Sleepless on a Sunday night – part two

Sleepless

Sleepless (Photo credit: pittaya)

I got to sleep. at last… some six hours ago. And now I have been up for two hours. I hate it when this happens, and it does, from time to time. No matter taking my sleeping pills, relaxing, meditation, listening to the “Deep leep”-app. I think I’ve sort of taken over my husbands worries over missing the plane monday morning. So I am as anxious as he is, just that night of the week.

And then it starts, thinking about everything I should have done, the kitchen is a mess, I should have finished the house, because during the week I never have the time, I should have done an attempt at least in the garden. Should have should have should have. From there over to more depressing things, like I don’t really like it when he goes away for the whole week. Not every week. For once it would have been nice to spend more time together… I think we should have done something nice. I doesn’t really take more to ruin a night.

Day time thoughts are totally different. I’m going to need the day, to get awake and ok again, I guess.

I hate it when this happens.

Something in me believed

He started traveling. He got a job where he didn’t stay home for long at the time. I remember our housekeeper complained over him, leaving the kids, and that traveling for 150 days a year was never part of her plan.

For me, it was probably a lifesaver.

When I was eight, I got appendicitis. That day, we had been to town, shopping maybe, only her and I. When we got home she had made porridge. I can’t eat that. The consistence, the taste, the colour… She made me try, and I did. A bit. And started vomiting. Of course everybody thought I faked it. So it wasn’t until my fever got so high that I went in and out of consciousness, that she thought of contacting a doctor. I remember my sister was there too, she was worried.

Afterwards everybody was jealous of me, getting to go to hospital in a real ambulance. I hardly noticed. I was in so much pain, that I was sure I would die. And get to see my mother again. (She died just over a year before this happened). There should be a heaven for all dead people, I thought.

I stayed in hospital for a week, got presents, a barbie doll, and a Tarzan book. It had more than 200 pages, I read it all, and was proud. I hardly ate at hospital, the feeling of being sick sort of just stayed with me for the whole week. And the hospital smell. Only thing I would eat was bread and ham. I got bread and ham and white cheese. I never ate the cheese, I hid it under the mattress when nobody saw me.

He came home on the day I was released from hospital. He had bought me something. I don’t remember what it was.

Trying to explain a flashback

The mind is a strange thing. I’ve been a journalist at war for two short periods in the Balkans. I saw demonstrations, shootings, crazy elections. Once I was smuggled into a hospital where shot victims were held. I’ve signed papers leaving the UN without any responsibility for my life, for the reason of getting from one part of the Bosnia to another. I’ve travelled incognito, crossing every border there are on buses. The soldiers came collecting passports and valuables at gunpoint, I was lucky they never found my camera. I walked in the mountains in Montenegro, over borders, carrying thousands of Deutsch mark (only going value) glued to my thighs and body. Friends of mine died. I wanted to help.

It was an insane thing to do. Risky, crazy, stupid… I had children at home…

Those are things that people normally get PTSD from. Post traumatic stress disorder was long a diagnoses closely connected with war trauma and only that. The reason I mention my Balkan experiences. is that those experiences  haven’t led to these reactions for me. So there doesn’t have to be any obvious connections. Still, I live with PTSD or Complex PTSD.

When I wake up at night, (not from a bad dream), I re-live experiences from my childhood. I was sexually abused, neglected, and to some extent grew up alone. Some of this I remember. but many details are just blurry. I already told about some of the things I do remember. The ones I don’t are the ones that bothers me most. Those happenings are the ones that still gives me flashbacks. The others are stories from my childhood.

Together with my psychologist, I’ve sort of come to terms with the facts that these things really happened. I was abused. No one looked after me. I did spend too much time alone. I did (do) drugs to get out of it all and to get some sleep when it’s too hard.

I am not sure where I go from here, but that again is another thing.

I can never tell the story, when I have a flashback. Like a chronological;  first this happened, then this, and that, and after that he went away. I usually remember pain. Something over my throat, sometime I think it is a hand, or maybe a knee. I have a feeling I can’t breathe, (but I never died so obviously…)  I remember smells, tobacco, sweat. It is always dark. I hear him breathing. My body turns numb, every time. I can’t move. It is like the pain IS me, it’s the only feeling existing in the universe, and if I should move only my little finger, the pain would be 100 times worse. I know I am being raped. Because of the pain. But also from what is not inside the flashback, the blood, the intense scrubbing and washing, the vomiting, running away, after. Things I did that I clearly remember (but hate to talk about).

When the flashback doesn’t involve all that pain, it starts with fear, and pain comes after. I don’t know, maybe that is because I grew older, and these are memories from later in my childhood. I have a feeling I learnt to handle the numbness and the pain, and that the way of not feeling, sort of turning off pain, helped me.

The first time I had sex, I wasn’t “in” it at all. Besides the fear that wasn’t there, there was nothing.

It happens at night, usually. Some years ago I had flashbacks even during the day. I had specific triggers, I ever I saw hand sown leather shoes, with a special pattern, I’d just loose track of everything. I would get out from where I was, and not remember doing it. I recall once I was shopping, in a big shopping centre. Next thing I remember is that I was sitting outside, under the emergency stairway, shaking and crying. I’d left my groceries. I couldn’t remember why I had come there, and I looked for half an hour to find my car.

It’s been some years since that happened.

I don’t know what to do with these bad night-time flashbacks. These bundles of pain, that happened so long ago, and happens far too often now. Writing it down makes me sick.

I’ll leave it at that for now. Thought I could somehow keep a distance while explaining. Didn’t work…

PTSD- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, what is this, really?

PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after one or more events that result in a psychological trauma. Re-experience of the original traumas is one of the most common symptoms.

There is lots of information on this out there in cyberspace, not all of it good. My symptoms are quite awful. I have trouble falling asleep, almost every night, no matter how tired I am. I wake up with a feeling of terror in the middle of the night, not being able to dissociate from what I am feeling, from who and where I am at the instant that this is happening.
Many years this made me rush out of the house in the middle of the night, not being myself again until I had walked for at least 20 minutes. I used to have special places to “hide”. By the rocky seaside, where nobody could see me, I regained my breath and found my heart beating at a not so panicked pace.

The horrible memories coming up are not always the same. They change, and as there still are lots of stuff I really don’t remember, it is really scary. Many times I find it hard to relate to the things that happens “in my head” as I don’t remember. But I have learnt that the bad re-living of all these things have a reason. It is not something I make up. I can go on for days with only minimal sleep, 3-4 hours a night. After periods like these, I used to do drugs, desperate to get to sleep again. That’s a stupid thing to do… Turning life into even more chaos, and not being able to stop using again for maybe months. So then you have a circle going round and round with hardly any possibility to change or stop it. Now I haven’t used since October. Quite happy about that!

Another symptom is that I get really tired, worn out, maybe a bit indifferent or even moody. Being so on edge, scared and sleepless does that to people… But it is as if there is something more to it, the tiredness I mean. I am not just tired, I’m so fatigued that I think I can sleep for a week. If only I could fall asleep… I argue from time to time with my lovely therapist whether I am depressed or not. She thinks I am… I disagree:)

Sometimes I get terrified during daytime to. I haven’t identified all the triggers. It can be a smell, a noise, a very special pair of shoes, a feeling of not being able to get out. I am not afraid of flying, but whenever the plane door closes, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. Neither am I afraid of dentists, but the idea of lying in his chair not being able to get out, scares me. Kind of claustrophobic…

My PTSD is not related to one particular incident, as you can see. It is because of long-term abuse, and a childhood where there are few things I can really remember. Of my biggest problems are that some of these memories have no language. I have some images that is hard to describe, I have some smells, some feelings, strongest one is that I am dying. Being so terrified and not having the language to describe these non-verbal things going on inside me is tough! Specially because I work with language and words, as a journalist!

If PTSD has a colour, for me that is red. As in blood, dark red.