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Does Not Play Well With Others - CASKETS FROM COSTCO #Excerpt by Kelly Wilson @LiveCheap #Memoir

Does Not Play Well With Others

I’ve always had really good friends. Except one.

It wasn’t until the Christmas season of 2006, after I had been in counseling for a good five months, that I formally met my new friend: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I have attempted for years to make fun of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is a dangerous game. It’s similar to poking fun at the largest, scariest bully at your school and assuming you won’t get beat up.

For me, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is like a good friend – I refer to “PTSD” as a “she.” I’m not sexist; this is just how I see her in my mind’s eye. A necessary girlfriend, but with chronic PMS. A temperamental – and even volatile – friend who does not play well with others and whom I dearly love.

It’s a strange relationship.

I would like her to have a different name. The acronym “PTSD” is labor-intensive to say. People love their acronyms, especially in education – the RTI data for ELL is required for the IEP, which is then used during SST. When I taught elementary school, I used to collect acronyms and put them on Bingo Boards, one to a square, then mark off each one as it was said in a staff meeting. Five in a row was a BINGO, awarded with a cold, frosty beer (after work, of course).

A pastor at a church I once attended loved acronyms so much that one appeared in every sermon. Taking his lead, I proposed the new Young Marrieds Group be called “CULT” – Couples Under Leadership Training. Nobody went for it.

PTSD doesn’t do her justice in a descriptive way either, like when women say that their “Aunt Flo” has come to visit – if you’re female, you know exactly what this means. PTSD has been called a lot of names, like Battle Shock, Combat Exhaustion, Shell Shock, and Battle Fatigue. But these don’t quite describe the kind of friend I’m talking about – one who will tell you that in fact your butt does look fat in those jeans, or that the hair on your upper lip has grown in a little too thick.

Maybe a name based on actual symptoms would work. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder survivors experience a variety of the following:

the memory or memories of a traumatic event (seems obvious, I know)
this event involved intense fear and the feeling of helplessness
intrusive recollections of the event, or elements associated with the event
distressing dreams, flashbacks and hallucinations
triggers (sights, smells, sounds, calendar dates or seasons of the year) that bring on psychological and/or physical distress

But how does all this information translate into real life?

For me, it’s mostly about triggers. I can’t go into a maternity ward without severe stress since both of my children and I almost died while staying in one. Certain smells or tones of voice will send me over the edge, along with feeling out of control, and there are many others.

My triggers occur during the holiday season more than any other time of the year. In December 2006, my husband and I found ourselves on a rare date night, free of our two young boys, ages four and one at the time. We decided to spend it doing one of the activities we loved best – wandering.

We arrived at Fred Meyer and browsed the fake display trees covered with dazzling colored lights and ornaments for sale. We held up ones we thought were particularly funny or tacky, like the Santa doing the hula while wearing sun glasses.

“Ugh,” I said. “Santa.”

“Why don’t you like Santa?” Jeff asked.

I shrugged. We had this conversation every year. I had never been able to explain it, just like I could never explain getting sick every Christmas.

We wandered separately for awhile through the rows of shiny dishes and sparkling decorations. Jeff and I met up again, surrounded by fuzzy stockings and satiny tree skirts.

“Hey, look at this!” he said, turning around to face me.

Jeff’s face was covered by a mask of white felt beard, eyebrows, and a Santa hat. His eyes peered out anonymously.

“Oh,” I said. My stomach churned. I felt like I was falling, unable to breathe, reeling in murky water, drowning.

“What? What is it?”

“My dad,” I said.

“Your dad?” Jeff removed the mask. His expression was a combination of confusion and concern. After all, I had not seen my biological father in over ten years.

“He used to dress up as Santa for Christmas.”

“Oh.” Jeff frowned. He watched me for a moment. “Let’s go home.”

I wiped sweat from my forehead as we shuffled toward the car. I felt feverish, clammy, and panicked.

The next day, I explained what had happened to Hannah. She nodded with understanding. “That’s very familiar.”


"Oh, yeah. You had a trigger. You’re dealing with a condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

“Oh.” I felt relieved. My panic from the night before had a name. “Wait. What does that mean?”

"Well,” Hannah said, “it means that you had – and will continue to have - an intense emotional reaction about past trauma.”

“Oh. But past trauma is past, right?” “Not necessarily.”

“And that’s the best name they can give this terrible experience?” I asked.


So, yeah, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder needs a new name, one that adequately describes her. One of my suggestions is:

Previous Overwhelming Trauma, Smothering Memories Overpowering Knowledge, Emotional Rollercoaster = POTSMOKER

That’s better. Easy to remember and simple to say. But it does discriminate against actual pot smokers, because smoking pot doesn’t necessarily mean you suffer from PTSD. Back to the drawing board.

What about other forms of figurative language to help explain PTSD symptoms through comparison in the form of a simile or metaphor?

Scared Shitless Disorder (does this mean that when a trigger occurs, one actually poops one’s pants right then? Or does it refer to constipation as a result of the trigger?)

Panic Attack – I know this is an actual disorder, and I believe it’s very aptly named. The idea that the panic is attacking you – brilliant!

Deer in the Headlights Disorder – not a great acronym, but it’s pretty descriptive.

Maybe describing it in a song would help. As a mother of young children, I understand the importance of song lyrics when helping kids learn and process information. Why couldn’t there be a song that PTSD survivors could sing to help explain the disorder? Memory from the musical Cats seems like the most appropriate:

Terrifies in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was non-triggered then
I remember the times of overwhelming fear
For me, the memories live again
I have many distressful dreams
Reliving the trauma
I awake in a sweat
In the flashbacks
I’m right back in the thick of the shit
Sometimes I just want to forget

That’s a good idea, but the song is a bit morose. Clear, but depressing.

I thought about inserting a couple of vowels in between the P, T, S and D – maybe PiTSaD – but it simply sounds like a melancholy armpit. That doesn’t really serve as an explanation of the disorder in any way.

Maybe there are events or conditions that won’t be mocked. Maybe they’re too serious, like the scariest bully in school. Plus, I think PTSD would prefer I suffer through saying each consonant over and over. And even as unrelenting as she can be, I’m grateful to her friendship.

Without her, I wouldn’t be able to heal.

About the Author: Kelly Wilson is a comedian and the author of Caskets From Costco, a funny book about grief that is now available in print and ebook formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes. Read more and connect with Kelly at www.wilsonwrites.com.

Caskets From Costco
For twenty years, Kelly Wilson thought that she had been marching through the stages of grief in a straight line. She had been following the formula, crossing each processed grief experience off her list.

Except that Kelly was totally deluded. And she didn’t discover that until Jim, her beloved father-in-law, died. She found herself drying off from her shower the morning after his death, really hoping that he couldn’t see her naked. Or, if he could, that he was averting his eyes.

From that moment, Kelly's path through grief resembled a roller coaster, spiraling and twisting and turning, circling back around. Echoes of past trauma, including childhood abuse and cheating death, would no longer be ignored. She somehow needed to get from the beginning to the end of this grief adventure, and she doesn't have a good sense of direction.

But what is always present during a journey through grief, regardless of the path chosen?


Caskets From Costco is a funny book about grief that demonstrates the certainty of hope and healing in an uncertain and painful world.

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre - Memoir, Humor
Rating – PG-13
More details about the author
Connect with Kelly Wilson on Facebook & Twitter

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