Battling PTSD with scent

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Here I am again in Dr. White, my Therapist’s home office. It’s a cozy spot full of eclectic pieces from his travels around the world. The carpet has a beautiful Indian print; the house must be at least 100 year old with lovely sweeping balconies which I can see from where I sit. It’s so peaceful out here in the country, watching the old trees sway in the wind life feels slower and I begin to relax.
I think I could really like this place if it weren’t for the work we have to do here.
Just the thought has caused my heart rate to increase and I realize that the muscles throughout my body have tightened. Dr. White hands me the vial of Lilac and pulls a low stool directly in front of me upon which he sits. As he begins to speak softly about day of the car accident he moves his fingers rhythmic motion at eye level. I raise the vial to my nose and gently inhale the scent seeking my safe place.  
The scent takes me away from the good Doctor, back to a time of peace a time when life was safe and predictable. With each breath my childhood bedroom became clearer to me; I can easily feel the fresh sheets cool on my skin. I can see the sunlight bouncing off of the cover of my ceiling light onto my Holly Hobbie print on the wall. The sound of my Mum doing dishes in the kitchen soothes me. My body was relaxed in this moment, in the scent of the Lilac tree drifting in on the breeze through my bedroom window.
In the back of my mind I feel a shift in the air; immediately I raise the vial to closer to my nose, waving it quickly. The image and feeling of my safe place was becoming less clear….I hear Dr. White’s words in a scattered manner as I tried to hold on to my childhood sheets, I tried to pull them up over my head. He’s saying highway.. SUV out of control..stopped in front of you..you’re safe. No I am NOT! The happy place in my mind is slipping away as my mind fights to avoid the Doctor’s words.
I can’t clutch those sheets tightly enough, they are ripped away and I am here in this cold room while Dr. White uses these words which open the door for the sense of Doom.
The black vortex of the Doom is behind me, I’m rigid with the knowledge, the expectation as my breath comes quickly….too quickly. Sounds are too loud, the light is too bright. My hands are numb and I drop the vial, the world is coming too quickly!
I close my eyes and breathe. And I pray….the pain in my neck increases and I can feel the familiar stabbing sensation in my temples. I feel alone, utterly alone and vulnerable. I can’t handle all of this fear and pain rushing at me at once.
I NEED to go home. NOW!
I quickly tell Dr. White how I feel, he wants me to try some relaxation techniques but I can’t do it. I need to escape back into my home where I can close out the world. That is exactly what I do.
As I close the front door to my house behind me I lean against the wall sweating and breathing like I did after my first 5K race. I attempt to slow my breathing by consciously taking shallow breaths in and exhaling while counting to 5. Making my way through the house I’m kicking off my shoes and removing my clothes frantically, trying to be free of the restriction. I feel the Doom coming closer…..it’s almost upon me.
Just feet from the toilet I begin retching, clutching the bowl I am absorbed by the process of vomiting until I am empty and spent. I lay my head on the Bathroom floor; eyes closed feeling the coolness upon my cheek as I realize that the Doom has passed. The door it came through is again closed tight. I am again numb. I smell my Lilac room scented plug-in and sleep overcomes me.



This post is in response to this week’s  Red Dress Club RemembeRED prompt to think of a sound or a smell the reminds you of something from your past and write a post about that memory.

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Comments

  1. says

    stunning. I was there with you. I was terrified, I wanted to get out, I was dying to get back to my safe place. I was nauseated and panting in the bathroom. Oh honey. You are SO brave to share this, and it's one of the most vivid things I have ever read it my whole life. I know about anxiety, and you just nailed it.Thank you for pouring your heart out. So much respect and love for you, revealing this part of your story.

  2. says

    Wow, this is very powerful and made me feel like I was right there, watching you and wanting to help. But not being able to.You really put a lot of yourself into this post, Julie, I can tell! Great job…

  3. says

    You did it.Validating your thoughts and life.It's why we write.Letting the pain and emotion tied to it float away with every piece we give out of ourselves.It's too much too carry for one person…share it with us–we'll make it lighter.No more secrets, no more shame, no need to keep it hidden and growing uglier in the darkness.

  4. says

    Wow, this was very vivid, you wrote it with such authority. Like you'd experienced this first hand. Great writing.I wanted to thank you for your kind comment on my last week post for RDC…my children have been projectile vomitting all week so I wasn't able to make rounds. Thanks and I joined your site.

  5. says

    Panic is mind numbing and at the same time overwhelming. You have encapsulated it so well in this place in this writing.. Honeysuckle is my safe scent.. or English lavender both remind me of my grandma..

  6. says

    Wow. I was there with you – the fear and wanting to hang on to the sheets with a vengeance… the feeling of sickness and needing to get away from it all. So good.PS… your therapist's home office totally made me think of the Seaver's house on Growing Pains. Random, i know. :)

  7. says

    It is absolutely amazing the power of scent, and how long the memories are tied to it.Very intense piece, Julie. Really great job!

  8. says

    Wow,thank you all for your comments!This post was quite difficult to write, generally I avoid thinking about the accident and the therapy but it seemed to flow out of me. The anxiety I had following writing was worth it.

  9. says

    This was so intense, so transparent, honest, raw. I hung onto every single word, i was right by your side, so wishing that I could help.You put so much out here. And it's powerful. And heard. XO

  10. says

    Wow. Wow.I have PTSD from childbirth and it is so hard to describe to people how certain things (mine are usually visual or objects) will trigger those painful memories. You literally described this to a T.I have never visited your blog before (visiting from TRDC) so I am unsure of what the history is behind this post. But I can feel your pain. Hugs…And thank you for being brave and sharing this window into your pain.

  11. says

    Having experienced anxiety this piece was very uncomfortable to read at points. That is because you captured the feeling so accurately. That accuracy also kept me enthralled and wanting to read on despite my discomfort. Wow!

  12. says

    Bless you Julie. This must have been so difficult to write – the feelings come through so beautifully in your words. Your sharing is a gift. Thank you so much.

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