This is my experience of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, many, many years after the damage was done. It’s like living in a beautiful garden, green, diverse, cared for only by me. There’s soft grass, flowering plants, young trees, ornate, homemade furniture and creepers that have climbed high rock walls, over the years. There’s no door to the garden, no windows, just some metal pieces lying around, that I’m going to make into a staircase, when I get to it.
There’s also a box down one end, kind of by itself. It’s nebulous, hard to look at. It’s about a foot high, grey and utterly clean and smooth, like nothing else in this place, aesthetically. It’s the only thing here that I didn’t make, with my hands, or help to grow, with water and care.
Years can pass and the box is little more than something to step over, in passing. Occasionally, I might fantasize that something wonderful could be waiting inside, like a creation spirit or great serpent I could welcome into the garden. It could inspire me, perhaps, or just become a beautiful, kinetic sculpture.
Mostly, though, when I’m actually engaging the box, I’m incoherent and I’m yelling, “Get the fuck out of my garden,” or “I’m going to forget that staircase and smash you to bits with these pieces instead, fuck you.” The box does exactly nothing, in response, always. Those times can last long enough for the whole garden to fade, from lack of care. Then, it takes all the longer to get it looking nice again.
Sometimes I’m not sure why I bother to keep the garden looking nice at all. No-one else is here, not even animal life. When I think about building the staircase, it’s not so I can escape, it’s so I might invite people in for a visit, one day.
The problem is, visitors couldn’t fail to notice the box and how weird it is. They might ask after it, or touch it, or try to open it. They might try to politely pretend it’s not there and I’d hate them for that. I might lose myself and yell at it, while they are visiting. Or, they might try to take it away, which is the scariest of all possibilities, somehow. Still, my garden really should be a nice place to visit, in theory.
Recently, my hands were injured and I had to sit still for a while. I sat near to some seedlings, imagining how I could shape them, soon, not soon enough. I stayed my hands, because I knew I’d just ruin them. Time passed, and I gave in and did work a little on the seedlings, smothering them, clumsy, hurting my hands.
Then there was pacing. I stomped on some flowers, I yelled at the box. My hands are back to their tending, now, but I’m more aware of how tired I am. One day I’m going to have to rest, especially as I get older, but the presence of the box ensures this garden will never be a restful place. Beautiful, by my hand, maybe. Maybe even a place for visitors, if I ever get that staircase done, but never restful.