Another Day in the PTSD Life

I had to go back to the hospital last week, the hospital where we lost our baby. Only this time it was to sit with my mom while my dad had some tests done. I guess I had been back once before, for the 2-week post MC check-up with my doctor, but this time it was eerily similar to that dreadful April day. The skies were cloudy and gray like they were early on that Sunday morning where we sped down the highway and through the side streets. Only this time, there was a damp chill from the winter wind whipping through me. Only this time, I just wanted to throw up, not curl up and wither away. And while I wanted to be there to support my parents, I dreaded it for fear of the emotions and memories it would bring back. It made me realize how many triggers and reminders surround me every day. Some of them are obvious like this, and others randomly hit me.

There’s the bathroom stall at work. It was probably about 3 or 4 weeks after the loss that I was back at work — at least physically. I was still bleeding, but on this particular day, it was as if someone had flipped a switch to full throttle. And as I stood up in my office, I felt a gush that panicked me both for fear of what the f*ck was going on, and how the hell am I going to make it to the bathroom?!? After grabbing a coat to wrap around me and the quickest tight-legged run I’ve ever done in my life through a student-filled hallway, I made it to the bathroom, but not without the casualty of soaked jeans and a mess on the floor of the bathroom stall. To this day, each time I go into that bathroom, I’m reminded of that horrible time, even for a brief moment.

The Great Chicago Blizzard of 2011

The Great Chicago Blizzard of 2011 (my poor car!)

There was watching the news coverage of the anniversary of last year’s Chicago blizzard. You see, I was still pregnant at that point, and the night of the big storm, I started bleeding again. And in spite of a call to the doctor, it wasn’t like we could go anywhere because of the snow. In fact, while I was on the late-night call with the doc, Double A was outside with neighbors trying to help a Chicago cop whose car was stuck on our street. The next morning, our neighbors were out in full force, digging out the back parking lot and cars. And inside I sat, feeling bad for not being able to help and wondering what was going on with my body, with our baby. Of course when we were able to get to the doc, the ultrasound showed a strong heartbeat and dancing baby and things were “fine.” Seeing the news footage from a year ago brought me right back to that time, the feelings of panic and then those of hope and relief that we felt. Little did I know that was just the start of the roller coaster ride.

Then there was Super Bowl, er, Big Game. You see, every year, Double A and I have a party where the focus is just as much on the food (I make a damn good chili, if I do say so myself) and commercials, as it is the game itself. At last year’s party, we were early into the pregnancy and none of our friends knew. I remember not wanting to let people in on our big secret, and walking around holding a beer bottle or having one near me for the illusion that it was mine. And it worked. So this year as we started making preparations for Chili Bowl 2012, I was reminded of last year and our little secret and the happiness we felt at the time. This may explain why I went WAY overboard on cooking, making chili, chicken wings, hummus, bean dip and cream cheese and salsa wraps (note to self: next year buy everything but the chili).

The worst one of all though, is our bedroom. For it was in our bed that I was feeling pains that I thought were bad gas, but were actually contractions. It was from our bed that I got up, where my water broke, messing the bedroom carpet as I hurried to the bathroom yelling to Double A to call the doctor. And while the mess on the carpet is long cleaned up and gone, I sometimes wake up and relive the entire morning over and over again. Especially on Sunday mornings, a day and time I used to love. There are times where I think we should move and get away from the reminders and memories. But I love our home, and part of me thinks that would be just running away from it, not solving it (only part of me though…).

I’m sure there are other memory triggers that I’m leaving out, and that there are more lurking right around the corner. It is almost like a game, where I damn well better be playing good defense. So the challenge is, what to do when that PTSD strikes? For me, I mostly turn to music (Wilco’s Either Way is a good one, even if I don’t believe everything has its plan), or if possible, exercise or cooking (which probably doesn’t always help my body). Sometimes I just cry, or try to talk about it, or now, write about it. And other times, I try to bury it deep and force myself to not think about it and focus elsewhere. The truth is, that works for a little while, but it always creeps back up. It’s made me realize that while I don’t like to be in that space, sometimes I need to just be (which is ridiculously hard for me to “be” without thinking or judging). To feel what I’m feeling and only then be able to move forward.

I’m sure there are many other ways to handle this, and so my question to you is, how do you deal with PTSD? What advice or tips would you give other women and men dealing with the mental aftermath of miscarriage? We are a community, and just remember your one tip may be just the thing someone else needed.

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13 thoughts on “Another Day in the PTSD Life

  1. You deserve better than this. You are a good, kind, caring person.

    I have been crying over something only for three months, not over a year; and I do not know what else you have to cope with. Something shifted in me only on Wednesday when I cried on yet another woman’s shoulder, and after, she said healing words. So, with some temerity, I am trying the same with you. From thousands of miles away, I wish you well. You sound lovely. You also sound strong- you are having difficulty because it has been so painful, but you will recover. You may move forward in the time you need to heal. Human beings heal. That is what we do.

  2. I’m sorry that there are so many triggers. But you should be proud that you were able to be there for your parents when they needed you. That took a lot of strength.

    There’s this push from the world to move on after a loss. The thing is, sometimes that push makes everything worse. We become focused on how we should be feeling better, so we add guilt on top of our grief.

    I hope that as time goes on, your triggers become less. In the meantime, please be kind to yourself. You’ve been through more grief than most people experience in a lifetime.

  3. Wow. This post brought back many memories for me. Most of my PTS occured the summer after we lost our little girl. I remember it hitting and I just couldn’t breathe right. There really isn’t any rhyme or reason as to when or where it hits. Triggers come at the most inopportune times or during those quiet ones where you think you are “ok”.

    What helped me a lot was having a place to go. When I found myself lost in those moments of panic I knew that if I needed to or wanted to I could go and talk to her where we lay her ashes. It gave me great peace knowing there was a spot where I could be close to her where nobody else would ever know why it meant so much to me.

    Sometimes though, I found that I just had to ride the PTS through. Cry, work through the anxiety, and allow myself to grieve. That’s the crazy part. Just when you think you’ve worked through the grief…it hits you all over again.

    Be kind to yourself. You’ve been through hell and those emotions are ones we have to learn to accept as a part of our new normal.

    • Thanks for sharing your ways of dealing with PTSD, Tracy. I’m glad you’ve found ways that help you, and think they are good tips. I love that you can go to the spot and be there in peace, that’s beautiful.

  4. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a place and said, “Oh the last time I was here I was pregnant with #3” or “we went here right after we lost #1.” I wish we could flip a switch and turn these memories off. I hope that writing through some of yours helped a little. Thinking of you.

  5. Can totally relate to this post, just so many bad memories, and so many triggers waiting around every corner. I don’t even like to look at photographs from the past 3 years, because what I see behind the posed smile is the secret knowledge that I was pregnant, or the hidden pain of a recent miscarriage. I have bizarre knowledge of certain dates, like when my BIL moved into their new condo, because I was pregnant with #2 and freaked out by all the paint fumes – he was trying to recall it and in 2 seconds flat I said “end of July 2009.” Got some strange looks on that one. I’m so sorry that you carry around this pain, but it sounds like you’ve got some great tools – ways to cheer yourself up, and the recognition that sometimes you’ve just got to feel it to get past it. I’m going to try this myself, especially that song 🙂 (love wilco!)

    • I know all too well, I remember dates or activities that surround the losses too. From time to time, I even hate looking at photos of Double A and me before all of this happened. Makes me feel sorry for the couple I see there who has no clue of what’s to come. I hope some of my ideas help you, and if nothing else, you can rock out to a little Wilco and shut out the world for a little while.

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