Category Archives: trauma

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

Not All Revolutions Need Guns

Some are just heralded by phone calls.

Today my life programming got turned on its head. This has happened to me once before, with DH and my therapist. But I thought, “Both of them have a huge amount of time and energy invested in my well being,” and although what happened was revolutionary,  I couldn’t ignore it, but it didn’t cause a sesimic shift.

Today just might.

At one point or the other we had 4 neighbors here, raking, etc. and keeping DH company.

One neighbor’s son split and restacked the 8′ wood pile which had fallen last winter. His dad dismantled the rack and told me what I needed to buy so it could be used again. I was offered cabbage salad (good, even though cabbage is NOT my fave). And, and….

One neighbor asked me to call and asked how I was and I said, “Near tears.” and it wasn’t because anything was bad, it was because there had been people here, almost all day, doing things for us.

Frankly, yes, I was worried how we’d get through winter with DH partially disabled. He’s fine, he stopped taking anything that wasn’t over the counter when he left the hospital > a week ago now, but he’s not his normal self, yet.

And here were all these people, raking, helping me move boxes, splitting and stacking wood, etc.

A part of me went numb. That same part had the past two days been looking for the “gotcha,” the catch, because there had to be one, right?

Except there isn’t.

We’ve been here for 25 years+. I try hard to be the neighbor I’d want to have. And I realized today that I discount all of that, because I do it without thinking about it most of the time. But I guess it does count.

The echo from my past is several things:

“No one who really gets to know you will want to admit it.”

“No man will ever love you.”

Whenever anyone is nice to you, they’re just being polite.”

etc. etc. ad nauseum.

 

And today cried BULLSHIT to all of that!!!

Not all revolutions have guns.

mohamed-nohassi-odxB5oIG_iA-unsplash.jpgPhoto by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

I changed the image, this one seems to work much better!

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.

 

 

Amazing

Years ago when I was writing regular articles about retail stores, I would be writing about a certain kind of shop on a given road or in a certain area. I’d walk into a shop and say, “Tell me why you’re different. Tell me what’s different in your shop from the shop down the road?” And almost always, the owners or managers would tell me exactly the same thing. (To the point that I would tell them NOT to say exactly that after I’d been doing it a while.) I never knew how to clearly state why it mattered  that they distinguish themselves from other stores in the area selling similar merchandise.

Today? Today I was looking for commercial cleaning proposal templates I could print. I wanted to: 1) Perhaps generate commentary or something to talk about here. 2) See what commercial cleaners do differently than the housework books I have. 3) Try to locate the number I found once about how much more a certain commercial cleaner charged for each piece of furniture in a room,  I wanted to look at the house and see what it would cost. . . .

While researching, I found a discussion about why a business has to know why they’re different. A discussion by Simon Sinek, it’s an 18 minute video, but it starts with WHY, when most businesses talk about WHAT or HOW. Even the short version, in the write up here, makes the point. (The video is available from the link too, I can’t get the share to work here, sorry!)

I wish I’d known about Sinek before, would have saved me a lot of trying to get people to see that it didn’t matter how long they’d been there, how much merchandise they had, how diverse it was, etc. NONE of that is the real selling point, esp. if your competition says exactly the same thing!

I stopped being able to sell books easily when I lost the fire in my belly about books. I lost that because they were no longer the only place I didn’t hurt, they were pleasant diversions, but not necessary for sanity. I lost my passion, the why I loved books so much, and my ability to sell them easily, simultaneously.

In the same way, I lost my entertainment “muscle.” I used to be a superior hostess and was known for it. But I was continually on stage — felt like I was a performing seal. When I stopped being hypervigilant and immersed in the life PTSD had left me, I stopped the dog-and-pony show. Somehow I just can’t get it in my brain again that I need to be able to be entertaining: tell stories or do schtick occasionally.

There are people who put up with my low energy, non-performing self. And I’m not exhausted all the time, which is wonderful! Somehow, I just can’t summon the care to go back. I lost my WHY there too. I thought I had to be a performing seal or I had nothing to offer. Again, it was necessary for my survival.

I regret these changes every now and then, but not often. It’s weird not being able to do things you had done easily, but I just don’t have the goad, the terror shoving me over and over any more. I sure don’t regret that.


Weird blog, ‘eh? Cleaning proposals to business acumen to PTSD to what’s lost with healing. Not an arc I would have thought would work at all. I guess you, the reader, get to decide if it works or not?

j

 

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

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?

 

Wimp

I wimped out. I was supposed to have a colonoscopy and endoscopy this week. I cancelled it.

Why? Because my PTSD brain had decided that I would die under the anesthesia. Crazy, right? But it wouldn’t go away. Every time I did anything about the procedure, it would show up, again and again.

Don’t tell me it’s irrational. Thanks I know that already.

I got tired of crying about it.

Also, different than in years past? I didn’t grit my teeth and just do whatever, so that others wouldn’t know I was scared or think less of me. I was scared and yeah, you can think less of me if you want; I have no control over that anyway.

For one of the few times in my life about something pretty big, I let myself wimp out.

Different? Yes. I kept telling myself it was no big. I kept telling myself it was my crazy PTSD, anxiety-ridden brain going off the deep end.

It wouldn’t go away.

Finally? I was supposed to watch this 40 minute thing for the hospital this morning, and that put me over the edge.

So I wimped out.

On the one hand, it’s nice because I’m actually being honest. (Unlike all the times from dissecting a frog in high school, to almost anything else, up to and including submitting the memoir to a publisher, because I thought others would think less of me if I didn’t.)

And, the pay off? I’m pretty sure if I wasn’t dead, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But if I was? Well, it’s hard to write and live this life then ‘eh?

And I want a chance to do that living. I owe DH a clean house. I owe myself the chance to see what, if any, impact the memoir can have. I want that. I want to see what kind of other life I can have!

panic

But there’s a large part of me that’s saying “I’m done.” The work which started when I was born 3 months premature, fighting for my life, is complete. And, if I’m really, truly going to be honest here? That’s what really scared me. I wasn’t sure if they put me under I’d  want to come back. So, I blamed the medical profession, but it was just me.

You know? I have no idea who I am if I’m not fighting. And I’m not, not really any more.

Maybe I’ll get a chance to grow up/grow past the stupid childhood before I’m 70? You think?