Reactions from the gut

It still stuns me how some things will hit me like a ton of bricks from out of left field. I’ve been thrown for a loop the last few days and have not been able to figure out why. It’s been a tough couple of weeks overall – another dip in the rollercoaster of grief – and I’ve been managing but these last 3 days have been a struggle again to even get through the days. Today being the cap off of all day in bed almost and more crying than I care to think about (and the ensuing headache as well).

I got into my car a few days ago and noticed that my drivers side mirror was gone. It either fell off or got knocked off and someone had placed it on my hood. An annoyance and an expense that is not welcome but really, not a big deal in the scope of things. More an inconvenience than anything else – but it’s so much more.

You see, 2 years ago in late November 2011, when Willie was in the hospital my side view mirror in the drivers side was also broken. Willie had just been admitted to the Adolescent Psychiatric Unit in Surrey Memorial and and the Port Mann Bridge was under construction. Anyone who lives in the lower mainland area will be able to appreciate the issue with trying to merge in and out of major traffic on a bridge under construction…freeway exits…dealing with the emotions of everything at the same time…to say it was stressful is an understatement.

The feeling in my gut when I went to check my side view mirror the other day as I was pulling out and saw that blank space where it should have been was like a punch. It knocked the wind out of me and made my head spin. Flashbacks, dizziness, sweating, seeing black and splotchy in my vision….all from one seemingly tiny thing. I went from managing my emotions and functional to a disaster and barely able to see straight in about 30 seconds flat. I have done more driving in the last few days than I normally do and that feeling hits everytime I look over and instinctively look for the mirror as I check to merge or change lanes. It’s lessening, but still there.

Skyping with my youngest son last night and he’s going on and on about Thanksgiving Dinner with his Dad and I’m sad but doing ok. Sad that another “tradition” is lost; turkey dinners and everyone sitting around enjoying it is gone. For 22 years I cooked a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year that all changed. Now, I remember and miss it.

So the conversation with my son is going along and we’re chit chatting and everything is “normal”. He mentions the pumpkin pie he had for dessert (and breakfast) and suddenly, out of nothing, the tears come up. Like a sneeze – uncontrollable and unstoppable – the tears fall and I gasp to stop myself from sobbing. We’re on video with each other and the light is low enough that he can’t see me trying to get myself under control. Something so little as a mention of a pie and the flashbacks and pain rears up. And why? A little thing… Willie loved pumpkin pie. It was, hands down, the main reason he enjoyed Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. He could care less about turkey and all the sides… it was the pumpkin pie or tarts – with the whipped cream – that he loved. It’s not something I thought of or was swelling on… it was in the memories though and that one comment drove it forward in an instant.

That, my friends who don’t understand grieving and especially ptsd, is how it happens. It not a conscious thought; it’s not a directed “I’m going to think of this and be sad”; it’s a guttural and instinctive and subconscious response – out of my control or direction. What I can control is my reaction to these triggers… and I’m working on it. But understand that I have no way of predicting what or when these things “hit me”. I can’t “not react” to that initial slam. It’s like telling someone who’s been sucker punched that they shouldn’t have gotten knocked down. You can get back up again and shake it off and tend your wounds – that’s the best you can do. That’s what I’m doing.

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