I have heard all my life, people claim to be suffering from some form or other of PTSD from some type of life event. I always poo pooed their claims, they’re be being too sensitive, suck it up and get on with your life. I could accept it as a result of combat or horrific traffic accident but as a result of getting fired, really?
I was privileged to again be shown how simplistic my views sometimes are. It is time to accept that this is a world filled with complexity, that the human condition is one of nuance and mystery. I would like to think that it doesn’t apply to me, it does. I would like to think that I can use my intellect and simply think my way out of this, I can’t. In fact, I believe that the empathy I feel, the sensitivity that is such a significant part of the way I make my way through the world has made it worse for me. All this is to say that I have been living a firsthand experience in what PTSD is really like.
I came to the coffee shop this morning in a really good mood, enjoyed a meaningful conversation on poetry with a friend that is a writer. I sat down to write a blog or a poem or a list of subjects I would like to address in a slam poetry venue. I’m not sure exactly where I would have ended up if the phone hadn’t rung, but it did.
Looking at the screen as it rang, a cold chill ran down my spine, the call is from my lawyer. I have had his name on my list of people to call for at least a week. Each time it would rise to the top I would find other things I needed to add ahead of him. I knew perfectly well that I was avoiding the emotional upset that would accompany our conversation, but try as I might I simply could not force myself to make the call………….It was time to face it, I answered.
At the first hello it all came rushing back, I’m in the manager’s office and I’ve been terminated. The feeling that a bucket of ice water had been poured over my head, a bucket that in fact had no bottom to it. The absolutely paralyzing fear, the shortness of breath as my mind struggled to accept that this was actually happening. The total disbelief that somehow I deserved to be treated this way. I relive the humiliation again and again as I beg for my job. The cold unfeeling response thrown back across the desk along with a sheaf of papers to sign.
The realization that after almost four years of trying to figure out who I was and charting a course to become that person, everything had been swept away in an instant. I had dealt with a divorce, the sale of my home, moving, the loss of a great many of my friends and now this.
All this took place in the moment after I had answered the phone with a shaky hello. The call lasted only a few moments. I answered a few questions about my agreement with the timeline and a status update and it was over, but it wasn’t over, it was only the beginning.
Now, the aftermath, my mind was free to swing into full blown over reaction mode. First I need tears, no good meltdown is worth its weight without a lot of tears. Then start the loop, over and over. That film will play again and again, all day and almost certainly part of the night.
OK, Ms. Therapist I surrender, it’s time to come up with a new plan, because it’s obvious I still have a lot to learn.