I Wake Up Panting and Sweating: Another Day With PTSD

Mark Rogers

I wake up panting and sweating from every pore. My body is a twitching mass of pain, as usual, and today is a 7 out of 10 day. My normal level is a 4 or 5, just a dull whole body ache that I can work through. Last night's nightmare replays in my head like a film made of rapid cuts that make no sense at all. My head is in my shaking hands and I am slowly realizing where and when I am. I sit and try to use abdominal breathing to slow my panting. I watch my leg and arm muscles twitch and writhe beneath my skin looking like snakes crawling under a blanket. When my arms stop shaking, I take my meds. Now I am awake and ready for another day with PTSD.

I don't remember what I was dreaming last night but I feel like I have gone twelve rounds MMA style. Now I vaguely remember delivering a series of kicks to the couch I slept on. My form must have been pretty bad because my toe is slightly dislocated. I reach down and pop my big toe back into proper alignment. I finally stand and try to stretch some of the pain away. My joints creak and crack as I work my limbs through their full range of motion. My muscles are in full revolt as I reach to touch my toes then the floor. Curiously, I still have much of the flexibility I developed while training in Jujutsu years ago. The stretching helps. The pain is at a comfortable level now and I can start my morning.

It will be about an hour before the meds kick in and I want coffee. This is a problem because my hands are still shaky. I manage to fill the reservoir on my coffee maker and this time, I only spill a small amount of grounds around the filter. I take a seat while it brews. I am panting again like I have just ran a few blocks and my hands are shaking again. Just another random anxiety attack and on a day like today, it will be an all day battle to control my twitching. I feel exhausted yet wide awake. I get up like a boxer in the late rounds and make a cup of wake up. I drink in between the bouts of shaking. It seems like a bad idea drinking coffee in this state but, the brew is relaxing. I don't really need the caffeine since my senses are at DefCon 1 but, I still feel a bit foggy. I can hear the road and foot traffic outside and soon, I am seeing a mental map of everything that is making a sound. The joggers travelling north, the truck that just turned east, the birds perched on the wires just outside of my window are all located without seeing any of them. The lawn mowers and leaf blowers start and erase the map. The aural stimuli is overwhelming and my body tenses with each pass of the machinery. Soon, they are done and I am deep breathing again, trying to calm myself.

I amble to the bathroom and start the shaving ritual. I crack my knuckles and shadow box for a minute to get the tension out of my arms and hands. I carefully shave as the twitching becomes a light buzz in my shoulders. I am still moving slowly so I crank up the shower to as hot as I can bear and stumble in. I feel my shoulders relax a bit as the hot water warms my aching muscles. I wash and stretch some more in the heat. I guess this is my poor man's version of hot yoga but it works as I feel my muscles relax the longer I stay in the water. I would love to stay but I really need to put some clothes on and get groceries.

The act of putting on jeans and a shirt have wiped me out so I take five before putting my shoes on. I really don't want to be around other people when I am like this but I do have to eat. I have another cup of coffee and devour a couple of breakfast bars as I rest up. I have to prepare myself mentally to be around people now and am deep breathing again. I finally get my shoes on and make my way to the market. The walk is only a block but by the time I get to the door of the supermarket, I feel wiped out again. More deep breathing and soon I am slowly walking the aisles. The store is nearly empty except for the staff and I am grateful. I grab what I need as quickly as I can because I feel an anxiety attack coming on. I have to put my shaking hand in my pocket to hide it from the young lady at check out. She attempts some light conversation but I really can't participate since I am just trying to hold it together.

The walk back is hellish. My legs and arms are twitching again. I want to sit right on the sidewalk and take five. I drive on in a haze of pain and shame. I do manage to say hello to people as they pass me on the walk. It's a friendly town. I can't help but avert my eyes hoping that no one will notice my discomfort. On days like this I try to be invisible. Soon, I am back in my apartment and I am free to look how I feel. I drop the bags and slump in my chair letting my limbs twitch as a reward for not embarrassing me in the store. I want to work on my claim today so I fire up the computer. My fingers hurt like hell so typing hurts. I manage to do some research and write a bit but I feel myself petering out. Soon I am just staring at the screen not reading or writing anything and panting. I put the laptop down and lie down as the shaking starts again. I close my eyes and deep breathe. I am angry at myself for having another unproductive day and resolve to get more done on a better day.

I try to remember if I have taken my meds and I honestly do not remember. I look for clues and find that I have by counting how many pills I have left in one of the three bottles of meds. While I am at it, I realize that I forgot to take my second beta blocker of the day and quickly slug one back. The day is half way over and I haven't done even half of what I planned. This actually makes me laugh. I shake my head. It's just another day with PTSD. At least I know what it is now and hopefully, tomorrow will be a 4 or 5 day.

Mark Rogers is a citizen of the Montaukett and Matinecock Nations located in Long Island, New York,  where he is known as Toyupahs Cuyahnu (Crazy Turtle). He has served as a grassroots activist in the African American and Native communities and is a proud veteran NCO of the U.S. Army Reserves Medical Corps. He is presently working on a writing career and seeks to aid fellow veterans through his writing. See his Facebook page Toyupahs Cuyahnu/Mark Rogers for more of his writing.

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