Time Travel: This is PTSD

It doesn’t matter what I’m doing or where I am. I could be reading quietly or sitting at a table eating amongst friends and, in an instant, I’m transported. The book, the table, the commotion around me withdraws and instead, I am inserted into a vivid, living moment from my past. And usually, it’s a painful one. This is PTSD.

Truly, in the span of a single breath, I have flown backwards through space and time to any one of many scenes that rotate on replay in the ether of my mind. When I arrive, it’s so real that I don’t know that I’ve been anywhere else – there’s no future to speak of, just this moment, right now, and my body makes the shift.

My heartbeat quickens, pounding in my ears. My muscles tighten and my eyes narrow as I am face to face with him, her, it, the experience, again. And I feel the emotion, the same emotion that I felt the very first time, when I lived it.

It flows freely – anger, embarrassment, confusion, hurt or shock. It’s a wave that carries me along through the scene. I speak words in my mind that never make it out of my mouth. I’m trapped.

The pain is my boat, and I can’t get out. I can’t get off. In this repeated scene, I do new things, sometimes no thing, or the same thing. The one thing I never do is leave.

I can’t break away because in this moment, I don’t remember that this isn’t real. In this moment, right now, what I see, what I feel, and this scene is all there is. And it hurts.

When this haunting memory is finished with me, it departs just as quickly as it came. My racing heart is the only trace of its having passed through. My mind clears. I’m back, but I remember where I just came from.

I take deep breaths, in and out, letting the fresh O2 soften the rigidity in my body and slow the pace of my heart. Sometimes, I cry. Maybe just a few tears, sometimes more.  It hurts to be dragged back through pain with no rhyme or reason. And it’s hard to explain.

How do you explain what feels like your own mind trying to take you out? How do you make that make sense? How do you make it plain without sounding too intense? This is what it is. And it’s just a regular day. If I told someone my daydreams hurt, they’d run away, afraid they’ll catch what has already caught me. So, I tell no-one. Instead, I pray.

My words speak of contradictions. Devotion and confusion. Praise and questioning. Struggle and surrender. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” flows from my heart, though I promise it’s not what I believe. But it is how I feel. And it comes with hot tears and anguish.

To this Lord that I love and whom I believe loves me my thoughts shout, “I thought you would deliver me … at least by now!” But out of my mouth comes, “Lord God help me,” in a whisper.

I seek God, believing that God IS; believing that I will be rewarded for my pursuit.

I put it all down in my journal, covering the lines and the margins. My words are addressed to all of Heaven and the hand that made it all. I let it all out and allow my tears to stain the pages.

When I am done, I feel a little better; a little lighter. But, tired too. I have no answers, yet somehow, I know that I have been heard. With that knowing comes a little peace and it is enough for now.

©2022 Creatorskind

A grandmother’s legacy

My eyes swish in their sockets, moving left to right beneath my eyelids. I’m about to wake up.  My eyes open as I hear a door gently close and then the synchronized creaking of a banister and the heavy footfalls of worn house-shoes. Slowly, both sounds fade to the floors beneath me.

It’s still dark and, as my eyes adjust, I realize that the day hasn’t yet begun.  Though I am never willingly up this early, I find myself climbing out of the daybed in the large, converted attic of my grandparents’ house and heading downstairs. My bare feet move down to the homes second floor with a stealth usually reserved for Christmas Eve.

Two more sets of carpeted stairs stand between me and what I now see is a dim light emanating from the first floor. As I turn the corner to arrive at the last set, I see my grandmother sitting quietly by herself at the dining room table. The lights are dim, and a single candle is lit before her. Within seconds, she turns to notice me. I’ve caught her in an intensely personal moment, the only such moment I would ever see.     

Ma died a little over a decade later. But a few weeks ago, she appeared in one of my dreams. I remember walking through the front doors of her immaculate and richly decorated home into a living room that seemed to be edged in clouds; its duskiness a frame for the scene before me. My grandmother stands before me elegantly styled in a manner almost identical to a photo I’ve seen of her on my mother’s wedding day. In both, she’s barely smiling, yet a weighty joy covers her face and seems to emanate from every pore. Maybe it’s pride. Maybe it’s love.

She walks the few steps toward me and cups my face in her hands. And while this moment is not one we’ve played out in real life, it is one we fall into seamlessly. We stay this way for a long while. No words, no tears, just a silent and joyous greeting that could only happen on the other side of eternity, only in Heaven.

I love my grandmother, my mother’s mom, though I barely know her at all. My grandparents’ home – one that always welcomed and made space for children – was a place where children were seen, not heard, speaking to adults only when spoken to. She died just as I was entering a time when I could be both. As a result, I know more about her through watching her ways than by actually talking to her.

My wise-cracking grandmother – who had left Jim Crow and a family farm in rural Virginia for big city living and its resident chaos and hypocrisy in the North; married and faithfully loved my grandfather for over half a century; raised eight children, plus one in heaven; and nurtured countless others through fostering – didn’t have too many conversations with children.

But love was there. It was in the clothes on our backs, sometimes purchased, other times hand-sewn, ice cream and homemade desserts after dinner, dance lessons and a special room in the basement called the playhouse – a room filled with enough toys to fulfill any fantasy. Love was everywhere she was, though I would learn that much too late.

But there is one thing that I know for certain. My grandmother prayed for me. Though I only saw her in that scene once and never heard her words, this singular experience told me that she knew God and that one day, or perhaps on many, they would talk about me.

This realization, gifted only in the hindsight of adulthood, is a thought I return to often. In the years since, I have wondered what situations those prayers have covered. I’ve wondered whether they shielded me from harm, opened doors, saved me from myself or simply kept me sane in a world that she knew all too well was crazy. 

When I think about her story and where her life took her, I see a woman who trusted God – with her future and her family – despite rarely, if ever, saying a word about it in my presence. Sometimes I wonder if I owe my entire relationship with God, and its many benefits, to my grandmothers’ unseen prayers. Is this detail a key part of how the profound loneliness of my depression led me to God? Maybe. I may never know.

But one thing I do know, is that this simple example and my suffering combined to open me up to the possibilities of an intervening God; a God who was interested in what happens to me and what I have to say.

Hers was just one simple, yet impactful example; a small part of who knows how many other pieces that joined together to spark my faith in God – The Father, Son & Holy Spirit. For her role in bringing into my life even the possibility of consciously living in God’s passionate love for me, I will be forever grateful. She was one of many direction signs, stepping-stones and signals pointing me to an available and loving God. Yet, her contribution was vital and one that I stand on today as proof that God loves me. And it’s one of many reasons why I can look you in the eye and tell you that God loves you too.  

©2022 Creatorskind