Tag Archives: PTSD

I May Hex Myself

But I have to say this: the PTSD hasn’t gotten up in arms about what I’ve been doing. I’m amazed, really I am. For DECADES I couldn’t do this, make a list of 5 things and then do them without feeling vulnerable, targeted, panicked, and weepy.

Not there this time!

As I said, the tacit acknowledgement of what I’m doing may be the thing which ends this, Gawd knows it has 100s of times before. But, it doesn’t feel that way this time.

Maybe that’s why I’ve felt compelled to write this post? It’s a sort of emotional running your tongue over the hole where your tooth used to be.

We’ll see!

J

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Cleaning Techniques

I have a thing I call the 7 levels. One of these days I’ll finish getting that blog going, but in the meantime, I had to fix a scheduling problem with it. My original idea leaned too hard on the PTSD, so got dropped. The idea is to have a low-stress cleaning plan, which if you’re me is nearly impossible. Any schedule leans on the PTSD, nearly any cleaning plan or schema I’ve read, tried, or come up with has too at some point. Because of all that, it’s a long-running challenge:

How do you clean the house consistently without a recurring schedule or detailed plan?

It’s difficult, to say the least.

One thing I decided early on was no seasonal cleaning gluts, like spring cleaning. But the difference between traditional spring cleaning and other cleaning is that spring cleaning is deep cleaning and traditionally, in winter, you only do maintenance.

Further, some cleaning or maintenance chores are mandated by the season. Maintenance cleaning on the wood stove is hardly required midsummer and is absolutely a necessity midwinter, for example. Other chores like this include dealing with snow, vegetable or flower gardens. Another example: we do our own baking fall, winter and spring, but buy bread in summer.

So, how to make all of it work?  I have tried various things over the years. Most didn’t work, in fact none of them worked until I started making my own plans. And, until recently the 7 levels plan worked to cut the work up into chunks, but hasn’t dealt with the maintenance vs deep cleaning piece.

And I think I’ve finally licked that.

We’ll see! I sure hope this works, because I am tired of trying this and that with only partial success. I really, really want to get where I can just clean and not worry about it, which would be the ultimate low-stress cleaning plan and that’s my ultimate goal!

J

 

 

People Ask

me these days

  • Do I enjoy knitting?
  • Is the house clean yet? And, am I happy with it?

The answer is no to both. But that’s not specifically what I want to talk about.

There is a perception out there with PTSD ( or maybe other things too?) that if you do a certain amount of work, get to where you can undo a lot if not all of the consequences or symptoms of something — it’s gone.

Yes, I can knit now without a major anxiety attack. No, I don’t know what the trauma was. I did enough knitting last year that it no longer affects me like it did. However, that said, the anxiety does still come up on occasion.

Yes, the house is cleaner. Yes, the living room is mostly decorated. No, it isn’t “clean.” No, I don’t mange to maintain it consistently.

Habits are anathema for PTSD folks. Habits make you predictable and therefore vulnerable. I seem to have this more than a lot of people because of the triple whammy of being emotionally abused (you can’t win in a really dysfunctional situation, by definition) by an alcoholic (where the rules change all the time) and it starting so young. (I only remember a few days before the abuse, although that started when I was almost 4.)

Anyway, no, I’m not having anxiety attacks about either the knitting or the house, but my ability to work on either comes & goes. Why people think that at some point, you just finish the thing as if it’s not the hardest piece? I don’t know. Finishing something is harder for me than not doing it — it’s another whole level of being vulnerable.

There’s one of several reasons that I haven’t touched the memoir retype for months, hadn’t tried to knit for months, haven’t touched my office, etc. Doing a little knitting a little work on the living room, some dishes and other things is about all I can manage right now. If that seems completely ridiculous to you? Well, I’m sorry. You have your anxieties about whatever — I’ve got mine.

Healing isn’t a straight, even line for me. It comes & goes. I think my mind decides I’m going to do something — and I do it, for a while. Then my body kicks in and everything stops until my body decides the new thing is at least not a complete threat. Then I can pick it up again and push ahead.

People say things to me when I’m getting things done like, “You make me tired.” but you see, there are MONTHS where I get damned little done. I numb out, backslide, and hide. Then I get another spurt of productiveness and go like mad, as long as it lasts.

This cycle is irritating, but it’s how I get things done. If I plan to do x or y and z every day? Huh, that may last one day or maybe two — maybe.

Working on long-term projects this way is damned annoying and there doesn’t seem to be a “finish line” (no pun intended) — if I get something done 78%, then I’ll just finish it. It doesn’t work that way — I wish!

So, Different . . .

My helper and I tackled the kitchen, again. I started dehydrating veggies, again. And last night after dinner, DH and I cleaned up the kitchen, again.

The difference was that I wouldn’t let it go — just do the dishes. Having spent around 2 hours cleaning both sides of the sink and the large counter just wasn’t ready for it to be a mess, again.

This morning, when I got my coffee, I washed the few dishes in the sink — usually I’ve waited ’til there’s a lot.

When I was a kid, the most unflappable mother in the neighborhood was Mrs. Olson. She had FIVE kids and a doctor husband. They had a veggie garden out back, and she canned. The house always smelled fresh and clean and I don’t ever remember it being a mess. I know we’d make messes as kids, but it was weird, I also never remember seeing her actually clean anything, except maybe wash dishes?

She was phenomenal. They moved and bought a “ranchette,” with a swimming pool, barn, corral and house — big enough for all 7 of them, their grandparents too. It was still immaculate, she bred dogs. Then they moved up to their summer place. Visited them there, once. Still immaculate, big space for the now 3 or 4 people who lived there.

If I’ve ever had a role model as a housekeeper that I wanted to emulate, it’s Mrs. Olson. I’m sure there were messes. I’m sure she got flapped now and then, but the overall image was a clean/bright house, delicious food, and serenity.

How I wish she was around so I could ask how she did it!

less-mess

I ask my friends who seem to manage their homes better than I do (well, that’s everyone, or nearly everyone) for hints and tips. One person said, “I always start whatever I’m cooking with cleaning up first, so that what I’m cooking doesn’t make a bigger mess.” Another said, “I have to clean as I go.”

Seems odd at this stage of my life to be worrying about something so basic as learning how to order and maintain my space, but I’ve never done things the way others do. I guess that’s part of my “charm”?

The one thing I keep bumping into is that it’s two things: maintenance and consistency. You have to do the work to begin with then you have to work to maintain it. Since for years I kept myself from “seeing” the messes, the first one is difficult. But the second is harder. Every thing in me, all the PTSD bits that is, scream when I start new habits. And, I usually panic and stop. The observation about maintenance and consistency isn’t new for me, the being able to do it at all without the panic is.

I have no idea how long this will last, as usual — we’ll see!

Annoyances

 

I’m getting a shortish fuse.

Hm.

Last time this happened I was seeing my therapist and working on the house. This time, it really doesn’t feel like it’s about the house. It feels like it’s because I haven’t been able to “let my hair down” since June when my therapist retired.

The funny thing that resulted from my being more easily annoyed is related to a method I found to categorize chores. I’d already broken them down into “shorts” and “longs,” that is things which had to happen in the next few days or longer than that. Decided that I wanted to be more specific and a graphical representation, so I replaced shorts with “rabbit” tasks and longs with “kangaroo” tasks. Kind of cutesy, but okay. Today I was thinking about how to further divide this and deal with the annoying things I have to do almost every day, and I came up with an entire scale:

  • flea (annoying — has to be done today!)
  • rabbit (the coming week)
  • kangaroo (the coming month)
  • 7 league boots (the current quarter)
  • herding continents (the general direction I want to go)

I could see how dividing things this way might lead to my actually being organized, accomplishing my goals, both short and long. Pretty bizarre if you’re me! It could be something like this. . .

Month Week 1: Review day and week chores. Week 2: Review daily, weekly and monthly chores. Week 3: Review those and add quarterly chores. Week 4: Review everything, Alter or change as needed.

Not complicated, but forward thinking. I don’t think I can do this; I’ve never been able to before  — and has that ever stopped me from trying another approach?

Never.

So it may be one more futile attempt to do an end-run around the PTSD which is terrified that if I’m actually finishing things or accomplishing something people will see my fatal flaws, or it won’t, because I’ve finally, finally done enough work to get past it.

I have no idea.

I also have no idea about why I’m getting mad so much. The only thing I can think to do to counter it, aside from start with a new therapist (not really an option) is to start swimming again — dopamine is my friend!

We’ll see. But I’ve spent a large part of today being annoyed at somebody or something. Not my normal and a usual indicator that something is brewing down in the PTSD pit. First time this has happened since the therapy ended.

Wow I made it a whole 2 months — how’s that for sterling mental health? Only cost probably about $1,000,000 and took me 55 or so years. Terrif.

Falling Through the Cracks

FALLING THRU THE CRACKS

Three’s a lot of data/support out there for abused spouses. I’m not.

There’s a lot of data/support out there for PTSD victims who’re vets. I’m not.

There’s a lot of data/support out there for children being abused. I’m not.

There’s a lot of PTSD studies for people who have PTSD and have never had a TBI (traumatic brain injury). I have.

There’s a lot of data/support for rape victims, but I was raped over 50 years ago.

And it goes on and on. I don’t fit.

I’m not being stalked or abused by my husband. My abuse happened when I was a kid. I’m not a vet and have never been to war. I have PTSD but I grew up with it and so many of the issues related to dealing with it I’ve done, decades ago.

I AM the walking wounded, but I’m functional. I DO hurt from PTSD, but I learned long ago to mostly set it aside. I DO have repercussions from being raped when I was a teenager.

I keep coming back to this. For those of us who’ve learned to cope with (whatever) it is in many ways the worst possible scenario. We cope, mostly. So others don’t understand when or where we can’t. (Their coping mechanisms don’t work all the time, why should mine?) And, there’s next to no support available for those of us who’ve managed to not become so debilitated we’re institutionalized, whether in a hospital or a jail or ?

I didn’t become a homicidal maniac, have multiple marriages, get addicted to something, have fits of rage or pain, or . . . . Somehow the fact that I refuse to apologize, ignore or “forget” the PTSD as a MAJOR part of my life means that I’m less.

I guess it’s that I make others uncomfortable. Long ago I got that I was wounded, and would always be such. People who say things like, “Well, you don’t have to dwell on it.” or “Just give it to God.” or “You can be happy if you try.” or a 1,000 different variations of those are actually reacting out of their own discomfort. They want the world to be a happy place or at least don’t want to deal with the pain I carry.

Somehow I come out of these encounters, whether they are with my oldest friends or someone I just met, feeling like I’ve just admitted that I’m “less” because the wounding still matters and I talk about it. Part of that is social stigma, yes. Part of it is the abuse/brainwashing, “No one of any value will want to have anything to do with you.” my abuser says in my head.

I’ve been battering at that wall my whole life. When I was a kid it was because I was hurting so badly I needed a vent, any vent, or I might just have gone off the deep end. When I became an adult the wounding was/is such a large part of my life that to deny it is to deny a fundamentally HUGE piece of who I am, because it’s wounded. (I don’t remember more than a few days, maybe 3, before I started hurting.)

That’s like asking a paraplegic to not ever talk about how they lost the limb, the pain associated with it, the training they had to do to learn to cope, learning to use the crutch/chair they use or even admitting that they’re in a wheelchair. But maybe that’s an idea?

Maybe I should go find out how folks who lose limbs, etc. deal with the lack of real empathy around them. Still it’s different, but maybe there’s something I can use there.

I don’t know.

Why should it matter if my wheelchair is invisible?

Waiting for the Shoe

The shoe? You know, the one that drops.

 

shoes

 

In short, I’m waiting for the panic attacks to start, again. I’ve been working on the cleaning plan, working on the memoir, working on the garden. None of it full bore, none of it to completion. . . but the house/yard is neater. The memoir retype is sloooowly getting done. Things are being worked on, sometimes in an orderly fashion.

And no panic?

One of the last “Aha!” moments I had with my therapist before she retired was the bit about finishing things. You have to understand, it was as if I were a prisoner or war or in jail or something.Almost everything I owned, everyone I knew, everything I said or did, wore, etc. was possibly taken, broken, denigrated, etc. I doubt anyone had any idea how confined I felt at the time: how scared I was that whatever I was doing or had or said would generate an attack. I was 3-12. It was a long time ago. But what happened in those years gave me the abuse behaviors and the PTSD which determined how I lived for the next 50 years. It’s been less than 10 years that I’ve been “well” enough to set aside the terror of being crazy, of being damned.

And I still, in my 60s don’t finish things, or hardly ever. I brought up the panic that I feel when I do finish things. I immediately go into hyper-critical mode, every flaw or fault is examined and derided, internally at least. Frequently I toss it out, if it’s knitting or crochet, I’ll take it apart. I find some reason NOT to finish things. So I brought this vexing problem up with my therapist. Who did, what she did, for years: look at me and say something which just blew me away: “Since you felt whatever you did was subject to attack — why would you finish things? You were much safer if you didn’t.”

And given how I felt, yep, that makes total sense.

Now I can see the home emerging from the house clutter. I can see the pattern of the food system emerging. I can see patterns of cleaning. All new, all at the same time.

And I’m waiting for that shoe. There’s always been a shoe. I’d rather avoid it this time, so we’ll just wait a while.