On the Floor

I never thought I had PTSD from my loss because Gavin died so slowly. You know how they say, “at least you had a chance to say goodbye.” And now that I’ve met women who saw their husbands killed in car accidents, or had to order the ventilators turned off, or woke up to find a heart attack in progress, I don’t feel I have much to compare.

He dissolved before my eyes, but it was so gradual, it was easy to think I wasn’t paying attention.

But every time there’s a pencil on the steps, or a piece of paper on the carpet, I get a tinge. I pick them up compulsively, or bark at my child. We can’t have things on the floor, I go straight back to protection mode. Protecting my husband, now gone four years, from a fall that would break his spine.

Without telling the whole gory story – because there’s a lot of detail, and it is truly the tale of the end – I’ll tell you that Gavin spent his last year in some fear of falling and damaging his spine, which despite advanced medical care and a hugely traumatic surgery, was in danger of collapse for nine months, mostly spent at home with a toddler underfoot.

Underfoot is the trick. If you’ve had a toddler, you know how it’s a constant game of blocks and balls, and every piece of junk mail that becomes an object of fascination. There was always something on the rug, on the hardwood, on the busted up kitchen vinyl that we so wished to fix. Always something to pay attention to, a falling hazard, a risque de tomber.

And this, it turns out, is PTSD. Still alert, still snappy about anything on the stairs, even in our new house. Always looking down. This is PTSD, an everyday thing. Not as hard to get as you might think.

* * * I'd be honored to hear your response in a comment or through other connection (Facebook, Twitter, Formspring, at right) * * *


Jerry said...

Hi, Supa - According to some of the folks interviewed on the very excellent PBS series, 'This Emotional Life,' PTSD can be the result of an intense fear of being injured, or fear for a loved one being injured.

Put a check mark next to that last criterion. You win.

I'm very glad to know about your blog. Hope you come by mine again sometime.

Thanks, Jerry

Ooops - Here's a link to the topics in that PBS series. PTSD was featured in Episode 2.

Kim said...

Caregivers often succumb to PTSD. I am actually surprised when someone does not... we witness things that we could not imagine possible... we hear and see and smell and touch things that we are fully unprepared to encounter.

I am glad that you have opened this door of awareness, it lets the light in...


womanNshadows said...

i don't think any death can compare no matter how fast or how slow. getting the chance to say good-bye doesn't make it any less harrowing than waking up to your husband's dying in front of you from a heart attack and your CPR failing before your very eyes. when someone we love dies and there is literally nothing we can do to stop it, we will all experience PTSD to one degree or another. we will all almost faint at the sound of a cough or waiting at the doctor's office for the extra test they just want to run to be sure.

do not compare what you went through. none of us would trade what we've been through with anyone because what is on the other side of the fence isn't any more bearable than what we have lived through.

embrace your PTSD. stay in protective mode. remember, you still have the teen years to get through. =0)

annie said...

Death is a trauma regardless of the length of time. I had a rough first year because of the toll of care-giving and the fact that Will spent three months in a hospice. Three months I was surrounded by dying people, listening to death rattles that shook the hallway, going home in the evening past grieving families and returning the next morning to empty rooms and stripped beds. Old, young, toddlers even. I saw a lot of people die. That can make a person edgy.

I find that most things are behind me now though I cannot watch death scenes in movies or on tv if they are realistic - thankfully, most aren't - without feeling a wave of panic and welling up with tears.

Actually the worst thing now is tears. Tearing up at songs or other equally stupid things.

I think everyone has a touch of ptsd for one reason or another though.

Andrea Renee said...

PTSD sucks. I now have a list of triggers... hearing anything spilling onto the floor (after having a horrifying episode of hemorrhaging after Sydney's birth 3 weeks before that resulted in being taken to the ER by ambulance), phone ringing either too late at night or too early in the morning, knocking on the door (at any time) even in my new house, seeing a police car driving near my house. What's worse I think, is PTSD in children. So unfair. xoxo

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Jerry, Thanks for your confirmation and for the reminder about this show, which I keep meaning to watch!

Kim, you're so right. We just are completely unprepared and it's so beyond what we can imagine to have a loved one breaking up like that.

wNs, Thanks especially that the reminder that vigilance isn't always a bad thing. I can smell the teen years even from 7 years away..

Annie, You're probably right, we all have it a bit. And three months in inpatient hospice? How awful.

Andrea, Wow, you're in much better touch with it than I am. And parenting through it, ... ugh. BIG cross-country HUG to you!

I'm all out of wise things to say, but thank you, all, for your comments and visits and for the comments on FB. X!

Johno said...

Stuff on the stairs is dangerous. Stuff on hardwood... dangerous. Stepping on a block in socked feet has gotta hurt like a mf'r. I'm with womanNshadows. Embrace your PTSD. As Sun-tzu says (ok, said), keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Anonymous said...

Being a cancer caretaker requires constant vigilance. Running the household, working full time, managing 30 plus medications, doctor's appointments, coordinating care between different doctors (oncologists, pain specialists, nutritionist, radiologist,etc), tackling the mountain of paperwork to over ride HMO coverage denials, clinical trial research, healthy meals, a spotless house, and the list could go on and on and on. I would wake to my husband moaning in pain. The bone cancer pushing against his nerves. He tried to be quiet so as not to wake me but I developed super human hearing.

It has been over two years and I still have to sleep with ear plugs.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

@Johno :-)

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Anonymous, oh my, you're right, I've forgotten many of these things... not to mention the financial strain. Not really forgotten, just pushed them aside.
Hugs to you!

Anonymous said...

PTSD sucks (my hubby died in a car crash) ... but having watched loved ones die from cancer, that sucks too. The shock wasn't as great (but they were my mother and father in law and not my husband so that figures anyway). The hope wasn't there either though. Basically it all just sucks.

J-in-Wales said...

"Basically it all just sucks."

Yep. That just about sums it up.
Hugs to you.


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