Living with CPTSD is really hard. It gets easier for a while and I’ll be going about my business without much trouble until, one day, it will come back just as forcefully as it did at the start. Recently I went to a shopping centre and, after visiting a few shops, popped outside for a cigarette. I’d felt a little off all morning but nothing that I payed much attention to – some days are just like that. But this time, I could feel myself starting to enter high-alert-CPTSD mode quite quickly without much warning. I could hear my boyfriend talking to me; people around me talking, walking, smoking, eating; the feeling of a hair tickling my cheek; cramps in my stomach; my lip twitch; I can feel the weight of my head; my glasses on my nose; my throat feels a little scratchy; I need a drink; my legs feel weak; I have tunnel vision; I’m starting to shake; the sound of the wind; the smell of LUSH near where I was standing; the smell of smoke; the bright sunlight; a headache coming on; my hands starting to sweat; now I’m lightheaded.
Now I feel dizzy so go to sit down and have a drink. I shut my eyes for a second to see flashing lights against my eyelids – no respite. It’s too much to take in. I need to go home now.
Sometimes it feels like I can’t take everything in or process everything that’s going on around me and that’s when I panic or dissociate. This time it felt like I was shutting down – like you do before you faint, when your vision starts to go. I couldn’t focus on anything and yet my brain wanted me to focus on everything.
I left the shopping centre frustrated and feeling disappointed and cross with myself but that never does any good, so I just didn’t really think about anything. I just sat in the passenger seat and stared at the road ahead. I just wanted to sleep but I’d never let myself whilst I’m like this. Tired but wired. I got home and chilled out for a while, not really moving or thinking, until I thought, ‘I want red pepper hummus.’ And just like that, it was OK. I still don’t know how to completely deal with these random episodes with triggers that I can’t make sense of, but I’ll keep on trying.