I’m Not Gonna Cry, I’m Not…

We are leaving tomorrow. And I am running around like a crazy person trying to figure out what will expire in our fridge and our pantry while we are gone, because tomorrow is also garbage day; two birds, one stone.

It is my choice to go to Ontario for close to 5 months. It really was my choice, even though I keep walking into Grunt’s room and sighing, knowing that tonight is the last night I will be rocking him in my wooden chair, the same wooden chair my mother rocked me to sleep in, for a long while. MiniSir will be gone for close to 3 months on exercises, and then handing over and starting his new position back at the Regiment, and THEN the Regimental obligations with the Calgary Stampede and Spruce Meadows… We would never see him. It was the right choice, both financially and emotionally, to take Grunt to Ontario for an extended visit with family while he does all of this.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t miss my house, my friends, my familiar shops and even my (sometimes infuriating) neighbours. This morning my cat was sleeping so still and soundly in the sun I thought for sure he had died – he was fine, just in a heavy sleep, but I’m becoming paranoid that something will happen while we are away.

I also constantly feel like I’m going to forget something. Never mind the fact that we are driving across Canada, stopping in all major cities each night and will be near any store I can think of if I do, but still… I just know I’m going to forget something.

And the unspoken feelings between MiniSir and I: this is the longest we will have ever been apart, even including when we were long distance dating between Kingston and Medicine Hat. I’m a lucky military spouse in that sense – his deployment overseas was before my time with him – but any length of time that you are a separated family is difficult; both while you’re apart and when you finally come back together. Whether it is for a week or 5 months or a year, everyone’s routines collide in an epic “can’t you read my mind?!” blow-out.

So when I went grocery shopping yesterday for last-minute items, I may have purchased a lot of comfort food. I made 13 eggs worth of scrambled eggs to freeze yesterday so the eggs didn’t go bad before someone ate them. I have thrown out anything in the pantry that will expire between now and the end of July. And our freezer is jammed full of random leftovers that can be eaten as a single meal sometime down the road. This is how I am coping.

So. If you’re going to be in the Ottawa/Kingston/Toronto corridor over the next little while, let me know. I’m going to have my own vehicle and itching for distractions. Otherwise, I’ll see you all on the other side of the long, long drive.


Darkness? It’s Me, Krista

I don’t like where my mind goes at night. Those deep, dark hours after midnight when I’m still lying in bed, exhausted but unable to drift off. That’s the time when it always strikes me: the irrational thoughts and anxious fear.

I fight them off, one at a time. Usually it is a terrible fate befalling someone I love – more often than not involving my dear Grunt. Opening my eyes, taking in my surroundings, consciously breathing through it, repeating “Not real, not real” aloud, only really alleviates the current thought spiral. As soon as I close my eyes it’s back down another rabbit hole filled with great and awful things, grabbing at me with their tentacles of persuasion.

The only thing that stops them is getting up, getting out of bed and forcing myself to move and think in the now. My first stop is always Grunt’s room, to place a hand on his back and feel him breathe. He is safe again – he always is. Next I head downstairs to boil the kettle and find some sleepy time tea. It doesn’t really help, but it’s warm and the act of drinking it is calming, so I steep it twice. Wrapping myself in my warmest couch blanket, I hop onto my computer for at least a two-hour Pinterest session. I have to keep my mind of off anything remotely important, and Pinterest certainly has a way of sucking you into a world of DIY you love but will never do, and adorable fan art drawings of your favourite Disney characters. Add some of whatever snack food is in my pantry and there’s my remedy for insomnia.

I can usually get to sleep after this, snuggling in against MiniSir to warm up after being out of bed. But when he’s not home, it’s harder to get past that sleep threshold. Bunnydict Carrotpatch doesn’t talk much, and though his ears are velvety soft, stroking them still doesn’t soothe me the way a shifting-in-his-sleep-to-hold-you husband would.

I remember nearly flipping my sleep schedule when MiniSir was deployed to the Alberta floods a few years ago – up all night, sleeping only when daylight peeked into the bedroom so I could see that there were no fears hiding in the shadows. Now I’m a mummy, and I don’t have that luxury any more; there is a tiny person that needs my help growing into the best big person he can be. So the scant few hours of sleep I manage have to do, at least until nap time when we can both lie down again. For the same reason, I hesitate to take that extra dose of medication my psychiatrist said I could safely take, as it makes me very dopey and thus it is harder to wake up with the baby in the mornings. Alcohol and the pills make it even worse – even with one beer at dinner, I find I have difficulty hearing the baby at all, which isn’t good for me, or for Grunt, who still wakes at least once or twice a night.

And so I drink tea. And eat Jammy Dodgers. And “pin” journal ideas and knitting patterns and artistic inspiration for things I’ll never draw because I don’t think I’m good enough to even try them. And then maybe, just maybe, I may have quieted the demons enough to get some sleep.

Doctor! I Smell BO!

A lot of people may not realize this, but PTSD messes with your brain. I know, I know, but give me a second to elaborate.

It re-wires it. Permanently. Again, I hear you say you knew that already. But I’m not talking about emotions or flashbacks or unexplained anxiety. I am talking about your senses.

That’s right: Sight, Smell, Taste, Hearing, Touch. The five things you rely on every day to help you determine the state of the world around you. In particular, PTSD survivors most often report a complete rewiring in their sense of Smell.

This ‘weird yet true’ fact is something I live with constantly. MiniSir endures me “do you smell that?” questions without comment, and attributes it as more evidence that I am in fact a Wolverine-esque mutant. (And since I completely healed myself without need of surgery or medical intervention after the accident, he has a point.)

But honestly, living like this sucks. Or rather, it stinks. Three days ago I had MiniSir smell the kitchen garbage can because I thought it smelled like cigarette butts. It didn’t, apparently. I swore the blind in the baby’s room smelled like really strong male body odour, and I believed it so strongly that I eventually asked that we moved the baby into the spare room instead. When we make tacos, I am grateful that I enjoy the taste because the house fills with the smell of feet.

I don’t understand why this occurs, but it does, particularly if the trauma causing the PTSD has been severe. And I wish I could at least explain why I smell the noxious odours that I do – repressed memories from the scene would make it much easier to bear. But the truth is that when we survivors smell weird things, it is probably just that: a weird thing with no reason behind it at all.

I am also sensitive to other smells: poop, vomit, etc., but I don’t smell them often like I smell the others and they are always attributable to an actual cause. Don’t know why, but living with the smell of strong body odour, feet, and snuffed out cigarettes in your home when they aren’t truly present is something I have had to get used to.

So if you visit, and the house smells just a little *too* much like vanilla candles, let me know. I will gladly tone it down – it’s just that I can’t tell over the smell of phantom cigarettes.

2016: A Year of Reaping


Happy 2016, everyone! I just know in my heart that this is the Year of Krista, and I am looking forward to making the most of it.

We could call last year “The Road to High Readiness”, in true army fashion. It saw a lot of ups and downs, for me and our little family.

We all started the year off with terrible colds, and I managed to get lice, an eye infection, and a lung infection on top of that over the holidays. Grunt decided he would start furniture walking as soon as I got sick, too, and became much more mobile while I attempted to get better. The constant barrage of demands from the condo board and MiniSir’s trip to Europe in March nearly did me in as I tried to be a mum, a home owner, and run the condo board all by myself.

But… we celebrated Easter in Walt Disney World and had a wonderful underwater-themed first birthday party for Grunt when we arrived back home.

We put the house on the market right as the price of oil collapsed, and nearly sold it twice only to have the buyer unable to get financing. I hired a management company for our condos, and struggled through our piece-meal finances with their accountant to get our books in order.

But… MiniSir got promoted, and we celebrated with the champagne he brought back from France. We had family visiting us in June, July, and August, and in between we had a whirlwind trip to Ontario.

MiniSir went to fight fires in Saskatchewan, but then we visited Banff and Lake Louise for the first time on an epic road trip, and it seemed like maybe we were finally getting ready to relax into fall.

And then my PTSD, depression, and anxiety all made a comeback and I’m back on medication to help me cope.

But… MiniSir completed an amazing “rugged” marathon called Mountain Man, a result of his hard work, training, and the loss of 50 pounds. He also got great career news and now we know we will be here in Edmonton for at least another 4 years.Grunt started walking and talking. The condo board took on new members and it now feels like we are a team instead of a one-woman show. I have lost nearly 40 pounds, with just a couple stubborn ones left to reach my goal weight. And we celebrated Christmas here, together: our little family with matching pjs in our little house.

Honestly, looking back, I can see the ups and see the downs, see the curveballs life has thrown at us and see the gifts. I wish for nothing more in the new year than for 2016 to hold more gifts than disappointments. I sowed many seeds last year, and I’m ready to reap the rewards. If I close my eyes and dream, I can see them all lying out on the path ahead of me. I know this year will be mine, and I’m ready for it.

From our home to yours: Happy New Year, and may your unexpected gifts be numerous!

I Am A Terrible Blogger

Really. Just awful.

I originally started this blog as a method of therapy, a way to express myself in a safe environment where I could work out my thoughts and feelings while trying to navigate through life an anxious, post-traumatic stress-ridden woman in a new city. And so far, I’ve posted intermittently and never on a schedule.

I should have known that schedules were never going to work. However, I should also have known that writing would make me feel better.

The past few months I’ve been struggling with a relapse of depression and anxiety. It all started when I began taking a drug to help me with a completely unrelated physical issue and ended up quite depressed as a side effect. My doctor put a “cease and desist” on the drugs immediately upon seeing me again, and now I am waiting to see a specialist next month for some more testing and alternate options. However, since coming off the drug, I’ve still been struggling to get back to myself, the self I was before I started them – the balanced, “totally got this and don’t need more meds” me.

It isn’t working.

I bawled after getting out of the shower today because I was thinking about something that may (but 99.9% won’t) happen. And if that isn’t a classic symptom of anxiety’s cold fingers prying in my brain again, I don’t know what else would be. My sleep is beginning to be effected; I’m having more difficulty falling asleep and more difficulty waking up. I don’t want to do anything. Even MiniSir says I seem listless.

Yes, hello depression. Glad to see you could join us.

I have yet to relapse to anything PTSD related yet – thankfully – because if I do that, I will have a really hard time driving myself anywhere. And winter is nearly upon us, which means winter drivers and driving conditions and there’s a whole new heap of things to be anxious about.

So I am seeking help now. I have a call in to my psychiatrist, and if I can’t get in to see him soon I will talk to my doctor immediately.

In the mean time, if you see me and I look like I could use a hug, I could use a hug. Hug me. I am a good hugger. I like hugs.

(I would also like someone to buy my house. But that’s another blog post for another time.)

I’m Wearing His Hoodie

Here’s the thing about a hoodie. If it’s special like mine, you can pretty much conquer the world in it. You refuse to see the stains on it and it doesn’t matter how big it is on you. It keeps you safe like armour and acts like a security blanket with a convenient pocket in the front. No matter how many years go by, no matter how worn it gets, your special hoodie will never let you down. Mine certainly hasn’t.

Not 4 years ago, when it still smelled enough of MiniSir that I stuffed a pillow into it and hugged it through the night, wishing I were in Medicine Hat with him, rather than Kingston without him.

Not 3 years ago, when I would get up and put it on every morning (or sometimes early afternoon) while every broken part of me screamed in protest at the action. Still not then, when chilled to the bone in the night, even on warm nights, I would put the sweater on over my pjs and crawl under the sheets, pain killers and anti-psychotics pumping through my veins so I could sleep.

Not 2 years ago, when, after we moved and married in one whirlwind summer, I saw my husband for 7 days in a two month period and came to the realization that him being an officer back at the regiment meant something completely different than being an officer posted into a staff position.

Not a year ago when I waited and waited for him to finally be done in the field while puking my guts out and watching cartoons to cope with being pregnant on my own. Plus it was downright necessary the week when everything in my closet stopped fitting at once and I dragged the sweater on over my too-tight shirt to finally go shopping for maternity clothes.

Or earlier this year when I was so tired from being a new mother that it was the only thing that held me up some days.

And it hasn’t let me down this week either, when events have left the military community shocked and saddened, and everyone feeling just a little vulnerable. I wore it to a fellow military spouse’s house on Thursday and she asked if I had put it on because I just needed a little extra comforting. I hadn’t even realized it, but I had. I had needed that extra layer that it gave me, that armour with a hug inside it. I knew my husband was safe at work, and in my hoodie, I was safe too.

That’s the thing about a great sweater. When he asks me how my day is going and I say, “I’m wearing your hoodie”, he knows he’ll need to give me some extra hugs, for one reason or another. And it won’t matter to him because he knows he can’t ever be replaced by a piece of clothing.

Because even though being in his hoodie is great, being in his arms is better.

An Anxious Time of Night

Most of the time I think I have my anxiety problems left over from the accident completely handled. I’m not on any medications any more, for my mental or physical state. I weaned myself off all of them while I was pregnant with Little Grunt. It took a lot of supplementary therapy (we are talking about therapy twice a week for an hour for the better part of a season), and a period of adjustment to deal with the manageable daily pain. But my hard work was rewarded with a child born with minimal exposure to the NSAIDs and narcotics I was taking. And for the most part, the therapies seemed to have worked.

I am stiff in the joints, but getting back into my swimming this fall will help with that. I don’t have any issues with traffic anymore, and very few left while in a vehicle. I have completely beaten my depression with the odd exceptional bad day that pops up now and again. The PTSD is also mostly gone into recession, my only problems now generally related to the unpredictability of crowds and sudden change. But every so often, panic sets in out of the blue, and it all revolves around my precious baby boy.

I am not saying that it’s his fault – far from it, as he’s actually the reason I am doing so well – and the panic that does well up is always irrational and completely out of context. It hits hardest just after I’ve put him back to sleep in the middle of the night, when I’m lying in bed in the dark loneliness and I can’t stop the thoughts. Thoughts of falling down the stairs while carrying him, thoughts of mishaps in the pool when he starts swimming lessons next month, even thoughts of him just not waking up again. They are terrible, awful thoughts and I would not wish them on anyone. But they come, whether I like it or not.

It’s nearly midnight. I just had to go check on him, lay a hand on his belly and listen to him breathe. He’s sound asleep in his crib next door, wrapped safely in his swaddle. And I stood over his crib for a moment so I could share some of his peace. I know I won’t sleep well now tonight, my dreams filled with confusing and painful images.

But I won’t go back on the medications. Not yet. I can do this by myself. It’s a little rocky sometimes, and it’s tiring, but it’s worth it. He is worth every clean moment of it. If I need them, if it gets bad enough that I feel like I need help, then I will seek it. I’m not shy about asking for it, or admitting I could use it. I was warned that there would be an increased risk of me developing postpartum depression because of my issues before, and I make sure to take stock of my well being to check for signs that I may be slipping that way.

In fact, I would be worried about these panic attacks except that they have been happening since long before Grunt was even born. They are the last lingering icy cold fingers of anxiety that grip me from the accident. They are simply taking a new turn with the arrival of my boy, which comforts me somewhat as I lie here staring at the ceiling in the dark. I have bested the ghosts of bulletproof vans and traumatic pain on nights like these not too long ago, and I know that by employing some of my coping tactics I can best this too.