11 April 2017

Nightmares of my Father and other things

I must write this out because I fear if I don’t this day could be worse than I’d imagined.

I already clawed my way out of bed 10 minutes late, had a cup of coffee and a small bowl of cereal and knew, just knew that I would have to call off sick today.

I didn’t want to. I hate calling off sick. But the overwhelming tiredness, the shaking hands, the seizing feeling in my chest told me I would be a complete, useless mess if I went in to work.

Waking up at 9:45 a.m. confirmed that feeling. I am still feeling out of sorts, tight, nervous, jumpy, etc.

I went to my new psychologist yesterday. It was part two of ‘everything that ever scared the shit out if you – family edition.’ Last week was work and modern times edition.

I should say something about getting a mental health diagnoses. Most of the time, you can only get an ‘official’ diagnosis from a qualified psychiatrist, that is, one with an MD after their names. 

Occasionally a Psy.D (Doctorate in psychology) will do the trick. But getting one from an MSW (Master’s in Social Work) counselor is a bit rare.

Yesterday’s session – ever see those Hitler scenes from the movie ‘Downfall’ or pretty much any movie featuring Hitler and his emotions get the best of him and he rages and gesticulates and such? You know, pretty standard Hitler stuff (note: I hate using Hitler as an analogy but right now the bastard is the best one I can think of)?

That was me. Talking about my family. I was shocked at how worked up I was. I had covered this ground with other shrinks before but I never gotten quite this worked up.

My shrink was concerned and told me we needed to get off the topic because she wanted me to leave in a settled state of mind. I understood this as Turnpike driving is bad enough without me processing another beating from my father.

She wanted me to look her in the eyes. I had not been doing that the entire session or the one before. Because what I was telling her embarrassed and ashamed me.

“There is no doubt in my mind that I can diagnose you with PTSD,” she said. I questioned, she was firm. I asked her to talk to my psychiatrist since Dr. H-S is protective and cautious of her diagnoses.
My shrink would. But she held firm. It was that obvious after two sessions? Yes, she said, and, really, nobody has ever broached PTSD with you before? No, I replied, no one had.

And so, I went home and everything seemed OK. I had dinner, did a little Internet surfing, watched Jeopardy, talked about it with my wife, all the usual.

Then I went to bed and the gates of Hell opened.

Not even here, not even now or maybe even later, will I recount the dream that woke me, finally at 3:15 a.m. It was one of those dreams that you clutch the covers and look around a darkened room convincing yourself that this is the real world, not the one you just left.

I clawed my way backwards out of bed, trying not to wake up my wife, downed an Ativan and went to the bathroom to try to get my shit together.

I will tell you the dream was about my father and a cat my mother had. It involved a weapon. And that’s as far as I will go.

It was, without a doubt, the worst dream of my life. And, it had seemed to go on for hours. In dreams, it may have indeed lasted that long.

I must have sat there for 20 minutes at least – shaking, breathing hard, trying to concentrate. Our cat came and sat next to me. Our cat seems to know when we need some company, so I was not surprised. She did not nuzzle me and jump up and demand petting as she normally would. It’s like she knew I didn’t want to be touched but just to have someone there.

The other thought I had is, it’s interesting that my father, dead since 1983, could transcend the decades to reach out and touch me again and make me hate him all the more. Some shrinks talk about giving someone space in your head. I guess he never left or something else is going on I’d rather not believe. Because this is not the first time I’ve had a nightmare about him – just by far the worst.

I managed to go back to sleep with more Z-Quil, a half Ativan and some meditation music. I knew that if I stayed up from that point I would just be re-living this dream over and over.

It didn’t work. I woke up less than two hours later and knew I had a problem. But I did my best to get up and try to shake it off and go to work.

So here I am. I have a day to try to work my way out of this, forget the feels as best I can, and not fear sleep tonight although I think that’s a given.

So, I understand my shrink’s concern about covering certain subject matter. Yesterday’s session must have somehow planted a ticking time bomb in my subconscious that went off in my sleep. 

Recounting the subject matter covered in the session and in my dream, I think it’s a good bet.
Why this reaction now when previous re-tellings didn’t spawn this reaction? All I could think of is the cumulative aspects of the last 10 years – taking care of my infirm mother, watching her slowly die while trying to protect her estate from a sister whose boyfriend threated to kill me (in front of my mother). Also: my job, the SWAT team raid on the house and then the 18-month inquisition at work that followed – all of it, wrapped up in one awful package.

Here on the couch, in a darkened living room, trying to write it out, am I. It looks like rain. The cat has left me and I just had a piece of raisin bread and a cup of tea. I don’t know how to process the rest of the day. I don’t know what my co-workers are thinking of me having taken the balance of the afternoon yesterday to attend this session with an eye appointment looming Thursday.

Yes, I always worry what they think. Because one time what they thought about me almost got me killed in front of my wife. A ‘mistake’ the current director refused to apologize for since wasn’t in charge then. I thought I’d forgiven that; I guess I haven’t.

I know when I come in tomorrow, I will work twice as hard, twice as fast, to make up for it – out of fear, no more, no less. I can’t escape the place, I told my shrink, so I will have to deal with it or lose everything.

I remember years ago, the Most Giant Asshole Rush Limbaugh pontificating that “fear is a great motivator.” It was, as he admitted, easy for him to say. Decades later, that fear would produce Trump. Fear is never a great motivator. If you rely on fear to motivate other or yourself, eventually, you’ll break down your people or yourself. Perhaps some thrive off it, I don’t know. The Limbaugh legions (who have now moved on to the even more execrable Bannon bastards), would probably attribute it to being a ‘snowflake.’

The personal is the political indeed.

But somewhere, deep down inside, a little growing voice tells me I am stronger than I know. To have gone through all of this and not jumped into a homemade noose is a good thing – taking nothing away from the poor souls to whom the pain was too great. We live in a society where the suicidal are hounded into their grave as a kind of sport. But my heart aches for each misguided soul to whom the pressures of the world and the fight against their illness, have become too great to bear. They have my sympathy – not my condemnation.

I feel battered this morning. But for some weird reason, I will get up and go back there tomorrow – a place that pains me every time I step on its grounds. I will fight the fear, not only of that, but of crowds, traffic, cops, my own government, and, most of all, the demons of the past. There’s still something in me that wants to fight – that insists I fight.

But today, I must get my shit together.