Yesterday I walked to highway 401. I’ve been scouting locations where wild grasses grow so I can (legally) harvest it in the fall for a visual art project I’m planning. On route I passed through the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) grounds.
I stopped to rest on a bench there. I take regular breaks when I walk to drink water and to give my legs a rest. As soon as I sat down, I had “an episode;” that’s what I call them now.
When I was first diagnosed with PTSD I had many daily anxiety attacks. I’d be cripplingly anxious all the time I was outside of my condo. I needed two pairs of dark glasses and earplugs to go out and I was prone to sudden bursts of crying and fear. That was phase one.
Then came seizures; I’d have up to fifteen a day and they were brutal. I’d convulse and not really remember much. That was phase two. It, too, passed.
Now I’m in phase three. It’s characterized by these “episodes, as I call them. They are downgraded seizures. There are no more convulsions, just one or two soft body jerks, but I am still unable to speak during one; I stammer grotesquely.
At home alone I don’t have episodes. I feel perfectly normal here. But if I go out, I have a lot of them. And if I encounter a friend, it’s the first thing that happens. (I don’t stammer with clerks and receptionists usually, thank goodness.)
A beautiful old building on the PNE campus triggered my episode on that bench when I sat down yesterday I recognized it as the former Garden Pavilion, shorn of all its glory.
The Garden Pavilion was my favourite part of the PNE in the 1950s. Each year its entire interior was landscaped in an all-enveloping glory. Flowering trees towered above and exotic mosses, grasses and succulents interspersed the explosions of colour from the concentrated floral extravaganzas.
I was truly gob smacked later in life when I found out my Aunt Mary’s brother, Jimmy, created those magical gardens.
Aunt Mary wasn’t my true aunt. It was Mary who transported me from the orphanage to the Tyrell’s. And as much as I loved her and the story of how she earned her title, I could not believe that the Tyrell’s had me picked up from the orphanage and delivered like a pizza when they got custody of me.
All those thoughts flooded my brain at first glance of the former Garden Pavilion yesterday; hence, the episode. And then suddenly a lovely young woman was beside me asking if I was okay.
I still can’t comprehend why. Perhaps it was burying my face in my hands a couple of times, done in a very non-dramatic way. I don’t feel that, in any way, I was broadcasting distress but something made her come over out of concern.
I couldn’t speak coherently but I could say, “Seizure.” She understood and I was deeply moved by her kindness.
There are two social housing units fifty meters from my building. Many of the residents behave in a way that repels passers by. Since being diagnosed, at least once a month people are drawn to me to offer help by my behavior. And conversely but only once, I’ve had an instinctual conviction that my (mild) jerking during an episode caused the bus passenger beside me to change seats.
And so it goes with PTSD.
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