"PTSD may be triggered by an external factor or factors. Its symptoms can include the following: nightmares, flashbacks, emotional detachment or numbing of feelings (emotional self-mortification or dissociation), insomnia, avoidance of reminders and extreme distress when exposed to the reminders ("triggers"), loss of appetite, irritability, hypervigilance, memory loss (may appear as difficulty paying attention), excessive startle response, clinical depression, and anxiety. It is also possible for a person suffering from PTSD to exhibit one or more other comorbid psychiatric disorders; these disorders often include clinical depression (or bipolar disorder), general anxiety disorder, and a variety of addictions." – Wikipedia.org
The flashbacks can come at any time. I could be anywhere, doing anything, with anyone and the vision will flash before my eyes. I may hear the same sounds. I may smell the smells.
Most of the time, without fail, the flashbacks leave me gasping for breath, weak, frightened, and exploding with tears. I feel frightened, paranoid, and have a desire to run inside and hide.
Sometimes, probably almost all the time, there are environmental triggers. I will hear something rather benign but it will cause a cell in my body to wake up, a memory to come flashing, my blood to begin to swirl in mass hysteria.
Today, it was the song by LIVE “Lightening Crashes”. Sunny Saturday in New England, driving, sun roof open, windows open, me in jeans with toe rings and sandles, head band, big earrings, jean jacket, tee shirt. Running errands. Scotch tape, wrapping paper, stickers, beads, groceries.
I go from a mental checklist of items to purchase to suddenly seeing my 18 year old self, in labor. Alone. In the company of strangers. People who cared naught about me and everything about the child I would push from my womb.
Colleen, my caseworker is behind me, I am pushing. The room is a green blue (tile?). Very sterile. I am terribly anxious. My baby is coming. My body is writhing with contractions of heavy labor. The doctor, Simmons, is telling me to push.
I am so incredibly frightened, lonely, yet inside me, along with the child about to be born, there is a glee, a joy. I am about to be a mommy. My baby girl is on her way. Knees up, feet in stirrups, I cannot wait. She is coming. There is a mirror between my legs by the doctors head. I will be able to see her be born! I am trying to peer over the sheet, past my knees all the while struggling with the pain of labor. I will see her be born.
And the doctor moves the mirror.
WAIT. I want to scream. (But I don’t). Don’t move the mirror. I want to see. Some part of me realizes they moved the mirror on purpose. Its my punishment. Girls who are going to give away their babies aren’t allowed to see them be born. (Before she is even born I am damned).
Shes coming. I am bearing down. I am squeezing Colleens hands really hard. Oh my god. It hurts so much.
Blackness. Darkness. Anger. Rage. I want the mirror. I want to see. Please let me see her. (But I don’t tell them).
I don’t remember her cry. (Do I?). She must have cried. Of course she did. I think they took her off to the left of me to check her out. Colleen appears on the left. She has finger nail marks and blood on her hands. I squeezed her that hard.
Where is she? How is she? Where is my baby?
“lightning crashes, a new mother cries
her placenta falls to the floor
the angel opens her eyes
the confusion sets in
before the doctor can even close the door
lightning crashes, an old mother dies
her intentions fall to the floor
the angel closes her eyes
the confusion that was hers
belongs now, to the baby down the hall
oh now feel it comin’ back again
like a rollin’ thunder chasing the wind
forces pullin’ from the center of the earth again
I can feel it.
lightning crashes, a new mother cries
this moment she’s been waiting for
the angel opens her eyes
pale blue colored iris,
presents the circle
and puts the glory out to hide, hide"
– Lightening Crashes by LIVE
Its nearly 21 years later and I am only now crying, dying inside for the movement of the mirror.
Today I cry not for the girl that was born but for the mother who did not get to see that child be born.
Today I cry for me.
Don’t ever doubt adoption causes post traumatic stress disorder.
I, and my crippling flashbacks, are living, walking, wounded proof of that.