As I walked home tonight beneath the ambient glow of a setting sun, I pleaded inwardly for my beleaguered mind to just stop! For the better part of three days now, I have been held captive by the nefarious will of trauma. To be more exact—PTSD. My nose has held within it, the stench of the dead. For whatever reason, I am remembering that putrid smell at my most unsuspecting of moments.
Standing in line at the coffee shop, and in it floats. Sickeningly. I feel an instant desire to purge. But I can’t, I am next in line. I clench my lips and quietly excuse myself to the outside. Once there, at the behest of my rumbling stomach, I begin to heave. One gag, two gags, three. There, on the street, I tripod and hurl grunts of nausea towards the pavement… nothing comes out. Fearing that I look like a crazy person, I quickly jog from sight.
Now I’m in an alleyway. Alone and befuddled. Angry and lonesome. My eyes, daubed by tears. I want to cry, but the desire to shout stops me. Rage and sadness cancel one another. What am I to do…?
I reach for my peppermint Saje sniffer. I inhale deeply through cursed nares. I can feel the bite of its cool spice graze along the passageways of my airway. I recite to myself that this is not real. That it is not happening. That all I am doing is remembering the dead, not actively smelling them. It begins to work, and I am free to remove myself from the timeout of a darkened alley. I feel foreign to the world in this moment. Everyone around me looks so normal, so happy, even smiling. How? I don’t blame them… I envy them. Blissfully unaware. In the distance, I hear sirens. I am not sure if they are real or if they are mere echoes of a time that’s come and gone, traipsing through the halls of memory then trickling into my ears. Either way, I know where they’re going… to find the dead.
Once I reach home, things improve only in that I am now no longer a burden to the world around me. I am free to suffer in solitude. I do my best to utilize the tools and tips that I have collected while in therapy, but it is somewhat easier to speak of than it is to implement. Not impossible, just easier. I flee to my balcony. The ghostly chill of an approaching winter envelopes my skin. I force my eyes to stay open. Fearing that if I close them, not only will I smell the dead, but see them, too. I hate seeing their faces… especially the young ones.
I look along my street; naming 10 things I see. Then 5. Then three… until I am convinced that I am cemented into the present timeline of existence. The smell fades, the sirens dissipate but they do not disappear. I guess they were real… consequence of city life, I guess.
I fall back onto one of my patio chairs. The urge to cry returns. It hurts being this way… constantly alive within two places at once. The places I have been and the places I am. I take some respite in knowing that in this iteration of me, I am able to combat these things. Symptoms, I mean. Before, not so long ago, I did not do much combating but I did do a lot of drinking. Not the same thing. But I am sober now. Sad… horribly sad… but sober. And with having use of full faculty, I am able to implement healthier aids to what ails me. Naming this, smelling that, introspective colloquy… all combatants against the perfidious nature of PTSD.
As terrible as these moments are (and they are terrible), I am grateful that I am able to find my way back from the recesses of a haunted mind. This paves the way for hope—hope that one day I will be strong enough, skilled enough to prevent these things from coming on so strongly. I wish that day was now, but as a wise woman once said “one day at a time”.
I am unable to tell you why the sudden resurgence of symptoms… I wish I knew that for myself. All I know is: the dead have returned in memory, bringing their foul, odious aroma with them.
By the time you read this, I will have had 6-cups of coffee, 2-teas and a partridge in a pear tree. Okay… maybe not that last one. But the other two, yeah… lots. The bitters of a good or bad coffee help push away the taste that follows the smell, much like whiskey used to. The tea? Well… I like tea! I am British after all.
The stench has been quite obdurate over the course of today. Much to my dismay. And I have a choice: I can either get angry at it, rage against it, or accept that it is there and maneuver through the day knowing that this too shall pass. I’ve chosen the latter. Don’t get me wrong, I am angry. I won’t spin a fable as if I am not. I definitely am. I am just choosing not to drown in that irascible sea. Weathering the storm, you may say.
So, I started out by informing you of a setting sun. What I didn’t tell you, was just how beautiful it was. Like a single ember of flame, it just hovered above everything. Magnificently. Just as a lighthouse promulgates the promise of land, the glow of God or whoever it may be, promises light, warmth and the promise of tomorrow. Tomorrow being a new day. Perhaps one without the dead. When I was a drunk, every day felt the same. No lighthouses to be seen. No land for miles and miles. An abyss of rocky sea.
So what am I saying? I’m saying that I will talk to you tomorrow… because I am going to push through today!
I am sick, not weak. Injured, not broken. Sober… not drunk.
May the dead rest tomorrow, and may I live.
Be well, everyone.