I have been diagnosed with an incredibly severe form of PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – and have been booked off work for the next four weeks. (Look, to be fair, this is a self-diagnosis – my GP thinks that I might be a little traumatised from reading a very scary novel and the resulting lack of sleep but doesn’t think it qualifies as PTSD. Then again, what does he know?) But the fact of the matter is that I was fine. Then Stephen bought me a new thriller to read. And now I am not fine. I obsessively search all my bedroom cupboards before going to sleep at night in case the killer is there. I look suspiciously at all my work colleagues in case the killer has had a face transplant and is impersonating one of them. And a brief search on Google shows that severe PTSD can result in an inability to work or difficulty parenting your children! Which just goes to show that I am a text-book example…
Now don’t get me wrong, Stephen didn’t REALLY mean to psychologically scar me for life – he just thought that I needed a good book to keep me company while I was in bed with flu. The darling man took himself off to Exclusive Books and spent ages looking for something that would keep me riveted. And then he found it! “Dark Origins” by Anthony Zuiker – you know, the genius that created the CSI series on TV? Yup, that very same guy. And so, feeling enormously proud of himself, Stephen came home with the book, two packets of Strepsils and some new slippers, before whisking Kayla off for the day so that I could get some rest and have a little peace and quiet.
I was in heaven!
For about half an hour.
When I realised that I was actually in hell. Or pretty close. Because I was reading a book that was so unbelievably frightening that I was actually leaving TEETH MARKS on some of the pages!
“Well, stop reading it then!” sighed Stephen when I phoned to tell him that the killer had sewn his latest victim’s eyes shut. “No-one is FORCING you to read it!”
“I can’t STOP!” I squealed. “How will I know if they caught him or not? This man could still be out there. He could have skipped the country and moved to South Africa. He could even be living next door to us! I HAVE to finish it. I need CLOSURE!”
“Okay then,” he said. “Just don’t freak yourself out like last time when we had to sleep with the light on for three nights…”
Ten minutes later, I called him back.
“What NOW?” he asked, trying very hard not to shout.
“Um… nothing much,” I whispered.
“Why are you whispering?” asked Stephen in total confusion. “Is someone there??”
“I don’t know!” I sniffed. “How would I know? I mean, this poor woman thought she was alone, and then this … this … MADMAN … came out of nowhere and attacked her, and the police have just realised that he’s a contortionist and can fold himself into small spaces. He was hiding in her underwear drawer! For like, HOURS!”
“Will you stop reading this bloody book?” Stephen yelled.
But I had already put down the phone, picked up my book and begun gnawing what was left of my nails.
Four hours later, Stephen and Kayla arrived home to find me locked in the bedroom, pepper spray on the bed next to me, and the chest of drawers turned around to face the wall.
“PLEASE tell me you are joking!” Stephen howled while taking in my shell-shocked face. In fact, I don’t think I had blinked for the entire afternoon. “Did you at least finish the book?”
“Yes,” I replied. “They got him in the end. Well, at least, they THINK so…”
“Well, thank goodness for that,” mumbled Stephen. “Next time, I am buying you a recipe book.”
And that was that.
Until two days later, when I was at my doctor, begging him for tranquilisers or sleeping pills or a general anaesthetic.
“You don’t understand!” I sobbed into my third tissue. “Stephen keeps leaving the cupboard doors open to freak me out, and then I have to methodically go through them all over again in case the killer is in there. I keep checking the microwave in case my cat has been cooked to a crisp … and I don’t even HAVE a cat! And I can’t stop looking at Kayla and wondering if she really is Stephen’s child because the killer used to creep into women’s bedrooms, drug them and then have his wicked way with them so that he could create his own little evil family. It’s just too much to cope with!”
“But it was just a BOOK?” asked my long-suffering doctor. “Not a documentary. Not a newspaper article. Not something that happened to a friend. It was a book. A story.”
“Yes,” I nodded. “But I still can’t sleep. And I scream every time the gardener walks past my window! Can you give me something to make it all go away?”
Turns out, that my GP DID indeed give me something. A severe lecture and a warning not to read scary books.
Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I have taken a quiz on Google and realised that I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Apparently I am to rest, eat healthily, get some mild exercise and avoid all stressful situations. I am also to talk to someone about my feelings of anxiety. Which would be great. If I could find someone that didn’t roll their eyes and look at their watch.
Stephen has also bought me a new book. Something about a Magic Faraway Tree by some weird lady called Enid Blyton.
I’ll let you know what it’s like!