Category Archives: trauma

What I’ve Learned

Well, it’s different, you see. Not panicking in a clean space means that I can just clean it and leave it that way.

That is new and different, so although these points may be obvious to you, they weren’t to me!

The reasons behind my decluttering now are:

  1. With less stuff, it’s easier to use the space.
  2. With less floating clutter, it’s easier to clean the space.
  3. Also with less floating clutter, it’s easier to maintain the cleanliness.

This has nothing to do with sparking joy or minimalism, but is a pragmatic reality. Intellectually, of course I already knew this.

What’s different is the impatience I have with the assorted piles and boxes of stuff. Instead of being something to doggedly plow through which is uncomfortable at best and traumatic at its worst!

 

Progress Report

Although I haven’t been reporting here OR keeping track explicitly of my progress, I will say that yes, I’m getting quite a lot done!

The living room got cleared out for DH to live in a bed there, while that was necessary. That bed has been gone since Christmas Day. When he started sleeping in our bed again, the living room was put together a lot closer to what I really wanted it to be. Sometime in here, the table we’d loaned out was returned and we took the round table we’d been using to the swap shop along with the base of the glass-topped table DH had used to take the cover photo for the memoir.

Three days after Christmas, we took more furniture out of here: a chair/ottoman, a small bookcase, the wrought iron table with the marble top, and 2 metal end tables. We rearranged what was left.

A few weekends back, we rented a van and removed the baker’s table from the living room and moved in a low dresser we bought.

Last week, the hall and kitchen were cleaned and culled.

Today, the dining room got cleaned and culled. I had no idea how much I’d stashed around the edges of the dining room until I took it all out this morning. It was a lot!

The only piece of furniture in the dining room which wasn’t moved was the table. When I remove the pieces from the living room and hall and kitchen again, they’ll be sorted: going away now, going away at a flea market, keeps (maybe), keeps (for sure), I’ll have more room. But so far, since these are all boxes I’ve been through recently, there’s not much that’s immediately being culled. That means the stuff needs to be boxed up, labeled, and then, oh yes, I need to find a place to stash the new box.

It will be neater and tidier, but there will still be WAY too much stuff.

Nightmares? No, thankfully; I’m not having nightmares! The only bad night I’ve had recently was Saturday. I returned the edited ms. of the memoir and talked to my publisher. Anything to do with the memoir is usually followed with a bad night, lots of anxiety, etc.

I sat bolt upright around 2 a.m., with a piercing scream in my head which I managed to NOT do, but I woke DH up anyway, because I made a sort of a loud gulp and I’d probably pulled the covers off of him.

jian-xhin-y2yWnOkOUM0-unsplash

Photo by Jian Xhin on Unsplash

I keep doing what’s needed for the book, but I will be very glad when all the steps are something I’ve done.

 

Realization

I realized yesterday that I have been in survival mode for much of the past 2 months. I have good reasons for this, but it isn’t all that productive!

What I do, and I’ve only just really understood what this is, is the minimum. Minimal cleaning, self-care, progress on projects, etc. It’s an emotional shutting down and awaiting the next blow. It’s pulling inward and freeing up emotional resources.

This makes sense if you’re a child dealing with the last and anticipating the next emotional/abusive attack. It doesn’t in an adult woman! And, as I said, I’ve only just realized I do this. I shut down everything that isn’t essential. Makes getting work done difficult: work for others, work for myself, or work on projects of any kind.

As a semi-healed adult, not dealing with abuse, this is probably the worst thing I can do. At the very time I need the distraction and pride of accomplishment, I stop doing the chores which would give me both.

Okay. I’ve gotten to step 2.

  • Step 1 is acknowledging there’s a problem.
  • Step 2 is understanding the nature/history of the problem.
  • Step 3 is formulating a possible solution.
  • Step 4 is implementing the solution.
  • Step 5 is giving myself credit for the change and trying to continue making the change until it’s habitualized and/or a part of my regular life responses.

Step 3 will be harder, because I don’t know what triggers this or accordingly how to either monitor for it or stop the reaction.

I’m not beating myself up about it, the 5 steps are how I’ve moved away from the abuse and my reactions to it for decades. It works. Just sometimes it’s incredibly, frustratingly

s-l-o-w !

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Photo by STIL on Unsplash

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