Falling Out of Love with Chicago and my PTSD Mental Breakdown

*NOTE: This is a lot of reading with no pictures.  However, it’s a very important read if you want to understand my PTSD*

Being that I lived near Chicago since my A school was in Great Lakes I had such fond memories of Chicago.  Even memories of visiting Chicago as a kid since it was only 8 hours away from Omaha Nebraska where I grew up.  Since my time was limited I thought I’d hit the most touristy spots up and my favorite places to reminisce as well as get adorable photos of Indiana in Chicago.  The weather was pretty crummy since I had to drive through a little rain to get to the Chicago area.  Not to mention most of the parking lots for the Navy Pier were closed except for the last parking lot.  I finally got parked, grabbed my backpack with all my camera equipment, and hit the Navy Pier boardwalk.  Since it was still really early in the morning, around 9am on a Monday, there weren’t that many people on the pier except tourists taking family photos.  The sky was still dark and cloudy.  I started thinking back to old memories of how amazing this pier was when I had come to it in the past.  However, this time felt different.  Walking the pier this sense of uninspiredness and unimpressedness, if those are even a words, took over me.  I was so excited thinking about all the cool pictures I could take of Indiana on the pier with the Navy Pier signage or him with the city scape behind him.  However, that feeling of uninspiredness weighed on me and no picture I took came out how I envisioned it.  I slowly became depressed unable to find a cool thing to photograph.  The positive memories of me at this pier started drifting away as I started to feel like my depression of this new Navy Pier experience was engulfing me.  Feeling weighed down I decided to leave Navy Pier and walk to Millennium Park to see the famous silver bean.

It seemed like it was a pretty far walk, only 1.7miles one way, mostly because the sun finally decided to pop through the clouds making it really hot.  All the while, I was wearing a long sleeve shirt, a thin jacket, while walking around with a huge backpack, and my winter boots.  Sweating profusely, I finally made it to the bean.  There were a lot of tourists, but not as many as I’ve seen before when visiting the bean.  It was still enough where if you tried to take a picture you’d get other people in the picture.  Once again all my photos of Indiana at the bean short of photography perfection or Instagram worthy and I started to become upset and frustrated.  Even a family asked me to take a picture of them at the bean and complained about how the picture turned out so dark, well jerks, it’s either going to be over exposed or underexposed if you take the picture on a phone.  Anyways, I have a new found hate of crowds due to my PTSD.  I used to be that punk rock kid that would go to crazy concerts and be near the stage while mosh pits were created behind me.  Granted, I’d get a little peeved if I got pushed too hard, but now with my PTSD I’d be really proud of myself if I didn’t turn around and punch the person in the face who pushed me in a socially acceptable shove due to the atmosphere I entered.  With that said, now it seemed like being in a big city seeing touristy attractions was not going to help with my anxiety caused by my PTSD.  I should also mention that when I get really anxious I go to a primal fight mode now.  Where I get aggressive and very angry at everyone and everything.  It’s not really conducive to trying to follow social constructs since most touristy places have crowds.  It’s just kind of unavoidable even when visiting some places in the off season.  Since I’ve come to realize when my anxiety is starting to turn into full aggression, I decided to get some comfort food at Harry Carry’s back on the Navy Pier since they had the best mac and cheese I remember having in Chicago.

As I was leaving Millennium Park this rent a cop followed me for a block yelling “Hey, HEY YOU”.  Not thinking they were talking about me, I kept on walking along.  I was about 100 yards away from being out of Millennium park when she finally yelled, “PURPLE HAIR!”  Obviously I was the only one in the park with purple hair so I turned around.  That’s when she said in a very rude tone, “You can’t have your dog in here!”  Since I was already on high anxiety/high agitation alert, I snapped back at her very aggressively saying, “Ma’am you followed me for over a block yelling HEY at me, yet you were close enough to read the sign on my dogs vest that says he’s a service dog, which is posted on three different sides of his vest.  Either you’re illiterate or you just like yelling at people with disabilities!”  She looked at me with this blank stare and then proceeded to walk away from me, while most people in the park just stared in disbelief.  Now normally I’m pretty nice when it comes to people asking me questions about my service dog as long as they aren’t rude or if I’m in a good mood.  This situation, while not out of the ordinary, was a compilation of someone being rude to me and me being in a bad mood.  Just a recipe for me snapping.

Now even more agitated, I called my mom to tell her about the encounter with the rent-a-cop and the lack luster feeling I was having towards Chicago, my once favorite city in the U.S..  She suggested I text my new online therapist that I got just in case of situations like this, since the VA doesn’t offer online therapy or distance therapy, to explain what was going on since it seemed like even though I was being bold doing this huge road trip that I was still encountering issues that was triggering my PSTD.  After venting to my mom and texting my therapist I finally reached Harry Carry’s.  The thought of creamy, cheesy, smoked gouda, bacon, mac and cheese seemed to make most of my anger and anxiety disappear.  That was until I walked up to the hostess stand at Harry Carry’s.  The two hostesses asked me if I was just eating alone with my dog.  I said, “yes”.  They then asked if I’d like to sit outside. I said no I wouldn’t since the wind picked up and it was getting cold outside.  One of the hostess said they weren’t sure if they accepted service dogs in the restaurant and were going to call a manager for clarification.  That sense of happiness I was feeling for my cheesy carb filled heaven started fading away and I told them, “It’s against the ADA if you deny me access to this restaurant!,” once that was said, the girl holding the phone put it down and the other picked up a menu.  They sat me at a table close to the hostess stand but I was still able to keep my back up against the wall, which is what I like, I don’t like people coming up behind me.  I got my laptop out and was ready to eat and blog.  When I finally had time to look at the menu, I had to go over it about 3 times until it slowly sinked in that they no longer had a mac and cheese section on the menu, or mac and cheese as an option at all.  That was the whole reason for me to go to Harry Carry’s!  Even more upset I just packed up my stuff and left the restaurant before the waitress had a chance to even bring water over to my table.  I walked to my car and decided I needed to leave Chicago as soon as possible.  There was nothing left for me there anymore.

Now a few weeks later as I’m writing this blog, there’s several theories as to why I had my “break down”.  Keep in mind the reason for my PTSD is military related.  Chicago, while I did visit as a kid, when I have memories of it, it’s due to the military.  It’s where I took my family and my ex boyfriend when I graduated from boot camp.  It’s where my friends/shipmates and I explored when we had liberty.  It’s when I thought I had my whole military career ahead of me.  Then a few weeks prior to me visiting Chicago for this trip, I came to have my soon to be ex husband sign our legal separation paperwork, since he was now stationed in Chicago as an RDC.  It’s crazy to think how just one place can make you think of positive things and then how your mind can slowly shift from positive to negative in just a split second.  I started thinking Chicago was a time when I was happy.  When I didn’t have PTSD.  When I thought I could trust men or my fellow sailors.  Now Chicago is where my ex husband and I made it official that we were not going to try anymore.  It was a reminder that the military is no longer my career.  It was a flashback to everything that happened that got me to this point in my life.  All the sexual harassment and assaults done by my fellow sailors that I once considered family.  The fact that my marriage suffered because of those things and now was ending due to how we both handled what happened.  Chicago just now served as a reminder of all those things.

Chicago is now a trigger!

Dog Friendly Ratings:

Millennium Park:  I’m giving them 1 paw due to the rent-a-cop harassment I encountered.  Also Millennium Park is not dog friendly!  Only service dogs may enter the park.

Harry Carry’s:  I’m giving them 3 service dog paws since they weren’t sure of service dog laws but after I explained it to them they let me sit.  They get 5 paws since they are pet dog friendly if you eat on the patio that overlooks the water and backs up to the pier.

Indiana’s Final Thoughts


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