With Sam’s parasites treated and his eye infection gone, the only thing keeping me from letting him out of the containment of the garret bathroom last Friday was my PTSD. I was afraid of the chaos that would commence, the lack of control I would have over my home environment, once I opened that door. But I did it anyway.
Sam ran up and down the garret hallway, pounding his tiny paws like sticks on drums, reveling in the sound of himself, grounded in the world. This type of behavior alternated with a panicked frenzy that overtook his body and, for a few moments, on overload, he became a tiny version of the Tasmanian Devil on “The Bugs Bunny Show,” screaming himself into a whirl of paws and claws and baby teeth, stinging my hand like a swarm of yellow jackets as I felt the poison of adrenaline running through me.
The first night was very hard. I was used to Hannah’s quietness. Sam’s noises tapped into PTSD-driven reflexive gut reactions of terror that I could not control. While I knew logically it was just the sounds of a kitten, my body was on-guard and I could not sleep. I closed my bedroom door, thinking then I’d sleep undisturbed, but fear still was my cloak, and my eyes remained stuck open. I knew the door had nothing to do with Sam.
Tolerating my gut reactions was painful. I felt like a drug addict – dependent on environmental control – going cold turkey. I remembered how I had difficulty when I first adopted Hannah, but this seemed worse. I thought, if I could get through the first night then it would just get easier. But it didn’t.
During the day, I walked around in what I knew was a PTSD daze, a state of mind one might compare to the mental version of physically feeling motion sick long after you’ve gotten off the terribly turbulent plane. I was no longer in the environment of my childhood, yet I was still feeling its effects. Thoughts bombarded my mind and I lost track of what I was doing and where I was placing important things, such as my bills, my favorite necklace, a Gumby talisman someone I’m close to gave to me as a token of faith. I’d carried Gumby in my pocket for years as a grounding tool, something to hold onto during times of stress. But, while walking home from some errands, I realized Gumby (whose character embodies the message “everything will turn out okay”) was gone. I retraced my steps, looking for Gumby through the city streets, feeling a strange kind of desperation from another time and place aching in my ribs. I searched until my chest was sunburned and then I told myself that was it, I lost it.
When I arrived home I found Hannah and Sam playing in the living room, taking turns batting a string toy I had tied around a scratching post. Then they chased each other into my bedroom with what appeared to me to be glee.
Hannah settled at the head of my bed for her nap and Sam made little gurgle noises before attempting to use his baby legs to jump up to be with her. He clung to the side of the bed for dear life, then pulled his body up as if climbing a mountain. Having cleared the top of the cliff, he walked over to Hannah and sat beside her. Hannah let out a small moan of annoyance but Sam did not care. He rolled over on his side and began biting the comforter. Hannah swatted at him to stop, and he did. Then they both settled in, and things grew quiet. I stood in the doorway and watched.
It’s about letting go – of control, of the past. It’s about holding on to the intangibles that can only be found in the heart and soul. It’s about standing in the doorway to the room of the things that are now, and walking in.