Out of Nowhere... PTSD

So there I was...

at work today having a normal conversation with a coworker while standing in the hydraulics lab. There's quite a bit of white noise in the background with pumps and compressors running, but nothing so loud as to warrant hearing protection (in my opinion of course). The safety guy would tell you otherwise. We were just chatting about a current project, when out of nowhere, BOOM! The sound was loud and deep: the kind you could feel in your chest. I jump, my heart starts pounding and anxiety shoots up.

Just on the other side of the wall someone was loading a dumpster with large pieces of scrap metal and other heavy objects.


There it goes again, even louder now. Once again, I jump, but this time even higher. Now I'm ultra-focused, my heart's pounding harder and I'm keenly aware of my surroundings: tuning everything else out. Hyper vigilance mode has now kicked in. My co-worker says something to the effect that someone must be mad, but I don't really hear or acknowledge him as he stands there unflinchingly and unaware of thoughts racing through my mind. 


That's it, I'm getting the fuck out here. My heart is beating about a thousand miles per hour and my whole body is tense: waiting to spring into action. I tell my coworker that I can't take this shit, and he looked at me quizzically as I beat feet and walked away as quickly as I could trying to get away from the sounds. I couldn't get away fast enough and ended up going straight out to my car, jumped in, and took off. I didn't tell anyone I was leaving, but I needed to find sanctuary, like right fucking now.

I drove for about 20 minutes and ended up at a secluded boat launch at a nearby river. I pulled in, dropped the windows, shut down the car, tilted my seat back, and just listened and waited; hoping the churning and bubbling of the river would calm my nerves. It took a long time, but it started to work. The adrenaline and anxiety finally started to subside and was replaced by shame and embarrasment. It was hard to sit there for that long. I can see why folks turn to alcohol and other things to get through an episode like this because I was really tempted. Anything I could use to escape my current reality sounded good. And I mean ANYTHING. Unfortunately, I had seen a lot of folks take the wrong road as a means of escape and refused to let myself do that.

As much as it hurt to endure, as crazy as it made me feel, I was going to get through this by myself.

As I reflected about what just happened I ended up with a lot questions. The whole time I knew what the sounds were, so why did it effect me like this? It makes you feel downright ridiculous having these kinds of reactions. Over the years, I've grown used to, rather accustomed to having this kind of anxiety every time I hear a boom like this. Does it get better? Hell, if I know. Sometimes I think it does, but then there are days like today where the world feels like it's crashing down on me.

Otto Dix "The Wounded Soldier"

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