Memoirs from an African/Native geeky American with PTSD that everyone thought that was from Southeast Asia

Originally written 03/13/2016

Bahiyud-Deen Shaheed

Limbic System’s Redemption

      Me waking up in the hospital vomiting was not how I wanted my mom to spend her birthday/mother’s day.  This was a Sunday, although it was more than 6 months ago it is so fresh in my head, it still seems like yesterday morning.  I woke up that morning and said “Today is the day”.  I put my favorite outfit on and made sure to polish my sneakers.  I left a note for a sister on the kitchen table to read and jetted out the door to make one last pit stop before my destination.  When I reached my parents’ house I didn’t stay long.  I had a lot of stuff to do and wanted to stay on schedule.  I hugged my younger brothers and kissed my sister on her forehead.  I shook my dad’s hand and said “Thank you for everything”.  My mother wasn’t home.  I think she works more shifts now than when she worked overtime on a regular basis for the state.  Even though I would have rather told her in person, I text her “I love you”.


      About an hour later I’ve reached my destination of the beach.  I grabbed my book bag from the car and walked to a faraway bench and thought “this should be a nice spot”.  As I’m listening to my playlist that consisted of mostly songs composed by Hans Zimmer, I emptied out my book bag. A bottle of Hi C, a water bottle container filled with vodka and a high dosage bottle of pain killers.  I hesitated to actually consume more pills when the people around me looked so happy, but in my mind those faces never stay happy.  What usually happens when I’m surrounded by crowds of people is that I have flashbacks of terrified people running and screaming, and this was a negative state of mind that had just taken over the way I perceived the world.  I always thought to myself “I can see why people in the military come home with PTSD and blow their head off.  I knew what would have happened if I continued to take these pain killers.  According to poem The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri those who cause harm and bloodshed to others or themselves would be sent to the seventh circle “Violence” of the inferno.  There are people all over the world who struggle every day to stay alive, elderly people who are fighting to remember who they are on a daily basis.  Teenagers in 3rd world countries who wake up in the morning and the first thing they do is reach over to grab not their iPhones but instead their AK-47.  Adolescents who are so close to death that they look like they could be extra’s in a Walking Dead episode.  All these people are fighting to stay alive and here I am sitting on this bench trying give mine away.  What an ungrateful bastard I have become but my nightmares had flowed into my day dreams involuntary on a constant basis and can no longer separate reality from imaginary horror.  These deceptive illusions have been become an everyday thing. I had no job, wasn’t pursuing my education and didn’t have any money.  It appears in my pursuit of happiness I had become truly lost.  Thank God there isn’t anyone who depends on me to live.  I’m simply tired of fighting with my internal demons.  With that I continued to take more pills and drank the rest of poison until I felt weightless and drifted off.  I woke up dazed, confused and in pain.  At first it was the pain of embarrassment and shame, but that emotional pain was quickly taken over by the physical pain that was coming from my abdomen.  Today I could do a thousand sit ups and it would still have been nowhere near the level of pain I was feeling then.  I was convinced Mount Vesuvius was in my stomach and was ready to blow.  Is this how mother nature feels when a volcano is about to erupt?  I saw the trash can and tried to get up and go to it but I realized I was not only laying on a bed but I was tied to it.  All I could do was turn my head to the left and let the eruption come out of my mouth and then moan in pain.  For the next almost two weeks I had doctors and psychiatrists after doctors and psychiatrists come in my hospital room and they all asked me the same exact questions.  It seems every time I would tell them what happened the number of med students that were shadowing the doctor would double in size.  I wonder what grades they received on their assignments about me.  It was very difficult to explain over and over what happened.  They said it was going to be easier the more I talked about it, not increasingly harder.


      My friend who was attending Boston University had wanted me to visit them and we finally agreed that I would come on April 15 because they didn’t have classes that day and I actually had the day off from work.  When I arrived I thought to myself “This campus is smaller than I thought it would be but at the same time it’s much cleaner than I thought it would be.  She showed me around campus and then she said everyone is headed to the marathon, we should go and cheer the runners on.  I thought to myself “sure who not, I did Cross Country myself in high school”.  I was having a really good time and so did everyone else out there.  Clearly the under aged people were having too much fun because after a while there was a bunch of students laying up against the walls of stores who didn’t even have the energy to sit up anymore.  At some point I had lost my friend in the crowds.  Something told me to just keep walking towards the finish line so I did.  I felt like I was participating in this race myself because of the length I was walking. Then suddenly there was a soft thump that everyone around me heard.  Everyone made the same face with disbelief and confusion.  A few people murmured “Was that a bomb?”  Suddenly everyone became a runner in the marathon.  The police were cheating because they were using their squad cars.


      I do a lot of reflecting on my life.  My weekly session with my therapist I reflect.  My monthly appointment with my psychiatrist I reflect.  My 45-minute commute home after work and school I reflect.  At the fitness center while working out I reflect and usually if I’m left alone to ponder in my own thoughts I reflect.  I used to think about that Sunday about what I was trying to do myself and how it affected those around me but now my mindset and perspective are different.  I’m no longer that judgmental person who looks down upon other people who are depressed because of their struggles.  I look at everyone as an equal, which is why I find so much joy going to work as an IT assistant at an adult education institute.  The students and I may not be on the same level of educational difficulty but we share a common attribute.  We both struggle.  We both struggle academically and in our personal lives and I will do whatever it takes in my abilities to help them reach their goals.  I am beyond grateful of my friends and family who constantly remind me as to why I shouldn’t give up.  My parents, my brother, my sisters, my close friends and Ezza.  They show me that I’m not alone in this fight.  I wish the world was filled with more people like them.  This is dedicated to them.  Although I enjoyed all of the pieces of literature from this class the one that stands out to me is “The love of my life” by Cheryl Strayed.  A lot of people would focus on her chaotic downfall but what I took away from her story was a woman’s skirmish with her inner monsters and the journey she took to find herself.  There is a line from the movie Shawshank Redemption that I liked but really never fully understood the meaning but I can honestly say I am experiencing that quote with every breathe I take.  “Get busy living or get busy dying.  That’s God damn right”.