Trigger warning: This post deals with domestic violence, suicide and loss. Safe onward travel x
– A Day in the life of my PTSD and me.
My telecommunications and Internet provider is experiencing difficulties this afternoon. My mobile phone has been intermittently unable to make or receive calls and my internet is dropping in and out too. I am trying, trying, trying not to completely lose my shit.
And I am failing.
After venting to my facebook friends (during a brief period the Internet was actually working) I know that it is definitely a network problem. Not exclusive to me and so I shouldn’t take it personally. But it is personal. So very personal.
The walls are closing in a little bit and I cannot focus on anything for too long. My thoughts are jumbled.My chest is tight and my breathing is shallow and I can feel a headache coming on.
I walk to the beach and I sit, watching the waves hit the shore and the sun sink slowly towards the horizon. I play Fletcher Pilon’s – winner of Australia’s Got Talent 2016 – album ‘Banjo’ through my headphones. The sea helps, the music helps, the warmth of the slowly sinking sun helps because I feel chilled even though it is a warm day. It all helps and I am trying hard to relax into it but my chest is still tight and my head hurts more.
So still I try. Try to re-establish control and restore my equilibrium. Try to take deeper breaths. Try to stop the rocking I suddenly notice I am doing. And writing everything down helps. Mindfulness, yeah? Grounding myself in the moment. I can feel my heart banging around in my chest. I hear the waves crashing on the sand. I take some photos of things that appeal to my eye.
This must all sound an over reaction. Phone companies have issues. Shit happens. First World Problems. But today, after I first noticed my lack of ability to communicate with the outside world the Internet kicked back in briefly and multiple messages from my seventeen year old son filtered through. “Mum, I need my Medicare number please” “Mum, are you there? Do you keep hanging up on me?”
Walking along the waters edge I notice several feathers. Further still I see what I think at first is a dead fish, being pushed back and forth gently by the waves on the very edge of the water. Then I am closer and my sluggish brain returns my gaze to it until I realise it is a wing of a bird. Ripped and torn; it’s white, white bones spilling out and the feathers gently ruffled by the ocean. I recoil as my mind starts to kick in reflexively, and make suggestions about how that wing came to be there. I don’t take any photos of the wing. But it is too late. It is too late for me and for the bird no longer flying. The wing is there anyway, in my mind’s eye. And my mind throws up the picture every so often, like a macabre Viewfinder, shuffling images as I walk.
I manage to get through to my son. He is having chest pains. He is heading to the GP. He is young and fit and healthy and I have no reason to think it is anything more than a pulled muscle from teenaged hijinks. So says my rational mind. He has friends with him. This is good. They are good friends. I have good friends too. I am lucky. And yet my chest still feels like I am buried under concrete.
I play the same album, over and over again. I listen to the lyrics, letting each word wash over me. When my internet kicks in I check facebook and see what my friends are doing and try to relax and try to feel normal and try to feel real. I run the sand through my fingers and feel the coarse grains. The sun is losing it’s heat. There is a sailboat on the horizon.
My son has his appointment with the doctor. She says his heart rate is a little elevated but he seems ok. She advises rest and if the pain gets worse to go to an emergency room. I manage a call that actually connects and I hear my son tell me this in his own voice. I am relieved. But my own chest stays tight.
I hear the counsellor ask me earlier today “When do you have a rest from this stuff?” And my voice answering “It is with me always. Always.” And it is. To varying degrees in a million ways which can be heightened by anything, or by nothing.
Not being able to contact loved ones by phone does me in. There is the illusion that they are right there, right there at the end of a phone call or a text message. I don’t wait patiently for responses. It is agony for me! All hail read receipts! And I know, better than most, that it is only an illusion. That each and every time I physically let someone leave my sight it may be the last time I see them. Life happens. But having them on the end of a phone line is something, because I can’t handcuff myself to everyone I love indefinitely. Even if I could, life would still happen. I know the security of having them at the end of a phone call is only an illusion. But it is a beautiful illusion and it is all I have.
On the night my beautiful daughter was murdered I rang the mobile phone of her killer dozens and dozens and dozens of times. It was turned off. I didn’t understand. It was never turned off. They were meant to be at the movies though, so maybe the film hadn’t finished yet? I didn’t understand.
On the beach, in the present moment, a gorgeous chocolate brown and caramel kelpie trots towards me. The largish stick it is holding pulling the edges of it’s mouth into a happy grin. It trots right up to me. The orange of the sunset ringing it’s silhouette in a golden glow. The chocolate dog comes right up beside me and then sits down. It stays with me for the few seconds it takes it’s human to catch up and then it trots happily off again. And I give thanks for the chocolate dog who let me touch it’s soft, warm fur and who stopped to comfort me because dogs know, they really know.
On the night my beautiful daughter was murdered I rang the mobile phone of her murder again and again and again for hour after hour after hour. It stayed off. I couldn’t work it out. It was night time and there was still no answer and I started to ring hospitals because the only horrible conclusion I could come to was that there must have been an accident. But there was no accident. It was not an accident.
The sun is touching the horizon now and soon it will dip beneath it. A man sits thirty metres up the beach singing to his crawling smiling baby and watching the setting sun. It is over three and half hours now, since this internet issue started and the service is still dropping in and out. The sun is half sunken and the wind picks up and the waves, like the days, keep rolling in.
At about twenty past eleven on the night my daughter was murdered, after I had called the police to say my daughter and her murderer were missing I called the mobile phone again. And my daughter answered. I asked where she was and she said she could not tell me. I asked her yes and no questions – I heard her say to her murderer “She doesn’t understand”. The phone dropped out at her end. I could still hear my daughter but she could not hear me. They were driving through mobile reception black spots. I hung up and rang again. My daughter answered! I kept trying to ask questions that might give me a clue. I asked if she was coming home and she said no. I didn’t say “I love you” because I couldn’t say goodbye. And then the phone dropped out again. She could no longer hear me.
I heard my beautiful daughter’s voice as she said, not screamed, just said “Please Dad. Please Dad. Please Dad.” Over and over again. Still calling him Dad. And then I hung up so I could call the police back to let them know Sam was answering the phone. When I tried to call her back there was no answer.
Later, when I got my phone bill and read the witness statements I realised there were probably only seconds between my hanging up the phone and the car my daughter was in hitting the rock face wall on the expressway. When I heard her saying “Please Dad” she was begging for her life as she hurtled towards a rock wall. I just missed hearing the impact and I am glad for that. Because for half an hour longer, until the police car pulled silently up in front of my house in the dead of night, I still had hope my daughter was alive.
The sun is long gone. The light with it too. Who knows when the telephone service will be fully back on line. My limbs are stiff. It is getting cold. I am shivering. My phone battery is almost flat. But while sitting on the beach, writing this, I have begun to breathe a little easier. A chocolate dog, a giggling baby and waves that keep on rolling in.
Sam is with me always. Always.