I am not a thrill seeker, not an adrenaline junkie. I have too much adrenaline in me at all times. It never settles down. My body and brain are always on high alert. Nothing I do can change that, it seems.
I scream everyday. I don’t mean I raise my voice and yell or lose my temper. No that isn’t. I speak in barely audible tones actually. I mean I scream. The scream of someone who is startled, frightened, sent into panic.
My kids are used to this response and are careful not to sneak up on me, but it doesn’t matter, no one can be careful enough. I am still going to jump and scream about something.
Generally it is when my back is turned and someone says something I don’t expect behind me. That will get a short AHHH, my heart racing, I nearly fall over, brace myself on the counter or wall or chair or whatever is near. I can’t see for a second as I recover, then when I see it is my dog, or kid we all laugh it off. I have learned to laugh, although honestly I don’t find it funny. The fear I feel is real. I laugh so the other person doesn’t feel badly and take my condition too seriously.
If someone unexpectedly touches me, my reaction is even stronger. I scream a bigger, longer, louder scream almost like a howl AAAOOOOHHHHH and I move, run, duck, lash out or some other defensive move. I have hit Hubby – good thing I am not strong. I have pushed the kids away, thankfully never hit them, as I retreat. I have hurt myself, bad scrapes and bruises, as I retreat so quickly. I have bumped into objects, like walls, chairs, railings, bedframes, whatever is between me and the scary thing that touched me. I have lost my balance and fallen too.
I don’t feel like I am anxious or near panic before these events happen. There is not time to breathe and prevent this reaction, they are over so quickly. Like when someone jumps out and says BOO or a snake suddenly crosses your path. You react. I do this all day long, every day, in my own house. I can’t remember not doing this.
But here is something interesting. I remember my mom doing this.
I remember my mom being jumpy. Screaming at silly things, startling if you walked into the room, even if you didn’t say anything. I remember my brothers picking on her, actually playing tricks to make her scream, like bringing in tree branches and saying “look mom, a snake!” I never thought those tricks were funny. I was always careful to be quiet and say “Hey Ma” as I came near so as not to sneak up on her. I hated when she screamed.
But I never thought much about this, about these memories of her until now. I am now of course thinking that she also had PTSD, when she was the age I am now. That she was worn out and frazzled by her abusive husband and whatever else happened to her that I don’t even know about.
I’m also thinking, I wonder if this can have a genetic component. Because not everyone gets PTSD. Some people can endure torture and recover without flashbacks and nervous breakdowns and excessive startle responses. Maybe our nerves were already wired to be sensitive. Maybe I would have always had migraines and ulcers and a high stress body but the repeated traumas put us in full blown PTSD. I don’t know. No one knows. Just some thoughts I had.