Tag Archives: PTSD

Undulations Ahead

17 May

Yesterday I worked late. Yesterday I was joyful with the people I encountered, who encountered me. Yesterday I thought I would be OK today. Yesterday I was wrong. I awoke this morning, May 17, 2017 and was instantly hit with the flashbacks to this day four years prior. The day I lost my son. Being hit with flashbacks is not a new occurrence; they come often. The difference in today is that the mere fact of the date takes me down. If I use a fighter’s analogy, I am quick on my feet and able to dodge the hits, normally. And then today’s date comes around and I am laid flat–it is the one swift blow. Back to the drawing board of training, but first I must make it out of my bed.

Today I struggled to eat. The struggle is result of knowledge battling feeling. I know my body needs nourishment. I know if I don’t eat a migraine will be triggered. I know these things. And yet I feel only sorrow and somehow it tricks my body into believing it’s nourished. I feel the headache and yet the flowing tears beg more attention than the aching in the cranial region. I avowed all day long to get my self out of bed and take a shower, brush my teeth, get something done. In bed I remain, even as I type.

Flashbacks don’t always give fair warning; they sometimes hit out of nowhere and command the fierce attention of reverting back to the scene of the pain. So many moments to revert to. Too painful to even write them down, even just the slightest. It is the dodge of the hit that compels me forward. I cannot handle the pain (quasi nod to Carly Simon here), I cannot live in its presence. This just might be me; others might have a different method or capability. But mine is the inability to dwell in the place of remembrances—can’t do it and live. Hence my stay in bed today, my swollen eyes and my bad breath (courtesy the omission of tooth brushing in bed). *my apologies to those who sat with me in my bedchamber today, the odoriferous scene was not a pleasant one.

At least this date gives a fair warning of its coming, much like the signs I read as a kid in my Aunt’s Sacramento neighborhood, “Warning, Undulations Ahead” – the word undulation has since intrigued me, what a beautiful word. Did you ever consider the letter “u” could be so fancy? I just love it! That there, folks, is my best attempt at getting up. Dodge the hit and counter attack with a distracting nonsensical statement. You see the sun is setting and I am looking into the eyes of tomorrow, when I will again get up and resume the fight. So though at present it seems the referee will make the count to “three” alongside my repose, I am actually still in the game and so I must shakily forge ahead—undulations and all.

I hate today. I hate this story that is mine. But tomorrow I will love, and joy again I will find.

Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Hebrews 12:12-13

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Warning Signs

7 Sep

When I was a young girl I would often travel with my cousin, aunt and uncle to their cabin on Echo Lake in Northern California. On the winding mountain road there were signs posted that read, “Watch for Falling Rock.” At the time my uncle quelled the inquiries of us two little girls with the following story:

Falling Rock is a little Indian boy who was lost from his tribe. His father put these signs up so people would keep a look out for the young boy in hopes of finding him. So keep your eyes open for little Falling Rock and let me know if you see him.

Needless to say, my cousin and I would keep our eyes glued to the great horizon, through the boundary of trees and cliff sides, through each pane of glass afforded in the Jeep Wagoneer, in hopes of reuniting the little Indian boy to his family. Of course upon our arrival to the cabin the distractions of fun took precedence to the road sign call. However, the search would continue for the duration of the ride down the mountain and would commence again the next trip up.

Here’s the thing, I honestly believed my uncle’s story up until I was in my nineteenth year. At this point I don’t remember where I was headed, but I do remember it was somewhere in Southern California (not northern) and I was in the driver’s seat. I also remember that I was alone at the time for when I passed the “Watch For Falling Rock” sign and had the epiphany that it is actually a roadside warning sign due to the potentiality of loose rocks falling from the cliffs and not anything to do with a little Indian boy, I had to ingest the knowledge of my gullibility and my uncle’s cunning tactics alone. I remember feeling duped, enlightened and dumb all at once.  I remember I was also relieved. Finally I could let go of the concern, genuine concern, I had stored up within me for this little lad–his non-existence lifted the native American plight. And for the first time I interpreted the “Watch For Falling Rock” sign as its placement intended, a warning to driver’s that rocks may fall onto the road.

Warning signs along the way of life are helpful. The yellow road signs are “suggestions” and meant to assist the traveler’s path. And so we become accustomed to looking out for these markers and almost expect they will keep us from dangerous terrain. So is true for emotional warning signs–or so I thought.

In my previous post I shared that this summer I have been purposeful in negating grief’s call. And had you asked me a week ago, I would have felt somewhat successful in the endeavor. But this past week I was tagged, caught in the whirlwind of sorrow and was thrown back into the throngs of pain as if I had never left. It truly was akin to a PTSD experience. Though we (the Bent 3) have not had the formality of the diagnosis (you can imagine that staying out of the doctor’s office is more the goal than in!), even so signs and symptoms have been present since May 17, 2013. Veterans know. In fact we’ve had a few seasoned military men and women ask us (respectively) “what are you doing about YOUR PTSD?” My answer is usually the same, “I’m smoking and drinking and doing drugs,” an answer I borrow from the wit of my deceased son–dry sarcasm at its finest! Of course I am not doing any of those things, my penchant for health has been marking my actions for almost three decades now. But I did get tripped off this past week, Wednesday to be precise, and it came without warning. Where’s Falling Rock when you need him?!

I was at work, a place I am usually disconnected from my personal loss for the work pace is such that one doesn’t really have the time to dwell upon self. It was an “all staff” gathering in which the entirety of the 2 hour block was devoted to rolling out our new health benefits plan. I arrived to the location in normal form, coffee in hand and laptop ready for note taking, but I was also eager to learn more about the new change–I had high hopes of finally being able to afford health coverage for Brian and Esther. So it came as a surprise to me when at about 30 minutes into the presentation my heart began racing and my vision was blurring to the point I couldn’t read the informational paperwork. I began to get nauseous and a headache was creeping in. I left the building to head to the bathroom and get some fresh air, but it didn’t help much. As I tried to stick it out it felt more and more difficult to focus and actually breathe. I had to excuse myself, pack up and leave–if I was going to loose my lunch I wanted to be home sooner than later!

Back at my office to gather my things I contemplated the symptoms upon me and began to point the finger toward my tuna sandwich I ate for lunch. It seemed the most viable culprit due to the fact I purchased it from the 7-11 convenient store.  I thought I was most likely experiencing food poisoning given how quickly the affliction hit. Thankfully my niece was at work with me that day and was available to be the appointed driver. In haste we hit the road in hopes that I could keep my tuna from swimming back up for the duration of the hour long ride home. But as our voyage north inched ever closer to Miramar National Cemetery where Cole is buried (a landmark I pass by twice daily, Monday through Friday), I knew this was not the flu nor was I poisoned by fish. As the guttural cries could be contained no more I realized the topic of healthcare and health insurance was cause for my angst.

I spent the rest of the day in my bed crying. I remained in this condition throughout most of the night. I awoke on Thursday and could not pull myself together enough to make it into work, which thankfully my boss understood. I had been tripped off. For me it was a strange experience for I usually can see the signs coming. The thoughts of Cole in my head and the pangs within my soul typically provide fair warning that I am moving toward unstable ground. The difference with this situation is that the physicality of symptoms hit first and I honestly thought I was coming down with the flu or having a bad reaction to something I ate. My son had PTSD and I learned a lot about it at result, which is how I also recognized the symptoms within the Bent 3 upon our loss. But this being “tripped off” was a new aspect for me, personally, and a bit alarming if I am to be completely transparent. I didn’t like that my body was responding to something my mind hadn’t caught up with yet. A panic attack without knowing yet that panic is present. It is strange indeed.

During my son’s two years of struggle post surgery we, collectively, hurt for those veterans who lacked the advantage of an advocate. I was honored to assist Cole and he was grateful to have my voice in his corner. And I have not forgotten those Vets still lingering without assistance. I somehow need to find a way to navigate topics that trigger adverse physical and emotional responses. I do hope to one day be able to advocate for veterans and active military, in honor of Cole and his own soft-spot for helping others, his own understanding of how much red-tape exists for military men and women, young and old, in need of health care. Cole’s story is layers-full and rich with injustices from all sides: US Marine Corps, Army Medical Centers, Department of the Navy and Veterans Affairs. And sadly, his story is everyone’s story, is the majority of circumstances and reform is most definitely needed.

So here I am, trying to gain ground in healing in order to have access to strength for the impending task at hand. I know the call to action is inching ever closer, I can feel it. Most likely as life has proved, I won’t be ready but provisions will be there. Opportunity will call me out before I seek it. And the broken heart I carry will come with me, not hindering but guiding, reminding me of my own vulnerabilities and need of grace.

Without warning we live daily, though not without help.

Psalm 23

LOST; and in search of my inner Lesley Gore

12 Feb

Have you ever been lost?  Truly in a spot of unrecognized territory?  I have.  Once, while vacationing on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.  I took my husband and two children on an adventure we will never forget.  I am an avid hiker, at least the Rivka I am most familiar with, I can say, is an avid hiker.  So to an unfamiliar trail I took my family, the call of true adventure my thrill.  We began our trek to the hidden waterfall with somewhat of a visible trail to guide our way.  And though at many times we were unsure if our chosen steps were leading us in the direction we hoped to go, we were offered a smidgen of hope from a random passerby to assure us our desired destination did, in fact, exist.  So while we had a successful venture to the pool of water I had longed to see, our hike back to safety took a wrong turn.  The rain began to fall…and fall, and fall.  And with it, the trails were completely washed away.  Banana palm trees lay fallen in the mud.   Our once familiar markers were sailing down the, now flowing, creek leaving us truly lost and in a place of unrecognizable territory.  Gone were the one or two previous people who kept us on course.  Gone was solid ground, only slippery mud and a husband/father with a guitar (because every hiker totes a musical instrument, right?), a wife/mother with a bit of fear lurking inside her, an optimistic boy, and a little girl who promptly spilled the rationed trail mix as if paying homage to the ritualistic offerings from the island’s past.  In that moment, flip-flop bedecked, we the Bent family were considering how it might feel to sleep in jungle-like surroundings with no food or water left for sustenance.  Yet plenty of rain and who knows what else!  We obviously made it out, thanks to the guitar and the little boy.  No questions please.

Well, here I am again.  Lost.

Where is Rivka?  An honest to goodness question circling within my soul.  Hello…anybody home?

Oh the logistics of my whereabouts are accounted for, but the “me” I am so familiar with seems to be missing.  I am not depressed.  I know what that looks and feels like.  I am not oppressed, I have been there too.  I am simply too pooped to come out to play.  Every day for the past three weeks I have awoke in the morning and begun my search.  Or I lie awake through the night unable to properly sleep, thus getting a jump start on my quest.  I am looking for my Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows.  I am hoping for the feelings of “everything that’s wonderful is how I feel when we’re together” to return into my view again.  You know, my Lesley Gore!

Yes I have been lost before.  However, I have never before been in a predicament of unfamiliarity as result of too much pressure.  I have been blue, I have been burdened, I have been overwhelmed, and I have been tired.  But being in a place of enduring the weight of too many difficult circumstances culminating simultaneously equating to a pressurized intensity unbearable to my body, mind, and soul, is new terrain.

Unable to speak.  Unable to write.  Unable to muster up the energy for thought.  Pressurized, and thus, vaporized.

I began to formulate an ‘SOS’ type text to send out to my girlfriends who I figured could handle a cry for help.  But even that weight felt too heavy to lift; end result, delete.  Prayer.  Ah, the Heavenward thoughts which unite the human spirit with the spirit of One.  Key word in previous sentence being, “thoughts”…mine are bankrupt.  Fill in the blanks.

As I sit here in my living room writing, post a three week hiatus, my husband enters into the room to inform me our plumbing has backed up yet again.  We have a root ball blocking our sewage flow.  Tomorrow the dig will begin, at least I will know where to find me…on another path leading toward shit.  I think I’ve written about that in the past.  Sorry, the color brown seems to suit me.  And a statement like that does echo the voice of depression, I apologize.  I am merely utilizing my literary license to invoke the melodramatic.  Truly, sewage problems I can handle…I know how to squat over a bag covered bucket!

Sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows…the search continues.  “Lesley, are you out there?!”

P.s. It is a good sign that I was able to formulate a post.  Cheers to that!  Now may you please enjoy the song, and remember it’s that time of year again when the baby king hides out in a cake.  😉

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