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.

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.

Falling

Wise men say, only fools rush in

But I can’t help, falling in love with you

That’s such a good song by Elvis Presley.

Are we foolish for falling in love with someone? What makes love foolish? Is love only a game for fools?

It’s easy to love someone. My friend K once said that I am a very easy person to love. Looking back on my life and relationship history, (sorry if I sound narcissistic here), I can see how someone could fall in love with me.

As I’ve gotten older and have experienced the hardships of life, falling in love hasn’t been easy. I’ve been more jaded and cynical about love. I can love someone I care about fairly easy but it’s a different kind of love. It’s a way for me to say “I care about you”, “I’m concerned about your wellbeing”, or “I want to know what is going on in your life”.

It’s not necessarily about romantic love and intimacy. It’s a way for me to draw closer to those I genuinely care about.

I’ve surrounded myself with an invisible wall over the last several years. My heart has been barricaded and I’ve not had a reason to take a sledgehammer to the bricks. It’s as if a cast-iron chastity cage has been erected and oxidized with no hope for rusty disintegration.

Love is a risk. I believe my walls have come down, brick by brick but the cage is still around my heart.

Am I a fool for falling? Or is it the wisest thing I could do for an amazing man who deserves my whole heart?

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.

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

Two Types of Men

Actually, I have three classifications for the male species – boys, guys, and men.

Oh little boys and their games! Very few males have integrity. Those who do, are definitely not in this category. Boys have an agenda. It may not be prevalent at first, but it does come out eventually.

C’mon, ladies… you all know the agenda I’m referring to.

The SEX agenda.

Boys, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure I like sex as much as Jenna Jameson. However, it’s not a priority. Relationships based upon sex never last. Been there, done that, cupcake. If you’re with someone but still looking around the forest, you’ve missed the rose.

I recently met someone on a social media platform. In order for someone to be real to me, I have to talk to you on the phone. Pictures mean nothing. I digress.

With this boy and our conversations, something was amiss. I questioned everything he said. He said he was in the military. His uniform didn’t look right. I had my friends who actually are in the service, verify the inaccuracies. I asked him to take a specific photo for me, at the suggestion of some police family members. He refused and his response was “I’m the man in this relationship. I don’t have to obey you.” No way. I will not allow anyone to talk to me like that. It’s very disrespectful!

I continued to talk to him because I wanted to find the truth in his bullshit.

I asked him repeatedly to call me. The excuses came. They were consistent excuses but lies nonetheless. According to the story, he dropped his phone and the microphone was broken. He needed $300 to fix it. He didn’t ask me for the money. I feel sorry for whomever he did ask. Yesterday, he called me through Facebook Messenger. That phone call was very short.

I have a very low tolerance for lies from boys.

He prefaced his call with “I have an accent. You know I’m not Caucasian, right?”

I’m sorry but if you’re born in the United States, especially if you say you’re from Nebraska, I expect you to have a midwestern accent.

The boy sounded black and from Africa! There was no way this was him:

If anyone who reads this knows who this picture really belongs to, please let me know! The person who sent me this picture isn’t the person who called me. HUGE DIFFERENCE!

My final, parting words to this boy were as follows:

1) you told me your dad was Mexican and your mom “American”. If you had been born in the States with that heritage, you would NEVER say someone is Caucasian. That person is “white”. 2) I asked you a few times not to call me “babe” or “baby”. You have continued to do so. 3) I have spent the last 20 years investigating military scammers.

Ok, so that last part about being an investigator I made up. I was pissed that he thought I was naive and gullible! I’m a woman. Women can smell that funk a mile away.

Now, onto Guys. The male species is placed here until they have been proven they belong in one of the other categories. We are most definitely friends in this conjunction.

Men… oh my! Men blow my mind! Real men, that is.

I went on a date Saturday night. I was floored. Sammy can tell you that’s hard to do and he’s never seen it in the 15+ years he’s known me.

He greeted me with a hug. He let me order in Spanish without making fun of me. He held the door open for me. He held my hand. We talked about so many things! Completely respectful! He did steal a kiss too. Okay, maybe a lot of kisses! I’m not complaining! It was one of the best nights I’ve had in over 10 years. There wasn’t even long stares at a cellphone. I was able to look into his eyes and see his smile for me. Everything about him was genuine and respectful. Nothing was off limits for conversation topics and we did talk about sex. It was not a priority conversation though.

I don’t keep secrets very well. My parents know everything. When I saw them after this date, I flat out said “I haven’t been on a date with a real man in a very long time.” They could see I was a bit shaken by that concept. Real men do still exist.

My heart was melting. The Ice Queen was thawing. I would love nothing more than to see him again.

I’m still in a state of awe. I have nothing but respect for men like him. There were no pretenses, pressure, or games. Raw honesty. No hidden agenda. Real men don’t waste time playing games. I was comfortable with him.

These are just my general opinions.

**Side note: I love our military. I support the military. It breaks my heart to see someone use the military as a cover for scamming innocent people. Our service members do something that many of us don’t even think about – they are willing to die for every American. I pray daily that God keeps the men and women of our Armed Forces safe and bring them home quickly. Love to you all!