Using anxiety management tools is hard. I went a bit too long without eating yesterday, which can be an issue for me as my blood sugar will drop and that by itself will send anxiety skyrocketing and potentially trigger me. I had to get food, I was about a ten minute drive from food, as as I noticed my irritability increasing and my decision-making abilities decreasing, I was also trying not to lash out, cry, leave and just go home, eat something that might make me feel ill (and therefore worse) or do or say something regrettable. I was also trying to communicate the urgency of the situation to someone who neither understood nor made any effort to help me solve the problem – I was left on my own to leave on my own, get food on my own (make decisions that were, in that state, nearly impossible for me to make) and make a decision about whether to return or go home.
That was a lot of drama for a sandwich.
But I got in my car, headed to town, picked a place with relatively healthy (but quick) food options, ordered and interacted with people as if nothing was wrong, chugged a lemonade for the sugar then ate a high-protein sandwich right after.
I still had to wait about half an hour till I calmed down, and I stayed a bit fuzzy, but I noticed, I responded and I took care of myself instead of going to pieces and being helpless. And my brain got a message that yes, I can handle it.
It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I cannot be here one more second without my skin crawling, an overwhelming desire to cry and severe anxiety that is killing my productivity.
My therapist introduced me to a new thing yesterday, which is Compassion Burnout. I apparently passed fatigue a month and a half ago, but since I kept having to skip therapy, it didn’t really come up and I went straight to burnout.
Some self-care would have helped not to pass fatigue, but…that didn’t happen.
The application to me is that I can’t really care for my grandma (or any other family member for that matter) in a way that I enjoy in any form because I have cared so intensely for so long (and through so much crisis) that I actually just can’t.
The solution is to completely remove myself for a while.
That urge I have to run away back to the desert for a month? I’m supposed to listen to that. I’m supposed to run away. Because if I don’t, I can’t get back to compassion.
I’m only here two days this week (30 more hours), so it’s less, and slightly less anxiety and skin crawling, but not much. Today I was reduced to zero ability to multitask (I can’t tell you the discussion I had on the phone because I was looking at my laptop screen and couldn’t hear and see at the same time), and I am crawling through the things I want to get done today, because while I am somewhat incapacitated by anxiety, I am so determined to get these things done. So determined. But burned out. And faking my way through compassion while trying to stay calm.
I’ve made it to therapy maybe 3 times in the last two months. Before that I was thinking it might be time to stop therapy. Well, it’s not.
This morning I had to face unprocessed grief, missing out on triumph, losing opportunities, being financially stressed because I’ve put time into my family instead of my work, and not mattering enough to that same family for them to take the severity of my mental illness seriously.
I cried a lot, I kept crying when I left, I cried to my boyfriend when I got home, then I took a long nap.
I used to go home and sleep after therapy when I first started going, because it was so intense and exhausting. Today was like that.
On the up side, it was enough for my mom to see that I’m about to be the next family crisis. Nothing is changing overnight, and I don’t expect it to, but she’s committed to finding a different option for grandma that doesn’t require my involvement.
I need time and space to finish grieving so I can heal. I need time to practice healthy behaviors. I really need less cortisol so I can finally lose the trauma weight and hopefully some of the anxiety.
But hanging in there in the meantime is hard, y’all.
My experience with PTSD has included a lot of grief, which tends to be delayed in presenting itself for processing. If I’m stressed (most of the time), if I don’t feel safe (a lot of the time) or if I feel like I have to have my performance face on (also most of the time), my ability to grieve trauma isn’t there… until it is. Usually when I have other things to do, or find it inconvenient to have a tear – streaked face.
I had the weekend off. Actually off, as in no working and no grandma. I hiked, I napped, I went to church for the first time in a while, I slept… all supposedly restorative or restful things. So I was annoyed by increasingly severe anxiety this afternoon. I woke up with anxiety, it ramped up through the morning and after a four hour nap I couldn’t even make myself go to the store for some aloe gel for my sunburned shoulders.
I thought it was because I had to be back at grandma’s tonight, and I’m almost at my limit of being able to be pleasant while dealing with her situation. I get treated like a custodial parent, with a lot more worrying and nagging about how much money my family is spending (which, thankfully, we can afford, but she cannot, and she will not let up about it).
Grief hit me hard, and suddenly. I realized I was grieving for the relationship I lost when my forever turned abusive. The fingers my brother lost in an accident. I don’t even know what else… maybe the part of my brain I lost from the car wreck? I couldn’t stop crying.
And when I needed to sit with the grief and cry it out, I had to get in my car and get back to grandma’s for my shift, which has no space to grieve.
My life, interrupted has pushed off so much of what I need to do to heal, and I’m not that surprised it’s starting to bubble out at inconvenient moments. I wish it were easier to schedule, but trauma processing never is.