A New Diagnosis for the DSM

I have PTSD–Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder– but this post isn’t about the specifics (no, kids, I never went to war). And today’s entry is not meant to minimalize this terrible, awful mental illness that I and many others endure every single day of our lives (so no hate mail, please).

But there should be a “lighter” version, if that’s possible. Like “light” butter. Or a “light” lunch. Or “light” beer. Still the thing it is, but less depression and fewer nightmares. Because we all clearly have certain experiences that rev up negative feelings, just as we have experiences that promote the positive– like spring rain, fresh cut grass, and baseball stadium hot dogs.

Maybe we could call it STSWMO (Shit That Still Weirds Me Out). Or maybe TTFN (Time Travel For Negativity). I think that acronym’s already taken. Anyway, think on it. It deserves a name. 

Because I think most people have that trigger. That uncontrollable, visceral reaction to an outside stimulus.

WTFWT (What The Fuck Was That– maybe??) even exists in American idiom– it’s like “nails on a chalkboard.” Once this phrase is uttered, people scrunch up their faces and physically pull away. 

So what does it for me? What sends me into the panic room desperately trying to padlock the door?

A screaming newborn. 

Not crying, not fussing, not yelling. Full on, someone is murdering, call 911, screaming. 

Commonly known as the baby with colic. 

Now, you may have heard of colic, and you may even believe that you had a colicky baby. But when you have one for real, you KNOW. 

You know because you find yourself swearing at your husband when he steps on the squeaky board in the living room just after you’ve gotten the baby to sleep after 5 hours of her screaming. 

You know because you have worn out three hair dryers and a vacuum cleaner trying to stun her into silence with white noise. 

You know because you hiss and snarl at people who make super helpful comments like, She is hungry/ needs changed/ has a milk allergy/ has scratchy clothing/ is hungry for breast milk/ needs a different bottle/ a nipple and you grind your teeth until your crowns crack.

You know because at 6pm an alarm goes off in her tiny brain telling her to start screaming, even if she was sleeping peacefully 8 seconds before. 

Anything else is NOT COLIC. A well meaning friend told me that her son had colic “one night” and I had to fight the urge not to reach into her throat and extract her still beating heart a la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. 

And that fight or flight reaction never goes away. Months later, after Kathleen had grown out of it, I would be in the shower and I could swear I heard that scream. I would hurry up, turn off the water and while still dripping, crack the door open with the stealth of a Navy SEAL to listen.

Even now, and I love babies– sleeping, cooing, fussing, even crying babies– if I hear that scream, I will find myself in the hall closet trying desperately to turn on the vacuum cleaner while shoving headphones into my ears. Even after Bill convinces me that it was just the TV, I sit and rock myself while he whispers, “It’s all over, it’s all over.”

But I really don’t think I’m alone in this. (Please tell me I’m not alone in this) What sound, smell, sight or texture sends you into a negative tailspin? Share and find some camaraderie below. 

And then we can petition the DSM for a new “lighter” diagnosis.

2 thoughts on “A New Diagnosis for the DSM

  1. ah, PTSD, my frenemy. PTSD is like the houseguest who overstays and then WON’T LEAVE.

    we live on a 3rd floor apartment, and one of my PTSD triggers is heavy footsteps in the stairwell (long story). well, I have a lot of neighbors, and it’s old stairs, so any adult walking up the steps is going to sound like heavy footsteps to me.

    and like you in the shower, I’ll be pretty sure I heard them, when there’s nothing there. it sucks. And, like, I don’t tell any of my friends because I a) don’t want them to think I’m crazy, and b) don’t want them to insist I tell them what the PTSD is from. I love being up in the middle of the night, because it’s super quiet, and I can sit in the kitchen and listen to all the sounds in the neighborhood so that if there is something to hear, I’ll be sure to hear it. (if that’s not hypervigilance, I don’t know what is!) It was two events that gave me PTSD, and I was with my husband for both of them, so at least the two of us can talk about it and know we’re not crazy.


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