The Side of Sandi Seldom Seen …

I am awake, I am alive, and I am aware … aware that in many ways my life is quite different from the lives of those who know and love me. Sometimes because I am self-employed, sometimes because I work from home (although that is WAY more common these days) and sometimes it’s because I walk with a demon that I seldom acknowledge, struggle to ignore, yet wrestle with more times than I care to admit.

That demon … is PTSD.

I am not a soldier. I have never served in a combat zone in a war-torn country but for 10 years of my adult life my home was a combat zone. Always on the ready, I never knew when what I said or did would cross some imaginary line, putting me in harm’s way. The only thing I knew for sure was that it could happen at any time.

I’m thinking that’s why there is such joy for me in living alone. I have no expectations of me. Alone I can laugh at the things I forget to do, the things I misplace, or even the things I eff up. Not so if a male was close by.

This weekend it occurred to me how often I still dance with this demon (even though the worst of my days are far behind me, thanks to a great therapist and some determined effort). I now see how a sudden unexpected noise would startle others. But for me, a wave of panic overwhelms me as I wonder who is breaking in and how badly they are about to hurt me (sadly, I can have the same guttural reaction to the doorbell). The reaction is immediate, and it involves every cell in my body.

Cooking for a male, an irate male, trying something for the first time without instruction and in front of others, too much alcohol – there are many instances that bring my demon to life but this weekend yet another presented itself as I prepped to run some errands. (I can now see how my adult children must have thought me lazy or a pest, all the times I asked them to drop off this or that to me. How could they know why I was hesitant or unwilling to do it myself when I didn’t see it either? This weekend, I saw it.)

First errand, drop off recycling to the recycling depot on this side of town, not the recycling depot on the other side that I know inside out and backwards. (And yes, I contemplated driving across town to eliminate the fear.) This errand would involve me finding the street the depot was on, finding the depot itself, and finding the right bins, all without pissing someone off because that is where my mind goes …

If I drive too slowly, trying to find the street, I might make the guy driving the car behind me mad. (In my mind, it is always a man in the car behind me and they are always dangerous when angry well … just cuz.) If I park in the wrong place in the depot, or make someone else wait, again the anger.

But I was determined because you see, I decided a long time ago that my PTSD might make things harder for me to do, I might be more scared than others, but it was NOT going to stop me.

I cannot even describe the size of the smile on my face when I successfully dropped off my recycling without pissing anyone off. One done.

Next, drop off donations to donation centre. Did that one a million times before, so no biggie.

Next, drop off empty toner cartridges to be recycled and buy a new one, without pissing anyone off (sad how that is always the goal). Drove to the store, went inside only to discover that the recycling bins were not where they normally are. Decided to focus on finding new ink and worry about what to do about recycling later. I had a pic in my phone of my printer (helps me to make sure I buy the right ink). I couldn’t find it. I kept scrolling and scrolling. An attendant walked by then another.

“Don’t panic Sandi, take your time. If they ask if you need help, just tell them no. There is no rush. No one is waiting in the car getting frustrated, you are okay.”

I didn’t find the pic, but I remembered I had a bag of old toner cartridges for recycling hanging from my arm. I pulled one out and adjusted my glasses. Yes, there was the model number I needed and there was the new one I needed on the shelf! (Bonus – I turned around after grabbing the new toner and saw where the recycle centre had been moved too.)

And then, I went home. I did it, I did it alone. (Having someone with me allows me to focus on the conversation. Somehow, even if they are a child that couldn’t “save me” I feel safer.)

At home, I had my coffee and sat down to write this post. Tears welled in my eyes, the relief after the panic, and then the voice – “Good! You did it! Now lock the doors and be safe. No more foolishness for today.”

Such is my demon. I love my life and I am so blessed, but this guy still rides everywhere with me, and I pray one day … that I forget him somewhere in a shopping cart or on a street corner. I won’t miss him.

Today my friend, remember … you never know what someone is dealing with, even someone you think you know so please, just be kind.

I love you!