Somewhere around this time, I began to get closer to a woman who I had been friends with for a while. We used to hang out now and again, but somehow this seemed to happen more often. And I really liked her. She had a lot of qualities that I enjoyed. I felt good around her. And we had both become single recently.
I was feeling pretty confident. This time it was going to be alright. I felt that signals were passing between us, and I began to think of her more. One day she passed by, I cooked something, she bought some wine. There seemed to be something in the air.
We talked about meeting again or even making a trip together some day in the future. She was off travelling for a few weeks, so there would be a short break. But things felt good between us. A little tense – but good.
Then, something really bizarre happened.
Just an or so hour after she left my place, I started to freeze.
I could feel it happen. The warm feeling turned into abject terror inside me. I tried to calm myself down, to stop this happening, but I could do nothing. I could feel myself losing touch with myself, and no words I said to myself, nothing I could do, would change that. My feeling of confidence was gone, replaced by blind panic.
Over the next few weeks, I went through a kind of internal misery. I lost all sense of myself, and started to obsess. I needed to keep cool, but it was gone, and I couldn’t get it back. And I knew where this was going.
Of course, things didn’t work out. We met again a few weeks later, but she smelt my fear the way women can. Although I did, a little clumsily, make my feelings clear at a certain point, the moment had passed and I got a kind, polite rejection. A while later she met someone else and they got together. We, or I, tried to talk about it once or twice, but it was awkward. (In the end we did stay friends, I’m happy to say.)
That was pretty painful, and I had a very tough few months. I was very angry and frustrated. What might or might not have happened between us is not the point. I wanted to find out for myself. I wanted to find out myself where things were with us – but my trauma left me dead in the water.
That unstoppable, cold slide into inner terror was pure Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It took me a long time to figure out what triggered it, and I came to the conclusion that it was her eyes. Perhaps somehow she triggered a deep, buried memory of my mother’s eyes. Or maybe it was simply the fact that there did seem to be some kind of connection between us, that I felt a kind of trust in her. I don’t know for sure, and it doesn’t matter so much.
What does seem to have helped is my realisation that this was PTSD, and recalling it in a kind of slow motion. This gave me something to backtrack with, a kind of emotional hook to recognise in myself. I could see how the growing intimacy triggered this reaction in myself.
PTSD is generally associated with soldiers, or people who have suffered other kinds of terrifying events – but it is just as logical that an abandoned baby would have it. Screaming for the return of your mother until the moment when you give up and lie there in broken silence is certainly traumatic.
There is a lot of information online about PTSD. The NHS lists some of the symptoms as:
- angry outbursts
- sleep problems
- difficulty concentrating
These are all things that I have suffered from. There are various treatments available – EMDR is one that I have tried. This involves using eye movements to break the train of thought as the patient recalls the traumatic event. The problem is, however, that I cannot directly recall the event.
But once again – I find myself grateful for more information about what exactly is going on. Sleep difficulties cause a lot of problems if they are persist. Knowing what causes them helps me to find ways to stop them becoming chronic. I will say more about this later.
And, although this experience was painful – I must say that somehow my internal state of mind has improved since. Somehow, something very deep rooted and painful was – well, not removed, because it is not possible to change the past – but perhaps exposed, examined and transformed is a better description.
So, that’s my story of how I eventually got to observe my own PTSD in slow motion. But what happens after that? Once we realise the source of our own trauma, what next? That’s what the next article is about.