Reading about PTSD in children. They thought I was depressed, more than once in my life. My father thought I was "turning on the waterworks." Later, when I was on the emotional yoyo that was my first "marriage" I actually got on medication. Hyper-vigilence, bouts of crying, distrust and over-trust, anger, violent thoughts, physical distress, gas and cramps, sore throats and vague pains. I have come to believe I was never primarily depressed, only traumatized, with a dash of anxiety.
I remember drying dishes while my mother washed, and my father sat in the dining room. The phone rang. I was ordered to answer it. Walking past him. I had the paring knife in my hand, wooden handle, and on the way back, I stopped behind him for an eternity, knife in my fist, contemplating jabbing it into the back of his neck. And the whole thought process, not having any idea where to cut, if it was long enough, sharp enough to kill, or just enough to piss him off. I walked back and finished my task, but the thought stayed. I used to console myself while being raged at for hours, his red, greasy face a foot from mine, by reciting prayers in my head, Hail Mary, Our Father. From then on, I began to replace that with fantasies of terrible ways to kill my tormentor, and learned to focus on the bridge of his nose when he insisted "Look at me!" At least I didn't have to stare into those mad, stupid eyes again. Instead, I imagined shooting him in the mouth with a crossbow bolt - which would shut him up.
When both my brother and mother assured me (unprompted) that he'd died peacefully, I listened. He died of obstructive lung disease, one of my nightmare ways to die*. I've cared for patients dying while gasping for their every breath. I have a very clear image how he died, no doubt fighting and blaming every moment. I would not have wished it on anyone, even him. But I will not lie by saying I mind terribly that he was chained to that fate. Whatever they were told by kind nurses, I will hold to my own knowledge of how people die, and how nurses offer comfort to the living, and take my own comfort thereby. He did not die peacefully, he could not have, he would not have had any idea how.
They thought I had something wrong with my gut, for all the pain I had. I had a GI series as a kid, very distressing. I remember when they asked me what I would have for dinner, every one of my favorite foods† started with the word "fry." I did not mention how most meals were fraught with my father screaming, angry, hostile. They asked my mother if I was "nervous." A bad word, one of those my father bandied about, and my mother decried, so would not use to describe me, however accurate. Yes, I was terrified and anxious, traumatized and malnourished.
For the last twenty years, I have recovered, stabilized. My father's death, reestablishing contact with my mother, has aroused these sensations and memories. It'll never be gone because it is what I am made of. I can make something new of them, I have, like junkyard art. No fine porcelain for me. Different, neither better nor worse. Taking it out and reassessing it all, like cleaning out the deepest closets in preparation for moving.
Everything leaves it's mark. I see the scars, with a mild wonderment, that I survived, and have come out the other side. Content, happy, loved.
*Pancreatitis is the other horrible way I'd rather not die. Drowning, any immediate traumatic event, heart attack, all fine. Just not COPD or a sick pancreas.
†My mother did not believe in fresh, green, vegetables‡. Potatoes, canned corn, canned lima beans (blech) - that was it. I remember when Aunt Alma gave me spinach for the first time, I was in heaven. I ate cherry tomatoes out of the yard, as well as sweet clover and rhubarb, and sour green grapes from Mrs. Rizzardi's grape arbor all summer.
‡Not to mention fiber.