At night when I’m alone and the world is asleep, the fear creeps in. It starts as a slow tightening in my chest. Sometimes, it feels like butterflies of anticipation but not the good kind. It creeps up my spine and into my brain. My thoughts swirl and my stomach churns. My heart races and my hands tremble.
I don’t know what I’m afraid of, exactly. I’m not really afraid of anything anymore when I really think about it. The worst has already happened. I logically understand that my brain is wired to be afraid, on alert, for any potential dangers. One of the many fun symptoms of severe PTSD. The dangers may not exist but the fear is real. The fear of nothing and of everything. Stupid brain.
When I’m alone with myself and my memories and my PTSD brain, the nights can be nearly unbearable. The loneliness and anxiety are huge gaping holes that, if I’m not careful, swallow me whole. When that happens, I usually don’t manage to crawl my way out until the sun comes up. Why is that? Why does the sun make any difference? It doesn’t change anything, really.
If I do manage to sleep, it’s the dreams that torture me. Oh, the dreams. The dreams where there’s anger and fear and crushing sadness and I wake up sweating and crying. Or the dreams where Bob is alive and it’s almost like he’s really here. I can hear him and touch him and see him and then I wake up and realize, all over again, that he’s dead.
The loneliness is the worst at night. The huge, empty king sized bed. The kisses I don’t get. The comfort of having someone to hold me when the nightmares get bad or the fear makes me shake. The security of knowing there’s someone there to protect me from any harm, even from myself. The needing someone to speak sense and logic to my out of control brain. Needing someone to help soothe my nerves and make me laugh. And nothing but silence echoing instead.
PTSD is a shitty companion. It lies and steals your peace and keeps you awake with a hurricane of bullshit thoughts and fear. I recognize when it’s happening. I even know why. I’d love to be able to stop it because I understand what’s going on but it doesn’t work that way.
Last night I was awake until after 4am. I finally fell asleep from sheer exhaustion and slept for 3 hours. I woke up sweating and shaking and crying. I don’t remember what I dreamed about but I could probably guess and be pretty close to the truth. They are all similar. I have so much to do today but I can hardly find the energy to wash my hair. Some days are like that. I am going to try to get things done. I may and I may not.
I’ve learned to give myself some grace. I do what I can. I have a brain injury, a soul injury, a life injury. A catastrophic one, at that. I’m healing and I know some parts never will. My brain doesn’t work like a normal brain. My body and nervous system are on constant overload. Science has proven how much energy it requires to live with profound grief. I do the best I can every day. Some days I conquer the world. Other days I don’t get out of my pajamas. Some days, I do a little of both.