Throughout the summer of 2003 I repeatedly underwent what psychologists have since diagnosed as post-traumatic stress and panic disorder. A spiritually-inclined friend refers to the same summer as my rebirthing period. Still others, who claim to have had similar experiences, tell me that such episodes were probably a warning, my body’s way of telling me to adopt healthier eating habits, exercise more or quit smoking. At the time, all I knew was that the onset was swift.
I was working at a bookstore in Upper Arlington, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. The store was small, quiet. Gently modulating harmonies, barely audible, filled the vast empty space between customers as I perused the alphabet of author names in front of me, searching for a paperback’s designated spot. I had made it my goal to shelve the last two stacks of romance novels before taking a break, and I was on target, moving industriously until I reached to shelve one of the last titles and my arm went slack, my fingers released. But the book didn’t fall. It didn’t waver.
I could see my hand, pale and bony with soft freckles dotting knuckles, fingers still wrapped around the book’s yellow spine. I turned the hand over, tracing its outline in my mind, trying to understand why I could no longer feel the silken texture of the cover. The sensation I felt was almost peaceful at first; it was as though I were wandering through my body, haunting and examining but unable to control it. I waited a moment for the cohesion of normalcy, but it wouldn’t come and soon my mind turned restless, flooding with possible causation: aneurism, stroke, heart attack, sudden death syndrome. I had visions of collapsing to the ground, of medics trying to resuscitate me. I began to hear pulsing fluids moving inside me. I was overwhelmed by a desire to run in every direction at once.
A stooped woman dressed in gray and light blue approached me slowly, asked me to help her find the history section of the store. Her light eyes, sheathed with experience, seemed to mock me, laugh at my wretched vulnerability, my dispensable life. I wondered at the superiority of her years, what had she done to deserve them? What could she teach me?
Causes Jennifer Knox Supports
Families United for Children's Mental Health