Sunday, 26 April 2015

Hopeful and Talking ... a great start.


Content warning:  PTSD

Every Saturday night that I bartend, I come home thinking about certain custies.  I seem to be someone who people feel comfortable talking to.  And to be honest, I have this uber curiosity for all things human.  Tonight my shift was no different.

About ten minutes after I did last call a gentleman rushed up to the bar and asked if I would be open for a few minutes longer.  He was in his late sixties with a familiar and friendly face.  He ordered three glasses of wine and pulled up one of our rarely-used chairs to sit on.  Having bought three glasses of wine, I assumed he was buying a round and that his party was sitting somewhere away from my view.  But I soon realized that those three glasses of wine were for him and they were how he has been dealing with something for years and years and years.

You see my new friend-- we'll call him Tom-- he wasted no time in sharing some of his thoughts with me.  Tom was on his way home from work ... his retirement job as he called it.  Now, I come from a long line of chit-chatters.  Growing up, neighbors and especially relatives came to visit often.  In fact, rarely did a Sunday go by without someone stopping in to "chew-the-fat".  So when Tom started sharing his details and his thoughts with me, I stopped what I was doing and leaned in.

To make a longish story fairly short, my new friend Tom has post traumatic stress disorder aka PTSD and Tom drinks wine to forget what he cannot.  Years of seeing atrocities and years of hearing confessions of atrocities has worn on him as Tom's profession was in Corrections.  As Tom says, that role has an expiry date on it.  Or it should.  I mean, the act of confessing one's crimes, desires, fears may give relief to the confessor but where does it go then?  Do those words, oftentimes dripping with emotion and sentiment and grotesquely vivid details, simply dissipate into thin air?  If only.  But no too often the words cling to the person hearing them.  Like Tom's words have clung to me, and here I am at 3:14 a.m. writing this blog post after a very busy night of tending the bar and cooking fast food.  I deal with this transference of memory and emotion by writing about it.  Tom deals with it by drinking wine.

Yet I'm hopeful.  Sounds odd doesn't it considering I only just met Tom a few hours ago?  But I am hopeful because Tom is hopeful and most importantly ... Tom is talking.  In the half hour that we visited, me tidying up and shutting down the bar, and Tom drinking his therapy, we covered a lot of details.  PTSD has been messing with Tom for a long time.  Wine worked as far as he was concerned, but his wife disagreed.  From where I stand I see so very clearly both sides.  Both views are familiar to me.  Tom's wife left him a while ago, not sure exactly when.  She is currently caring for her dying mother and told Tom that she can't take care of two of them.  He wants her back, says he'll try to get her back.  "She's a good woman," he says.  Connecting the dots of details leads me to think this all is recent and has been earth shattering for Tom.  He told me he called a Hotline two weeks ago and out of that one call he now has a connection to real therapy for his disorder.

As I put together the details of our short convo, I can now see that he has already come a long way. We discussed how 'you' just didn't talk about stuff back then.  He says if ever he began talking about a situation with emotion, he was told to suck it up.  Shut it away.  Out of thought~out of mind?  But never out of mind, just tucked away into the vault.  But this Hotline connected him with a trained professional who came to speak with Tom the day after he called.  This happened in the city I live in, and happened mere kilometers away.

Tom called the Hotline and in doing so, he called for a life-line.  He asked for help and help was briskly given.  This was and is a human moment of greatness.

How our brains react to and process real life experiences is not a fault of our own.  It is survival to shut it away.  I think I said those words to Tom tonight, and I said "If you don't deal with these things, your brain will bring them back and ..." Tom interrupted and said with a chuckle, "bite you in the ass."

Please ask for help.

And find someone to talk to.

Maybe a bartender .... better yet a budtender :)

I mentioned Cannabis for ptsd to Tom and he said he had heard it.  I repeated to him the quote I will forever link with this disorder.  The words come from a Jewish holocaust survivor who says that "cannabis helps him remember how to forget."

When I told Tom this, he nodded and said, "yes ... that would be nice."