How I see what PTSD has done to me. To show how my journey led me to the here and now.
Our first years begin in a light blue, double-wide mobile home. Cactuses and decorative rocks lined the front. Three white steps guide you to the front door. The house is a standard three-bedroom, two-bath, living, dining room, and kitchen. You entered the home through the dining room. The master bedroom/bathroom and kitchen were to the left. The smaller bedrooms and the second bathroom were to the right.
Importantly enough, the vertical sliding windows with the annoying metal tabs (to open them) become a good part of my story. There are a few of those on the front side of the house.
There's plenty of trees. I remember a trampoline and swing set, although I believe those came later. The driveway is formed by the constant coming and going of tire tracks. Missing grass and sandy depressions led the way.
"Nan," short for “Nana,” lives next door in a slightly larger home. That is my grandmother. After my birth, she towed my mother’s home onto her property to keep us close by. The property was enclosed by barbed wire fencing and an electric gate
When I was twenty-three years old I revisited my old home on a whim. I was driving through the area when I spotted a sign for “Northwest Elementary,” the first public school I attended at the age of five. I stopped in the medium to reach my uncle. I asked if he happened to remember the address where we lived while I attended this school. He could only remember the name of the road. Luckily enough I had a smartphone. It took seconds to find the road on Google maps. I handled the rest from there.
I knew the property was located at the end of a road because I’m able to visualize my school bus making a u-turn before I crawled my way up those gigantic steps. I find the road, drive to the end, and park onto the side. I wasted no time trespassing onto the property in between the lines of a barbed-wire fence. Of course, in doing so I catch my shirt on one of those twisted knots. It snags a group of threads on my shirt. But as always, I expect such things. I stretch out the cotton. No holes. I got lucky this time.
My very first memory comes to mind, and through this hazy vision, I can see myself reaching through a chain-linked fence. There are roses on the other side. I stretch my little arms-probably curious of the bright colors only to snatch my hand back and cry. Thorns. I must have been two.
I walk further into the familiar wooded area, camera in tow. Just as I remembered it. I even found a golf ball. Memories of collecting these come to mind. My papaw did this for fun. Teeing them off into the abyss... The memory comes but fades fast as my eyes fall to my feet. Cactuses. Flat ones prevailed. I took a step back to observe, recognizing a pattern. This was it. Rocks speckled across a range of twelve feet or so resembling something mosaic. Time had buried sections. The cacti that made me think of spikey fish were gone. I hated those for obvious reasons. The colorful ones were gone too.
And then an inkling, unbeknownst to me, bubbled up... and I’m disappointed. Where was my childhood home? I snap a creative picture or two of the cacti. Blackness filled my eyes as I stood erect. I pinched my eyes shut, mentally restoring my balance. I open them and instantly I feel unsafe. I didn’t want to end up on the news, six months from now, “skeleton remains found buried next to cacti.” I also didn’t want to get mistaken for game in this part of the sticks to become a target. My stomach gurgled. This generally happens when I feel exposed. It generates an instant need to find a bathroom. I need to go. In more ways than one.
Barbed wire fencing caused the headache of getting in to begin with. I was hoping for an easier way out as I stalked alongside the fence. I eventually find a gate, hardly serving its purpose. Hanging from its hinge, touching the ground on the other side. It’s of those large swinging gates that kept the farm animals in. I didn't remember this gate. So I look back. My eyes follow worn-in tire-tracks to a mobile-home. And it looked deserted enough. There’s a covered deck built in front of the home. My stomach held back as curiosity took over. I follow the tracks until I could distinguish those windows. This was it.
The covered porch looms before me. I do not remember this. But I climb the steps, feet heavy. I move cautiously yet the wood splinters and tweaks beneath my feet. A quick breeze shakes the leaves. Dust circles and then settles about me.
The front door mocks me, but I knock anyway. No answer. I knock again. The doorknob beckons me. What used to be golden was now brown and rusty with a hint of green. A wave of psychosis hits me in the gut. The doorknob is suddenly white, free-spinning, and I’m unable to open it. I’m watching myself like an out-of-body experience. My stomach drops again.
I press my eyes shut, return to my body, open them, and there’s a door knocker. It mimics the look of a heavily twined rope. It’s not weathered nearly as bad as the doorknob. Why? Perhaps it’s an addition or replacement.
Oh, the doorknob!
The colors of brown and green, wash over me. It’s as if I were invited in… like a vampire pulled in by some force of dark magic. Panic raises each and every hair on my body. I reach for the knob again. This time it squeaks and then turns.
This place has been abandoned for years. It’s hot and humid. The draft of musty air assails me as I make my way through the doorway. My gaze is immediately drawn to the wood-paneled walls. Aesthetics evidently wasn’t of anyone’s concern because they stood just as ugly as before. Considering the age of the hollowed dry-walls, I couldn’t imagine what currently resided in between.
I look towards what was my mother’s old room and just to the right of the door, I see the telephone. It’s mounted on the wall. The coil hangs and falls onto a small table. Books and magazines are stacked in a disorderly manner. I walk through the “dining” room, towards the old phone and come to the eerie realization that there isn’t a phone. No table. No books. Nothing but a phone jack. “Stop this,” I’m begging myself.
I shake the vision and walk into her room.
A layer of dust coats the carpet. Random items and paper scattered on the floor. I briefly observe the content of what’s left behind, searching for something that is meaningful, handwritten or contains enough text to seem personal, but less text than the typical terms and conditions of whatever junk mail is always composed of. Nothing good.
It’s at this instant I knew I was on the hunt for something. I want to find something I recognized. I needed to. Sort of a souvenir to take home with me. It’s as if I’m afraid I’ll forget these moments. I want something to hold on to.
I’m at the bathroom now and memories flicker. Thoughts race. I vividly remember the showers I took with the men. I wonder which man it was the first time. I’m picturing a face but I cannot see one. The sexual abuse flares my insides.
The toilet reminds me of the glucose machine. That’s where I’d sit while my mother pricked my fingers with this tiny needle. I was always afraid. I’d anticipated the pain every time. But I was told that it kept me safe. It kept me well. As a result, I was diagnosed with illnesses. Diabetes and Lupus. And then I was fed the remedies… the medicines. Only to be subsequently locked up like a lab-rat. As a test subject should be. My mother, the hypochondriac or one that should have been diagnosed with Munchausen by proxy.
My reverie is interrupted by a throbbing from my chest. Morning coffee is metaphorically threatening to “spill the beans.” My throat burns. I needed the caffeine to focus, yet it’s betraying the intent of consumption. I hold my breath while it settles again, uncomfortably.
I move towards the living room, stopping at my mother’s doorway. I visualize the furniture in each of the arrangements. Scenes ripple as I connect memories with each of the different layouts of the room. I can see myself running in circles. I can see myself dancing and playing. I can hear Alanis Morissette and Jewel in the background. I can see me on the floor, sleeping. And then I can see myself on the couch with chickenpox… watching the ghosts as they [dance] about. They zip around the room like a flickering light. Something like the sun reflecting off a compact mirror, although it was night. Nan told me the ghosts were signs of God. She told me I was seeing angels instead. That they were keeping me safe.
In all of this, I also see my innocence. My ignorance. I was helpless. And I’m furious. And I’m nauseous.
I know where I’m headed next. I wanted to save this room for last. But I couldn’t. I was simply too curious.
The door of the boy’s room had been replaced but I honestly didn’t expect to see it. And understandably so. The door was once sawed at the top hinge and latched with a simple hook eye from the outside. Resembling something you would see at a daycare. A makeshift dutch door. The bottom door was equipped with a baby-proof knob cover on the inside. The cover was white. The exact design doesn’t exist anymore. I know. Because I’ve searched for it. Nonetheless, it assumed the purpose. It kept the four of us locked in. This is where we ate and slept for the most part. From the top door, we were thrown what must have been the remnants of the kitchen. Condiments and such. Every now and then it would be filling.
None of this was fair. I was so angry. I unconsciously came to the floor in the middle of the next room. The room was so small. But I remember it so big. Are my memories real? I swear this room was huge. It was presently carpeted just as it originally was. However, at one point in the thick of history, the floor was vinyl. And this is where my mind goes. My brothers and I slip across the floor while my little sister lay on the mattress, which laid on the floor. A bottle of dawn soap and a large bucket of water were the happiest of these times. Slipping and sliding. Competing. Rolling. Pushing. Dragging. Circling. Spinning.
I get up off the floor. So hesitant. So scared of where I was going. I close the door. Behind it, I snap a picture of the floor vent. This is where we’d towel the mess when the fun was over.
Our bodily waste.
I move on. I move quick. I’m drowning. The flashbacks are flooding my mind. I need to surface. I zip through the rest of the house. Taking pictures from every angle. And I’m gone. I ran in a dazed state. Half tripping, cursing at my old sandals. I’m holding the camera against my chest even though it hung on a strap. I didn’t want it bouncing around. This camera now contained something I needed to understand. A memory card full of pictures. I wanted a reason. I’d investigate these when I had the time.
I fumble for my keys, get in my car, and slam the door. I’m suffocating, sitting in the unwavering heat. It must have been over one hundred degrees in the car. I’m waiting for something to hit me. Wake me up. A few moments pass when sweat drips between my breasts. It’s tickling. And with deadened motions, I turn the key over.
I take a three-point turn entirely too harsh. The road is made of concrete wash, it digs up caused by my mild burnout and becomes a transient fog that treads behind me. I inattentively drive. Take the turns. Turns I didn’t process. I’m completely lost in my mind. And then I see a paved road. The dust cloaks me as I slow at the stop sign. I set my GPS while pressing the breaks. “Turn right,” my British companion says.
I turn, promising myself that I'll never return.