I’ve been battling a city staff member on a project for a client for the last two days. I have yards of emails detailing out this person’s approach to the project, which has been to attempt to require changes and additions to an application in the hope that they will cause us to miss a deadline and be delayed. There is no good reason for it, the decision will be made by two separate bodies who must both agree for us to achieve our request. Which is within the parameters of what is allowed but by policy needs specific approval and two public hearings. And that’s fine, because that’s good policy. Demanding arbitrary language changes, changes of intent and attempted intimidation are not, and I have half a mind to read this person’s entire chain of emails aloud to city council.
A young man I babysat almost two decades ago and who was in a car wreck a few months after mine – and who was not as fortunate, is losing his battle with neurological damage and is in a coma following a cardiac arrest. He is not expected to live much longer, and his family is saying goodbye. I’m heartbroken. I’m still close to the family. I got the news in the middle of some of the most ridiculous of the city staff requests, which suddenly lost all importance by comparison.
But life goes on. My client’s goals and interests still go on. I go on. But I really needed to be reminded to breathe.
It only took 9 words to trigger me so badly that I had to hang up the phone and fight for control of my brain. It only took 5 seconds for my body to flood with chemicals so hard that I could feel it happening and knew I had to get clear of anything that might compound the trauma I had just experienced (being triggered can be traumatizing) before I put myself at risk of losing control of my car again. I got triggered by a comment that conjured up a past horrific experience while driving on the road I nearly died on 5 years ago next month. There is no way to explain the pain and fear.
But I can explain that I knew how to manage it. I got off the phone quickly, I started breathing deeply, I reminded myself that I can perform mechanical tasks just fine when under extreme stress – and driving is a mechanical task – I reminded myself that I was safe from the thing that was terrifying my brain even if being on the interstate at a high speed was not particularly safe, that even if I wasn’t in control I never really am anyway so that wasn’t worth expending energy on, and if I wanted to drop my plans and go home, I could do that. If I wanted to pull off the road and get someone to come get me, I could. If I wanted to never talk to that person again, I could. If I never wanted to work again, I could. If I never wanted to drive again, I could.
I got to my work meeting and parked, then sat in the car for a minute to collect myself and check in now that I wasn’t focused on highway survival. It took 90 seconds before I started feeling tired and defeated. That kind of experience – going from focused and intentional to fighting for your life in the space of less than 10 words – is one that I’m still not sure how I survive.
What I can’t explain is how I called the person who triggered me back and made sure they understood that they can never use that phrase with me again. Ever. I can’t explain how I walked into the meeting and was fully present and engaged for five hours, including calling back a difficult client during the break and walking through what he was requesting. Or how I drove straight to another client’s office to sign legal paperwork needed required for a project, checked in on project progress and had a long chat with the admin about something I care nothing about (but she does) before I got back to my office to finish and submit an application that has a critical deadline more than 24 hours before that deadline. I turned right around on a phone call and addressed an asinine response from a city official to plans I had submitted, made the “corrections” to keep the peace (even if everything was right there in the documents and the revisions were a complete waste of my time) and finished up with a 10 hour day…10 hours after I was triggered.
I ate whatever the hell I wanted for dinner. Which amounted to half a baked potato and a slice of bread in addition to what was otherwise a normal keto meal.
PTSD is a living hell. But life goes on, and I’m going with it.
My brother gave me Jabra Elite ear buds for Christmas to replace the ear buds that came with my phone. I had ruined them by getting caught in a couple of thunderstorms last summer, and he went above and beyond on the gift. They’re great.
They pair with an app, which I finally downloaded today. As I look at ways to mindfully improve my health, I’m going to have to put in some cardio. I haven’t done that since my car wreck. It was just too much for my brain to handle high intensity exercise.
Now, however, I’m at a point in recovery that I can start pushing myself to make some physical health gains, and I’m doing it with some limitations on what and where I can do it since I’m caring for my Grandma 4-5 days a week.
Do what you can, where you can though! So I downloaded the app, and it told me to run for 15 minutes to check my VO2. Haha, I don’t run, and I’m certainly not able to run for 15 minutes! What a joke! Do only people who are already fit own these? I don’t get a runner’s high, and I hate running.
I did it though. I stayed focused on my breathing, made reasonable goals along the way, went back to my breathing to try to keep a rhythm, and toward the end checked the time a few times.
My health level is poor.
No kidding. That’s why I’m doing this.
I’ve been feeling change the last month or so, like it’s time to move into a new phase of recovery. Once upon a time I think I might have been who I was meant to be. I’m starting to feel like I’m there again. This there is different from that there, but I’m there, and I don’t want to be stuck in a place of not-fully-realized me.
I’m working out what it is that I want, what I can live with, what I can live for, how much capacity I really have and just how much I’m willing to let go.
If I ignore much of what my therapist says about how to put myself first, if I go my own way about this, if I stop fighting, if I move to a state of free – flow giving… What happens?
If I open my hands and let go, if I let what returns to me stay, if I don’t hold on but hold out a hand… What happens?
If I stopped worrying about how you feel or don’t feel about me and be who I am regardless, what happens?
If I stop worrying about whether I have enough to give and just give what’s there, what happens?
I don’t want to hold the negativity that surrounds me. I’d rather let it flow in and back out because it doesn’t have a place with me. I’d rather have so much outflow that it can’t flow in. I’d rather trust that God provides and that’s enough, one less thing to concern myself with and one more thing to observe with gratitude.