This summer, I wanted to be a hobo.
Not only because “hobo” is a fun word. Yell it out, right now. See? It’s hilarious. Mostly I wanted to follow the hobo life because I felt so incredibly crazy. I can say crazy because I have legit mental health diagnoses: PTSD, depression, and anxiety. All mixed together in an insanity-inducing cocktail.
Some days are harder than others concerning my mental health; this has always been true. But I’m talking the entire summer. Day in, day out. Every morning when I woke up to sunshine and blue skies. Each evening as the sun set. Through camping trips and movies and snuggling and hiking.
I just wanted to get away.
Why a Hobo?
In the middle of June, I got really bad news. Devastating news. I cannot talk about it. Everyone is safe, but it is not my sole story to tell. This news was a catalyst for the worst of my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, by far the hardest and longest (twss) triggers I’ve ever dealt with.
Two weeks after the news, we went on a previously-planned vacation. One day while on vacation around Yosemite, I needed to renew one of my library books. I can do that electronically, this is not a problem. I had a spotty internet connection, but it could be done within five minutes. Right?
Right. As long as you can remember your library card number. I could not. I have had this same library card number for 13 years. I use it in place of my library card, lost by my children long ago.
Thirteen years. I could not remember the 8-digit number. I could remember some of the numbers, but not in the right order. I tried for days to plug in the right combination in order to renew my book. I’m sure the panic that I felt did not improve my memory. I knew, deep down, that I wasn’t losing my mind. But in a very real way, I was kind of losing my mind.
I was exhausted, and it was only the beginning of July. The rest of the summer stretched out before me, an arid desert with no relief. Working while everyone – both kids and Husband (a teacher) – were home, with their tornadoes of energy sapping the life out of me. Routines destroyed. It sounds really dramatic, but every single self-care thing I was doing to help my brain simply did not seem to work.
What My Therapist Said
I was restless. My brain was a washing machine full of cotton balls, churning nonstop but producing nothing of clarity. I had nightmares. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t finish a trip to the grocery store. All of the usual PTSD stuff.
I went through my list of self-destruction possibilities, because, really, what was the point? Self-care was a stupid waste of time and I thought maybe trying something different would help. Maybe an addiction to drugs or alcohol or an affair would work, I’ve never tried those before.
But they seemed like way too much work. I just wanted to get away, to run away.
“I want to be a hobo,” I announced to my therapist, Hannah.
She considered me for a moment. “Well, pack toilet paper,” she said.
“WHAT?” I said. “That’s it?”
“I just think that toilet paper is probably the hardest item to come by when you’re living the hobo life,” she answered.
And this is why I love her. I felt a little less crazy. And I came home and wrote about it for my column over at Sweatpants and Coffee in the article called, When Self-Care Seems Like a Stupid Waste of Time.