Up until February of this year, I was a shopgirl who owned a store in the downtown of a charming suburb west of the Windy City. If you’ve ever seen You’ve Got Mail, my shop was a bit like Meg Ryan’s bookstore: delightful, warm, welcoming and buzzing with moms and their children. I often worked six days a week and not one minute of all those hours I put in ever felt like actual work. It was my little happy place.
Last summer, I started experiencing what I now know to be symptoms of PTSD. For me, PTSD has manifested itself with vivid flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, avoidance of any places associated with James, being startled by unexpected noises and constant fear. I had no idea that something like this could happen from the trauma of being in an abusive relationship. So when I started to sob uncontrollably at work nearly every day in late summer, I sought medical help and received the surprising (to me) diagnosis of C-PTSD. The C just stands for complex and is not at all unusual with intimate partner violence.
This past Christmas, a man came into the store who slightly resembled James. He was nothing but polite and kind, not a threat to me in any way but as he shopped, I began to shake and had trouble breathing. After he paid and left, quietly shutting the door behind him, I started to hyperventilate and could not stop. I closed the store early, went home and sobbed for two hours.
Through treatment, I learned that a countermeasure to trauma is the mundane. A storefront is an exhilarating yet unpredictable and chaotic workplace. The mundane does not exist there. And being a public place where anyone can walk in, I was scared every single day that James might come in the store. Even though I could logically tell myself that James hadn’t come to the store uninvited or unannounced since early April of 2016, the fear persisted.
In January of 2017, I hired a consultant and began the process of selling my store. Within 24 hours of developing a plan with the consultant, I had a buyer. By late February, I handed the shop keys over to new owners.
I don’t want to divulge too much information on what my life looks like now professionally. I will say that I work for a firm that is entrepreneurial at its core and they value what I bring to the table. Security is taken very seriously and there is no entry without a key-card. My daily tasks range from the complex to the mundane. This is not at all a twist or turn I thought my life would take. But being there has been healing.
PTSD is an uninvited and unwanted guest in my life. I cannot pray it away, meditate it away, vitamin it away, run ’til I can run no more it away or prescription drug it away. And while I am doing significantly better now, for fuck’s sake! Why should I have had to made this decision in the first place? Why did any of this have to happen? A cubicle in an office is my parting gift for having loved James? There’s no making sense of it. I know this on a logical level but my head and my heart communicate poorly with one another.
I miss my little shop.
I miss the life I had.