Living with PTSD: When Good is a Trigger

In the last two days I have started to feel good. My PTSD symptoms seem to be significantly reduced, I have more energy and am more interested in personal projects, and I am willingly exercising, taking breaks from work and stopping work when it’s time to stop for the day. I’m looking into creative projects for myself and for work, and I seem to be paying much more attention to what’s going on around me.

The last two times this happened I was blindsided about a week later by trauma. It has taken me months to recover from both.

My parents are headed on a vacation that my mom is really excited about, and rightly so. They’ve been through the same trauma, and it’s been a long, hard effort to get everyone well and stable. I’m excited for them, and I think it’s long overdue.

My parents were supposed to leave town the day after my brother’s accident. They spent the weekend and the week after in the ICU with him.

My body remembers. Parents plan to leave town: trauma. I start feeling really good: trauma. I’m usually blindsided by trauma anniversaries and triggers, and I spent the month of October struggling to cope with the terror lodged in my brain. This time I know what’s coming, I know how I feel, I quickly recognized the circumstances, and I am making a plan to address them the best I can. I’m having someone stay with me this weekend so that I’m not alone (and therefore all up in my own head), I have plans to do things I enjoy with people I enjoy, and I don’t have any set responsibilities, only a plan of action in case an emergency happens. I communicated how I feel and what this is like for me, my concerns have been acknowledged and accommodated without negativity from anyone involved in helping me, and I am so, so grateful that even though positive growth and change can be a trigger, then can also be an opportunity for better.

For Once, I Feel Good in My Body

I don’t quite know how I got here, but for the past week I’ve slowly started to feel good in my body. Not because I’ve lost more weight, and even though I gained a few Thanksgiving pounds. Not because I have more muscle or am stronger, and even though I think I could be. Not because my clothes fit better or I fit into old clothes, and even though my jeans are tighter today than they were yesterday.

I feel good in my body, and it feels really good!

My Typical Friday Night Thought Process

By the time Friday night rolls around, my brain is doing something like this:

(checking weather forecast) ok so I didn’t get around to my side projects for work this week and I could work on the mapping project tomorrow, or I could work on that paper I want to write…exercise would be good, but it’ll be pretty warm so maybe I’ll go for a walk if I get up early enough because I don’t want to sweat a lot…but I could work all afternoon and that would be fine, and it’ll help me get caught up so I’ll be ready to deal with whatever happens next week, and I’ve been wanting to get some forward progress on that mapping and haven’t done it…I really need to get my shit together…maybe Monday I’ll try to be better about eating and exercise, I just need to get caught up on these projects……………………

By the time Friday night rolls around, my body is doing something like this:

Wow, I still have a lot of tension in my shoulders, and the spot on my shoulder that sometimes has stabbing pain is flaring up…I really want to rest and take a break…are you noticing what is happening? I need you to take a time out and start writing about your trauma experiences, because you’re still stuck on a few things and you just learned that writing can be an effective way to integrate trauma…you’re also carrying a lot of tension in your hips and your breathing is still shallow a lot of the time, so take some time to practice yoga…you just learned that approaching yoga differently than you’ve done it so far could be really beneficial to your nervous system, so take some time to try that out and see what happens…………..

My weekends need some practice.

I’ve Become Much More Mindful About Eating

It’s so much easier to point a finger at someone else than to reflect on ourselves.

In trying to not be a hypocrite, I used someone else’s coping as a mirror, and found that I was not satisfied with what I saw. I wanted to point to someone else’s excessive drinking as a problem when I wasn’t willing to evaluate myself by the same standard. Until I was, and got really honest about that mirror, and saw that my eating to excess was no different.

I decided to be mindful about it, to notice what I was doing in an attempt to measure my problem. I started checking in with myself when I opened the fridge or the pantry.

Am I actually hungry? Do I need to eat, or is this about something else?

Turns out it’s usually about something else, and when it is I remind myself that food is for when I’m hungry and if I’m not hungry then I need to deal with the real issue.

It’s slowly starting to spill over into how I feel and what I’m experiencing, and has led to me going to bed earlier than usual a few times.

This mindfulness thing is pretty great.

Wreckiversary Year 5

I am struggling this week. Losing Josh in the middle of the week that my body remembers as the most traumatic week of my life is just hard. I didn’t prepare for it because my therapist thinks that creating that expectation will make the week inevitably negative, but not preparing for it has just left me unprepared for what I’m experiencing. I worked well past midnight last night and have been busting my ass for the last few weeks. I’m busy with work, yes, but I am also using it to cope, per usual. I didn’t plan to take a day for myself to be still and reflective and work on reprogramming, I was going to travel out of town on an unnecessary work trip just to accommodate someone I have already over accommodated. This was not a good approach for my situation, and now with a funeral tomorrow and my owns needs and experiences not met or addressed, I am struggling to hold it together.

This shit is hard.

It’s likely that by Monday (or even before) I’ll be ok and the moment will have passed and I will have some freedom for a while. That does not help me today. Today my body hurts, I feel compressed and pinned, I want to isolate and disappear and be swallowed up and I am so consumed by stress (not anxiety, strangely) that I cannot let my foot off…

And in writing those last 6 words and reading them on the screen I realized what I am doing. I pushed down on the brake of my car so hard and for so long as I smashed down a highway that my heel was bruised. I tried so hard to stop the crash that could not be stopped that I have stayed that way, foot on the brake, for five years. I am that way now. My body feels like it did while I was bracing myself to die. It hurts.

I don’t know why today. Today isn’t the anniversary, but it’s the date that I’ve had in my head. The 14th will be the 5th anniversary by date, it was on a Monday. Today is the 11th, a Thursday, and it’s in the middle. I had a traumatic breakup (the back story covers four years so just understand that it was a severely traumatic moment) on October 8 or 9 (I can’t even remember things were so blurred at the time) so the 11th is in the middle of the two events that resulted in my PTSD diagnosis. It was too much for me to handle. I had no support. I had no way to talk about it. I just had to keep going. And my body remembers.

But now I know. I don’t quite know what to do about it, but if the first step is to recognize what’s happening and notice how it feels, there are surely more steps to take following that will lead away from what I’m experiencing now so that I don’t have to do it again. I would really like to let my foot off the brake.

100 Days of Healing – Day 90

I have a Fitbit for feedback. I like to know where my resting heart rate is, I like to know how much I’m moving, I like to know how I sleep, and I count calories. I used to do it obsessively, but I’ve stopped that and now just use it for data. I stopped counting this past weekend when I let my phone battery die. I ate when I was hungry, I rested because that’s what felt good, and when I got home the weather and some chores I wanted to get done didn’t give me the time to go for a walk and get in a little exercise. And that’s ok. My weight is back up a bit, and that’s ok. I listened to my body and gave it what it asked for.

And now it’s asking for something else.

Yesterday started out sleeping a little bit too long and being rushed to get out the door to an appointment. As soon as that was done though, I went back to the routine I wanted, slowed things down, took some time to check in with my schedule, make some plans and decide what was important for this week.

I also decided that I was going to go low calorie through Thursday and start engaging in some small exercise every day, because my body needs balance. I don’t do balance, that has been escaping me my whole life, but I think I am ready to begin balance.

And maybe I have viewed balance as something it’s not – a constant state. I think maybe it’s more acknowledging that things are rocking and responding by doing the things that bring harmony back.

I indulged in food, now I am going to un-indulge.

I’ve avoided exercise, now I am going to practice it.

I’ve ignored unhealthy relationships that called and demanded my time and energy, now I’m being intentional about connecting with people who are meaningful and supportive of me.

I rushed out the door, now I’m taking a few moments to calm and center and drink some tea before I go to the next thing.

It’s a small start, but practice begins with those small starts.

100 Days of Healing – Day 36

I’m still sleeping a lot. I don’t remember sleeping this much since weekends in college when I would pull a couple of all-nighters during the week. But the body knows what it needs, right?

All of my clients needed something today, whether it was a project discussion or advice on proceedings or review of subcontractor submittals or, in one case, just a chat. Normally that would overwhelm me and stress me out, but today I’ve taken it one thing at a time and gotten done what I need to, what I was asked to and what the job required. It’s a huge step forward from where I was a month ago, when just getting an email would send me through the roof. #grateful