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Words Like White Elephants


“They look like white elephants,” she said.

“I’ve never seen one,” the man drank his beer.

“No, you wouldn’t have.”

“I might have,” the man said. “Just because you say I wouldn’t have doesn’t prove anything.”

Hills Like White Elephants, Ernest Hemingway

It starts with the nightmares.

Night after night, I’m stranded in airports I’ve never visited – some exotic, some rural – malls I’ve never seen, always looking for someone who, in a dream-like way, I know is looking for me, too. A particular someone – someone who I’ve never met, but someone who, I chase night after night. I have a feeling I’d know him if I saw him, but really, that could be a lie.

It feels silly, to admit that I spend my dream time, not eating Marshmallow Fluff, but looking for a particular person. I’d much rather be saving the world while I sleep than sorting through the faceless masses at fictional airports.

Once the dreams begin, sleeping becomes fitful, if not impossible.

I’ve not won any sleeping awards since I got my thyroid regulated (I HAVE A GLANDULAR PROBLEM), but during these patches, it becomes nearly impossible. When I sleep, I run, I chase, I wake myself weeping into my pillow or moaning in sadness. By 9AM, all hope of rest gone, I slog my soggy ass out of bed and pretend that I remember what it’s like to sleep.

I’m functional for a few weeks like this, groggy, with slowed reflexes, but, with my rate of unintentional self-injury, no one notices.

It’s only after a few weeks, months, I don’t know how long, that I start to crack. The anxiety becomes too much. Things I would’ve normally found hilarious – my neighbors tree, for example, which looks like it’s growing a full set of knockers – don’t even elicit the barest of smiles.

I want so desperately to reach out, to connect with someone; anyone, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I can’t bring myself to admit that it’s okay to be weak – that I’m allowed to not understand my feelings. It’s then that the voices of those who I have once loved echo through my head and I begin to doubt. Everything. Myself. My ability to function in every day society.

The echos of things once-said flit through my mind. “I can’t handle your problems right now,” my ghost-husband says. “You’re a liar,” my ghost-brother says. “Take down that story about the rape or I’ll take action,” my ghost ex threatens.

My world becomes smaller, ever smaller, as the PTSD rears it’s head. And this time, like the others, it leaves me gasping for air, for straws, for any reason as to why there’s a 9,827 pound white elephant on my chest when the rest of the world seems to be breathing air like it’s no big deal.

I wonder what is so fundamentally fucked inside my head that I can’t manage to beat this PTSD: my daughter lived. I have countless friends who’d gnaw off a couple of legs to say the same thing. So why am I so fucked? Why does rubbing my hand along the plastic implant inside her skull make me break out in a cold sweat? She squeals and laughs runs and plays and kicks her brothers with wild abandon, while I am trapped on the couch, my windpipe unable to properly move air into my lungs.

And those words, those words like white elephants, trapped in my lungs, they remain unspoken.

posted under Abby Normal
33 Comments to

“Words Like White Elephants”

  1. On April 19th, 2012 at 10:42 am Traci Says:

    YOU ARE NOT ALONE! People either choose to talk about the white elephants or they live with it for the rest of their lives. Choosing to talk about it is the first step in making you know YOU ARE OK, we all go through shit, sometimes it lasts a month, a year, or a few hrs, it is ok, make friends with the elephant and know this too shall pass!

  2. On April 19th, 2012 at 10:50 am amy Says:

    I can FEEL the anxiety in this. I can sense the despair. I wish there was something, ANYTHING that I could do to help. Hold your hand, rub your back, breathe for you. Something. Anything. ~hugs~

  3. On April 19th, 2012 at 10:51 am samantha Says:

    Hi Aunt Becky,

    I’ve been reading your blog for years, but I rarely comment. (Sorry!)

    Have you tried to get professional help for this? You really shouldn’t suffer through these periods. It sounds so isolating and sad.

    I deeply admire all you have done with Band Back Together. What a tremendous resource and gift to so many.

    Some of the best advice I ever got was when I was about 14 years old and struggling through some very painful shit. She said, “You don’t have to suffer.” That’s all, but it’s stuck with me all these years.

    You don’t have to suffer. There is support out there and I hope you are able to find it.

    Thanks for your wonderful, funny, inspiring, sometimes-gross blog!

  4. On April 19th, 2012 at 10:58 am Ewokmama Says:

    PTSD is a bitch. I think the only way to combat it is to reduce stress in your life – which is obviously difficult to do when you’re a mom of three! You need a vacation.

  5. On April 19th, 2012 at 6:52 pm Grace Says:

    See? Like I said! Come see me!

  6. On April 19th, 2012 at 11:07 am Maggie Says:

    Oh AB, big hugs and support flying your way. I feel your pain about doubting yourself and everything else. Just remember: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow’ “

  7. On April 19th, 2012 at 11:12 am JTook Says:

    Dear Aunt Becky’s Dreams:
    We need to have a chatty poo.

  8. On April 19th, 2012 at 11:20 am Kat Says:

    You are amazing. And yes, your daughter lived. My husband lived. It doesn’t make the trauma of the incident any less stressful. It’s not affecting you any less. The whole thing is still there and probably always will be.

    I love you dearly. <3

  9. On April 19th, 2012 at 11:43 am Fallah Says:

    *flying tackle pounce hug*

    *flings bacon-glitter everywhere*

    (I don’t know what bacon glitter is but it sounds good, right?)

    If there’s one thing I know it’s that our minds refuse to listen to logic sometimes. They don’t care that she survived, plastic insert and all. All they remember is that you had a trauma. And then our minds make some of us relive that trauma over and over.

    Our minds don’t care that “it isn’t that bad, really”. I have no history of abuse. No history of addiction in my family. My parents aren’t total dickbags. And yet every few years I find myself wishing I was dead. It makes no logical sense.

    We’re here for you, darling. To fling bacon glitter or to listen or to send you postcards in the mail. And I hate asking for help myself, so I get it. It’s hard. But keep trying and keep asking for help. We will help you. Fuck all those people who turned you away when you needed them most. You have your Band Family now. And we love you.

  10. On April 19th, 2012 at 1:30 pm JMomma Says:

    Hugs, Becky. We’re always here for you.

  11. On April 19th, 2012 at 1:43 pm Sara @ Life with the Two Says:

    Love you. Lots.

  12. On April 19th, 2012 at 1:46 pm katrina Says:

    You are loved.

  13. On April 19th, 2012 at 2:26 pm Ami Says:


  14. On April 19th, 2012 at 3:00 pm Cindy DuBois Says:

    Dear Aunt Becky,
    I’m old enough to be your mom and have suffered with PTSD for a good portion of my life. I’d like to share two things. No, make that three things.
    1. I am so delighted to have found your blog and the Back to the Band blog. They came into my life when I am questioning everything about my life. Your courage and your irreverance remind me of when I was like that. It helps me regain the most real me. Thank you darling spirit daughter.

    2. I am working with a therapist who specializes in PTSD. She uses a technique called ?, I’ll have to get back with you on the exact acronym. I will, I promise. The outcome of my sessions is that I’m beginning to neutralize the memories associated with the pain and that makes them easier to deal with. We’ll see how it works long term; it is good for now.

    3. Recently, I had my left hip replaced. While discussing the surgery with me, my doctor said, “We know so much more about how to do these because of the soldiers from Iraq and Afganistan.” I took that in but it wasn’t until about 5 days after my surgery that I couldn’t quit crying. My heart was broken for all the young men and women who suffered and that made my hip operation better. I was a mess. I called my friend who in a former life was a Navy Seal.

    Me (through the tears and streaming snot): Cesar, I know part of this is the percocet but the other part is my broken heart.

    Cesar: It’s called “survivor’s guilt.”

    Me: I don’t understand.

    Cesar: All of us who return to the land of the living, after visiting the land of the dead feel guilty because we got to come back and they didn’t.

    Me: There is a name for these feelings?

    Cesar: Yes, and they are very real. The best way to deal with them is to find a way to “pay back” or “pay forward.”

    We talked for awhile longer and then I went back into a percocet induced sleep.

    Aunt Becky, I think when you stood looking down into the chasm that was loosing your daughter, you visited the land of the dead. Both of you got to come back. That is a good thing. But, by your own admission, you know many who did not get to make a return trip. I’d say, when you run your hand over her head, you time travel back into that scarry place. When you are there you can look into the chasm and holler, “We don’t live here any more.” and come back to a place of happiness and health that is your daughter, today.

    As for paying back or forward, you already did. You gave me back a sliver of my life and from the blog posts, you’ve given a million slivers back. Your account is “Paid in full.”

    Once you get some sleep the Harpies will get out of your ear and you’ll be able to focus on the good that is now, not the guilt that was then.

    You are the coolest of the cool and both you and I know it for sure.

  15. On April 24th, 2012 at 4:25 am guinspeg Says:

    That is really lovely, Cindy. I’m sure that will help our Aunt B a lot. Thanks for sharing.

  16. On April 19th, 2012 at 4:01 pm Jessica B Says:

    Sending peaceful vibes your way AB. Keep fighting. You are worth it.

  17. On April 19th, 2012 at 5:48 pm Bubbe Says:

    Oh sweetie, wish I could hug you really tight and let you know you’re loved. I know you can feel it in your heart but it can be hard to know it in your head during times like these. KNOW you have whole bunches of love and hugs headed your way. And know too, how many people you have helped and will help. Be good to you.

  18. On April 19th, 2012 at 7:19 pm Grace Says:

    So many other things have said better than I could even begin to. Just know we love you so much and we’re here for you.

    And if you need a vacation, you know where you can come anytime….

  19. On April 19th, 2012 at 7:48 pm Kathleen Says:

    Just the other day, I was reading a post in BB2G, and had an epiphany – it didn’t matter if I wasn’t hurting as bad as someone else. I was still hurting and deserved to own my pain, and work through it. Yes, there are degrees, but pain is pain. Saying “I’m not worthy” is just another way we hurt ourselves more.

    You and the Band help so many folks every minute, both with humor and seriousness. I love you for that!

    Meanwhile, big hugs, glitter floors, and a willing ear.

  20. On April 19th, 2012 at 8:00 pm Mrs. One Day Says:

    It’s okay that you aren’t perfect. None of us are. You have PTSD, but that does not make you weak. Hear me when I tell you that you are not weak. You are strong and beautiful, you just have an anxiety disorder that sometimes flares up and makes you doubt yourself. We all care about you and will tell you a billion times that we love you and that you are not weak, if that is what it takes. *hugs and more hugs*

  21. On April 20th, 2012 at 1:27 am Tracie Says:

    I love you, and I wish I could give you major hugs right now. PTSD is hard stuff, and it doesn’t always make sense. Writing this and hitting publish is one step on the path of reaching out.

    You are stronger than you think. I promise.

  22. On April 20th, 2012 at 7:39 am anne Says:

    My dear aunt becky
    I am so sorry you are suffering. I know the psychological pain of anxiety, it hurts. You describe it so well! I see a psychiatrist and can avoid it invading my life now. I’ll try to share some of my doctor wisdom with you, the things that helped me. He advised me not to try control my thoughts because you just can’t. He said to keep taking care of me, by doing the things that I know usually relax me. The goal is to change your mind. The rumination is the killer, it leaves you stuck in your head suffering and haunting you. You must be very tired now, it doesn’t help. Doing sports help me too, and meditation, it’s hard to find the time/motivation sometimes but they are great tools for anxious people. They help you sleep better. I did take some medicine when it was just too much to handle but I’d rather avoid taking them all my life because of the side effects.
    You are such a great person, you are not weak. You just have a weakness due to your personal history but you are a very worthy person.
    I love to read you! I wish I could be of any help!
    I hope I’m not all over the place, and english is not my first language. Just know that it’s going to pass and that we all love you.

  23. On April 20th, 2012 at 11:31 am Amy with your birthday Says:

    You got my love and support Becky! Hold on!

    If I haven’t said this before, my mom (therapist) learned this method ( that she’s used to help people with PTSD really improbably well. It’s worth checking out- on this website there’s a place to find people trained in this method. She’s helped people that have been desperate for decades in just hours and days. It’s kind of amazing really.


  24. On April 20th, 2012 at 12:57 pm ELouOster Says:


    Lots of hugs and love coming your way. And if it wasn’t illegal to mail you drugs, I would. You are not weak. Your problems/issues that you are facing may be less than what other’s face/have faced, but the difference is these are your problems. It doesn’t matter how big or small they seem when they are your own. I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t be ashamed of what you are facing. Don’t be ashamed when you can’t handle it. Because at some point or another everyone faces something they just can’t handle. We all love you Becky. *hugs*

  25. On April 20th, 2012 at 9:29 pm Jen Says:

    Aww, AB, my heart hurts for you. You know you’ve got your Pranksters pulling for you, and I’m glad you can share so honestly here. I hope you find something soon to bring you out of dark places. *hugs*

  26. On April 21st, 2012 at 2:52 pm Melissa Olivero Says:

    PTSD is a monster that never wants to leave your side, I know. Becky, there are no words to make it better for you. And you know through the Band that you aren’t alone. When you have healed enough… when enough time and emotional distance have passed, it will get better. I’m now to a point where I only get flashbacks in the bottom of the depression cycles.

    Keep talking about it. Don’t stop talking and sharing. Ever since I published that post on the Band under *my other name* …. I have gotten better. You helped make me better.

    Love and {{{{hugs}}}}.

  27. On April 21st, 2012 at 11:30 pm Amanda Bone Says:

    Anytime and any day I am right here beside you. I love you.

  28. On April 22nd, 2012 at 7:03 am Sue J. Says:

    AB — sending thoughts of love and crustables your way.

  29. On April 22nd, 2012 at 9:59 pm Marta Says:

    I am so sorry. I am sorry that I’m at a loss for words in how to convey that I wish I could take it all away from you. Smash those ghost people away. Can we call ghost busters? Remove them so they don’t taunt you so unjustly?

    Its going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. We are all here for you. Always.

  30. On April 23rd, 2012 at 6:48 am Amanda Says:

    Ptsd is a hell of a thing. My little brother has a fuck-ton of it from Iraq. There’s a lot of guilt aaociated with it. It’s important to talk, don’t feel guilty to talk about it. Don’t feel guilty that your daughter is thriving. You’ll get through this! Have you sought out any support groups? I’m sending healing thoughts your way!

  31. On April 23rd, 2012 at 9:03 pm Wombat Central Says:

    If one counselor doesn’t help you reframe everything in your mind, try another. Lather, rinse, repeat. I hope you find the help you need, doll. Makes mah pants sad to know you’re struggling so.


  32. On April 24th, 2012 at 7:52 pm Karen Lamb Says:

    Beck, YOU ROCK MY WORLD, PTSD be damned, it ALWAYS passes….. ALWAYS. when it does,
    get that full satisfying breath in and go play in your garden.

  33. On April 30th, 2012 at 9:43 pm Cecily Says:

    I’m so sorry. I had a PTSD attack today too and I am feeling completely fucked up as a result.

    On my blog today I said that I believe PTSD is an evolutionary flaw.


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