Thursday, 28 June 2012
The Horror Film that Never Ends
PTSD pops up in the oddest places eh?
I mean, I've got simple ones after my recent hospital stay - Mum's dying in books and on film aren't doing me any favours at all. You'd be astonished how often this seemingly rare narrative pops up. It's happened to me 5 times so far. A voice starts to scream in my head "YOU NEARLY DIED YOU NEARLY DIED YOU NEARLY DIED" I do actually mean that it screams. It shouts with an urgency as though the subtext might be "AREN'T YOU LISTENING YOU STUPID BITCH - YOU NEARLY DIED - THAT WOMAN LYING THERE COULD HAVE BEEN YOU, THEY COULD BE YOUR KIDS CRYING AND LOST" I can barely hear what people are saying to me over it. I shake, my hands go clammy. Physically I find I've scrunched into myself, like a little, defensive ball.
But then there are weird ones. The smell of the treats I bought in hospital. You know in a sci-fi film where the actors get sucked backwards into some kind of vortex at a speed only achieved through cgi? Well that's what flashbacks are like for me. I smell the lovely body mist and I am there, sucked back into a starched linen bed, frightened and hurt.
Weirder still is the spicy parsnip soup. The first thing that I was allowed to eat after surgery that rebelled urgently from the confines of my stomach, reappearing with spicy petulance for an hour or two. I saw a tin in the supermarket last week and bile rushed into my mouth, my heart raced, and I found myself looking for the door, to run away - run and run and run and run until the images faded. If only running were an option.
I picked up a pillowcase to put in the wash, forgetting it was the one I took as comfort in hospital. It reeked of antiseptic, sweat, pain and liquid feed. I gagged, threw it urgently away from my face, found myself shaking my head in an odd twitch, up and to the right. I realised I was trying to make a no-longer-present feeding tube comfortable. Whirling images of vomiting chemical waste, sweating so much the sheets were drenched, the tube bruising the back of my throat from the constant gagging so I can no longer swallow.
This morning, I have to see a doctor. Not my doctor; the old, paternalistic partner at the surgery. I can't tell you the details of why this will be an incredible difficult and awkward consultation, but believe me, I may as well be there to persuade him to give Dr Shipman another chance. I'm shaking and small. In my mind, I'm a little girl, lost and scared, every scenario is running through my head like the chatter of a thousand crickets. The strong, eloquent, witty me is gone, replaced by the worst kind of me. A doubtful me, a stuttering, whining, pleading me.
Recovery is not just about scars healing. Not the ones you can see, anyway.