Tag Archives: PTSD

The Thing About Stigma

I need to say this, but it really should be obvious?

I do not look down on myself because I have PTSD or security issues or sometimes react inappropriately — right? I do NOT have the stigma.

You do.

The stigma doesn’t come from me. I know why I’m here (now). I know why I react the way I do (mostly). I have spent a large part of my life learning wtf was wrong with me???

And the answer to that question? It’s simple: It’s nothing. There’s nothing wrong with me. I reacted in a normal way to an abnormal or substandard set of circumstances. All of the people with PTSD aren’t “sick,” we’re different, yes, but NOT sick.

PTSD IS NORMAL — in certain circumstances. Mental health issues ARE normal, in certain circumstances. Get over your superiority people! The only reason you aren’t where I and others are is that you haven’t been tested this much, yet.

How well do you think you would you do???

 

 

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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)

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

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.