Sunday, March 08, 2009

POST Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome

In an encouraging, but short-lived burst of energy yesterday, I decided to hand wash some of my favorite sweaters. I'd been planning to do this since the holidays and, until yesterday, it just wasn't even an option -- or a necessity, since I've been living primarily in sleep pants and camisoles for the past two months.

As I gathered the sweaters I wanted to wash, I came upon a beautiful scarlet (crimson?) cashmere sweater. IMG_1253

I took it off the shelf, unfolded it, and wondered where this beautiful sweater came from. Why was it in my closet? Who did it belong to? Where did it come from? Was it a gift? It must have been, because I could never afford a cashmere sweater like this one.

As I stood there, it slowly -- very slowly -- came back to me. The day before my accident, I had brought a box of items to the local Goodwill store and, having a few minutes to kill, decided to go into the store and browse a bit. That's when I found this sweater! I tried it on, loved it, and bought it... along with... along with... damn, I couldn't remember.

Along with... wait, it's coming back to me.

Dishes? Corningware? I went into the kitchen and opened the cabinet. Yes! Ah ha! Along with these: IMG_1255

At that point, I began to recall my entire trip to the Goodwill store, something that I had completely forgotten until the sweater in my closet touched off the memory.

My injury occurred a full day after my trip to the Goodwill, yet I'd forgotten all about it. Why? What else had I forgotten?

Suddenly, something my boss had asked me about was beginning to make sense. A few weeks ago, he'd wondered about the status on a particular detail of a particular project. I'd drawn a complete blank and had no idea what he was talking about -- something that's bothered me ever since, because I pride myself on never dropping balls in my project management work.

I went back through my e-mails, looking into the issue my boss had inquired about, and there it was: at 11:35 PM on January 4th, I received an e-mail asking me to look into the issue. I'd begun to do just that, then decided to take a short break to take Shasta for a walk with Tom.

Instead, I fell and broke my ankle -- and dropped that ball.

Is this how post traumatic stress manifests itself? Did I simply lose a day of memories here and there around the time of the accident? Why would I lose memories from before the accident, instead of after it? And why do I have a few selected crystal clear memories about the accident itself?

I remember having both hands over my face as a way to try to deal with the pain. (Huh? Why?) I remember Tom whispering into my left ear, "You'll be OK, Sweetheart, help is on the way." (I know why I remember that -- because we don't normally use endearments or pet names for each other, and his use of "sweetheart" made me gush, even through the pain.) And I remember Peter, who has EMT training, coming outside to help, and feeling immediately that I was in strong, capable hands as he asked me to squeeze his finger... and then I didn't let go, and I held onto his hand. I remember absolutely needing to get off the steps and lie flat so I could put my head back because I felt like I'd pass out, and Peter gently helping me move into that position.

And, triumphantly, I remember the ER nurse at the hospital telling me I wouldn't remember her -- and I definitely do! (But damn, what was her name?!)

I can't explain any of this -- especially since I had no head trauma, so I can't understand why my injury messed so strangely with my memories. But I guess that's the mystery of post traumatic stress syndrome, and why it elicits more questions than answers for so many people.

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Anonymous said...

Shock will do that to you. I once lost an entire block of five hours. I remember standing in front of my house, getting ready for a bike ride, and the next thing I vaguely remember is coming home from the hospital some five hours later. Apparently I had fallen off my bike, but I don't remember that or that I walked home, etc., etc. For all I know, I was hit by a car. It's really scary to lose part of your life like that and I didn't get on another bike for 10 years or so.

Anonymous said...

I'll just bet it DID have to do with shock. Your brain was so wrapped around what had happened to you (and the pain) that anything around that period of time not associated directly with it pretty much went the wayside. I'm guessing, of course, but it does make sense.

Tillybud said...

Poor you that must have been quite scary. But on the bright side you got the nice surprise of the cashmere sweater and pots you'd forgotten all about eh?

Goofball said...

I have no idea what such trauma's do with our memory, but I can totally imagine it has a big impact.

I totally love that sweater!!

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