It’s Monday December 5th. It’s 6:00 am; I have been up since 4:30 because it is snowing. In fact: It is snowing like mad and I love it when it snows. It hasn’t snowed downtown for a couple of years. (Update: By 9:00 it was raining.)
It’s day one of being 69.
Yesterday we had a Sylvia Salon — a gathering of friends of the late Chris Adkins — and Mel announced that he had just purchased a home on Saltspring Island and that he would be moving there early next year. That had someone ask him if he thought it would be hard to move to somewhere where he knows no one after a lifetime of living in Vancouver. He said he had friends there.
But we got onto talking about retirement, real estate prices in Vancouver, the wisdom of relocating for our old age and the challenge of moving to somewhere where you don’t know anyone. Several of us are single so we also talked about the difference of moving to where we know no one as a single person versus doing so as part of a couple: No one single wanted to move to a place where everyone was a stranger.
Moving to a place where everyone is a stranger is an ideal metaphor for what it’s like to suddenly be living with C-PTSD after 68 years of living as a “normal” person. You have to be “in here” to understand its aptness.
At one point during the salon I moved to sit beside Jennifer. Suddenly, with her, I could talk without a single hesitation. I talked completely normally and fluently endlessly. I talked with her in a way I haven’t been able to for ages in public.
With C-PTSD, you can lose control and become a quivering mass requiring an ambulance; conversely, you can suddenly find yourself completely symptom free. Both situations have you asking yourself: Why is this happening?
The explanation about why a person with C-PTSD or PTSD can suddenly become hopelessly overcome with crippling symptoms is long and boring; the reason the same person can become symptom free is because they find themselves in the presence of a person whom they fundamentally, profoundly trust.
When you have PTSD, strangers are a challenge. That is why, often, I cannot speak at all to clerks. Recently, I failed to hear someone on the street who’s seen the watch on my wrist so he pulled me gently by the arm to get my attention and asked again for the time. Well I had to get assistance because I immediately had a seizure — now, though, instead of my whole body, it is usually just my left arm or both arms.
The world is full of strangers. For me, the world is full of people I cannot trust. That is why it is so difficult for me to be PTSD symptom-free, why I stay home, why I can only talk well with people I trust and why it is like I’ve moved to a place like Mel is about to do. I live with an intense feeling of being “other.”
When I first met Dr. Shoja in April, I thought her mission was to help me to get back to being myself. Now I understand her purpose as being to help me get used to being this stranger in a strange land.
One thing she said very early on was that I would lose some relationships.
My friend who dumped me the other day said was that he was mad that I could go to Kamloops this past August to see Dwight because I’d opted out of accompanying him to the events surrounding the marriage of his cousin.
He fails to understand the difference between these two activities. One is walking out my door, into my elevator and into my car to drive alone all the way to the hotel where I stayed with my closest friend — one single person. The other is being with a crowd, most of whom are strangers and with lots of activity. And for much of the time, I’d be on my own.
And he never bothered to ask why; he just dumped me. And I thought: This is like getting dumped by a lover. People are dumped all the time. It’s given me an idea for another dress: The Regret Dress.
I thought about being dumped and I kept coming back to how it leaves you with things unsaid, so I started making a list of things dumped people might want to say to their dumpers and I thought I would make a dress out of unsaid sentences in beautiful cursive handwriting.