Category Archives: PTSD

I Have Been

Working hard — on the house. I’ve been following my cleaning plan.

It seems to me that a major shift is in order. Instead of trying to sell the memoir as a psych. program auxiliary piece, maybe what I need to do is sell the cleaning plan and make the memoir the back piece to that.

It would solve the problem of the memoir just not having a plot, being first-person, too short, and a mess of other issues. Of course, I still haven’t heard from my publisher, but my feeling is that I will not. Not now and not in the future. It will be as if it dropped into a black hole and vanished… poof!

This has completely stopped the work I was doing on the memoir. I had even talked to a friend about coding it for an ebook. Okay, fine.

I can’t sell the cleaning plan if I can’t use it, right? I can’t set myself up as an expert on anything unless I can actually DO whatever. (Well, that’s not true. These days the woods are full of blow-hard know-it-alls who make pronouncements about any and everything. EVERYONE is an expert, about anything they feel strongly about!)

But I was raised by someone who genuinely was an expert in his field. My brother is. My husband is too. I have been surrounded my entire life by men who are really good at their jobs, and became “experts.”

So I have standards about about what it takes to BE an expert:

  • You must know what you’re talking about.
  • You must be able to do something rather than just talk about the subject.
  • You must have some sort of track record, that is a history, of successfully being able to do whatever it is.

My dad taught aeronautics  and designed airplanes for 40 years, my brother has worked in his field for the same amount of time and he’s still teaching and writing about it, my husband has been in his field since the field started, about 30 years now.

Me? The only thing I’m expert in is the inner workings of my head. The memoir is 50 years of life & learning and took me 10 years to write. The cleaning plan started in one way when I started this blog in 11/2011. I’ve been whacking away at the problems since.

I couldn’t do the memoir until I did the trauma work.

I could write, but not use, the cleaning plan until I did the memoir.

So, we’ll see if the next step is what I want/hope it to be? That is, using the cleaning plan, make it  a habit, and a book and/or app is the next step. (Habits take 90 days to be established.)

I sure hope so! I don’t know that I have the patience to spend 10 more years on this project.

So, I’ve shifted gears. I was all set to publish the memoir, whack away at the cleaning plan, then when I finally got it to work, get it ready for publication.

Nope.

Doing it the other way around. Going to get the cleaning plan working,  finish up the writing related to it, get DH or someone to make the app I have in mind, then publish the CLEANING PLAN, with the MEMOIR as back material.

Then the lack of “plot” or “arc” or sex, drugs, rock n’ roll won’t matter. I’m not selling the memoir; it’s explanatory material, I’m selling the cleaning plan. Want to know why I set the cleaning plan up the way I have? Read the memoir and you’ll find out.

street signs

Image is not mine, not sure where I got it. Sorry!

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I’m Not a Feminist; and I Am. Or. . .

I was raised by a man who grew up in the Georgian Era, the 1900-1920s. His ideas about women were to say the least a bit dated in the 1960s when I was growing up. But he also had this thing about how I could do anything I set my mind to. It was confusing, but many of the “shoulds” I got at the time were conflicting: 1950s vs 1960s sensibilities.

I like the idea of my home being an extension of my love of my spouse, our relationship, and as a way of respecting myself. It’s a notion which appeals.

That said, we started as roommates, not lovers, and neither of us is set in the men only or women only patterns which were pervasive when we were very young. I will haul and split wood. He will wash dishes and laundry. We both cook.

I am not a rabid anything. I don’t want to be male. I DO want equal pay if I’m doing the same work as a man, with equal experience. I DO want to be seen as an individual, a person, rather than as a domestic worker or sex slave.

I am content to be female. It wasn’t always so. I was really angry about the assumption that of course I would clean, cook, and caretake for any man I lived with: father, brother, lover, or spouse. I remember when a woman’s inadequacies were judged by how well she appeared in public, how clean her house was, how well she entertained, etc.

That was who women were when I was a little girl. I was dismayed there was no one to teach me. And more dismayed that my family just assumed (the two males I lived with) that somehow I’d acquire those skills and accomplishments magically about the time I physically matured, it came with using a bra I guess? Except it didn’t.

The primary model I had for being female was someone I didn’t want to be: my Abuser. She was a lousy housekeeper and a nasty person. The secondary model was her daughter, who saw me as competition. We weren’t buddies. Then there was my actual sister, who was a Martha Stewart clone. Didn’t seem to have much in common with her, either.

They sent me places, some of which tried to help: boarding schools, camps, etc. Some of them tried to inject a cleaning routine in my life. It didn’t work, because of the PTSD and panic attacks.

So here I am, decades after this started, still trying to figure out where the roles of housekeeper, spouse, woman fit?

And I still don’t know.

If wanting equal pay and recognition as a person makes me a Feminist, then I am. If wanting to learn how to caretake and nurture, to create a home makes me an Anti-Feminist, then I’m that too.

More Panic & Stories of Us

Okay. I woke again last night (this was written Wednesday), three times. This was better (?) than Monday night because I omitted the adrenaline content. I just woke up with a cramped leg, twice and a cramped arm once. If the panic attacks stay limited to the physical side waking me and I don’t wake up with the emotional backwash of panic/pain, I can usually just go back to sleep. I’m not sure what it is I do with my arm, but I keep pushing/straining with my feet. It isn’t restless foot syndrome that I know of, because it seems to only happen on the nights when the PTSD has a reason to be “active.”

I yelp every now and then and I keep waiting for the day the scream I feel inside gets out.

Poor DH!

But I suppose a few things: 1) He loves me, bless him and knows I don’t do this on purpose. 2) We’ve talked about it. and 3) It’s probably a small price to pay to finally get a clean (or cleaner anyway) house? I don’t know that one, you’d have to ask him.


I met him at a supermarket to combine errands and our other agenda. We were saying good bye in the market. I was at the end of an aisle, he was at the other end. I called, he saw/heard me and came to me. I leaned into him when he got there; he kissed the top of my head. Some woman we don’t know said, “Ahhh.” I guess she thought it was nice.

Reminded us of a few other occasions:

  • We both worked as volunteers at a public radio station. Because we worked in different parts of town, we usually met at the station if we were both volunteering the same day. DH came in and walked over to me. The fellow I was working with started to introduce us and DH leaned over and kissed me. The fellow said, “I guess you two know each other?” Um, yeah. It was cute.
  • Years later, after we’d moved north, we were in the local shopping mall, holding hands. A teenaged (or younger) male person looked at us and went, “EWwww!” I suppose that to him holding hands is the purview of people < 20? Don’t know. We were amused!

roman-kraft-266787-unsplash

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

First Panic, This Time

Had the first sign of a panic attack last night. I had asked DH if he liked the way the house looked earlier, that may have triggered me. I woke up, mid sleep, palms sweating, leg cramped from pushing with it, and near tears. Figured out what was going on and rolled over, calmed myself down and went back to sleep. Only to wake up again, later and again rolled over and went back to sleep.

On the other hand? Things are getting done. The laundry room, bath room, kitchen and dining room are picked up. The living room has been worked on, so has the bed room. Just too much stuff to get it done.

This morning, for example, I unpacked a box in our bedroom. There’s a bunch of books in there, which are mine or need to be gone through. There was a stack of magazines, I’ve pulled all the pages I want out of all but 2 of those. And the magazines (minus pages) are in the paper recycling bin.

I grabbed the overlarge rattan satchel I’d bought a few months back, without a specific idea where I’d put it or how I’d use it? I knew I loved it, wanted to use it for kitchen linen, but it’s too big for that. It’s now the designated spot for “out of season bedding” one side of the tag in blue says cool weather and the other side says hot weather in red. (We still have flannel on the bed and probably will for another month or so.) The satchel isn’t big enough to also store excess blankets in the summer, but I do have another basket for that. It’s not covered AND it’s not big enough to take the extra sheets, duvet, and pillow.

I’ve decided that I love our duvet covers (one is black & white linen the other is greens and cotton) and will use them instead of a bed spread. (I now have one bedspread to add to the flea market stock.)

I also decided that since we’re down to one sets of bed linen for each season: winter and summer — (bottom sheet, top sheet, and duvet) and no more, I will try and do what I’ve heard others do: wash their sheets and put them immediately back on the bed. This will cut down the amount of things needing to be bought, maintained, and stored, saving money and storage space. All good — all I have to do is make sure to start the sheets in the morning….

I am slowly, but surely, finding a work pattern here. It isn’t fast, but it has been working. There’s only one piece which has really amused me. I decided I should clean the toilet after the first time I used it, daily. (We have a lot of iron in our water, so it needs daily scrubbing.) Wouldn’t happen,didn’t happen, no matter how often I told myself I had to do it! But the second time I use it? Well, then I can do it.  I’m greatly amused at my human foibles, but it is what it is. It’s getting scrubbed every day, and that’s all that matters, but I have to have my coffee first! 🙂

 

And so it goes, and goes and goes!

 

Today’s job and tomorrow’s is to organize the flea market stuff and get it into my car so I can take it to the storage or just store it here, in one place, and neatly, which would work better. It needs to be in one place and having it at home means I can clean, sort and price things as I have time, instead of trying to do it all at once, either at the market or in the storage.

I feel like it’s one of those marble or ball bearing games. Today this falls through the hole and gets caught. Tomorrow it will also get caught with some other piece. I am letting this process develop, organically, as it were, at its own pace. And it’s getting done; again, that’s all that matters!

Different

I have been reading a book I’ve had for some time, and only used before as a reference: Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson. She has this to say, which I found really mind-boggling:


“The sense of being at home is important to everyone’s well-being. If you do not get enough of it, your happiness, resilience, energy, humor, and courage will decrease. It is a complex thing, an amalgam. In part, it is a sense of having special rights, dignities, and entitlements — and these are legal realities, not just emotional states. It includes familiarity, warmth, affection, and a conviction of security. Being at home feels safe: you have a sense of relief whenever you come in and close the door behind you, reduced fear of social and emotional dangers as well as physical ones.” (page 7)


 

As an abused and neglected child, I had none of those things. Home was, as I have said elsewhere, the place where they knew how to put the (emotional) knife so it hurt the most. And, if a person wasn’t actively hurting me, they were wondering wtf my problem was? So, I have no expectation of safety at home.

I also have no experience of someone as she talks about caretaking a home as a way of showing love.

DH’s circumstances were different from mine, but his childhood home wasn’t happy and protective entirely either.

I have been for years trying to figure out what makes a place “home” and the most I could come up with was cozy and safe, so that’s what I’ve been heading towards decorating wise. But it has been an ongoing problem for me, because I want something I have never had, and decorating magazines and books just do NOT talk about how to create a home-like atmosphere.

And then there’s this:


“…what a traditional woman did that made her home warm and alive was not dusting and laundry. Someone can be hired to do those things (to some extent anyway). Her real secret was that she identified herself with her home.” (page 9)


And that I’ve never done.

The panic attacks happen in at least one predictable way, or used to. That was if I set up something to please myself. I was sure others would see what I did as laughable, stupid, or just wrong.

That’s a product of years of conditioning as a kid. It’s part of the cyclic rant: “Someone will break it. Someone will steal it. Someone will deride it or make fun of me,” that is the verbal side of my panic attacks.

Standing in front of a bookshelf with palms sweating and near tears, because I displayed some of my favorite things isn’t an experience I remember fondly, but it used to be common.

I identified myself not with the space I occupied, but internally. Inside was my only safe harbor.

I feel rather at sea in some ways. Years ago, my therapist told me to nurture the wounded kid inside me. I asked, “How?”

She looked at me and said, “If you’d had a kid, you would have learned, because your instincts and the child’s needs would have taught you. But you never had a kid. And you weren’t nurtured. I’ll have to think about that.”

And we came up with some answers, but not a lot. Although I don’t see myself as an uncaring person, frankly, I suck at relationships.

I ruin friendships, put off people, and always have. Some of it was being wounded, because I said inappropriate things, but much of it was just that I never learned how to build community, closeness, not really. I try hard. I try to have integrity. I try to be of use to the people I know, but I’ve never been sure I do it right, and think I screw it up, all the time.

The house is much the same sort of thing. It used to be that every time I did some new decorating thing or worked on cleaning the house, what I said to my husband was, “Are you mad at me?”

And although that’s pretty pathetic, it’s still the truth. These days, by contrast, what happens is that I’m grumpy. I was this morning, when I cleaned the kitchen.

You know? I’d really, really love to outgrow my childhood. Maybe by the time I’m 70?

 

So (Status) and Konmari

Progress and not.

  • Progress  = I finished clearing out the bigger of the two storage units.
  • Not = I didn’t get all my tax info together like I wanted to. Should finish that up in the next few weeks.

I got a large amount moved in the storage on Valentine’s Day.

DH and I cleared out the antique store booth that Sunday. The following Tuesday (this Tuesday) I finished up that effort. I’ve paid for this in the resulting cramped muscles, sleepless nights due to twingey backs, etc. But it’s done. I have a backlog of boxes here at the house to go through before I’ll start pulling more from the new, smaller storage to go through. So definite progress.

That said, there are still two corners here stacked with boxes and the attic. There’s a few boxes slated to go to the dump buried in the woodshed, they won’t come out til spring.

There are two flea markets I’d do, but one of them is the day after a workshop I’ve already paid for, in the opposite direction. So, we may go and look, but we won’t be selling.

Because of all of this, I’ve asked myself, “How will I know when I’m done?” The answer I’ve come up with is:

  1. The book boxes here are the only books in boxes I’m responsible for.
  2. There’s enough room in the attic to store those (see #1) and the books I want to keep and use are shelved.

It’s another of those enough but not too much things.


 

boxes

(not my image, from Google images probably, I’ve used it previously)


 

Why I don’t do Konmari:

  1. I think it’s a fine idea, but it isn’t for me with the PTSD and panic attacks, that’s the first reason.
  2. The second reason is that my relationship with stuff and space where I live is so complicated that there are only 2 items in my home which fit her “keep it if it makes you happy” idea: a bench and a stained glass window. Everything else is stuff I like, or think/feel is okay, or haven’t really considered how I feel about it.
  3. Again, this is because of the PTSD and panic attacks.  You don’t get attached to things if everything you look at is a potential item for derision, theft, or being broken, which was the set up I had as a kid. I ended up being conditioned like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

So, do me a favor, please. Don’t ask me if I do Konmari. I bought the book when it was new, years ago now, looked at it and gave it to a friend within two weeks. If it works for you — that’s great.

As usual, my life is complicated!

 

Baby It’s Cold, Culture, and Change

I first heard the idea that “Baby It’s Cold Outside” as a rape rant a while back and thought it a bit far fetched.

I listened to it again and although I could see the point, it still seemed a bit “off?”

Then I read Shatner’s comments, and something there seemed wrong, although I couldn’t articulate exactly what it was.

A short response to Shatner’s comments changed that. The comment, which I cannot find to quote, was something like, “You’ve missed the point. It’s not up to the guy.”

And the sun burst through the clouds for me.

Okay. I realized my cultural take was that rape is an act of violence. Anything up to violence wasn’t rape. But I am the same generation as Shatner, where, when I was young, women were ornaments, expected to be the “moral guardians” of their families, live for their families, and put up and shut up with whatever men wanted of their bodies. The penultimate Barbie doll outfit when it was new, when I was little, was a bridal dress.

I am a rape survivor, no matter how you parse it, I was raped. It was a violent act. I probably as a young woman put up and shut up 50 or more times with men going farther and using my body more than I wanted them to. I wasn’t discrete, careful or picky enough for a long time (rape survivor and PTSD both contributed there).

But I also described that rape, for years, to men, and even male psychologists said to me, dismissively, “Oh, you were date raped.” as if that made it less of a rape?

I was culturally programmed to “put up and shut up” because of when I was raised. All those June Cleaver, Betty Crocker and Barbie stereotypes contributed. And the sexual revolution changed a lot, but all that stuff still lurks under there, because that’s what being a woman was when I first saw myself as a girl.

This isn’t a bludgeon to beat men with Mr. Shatner, it’s a major cultural shift. I saw the song for years as a seduction song, not rape. And, although there’s no violence in it, I can understand now why someone could see it as rape, because the male character is ignoring what the female says, and that’s not acceptable any more.

sheet music

For years, I thought I’d processed the rape, I could talk about it right? Then about 20 years afterwards, I heard a show on NPR about date rape and this teen-aged guy said something like, “You can’t pay attention to what they say! They think they can’t act like they want it, because they wouldn’t be the right kind of girl if they did. So you can’t listen to them.”

I told DH about this later. When I relayed the comment by the kid, I started crying and cried for days. (Hit a chord, ya ‘think?)

And yet, despite all that, my first reaction was still if there was no violence, there was no rape in “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

I’m culturally programmed; we all are. But the programming has changed.

Hallelujah — It’s about time!