Slinking in from the dark

May 22

So. Here goes public. I am Susie, third (temporarily lost but now found) member of the Collective, and I am currently confirming my diagnosis of PTSD by 1) struggling to make myself attend sessions with psychologist and meetings with social worker and wait for distant June appointment with psychiatrist (for the stamp of authenticity); and 2) living in my car with my dog in a WalMart parking lot. It’s a small car, and there is a lot of stuff in there. Canned goods. Peanut butter. Juice boxes. Books. Office supplies. Incense and Rescue Remedy. Some clothes. A sleeping bag which officially belonged to the dog when I had a bed. She is sweet. She shares.

I kept telling people when this was all coming down, “I do not have the skills for this!” Who does? I had heard and read things that had me convinced I would be dead before a week was out, and those first few nights in the dark in the sub-freezing weather were so bad that I can only remember little bites of time. But it has been weeks now, almost two months, and I am still here. Turns out, I am a better car camper than I would have suspected, and the fear does what it does. I am still terrified of everything sometimes, and I do mean terror, not just nerves or that creepy feeling up the back of your neck or a queasy stomach or “having a bad day”. That’s afraid. I mean paralyzed, numb, out here in the tall weeds and cannot even see the path to get back to functioning in any way. I sit and stare for hours at a time, thinking (sort of). I make a list of important tasks: 1) find a shelter which will accept me and isn’t in a location that is dangerous to even drive through; 2) convince myself that it won’t be a snake pit; 3) tackle the rest of the counseling task list and do a stack of social worker generated SSI paperwork so that I might possibly, sometime a few months from now, have “help” which I am assured will assist with my road back to Normal. (Wasn’t that a TZ episode?); and (4) get up the nerve to go (again) and ask my kind friends (again) if I may take a shower and wash my hair because it has been ten days now and I stink. Yes. That is PTSD for me: paralysis and bathing with baby wipes in the wide girl stall at WalMart.

When I am not terrified, I am focused on one of the three or four things I can do that make me feel calm. I read novels, play helicopter parent to Bodhi (aforementioned dog) with walks and talks and doggie massage sessions, sneak overlong sessions in the library playing anything that resembles Bejeweled, or focus (read: screen out all other input) on birds and flowers and sunsets and blue skies and generally pretend that I am somewhere else, doing something else, as no one at all. When I am way out there, I talk to myself. By myself. In my car. As if I were conversing with a friend. I look back on all the times I passed a homeless person on the sidewalks of DC, someone muttering and complaining aloud and alone and try to feel alarmed, embarrassed, even ashamed. But what I really feel, is nothing.

Just checking in from your average urban warzone.

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