Have you even been in a natural disaster? Many years ago I was in Fiji when Cyclone Kina hit. Fiji probably deserves its own post one day.....
Being in that situation is quite surreal. Every sense becomes heightened. Radio contact takes on a whole new importance, you listen for every warning and instruction. Everyone you see talks about it. You feel a breeze, you wonder if that's it, the first breath of what will become a very frightening wind. You see people battening down the hatches, literally hammering everything down. People strip trees, trying to minimise the debris that will be flying around everywhere. Cars driving everywhere, making everyone safe. Plans being announced, police everywhere, the army. You have a plan, to either stay put or to be evacuated, whilst everything is scary and uncertain, there is a calmness underpinning everything. Though there is danger, there is a place of safety. And then it hits. Chaos around you, noise like you wouldn't believe. You pray, you huddle, you hope like hell that everything will be ok. The noise is phenomenal, the sound is like nothing you have ever heard. Nature at its most terrifyingly awesome.
And then it stops. As quickly as it came it vanishes. In its wake are trees, houses, lives. And you work, alongside the community to put it all together. You look out for one another, you make meals, provide shelter, signpost people in the right direction, provide comfort and solace. A place of safety.
And life goes on, in a similar way as it did before.
Why am I telling you this? Because I am still on high alert. You see what happened to me when I was a child, it never went away. My brain stayed on high alert. Someone forgot to tell me to turn the cyclone warning system off. Smells, sounds, sights, tastes, touch, its all there, a highly tuned warning system. And, there are times when that system is appropriate, like when I knew I was getting pre eclampsia. And there are times when it is totally counterproductive and not helpful. And, when times are bad, there is no place of safety, no solace, no comfort. Just fear.
When Joseph was born the alert system went into overdrive, and it took counselling and heavy duty medication to turn it off. To me, that's post traumatic stress disorder. Yes, the nightmares, the flashbacks, the panic attacks are all part of that, but at its core is that feeling of imminent danger and being the only one who can do anything about it. Yes, when the PTSD is bad I turn into Bruce Willis.
It's back. The PTSD is back. I am on high alert again, waiting for trouble, this time not for Joseph, for me. I am scared of the dark again, scared of walking alone, fearful of other people, especially men. And I hate it. I hate this feeling, it isn't me. I am not a fearful person.
I am telling you, this has to stop now. I have to get this warning system back under control, I cannot continue to live like this. It's exhausting. Utterly draining. I am immensely grateful I don't seem to get depressed, but I can't live like danger is imminent all the time. It isn't healthy.
So next time you are wondering what the difference is between depression and PTSD is, this is it. I am not depressed. I am Bruce Willis.On high alert ready to fight the bad guy, on her own.
And I don't need to do that anymore, what I need is a place of safety.
Help me find it.