PTSD and Finding

Each day the online support forum I’m part of asks a question, or brings up a topic. Friday’s was “Finding the Person” and I’ve been sitting on the details of that for a long time. I wrote this over a year ago. I didn’t want to forget the details.

So, this is going to be long. It’s going to be slightly graphic. If you’d rather not read it, now is the time to go check out a link I found that talks about PTSD and how it affects people. It’s a really illustrative comic. – That link will open in this window, and take you out of here.

I’ve edited this slightly from when I first wrote it, to make things a little clearer, or to take out names and specifics. But overall, this is how I wrote it. I think the style is fitting, and can provide insight into how I was processing things at the time.

We worked together, so I knew he hadn’t come to work. He’d called in the day before and told our boss that there was a ‘family thing,’ so when he didn’t call the next day and didn’t show up, I knew something was weird, because he NEVER did that, but I thought there might be something big going on, so just texted him to ask what was going on.

If I’d been closer with his family, I would have asked them the day before if everything was ok, but since I didn’t know them that well, and I didn’t want to pry into his life, I only thought about doing so.

When I didn’t get a reply, I decided that I’d take my lunch break and swing by his house to see what was going on. I drove up to the front of his house and slogged my way through the deeply piled snow to get to the front door. (It had snowed the day before) I was vaguely amused and kind of annoyed. Knocked, looked in. There were no lights on. Couldn’t see anything. Tried to decide if it would be better to just walk around the house or slog my way back to my car and drive around. Decided to drive.

When I pulled around the corner, I saw that his garage was open. The snow on his driveway was unbroken. I thought, maybe he went with his sister or something, since he’d called in for a family thing the day before… and hadn’t been home since. I figured he may have left the garage open because the key pad hadn’t been working consistently, and he didn’t want to have to deal with the snow on his front walk. I tried to pull into the driveway and got partway in before getting stuck. Tried to get unstuck for a couple minutes. Decided just to go in and find out if he was home.

Opened the door and yelled for him. Slowly went in, not wanting to surprise him… Noticed his coat on the stool where it normally was, with the garage door opener on it. It didn’t exactly register. I think I even mentally chided him for going out without his coat, or thought that he must have been in a hurry. Walked in, still yelling for him. Saw he wasn’t on the couch, or in the living room. Glanced into his bedroom, which was dark, and couldn’t see him on the bed.

I noticed that the second bathroom door was closed, which was unusual, so I went there, to see if he was in there. I remember wondering if he’d gotten really drunk and passed out or hit his head. Didn’t look behind the door, because he wasn’t. Checked the spare room, and he wasn’t there. Went back to his bedroom and turned on the light.

He was on the loveseat at the foot of his bed with a bag over his head. The bag had settled down onto his face, outlining his open mouth. I ran in and ripped it off. Felt for a pulse with my first three fingers. Felt a flutter, so I did mouth to mouth a couple times. It sounded like a dry bellows. I noticed that his eyes were half open.

Then I started doing some chest compressions, which created that hollow bellows sound again. After not too long of that, I thought that I needed to call 911. Looked frantically for his phone where he normally kept it. Couldn’t find it. Ran out to my car to get mine and called as I was running back inside. Talked to the person while I continued chest compressions. He told me to move Ian down to a flat surface, so I pulled on his arm, and realized that it was stiff. Realized he was room temperature. Told the operator that. He confirmed once or twice. I told him it was too late. He told me people were on the way, and asked if I wanted him to stay on the line with me. I said no, thank you, and hung up.

I hit Ian in the arm a few times. Yelled at him. Asked him why he didn’t call me. Touched his face and neck. Noticed the marks on his throat from the strap. Touched his chest. I tried to uncurl his hand, but couldn’t.

I couldn’t stay looking at him and realized I needed to call our boss to let him know I wasn’t coming back. I still thought that maybe I could for the evening phone shift. I couldn’t remember his direct number, so I called the desk. The receptionist answered and tried to transfer me. Came back to let me know he wasn’t answering and asked if I wanted to leave a message. I was barely holding it together. Left him a message telling him that I’d found Ian and he was dead and I probably wouldn’t be back for a while because I was waiting for the paramedics. Started crying probably while his outgoing message was still playing.

The fire truck came, and I led them inside, clearing the way for them. They put some electric pads on him, and I went away, knowing I didn’t want to see them try to shock him. Knowing it wouldn’t work.

Then they asked questions. Several different people asked the same questions for a while. They asked what I’d touched, if there was a gun in the house, if the house had been unsecured. I answered their questions.

I heard one of them telling another that they’d found a note. I asked to see it, and they wouldn’t let me. Needed to keep the scene secure. I asked what it said and he paraphrased.

There was a long time of talking to the next lady who came. She got a lot of history, took statements, asked questions. When she was done, I asked again if I could see the note and they told me no. This was probably an hour or so after they first arrived. I had been alternating not being able to sit down and not being able to stand up. She could see I was about to lose it, so asked them to please let me see the note if I promised not to touch anything. They finally did.

The lady left, with kind words. The next round of detectives/people came in, and repeated a lot of the questions, apologizing for it. I answered them. Mentioned that my car was stuck out back. After a less extensive round of questioning, they told me I could leave if I wanted. I said no. I asked if they would contact his family. Was really unhappy that they weren’t going to until after the medical examiner came.

At some point in there, my boss texted me to tell me to take as long as I needed. I replied and asked him not to tell anyone that he was dead. He hadn’t been able to understand my message, and didn’t know yet. I let him know, and he was super supportive. Offered to come over, but the police told me he couldn’t. Kept in touch with him to get emergency contact info & coordinate telling people at work.

Called my mom in there, too, while we were waiting for the medical examiner. While I talked to her, the detective and policeman who were there with me waiting for the medical examiner (they were the only ones left) tried to move my car, with no success. Called a towing company.

I don’t know how long the call lasted, or how long we waited from that point on, but it was around 3:30 before the medical examiner came. He showed up and shortly after, the towing company did as well. I dealt with them and got back inside. He’d finished what he was doing and they were just waiting for the coroner to come collect the body. I asked him about his estimated time of death. He said middle of the night.

I asked them if it was still ok if I left, and they said yes. I asked if I could go in and see him again, and they let me. I touched his face again, put my hand over his heart. Said goodbye.

After that, I went to a local coffee shop, where my boss met me in order to start telling people. I’d called/texted a lot of people that I needed to talk to them, it was important, and that I was at the coffee shop. I felt like it was my responsibility to tell our mutual friends. The way he’d set everything up, and the timing pretty much guaranteed that I would be the one to find him, and I think he planned that.

Written 3/5/2014

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