Part of me wanted to hold back on this space, keep the personal addition strong, but keep the details vague. There is so many factors in life that holds us back from sharing our experiences, whether it be fear of judgement, outcasting, the genuine horror or those around you seeing you in a different light. Whatever reasons we find to keep ourselves completely closed off, we see what we see and shun those who do not. Musicians, painters, sculptors, poets and many other forms or artisanal expressionist find the way to release that without fear and open for the world to sink it’s teeth into. This fear in my life has held me back for some time, even though here and there I’ll write a song or two that will tell people more than I anticipated, the release of it felt majestic and cathartic.
If we don’t share our stories, there is something lost, like the art of storytelling itself. Your story doesn’t become the only story that matters, it becomes part of the world’s story and you my friend, are a part of the world. Even for the option alone of others being aided by these connections, sharing is important. Sharing your tale can release the toxins you may hold onto, it can lift the weight inside your heart and it can surly bring you closer to those you know and strangers alike.
My experience with PTSD comes in a few separate stages and over the years I’ve worked through how each one has effected effects me differently. Anxiety and depression have been prevalent in my life since I was a child. Growing up in a household with 7 people, as the youngest of all of them, there is a whole set of rules no one can understand fully, unless they themselves have been there. As a family, we stayed close, with that many people it’s hard not to physically, but emotionally is a whole new story. Learning to build with our hands anything we created with our minds, drawing everything we saw and things we only saw in our minds (my mother was really good at engraining that in us) , sleeping in the woods, the yard, in cubbies in the wall, the possibilities were endless. We struggled financially in a school system that was unforgiving to the social stigma surrounding the struggle itself. The fear of losing our home to the bank was constant and frustrating to watch, as both of my parents worked all of the time to make our lives safe and functional.
When I was 8 years old we found out that my second oldest sister had Cystic Fibrosis. The news hit our family like bullets, as I’m sure it steered the course of the rest of hers. We were all tested for CF, all were negative. Our family pulled it’s strings a little closer as she had to deal with a world of testing and doctors and hospitals. We continue to raise more and more each year for the disease and we have made it into the number one spot in our county as of the last walk.
At the age approaching double digits I became aware of my parents relationship as more of a roommate scenario than a long lost romance. I never yearned for that, as I still do not, I thank them for it, as it’s made me a deeper and stronger adult. My mother moved to the city and time was split half and half between to two. I still reside in the same area all of these years later, circling the bar I work at in a counter clockwise fashion over the last 19-20 years, apartment to apartment. The city was where I started getting my romantic love for people and their busy, bustling lives. Everything seemed so timed and important, jazz seemed smoother and deeper late at night with the sound of the city around you, everything as a whole felt more intense to me, wider, deeper, and more alive.
My fashion sense knew no bounds. I made clothes, thrifted them or got hand-me-downs, colored my hair every shade of the rainbow, played open mics at local coffee shops in my spare time, read like books were going out of style, began caring about politics and less about fitting into a world that it was clear I never would. The idea of being everyones funny and animated friend became my comfort. Humor was my go to. Humor helps the pain.
At this time I was walking around with my mix tapes abundant with The Clash, The Ramones, Operation Ivy and Bad religion and my skateboard, scraping it against things to make it look like I could do more tricks than I actually could. My friends had been signed skateboarders growing up and made the feat impossible for me to ever feel like I could be as good. I’d save change to split a burger with my girl Sarah, secretly smoke cigarettes and sneak beers while also consuming an unholy amount of coffee.
Coffee was an amazing connector of my Mother and I. My Mother was a Public School teacher and like her I still to this day will finish a nine hour old cup of cold coffee, just because you never had the time to get around to drinking it. I’m actually doing so right now. We would go to the coffee shops downtown and listen to people read poetry and work on homework or I would help her grade exams. It was a connector for us because we both also loved coffee at any time, it was a nice way to insure a conversation for a substantial amount of time. See has since moved away and so will I, but I still cherish those coffee dates more than anything.
As I entered the end of middle school, it became apparent that I was to deal with constant harassment due to the way I looked and the friends I kept. Always kind, honest and straight forward I figured people would see through green spikes or my nose ring that my friend pierced with a sewing needle and a piece of ice, however that was not the case. One day at a physical screening for gym class they noticed that I had grown a bunch, but to the side. I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was about to turn 14 and head into the summer before high school. My curvature was 66* and was far beyond anything a brace would help, I will never forget hearing the words “she’s going to need surgery”. I had never even broken a bone in my life, now I was about to undergo full spinal fusion. The most dangerous surgery next to brain or heart. Nine hours of intense shifting and bracketing and I’d be straight as an arrow.
That was that, there was no way around it. I was nervous to say the least. Along the coming months I did what I had to do in school, while undergoing every test on my body to prep for surgery. More x-rays, more blood work and electrode testing than I ever want to deal with again. The summer was getting closer, which is when my surgery was scheduled for and I was on my way out of middle school and into high school. The second last day of school, I sat in the lunchroom next to one of those friends that your parents don’t want you to hang out with, we had been friends since kindergarden. There was a food fight that had broken out and we were trying our best to not get hit by rogue peas and chicken fingers. Once it was stopped and under control, the principal entered the silent, packed and now filthy lunchroom. My friend sat there tearing up tiny pieces of paper smaller and smaller, then throwing the hand full of it at me. I stood up yelling “what the hell?!”. That was all he needed to hear or see, he took one look at me and yelled “Mordaunt. Get in my office now!”. No matter how much I attempted to explain that the food fight wasn’t me, the reasoning I was yelling out, etc, he didn’t care to listen. I was suspended for the last two days of middle school, for something I didn’t do, right before undergoing a major surgery, my last two days to reach out to friends for summer visitors.
My parents believed me, they told me to walk home and think of it as a day off, which I did. When the surgery date came around, I waited in my gown making a bee out of beads to keep me busy and they informed me that the surgery had to be rescheduled due to a ventilation issue in the OR. Back on the couch, no longer fasting and answering the phone to a lot of confused people, wondering why I wasn’t in surgery. The real day came a week or so later and I sat there terrified, even at the second attempt. I was wheeled into the room and covered with blankets that were from some sort of heater. I was so cold and scared I could not stop shaking. They started to drug me a bit and enter a few of my IVs. They lifted me on to the table and I began talking to the anesthesiologist. Once I started fading, I woke up to what felt like minutes later with a swollen face. Why did my face feel swollen? I realized I was on my stomach. I tried to open my eyes, all I felt was pressure and the tug of my eyelashes on what appeared to be tape. I couldn’t see and I started to panic, as a response to the fear I attempted to yell out. A small hiss came out, as I had a breathing tube in. I could feel the tears squeeze out the side of the tape. My back was being jerked. It felt as though my spine was the handle and I was a purse. It didn’t hurt, it was just extremely uncomfortable and horrifying to think about the helpless nature of the moment, I could feel it being moved. Two titanium rods, some brackets and some shaved rib bones and I was on my way to perfect posture.
Nine hours later, when I was woken up, swollen faced and crying I saw my parents faces. That may have been the only time my father had taken off a full day of work. My Mother hugged me and laughed me through my tears, calming me down on the way to the ICU. What had happened? How did they not know? Pumped full of morphine drip, my head a bowl of snakes and not making sense I kept trying to put the pieces together. Was it a dream? It felt so real and I needed to tell someone. I told my mother and to her surprise was then on a mission to find out if i was hallucinating or if this was the real deal. I can remember her telling me “you have to talk to the head surgeon, they need to know if you woke up. This is a large deal, they need to know”. After reciting the brief ER rhetoric I had remembered from the incident they were able to conform the truth of my story, down to the time it occurred. There it was. Whether my tolerance was too high or the anesthesiologist gave me an insufficient amount of drugs one will never know.
The fear that came from that was real, it was hard to wrap my head around throughout the pain and relearning to walk on day two. Going through that surgery was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with recovery wise and mentally; I was lucky enough to have my Mom and sisters and a few friends help me through the physical process. They would sponge bathe me so the nurse didn’t have to, remove blankets from my feet when I couldn’t lift my legs, hold my bucket as I puked from my then unknown Codine allergy. My mom would humor me when I would get up screaming in the middle of the night to turn off a TV that wasn’t even on and to this day I can still remember what was on that TV.
Once I was up and walking, they wheeled me down to the basement to make a cast of me for my plastic body brace that I’d be wearing for 6 months, into highschool. I can remember reeling so hard from the morphine drip that I was convinced there was a woodworking shop attached to my hospital room. My anxieties became a lot more frequent and depression was easy being trapped inside, unable to move all summer long. This addition hit me strong and also developed my love for pain relief out of necessity and recreation. It is something that effects me to this day in several way and I’ve learned to live with it. I’ve learned to accept my scar and constant back pain still, worse than before but straight as a nail, moved into the next era of my life.