There was a pounding at the door. “Can I come in? What is wrong? Ruth, are you okay?” All he could hear was the shower running and muffled sobs. He began to worry when she did not respond and quickly came into the bathroom where he found her balled up in the corner, dripping wet and naked on the cold shower floor, who knows how long the water had lost its’ heat. She looked too thin, her eyes puffed and red from crying. He quickly turned the water off, reached for a towel and gently helped her to her feet. Her body fully exhausted, limp, almost lifeless from experiencing yet another attack of post traumatic stress. What was the trigger this time, he wondered. Through her sobs, she faintly asked him to throw the bottle of shower gel into the garbage can, not wanting to smell it ever again. “Every time I smell it,” she said, “I am flooded with the worst memories. I just want to die! I can’t take this anymore.”
Ruth had completely forgotten the hot water that was now ready to be made into a cup of tea to calm her nerves. It took all the effort she had to care for the three little ones every single day, leaving no energy to care for herself. She stared at the wall in front of her as it began to transform into clips and flashes from episodes of her previous 10 years of marriage. Shaking her head to clear it, to no avail, sitting for what felt like an eternity. She had finally called her boyfriend, Fred, to see if he could please come over. Her anxiety had been triggered again, it was late, dark, Fred had not called, she had been waiting for too long. But, her reality was often confused with her past life, a life filled with trauma, abuse, and domestic violence. They say time heals, but she relived her past every single day although it had been over two years since her escape back to America.
Fred now gently drying her off, rubbing her skin to warm her, helping her into her robe, then tucking her into bed. He rested next to her, stroking her hair, whispering softly in her ear, holding her hand, and waiting for her to fall asleep. But, sleep did not come, not yet. She began to describe what was haunting her. The trigger from the smell of the shower gel, reminding her of one of many escapes, this time with her baby boy, just three months old. The home she had found refuge in had the same fragrant shower gel…….and with it a vivid repeat and rush of frightening memories.
Her mind haunted, battered, flooded with sorrow, with memories that were a constant companion of doubt, condemning shame, of fear, of worry, of bitterness, darkness and the inability to fully trust again. Fred longed to help her heal, to set her free from the grip of darkness, but how? He rested next to her for over an hour, soothing her with his presence, praying for comfort from the pain. She had fallen asleep at last, he then placed a soft kiss on her cheek. Getting up, he headed to the bedroom door, letting himself back out to drive back home for the night. Worried, but hopeful that she would be able to sleep, to rest her mind for the few hours left till morning. He had placed her phone on her bedside table in case she were to wake up frightened in the night needing to call him again.
The chirping of birds in the early morning, the sun beams shining across her bed through the cracks in the closed window blinds, from the other room she heard the cry of her baby needing attention. All greeting her to begin another day! But, her mind began its’ race again, afraid to start another day, afraid of when the next panic attack would grip her life. Afraid of not knowing what the next trigger would be…..constantly bracing herself for the next flood of memories…. and there it was, just from the simple sound of the birds chirping outside.
Her eyes darting to the wall again, she hid under the blankets and pillows, not wanting to hear the sweetness of the birds. And there she was, heart pounding in her chest, the birds chirping so loudly in her mind, looking back over her shoulder, sure he would track her down as she pushed her baby boy in the stroller. Trying desperately to stay hidden but to get out in the fresh air for a walk. One ear phone in her left ear, playing uplifting songs, her right ear free and keenly aware of the surrounding sounds, listening for his truck to pull up from behind and take her baby away. Her phone handy to call the couple she was staying with in case of an emergency. Her chest tight, breath quick and shallow, mind flashing fight or flight, eyes darting, palms sweaty as she determinedly walked along, stopping again to check all the surroundings before turning onto the next street.
“Stop!” She yelled out loud and jumped out of bed. All the while wondering if complete recovery would ever be a possibility. She quickly dressed before another thought could haunt her mind. Into her bedroom came her younger son, “Mommy, can we have a picnic? Look, the sun is shining!” “Yes!” she replied! She walked out of the bedroom to then pick up her baby girl from the crib, then peaking into the boys’ bedroom to see her older son playing with toy cars. Time to be strong for them again. Time to get them fed, bathed, dressed, and outside to play. Thankful for a second chance at life, thankful for the hugs and kisses she received every day from the three little gifts that God had given her to protect, love, nurture, and provide for, giving her hope to live another day. Thankful for the man that was now in her life, loving her back to health.