PTSD: My personal Boogeyman
I wrote this the other night. Trigger warning: Detailed descriptions of abuse. This is the closest I’ve ever come to describing what a PTSD episode feels like.
The whiny, rushing sound of my ceiling fan on medium speed taunts me as I lay in bed, preparing for sleep. The typical speed is Low, so low any lower is Off, but I’m tired of waking up sweaty and gross, the only way to remove the feeling: a hot shower.
‘Tis nights like these when old thoughts and memories resurface, threatening my dreams: my mom coming home with shopping bags full of items and a cheap-looking plastic-and-metal square chest of nail polish she spent my hundred-dollar bill from Papa Ben on because she thought I’d like it more than saving it, me realising she’d spent the rest of it on junk; her husband taking me to school when I was in the ninth grade, making me late by first going to Sonic for a stupid Route 44 sweet tea in the hustle and bustle of the morning, then worsening the tardiness by telling me how he’d wanted to adopt me; my mother and her husband asking me, when I was in middle school, if I wanted another middle name and saying I could have one if I changed my surname to his, but dismissing me when I requested to change my first name and mocking my desired nickname, “Liz(zy)”, by saying people would call me “Lezzy” and asking me if I really wanted to be associated with that; me standing in the back of his truck and yelling at him, fighting over how I didn’t want to pick up my sister’s dirty diaper, the smell and sogginess worsened by the rain before meeting the heat of the sun, with my bare hands; the previous memory then triggering another: how he made my brother and I clean out the back of his truck like this—time after time—as he stood there acting like he was doing all the work, and my going back to the house and being guilted for wanting to move in with my dad, who I imagined would treat me better.
These pockets of memories come quickly, like the epiphany of what awaited me at the peak of the hill on the Titan, one of the tallest roller coasters in the world: quick, but like pouring honey into a measuring cup for a recipe. They’re painfully bittersweet, inspiring the angelic coats—my saving grace, the more pleasant memories which I once used to hang onto for dear life. They protected me then, but now I ache to relive them—to hug my maternal siblings, to relish in the medically-induced love my mother provided, to believe her love was real and selfless.
Then, I awake. Disappointment floods my brain, reminding me of the time I almost drowned in the Lone Star Lagoon and concluding with a flashback of the time I almost fell out of the cart on the log ride at SeaWorld as we went down, splashing into the water: my mom grabbed me protectively—as if everything was going to be okay if I only survived it, as if living and overcoming this almost accident meant things would be different, as if she truly feared losing me and the idea alone was truly a nightmare she’d do everything in her power to prevent from happening.
My mind is playing tricks on me. It’s February. Ten years ago, I was on the old farm. I wanted to move in with Mimi. I was in tenth grade, but had been removed for homeschool. My mom didn’t let me send in my completed assignments.
They were upset I wouldn’t go home with them.
“I’m gonna count to ten. If you’re not in the car by then, I’m gonna grab you by the hair and drag you out there, face against the concrete. I don’t care.”
There, next to him, my mother sat: unfazed, like he’d just apologised. I started crying; Mimi returned to the living room She threatened to call my uncle. They had to go.
I remember it so vividly; when he’d said it, I imagined my face dragging against the concrete: bloody, ugly from patches of skin robbed by the ground so unapologetically.
I close my eyes; there I am: a teenager betrayed by the hope of trust and safety in her guardians, dehumanised by their sadistic mindset that children should always fear their parents.
A few days prior to this post was the anniversary of that night a decade ago, feeling more like yesterday than my twenty-fifth birthday.