Life with CPTSD

21 Jan 2020

My sleep is broken, I come to consciousness each time with clenched fists, a racing heart, and gasping for breath. My panic morphs the darkness in to terrible threats that I must escape.

Deep breathing, I calm myself as I plan my strategy to reach the kitchen. I must not wake anyone, so I move slowly in the dark, subjugating my need for light, to escape the formless terror, trading it for silence and solitude at my goal.

I greet the faint dawn light of the landing window with some relief, but the fear has seized my spine, and so to descend the stairs safely I shuffle sideways, wincing with each step, and with each creak of the tread. I reach the bottom and I release the breath I didn't realise I had dammed up.

In to the kitchen, I weigh up which light to flip on. Both could wake a sleeper in the next room. I'm frozen with indecision, I don't know how long I stand there.

Finding no answers I opt for a small light, closest to me, and fumble for the kettle. Can I risk filling it? Should I fill one cup as it uses less energy, or fill more so that the next person doesn't need to fill it, and it will still be warm? What would a good person do?

Again immobile, my mind whirling with fear and helplessness, I can move only when the ticking clock finds me and returns me.

I flick the kettle's switch without adding more water, the fear making the decision impossible. I stand again waiting, the boiling of the kettle making my heart race, and I cover my ears with my hands. I start to pace. Maybe I shouldn't have a hot drink, it's all too much to bear. And yet, the promise of the warmth and comfort of the hot cup in my hands drives me forward.

I watch the kettle's switch finally click off, and remove my hands from my ears. I'm so nearly there. I just have to spoon the granules in to the cup, but the chink of the spoon on glass catapults me away from the now.

Moving as an automata, I pour the hot water, and add milk, leaning hard on the knowledge that the shape and feel of the warm cup in my hands will ground me. The heat and taste will assure me that I am, in those few future moments, safe.

I take my cup and head for sanctuary, but glare of the kitchen light calls me back, rooting me to the spot while my mind weighs up whether I can switch it off. I can't leave it on. I can't turn it off. My drink is warm in my hands, but it is not enough to break through the barrier, nor to ease my distress.

Nothing is enough. And yet, I persevere. I persist. I jab at the light switch, action hopefully serving me better than inaction.

I find the sofa in the half light, and slump down, hugging my cup to me. I sip. The warmth permeates, and for a fleeting moment there is nothing other; no fear, no irrationality, no anxiety.

There will be more decisions, more terrifying indecision, more demons dogging my steps to delude me. But, for now, I am alone, it is quiet, I am safe.


A Moodscope member.

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