Category Archives: PTSD

So

This is Monday, the day I’m supposed to do 6 areas of my house (it’s 5 Tues – Fri). I don’t know if I’ll make it back into this, but the chaos created by the oncoming winter, DH’s injury, visitors, etc. means that I need some kind of plan.

And since I spent a long time devising that one, I think I’ll try and pick it up again.

We’ll see how it works?

One thing really did come of the 90 challenge I set myself and that was the end (apparently) of the panic attacks. If that’s true? I can’t tell you what a relief it is!

J

I Did This Thing…

I made myself a 90 day challenge. Starting 7/1 and ending the end of September. I wanted to try and clean the house, every day, to some extent or the other. I wanted to try and use the fact that I know that it takes 90 days to create habits or change them.

Well, it worked, and it didn’t. It worked in that I got used to cleaning every day and these days I seem to be able to do it without panic attacks. Removing the panic attacks was my personal, unstated goal.

I was inconsistent. There are days where I never assigned the tasks to do, where I didn’t do anything on the lists, etc. Sometimes there are several days. I didn’t let myself let it go. I didn’t beat myself up when life got in the way, either. I just pushed on the next time I could.

So, I wrote (nearly a week late) the summary, for myself of the effort. I will do a more detailed one later, but in general, I’m not unhappy with what I did. My stated goal was to clean the house almost entirely. My unstated goal was to habitualize the cleaning so that I could clean WITHOUT panic attacks.

And that seems to have worked!

You can find my summary post here.

Progress! But . . .

I sold more than 30 boxes of books at the book sale last weekend. Great! I’m getting rid of books and other items, daily. Also great!

But the progress is still not really discernible, which is NOT great.

I have taken boxes of books and stuff to the dump’s swap shop. I have boxed up items for future flea markets. I have gone through all the boxes in various stacks and removed the obvious culls, labelled and then restacked tidily, the remainder. Does it look better? Yes.

But it’s still a mess.

And it isn’t that I’m so tired of owning all this stuff, it’s that I’m tired of spending all my time dealing with stuff or ignoring the mess.

I want to do other things. I have acquired some new work gigs, which are going to obviously take some time. The memoir probably needs revision and I’m in the midst of an edit of that manuscript anyway. And so on. All I need is a month of 100 hour days, and we’re all set!

The biggest issue of course really is the PTSD. If I push much harder than I am, I’m pretty sure it will jump down my throat.  Panic attacks are not fun. These days they seem to show up in the middle of the night most of the time. I’d really like to avoid that, if at all possible.

And aside from just pitching everything in a dumpster, there is no other solution. It takes time, that’s all.

 

A Life List

I wondered what had happened to all my “life lists.” The Life List is a technique I used for many years to help me figure out who I was, without the overlay of abuse, the abuser, and others’ opinions.

I found one this morning in a box of papers. This list is over 30 years old. I quit smoking in my 20s. My current reactions are in bold below.

Much of this list, 4 pages, were pictures of china from the Sunday newspaper’s magazine. The patterns are mostly pastel, stylized flowers on white backgrounds.  I still like the china patterns, although of the seven I cut out, only one is something I still really like. It’s yellow spider mums on a white background, called “Dreaming” by Denby. I’d include an image but can’t find one to copy, sorry!

Aside from the china, the list says:

…herbs hanging by a string, I do this.

an orange/clove pomander in every closet, I don’t do this.

growing vegetables in pots, I don’t do this.

a fave radio station’s call letters I’d probably still listen to that station, if we didn’t live on the other side of the country!

small white ashtrays at pier 1 I don’t smoke any more.

The white German china which was my Mom’s and the Corning Centuraware my Dad used as everyday. I have some of each, so they’re still “me.”

A list of flowers: columbine, lily of the valley, miniature roses, daffs, vinca, Icelandic poppies I still like all of these, but don’t grow many flowers.

Linen placemats/table cloths, Definite change here: I have cloth placemats, but rarely use a table cloth.

Berries for breakfast.  Yum!

I thrive on change – a man who can rest but not stop. Not the way I see my former self. I don’t think I  really thrived on change, but I desperately wanted it since this is from the time in my life when the emotional pain was constant. 

Not interested in a man who rests but doesn’t stop — in some ways. In others? Yes, this is still true. 

Wrap around skirts, bell sleeves, capes. I still like these, but don’t wear them. I’m pear shaped, so they’re not flattering any more.

A plain shoe doesn’t drown out you! Who cares? But I still wear shoes which are pretty simple.

Lastly: Perky, smart, happy, pretty … such are dreams. I find this sad.


Some of this is taste, obviously. Some of it’s who I wanted to be or how I wanted to be seen.

It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t understand the need for this how much these lists meant. They were affirmation, vindication, and hope all in one.


I threw the pages out after I wrote this. Interesting? Yes. Do I want to keep it?

No.

Books & Reading: Legacy & Healing

My parents met because of books. Mom was a bookseller, Dad a book collector.

Books saved my life. For decades, I read compulsively first thing in the morning and last thing at night. They were my only constant: no matter how bad or good the day was, the words on the page remained the same.

The abused, wounded little girl I was to the young woman I became, desperately needed a constant. God had been blocked from me, as had any belief system or group of people — as part of that abuse.

Then I met this quiet 6’1 man who decided he was going to take the person he said was, “the most cynical person I’ve ever known,” and be the rock she needed. It worked, but it took years.

During those years, I still read compulsively. I opened the shop, in part to thank the literary world for saving my sanity/life. Then, at 45, I was diagnosed with PTSD, and the therapist, DH and I slowly but steadily unpicked the knot of my abuse and traumas.

My therapist said that when people get PTSD, the first thing which eases the pain becomes the addiction. In my case, I was 3 and it was books and reading.

stack-of-books

(Not sure where I got the image, I’ve used it before, sorry!)

More years, more books, more healing. The store closed in 2005. Sometime afterwards, about the time I started knitting (2015), I stopped reading compulsively first and last thing every day.

I’d gotten to where I almost resented books. I had too many, they cluttered up my life and were a continual reminder of how wounded I’d been.

I count people who write, illustrate, publish and edit as some of my dearest friends. There are 6 books with my name on the cover, and two more scheduled to come out late this year or early next.

One of the future books is the memoir and that’s the period, for me, on the end of the abuse/PTSD sentence. If one person, just one, doesn’t commit suicide or tries to find another way — just once — the ten years it took me to write will be worthwhile.

Behind that 10 years are hundreds of hours of therapy, both effective and not. Also behind it are thousands of hours of reading: recharging my batteries, giving me hope, giving me respite, and telling me to try again and again.

Recently, I plucked a copy of Helene Hanff’s Q’s Legacy from a box. I was completely prepared to get rid of it, and will, but I hadn’t read it. I’ve read everything else she wrote, except her text books, and I skimmed those! So I picked it up and started.

In the course of reading about how she became the person associated with the Marks & Co. bookshop and all that happened to her because of that association, I found a new way to adjust for my past. Having books and reading is fine. It’s no longer my refuge, safety and salvation, it’s a pleasant way to spend some time.

I still have way too many books — but somehow, it’s hard to resent it.

 

 

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!

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.