Category Archives: PTSD

That Little Girl

I was who was so traumatized has caused me a lot of problems, because I don’t know what she decided or thought in many cases until there’s an issue. It’s my flashback to be swamped with pain, fear, or panic and possibly no apparent reason for the reaction.

For a long, long time, shame held me back, but I didn’t realize it until one day in therapy I blurted out, “I don’t deserve to heal; I killed my mother.”

I remembered feeling that way as a small child, but I thought it was survivor guilt, and I thought I’d dealt with it. I hadn’t. I did after that.

That same little girl has me trapped in the street car dealing with whatever it is related to cleaning or knitting.

train image from target

One of the most difficult things is at 60+ is to “get” that what’s going on with my body/mind has not much if anything to do with who I am now and figure out how to undo whatever it is. In many ways, it’s rather like trying to talk to an alien.

That said? She also did me a really, really good turn by her lack of understanding in one critical area. A few years back, I started to slide into clinical depression. I thought I was going insane, finally. My therapist and I talked about how I felt, and what was happening to me and she diagnosed it as clinical depression.

A while later, I put it together. What I had always been afraid of was losing control — “going insane.” That was what I’d fought internally for decades. It was keeping myself out of that. But it wasn’t insanity; it was clinical depression.

It meant that when I started to slide down that path in my 50s-60s, a remote part of me — at a distance — noticed and said, “What are you doing?”

My internal response was, “I don’t know. I don’t care.”

But that monitor said. “Hm. Maybe we’ll read this piece, it usually makes us feel better.”

“Nothing will make it better.”

“Let’s try.”

“If you insist.”

I did two or three other things: read the pieces which make me feel better, walked to the place which makes me feel good, etc. with no hope they would work. But eventually, they did.

So, yes, I’ve been depressed. And I’ve been close to succumbing to clinical depression.

But that plucky little girl wasn’t going to “go insane” no matter what! She kept finding ways to avoid it.

This puts me at a loss with people who ARE depressed, because my magic, most effective tool against depression’s devastation is that I made it absolutely illegal and forbidden for myself, when I was 3.

depression

 

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One Problem with Recovery

I just looked at the “laundry list” for the adult children of alcoholics or dysfunctional families. Here’s a link.  Almost all of that pertained to me in the past. Almost none of it fits me now, thankfully.

If you look down the page, you’ll find the flip side of that list.  My problem is with #5. This one:

We stop living life from the standpoint of victims and are not attracted by this trait in our important relationships.

That’s pretty easy to see. What I don’t see addressed here (and haven’t found elsewhere) is how you deal with those who were in your life before — getting them to change the unspoken “givens” in your relationship? Demands don’t work. At least in my case, neither does asking reasonably. My answer has been to cut off my family and all but one of my oldest friends. I’d like to have relationships with them, but in most cases I’ve moved on and they haven’t. Or, in a few exceptional cases, they’ve moved on and I’m not enough like I was to be “interesting” any more.

Says a lot about your value to someone, ‘eh? Either you’re valuable because you’re someone to be “better” than or “entertaining” or you have no value. If I did something extraordinary, that made me well known, these people would almost all in my estimation reclaim their relationship with me, whatever it is. But as an ex-victim, ex-emotionally unstable, non-victim, stable, older, housewife, who lives in the middle of nowhere, without drama — I’m unimportant.

And if I did something important, why would I want to be connected to these folks?

My old friends, I thought would be happy for me, because they cared about me, and I was stable and happy. Nope. Almost without fail, they were bored by me, because I wasn’t “exciting” any more.

My family? Well, that’s more complicated. I think they’d also claim their relationship with  me if I did something “important.” But it’s probably easier to call me “overly sensitive” or some such, now, than realize that the only way I will allow them to have any but the most casual contact with me is to rewrite the premises.  I’m not less than them. Different? Yes. Less? No!

Much of the problem of course is of my own creation. I thought for decades that being less and interesting/unconventional were some of the only real assets I had, as I was damned with some undefined piece. So, I started all relationships with the idea that I was less.

I changed, but that doesn’t mean that others want or need to.

 

 

Someone Got It!

New hygenist at the dentist. Talked about the PTSD and the hoarding/dehoarding. She asked me, “What’s your degree in, or did you get one?”

She understood the reason I never did, without my telling her specifically. I’m sure my family thinks I’m just too lazy or maybe too intimidated. That’s not it. Same thing as the dehoarding or finishing almost anything: makes me too visible and I want to panic.

I was gobsmacked. People get this who know me. But most people don’t draw the line between why I became a hoarder and why I didn’t get a 4 year or more degree.

Either I’m telling the stories better, or she’s just really bright about people.

Not sure which!

Stigma & Shame Links

I found this about stigma the other day. You might be interested? link

And while we’re talking about the good or bad the internet can bring, you may want to listen to this TED talk I found last week which talks about shame as well.

My personal experience was that shame was the biggest single thing which kept me from healing. link

J

Week from Hell

DH had to go away for work this past week (he’s home now). Between him being gone, which always leans on the PTSD and deciding that what I’d do while he was gone was deep clean/clear the house, it was a stress fest.

I leaned, hard on my friends this past week (Thanks for being there!) and got very little sleep. I did however, get the bathroom much cleaner and removed 80% of the large laundry pile in our bedroom (which I discovered, joyfully, was as big as it was because it had 2 layers of book boxes on the bottom, covered with a layer ‘o stuff to go into the attic, and “frosted” with clothes. If the pile had been laundry all the way down? It would have held enough clothing for a family of 6 or so!)

You can read the details of what I did at the other site: here, if you’re interested.

The most “profitable” thing I learned with this were the following: the PTSD managment I can do most of the time is more fragile than I thought. However, I managed to realize this and stop myself, mostly, from doing anything too stupid because of it. I didn’t entirely manage it, but much better than I have in the past. Also, I realized what I was doing, vastly different than previously, when I had no idea why I was being emotionally buffeted around like a leaf in the wind. I knew what was happening.

That didn’t help me manage it to the degree I’d like, but as I said, it was better than in years past.

I also learned I just can’t tackle the house in a large way without consequences. My body still remembers the trauma(s) related to the housekeeping, vividly. So I was going to bed sleep as late as 4 a.m. I had GREAT plans for the 5 days.!

I managed to actually really dig in and tackle the house 2 days: Monday and Wednesday. Both nights were nearly sleepless. The days following I was almost braindead until late afternoon when I was suddenly *awake!*.

I spent one night listening to graduation speeches trying to make myself feel better. One night listening to music. Tried playing games/reading, etc. It worked as well as it did, but mostly it didn’t.

I can do without going from a sound sleep to sitting bolt upright in bed, crying, shaking and palms sweating, thank you very much. But I guess I get to do that or be sleepless in whatever form, for a while yet.

What I’m hoping seems odd, and that is that if I keep going, eventually, I’ll remember wtf the trauma(s) are. When I remember, it’s significantly easier to cope. Battling wraiths in the dark is much harder than seeing whatever it is, and realizing it’s a movie you’ve been playing for decades. It’s just as “real” because it’s definitely present Now! in your body, but easier to manage. You can understand why event x or y leaned on it; why a smell triggered it, etc. This is one of the hardest things about having been traumatized so many ways, so young. I have two reactions to things which trigger my PTSD, I either have a full flashback and remember wtf happened, or like the knitting and cleaning, I realize there’s a trigger but don’t remember what the event(s) are.

Defining the Job

I finally came up with a set of concrete goals for the house work. I’ve put it on the 7 levels site. You can find it here.

It was interesting to finally figure this out. The sliding scale of how much is enough has been an issue of mine for some time. It is possible to go way over the line from hoarding to OCD and the definition will also help (I think.) to keep me from doing that.

And, because of the need to find that “enough is enough” and not too much, I think the set definition will also help keep the PTSD anxiety at bay.

Another step,

HURRAH!!!

Two Types of Flashbacks

The last time I was cleaning 5 days a week (my goal) except for dishes/food clean up was last month. On the 15th, I wrote this blog saying, “I’m doing it!” and started waking up in full panic: heart pounding, palms sweating, shaking, the whole thing. When I have a full, emotional flashback, it’s a two-week readjustment, but not a cleaning flashback. Those take longer, about 4 weeks.

What I’ve done successfully, is to make the routines, at least a minimum of them just habit. So, for the past 4 weeks, I’ve done some laundry, but haven’t put it away consistently. Done some dishes every day, but rarely are all of them done, etc. There aren’t 4 weeks of accumulated laundry and dishes to do. I haven’t gotten much sleep and my stress levels are up, but I’ve dealt with it.

My challenge is to either 1)Try and add to what I can do in the “bad times.” or 2)Lengthen the period when I can clean. The problem with either and this challenge is that if I notice what I’m doing — the panic starts.

I’m really sick of fighting this stuff! I’m in my 60s — I am honestly, truly tired of being affected by things which happened in my childhood. But they gave me PTSD and all of it, the mess to hide in and the other events or adaptations I made to protect myself, are all wrapped together as my flashback. Push on any piece too hard and there I go down the flashback rabbit hole.

The only difference is that when I’m pushed emotionally, I have a successful route I forged back. From something like the movie thing, it takes a day or two. If someone attacks me? It takes two full weeks.

I don’t have such a mechanism for the panic attacks/cleaning flashbacks. What I originally did with the emotional ones was to recreate my growth, one step at a time away from the painful place I used to live. I haven’t managed anything except the very first steps away from the panic/stress.

  1. I understand the root of the panic.
  2. I also understand that the reason it was and is so hard to fight is that when it occurs, I’m in full fight/flight panic mode.
  3. I have realized that the only way I know which might work is to habitualize the cleaning.

That’s worked to some extent or the other.

What hasn’t worked? Finding a way to notice that I’m cleaning and not go into a full-blown panic attack/flashback.


There’s hope. Until I typed what’s above and remembered what I’d done for the emotional attacks, I’d forgotten that I ritualized the steps away from the bad old days. I did that for years until my therapist said, “Do you really have to recreate each step, one after the other these days? Next time, see if you can’t condense some of it.” And I could!

So, hope exists. But it took me 20 years or so to heal enough that I could conceive of  recreating the healing route. Twenty months longer on the cleaning/panic is about 18 months more than I want to spend….

But, of course, the being dictating the rate I can go isn’t my conscious, adult brain, but that wounded little girl, whose body remembers all the trauma. She and the body run the roadways and determine how much I can do and how fast. train image from target

My adult self just has to sit back, be patient, and wait. It sometimes feels as if I’m a passenger on an electric train. I got on, the doors closed and locked. All I can do is patiently wait until it stops!

trolley