Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I know that in its worst form it destroys lives. I have struggled to deal with anxiety issues throughout my life and a lot of them are much improved. It is only recently – last December actually – that I realized that my worst anxiety issues now are a result of a mild form of PTSD.
The month of December has been difficult for me since 1993. That is the year my father passed away on December 17th. I was very close to him and it broke my heart, which would be expected. But it was so much more than that. My father had been dealing with cancer of the sinuses for five years – it was a horrid ordeal. Despite working and raising three pre-teen to teenage children at the time, I did everything I could to help my parents through these years. I was the youngest of the family, I was living the closest to my parents, and much of my dad’s medical attention and treatment was done in Regina, where I live. I have five other siblings, all of who did everything they could for our parents, but a lot of it fell on me. It was incredibly hard.
But, there was so much more. I was married to my first husband at the time. The first eleven years of my first marriage were dysfunctional. The last seven years were violent, abusive and traumatizing for me and our children. There was seldom a day when there was not a violent or hateful outburst. To say that he was not supportive of what I was dealing with was an understatement. I had decided that I had to remove my children and myself from the situation a couple of weeks before my father’s diagnosis. After that, I felt compelled to stay until he was gone. My husband felt compelled to take advantage of the situation and make our lives a living hell.
Five months after my father passed away, I told my husband I was done. A few weeks later we moved out.
I was worn out. We moved into a small three bedroom basement apartment. I slept in our kitchen/livingroom so the kids could each have their own bedroom. I worked eighty hours a week and spent the rest of my working hours being a full-time home maker. It sounds rough, but we were really happy and starting to heal. Things got better, we got a better car, we moved to a nice little duplex. I met my current husband and my kids grew up, moved out and started their own families. Life still has its ups and downs but I am okay.
And then there is another December. The decorations go up, the carols start playing and my heart breaks. This week we had an incident at work. One of my co-workers had a violent outburst. He slammed through the shop, swearing, kicking things, having a man size tantrum. I have been shaking ever since.
The thing is, it’s okay. I get that my physical and emotional and mental reactions are about my past, not my present. I know I am in a safe place now. I also know I am stronger for having been through my past. In December, I have a really deep compassion for those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one or any of the other heartbreaks that are worse in December. When I see someone being a bully, having a man size tantrum, I am reminded how very fortunate I am to be with my with my current husband. I have the courage to stand up for those who are being bullied and I am proud that my sons and my daughter do as well.
As difficult as these episodes of PTSD are, I know they make me a better person. As long as good can come out of the worst times of my life, I am okay with that.