The Symptom I Just Now Learned – Overwhelmed

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last week.

I use numbing to cope, and have for a long time. Now it makes sense why I don’t miss people, why I don’t feel deep affection for anyone and why a lot of personal affronts don’t upset me.

I live in a near-constant state of OVERWHELMED, and I often wake up already there, which is why mornings can be so challenging for me. Which is why a lot of things are so challenging for me. Why I can get really upset by being asked to do something that is otherwise simple and easily accomplished.

I’ve been dreaming every night lately, and I dream in full technicolor. I’m aware of it and know that my brain is doing a lot of processing while I sleep, but last night I couldn’t get away from a snake, and woke up feeling physically trapped, in pain and disoriented. It was horrible, and I went back to sleep so that I didn’t have to deal with whatever was going on. It’s the first time that has happened, and when I did start to wake up for the day, I was hesitant to do so because I woke up with so much anxiety, and I felt completely overwhelmed before my feet even hit the floor.

I’ve been handling a lot of things I’d been putting off this week, so I may have just adulted too hard. Or the processed trauma is building up in my body and needs to be released. Either way, or any way, one step at a time today until I feel more sturdy on my feet.

A New Reason to Practice Yoga

As I listened to Chapter 3 of Healing from Trauma: A Survivor’s Guide I noticed I was experiencing some of the trauma symptoms the narrator was describing. I was tensing up, getting a headache and tightening inward, as if to curl into a ball and protect myself. I was aware I was doing this (mindfulness practice seems to be showing some results!) and unclenched my jaw and rolled my shoulders a bit.

I’ve noticed also during yoga, which I’m practicing more regularly again, that I don’t have a lot of flexibility in my shoulders. There are positions that are really challenging for me, like making a bridge with my fingers pointed toward my feet or clasping my hands behind my back and straightening my arms. I didn’t remember that being the case previously, but a lot of times I blame weight gain for my yoga practice challenges.

Oh…wait…trauma response…tight shoulders…

I’m not sure if it’s more freeing or discouraging to realize that my lack of flexibility and range of motion is due more to trauma than my fat rolls, but it does provide a path forward, and a solution – more yoga!

When Someone You’re Close to Triggers You

My boyfriend triggered me the other day, and my brain is now reading him as a threat.

He didn’t mean to, but he did something that I’ve previously expressed can be triggering for me. It was a communication issue, and he dropped the ball, so to speak, without having a reason or explanation why. I was PISSED, not only because I had been triggered but now I was facing having to do the work to make him not be a threat. Work I really wasn’t sure I even wanted to do.

Avoiding is easier!

But.

I am working hard to not avoid, to face my challenges and the reasons behind them and I am really trying to heal. It’s hard, it’s scary and it makes me sleep a lot. It makes me react a lot when I even think it should be a fairly calm scenario.

Throw on top of that a person I am close to and trust triggering me because he didn’t bother to do something that is, frankly, common courtesy at least and for me a necessity.

So I did what I have a really hard time doing. In my last decade I had a lot of people run roughshod over my boundaries – a lot of that at work, but trauma stacks up, and I had some traumatizing work experiences. I set a hard line boundary of what I will and will not tolerate, and made peace with whatever outcomes resulted from holding that line.

The result has been both of us working to calm the effects of the trigger, a good weekend, honesty and some teamwork.

Leaning Into Healing

I started listening to Healing from Trauma: A Survivor’s Guide while I walked yesterday. After I did yoga. So there I am doing yoga, exercising, not making excuses and working on my brain.

That shit was hard.

The book was good for me from the start. I’m only to the second chapter, but the first chapter started with “Shit happens.”, and I knew I had found a resource that would help me.

As much as it’s helping, as much as I am already learning and recognizing and feel grateful, it is really hard for me to listen to. Not because she recounts trauma stories, she’s careful not to do that because she understands getting triggered isn’t helpful. It’s hard for me to listen to because I am having to face my own experience head-on. I am having to process what happened as I hear the narrator talk about how our brains and bodies respond when we experience trauma. It’s so empowering to have this information. And so painful.

It was tempting several times to cut the book off and switch over to music for the rest of my walk. And I can certainly do that – she even talks about how to read or listen to the book if you are a trauma survivor in a way that is accessible for you. But for me it’s time to start leaning into it. Time to allow the pain to process, even if it’s hard. And it is.

“I Can’t Hide Behind You”

I long ago discarded the narrative of a man providing for me, rescuing me or saving me from…whatever. I was raised to do those things for myself, and I do them. Including the saving from PTSD. No one has stepped in or stepped up for my recovery, I have done that myself without much support, except for the therapist I pay, and I sought her out myself too.

I didn’t mean to date anyone at this point in my life, because it’s hard enough to manage myself without also managing a relationship with someone else. I certainly didn’t mean to be in a serious relationship, but here we are. And I find myself having to dig into and rip out a lot of expectations that I didn’t know were there, expectations that, left unaddressed, would get in the way of my efforts to heal. Or maybe would if I hadn’t met just the right person.

Because of our current job/career positions, I’m the one with more financial bandwidth, so I pay for dates. I also give him gifts and buy him things. Because of our differences in personality, I do a lot of the planning and coordinating. Because I have anxiety, I ask a lot of the questions and do a lot of the checking in.

I can’t hide behind him. I can’t run for cover with someone who can provide for me and make a lot of my problems disappear so that I can ignore them. He’s working on a lot of changes right now too, and change is hard. I can’t hide behind his stability because it isn’t there. I can’t let up or slack off because he can’t catch me if I do.

And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Because it keeps me pushing forward, for me.

I Just Failed My Homework?

I had intentions yesterday. I intended to practice pausing, taking a bit of calm time to process and not let my schedule contribute to a meltdown. That did not happen.

I woke up late, scrambled to get some work sent out, was mindful that this was not the way I had wanted things to go and hopped in the car for another 4-5 hours on the road for an evening meeting. I can get stressed about getting places on time, I was stressed about getting a document out that I realized as I worked on it was not what it needed to be because of some technical issues that were happening once I made a big format change at the request of the client, and I was stressed because my uncle’s wife was pushing me to let her sign my grandma up for Medicaid when that woman is not part of my grandma’s care team or recovery program. I was agreeable rather than making an argument out of it, because I just didn’t want to get into it with her. But it stressed me out.

I picked up my boyfriend on the way so that he could attend with me, and we got back to his house fairly late. We talked for a bit. We’re both sorting through a lot of past behaviors and baggage that need to go, and it’s tough. It’s good for both of us individually, but it’s tough for us as a couple. We have different personalities and communication styles, and we’re trying to manage growing new careers, difficult personal growth, family issues, distance and things that are pretty normal but feel like they’re in a pressure cooker for us. And we don’t fight or yell, we talk, and that’s hard sometimes too.

Hard enough that I tipped over the anxiety edge of a panic attack very suddenly. One minute we were talking, the next minute I started feeling really upset by everything, then next I disassociated and went off to wherever chaotic place my brain goes. It didn’t last very long, kind of came and went, but I was reeling a bit after, trying to sort out my jumbled brain and why that had just happened.

Too much stress earlier in the day that I didn’t deal with, too much stress to get somewhere on time, intense conversation and…BAM.

But hey, I learned something, I worked through it, I let someone be there for it (although telling someone you just had a panic attack and all they see is a quiet calm is ironic), and I know what I need to keep practicing.