PTSD Is Not Just For Soldiers

river holesI stepped on the outside staircase landing, leash in the right hand, my dog pushing past my legs, tail wagging. But instead of going down the four flights of stairs, I stood rooted to the cement floor.

My heart was pounding against my chest and I felt like my torso was being squeezed by an anaconda.

Despite the crisp 50 degree air, my forehead beaded with sweat and I struggled to catch my breath.

The smell.

It was the smell of the cool wind mixed with leaves and old grass.

It was the temperature of the air that I have not felt in months.

Last time I smelled and felt this breeze was during chemotherapy. When I used to sleep with the windows open trying to lower the temperature of my body that was boiling with chemo drug induced fever.

I stood there on the landing, unable to move. I was terrified of making a step and smelling more of the cancer air.

My dog looked at me over her shoulder, turned back to the stairs and tugged forward on her leash.

My right arm moved, like a doll’s, like a marionette’s.

My shoes were filled with lead.

My dog tugged again, this time bucking a little. It forced me to break my glassy stare and lift one of my feet off the floor.

I took a step.

The breeze lay on my cheeks like satin. I took another step and looked down the stairs. Half my shoes were hanging off the first step.

I felt tears in my eyes. The lamp illuminated street blurred. I tried to hold my breath. Anything so I wouldn’t have to smell that smell and feel that air.

But my dog, having the momentum, seized the opportunity and headed down, full speed, tugging me behind her. My feet found their rhythm as I ran down the stairs with her, jumped on the next landing and down another set of stairs, my shoes tapping out the familiar melody.

When we got downstairs, I pushed the gate opened and heard it slam behind me with its metal bang.

The cold wind blew and I felt it move my hair. Last time I was bald.

I inhaled deeply, filling my lungs with the coolness. Last time I had a fever.

I took small steps, my legs stiff. I let myself be pulled by my dog, like a puppet dragged around the stage.

When we returned in the apartment, I closed the door and sat on the floor. I made it.

This time.


  1. Hi there, where are you located? I swear I recognize the pic! Haha. I’m in Alexandria VA. Excellent post, by the way….!

    • You recognize it correctly. It is by the Animal Shelter on Eisenhower Avenue. 🙂 And thank you for the writing compliment! 🙂

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