Tag Archives: psyching myself out


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 !


Photo by STIL on Unsplash

Slowly Back To It

I have all kinds of crud in my lungs. Used to be every time this happened, I got bronchitis and then was sick another week. It was always the last stage of my cold.

However, those were the years when I smoked. And I now haven’t smoked 2x as many years as I did. The difference is that I am not coughing up as much, and I feel much better today than I did yesterday, that’s the semi-good news. The bad news is that I am managing to get things done in about 5-10 minute blocks, and then I’m just wiped out.

I’ve been working on a couple of new ideas here: floating clutter and finishing chores (or getting them to a set midpoint).

Floating Clutter are those things which may (or may not) have a home,but rarely seem to be in their home. The pepper grinder that seems to always live on the table, even though it should be put away on the side board is an example.

I have decided two things: 1)Floating Clutter is what it is because it’s too difficult to put it away, for _____ reason. 2)I’ve been trying to find new places to put those things away.

Things are tidier here than they usually are, because I’m concentrating on finding and putting away or relocating the floating clutter.

Finishing things is because I realized there are a lot of pieces here for projects which weren’t started, jobs which seem (and are) too big to get finished in one session of work.

These project items are likely to be culled these days or put in a box if I can’t deal with them now. I’m tired of looking at them, moving them, and their generally being in the way.

house with bookcase

The too big to finish thing as a stopper is being worked on. Some work is better than NONE so I’m working hard at finding partial steps I can do and finish now, rather than ignoring the piece because I don’t have the time/resources, etc. to do all of it NOW.

One result of this is that the top of the washer/dryer are cleared again. (The laundry was a big job, got nibbled at until it was done.) And the kitchen counter is also cleared again, same strategy.

There are two boxes downstairs and one upstairs of project pieces.

Result? Cleaner house, less floating clutter. It’s all good!

The War with Clutter

I have been fighting clutter for a long time now! My big issue remember isn’t getting rid of things, for decades it was living in a cleared space, which gave me panic attacks. That meant I was “wedded” to having clutter. So — I kept trying and before my PTSD diagnosis and work, there was no way I could fix it.

Since, I’ve tried, lots of different ideas (I’ve talked about some, here, for the past 6 years) and attempted to find ways around/through/vanquish my stupid panic attacks.

In the process, I came to a few realizations about clutter:

  1. Clutter gets in your way when trying clean an area.
  2. Removing Clutter is almost always the first step in a cleaning plan. (For anyone who isn’t me.)
  3. Clutter is normally made up of things you can pick up: dishes, laundry, papers, game pieces, bills, etc.

But because I’m me what this all means is that it’s interesting, certainly, but it doesn’t help me declutter.

What works? Well, the same thing that works when I’m knitting: being just slightly distracted. I tried trying to “dance” while I was cleaning and although that was fun, and Gawd knows I need the exercise, the cleaning was subpar. So no.

I tried “writing” in my head, that is storytelling. Except that what would happen is that I’d inevitably go back to the bad stuff, punch that button AND BRING ON a panic attack. No again.

I don’t know about others with PTSD, but math is my friend. Math is concrete, it is almost always the same. It has no emotional good or bad or family or traditions that I know of to punch any buttons at all.

So, I invented a game for myself. It’s 5:1. For every item I use, I have accrued 5 items I need to clean, clean up, put away, etc. I also learned from the 6-5 lists that I can’t carry it forward, or I’ll get too discouraged, so the counter is reset to 0 every morning.

When I get up in the morning, I have a cup of coffee with milk and stir it with a spoon, and that puts me at 10. After a couple of weeks of this, I am doing things like putting dishes away while the coffee gets hot, so I start with 0 or in the + column. Daily flatware (forks, knives, spoons) 3 pieces = 1, most everything else is 1 for 1, so a pot is 1 and putting a serving spoon away is also 1.

I wrote down one day last week:

Description Negative Positive Balance Time
Mug & spoon used -10 -10 7:30 a.m.
Dishes washed +14 +4 10:00 a.m.
Wood stove glass cleaned +1 +5
Hearth swept +1 +6
Wood stove accessories cleaned +3 +9
Wood box tidied & maintained +2 +11
Kindling boxes tidied & maintained +2 +13
Trashcan emptied & put away +2 +15 10:10 a.m.
Shelf cleaned +1 +16
1 item to trash +12 +17
Mug in sink -5 +12
Swept 5 areas & kitchen +6 +18
Cleaned 5 stairs +5 +23
Rag & spray bottle put away +2 +25
Broom & dustpan cleaned/put away +4 +29
2 chunks newspaper trashed +2 +31 11:25 a.m.
8 papers trashed +8 +39
6 things put away +6 +45 11:38 a.m.
1 plate used -5 +40

5 items used while making lunch -25 +15 12:10p.m.
Dishwasher emptied +10 +25
Cooking, serving lunch used 9 items -45 -20 12:39 p.m
22 items washed +22 +2 1:06 p.m.
Package arrives -15 -13 1:15 p.m.
Dishes put away +11 -2
Dinner was provided by a friend. One pan needed to heat it. -5 -7 5:20 p.m.
2 dinner dishes & 2 forks -10 -17 5:30 p.m.
Washed dishes & culled items +19 +2 9:05 p.m.

If you don’t have to make up games to do this sort of thing — good for you! I wish that was true for me, but it isn’t. Also, I only do this Monday – Friday. Weekends are for being with my husband and focusing on US, not cleaning!

If you’re not dehoarding, you might want to try this at 3:1 or 2:1 or even 1:1. I’m trying to get rid of a lot of excess stuff, finally, and this seems to work. Your mileage may vary!

clutter war button

(The image isn’t mine but I got it via images.google.com)

PURSUE Happiness

This is what I used as a reminder and still do, when appropriate:

Put Up, Remember, Shut Up, & Endure

When things got really bad, I’d use the “pursuit of happiness” idea, with this as an acronym, to get myself through. I’d remind myself to be greedy and/or fiercely vigilante, that I deserved happiness, it was something I’d wanted and worked for, for decades.

This is for dealing with others’ actions. Sometimes I had to grit my teeth, shut up, and deal. (Often my being able to “deal” wasn’t being able to deal with whatever was going on currently, but a focus on the future, the possibility that things would change at some undefined future point.) I expect this to be true for the rest of my life.

When people have called me “brave” or “strong” I’ve always said that’s not true.

It isn’t true — I am STUBBORN. I use PURSUE to remind myself that stubbornness, an unwillingness to accept that the world is F’d up beyond hope is my “superpower.” It’s my form of being passive aggressive. I put up, shut up and endured, while dreaming not of hurting the person harming me, not of a world where whatever wasn’t happening, but of a world where what was happening here/now was a distant and unimportant piece of long ago.

I encourage you to be stubborn, in appropriate ways. The world doesn’t owe you anything, others don’t owe you anything. But you owe yourself to try and make your future the best and brightest you can. That means not hurting others, not lashing out, not blaming, but getting on with your life with joy — when you can.

It’s what George Herbert said: “Living well is the best revenge.”

Progress, Plans & PTSD

Had a major breakthrough re: the organization of the cleaning plan this  morning. A way to sort things has been niggling at the back of my mind for some time, and I’ve tried to work it out and tried and tried — and knew what I did was wrong, but couldn’t see how.

Came up with the answer this morning. After I finally saw what it was, it was so obvious I’m surprised it took me so long! That makes my major accomplishment as of 9:15 a.m. something no one will see until I get the house clean and the plan thing written up, etc. That will be some time yet.

My helper and I discussed having him work on the memoir yesterday and came to the conclusion that there just isn’t an easy way for him to do the work. We also discussed the 5 writing projects I want to finish writing before I die: the memoir, the cleaning plan, the kitchen book, and the two unfinished short stories. I have a few magazine articles and other small pieces, but those 5 are the long-term projects.

The house has to be cleaned first. The stuff gets in my way and makes the other projects more complicated.

The asst. boxes were shoved into a corner for the chimney inspection in the living room. My helper and I started working on the boxes of books in the bedroom yesterday. Progress exists — but it’s too slow, as usual!

I am making myself go slowly:

  1. My shrink has retired, so I need to manage my stress. I have no back up to lean on emotionally if things get bad, so the answer to that is to not let them get bad to start with.
  2. I don’t want the PTSD flashback, the anxiety, etc. that going full bore has always brought with it.
  3. I don’t yet know if the breakthrough I had is enough to keep the flashback, anxiety, etc. from surfacing.
  4. Many of my ideas for decorating the house need money. That of course is in limited supply. (I think this is always true, for everyone.)

Because things were shoved to one side in the living room, I’m about to start the sanding on the wall behind the wood stove. More progress on that front! There is the end of the wall the wood stove sits on and one other small piece which has no wall board on it to do prep for. Then prime, sand, prime — and then PAINT! Seems like this has taken a long time, which it does, when you work on something in fits & starts. But progress counts.

Something new, we got some new flooring yesterday at the Habitat ReStore. Not sure exactly where it will be used, but we have started the discussion. The pantry could use a new floor as could the laundry room. The sun room, the new entry (if we do it) and/or the new kitchen are all possibilities. We don’t have enough floor to do all that. So we’ll see what happens.

The most pressing is the laundry room. It has laminate in it. It’s cheap and we’d opened the packages. Found out the problems with all of that. Cheap laminate doesn’t fit tightly after it’s opened. Cheap laminate, if there’s any problems at all, doesn’t fit. So, the laundry room floor looks better than the badly painted plywood beneath it (the way  it was when we bought the house), but it isn’t anything like what we want, that is, well done and looking good. It’s much better than it was, but that’s the best that can be said for it.

Re: the stress, PTSD, etc. associated with the cleaning? So far, I’m good. With luck it will stay that way!


Ratwheels Forever

Okay, okay all ready! Yes, I am READY to move on with my life.

But, but I’m weighed down by previous work obligations and all the stuff. I’d get a dumpster and have a “pitch it” party, but you might as well make a big target on my back , point and say,


This is what it feels like to be trapped in an Isben play, I guess.


I got here.

I don’t hurt.

I didn’t flashback with a major revelation.

I’ve waited for those two things to occur together for 58 or so years. And I’m bogged down with all the strings, ties, stuff: emotional and physical trash that I accumulated to deal with  the undiagnosed PTSD and abuse issues for most of a 1/2 century.

The mechanisms and stuff helped. It kept me safe. Now I’m not afraid to see what it could be like to live in a neat house, but I’m afraid of going too fast — because that’s always brought the issues up before, and I don’t know if it still will — but it always has, for 50+ years.

Will someone please just find the F’n switch for this stupid ratwheel I’m on and shut the stupid thing OFF already???

Bet: it won’t happen that way. I have to clean up my own mess. I have to keep fighting. I have to push on and on and on. Which, considering that I stayed alive at birth, as a preemie, when they expected me to die, means if you’re me, I’ve been fighting since my first breath. They expected me to die at the first suicide attempt, when I was 16, didn’t. I almost did the 2nd time I tried at 19, but I  didn’t. Had the motorcycle accident which could have left me brain dead or just dead, didn’t. On and on.

I’m alive. I don’t hurt. That took 58-9 years. Now what?

Well, “now what ” is that I have to deal with more backwash, more stuff, more things and mechanisms I had created so I could cope.

Part of me wants to PARTY! CELEBRATE!!! Find a new direction and go thataway!

But I have several 1,000 books to get rid of, first. I have a new way to live to learn, first. I have to learn new skills because the new me is more aware of my shortcomings than my old self (I was too busy hurting.)



And yes, I’m sick of this. I’m running out of energy and I can’t do anything but deal with the vestiges of my past, even though I’ve spent all this time/energy learning to cope with it.


This pity party stops here.

How I ‘ll fix this I have no idea, but I’ll find a way. I have to believe that or I will go mad. I’m just tired.






Not that I’ve done a whole lot, but my attitude is different. The last post, the “making my mark” thing just makes me sorry. How pathetic and sad it is that my young self felt that way. How bizarre that it took so much time & work to uncover it. But trauma is like that.

It’s an onion of healing. Your body won’t let you remember/deal/figure out what you can’t handle. In my case, because the source of much of it is so long ago and far away, it’s obscured by time and perspective. Learning to pay attention to what my body/mind is trying to tell me has taken a long time and much work.

I’ve only ever had one full blown, complete “flashback” which included “lost’ memories and all. That was 30+ years ago. That one I got time of year, location, incident, smell, look,  the incident, in short the details — all at once.

Since then, I have had one other, which definitely was a flashback, but it wasn’t the complete memory like the full blown one. DH and I were lounging on our bed one summer day He was just holding me. It wasn’t intimacy, just closeness. All of a sudden he shifted a little, or I did — I jerked back and screamed, “Don’t hit me!”

Of course he was puzzled, and frankly, so was I.

I felt the ghost slap connect with my face. I *felt* it. I was also surprised I could move. I felt as if I were pinned to the bed and couldn’t do more that flail my arms & legs around.

For much of my life, something would happen and I’d have a “flashback,” a return to my miserable emotional past. The ghost slap pushed those buttons. It propelled me back into the old feelings: helpless, unlovable, insecure, damned, and crazy. [The hodgepodge of old feelings is what I normally, in conversation, call a flashback; it is, and it isn’t.]

When things like this occurred, it took me a while to pull myself out.

The emotional “flashback” used to terrify me, because I couldn’t change whether I went back or not, change the “flashback” or grow out of them  — and I still can’t. It makes healing a double-edged sword. I’m happy to do so, but it means when I see something a new way or remember something, I have to deal with the emotional content the new perspective triggers, deal with the emotional flashback, and then after that, I get to go on with my life. For much of my life this has been a four-step process:

  1. Remember or recast something new.
  2. Deal with whatever emotional issues this brings because of its content.
  3. Deal with up to two weeks of emotional backsliding/flashback.
  4. Move on into my now-improved life.

I did NOT go back to the hurting little girl this time! I had the tear in my eye when I wrote the post. That’s it. No step three!!!

I haven’t done a flurry of cleaning either, but you know? I’ll take it. I avoided needing at least two weeks to get my emotional house back in order. Or even three days, which is the shortest I’ve managed not too long ago.

After nearly 6 decades of the other behavior, this is definitely a win, and I will take it — you bet!!!