Tag Archives: having PTSD

What You Do, If You’re Me

Remember the knitting posts? (I had links in here and they worked for me, but never when I wasn’t signed in?)

It took me several months to get my dander up and find a teacher. I went into yarn shops here and there with mixed results when I started to look for a teacher.

I had determined after knitting all those squares that I had the most problem casting on and off. Found a dish cloth I wanted to make. Asked a yarn shop owner about private lessons. She only wanted to teach people using a muffler pattern she had as it, “…uses all the casting on and casting off techniques in one item.”

When I said, “I really want to make this dish cloth, would you consider –?”

“No. I only teach beginners using the muffler. In all my years as a teacher . . . .”

So that shop was out.

Went into another shop, explained that I had PTSD, and had some trauma related to knitting I wanted to work through. . . .

The woman backed up 2 steps behind her counter from me (!) said, “You’ll have to talk to our teacher. I don’t know if she’d take you on or not.”

Well, if I scare you so much, I won’t impose myself on you or your teacher — that shop was out!

Lather, rinse, repeat. I went into at least 2 other shops, with mixed results, but no success.

I went into a hand-craft shop and told the woman behind the counter about my experience. She was supportive, helpful, and positive. What a pleasant change! It ends up her husband has PTSD, so she knows and understands that not everyone with PTSD is a lunatic frothing at the mouth who needs to be heavily drugged or they’re dangerous.

The teacher they had for me and I exchanged a few emails. I sent her the knitting lesson post. She asked, reasonably, “Why would you want to tackle that?”

My answer required next to no thought, “Well, I don’t. Why would any sane person willingly pursue something that negative? But I refuse to give my abuser any more of my life!”

We met at a Dunkin’ Donuts in October. I’ve been knitting, compulsively, ever since. About the 4th stitch of every row my hands still shake, I’ll drop a stitch or two, etc. I say “F. U. Abuser!” and keep going. After about 2 months of this, it has lessened, but not gone away entirely. If I think about the fact that I’m knitting, I still shake, palms sweat, etc. If I concentrate on something else and try to go on autopilot, I mess up, drop stitches, etc. all of which just makes me more determined I’m not going to let my abuser keep me from knitting.

I don’t know what the trauma is, it doesn’t matter. My body remembers. Until my body-mind decides that knitting isn’t dangerous/scarey/painful or worthy of adrenaline, I’ll keep knitting

Knitting Lesson

I found a LARGE ball of yarn in some of my favorite color combinations in the attic. It was attached to an unfinished (of course) crocheted piece. The piece it was attached to was supposed to be a couch throw. I decided to finish it.

Except. That the hook I used was the wrong size. In the time in the attic, the yarn had gotten all kinds of added stuff: dust, hair, chaff from weeds, you name it. This was the same yarn that had been a HUGE snarl and my MIL spent a couple of days undoing.

So. I was going to finish the couch blanket, then wash and use it. But there was the hook problem, so I took it apart. Then I had TWO very large balls of yarn, both full of little bits of stuff. (It’s fuzzy acrylic.)

I decided to wash the smaller of the two balls of yarn, then knit it into squares. I know how to knit, I learned how in boarding school, about 2nd grade. So I managed to wash the yarn without making it into a huge snarl again. This morning I decided I’d use the largest needles I have and knit a square before I went off to go do my errands.

I started.

And realized I was shaking?

Cast on 10 stitches, knit a row or two, shaking so badly I’m dropping stitches. Um okay, this is just stupid. WHY would knitting a small square make me scared? But it was. Pushed past it, got to the end, dropped a stitch. Retrieved it, dropped it again. By this time my palms are also sweating.

It took me 4 hours, and 4 tries, to make a square of 10 stitches, an approx. 4″ square.

This is, for those of you who don’t have it or something like it, is what PTSD is like. Until this morning, I had no idea that I have some trauma related to knitting. KNITTING?

The only thing I can remember is knitting a square in boarding school, when I first learned to knit, 2nd or 3rd grade it would be. The yarn I was given was a dark federal blue, not any of the bright colors in the popular colorways at the time (the 60s). I thought the color was ugly. I finished the square and didn’t try to knit anything again, until high school.

In high school, I was going to make a blanket. I was knitting triangles and then stitching them into squares. I have no idea what happened to them, but I never finished the blanket, of course.

Since then, I have played around with knitting every now and again, but not with the idea of actually making anything, it was just something to do with my fingers.

So the idea of knitting squares (it would be fast, easy to do in between work, cooking, cleaning, etc.) is something I haven’t considered seriously since 1964-5 and it makes me shake and sweat, with fear.

I have NO idea why this would be so. The needles don’t scare me, the yarn doesn’t scare me. It must be some deeply buried memory associated with that federal blue square, I guess? Dunno. Whatever it is, it sure changed my plans today! I was going to be gone by now to the antique stores. But here I am.

Once I started to shake & sweat, I decided I wouldn’t leave until I finished a square — NO MATTER WHAT! And that took four hours and I’m still shaking. I need to go get dressed so maybe I can accomplish a bit more today.

I wonder what this is all about?

Woodstove Going and . . .

our furnace is on the fritz (part is on order). This has meant that things in the living room have been majorly upset; a good thing. I’ve been whittling away at the bedroom a bit at a time, but the living room needs it too.

Had a friend over for tea last week, that got the table cleared off, which also needed it. Unfortunately, this meant the downstairs table was cleared off just in time for the colder weather (in an unheated house), when the inclination is to eat in the warmer rooms, upstairs! Backwards, that’s us.

So today started with me trying to make waffles. The waffle iron surfaced during the table clean out, for a long time I didn’t know where the waffle iron was, then the cable was missing. Found that. Thankfully I had marked it with a bread tag! (Do you use bread tags to mark things? I’ve done it for years, way before I ever saw a pic of such on pinterest!)

The waffle iron needed to be cleaned & seasoned, (it had been cleaned before it was put away, but the outside had gotten sticky somehow) so no waffles. Decided I was going to make pancakes instead. While looking for a missing ingredient in the canisters, one package of hull-less barley came open in the bin — another cleaning project.

My day, if you’re counting, before breakfast consisted of cleaning projects: the wood stove area, the waffle iron, and now the canister, sigh. At this point, DH took over and made pancakes. I finished cleaning/organizing the tools, etc. that had been used on the wood stove, so DH could put them away when he got there. He dealt with the barley (at that point I was still going to be the cook). And I put dishes away.

Almost every day now, when I put something away, I make a point of culling what’s stored with it, at least once a day. This has yielded a bunch of stuff, and the wagon is pretty full of things culled this way: a time card rack (factory type), a brass lamp shade, tape tins, etc. stuff — that’s going away, today (didn’t yesterday, stayed home, cleaned and wrote mostly).

The culling sort makes me almost miss the counting thing: combining stuff in the pantry, filing papers or tossing them, tossing excess clothes, etc. I know I’m doing it, not counting. I do notice though!

I sometimes wonder how I’ll know when I’m done? One paradigm I’d set was “being able to walk across my living room.” I haven’t accomplished that, yet. But the house is cleaner and I’m managing to not undo whatever I’ve done; a major victory, if you’re me.

For years, the idea of keeping some space clean would give me panic attacks. This going one-step-at-a-time isn’t fast, but I can sustain it, which having a professional organizer, spring cleaning or what have you doesn’t.

The dishes get washed daily (although I can honestly say they don’t ALL get washed all the time)! The toilet/sink/bath counter get washed regularly, but not on a schedule. The bed is made almost every day. The sheets have been getting washed every weekend. And I’m culling/selling/tossing stuff every week.  This is a slow but steady process, it has to be slow to keep the panic at bay.

When I wrote the memoir, I wrote about me and stuff and the woman who was my abuser. When I put the realities of what happened to me in a few succinct paragraphs, my being a “hoarder” makes sense. It also makes sense that I’m not attached to the stuff as much as the mess. I learned real quickly that anything of mine was subject to be “acquired” by someone else, or derided, or damaged, or broken, or given away. I learned that to protect myself I had to act as if my “stuff” had no value. The more I valued something, the more likely it was to be derided, broken, “lost” or stolen. I learned to hide behind mess, it was the only thing that worked.

Fifty-plus years later, I’m trying to undo that process. Not easy because most of it became unconscious behavior, and the panic is real. How often would you clean if the idea gave you a panic attack? That’s where i was for most of my life.

It’s changing. One piece at a time. Wish it was faster, but it is what it is. And, if this is like the PTSD behaviors, what will happen is that I’ll reach some point where 1)I’ll panic big time because the old behaviors are nearly gone and 2)I’ll ride that out and learn to live with whatever vestiges of the panic remain for the rest of my life, in a probably mostly clean & tidy home.

Took a lot of years and stuff to get here, it’s going to take some time yet to get out. Too slow, but it’s what works; and that’s inarguable, since the alternate just stops me cold!

The evil twin who lives in my head (& a tally)

No pics this time, it’s 2:57 a.m. I should be in bed, not tapping away at a keyboard!

If I’m up at 2 a.m., suffice it to say that the PTSD, etc is having a field day, or did. So far, I’ve had some eggnog/rum, played a few games, poked around facebook, and written a post about what specifically was bothering me earlier that kept me from going to sleep. Now, I’m starting to wind down, so I can write something here without the emotional content…which is GOOD!

Things have been selling at the antique store. The new booth, the first day, doubled my sales for the month! Although still not enough to pay the rent this is encouraging, to say the least. RAH! (Long may the trend continue.)

I was intrigued and interested when I heard the NPR broadcast about PTSD and sleep problems today.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/01/16/144672190/ending-nightmares-caused-by-ptsd

I don’t have flashback dreams, or at least not that I know of, since I don’t remember my traumatizing event. (I was 3.) But the drug sounded intriguing. Also the research. I keep trying to get up the nerve to contact a local physician who’s doing PTSD research and offering myself as a test case. I wrote a letter and do not remember if i sent it? I’m hesitant to do anything else.

This is sort of like the author/title of the book you hear about at a party where you see three of your best buddies and they all talk about books (or they do if they’re MY friends) and then you simply cannot remember the title you REALLY wanted to that you heard earlier. PTSD creates those sort of events in my life all the time. I “forget” to have 6 minute cleanups. I “lose” the timer. I give myself kudos for getting to sleep, and then can’t sleep for days, etc., etc.

It’s like having an evil twin, who lives inside my head and sabotages me just as I’m getting something accomplished.

Maybe this is the emotional abuse playing out it’s evil thread? Dunno. But I have to “trick” myself to get almost anything done. Dehoarding the house means that I have to set a timer. I have to play with a piece of it, but I can’t plan it. Honest to God, it gets tiring to sort of side wise sidle up to doing some goal. It would be SO much easier if I could just say, “Today, I’ll do X!” and do it.

Oh well. Such is my life.

I have managed to do a couple of the six-minute cleanups, but not more than one a day. Still, that’s progress of a sort, and if this is the side ways sidle required to do this right now, that’s okay. By contrast, after I said I wanted to file 50 pieces of paper every two days (which I’d been doing) I suddenly stopped filing. Honestly! It was the same with sleeping. I hadn’t been sleeping well at all. I got back after the holidays and for about a week, I slept. I got into bed, and just slept. It was wonderful! After about a week or two with this new great thing, I wrote a post. Haven’t slept well since!

The evil twin won that round.

J

Tally:

OUT

To dump (swap shop): 1 book, 6 pcs of clothing, 3 old plastic storage containers
To dump (trash): 1 catalog
Sold: 8 items at antique store
19

Given away: 1 1/2 pint bottle, 2 dishtowels
Used: 1 box, 1 pkg tissue paper, 8 beads
Revealed: bathroom cloest floor
13

Found new home/put away: 7 storage containers
7

IN
Bought: 6 pieces of clothing, 3 pcs. hardware, 8 storage containers
From the dump: a strainer
To a landing pad:
18

today 19+13+7-18 =21
old 9721 96.6%
new 9700 96.4%