Thursday October twenty third 1980 was the last day we saw my dad. I vividly remember waving with my sister from the back seat of our opal watching my parents hug for the last time. My dad boarded the S.S. Poet. To this day the ship and its crew of thirty-four merchant mariners remain a mystery. I have less than a dozen memories of him. The ones I do have are filled with love, joy and the eyes of a three almost four-year-old little girl.
A child of that age can not have memories of her dad that disappeared at sea. A psychologist once told me. These may be “stories,” that you were told about your dad. It’s impossible to remember because the personality is still in the early developmental stages. Rest assured the memories I have are mine. In 1980 counseling services were scarce and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was finally added to the diagnostic and statistical manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
Six years ago, after a meeting I was crying to a friend saying, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me?” She said, “honey, nothing is wrong with you, you have PTSD.” A light bulb went off in my head. At my next medication check visit with my psychiatrist, I informed him what happened. He pulled out his DSM-V and said in a matter-of-fact way, “yes, it is.” I remember sitting there thinking all this time that is what I was dealing with and no one ever pointed that out?
I was a volunteer fire fighter and ambulance attendant for almost one year before dropping out of community college and joining the Army. Being diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder in the Army after not sleeping for three days can throw anyone into a manic phase. I was devasted that my Army days were over. My honorable discharge ended my military career and started me on a journey to self-discovery when I turned twenty-five years old. Only starting to scratch the surface with understanding how PTSD controls one’s life can be overwhelming at times. Due to my understanding and appreciation for this life I can sometimes control the anxious thoughts.
On a women’s retreat in January of this year I was lying in bed during a sleepless night. Thank God they don’t happen as often as they use to. I started to pray and remembered what my last therapist asked me about my “safe place.” I had informed her my safe place was my home. This particular night while praying over my body, I realized I am my own safe place. I didn’t have my husband to comfort me or cry to. I didn’t have my husky/border collie mix to sooth my tears. I didn’t have my couch to curl up on and I didn’t have my computer to write. I was all alone in the dark saying thank you God, I am my own safe place.