“They look like white elephants,” she said.
“I’ve never seen one,” the man drank his beer.
“No, you wouldn’t have.”
“I might have,” the man said. “Just because you say I wouldn’t have doesn’t prove anything.”
- Hills Like White Elephants, Ernest Hemingway
It starts with the nightmares.
Night after night, I’m stranded in airports I’ve never visited – some exotic, some rural – malls I’ve never seen, always looking for someone who, in a dream-like way, I know is looking for me, too. A particular someone – someone who I’ve never met, but someone who, I chase night after night. I have a feeling I’d know him if I saw him, but really, that could be a lie.
It feels silly, to admit that I spend my dream time, not eating Marshmallow Fluff, but looking for a particular person. I’d much rather be saving the world while I sleep than sorting through the faceless masses at fictional airports.
Once the dreams begin, sleeping becomes fitful, if not impossible.
I’ve not won any sleeping awards since I got my thyroid regulated (I HAVE A GLANDULAR PROBLEM), but during these patches, it becomes nearly impossible. When I sleep, I run, I chase, I wake myself weeping into my pillow or moaning in sadness. By 9AM, all hope of rest gone, I slog my soggy ass out of bed and pretend that I remember what it’s like to sleep.
I’m functional for a few weeks like this, groggy, with slowed reflexes, but, with my rate of unintentional self-injury, no one notices.
It’s only after a few weeks, months, I don’t know how long, that I start to crack. The anxiety becomes too much. Things I would’ve normally found hilarious – my neighbors tree, for example, which looks like it’s growing a full set of knockers – don’t even elicit the barest of smiles.
I want so desperately to reach out, to connect with someone; anyone, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I can’t bring myself to admit that it’s okay to be weak – that I’m allowed to not understand my feelings. It’s then that the voices of those who I have once loved echo through my head and I begin to doubt. Everything. Myself. My ability to function in every day society.
The echos of things once-said flit through my mind. “I can’t handle your problems right now,” my ghost-husband says. “You’re a liar,” my ghost-brother says. “Take down that story about the rape or I’ll take action,” my ghost ex threatens.
My world becomes smaller, ever smaller, as the PTSD rears it’s head. And this time, like the others, it leaves me gasping for air, for straws, for any reason as to why there’s a 9,827 pound white elephant on my chest when the rest of the world seems to be breathing air like it’s no big deal.
I wonder what is so fundamentally fucked inside my head that I can’t manage to beat this PTSD: my daughter lived. I have countless friends who’d gnaw off a couple of legs to say the same thing. So why am I so fucked? Why does rubbing my hand along the plastic implant inside her skull make me break out in a cold sweat? She squeals and laughs runs and plays and kicks her brothers with wild abandon, while I am trapped on the couch, my windpipe unable to properly move air into my lungs.
And those words, those words like white elephants, trapped in my lungs, they remain unspoken.