Today was terrible. Moments before my alarm was set to go off, the scream of a fire alarm blared above my bed. It was coming from the apartment fire alarms, not my smoke detectors. I leaped out of bed, grabbed my bathrobe and go bag, and ran out my door. Once I made it to the lobby, about ready to vomit and pass out from extreme exacerbation of my POTS symptoms, I noticed a few people walking around aimlessly. I saw others standing in the hallways on my way down, utterly dumbfounded about what to do when a system-wide fire alarm sounded.
With my hands over my ears, ringing from the shrieking noise, I finally saw the maintenance worker coming to tell us the building was not on fire. Well, that’s a relief. When I was nine years old, half my house burned to the ground from a house fire. That trauma won’t ever leave my mind. I’ll never forget the smell, the sounds, and the sight of the thick, red-glowing smoke I had to crawl under to escape with my life.
Because of that trauma and many other reasons, I exist in a perpetual state of fight, fight, or freeze. My nervous system never rests. My mind is always alert for incoming threats. The casualties of war never heal completely. There’s always the protector in me, ready to fight for my life or others in danger. Situations like today, especially waking urgently from a deep sleep, make these memories all the more powerful and painful. I’m so, so tired. I’m taking tomorrow off completely. I need to sleep. And recalibrate.