My (self-diagnosed) PTSD

Within the last 1-1/2 hour, I have gone into a full-blown panic attack. I will not sleep well tonight…if at all. I’m actually silently sobbing as my son sleeps on the couch a few feet away from me. I am shaking. And when I’m not sitting just a few feet from him, I’m pacing back and forth.  I need to hear a calm voice. A hug. An, “It’s ok. It will be fine.” Why? What the heck would do this to someone in so short a period of time? RJ is sick. And whatever it is…probably a flu bug…has sent me into a tailspin. Perhaps it’s one of his abdominal migraines…but the symptoms aren’t quite right for that. Quite seriously, I’m a fucking mess right now.

It hit fast – whatever this is. He had a pizza for lunch at 2, and by 4 he was sick and vomiting. I know, I know. I sound silly. Overly worried. But I know where this silliness is coming from. It comes from watching my husband die. And what cancer caused in him. It comes from years of aspiration pneumonia if RJ hyperventilates while vomiting. It comes from spending I’ve-lost-count-on-the-number-of-times in the hospital for dehydration when he’s sick. It comes from my son “coding” while in the hospital as I stand there watching doctors and respiratory therapists and nurses running to his bedside to work on him. It comes from seeing the fear on a physician’s face while all this is going on.  I know why I worry so much. But yet, I do it every single time. Because in all honesty, there’s that chance we could end up in some of those same situations for RJ again within a day or two.

Today it was triggered when RJ got sick in the car. That often happened to Bob on the way to and from chemo and radiation. Set me on edge right away today. Once I was able to get RJ in the house and situated, I went out to clean things up. I was only out there a few minutes when I heard him get sick again, then call out to me, “HELP ME!!!” My blood turned to ice and I almost got sick myself. When Bob was ill with cancer, he would vomit uncontrollably. RJ and I could hear him wretching in the bedroom while we were outside playing. And then Bob would call out to me, “HELP ME!!!!!” Funny how something that happened a little over 16 years ago sticks with you. But it does. It’s there.

Yeah, I guess if someone can develop PTSD from watching – helping – a loved one die, then I guess I’ve got it. That always confused me, when the hospice nurses would tell me I was helping my husband die peacefully. There was no peace in our home during that time. It was a living hell watching and hearing all that went on as cancer took him down. I, myself, can no longer stand the sound of a baby monitor. That was how I knew my husband had passed on. That damned monitor went silent. As it went silent, I woke up from my restless caregiver’s sleep into a whole new way of life.

Well, thanks for “listening”. I have to try and relax. But sometimes, it can be a tough thing to do when past memories suddenly scream out from the deepest corner of your mind that you’ve pushed them into and mixes with the disabilities your living loved one has.