I’m handed a leaflet. The first line reads “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” I’m told I could be experiencing this and that this leaflet might help. I’m assuming that by this they mean I can tear the leaflet into tiny pieces and swallow it and it will help alleviate this feeling that there is a grenade in my chest that I have just pulled the pin on but forgot how long ago I did it.
A few days later I decide to read the leaflet and am surprised to find that a lot of the symptoms sound like what I am experiencing. Which of course is a massive coincidence because I haven’t served any time in the armed forces so I can’t possibly have post traumatic stress.
Once when I was really hungover, I found Ludo spinning on his bum, this is a sign that he needs his anal glands expressing. I took it upon myself to crank up YouTube, watch a tutorial and take matters in to my own hands. I did as explained in the video and squeezed at 4 and 8 thinking nothing would happen. But it did. His anal glands expressed in my face and I ran, with my eyes, mouth and nostrils tightly closed, into the bathroom where I was hosed down. Personally, this is the kind of traumatic experience I was used to dealing with and when I look at the description of Post Traumatic Stress, almost all of the signs could be attributed to this event too.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
I’m told that when you are feeling stressed or anxious that one of the first things to go is your short term memory. Your brain needs to focus on just one thing at a time and that is whatever you see as your “threat.” This is horrific in itself as it means that as you try and avoid negative thoughts your brain is thinking “Nah, I think it’s best we stay on high alert, I’m just going to drown your body in adrenaline and raise your heart rate so we’re ready for action when the time comes.” but if the time doesn’t come you just sit there feeling like you’re dying.
High alert for me was checking Arabella for signs of whatever poster syndrome I had seen that week and then when she did anything that was remotely like that I would go into overdrive, shaking, sweating, trying to be sick, a loss of peripheral vision and once again the feeling I was going to shit my pants. I am reliably informed that it is very unlikely you will actually shit your pants whilst having a panic attack due to your body shutting down these functions when you’re in this state, so “every cloud…” and that.
Losing your short term memory can also make things really hard and I am lucky that I wasn’t expected to be in a work environment whilst feeling this way as there is no way I could have functioned. It is also really difficult if, like me, you hide the decent biscuits in a secret place so that no one else can eat them. I spent about 10 minutes one day looking for a pack of Kit Kats that I had hidden in a box of Celebrations at the back of the cereal cupboard (functioning Hayley is genius when it comes to secret hiding places) but when you find yourself unable to recite your phone number or enter your pin, these moments slowly build up and can leave you dubious of your ability to operate in public.
These seemingly insignificant instances built up and left me feeling like I was losing my mind. The worst part for me being I lost my ability to hold an argument.
There are lots of things that can irritate me about my partner: his need to sing just one line of a song over and over and over in monotone, the way I believe he over exaggerates his sneezes because he knows it annoys me, and mostly when he insists on walking 2 paces ahead of me at all times making me look like a creepy ex girlfriend trying to chase him whenever we go shopping. As you can see, there’e plenty of opportunity for arguments to start, however this time I would start to say something and completely forget what I was even trying to say, I ended up being wound in to a spiral of confusion and just leaving the room. This was a very hard for me to accept and possibly the first time my partner realised I wasn’t quite myself. The arguments stopped.
(In case you’re wondering he absolutely despises it when he goes to put something in the bin and I haven’t emptied it, other than that I’m practically perfect.)