PTSD

The first time I had a panic attack was April last year. I think. I didn’t know at the time it was a panic attack so maybe I ‘d had them before but this is the first one that floored me.

We were in John Lewis, in Liverpool. I love John Lewis. We came to the kitchen section, my favourite section of any shop. I looked at the label for something and all of a sudden the letters started moving. Getting bigger and smaller. Swelling almost. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t really see. It was a claustrophobic feeling, as if the walls were closing in. I had no idea what was happening but I knew I needed to get out of there and fast.

As soon as I was out I knew. I knew what had triggered it and what it was all about.

The labels.

The John Lewis font has been the same for years. For as long as I can remember. The dark green. The lettering. So distinctive.

The last time I had been in a John Lewis was during Harriet’s first cochlear implant surgery, over two years prior. We had just got married. Harriet’s surgery was at UCH on Warren Street and lasted about 5 hours I think, maybe a bit less. We needed something to do during that time. After the hysterical tears of seeing your baby go under general anaesthetic (never gets any easier) and before the final hour or so of pacing and wondering why they haven’t called you yet.

So we went to John Lewis. Our wedding gift list had been there and we had some money in vouchers to spend. It seemed perfect. Distracting. Fun. But not too fun.

And it was. We bought pillows and duvet covers and a chopping board. A sieve and a boning knife.

Then we went back to our baby girl. Our baby girl who came round unable to hold her head up. Or support herself in any way. Who took months to relearn to walk. Who had been given the miracle of hearing but at the price of a vestibular system. Who had suffered a side affect that we had not been warned about. A side affect that impacts her daily life. That means she cannot do a lot of things. Some of which she really wants to be able to do. A side affect that the surgeon dismissed. A side affect that I had to fight to get recognised and treated and accommodated. A side affect that makes me wonder if hearing is really worth it.

I didn’t give John Lewis a second thought.

Until I was back there over two years later.

And my brain lost the plot. Freaked out.

Fight or Flight.

It’s what we do. No matter how advanced or evolved we think we are.

Fight or flight.

My brain remembered that last time we were in John Lewis my baby got hurt. Real bad. And I had to flee. I had to run. I could not let her get hurt again. I could not let that happen.

All of this inside my head and I didn’t even know.

The power of parenthood. You’ve got to keep on keeping on. Because who is going to do your job for you? Such a good thing. To have a reason to get out of bed in the morning. To keep you moving forward.

But it hides things. Leaves things undealt with. And they do return. Sometimes when you least expect it. Like in John Lewis. Your favourite place. That you now have to flee.

January 

January has not been kind to our family. For the past 7 years it has greeted us with some kind of trauma.

Two years ago Shaun, Will and Harriet were all in hospital. And I had an 8 week old baby. My world was quite genuinely falling down around me. Which, I think, is why when Harriet ended up back in hospital last year I found it incredibly, soul destroyingly hard. Because I’d done my bit. I’d suffered enough. She’d suffered enough. We’d planned a holiday to Eurodisney, leaving on New Years Day. Sticking our fingers up at 2015. Going into 2016 strong. And by the 2nd we were in A&E back in London. For fucks sake. It felt like the universe was making a point. Like it was saying ‘who do you think you are? What makes you think you can celebrate? This is January my friend. January. Get back in your place’. 

So now it is January again. Predictably. And I am mental. Not like a bit down, or a bit worried. Bat shit off the chart crazy. We have gotten to day 10 and so far, so, far, we’re alright. And I think I’m fine. But then someone slips. Shaun is 2 minutes later than I expect him. A kid wobbles on the stairs. Someone says something aches. And I’m there. I’m freaking off the scale panicking. I can’t breathe. Tears are rolling down my cheeks. I’ve already envisioned how this is going to pan out. 

But then they get up or come home or are comforted with a biscuit and I feel like a fool. Like a crazy ass fool. Which makes me even more mental.

Because I am a logical person. A sensible person. I am not superstitious. I do not believe in fate or luck. I believe in hard work and strength and kindness. 

But January. January has been cruel. And so I have learnt to expect cruelness. 

I have blisters on my fingers. Stress. I have spots. Stress. I am running to much. To get away from stress. Drinking too much. Drowning stress. 

What can I do? 

This is post traumatic stress. Learned behaviour. Barriers. Protection. Fear. Panic. 

What can I do? 

Ride it out. Head down. Breathe. Swear. Talk. Run. Walk. Blog.

January has come again. But just as certainly it will leave. Hopefully with less scars.