Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Doing the Best That I Can


I have Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as Complex PTSD and C PTSD, because I have experienced chronic, repeated and prolonged traumas. 

While I don't intend to go through those traumas in this post, I want to address the most recent one.

Last autumn, on the last Saturday night of September 2018, I met a friend for a drink at a bar in the Times Square area. I did not get drunk. He and I parted around 2:00 a.m. (making it officially Sunday, September 30th), and I went out to hail a cab and go back to my home on the Upper West Side. I stepped onto the street, right off the curb,  and just had put up my arm when a small white car pulled up directly in front of me. A bunch of young people in their twenties got out. Two young women came to my left side and asked me a question about something in the neighborhood. Then a young man came over to my right and asked me if I would perform a sex act on him, using the vernacular. I did not engage with him. He repeated his demand, and I said, "No." The man punched me hard in the forehead, and I fell back onto the street. I fell so that my body landed diagonally. If I had fallen straight back, the back of my head would have hit the street. I lost consciousness for a few seconds, and had a difficult time seeing. The young people were shouting, and jumping into their car. As they drove away, I had presence of mind (yes, I wrote that) to take a photo of the car's license plate. What I remember next is that there was an NYPD patrol car, and a police officer helping me up. He must have asked me got my driver's license from my purse because he called me by my name. I was bleeding profusely from cut on my right elbow. Neither he nor his partner called an ambulance for me. They treated me like I was a fall-down drunk, and put me in a cab, and sent me on my way home.

I went to the emergency room on my own. I sat in the waiting area for a long time before the triage nurse realized that I needed help. She asked me to tell her what happened to me. The nurse was the first person who used the phrases "head injury" and "traumatic brain injury."  I had the worst headache of my life, was dizzy to the point of nausea, and my vision was blurry.  I also couldn't stand to look at any light.  The doctor examined me, and then ordered a CT Scan. After that He told me I had a concussion, and needed to be seen by a specialist. I managed to book an appointment at the NYU Langone Concussion Center for the next day. The past forty-eight hours had been horrible. I had that the headache, and my sense of time and space was off. I kept all the shades down, the curtains drawn, and the lamps shut off because I could not tolerate any light. My memory, which usually is extremely sharp, was off. When I needed to write down information, I was transposing letters and numbers. I cried constantly, I felt terrified, vulnerable, angry, ashamed and traumatized. I had been physically assaulted, and the police acted as though I had passed out from painting the town.

After they ran tests and asked me a lot of questions, the neurologist concluded that I did indeed have a concussion. He explained that my recovery from the concussion might take a long time, and emphasized that I needed a lot of physical and mental rest. He advised me to keep stress to a minimum. Dr. L warned me I might feel anxious or depressed. My gallows humor made me burst out laughing, and then I was afraid he would deem my behavior as inappropriate. How is one supposed to act after all of this???

The past ten months have been hellish. I isolated myself until May, too afraid to leave the apartment, except if my dog had a veterinary appointment, or I had a doctor's visit. While I am very active on Twitter, and delight in tweeting to promote writers and books, I could not read any books until January 2019. The genre I have chosen to read and review the most? Crime fiction. Thrillers.I could not read these novels because I had been a victim of a violent crime. I cannot psychoanalyze it further that because I lack perspective.

Yet I found I was able to read nonfiction, and spent much of the winter reading another favorite genre: true crime. That spoke to me. I watched many true crime television shows and documentaries. The only novel I read was Don Winslow's The Border. This is the final book in his Cartel trilogy, and I've been reading Don's novels since his first in 1991. The protagonist, Art Keller, is like an old and trusted friend. This was in February. I could not, however, review this masterpiece. 

A visit to the doctor confirmed that I have post-concussion syndrome.  I was functioning on such a low level. My priority is taking care of my senior dog. He who has a lot of medical issues. The bills got paid, and thank goodness this is a digital age and there are apps which make that relatively easy. My building management requires a check for rent payment. I forgot to pay December's rent. The following month I wrote a check in the amount for two months' rent, but the payment amount in words did not match the amount in numbers. Today I received a call from the woman in charge of rental receipt. We know one another pretty well now. She told me I wrote the check out perfectly, and it arrived on time, but I forgot to sign it.

In March 2019 I started therapy with a new psychologist, one who specializes in Dialectical Behavior Therapy. I was in a group of his last summer, and decided he was the best therapist for me. With his help, I began to come out of my self-imposed exile. By April I started doing normal things: running errands, seeing people, resting better, feeling less terrified, having less hypervigilance, and I was reading novels. Yet still  I could not write a review for any type of book. 

I feel inadequate, and unreliable, because while I can tweet, I want to read and review books and am unable to do so right now. Psychologically I am much improved, but my brain needs more healing and I need to practice self-care. I need much less screen time.  To that end I am going to lessen my social media presence for the rest of August. My hope is that I can read actual books, not ebooks, and write a review, or maybe even a few. I did write this post, so I think the odds are in my favor. 

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