PTSD Raises Its Monster Head From Toilet

Put a straight jacket on me.

Hide me in a padded room.

Get me away from people. All people who I can harm with my PTSD.

I had another one of those days. The ones that end up with me saying I’m sorry over and over for something stupid I did. Something in which I make a mountain out of a mole hill. Why do I believe such events pose life and death to me? Why can’t I react like a normal person, perhaps get a little angry, but not lash out with a cry in my voice and feeling I am facing doom?


It all started in the morning. Going to the bathroom. (It should never happen this early in the day, but it often it explodes at the crack of dawn.)

My son had deposited another one of his incredibly hard stools in the basin of the WC. A plunger stuck out from the toilet. I should have taken a clue right then. Someone tried to perform an emergency plumbing  operation and must have left without success.

Well, I’m the best “plumber” in this house, I thought. They don’t know how to plunge. They give up too soon.

And there I pushed. And pushed. To no avail.

The water rose to the top of the porcelain edge and ever so slowly, pouring out of the bowl of the toilet and over onto the floor below.

Jesus Christ.” I hollered, waking everyone in the household. “We’re going to have to call a plumber.”

I backed up from the toilet, waiting for the water to recede. It must recede, I prayed. It did, and so I plunged away. And once again the water rose, flowing quicker now and soon it joined the puddle outside, forcing its mass of liquid from the small bathroom floor to the carpeted hallway outside.

I threw towels and bath mats at the floor, trying my best to stem the tide. When I got it under control, I turned to the important business of the day. Getting fully awake to get my son out of the house and off to school before 7 o’clock.


I stood before the bathroom mirror. Had to lean in, I wore no glasses. They broke weeks ago and I have had to wear contact lenses. Do you know how tough it is to go 14 to 18 hours with contacts covering your pupils? Well, I reached for the lens case, put in the right lens, then tackled the more difficult left side.

The lens disappeared! I looked on my fingers, my hand, my arm. No lens. I moved my eye lid up and down, back and forth, eventually rubbing my left eye as hard as possible to “feel” if the lens somehow got stuck there.

Next, I surrendered to “panic.”

“Nicholas,” I hollered, but not as loud as when I spoke the Lord’s name earlier. “I need your help.” My son was fully dressed when he entered the small room. With the eye of an eagle, he spotted the lens on the floor that I had just mopped with clean fluffy towels.

Go ahead and brush,”  I advised him.

No, not that brush,” I yelled, almost as loud as I did when calling on Jesus. “That’s mine. Have you been using my toothbrush?” I bellowed.

Not to outdone by my yell, Nicholas hollered that it was his brush and that he had used it for days. But it was the only gray brush on the vanity and I only opened its packaging some three days earlier.

I gave in, told him to keep the brush and grabbed the old one I had replaced, but not thrown out. I was to use that for cleaning grout. I replaced it because I found that brush had been moved from my regular spot and I figured someone else used it to clean their grubby little teeth.


The contact lens rebelled. It refused to stay in the eye. It hurt every time I laid it on the surface of the eyeball and after the fifth or sixth time, I wanted to fall down crying in full view of my son. No one should have to endure the toilet challenge plus the lens battle in the same morning within a few measly minutes of each crisis.

Brush,” I holler, seeing that my son has waited for me to move back from the mirror. “You’re going to be late,” I scream.

No one can talk to me like that,” he yelled just as loud, then stepped to the door about to slam it when I rush out, pushing him back him, giving him the privacy that he should have been given earlier. Patiently (?) waiting outside, I heard my wife yell at me, saying not to yell at our son. “You don’t know what I have just gone through,” spilled out of me, as if it that was going to explain my tantrum, and somehow ease the tension that was getting more and more palpable in our household. Not sure who said what next, or who told the other to got to hell, but I stormed into the bathroom as soon as Nicholas finished and I finally got the lens in place.

I also apologized to my son, who was gracious enough to say nothing. My wife, although, did not accept my mea culpa as well “You’re always sorry,” she correctly observed, causing me to react with another choice word or two before leaving the bedroom.


Finally downstairs, I see Nicholas off to school, feeling as low as the temperature had dipped the night before. I am sick, I thought. I am no good.

I glanced toward the floor. My cat, Sundance, looked up at me. I felt a slight smile come over me. She’s my “Buddha Buddy,” you see. She sits on my lap when I meditate. And so she did this morning, following me to a seat, then jumping up and snuggling into place for our joint relaxation excursion.

Twenty minutes or more went by. I felt refreshed. Revived. Forgiven. I thought of the straight jacket and the padded walls and how much of a monster PTSD has created inside of me. But there also exists a kind, friendly small child inside, and he calmed down the one lacking impulse control.

When I returned upstairs, the toilet somehow worked properly again. The sun was shining, and I looked forward to a new day.

3 comments on “PTSD Raises Its Monster Head From Toilet

  1. Michael, my heart goes out to you. I can relate at least to the ratcheting up of anxiety around a toilet related nightmare like the one you describe.

    I too very recently had a situation where not one but two toilets, a shower, and a sink had sewage backing up (for me to clean, of course) owing to major backup in the system. A plumber (and $1500 later) the problem was taken care of, at least for now. Roots had made their way into sewer pipe seams out under the front yard and so a high speed pressure wash had to be applied (and, I’m told, this can be expected to happen again until the sewer line is replaced).

    In any event, such incidences always throw a spotlight on our areas soft spots. The wonderful turn in your story was the cat and inner child providing comfort and wisdom. That’s an image that will stay with me.

    By the way, have you looked into EMDR(eye muscle desensitization reprocessing)? It is specifically being used in cases of chronic trauma and traumatic memories. As a tool in the psychological armamentarium it is still controversial but undergoing research with reports of some real success.

    All the best.


    • contoveros says:



      And I was complaining about a possible $150.

      No, I never tried EMDR. The psychologist that championed it at the VA Hospital did not think i was a good candidate for it. I was able to remember details of the war, I hadn’t blocked out as much, and I think they wanted to stay with “regular” treatment methods.

      Hell, I’l try most anything at least once, if it could help.

      How do you think I got into meditation?



    • contoveros says:

      Harried Mystic,

      Just re-read your comment and remembered the image that stays with both of us. The cat helping the human calm down.


      michael j


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