Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Ian suggested yesterday that it might be helpful for me to find someone who has actually been diagnosed with PTSD and see if some of the ways I feel occasionally could simply be symptoms of a psychological condition, brought about by living through extremely difficult times. It seems likely that I am dealing with a bit of this.

One of my doctors yesterday emailed to ask if I would be willing to talk to a patient who is about 16 months behind me in terms of disease and care (i.e. just diagnosed with breast cancer mets and about to start treatments), and of course I would be, but when I first read the letter a totally unexpected wave of vertigo passed over me and I was glad to be sitting down.

Also, I feel a bit like I can't stay still. In part, it really is simply the joy of being strong and healthy and able-bodied, but in part, I feel that, as long as I am in motion, I am safe. As long as I am producing, as long as I am exercising/cooking/creating/running errands/on the go, I am proving to myself that I'm not dying—that I am here to stay. But I need to keep going, to keep staying.

I knit a lot of caps for people, and this past year I've been sewing a lot of glitter bags—like, maybe 40 by now. And as I finish each one, I think okay, another person has something I've made. As with activity in general, I do enjoy sewing and knitting and creating. But I also recognize that, as long as I can do these things, I'm here, in this world, alive. And as long as I can give away these things that I've made, I'm here, in this world, in the hearts of people I know. Fatalistic? Definitely. Discomfiting? Undeniably. Reasonable? Definitely not. Understandable? Of course.

People who have lived through wars hear a car backfire down the block and dive for cover. I sit, hunched over a sewing machine for an hour guiding glitter vinyl with cramped hands, get a twinge in the muscle at the top of my head, and immediately have to convince myself it's not a tumor. Much of my day is spent in reassuring myself that all is as it should be, and that "as it should be" means I am well.

I have no reason, other than having lived through the last 16 months (added, I suppose, to the last ten years), to be worried about myself right now. But I am constantly in negotiations with myself, the one absolute exception being when I am on horseback. Then, I finally feel so completely, uncompromisingly alive that I no longer think about it. I just am.


patricia said...

Hey , when I read your blog it really helps me wade through some of the things in my life right now. Thanks for being so honest with your life. If need to make another hat I'd take one to keep we warm at the garden this winter!! Patricia

CMT said...

Patricia, you got it.