i know.

For D. I know. I really, really know.

*

I call Brooke down for dinner. She answers. I can’t make out the words but the tension in her voice is unmistakable.

“Honey,” I call up the steps again, “It’s time to come down. Dinner’s ready.”

“NOOOOOOOO!” she yells in response. There is no rebellion in the word. Instead, there is urgency, anxiety, fear, pain.

“I’m looking for my ballet tights!” she yells. “I’m doing ballet.”

“OK, baby,” I say. My voice is trembling. “It’s OK.”

I’ve been here before. Right on this very spot. At the bottom of these stairs. Helpless. The ballet tights were slippers that day, but the steps were these steps, the wall against my back was that very wall right there.

This moment has just become that one.

I want to scream. I want to run. I can do neither. I sit on the bottom step, not because I want to stay here, but because I can’t go anywhere else.

The air is devoid of oxygen.

I can’t breathe.

Brooke comes down the stairs, now fully dressed for the ballet. She is a vision in pink – leotard, tights, tutu and shoes. I try to hide the tears that roll down my cheeks unbidden.

I steal a hug as she makes her way to the kitchen. She lets me hold her for the briefest moment, but I have her body only. Before I can say anything to her, she’s already gone.

I try to gather the pieces of myself from the steps. I wipe my face and take a deep breath before I follow her into the kitchen for dinner.

Luau is standing at the counter. He looks up. He looks at me, then at Brooke in her ballerina outfit, then back to me. He heard the whole exchange.

PTSD moment?” he asks. The question is casual. It sounds no different than, “Something to drink with dinner?” It simply is.

I nod. I lean into him and duck my head into his chest. But not too close. I prop myself up on my elbows, keeping us just far enough apart to keep me whole. The distance between us is the duct tape that holds me together; if I surrender – if I get too close, I risk melting into a puddle in the middle of my kitchen. I have to stay whole.

Brooke is circling the table, alternately humming and squealing. She’s OK.

This moment was not the same as the first.

I know now.

It’s all different now.

And yet.

As I dry the last of the tears, I am reminded.

It simply is.

*

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26 thoughts on “i know.

  1. I read the words “we’ve been here before” and thought, “PTSD.” While there is satisfaction that it was different – better? – this time, the body still fights and readies for flight.

    Except that there’s nowhere to go.

    You are loved.

  2. Jess, the more we talk about the really hard moments, in detail, and explore them, the less power they have over us. Part of why parenting our kids is so hard is that we don’t talk about the hard heart stopping moments. If we did, those memories would lose their power to take over. Sit down with Luau tonight and talk about the original memory, with every detail you can remember. I know you probably already have but do it again. Keep doing it every day, until it becomes a memory in the past and not a moment that can control you. The more you talk about it, the less difficult it will be. It also really helps to write these memories out and read them back to ourselves.
    Totally unsolicited advice, i know and I apologize, but this works, It really does. There seems to be so many of us parents out there right now trapped in our memories that we need to be proactive about it and help ourselves through this.
    Big hug.

    • oh honey, no need to apologize. hell, i preach here all the time, nothing wrong with a little ‘doctor heal thyself’ :) .. i have written about this one extensively, so i’ve got that part covered, but talking through it might be different. thanks for the hug (and the advice).

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. My brother has severe ASD and my son has a more mild form. One of the hardest things with my son is when he does things that give me flashback moments. He will rip a tiny bit off a book and I flash back to my brother destroying our board games. I’ll chase my son in the library and be reminded of my mom doing the same thing with my brother, always following him, not able to talk to her friends…I have to shake off a fear that wants to grip me. I am constantly making a conscious effort to remember that my son’s experiences are in some ways familiar, but different and never as bad as it was growing up. Thank you for reminding me that I’m not just a “weak” person.

    • that’s a lot to carry, deb. i can only imagine how the memories impact the present. and no, those moments don’t make you weak, they make you human.

  4. I am struck by something (well, several things) here:
    Luau is there for you. He knew, without even asking. That’s so huge that you have him, this blog, this community, and best – the awareness of what you’re going through when you’re going through it. You surround yourself with people who understand.
    For the past few years, I thought I was crazy when I’d have a nameless attack. Now, I know that it’s PTSD, borne of years of worry, rejection, melt-downs, and The Great Unknown, which, I think, is at the heart of it for all of us.

    It gets better. Promise.

    • without this community, i never would have known. without carrie and tanya sounding the alarm bells two years ago, without the conversation at the table, without rachel and mary and you saying me too, i never would have known.

      as much as we don our capes and play superheroes every day, we are still human. and ya know what? that’s ok.

      love you.

  5. I know too (for different reasons as you know), how the past can suddenly come crashing into the present like one of those huge ocean waves that takes you by surprise, knocks you off your feet, goes up your nose and tosses you around what seems like forever. I was so touched by the moment in your post when Luau asked, “PTSD moment?” It was like a hand reaching into the wave and grabbing yours, to help you stand back up.

    • when we give ourselves permission to say it out loud, to share it with those who care about us, to say, ‘this is where i am’, we allow them to reach through the waves.

      xo

  6. Thank you. You give voice to my experiences, and I find that enormously liberating.
    I am so glad you have such a good support system.

  7. Jess – it just completely rips me apart that you are still carrying that moment from so long ago. I know I cannot find any words to take it away but I really wish I could. It is a long, complicated process but I pray your heart will some day catch up to your head. Love and hugs to you and every other reader who is suffering from PTSD. I am raising you all up today. And Tanya – that this post from Jess as being written for you so you really do something about it. Peace to all.

  8. *deep Breath* I know too…for us it’s not Ballet shoes or tights, its a cherished stuffed animal, a well loved, to the point it has NO stuffing left, lion, affectionately named “Rico the Lion Dog”, but the PTSD moments…..leave me gasping for air. You are not alone Jess, and thanks to you, so many of us know we are not alone either. HUGS, and Thank you for that!

    • not in my group, though i do hear a fair amount of talk about the need for care for the care-givers in general. one of the biggest issues in that arena is the desperate need for respite care.

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