Burnt. Toast.

“It’s just what you do all the time.”

I’m back from my brief stint in relative seclusion, and I have nothing left today. Everyone is going to get “no” as a response. Everyone.

I deeply enjoyed my weekend in the desert. I did not enjoy coming back to sub-freezing temps, and that short break was enough to highlight the things in my life that are really weighing on me.

It really bothers me that no one asks me how I’m doing. No one close to me, that is. If they do, it’s a surface level question, and any response I have that isn’t “great!” gets dropped as though I didn’t just say “I’m not doing well today.” My people aren’t checking in with me. Strangers and acquaintances, sure, but not my family and close friends. No one asked how my flight was, and I’m scared to death of flying. No one celebrated with me that I didn’t have to take Xanax for either flight. My Mom wanted details of my trip while I was hauling my luggage upstairs. Yes, I want to give you every detail of my weekend while I’m struggling to drag a suitcase and a couple of small bags up to my room. Can it wait ten minutes?

I hide most of what I experience because sometimes I don’t even understand it, and because I have yet to see it help for me to say what’s going on. “I’m having a bad day” or any other version of it gets met with the appearance of indifference. I can understand it must be hard to look at me or talk to me and know that I don’t blurt out what I feel, I need time to work out how to talk about it. If I ever did blurt it out, I would terrify everyone, because I exist in a painful reality. There would be screaming and yelling and probably a few punches thrown. So I keep it in, and I don’t get the time to slowly release it to someone. And they otherwise don’t see it so…it’ doesn’t exist? And I’m fine. And I can do anything. And Ashley is so strong and capable.

I am because I don’t have an option. There is no space in your life for me to be anything else. I do what I have to do to survive.

Therapy was rough this morning. I cried a lot. When we got to the root of my tears, it was that I don’t feel like I matter. I have been busting my ass for a lot of people, and don’t feel like I’m getting any of that in return. My business partner picked me up from the airport in the cold yesterday, and that was the most someone has gone out of the way for me in…ever? As much as I can grouse about him, he can hear what I need and just do it, no questions, no judgment and no making it about him. He said such a kind thing to me yesterday when I thanked him for picking me up, “It’s just what you do all the time.”

I’ve been driving around, working with clients, writing documents, getting us more work, taking care of my increasingly frail grandma, trying to keep the chaos at home to a dull roar and being emotionally supportive to the point that I feel burned up. I wanted to say “no” to everyone today. I don’t want to answer calls or respond to emails. I certainly didn’t want to comfort my grandma or work on my business partner’s project to help him finish or be supportive of David while he swoops in long enough to be supported and encouraged then disappears again to go help someone else. Anyone else but me. Because for whatever reason, me not having a good day only merits an, “I hope you feel better.”

Well shit, I hope I feel better too. It’d be nice if I didn’t have to do it alone…

No Chaos Between Us

That no chaos boundary? I’ve needed that for myself this week.

I learned something new this week. Brains try to fill in incomplete pictures. My brain in particular does this very fast, and generally fills in the unknown with negative. That explains a lot. And now I know why I’d rather have bad news than no news.

David and I have a lot of external chaos as individuals. Family, work, etc. feels like an endless whirling of crazy.  So I set a boundary: no chaos between us.

I have no desire to bring all of that shit into a relationship in which it doesn’t belong. I can’t seem to get anyone else to stop being chaotic, but I need one person that does not perpetuate the cycle, and that’s him. No chaos.

No chaos is more work. Not blowing up, not throwing all of my anxiety at him, not starting fights is work. Holding onto at least one “no chaos day” a week is work. Well, and it’s actual work because it usually is me dragging him with me to go do whatever peaceful and calm field work I need to get done, but the point is to be together, out of our normal chaotic environments, and to find things to enjoy. Plus there’s usually a lot of walking. It’s nice.

That no chaos boundary? I’ve needed that for myself this week. He’s been handling business to move forward and has been…absent. I doubt he would view it that way, but as I’ve been isolating and not able to communicate what I need – and a bit fearful that if I did it would stress him out more – I’m wanting to cause my own chaos. But I can’t, because I said no.

In the relationship that nearly broke me, I was so scared of losing him that I kept an iron grip on the relationship. I had a tightly closed fist, and I fought so hard. For nothing. I’m not going to repeat that mistake, so I hold my relationship with David in an open hand, even when I have to force my hand to stay open. There is a lot of unknown, so my brain is working fast to fill in the blanks, and it fills them in with what it knows. All it knows is negative, so I have to work hard to reprogram, to acknowledge that’s what I’m thinking and tell myself I have no evidence that’s how it is and just to wait and see. I’m spending a lot more time creating a reason for him to stay than reasons not to leave.

And it’s terrifying because I have no idea (too many blanks), but I do know that I don’t want anymore chaos.

Drowning, Slowly

I woke up to chaos this morning.

Can I just go under already?

I’m surrounded by people, noise and chaos, and I am completely alone.

PTSD can be such an isolating experience. I’m trying so hard to protect myself from what happens when there is too much chaos and uncertainty around me that I can’t connect and engage with people. I’m shutting myself out because everything is a threat right now. Emails I haven’t read are a threat. My mom calling up that dinner is ready is a threat. My brother asking who put the broccoli in a colander in the sink is a threat.

I woke up to chaos this morning. I feel so out of control that in my dreams I’m out of control – to the point that I dreamed and then actually peed myself in my sleep. Waking up out of REM sleep always throws me, so I woke up enough to go to the bathroom and finish peeing, strip my bed and pass back out, naked.

When I woke up again, the house was a wreck. Dishes everywhere, the floors dirty, laundry everywhere, the kitchen counters covered in everything possible…I couldn’t deal. I could not operate in so much crazy, so I spent 4 hours cleaning, doing laundry, putting things away and packaging leftovers for my grandma. That’s why there was broccoli in the sink. It was stuffed in the back of the fridge, about to start rotting, and I pulled it out so that I would remember it needed to be cooked. At some point I got a call about an interview for a new project, then I got absorbed with a project that I need to send out progress documents for tomorrow, and I never got to the broccoli.

No one acknowledged that I had cleaned up the wake of their chaos, I just got asked who put the broccoli in the sink.

I did. Fuck you.

I’m disappearing into the desert at the end of next week, and I keep telling myself that if I can just hang on and stay focused for another week, I can breathe again. I just can’t see over all of the shit that is in my way before I get there. And I am completely alone.

Chaos Strikes Again

I have a tendency to toss aside all of the things that are important to my health and well-being to manage crisis.

I have mentioned previously that my youngest brother was in a work accident last year, about 8 months ago. My mom was severely ill about six months before that. This weekend my eldest brother (still younger than I) was in the emergency room for anxiety and alcohol-related reasons that I am still not completely informed of. I don’t need to know, honestly, what I do know is that he’s back home for the time being, and in the very difficult first stages of recovery.

The illness and accident were things outside of my experience, and it was easier to jump in and provide care. This is very close to home, because I struggle with similar things. I keep a careful eye on my drinking because I’m fully aware of the family history with substance abuse, and I don’t want to poke that tiger. He’s made a different choice to this point. I do have the anxiety, but there again, I’ve sought help and have worked hard on recovery. He is just now almost being forced to consider recovery.

It’s hard.

Especially since, once again, I am moving on a clear path forward and now my energy is being pulled aside to help deal with the latest family health crisis.

I have a tendency to toss aside all of the things that are important to my health and well-being to manage crisis. I go all in, do all the things and ignore my health. This has been with work, it’s been with family, it’s been with friends…and this time it’s not happening.

If I am proud of one thing, it is that I am no longer willing to compromise my well-being or my goals for someone else in crisis. I have done that too many times, and have paid for it. I’m not where I want to be in life, and a good part of that is because I have put my life on hold to handle someone else’s problem. I just don’t have it in me this time. And this time is a lot more emotional and a lot closer to what could have been me. I can support, I can give hope, I can invite to join, but I cannot fix this, and I do not want to wreck myself in the process.

So I worked my side hustle, I made lunch plans, I’m working hard and I’m still contributing to my brother’s recovery, if not as full-force as I would have in the past. Now to just fit yoga in…

Trying to Not Complain for a Week

What if I took all those frustrations and re-framed them into positive observations? Would it help?

I just about lost my shit this morning when I got home from the store. It rained all morning, and by the time I was hauling a loaded cart out to my car it was pouring. It rained so hard that some of the streets were flooded on my way home, and my street was partly flooded. I unloaded wet bags or groceries and jugs of water (our water tastes weird at the moment), nearly busted my ass slipping on the threshold, got it all put away in my mom’s chaotic kitchen and discovered that the box on the porch was the cane I had ordered from my grandma that we thought hadn’t arrived.

I was checking my Amazon orders last night to see if anything might not arrive this week, and saw that the new walking cane was supposed to have been delivered on Friday. No one had seen the box, so I reported it missing and requested another. From what I can guess, it was delivered to a neighbor and they brought it to my door this morning…4 days later. I couldn’t cancel the Amazon replacement in time to not have them send me one unnecessarily, but…thanks, neighbors. If I get a package by mistake I take it over immediately. I guess I have a spare cane now for someone who need it though.

I was in such a foul mood about all of this and the grocery crazy especially that I was about to lose it. The PTSD thing I live with? Stress can quickly light a short fuse. I stopped myself though and thought, “What if I didn’t complain?”

What if I didn’t complain about this? What if I found the positive, that we can afford all of these groceries and that we needed the rain and that it isn’t also cold and that I got things done early and have plenty of time to start baking for tonight and go to the store again later for my grandma’s stuff and the cake box I need to pick up? What if I didn’t complain for a week? What if I took all those frustrations and re-framed them into positive observations? Would it help? Would it not?

Here goes!

Week One Off the Meds

When they all seem to conspire against you…

I’m not going to post about this every week, but I have made it through the first week of coming off my medications. It was hell. And I’m still full of synthetic chemicals. 

The situations and circumstances around me were the real issue, not my response to quitting my first prescription. I’m ok. Maybe a little more grumpy, a little more intense and a little more looking for connection. There’s also a slight internal shift I can’t put my finger on yet. I might have a little more ability to push through? I think I might also be slimming down a tad. Or it was the 6 hours of playing ball on Wednesday…

Between my family, my friends and my job, the week was bonkers. I’m not sure who called who to sabotage my sanity this week, but they did their damndest. I don’t hate people any more than usual though, and I successfully ran a meeting full of strangers, so… Maybe that was a test? I guess I passed? 

I reckon it’ll be January before I’m completely off everything. That’s a bit ambitious, but I’m nothing if not ambitious. And if this goes the way I’m planning for it to, I’ll be much better off by my birthday. 

Managed Chaos

The first day off meds turned out to be the day I’ve been dreading, by horrible coincidence.

I might need to move my weekly therapy sessions to Tuesdays. Monday afternoons, for whatever reason, tend to hit me with a bat and keep whacking.

I was on my way to a meeting with a new client when my grandma called. She never calls during the workday because she is afraid she’ll interrupt something important. She doesn’t believe I silence my phone if I don’t want to be interrupted. Thankfully I  hadn’t done that yet because she called to tell me she had fallen and needed help getting up again. I found out when I got to her that she had been on the floor for three hours before she called. It took me 45 minutes to get through 30 miles of traffic and get to her. I literally picked her up off the floor and set her in her chair, then stayed to make sure she could use her walker again. I’ve been dreading this day. She has severe arthritis (which she refuses to have treated) and her left ankle has almost no cartilage left from years of dancing. She didn’t have the strength or flexibility to get herself up off the floor. She called me her Jesus for saving her.

I’m not even close, and that strength to lift her? That was Jesus, not me.

Yes, she or I could have called for help, but she was very embarrassed and she didn’t want anyone to know, because they might try to push her into a managed care facility and she deeply values her independence. I support her autonomy, so I got the call. I changed my meeting for later in the week (who gets mad at someone who has to go help their grandma?), calmly walked her through the process of getting her up again and didn’t make a fuss, as she says. I’ll be checking on her the next couple of days. That was the condition of my secret keeping.

My Mom is ill again. Not nearly as bad as before, but she slept really late this morning, which is concerning, and puts running the house back on me.

One of my brothers recently broke up with his girlfriend, whose alcoholism pushed him to a breaking point. Today he found out who she was cheating on him with. I supported him while I made dinner, since I was home much earlier than expected and Mom wasn’t up to it.

Did I mention I started weaning off my meds today? Thank goodness synthetic chemicals are hard to get out of your system and I won’t feel the effects for a while…

I’m gonna go stress eat now, because even after making dinner I didn’t get enough to make up for all the calories I burned today remaining calm…