Dear Overreactors of the Internet: I would like you to know from the start that I am not trivializing PTSD. I realize that PTSD is a legitimate illness/psychological torment, and that in some cases – war, grave illness or injury, traumatic accident, crime victimry, etc. – it absolutely deserves recognition and professional treatment. I also realize that in some other cases – a breakup, layoff, or inconvenient event – PTSD is often inaccurately self-diagnosed and used as an excuse for any number of personal and/or professional failings. I’ve seen both cases firsthand. The former is heartbreaking and difficult, the latter makes me want to punch a motherfucker in the face.
With that in mind, while I would never attempt to diagnose myself or trivialize the experience of anyone with legitimate PTSD, I’m a little worried about what’s going on with me now that I’ve begun pricing the move to Seattle. The last time I orchestrated a cross-country move, I was leaving a marriage for reasons of infidelity, theft, and chronic lying (his, against me, on all counts). I was using literally all the money I had after the rest was stolen from me to book movers, drive nearly 2,000 miles to St. Louis, and rent a narrow shotgun flat within the span of a week and a half. It wasn’t a great experience. On one hand, I was exhilarated to leave this person and a city I hated, but on the other, I was 100% broke and drifting along on a low-limit credit card. I had no job lined up in St. Louis and no idea how I was going to make my rent, car payment, or utility bills (I wound up borrowing money from my grandma for one month’s worth of rent and utilities and the car got repossessed), and when I did find work, it was three jobs and I considered Sunday to be my day off because that was the only day I worked at only one place. Even after I started working and paying the bills, I had to deal with my now ex-husband defaulting on every loan (thus ruining my credit, which I’m only just now starting to rebuild) and refusing to acknowledge or sign divorce papers correctly for years. Back then, I’d started dating someone who once marveled that I’d been through all this bullshit but still wasn’t bitter about it, to which I replied with “you obviously don’t know me very well,” and “well, not as bitter as I could be.”
Psychologically-speaking, I’ve come a long way since then. I mean, I should, it was nearly ten years ago. I don’t drink as much anymore, and I don’t have creditor-related nightmares or panic attacks that paralyze me for hours at a time. I’m still pissed at the person I made the mistake of marrying, but probably anyone else would be, and at least 6% of that is me being pissed at myself for marrying a pathological liar and thief when I was too young and should have been smart enough to know better.
It didn’t hit me until today, though, that I might not be completely recovered. I started pricing moving costs for Seattle. Because I remember the misery of trying to get a U-Haul through the mountains (these were in the Southwestern U.S. and considerably less arduous than the northern Rockies), Graham and I initially discussed getting a PODS unit. You guys. Did you know that getting a PODS unit from St. Louis to Seattle costs over $4,500.00? Are you fucking serious? That’s way more than I once paid movers to load and unload myself across the same distance. And the guy on the phone talked too fast with a spitty lisp, which I didn’t like.
Graham claims not to mind maxxing out at 30mph through a mountain range, and if that’s true, then good for him. I’m not sure how he’s going to tow his car and go faster than 20mph, though, but I’ll leave that up to him. I’m the one who’ll have to get across the country with two cats in the car, one of whom has anxiety problems that result in stress-shedding and, sometimes, pee. My god, I really hope I can get my hands on some cat sedatives.
Anyway. The point is that as I clicked through all of my options and their unique abilities to really ass-fuck me in my bank account, I started freaking out a little bit. Not because of the move itself, or because of making the move with Graham. I was freaking out about the memory of doing all this once, and while I tend to look back on that period with awe that I was able to gird my loins and move forward with practically zero resources, I’ve faced the reality that I was scared shitless, and for very good reason. So when my heart started pounding and my hands started shaking and I fought the urge to curl into a fetal position and cry today (I am being serious), I figured out that moving will probably always fill me with a mixture of fear and dread, and that I may not have the ability to control my reactions to past traumatic experiences.
Which is upsetting, naturally, and while it probably doesn’t qualify as PTSD, it’s still not something I’m looking forward to re-living.