How do I explain to you 25 years of my inability to find rest like a normal human being because of PTSD?
When I was 14, we moved for the first time. My parents ripped me like a fresh bandaid over a new wound from the home I grew up in to a new house they’d built in a last ditch attempt to save their marriage. It was beautiful, but if was all fake. I spent half of my time in that house sleeping upstairs on the couch in front of the TV with phone, watching music videos and using my eating disorder to hide away from everyone. They let me stay up there alone because they couldn’t fix me, and they didn’t know what to do.
In the house I was raised in, when my eating disorder started, I started sleeping in the big reclining chair to keep myself from throwing up. They fought it at first, but it helped. I didn’t get sick. I stopped eating and kept sleeping there with the TV, and I felt a little better. We moved, and upstairs became the new recliner.
When mom and dad finally split, I slept in my room, until things happened at the church and I was alone and broken and ready to die. I was empty and afraid, and I started sleeping on the red recliner in the living room. I could get to mom fast, I could watch TV and cling to my phone, I could be safe with my friends and the voices on the television and the texts in my hands. I called my dad from that chair ready to down all my pills and saved my own life. That chair kept me safe. Even when I started dating my soon-to-be-fiance, I slept on the couch next to the chair just in case.
When I moved to college and my fiancé and I ended things, I started sleeping on the big red couch in the commons with my laptop, and my friends came out to check on me all the time. I needed to be there. I felt safe. It was upstairs, it was the recliner, it was the only place I could sleep without wanting to die.
When I moved back home, I slept on the couch and cried my soul out. I gave up on everything. But I pulled together, and when I was forced to move to my dad’s in the summer, I slept on HIS couch for safety from my own thoughts. I chose to get my nose pierced near midnight on that couch. I chose to drive to Abilene on my birthday on that couch, and when I got there, I slept on my red couch with my friends and on a couch at someone else’s house until it was time to drive back.
When I moved back to Abilene and into the new dorm, I couldn’t sleep at all. I was eventually moved into a new, bigger room. I slept on a day bed facing a TV there, and ended up sleeping in my car sometimes.
When I moved in with my mom that summer, I had a room, but I slept on the couch, just like I had every time I visited her. Eventually, after her wedding, I slept in her king-sized bed, and I kept the TV on, and I ate once every few days, and I never left the room. I was terrified, but I felt safe.
I moved back to school and into an apartment. I got no sleep in my own place, so I slept on my boyfriend’s couch. Once my roommate moved out and I got a new one, I started sleeping on the couch in the living room, and she would check on me. I thought I’d be okay again. I loved her and she helped me more than anyone I’d ever known. She and her friend, who quickly became mine, made me believe I’d be alright again, and they let me sleep in the couch with no judgment, for the first time since my parents. Then she graduated.
I stayed in that apartment, and over the summer I visited my new boyfriend. I slept in bed with him or in the giant bed in his guestroom, and I was okay. When I came back home, I downed entire bottles of wine while trying to find a way to move to California, and eventually passed out in my bed. I got no sleep. I dropped out and moved home to go to treatment for my eating disorder shortly after.
I slept on the couch at my dad’s while I waited to hear back. I visited my mom and some friends in Abilene, and I slept on couches and in giant beds with someone else until it was time to go. I slept in the giant guestroom of my ex until I was pulled into treatment, where I forced to sleep in my own bed, and they had to put me on tranquilizers. I was FINALLY okay in bed, alone… and my insurance dropped me. I moved home for a few weeks, went back to couches and laptops and phones, then moved to Long Beach, where I slept in a huge bed in a huge room with my electronic devices. Once I moved back in with my ex on the road towards Texas, I had put my addiction to my phone and laptop first again, and did the same in the huge guest bed until my last night there. I slept next to him, one last time, and sobbed until the sun rose. I slept next to my dad in hotel beds until we got home to Texas.
I moved in with a family friend in Abilene, and I was back to booze, pills, a bed on the sun porch, my phone, laptop, and maybe facetime just to get to a point where I could pass out. I finally couldn’t do it. I had to move back in with dad.
I slept on dad’s couch between nights at boyfriends’ houses, in their beds. Never alone. I eventually lived at moms, but I ended up on the couch. Went back to dad’s, slept on the couch, then decided to go back to school. I got an apartment and got drunk to go to sleep every night in my giant room where I was hated by my roommate. Eventually I gave up. I moved in with an old professor and slept in her daughter’s old room until I had to leave. I moved in with family friends and slept in their daughter’s old room, giant bed, laptop, phone, until I moved into the house I was renting with other girls. I slept in my giant bed on pain killers, advil, Tylenol, and whatever else I could get with an excess of alcohol with my phone and laptop each night.
My mom found me there and dragged me home, because she knew I was dying. I went to her home and woke up in the neighbor’s bed. I wanted to die. I started sleeping in my own room, doped up on sleeping pills until 4PM every day.
I finally got to treatment in October, and I slept in my own bed with a roommate. I read books to go to sleep, and broke my addictions. I felt whole again. But once I started sleeping with my new boyfriend and in my condo, my issues resurfaced. I wasn’t safe. I had to have my phone. Then my laptop. I had to be safe. I wasn’t safe. I needed something else. Both. A warm body, a laptop, a phone, sleeping meds, holistic meds, ANYTHING.
I have never slept in mental safety. I need that couch, that recliner, that giant bed with my electronics, that person who would die for me, and even then, I’m scared. I feel my eating disorder creeping up, my eating disorder, even my failing health, and I escape into a website until I crash. There is so much anxiety and fear. My head has never known a safe place. Since I was 11 years old, I have been so broken and dead. In a few of my houses, I’ve had a piano where I would stay up all night playing until I felt safe enough to go to bed. In those places, I was able to sleep in my own bed with more frequency than anywhere else. Once that was removed from the equation, or a step parent hadn’t learned how to sleep through it, I got sicker and moved on or out, and I broke again.
Right now I'm trying to learn a way to make a change that will positively impact both my sleep and my brain. I'm not sure what happens in that instance or how it works, but my doctor and I are moving forward on Friday and pledging to fix this. One of these days, a bed will be enough. Till then, I'll keep fighting.
Until my head hits the pillow again,