Shaken to the Core

I’m sitting in my favorite chair in silence; feeling relaxed and safe, wondering what I will do today. It’s warm outside and I can feel the sun through the sliding glass door next to me. I can faintly hear the sound of children playing in the courtyard just beneath my balcony. The refrigerator hums loudly in the next room and my stomach rumbles echo around my tiny condo.

Suddenly there is a knock at the door. Not a light knuckled knock but a heavy fisted knock. An urgent authoritative knock. My anxiety goes full tilt immediately. I don’t know a soul within a thousand miles of where I’m staying and there were no grocery deliveries scheduled for today. I sit still and try to slow my breathing, hoping it is just a lost delivery or a confused neighbor. But within a few short seconds, the pounding at the door comes again but louder and harder. Boom! Boom!! Boom!!! My compliance is expected…is demanded.

My mind is screaming “Danger! Danger! Run! Run! Run!” but there is nowhere to go. This is the only door and my only way out is through it, unless I want to jump off the deck. I consider jumping for a moment. I try to stand but my feet, covered in thick winter socks, can’t get a grip on the floor and I fall back. The old leather chair, only moments before a host of peaceful solitude and contemplation, betrays my presence with a loud pop and groan as it catches me. I can feel my pulse in my temples and suddenly my throat is constricting; forcing me to swallow over and over as the adrenaline starts coursing through me and I shake and perspire. My eyes dart around the room looking for a place to hide. My mind calculates how long it would take to get to the kitchen to grab a steak knife. And then I hear a key in the lock.

Hearing the first lock click open, I find my footing and run toward the kitchen. My mind is dueling now; arguing “Get a knife and slice this motherfucker!” and “Don’t overreact and be an embarrassment.” Just as I round the corner into the hallway leading to the door, I hear the key again and can see the deadbolt turning. I freeze as the door to my private rental slams open three inches and is stopped by the flimsy chain lock. I feel faint. The door is slammed into the chain again. I’m going to die.

A man’s voice calls out “Pest control!” I remain frozen and don’t respond but I’m certain the stranger standing only a few feet away can hear my loud heartbeat.

Just as quickly as the door was opened, it’s shut and locked again from the outside. I hear heavy footsteps walking away and then the same fist pounding on the door to the condo next to me and the muffled announcement again. Then I hear the next door open and the footsteps moving down the hallway just on the other side of the wall next to me. I still can’t move. I don’t know where to go. Do I go back to my chair? Do I run out the door? Do I just lie down here on the cold tile hallway floor and wait for my world to stop spinning?

It’s been eight hours since the bug man came and obliterated my carefully cultured peace. I still feel jittery; as if I’ve had several cups of coffee and have something I need to get done. I am hearing all of the sounds from the other renters as they come and go outside; every footstep, car door and voice requires vetting again. I am nauseous and can’t eat; my throat is still working to swallow what isn’t there. I’m sore and achy; feeling the muscles in my neck bunching as my shoulders draw up around my ears. I feel disappointed in my lack of accomplishments today; I stayed under my favorite blanket in my chair for the rest of the day and couldn’t convince my body it would be safe to walk out for the sunset or stretch out on my yoga mat. My jaw hurts; I keep catching myself clenching my teeth and my dental implants feel loosened again. My head hurts. My eyes ache but won’t stop darting around even when I close them. I’m exhausted but I can’t sleep.

I am reliving the memories that created my lifetime of heightened anxiety. My body is remembering the fear and pain from those other times a man demanded compliance and a flimsy chain lock wasn’t there to keep them away. Those places on my journey where here I have lost myself again and again. Today, I am a time traveler… touring my story board of brokenness.

“PTSD: It’s not the person refusing to let go of the past, but the past refusing to let go of the person.” ~Unknown