The Darkness of PTSD

PTSD, short for post traumatic stress disorder, comes into a person’s life in a variety of forms. Every person on the planet has encountered someone with PTSD. Perhaps they have it themselves. It is very commonly associated with military, men and women alike. I cannot speak for others, I find myself getting annoyed with those who claim to understand what the military but have never served time in any of the branches of the military. Not many of us civilians have seen what our servicemen and women have seen, so what gives us the right to “understand” what they have experienced? I digress.

I can only speak of what has traumatized me in the short duration of my life and how I’ve learned to cope. I won’t even try to relate to those who have seen the fine art of war, the macabre of death, or the exclusiveness is killing. I simply cannot relate. In all situations, it’s a horror that defies description. Cannot. Be. Explained.

I have been abused. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically. I am NOT a victim of those circumstances nor will I allow myself to be victimized again. However, the trauma I experienced has helped me grow as a person. Each situation was different. Each situation left an impression that is unique and distinctive. They allow me to empathize with other women who have been through similar experiences. I chose to take my trauma and learn from it. It was an opportunity to grow and become stronger. Women are strong and resilient.

Every day, I struggle. You can’t see it. You can’t fathom what I’m thinking. You cannot understand the darkness I live in from time to time unless you have personally experienced it for yourself. Today’s struggle has me in darkness.

No, I’m not suicidal. Suicidal people don’t make future plans. Especially not with people they care about and love. I also do not have a plan for that shit.

It’s just a weird dark place where I can’t communicate what’s in my head. I just want to be held. No talking. No words. Someone just wrap their arms around me and let me be. I might cry. I might be stone-still in your arms. Please don’t tell me to suck it up. I’d never say that to you.

Psalm 23:4 – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Right now, I’m taking a short trip through that dark valley. I’m not reliving my past but rather, I’m feeling crowded by the darkness swirling in my brain. PTSD, for me, comes with residual darkness. It’s a jumble of negative emotions that rise to the surface of my being. The positivity I try to express on a daily basis can overwhelm me. I cannot be happy-go-lucky all the time. When the darkness emerges, I struggle to contain it. It’s not who I am. It’s not the real me.

Can I cry right now? Will you hold me while I cry? Please don’t tell me that it will be okay. Just be understanding and know that this happens on occasion. All I want to do is cry. Crying helps me. It’s very cleansing for me. Once I’ve shed tears, life resumes some semblance of normalcy. I can be me again.

Wait. I’ve never had anyone hold me while I’ve cried. Strange but true. Not even at a funeral. Sad but true. I wonder if my darkness would be less frequent and shorter-lived if someone did wrap their arms around me. I’ve had others cry on my shoulders. Yet, I’ve never done the same. Perhaps it’s part of my struggle in my darkness.

NaNoWriMo

Okay, folks!  It’s that time of year again where I indulge in self-torment, high quantities of caffeine, demonstrate my ability to not forage for food, and agonize over all the crap that has to be done before I can even sit down to write.

This is your warning.  Your only warning.

I may or may not be blogging at all for the wonderful month of November.  I’m pretty sure my stress levels will be determined by how I have failed to do laundry or dishes or clean the house.  Hopefully my boyfriend will get the hint.  Or not.  I can anticipate him providing me with provisions though, as Adele (or Queen) mourn their tales of woe through my iPhone while the clacking of the keyboard mounts a tempestuous tale of its own. Maybe I’ll include some BlackBriar, Sara Barielles, Ellie Goulding, or Eminem to proffer as the muse for my novel.

Sylvia Plath and Hemingway simply will not do as an audible.  But, by the end of November, I may find myself at the end of a rope.  Not to hang myself with but more as a cliffhanger in anticipation of my next novel.  The line is dangling and the fish are already biting.  I’ve had a few read the first few rough drafts of my current novel.  They are begging for more.  One of them even slapped me on the arm, wanting to know where the rest of it is.  I simply tapped my temple and said, “In here. Locked safely away until next time”.  She was mad at me.  Until I promised her the first signed copy.

She will be getting the very first signed copy.

I’m on the hunt for an editor.  Someone majoring in English Lit at a local college will suffice as long as there is the understanding that I can only pay in coffee or use of my culinary skills.

Yes, I have skills.  Guys like girls with skills.

The Life of a Retail Worker

As the holidays approach, do you think about the people who assist you in retail stores or even scan your items for purchase?  Working retail is a very thankless job.  It’s one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever worked.  There is no gratitude in it. When is the last time you said “thank you” and meant it to someone who helped you?

Although not everyone can be pleased, there are a handful who are satisfied with the service they’ve received.  At many stores and restaurants, have you noticed the website and code on your receipt?  It’s a survey. If you’ve ever had good service at an establishment, by all means, PLEASE fill that survey out!! Many jobs rely on providing wonderful customer service and by letting the company know about the service you’ve received can determine how the company can grow.

As much as I have protested against pronouncing my profession, I am a pharmacy technician.  I do my best to assist my patients (I prefer to call the people I help rather than customers) with excellent customer service.  I work at a very high volume establishment and often deal with cranky, albeit polite, patients.  I am the friendly voice that you hear on the phone.  I am the smile you see at the window or cash register.

I understand that you’re tired.  You may not be feeling well either.  I empathize with that.  I’ve had days where I’ve worked with one of the most intense migraines or perhaps a vicious bout of insomnia.  However, I don’t let that deter from my service.  I have no reason to treat anyone poorly.  I do no like making any patient wait for their medicine.  I may be having a horrible day but I want you to feel important.  You are important to me.  Why?  Because without you, I would not be able to feed my family or have a roof over my head.

I have encountered some of the most awful retail workers around.  I was polite but determined to change how the cashier treated me.  I’ve had many examples but what impacts me the most is how I can make a difference in someone else’s life.  I want you, as a customer, as a patient, to remember me when you come into my pharmacy.  I want to be the one who changes your day and makes it better.  It does not matter to me what kind of day I’m having.  Your day is just as important to me as mine is.

A couple of weeks ago, I was working the drop-off window and had to answer the phone.  My greeting is always the same:  “Thank you for calling your pharmacy, this is Mia.  How can I assist you today?”  On this particular day, a woman was on the other end.  Her first statement to me was, “Wow!  You are so friendly and I really like that.”  She then proceeded to tell me how her experience with my pharmacy has been so bad during this past year that she really didn’t want to get her medicine from us.  I was apologetic and asked how I could make her experience better.  Then, she said if my coworkers could be as kind as I am, then she would continue to come to my pharmacy.  I then proceeded to take her refill request and gave her a time to pick it up.  Unfortunately, I was at lunch when she picked up her medicine but she told the cashier that she enjoyed talking to me and hoped to see me next time.  What the woman didn’t know, was that I was stressed to the point that taking my medicine was useless.  I was so stressed, that I spent my breaks and lunch crying in my car.  She never knew that.  None of the patients I was waiting on knew what kind of day I was having.  Their day was much more important and if I can make them smile, it makes my day.

On the opposite scale, last week I received a phone call from a customer (she didn’t have any medicine to be ordered) who was looking for a particular OTC (over-the-counter) product.  I had a patient at the window and a few others in line.  I asked the woman to hold for a moment as I had to finish with the person in front of me, then I could go to the floor.  I finished with Mr. Smith, then informed the next patient that I would be right with them.  I went to the floor to find the product the customer wanted and memorized the pricing.  I resumed the phone call with the information the customer requested, let her know that there were a variety in stock along with the request that she come in to find which exact item she wanted.  She then told me that I wasted her time and I was totally worthless as a person.  I politely thanked her and told her to have a nice day.  Honestly, there is no point in being mean or rude, despite the desire to bite back when a customer is nasty.  The next patient at the window more than made up for what the mean lady said.  Yeah, she was a mean lady and I’m grateful that I don’t have to deal with her.

I did tell my manager that a customer said I was totally worthless.  I was laughing as was she.

It’s not every day that I get thanked for what I do.  At least not by patients or customers.  Think about it for a moment…  The cashier who is ringing up your purchases says nothing.  Not a single word.  Not to the customer before you (as you witnessed the transaction while you waited in line).  Not to the customer after you.  Not to you.  The cashier has their head down as they scan your items.  No eye contact.  No smile.  Just a simple “thank you” as they hand you your receipt.  I’m willing to bet it does not make you feel very good as a customer.  You most likely won’t return or keep your business to a minimum (if it’s the only store in town).

That cashier feels defeated.  At some point during his/her shift, a customer was mean, rude, and downright nasty to them.  The customer most likely complained about the products or services.  It is situations like this that make retail workers feel like they don’t matter.  We do matter.  We are just as valuable as you are.  It is the customers who make us feel like we are doing something worthwhile.  It is so simple, to make someone who works hard for what little they make, for them to feel as important as the customer.

Over the many years I’ve worked retail (in all capacities – cashier, manager, etc.), I have performed a social experiment.  While I’ve not kept track on paper of my study on humanity, I have come up with some helpful tips.  These tips or ideas if you prefer, will help you survive the upcoming holidays as you shop along with any other time you shop at a retail establishment.

  1.  Greet your cashier/assistant by their name.  It’s on their badge.  If the badge is flipped or missing, ask them their name. Saying their name makes them feel human, like a person.  Like more than just a retail worker.
  2. Ask them how their day is going.  They are will ask if you’ve found everything you needed but beat them to the punch and ask them about their day. They may respond with something as simple as “fine” or “good” or “busy”.
  3. Smile at them.  Even if you are struggling to find your smile after a long day at your job or your child is in the cart screaming because he/she didn’t get that toy they saw.  The cashier often will understand and provide you with sympathy about your day. (You will get the cashier that doesn’t understand what you have dealt with during their day but don’t let that stop you from coming back – you never know when I’ll be providing excellent customer service to you.)
  4. Thank them for their assistance.  A THANK YOU can change everything for a retail worker.  It sounds easy but sincerity in your “thank you” is the kindest thing you can give a retail worker.
  5. Do not hesitate to fill out a survey or tell a manager about the service you received, especially if your cashier/assistant was helpful.  Also, if they were not cordial, a manager that is not aware of the issue cannot rectify the situation.

Retail companies depend upon shoppers to stay in business.  I enjoy my job.  Particularly because I believe that something so small as a genuine smile can make a person feel better than any other type of medicine.

The holidays are coming, so please be kind to the person assisting you with your purchases!

Edit: Today, when I helped a patient in the drive-thru (there were two), I received this note when she returned the carrier:

This made my day (as the other patient yelled at me). I really appreciate this note.

What Is Love? Pt. 2

My boyfriend and I had the following conversation last night:

I’ve spent most of today thinking about what love means to me. I’ve come to believe love is circular in many ways. Think about it for a moment…

A wedding band is a never ending circle demonstrating the emotional bond between two people. Love is two hearts sharing a single beat. Does your heart skip a beat when you look at your significant other? Mine does. Perhaps it’s my heartbeat syncing with his as I fall in love.

Love can be symbolized in many ways. It is often seen in the form of a heart. When love, we’re supposed to love with all our heart, right? The symbolism of the heart equating to love began in the 15th century. It’s a great way to write love. Red roses also represent love.

For me, after much thought, love is more of a demonstration rather than the verbal or written word. My boyfriend shows me his love (maybe I shouldn’t use that word just yet in regards to him yet) by doing little things for me. He holds my hand when we walk through a store or at the movies. He holds me when I need to be held, without even saying a word. He came to see me this past weekend after the horrible week I had. I didn’t ask him to but he knew I needed to feel how much he genuinely cares for me.

He’s filled my gas tank on more than one occasion. That demonstrated so much of how he feels about me. Case in point – I drove nearly everywhere and my ex never once offered to pay for gas. Not even for the 45 minute one way drive to pick up his ex-stepdaughter. Sad.

Gifts from the heart are great for birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas but they don’t truly symbolize what love is. Material goods are not a replacement for real love.

Actions speak louder than words. The same goes for love. Anyone can say the words. They’re just words. Do they have meaning? Yes. When said at the right time and in the right context, those three little words have a powerful impact on its recipient.

Love is a very strong emotion. It is possible to love unconditionally. I mean more than just your child.

Love is the ability to give all of yourself, every fiber of your being to another person. It is the internal swelling of your heart when you look at him. It is in the way you kiss – kissing him like you miss him, even when he was simply in the next room. It’s resting your head on his shoulder and holding his hand while watching television.

It is communication. It is finding the words to lift each other up, especially during arguments. It is being supportive during hard times. It is finding the time to just be imperfect together. Nobody is perfect.

Love is a learning process.

It is the process of two hearts becoming one.

Suicide Note

I wouldn’t do it myself, but I understand the pain and courage it takes to commit suicide. In light of the two high-profile suicides this week, Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, I have pondered death and the lives left behind.

If I were to end my life, this would be my note to the world…

My dearest loved ones,

Since you are reading my final farewell, there are some things you should know. I loved you all to the best of my ability. I know that this note will not bring you understanding, closure, or comfort.

I tried to be strong. I tried to find the hope and good in my life. Unfortunately, my strength was gone and I let go of the rope.

Dad, Mama, and Mom, I know you loved me. You’ve showed it and I saw it everywhere. Sadly, I couldn’t feel it. It was if those feelings were blocked by an impenetrable steel wall. You reached out to me. I knew I could open up, be vulnerable, and express my inner thoughts without judgment. I never found the words to say what needed to be said. Just always remember me and hold me close to your heart.

To my brother, you’re not going to have the right words to explain to my nieces why I’m not here to watch them grow up. Perhaps the best way to explain it is to tell them I am their special angel and I am watching them grow from heaven. I love them very much but that love was not enough to keep me here.

To the rest of those I love, I’m sorry. Sorry that I wasn’t strong enough to continue breathing in this life. Sorry that I cannot give you the comfort you seek during this difficult time. Sorry that I’ve left a hole and an ache in your heart that will never heal.

Just know that behind the smile, the laughter, and the love, the pain is now completely gone. I’m free from the anguish of my earthly existence.

I love you.

Just remember me.”

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK

Or you can talk to me. I’m always listening.

Motherhood

One of my deepest heart’s desire is to be a mother.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” – Psalm 37:4

I’ve had two documented pregnancies. I lost the first at 10 weeks and was required to have a D&C. I was absolutely heartbroken. I fell into an abyss of depression. The doctor said I was young, there would be others, but I needed to let my body heal. The physical healing took about 8 weeks; the emotional healing took many years. I’m still not sure I’m over it.

After I was healed, I was ready to try again. My then husband refused to touch me for a year. That added to my depression. I later found out that he was terrified of becoming a father, despite his friends telling him that having children and becoming a father was the best thing that could ever happen to him.

I pushed to try again. To the point of attempting in-vitro fertilization. It was unsuccessful, as one can see. We didn’t have the means to try a second round. I could only sit back and watch my friends have babies.

We saw another doctor, who could not explain my lack of pregnancy or the infertility. I could explain it pretty well. Sex was so infrequent that there was zero chances of pregnancy. I kept a record. I can count on one hand how many times we had sex in the last year of our marriage. That’s painful to think about.

Shortly after we split, I was with someone new. It didn’t take long to figure out I was pregnant. I was scared to get attached to this pregnancy. A month afterwards, the day after Mother’s Day in 2015 to be more specific, I felt the tell-tale signs of a miscarriage. I walked into the back room, where my very pregnant (7 months) boss was working on some phone calls to clients. I was holding my stomach, trembling, as I told her I needed to go home.

“Why? You don’t look sick and I need you here,” she said.

“I’m pregnant and losing it,” was my reply.

She whipped around in the chair with a look of shock on her face.

“No way. You can’t be pregnant. What?!?”

I could feel the tears welling in my dark brown eyes. I choked them back.

“Yes, and I don’t want to do it here.”

She just stared at me, stunned. I decided I wasn’t going to wait for her permission. I punched out and left.

I went home to an empty apartment, grateful my roommate was gone. I sat on the toilet, feeling a very intense cramp. Laying on the toilet paper, was my baby. I was a few days shy of second trimester. I took a picture. I’m not posting it for personal reasons.

I laid in bed, wishing my roommate was home. I soaked my pillow, draining the pain of my heart from my eyes. When I woke up, I set off for the local urgent care. I wanted confirmation of my loss.

The doctor on duty confirmed I was about 12 weeks along. I left the clinic feeling empty and numb.

I haven’t been pregnant since. I keep telling myself that it’s okay, that life is good without being a mom. I love other children as if they are mine but in reality, it is different.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be a mom. I’m not getting any younger. I’ll never get to hear a heartbeat in my empty womb. I’ll never get to feel the baby’s first kick. I’ll never get to see the baby’s gender on a sonogram. I’ll never be able to choose between a VBAC or a cesarean, or an epidural or not. I won’t get to experience the pain of childbirth or the joy of holding my baby for the first time. I won’t get any of that.

Instead, I have resigned myself to sitting back and watching my friends have their babies.

I don’t think I’ll achieve my heart’s deepest desire.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

The hardest part is waiting and accepting my life without the chance of motherhood.

Not knowing if I will ever receive the desire of my heart, only fuels the never-ending ache. The festering, open hole in my heart.

He Sees Me

The darkness has turned to light

The cup of joy overflows into a river of happiness long overdue

Tides of a ripple effect, washes over my heart

He sees me

The whole of my heart, bathed in light

His care is for me alone, as I walk with trepidation for the new-founded love

He sees me

Unabridged, unedited, raw with hidden emotions and an unbridled yearning

My heart has waited, patiently, to feel the strength of a single beat in unison

He sees me, for all that I am

He sees me, for who I am and what I will become

He sees me