Tag Archives: PTSD

Backslid

I had a fire in my belly. It’s gone, or dampened anyway.

A bad night coupled with speaking out loud where I was ? 

 I described that being able to write the memoir as well as I had changed things:

I had done it, survived, figured out what I did well and royally screwed up. I’d written it down for others to judge. I’d written my defense, vindication, apology, and the narrative of my healing (and not). It is time to move on.

The house cleaning has to be done before I can move on. I can’t do whatever else it is that I do, even if it’s just try to make pie crust or can veggies, or anything else. The excess stuff is in the way, and it’s a symptom that isn’t real any more. In many ways, I have no idea how to be whoever it is that lives without the camoflauge or need for it. I have no idea who this person is, but apparently I need room and less clutter to find out.

And DH who enabled 4 decades of growth and change? He needs and deserves a cleaner house. It’s not much of a thank you, but it’s something concrete and now I can do it, where I couldn’t before.


Well, there you go, stopped me cold.

The PTSD person is a total wimp. Anything which looks like it will make me more visible or actually is movement towards healing? — it’s suspect! (hissed)

Makes me really *MAD*. It’s damned near impossible to get anything finished. It’s hard to get anything even 1/2 way done without slamming into that wall.

I do what I just did. Have a bad night. Think Okay, that was terrible.

Then have an okay night. Think, Fine, we go on.

And somehow, for some reason, or many reasons, or I just forget or I have sudden onset ADD… time goes by and the project(s) are dropped and I’m doing other things.

More time goes on, and then one day I realize that the chart I had filled out religiously for 2 months hasn’t been touched for 30 days, and so on. It’s like I enter a cloud of “forgetfulness fog” and become an amoeba. Makes me nutty when I realize I’ve done this, again.

And I just did.

Believe me, I KNOW why vets with PTSD drink. Yes, what they went through was horrific and certainly should not to be diminished. But dealing with the demon which is PTSD is just not fun.

paper piles
The image isn’t mine, I’ve used it here before. But it is a great symbol for being overwhelmed, disorganized, and with a huge amount of work ahead before things are cleared out!
J
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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

 

So (Status) and Konmari

Progress and not.

  • Progress  = I finished clearing out the bigger of the two storage units.
  • Not = I didn’t get all my tax info together like I wanted to. Should finish that up in the next few weeks.

I got a large amount moved in the storage on Valentine’s Day.

DH and I cleared out the antique store booth that Sunday. The following Tuesday (this Tuesday) I finished up that effort. I’ve paid for this in the resulting cramped muscles, sleepless nights due to twingey backs, etc. But it’s done. I have a backlog of boxes here at the house to go through before I’ll start pulling more from the new, smaller storage to go through. So definite progress.

That said, there are still two corners here stacked with boxes and the attic. There’s a few boxes slated to go to the dump buried in the woodshed, they won’t come out til spring.

There are two flea markets I’d do, but one of them is the day after a workshop I’ve already paid for, in the opposite direction. So, we may go and look, but we won’t be selling.

Because of all of this, I’ve asked myself, “How will I know when I’m done?” The answer I’ve come up with is:

  1. The book boxes here are the only books in boxes I’m responsible for.
  2. There’s enough room in the attic to store those (see #1) and the books I want to keep and use are shelved.

It’s another of those enough but not too much things.


 

boxes

(not my image, from Google images probably, I’ve used it previously)


 

Why I don’t do Konmari:

  1. I think it’s a fine idea, but it isn’t for me with the PTSD and panic attacks, that’s the first reason.
  2. The second reason is that my relationship with stuff and space where I live is so complicated that there are only 2 items in my home which fit her “keep it if it makes you happy” idea: a bench and a stained glass window. Everything else is stuff I like, or think/feel is okay, or haven’t really considered how I feel about it.
  3. Again, this is because of the PTSD and panic attacks.  You don’t get attached to things if everything you look at is a potential item for derision, theft, or being broken, which was the set up I had as a kid. I ended up being conditioned like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

So, do me a favor, please. Don’t ask me if I do Konmari. I bought the book when it was new, years ago now, looked at it and gave it to a friend within two weeks. If it works for you — that’s great.

As usual, my life is complicated!

 

Wimp

I wimped out. I was supposed to have a colonoscopy and endoscopy this week. I cancelled it.

Why? Because my PTSD brain had decided that I would die under the anesthesia. Crazy, right? But it wouldn’t go away. Every time I did anything about the procedure, it would show up, again and again.

Don’t tell me it’s irrational. Thanks I know that already.

I got tired of crying about it.

Also, different than in years past? I didn’t grit my teeth and just do whatever, so that others wouldn’t know I was scared or think less of me. I was scared and yeah, you can think less of me if you want; I have no control over that anyway.

For one of the few times in my life about something pretty big, I let myself wimp out.

Different? Yes. I kept telling myself it was no big. I kept telling myself it was my crazy PTSD, anxiety-ridden brain going off the deep end.

It wouldn’t go away.

Finally? I was supposed to watch this 40 minute thing for the hospital this morning, and that put me over the edge.

So I wimped out.

On the one hand, it’s nice because I’m actually being honest. (Unlike all the times from dissecting a frog in high school, to almost anything else, up to and including submitting the memoir to a publisher, because I thought others would think less of me if I didn’t.)

And, the pay off? I’m pretty sure if I wasn’t dead, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But if I was? Well, it’s hard to write and live this life then ‘eh?

And I want a chance to do that living. I owe DH a clean house. I owe myself the chance to see what, if any, impact the memoir can have. I want that. I want to see what kind of other life I can have!

panic

But there’s a large part of me that’s saying “I’m done.” The work which started when I was born 3 months premature, fighting for my life, is complete. And, if I’m really, truly going to be honest here? That’s what really scared me. I wasn’t sure if they put me under I’d  want to come back. So, I blamed the medical profession, but it was just me.

You know? I have no idea who I am if I’m not fighting. And I’m not, not really any more.

Maybe I’ll get a chance to grow up/grow past the stupid childhood before I’m 70? You think?

Week from Hell

DH had to go away for work this past week (he’s home now). Between him being gone, which always leans on the PTSD and deciding that what I’d do while he was gone was deep clean/clear the house, it was a stress fest.

I leaned, hard on my friends this past week (Thanks for being there!) and got very little sleep. I did however, get the bathroom much cleaner and removed 80% of the large laundry pile in our bedroom (which I discovered, joyfully, was as big as it was because it had 2 layers of book boxes on the bottom, covered with a layer ‘o stuff to go into the attic, and “frosted” with clothes. If the pile had been laundry all the way down? It would have held enough clothing for a family of 6 or so!)

You can read the details of what I did at the other site: here, if you’re interested.

The most “profitable” thing I learned with this were the following: the PTSD managment I can do most of the time is more fragile than I thought. However, I managed to realize this and stop myself, mostly, from doing anything too stupid because of it. I didn’t entirely manage it, but much better than I have in the past. Also, I realized what I was doing, vastly different than previously, when I had no idea why I was being emotionally buffeted around like a leaf in the wind. I knew what was happening.

That didn’t help me manage it to the degree I’d like, but as I said, it was better than in years past.

I also learned I just can’t tackle the house in a large way without consequences. My body still remembers the trauma(s) related to the housekeeping, vividly. So I was going to bed sleep as late as 4 a.m. I had GREAT plans for the 5 days.!

I managed to actually really dig in and tackle the house 2 days: Monday and Wednesday. Both nights were nearly sleepless. The days following I was almost braindead until late afternoon when I was suddenly *awake!*.

I spent one night listening to graduation speeches trying to make myself feel better. One night listening to music. Tried playing games/reading, etc. It worked as well as it did, but mostly it didn’t.

I can do without going from a sound sleep to sitting bolt upright in bed, crying, shaking and palms sweating, thank you very much. But I guess I get to do that or be sleepless in whatever form, for a while yet.

What I’m hoping seems odd, and that is that if I keep going, eventually, I’ll remember wtf the trauma(s) are. When I remember, it’s significantly easier to cope. Battling wraiths in the dark is much harder than seeing whatever it is, and realizing it’s a movie you’ve been playing for decades. It’s just as “real” because it’s definitely present Now! in your body, but easier to manage. You can understand why event x or y leaned on it; why a smell triggered it, etc. This is one of the hardest things about having been traumatized so many ways, so young. I have two reactions to things which trigger my PTSD, I either have a full flashback and remember wtf happened, or like the knitting and cleaning, I realize there’s a trigger but don’t remember what the event(s) are.

I am so lucky

By sheer dumb luck (?) I didn’t get disassociation; Gawd knows, I’d never have come back. Likewise clinical depression, I avoided it too.

I think if I’d been physically or sexually abused one or both of those would certainly have been my reality.

The journey I took was hard enough because of a variety of factors: the biggest one being that no one seemed to think (including my early shrinks) that there was anything really wrong with me I couldn’t just change. Little girls didn’t get PTSD in the 1950s. I was white, upperclass, etc. What problems could I have? Well, yes I didn’t have a mother, but I had caretakers, dorm mothers, camp counselors, doctors (and more doctors), shrinks . . . .  what was my problem?

The description I’ve got in the memoir is that it was like I was a balloon, with a large rip underneath, which no one else saw. They all expected me to soar! I had all these things going for me: beautiful home, enough $, educated family, etc. etc. etc. But I couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried  —  they didn’t get it. No one did. And that just layered atop the Abuser’s narrative: there was something wrong with me, at my DNA or such. And for whatever reason, for 42 years before diagnosis, I just kept trying to prove her wrong. I kept trying to get my family to tell me they approved of me. I kept trying. I’d win once in a while, but I’d lose more often. Then I’d despair. I became increasingly more bitter and cynical.

Then this 6’1″ miracle happened to me. And things started to change because I believed one person didn’t think I was horrible. I called him my “shield against the world” for most of the first 10 years we were married. Whenever he was out of town, my anxiety went back up to the old levels  — I was back in the hell I’d lived in before: the hostile universe, the world where people would take anything and everything they could from me, because it was me.

It took a long time and a lot of work on his part before I really got that people didn’t see some devil mark on me, that said they should be nasty or whatever. That many people in the world would like me, if I gave them 1/2 a chance. That I wasn’t sub-human, stupid, ugly, and inherently unlovable.  I was starting down that path when my hormones went ape for the 2nd time and I had my midlife crisis, over 20 years ago now.

And got a hugely lucky break. The marriage counseling we got was from a woman who knew about PTSD.

She diagnosed and helped me learn how to  deal with it. We learned to deal with the things we hadn’t been able to and I kept seeing her, over 12 years by the time she retired.

Somewhere around 55, I stopped hurting. That was so phenomenal! The really odd thing for me was that no one noticed! I wanted a parade, a statue put up, something !!! It had been my goal as long as I could remember: “Don’t hurt.”

I still carry the pain, but these days it’s not ever-present, it’s associated with my past. And, yes, I still chose every day to deal or cope with it, or not. But because it’s no longer associated with HERE and NOW I can make that decision nearly automatically to NOT deal with it, not have it be part of my narrative today. I finally have a life which is not wrapped around hiding the pain, excusing the pain, explaining the pain, showing the pain or denying its existence.

It’s there, and most days I don’t have to deal with it any more; most days. Of course, this is PTSD, which means that at any moment, life could just pick me up and throw me into the fun house and away we go. The Hallmark movie not too long ago was one. A bigger one was the knitting. Both completely unexpected — SURPRISE!!!!

Gee thanks.

 I still say I’ve been incredibly lucky. And that’s a good thing. I’m sure I would have otherwise not attempted suicide; I would have killed myself.

Without my husband, without diagnosis, without the work from all of us: myself, husband and therapist, I would still be living in that fun house, that hostile and pain-filled universe. It was unbearable at 16, when I first attempted suicide, because as I said at the time, “I can’t imagine living this way until I’m 40.”

It was hard. It was awful. And I’d love to find out if life has something else I can do? We’ll see. My luck may have been all been used up, getting here — or maybe not?

(The image below AND the quote (obviously) are not mine!)

P.S. I don’t know if I agree with the quote actually, but it fit the post nicely! (I’m enough of a writer/editor to find that irresistible.)

P.S.2: The more I think about it, the less I agree with the quote. It was good luck that I was born white, privileged and into an educated family. Had nothing to do with my work or willingness to work. Although if I hadn’t done the mental health work, yes, I would still be where I was. Change takes work AND luck, but luck (or lack of it) starts with things out of your control: skin color, relative amount of available money for education, educational levels of people around you, area of residence, etc. None of that has anything to do with a child’s work when it is born.

Walter Mosley, the author, was a McDowell scholar one year. He came in the bookstore. He is an educated, articlulate man, who was born and raised in Watts. We were the antithesis of each other, as I was raised in a white, well-to-do enclave in Los Angeles in the same period. My mental illness and such caused me to not make use of many advantages I was born into. His hard work and abilities caused him to become the celebrated man he is.  Which of us is lucky? Him for being able to become the person he was or me for becoming the person I have?

Without the money, etc. I had behind me, I could not have focused on my mental health. I would have had to focus on making money to eat and put a roof over my head. In that way, I was really, really lucky. And, again, I had nothing to do with it.

Quotation-Barbara-Sher-The-amount-of-good-luck-coming-your-way-depends-on-66-82-62

I find the “just work harder” notion promoted by many really bizarre. If you are working 3 jobs just to feed yourself and your kids getting a PhD or even an AA isn’t an exercise in hard work, but a magical ability to make 24 hours into more.

Equally, the “save 1/2 of your food bill” idea only works if you can do things like buy 5 lbs of flour instead of 1 or buy a pot roast to cut up, or go to multiple stores to buy things on sale, or . . . when you are truly on the edge of or just over a survival level that is not realistic.

It’s easy to forget that.

And that’s my problem with the quote above. It presumes that you have the resources to act on your behalf, not that you are doing everything you can to simply survive.

Stress Fest

So, the “I’ve won” post? Well, it triggered me, of course. I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, full panic attacks: heart pounding, palms sweating, shaking, the whole bit, every night since.  The trauma had to work itself out somewhere, ‘eh?

So, the only thing I know to fight this is well, there’s 2 things:

  1.  Stop doing whatever it is which is making me stressed.
  2. Go to sleep so late that I literally sleep through this. Works when it isn’t a full blown panic attack like these have been, and works sometimes with them.

So, I’ve been binge reading, playing games online, watching youtube, because any or all of those will keep me up/engaged way past being simply “tired” till I get to exhausted. Exhausted is the only way I can sleep through a full panic attack. Or, if I don’t sleep through it, I’ll wake up, roll over and go back to sleep.

Otherwise? All that adrenaline dumped into my system causes me to be instantly awake, really awake. When this first started, I woke up full-blown attack, ONE HOUR after I’d gone to sleep.

Several hours later, when I finally went to sleep again, I was so tired I slept through the night.

The first option, stopping what I was doing that caused the panic? Well that’s dishes, laundry, making the bed, and cleaning the bathroom counter. I haven’t entirely stopped, but I slowed down. The dishes aren’t all done now when I go to bed. The laundry isn’t all downstairs either in the washer or dryer, etc. I stopped being on top of it — I’ve let it slide, but I haven’t quit entirely — that’s the best I can do right now.

And that’s good enough — it has to be good enough because it’s all I can do.

Don’t know what I’m referring to? Here.