i'm darkness and light, bubbles and faerie wings. i am sparkles and glitter, shadows and clouds. i love purple, and faeries, and books, and music.

Ramblings by Category

Ramblings by Year

the healing power of a bookstore

Hey, you know what? It’s the 27th of March today. And, like, I knew it was the 27th of March today because I know I’m working on the 27th, but I didn’t realize it was MARCH 27.

As in traumaversary March 27th. (Warning: not a happy post in that link.)

As in PTSD issues March 27th.

Until I thought of the date and then did a mental double-take when I realized what day it was.

Normally I am hyper-aware of when this date is about to arrive. I have many sleepless nights, nightmares when I DO sleep, random panic attacks, and more leading up to the end of March. It’s been the norm for the past 3 years.

And yet, I really have not thought about this at all. And today, when I realized what day it was… I have had no reaction.

Maybe tonight, now that I am thinking about it (but not obsessively thinking about it!) I might have a nightmare or something. But to be honest, I feel so calm, and NORMAL that I don’t feel like that will happen at all.

Because I removed myself from so much that reminded me of the trauma. I am no longer downtown. I am no longer walking to the office I was walking to when it happened. I am in a job that keeps my brain busy, my body busy, and my mood HAPPY. So, so happy.

The trauma was always in the back of my mind for so long. Even outside of the last week of March. It was always there. I was always looking up. I’m still very cautious about my surroundings, but I’m not thinking about being cautious all the time. I know it’s become part of my every day routine and reactions, but I am not thinking about WHY.

Because this job has healed so much of what was broken within me. This job has brought me back so much joy. And I no longer feel lost. I no longer feel like I don’t know who I am anymore.

I have found myself again, and it’s not all because of working at the bookstore, but that’s been a huge part of the reason. Quitting my job, starting back in retail (books!), was such a terrifying change to make, but the more I think about it, the more I confirm that this was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Because today is March 27, and I am not afraid of it.

broken

I’m supposed to write about this. Write it down and get it out of my head. Write it down and change the memory. Make the memory more safe and less jarring, sharp edges that slice me open every time I close my eyes.

I’m supposed to feel safe, and comforted as I re-live an event that I thought I had managed to overcome but is apparently still with me and is trying to claw its way out.

Turns out delayed onset of PTSD is a thing. Who knew? I didn’t. I thought everything I did to help myself get over the shock and horror of the jumper guy back in March was enough. I thought I was ok. I thought I had dealt with it and moved on.

But I’m not ok.

At least, not right now. Right now I am a broken mess. I am pieces of a person I don’t even recognize anymore. Nothing I see has colour or sparkle – even the glitter ornaments I just made this weekend. I am a shadow of myself. I am grey and bland.

I wasn’t just not dealing with November for any old reason though. That’s sort of nice to know. By the end of the month I was so broken I didn’t think I could be repaired. I couldn’t cope with anything – I still can’t, although I think I am very slowly on the mend. I had a breakdown in my boss’s office and I knew, just knew, that I couldn’t come into work the next week. I needed to be away.

Away. Away. Away.

From everything.

Because even though work isn’t really the happy, mirth-filled land that it used to be, I didn’t really hate everyone and everything as much as I did right then. As much as I do right now. I could survive. I could talk to people. I am not really the bitter, rage-filled, weeping mess that I am these days. That is not who I am.

I don’t normally forget so many words or lose chunks of time.

I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t know how to react to things like a normal person.

I have lost the ability to care about anything. Everything. I hate everything so, so much. I hate people. I hate life. I hate books. I hate music.

So. Much. Anger.

I can’t be out in public with people around. I can’t. Extreme anxiety, panic, rage. Tears.

But I called employee assistance and I spoke to someone and after hearing my story and hearing my words, this wonderfully comforting woman told me I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t broken. I was suffering from a major trauma and shock to my system that my body is trying to make sense of and heal from. Although I did so many wonderfully proactive and healthy things to try to make sure I could heal from the trauma, I needed to do more. I needed to be quiet and take a break from things while my body dealt with the absolutely unrealistic thing that happened. It needed to heal, like a wound. My brain is still processing the event and although I did good things to help myself heal, it wasn’t enough and really, it hasn’t even been a year since it happened.

November is similar to March in the terms of weather and the coat I am wearing, the coat I was wearing when it happened. Who knows what other triggers there are right now. Ones that subconsciously I remember but might not be aware of. Sure I know that sounds set my body off, but that’s something that I remember. Other factors – temperature, lighting, smells, are more subtle and not ones you really think about all that obviously.

I am not sleeping. I am not eating. I am not coping with anything. Nothing I like to do has flavour or colour. Nothing. I have zero interest in anything. I can’t think. I can’t speak. I can’t cope. I can’t make a decision. Everything – every single thing – overwhelms me.

I can’t even go back and read the post I wrote after it happened. I can’t.

But I need to. I need to write out what happened. I have been asked to do a writing exercise where I spend 5 or 10 minutes writing about exactly what happened. Write about it when I am feeling calm and safe  – even if I have to take half an ativan to get there – and I have to write about it and then rip up the paper and think, “I’m letting this go.”

And you know what? I think this is a brilliant idea that will work well for me. I really do. But I can’t actually get to the point where I am able to write this down. I can’t. The thought of it fills me with shards of ice and glass. The breath leaves my lungs. I can’t breathe.

I thought I was ok. I really did. I did so much stuff to help myself and I thought I had managed this trauma effectively. Turns out I need to do more.

I’m useless at work so I am on leave. I see my family doctor tomorrow to hopefully be able to stay home until the new year. I’m not looking for time off, I just can’t be at work right now. I can’t. I can’t handle anything there. I can’t deal with the people (I hate them all so much right now. But I don’t hate them! But I do.). I can’t deal with the work (I hate it so much right now. But I don’t hate it. I might be unhappy with work, but I don’t hate it. But I do.). It makes me angry and anxious and that added stress is making the PTSD worse. The final straw was something that happened financially to us and I just broke. Broken. Shattered. Crumpled.

There is so much negative in our lives right now, very little happy and it’s getting so, so hard to keep myself from drowning. I thought I was just falling back into depression, but it didn’t feel right. It’s not the same as when I was manic depressive and medicated. It was different. A different flavour. Something was off. I wasn’t ME.

This isn’t who I am right now. I am some strange, disassociated person right now. I don’t know who I am. I am a shell.

That stupid jumper guy has ruined so much for me. He’s broken me, even though I was lucky enough to have had the universe stop me from walking forward so he didn’t land ON me. I’m alive, but I feel just as broken as his splattered body right now. My brain, my soul, and my heart aren’t working the way they should.

I feel like I won’t ever be right. I won’t ever be me again. I have been robbed of something so dear and precious that I don’t think I’ll ever get it back. I refuse to let myself live like this though, I will fight with every single breath in my body to put my pieces back together. I can’t hide from the world. I don’t want to hide from the world. I just need a little vacation from it all to help put myself back together and build up my strength so I can face everything again.

I want to read and enjoy the worlds in my head.

I want to listen to music and feel my soul rejoice with emotion.

I want to be able to speak with people and not want to kick them.

I want to be able to smile again without it feeling like I am trying to lift a 75-tonne weight.

I want to be able to breathe. To eat. To sleep.

To live life.

I want to be ME.

So, I’m working on it. Please be patient with me.

my first ever ambulance ride

* The story I am about to tell is not for the faint of heart, but I need to tell it to get it out of my head.*

Long story short: On the walk to work this morning a man jumped off a building and landed right in front of me.

Short story long: When my alarm clock went off at 6:45 a.m. this morning, I grumpily got out of bed, annoyed that I had to go into the office so early to set up and minute a meeting. The first part of the meeting was something I worked hard to get together and it was about to fall apart yesterday. I made my boss pull the “I’m the Boss” card and get things back in line, but I still wasn’t happy about having to be in early to get things ready (that I couldn’t finish last night). Shawn left early with me and once we split ways and I left him at his office, I went outside to walk to mine, following the traffic lights (rather than waste time by waiting at them, I just go with the green and get to work in a zig-zag fashion.)

It was supposed to rain all day today, but at 8am it was still sunny, if a little cool. I have been feeling rather down and lost in my head these days, so I had my comfort album (The Other Size of Zero by Elizabeth and the Catapult) on repeat as I walked to work, enjoying the brisk air as I breathed deeply on my walk into the office.

The path I took this morning, passes an entrance to underground parking and a loading dock. I always slow down there and make sure I’m awake enough to notice the cars that DO NOT STOP zoom around the corner and into the entrance. There were no cars this morning though and just one truck waiting for the doors to open for the loading bay. Well, as I was slowing down, I noticed the truck start to move, very, very slowly. He was about to go into reverse and it was like he’d just taken his foot off the brake and was just in the process of moving when… SLAM!!!

I thought the truck had hit a crate of wood, as I looked up from the noise and then got hit in the face and arm with projectiles.

Only then did I notice the body splattered on the ground just feet away from me and what hit me was… I don’t know. His cell phone? A shoe? Other stuff that I don’t even want to think about. I was doubled over in shock as I ripped my headphones out of my phone and fumbled to call 9-1-1.

I sort of staggered over to sit on the ledge of a flower box and was trying to breathe as I spoke to the guy on the other end of the phone. Two women came to see me to see if I was ok, I was trying to stay calm, but not doing so well, though I don’t think I was hysterical, just crying. As soon as I sat down the crying started and the guy asked me where I was, what happened, and then transfered me to urgence sante (the ambulance people) and the woman asked me a bunch of questions. I was doing my best to answer them, but really, things like “How old is he?” and “M’am is he breathing?” “Can you see if he’s still breathing?” were not questions I could answer when I had just said “he’s in pieces all over the floor!” To be honest, the question about the breathing almost made me pause and look at my phone in a comical-tv-sitcom reaction because I had just finished telling her that he had splattered and was everywhere. So I just said “he is in PIECES on the ground, I highly doubt he’s breathing!” I was so incredulous about the question and yet  Rational Cat in the back of my head knew she was obviously asking all the questions she is trained to ask. I couldn’t tell her how old he was, or if he was caucasian or asian.. all I could see was his short, dark hair and a little forehead and by that point I was farther away and I just COULDN’T look anymore. I apologized and said I couldn’t look again, I couldn’t and that the firemen and police were on the scene couldn’t they look.

This man was in a grey suit and white shirt and tie. He was in a suit and tie. He had gotten up, gotten dressed for work and came in and jumped off a building. With his phone. That’s another thing going on in my head “Who the hell jumps off a building with their phone?” and it HIT ME IN THE FACE and other stuff flew at me and I just keep frantically brushing off my coat because i am worried I have brain and goo all over it. The (very cute) fireman (yes, you do notice these things even in shock), the paramedics and my husband (whom I called right after 911 and came to me right away) all said there was nothing on my coat. I just keep feeling like there is. Like that feeling you get when you find a bug or spider on you and you think you’re covered in them.

I am forever grateful to the two women who stood by me as I was on the phone with 911 and the one who gave me kleenex because I didn’t realize I was crying. I appreciate that they stayed with me even until the paramedics took me into the ambulance and they seemed relived to know I called my husband.

I am grateful to the fireman who sat with me and looked me over and helped me calm down and tried to take my pulse (in the cold, with latex gloves on. I assure you I had one, but I don’t think he found it). I am grateful to the police who came and also asked me what I saw. I don’t know what happened other than a man splattered on the ground in front of me, but when the fireman asked me if there was anyone else I could think of who might have witnessed this I should let him know because they could be in the same state I was in, I realized that the truck driver! The truck driver, who had just started to ever, so slowly start his truck in motion – the man landed right in front of the truck. Right in front. **EDIT** I lost my train of thought as I was writing, I am also especially grateful to the paramedics who helped me, got me to laugh, stayed with me in triage as we waited our turn. They were unbelievably kind and helpful and so nice. Their jobs seem to involve a whole lot of WAITING and they are still super patient and friendly and kind. Thankless jobs they have, I am sure, but I am thanking them now. I should have gotten their names. I didn’t. I wonder if there’s a way I can?

They were still looking for the driver when the ambulance took me (and Shawn) away. I really hope they find him because I know I didn’t want to be alone, so I don’t want him to be alone either.

I was treated for shock, given a note to stay home today, given a prescription for some anti-anxiety drugs so I can sleep at night. I’ll be honest, I took one when I got home at noon and took a 4-hour nap. Then I had some tea and replied to the million texts I got and started this blog post. I needed to get this out of my head in some physical way.

Oh, I also called my parents when I got home and let them know, so they wouldn’t find out from the internet. I had my husband call my boss from the ambulance to let him know I wasn’t going to make the meeting. I know I didn’t really want to go to this meeting, but I suppose I could have called in sick or something equally less traumatic.

All the while in the ambulance I was thinking about the time my sister and father were in a car accident when I was a kid – not a serious one, just a fender bender, but because my sister hit her head they wanted to check her out. This was when we were really young, too. I remember being all jealous that my sister got to ride in an ambulance and I didn’t. So, here, 30-something years later, I’m in the back of the ambulance making jokes about how I’m going to call my sister and say, “HA! We’re finally even! You’re not better than I am!”  Only it turns out that my sister didn’t ride in an ambulance that time, rather she was in the back of cop car and thought I was upset she got to ride in a wheelchair and I didn’t. Seems we’ve both been living a lie all this time. Good to know! (I still win the ride in an ambulance round, though!)

I’m still numb, tired, get the shakes, get really cold, feel like I can’t breathe in weird cycles. It’s like my body still doesn’t know what emotion I should be feeling. I keep seeing this man, in his suit, in splattered pieces in my head and I am torn between a deep sadness that he was so broken that he took his own life and a morbid fascination with what happened and at the same time repulsion.

It’s nothing like on tv or in the movies, folks. The noise a body makes when it hits cement isn’t a thud. It sounds like someone dropping a crate of wood, or a skid off a truck. I thought the truck had hit a lamp post, or backed into a crate. It was a sound I will probably startle at for the rest of my life.

I could still see pieced of him on the street from the ambulance window. I don’t think the cops or firemen noticed those little pieces yet and if I’d been facing the other way, I wouldn’t have seen them. But I saw them. I wasn’t grossed out, I was sad, sad for that man.

The 3km walk from the hospital to the bus depot was done holding my husband’s hand and frantically glancing at the tops of all buildings. I think the part I am going to have the hardest with is being terrified there are people on tops of the high rises about to jump in front of me. It was freaking me out by the time we got to the bus. I am now scared of tall buildings.

Please, don’t ever jump off one, my friends. Don’t do it. It’s not worth it. Hug the ones you love. Tell people you love them. Just please appreciate everything you have in your life.

I am about to go try and eat some dinner now. I haven’t felt queasy or nauseous, just numb. But I know I need food. My head hurts. Shawn made shake and bake chicken with mashed potatoes. I am happy about this. It’s comforting. He’s been my rock all day and for always.

Tomorrow I will go to work and avoid that one street. I was told by the hospital doctor to not avoid it for too long, but I think tomorrow and then the long weekend will be enough. I hope. I don’t want to let fear rule me. But I can’t promise I won’t be watching the tops of buildings for the rest of my life and certainly for the next few weeks. I was told to expect PTSD over the next few weeks, too. That it’s normal for such a trauma.

Oh, and some reference shots from google maps.

 

Going to take some more deep breaths and have dinner and watch Phineas and Ferb. That should make me laugh.

PS – and I’d really like to thank the best friends I have who helped me get through this with texts. Maureen, Monkey and Elise, thank you from the bottom of my heart.