The feel of your arms as they wrap around me and draw me in close. The smell of your shirt as I burrow my face into your chest, looking for that sweet spot somewhere between your shoulder and your neck; where my head fits perfectly into your body. I inhale deeply and feel myself slowly relaxing, the tension leaving my body. I cling to you for several moments, drawing strength from your calm assurance, from the solid mass of your frame. I feel safe and loved.

This is the moment I think about when I'm making the long drive to your place. It is the moment I dream about when we're apart during the week. It is the moment when my fears recede into the background. It is the moment when I can just be.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Everyday Life with PTSD

There are some things in life that time can not diminish. I'm finding that Post-Traumatic Stress is one of these things. I've spent a lot of time and energy over the past year or so working on my triggers, learning to feel safe and to trust again. There are however, moments when try as I might it comes crashing in on me. It happens in ways and circumstances that I just can't predict and work towards overcoming.

Yesterday I received a Canada Post notice in my mailbox. For the normal person this is a small matter of curiousity and possibly excitement. Who doesn't like getting mail? Instead I started to feel anxious and panicky. I wasn't expecting any packages- I hadn't ordered anything recently. A closer inspection of the notice indicated that it wasn't a package at all that I was supposed to pick up, but instead a letter. This set off more alarm bells and general waves of anxiety.

Instead of thinking logically about what the letter could be I immediately jumped into wild speculations of something from my stalker or something to do with him. I couldn't help myself. I felt sick to my stomach and refused to face my fears straight on by picking it up that afternoon. Instead I waited to talk to Quiet Confidence that evening before I decided what I was going to do. After talking me down a bit and reassuring me it was fine I agreed t0 go the next day to pick it up. If it was a plain envelope that didn't give me any clues of its origin I'd wait to open it until later when I would be at QC's house. It seemed like a rational, sane plan but I was still really worried. I spent a while that night fretting over the letter and what the hell the stalker could possibly want from me after all this time. Fear is a real and powerful emotion.

This morning over breakfast it came to me in a flash of insight what was waiting for me at the Post Office. I had gone in about a week ago to apply for a passport and it was supposed to be mailed to me after processing. I was told it wouldn't be ready before the end of the month so I had completely forgotten about it. Once I realized what was going on I started to tear up in frustration.

This summer is the 5 year mark of when the whole stalking nightmare began. I had hoped that after 5 years I wouldn't be bothered by it all, and the PTSD would be just a distant memory. It frustrates me that it still crops up. I'm beginning to think it will always be a part of me, even if it is only in the occasional relapse or situational episode. I hate that the unexpected sends me into a tailspin. I hate that I can't handle surprises. I hate that I can't answer the phone if it's not a number I recognize. After 5 years I still hold my breath for a second before I open up my email. There are some days when it makes me uncomfortable to go outside the house in public, so I hide out at home with the doors locked. I know that this is not a normal way to live.

Despite all of this I think I've made a lot of progress in the past year. I can generally recognize when I'm heading into trouble and take steps to alleviate the symptoms of my PTSD. Instead of being in the throws of an episode for weeks on end I can generally keep it confined to a couple of hours if I'm lucky or a few days if I'm not. It helps a lot that Quiet Confidence knows about it all and can sometimes tell if it's PTSD or something else bothering me. Having a supportive and understanding partner has helped me to build the safety net I need to function as normally as possible. I just wish I could handle being surprised a little bit better than I currently do.