Back Into Public

I’m not sure how much more vulnerable I can be than to let him join me for work functions.

I all but disappeared from public view about a year and a half ago because of a series of family health emergencies, and I am just now stepping back out. The event that got me out the door? A campaign against sewage discharge into creeks.

No, really.

I have been working so hard on so many things, and was feeling like either something had to break or I was going to break. Once again, I didn’t break. I got two calls back to back for new projects. I got asked to help with something I find deeply satisfying to work on. And work night became date night became a really good night.

I’ve avoided dating for years, and I’ve avoided dating in public. I don’t care to have people know who I’m with or not, and I put so much pressure on myself in professional environments that there has been pretty much no way I would ever open that part of my life up to view.

That may say more about the guys I’ve dated?

I’m working on my tendency to isolate and shove people away when I’m stressed. Work is often stressful. So I asked David to come with me to last night’s event, where I was likely to know a few people and need to put on a good face. I’m not sure how much more vulnerable I can be than to let him join me for work functions.

Let me repeat: I go to EVERYTHING alone. I don’t take dates.

Until now. And it was fun and he’s interested and it wasn’t a big deal and we bailed out for burgers and beer and couple bubble. Today I’m at it again in a less formal setting but once again I’m not just showing him what I do, I’m inviting him to join me. And it’s not bad having a hand to hold while I get back out there.

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.

Adulting Hard (And the Bruises to Prove It)

I think I’ve outgrown my life without realizing it, and without the room to move and stretch I’m getting banged up.

If there was a point in my life that Fridays elicited a “Yay! It’s Friday! The weekend!” response, I have forgotten when, and those days are long gone. Weekends are not a break, weekends are a continuation of work, a different set of work, or an endless round of chores and responsibilities. The only thing that distinguishes the weekend for me is that BAGELS happen on Saturday mornings, and traffic downtown isn’t as bad in the morning.

PTSD took away whatever semblance of “fun” I used to be, and there’s not a lot of free-wheeling, spontaneous, free-to-seize-the-day about me. That and my grandma not aging well (lots of things upset her and I’m the one that gets to hear about it), the unending health crises in my immediate family (we are maybe stable again after my brother’s visit to the ER last week for addiction), running a company with a business partner that has no executive function (it all lands on my shoulders) and my efforts toward recovery, which lately have just meant getting triggered a lot and being tired to the point that I hallucinated while driving.

What am I doing wrong? I thought I had this handled?

I have a stack of work on my desk that has approaching deadlines, I don’t have the focus or energy to tackle it head-on, yesterday I had to pivot to finish two courses for my fellowship that I hadn’t realized weren’t done so that pushed other work off a day, I ran a meeting last night that was completely dominated by a woman who has expertise and does know a lot about the topic our committee meets about, but who does not know all of the context and connections to the topic (and I do), so for every point I made that will help expand the breadth and depth of our organization’s position on this topic, she said “No.”

Y’all know the type. She knows everything, and everything she knows is stuck in the past, and not easily communicated to people who are not experts. That’s why I’m the committee chair, I am good at translating and good at connecting, and I hold more experience and more degrees relative to how to manage the process. And I got stepped all over. And it wasn’t going to be any other way without a fight. Cause she says “No.”

I can’t even make anti-dating fun. David has just as much chaos and barriers as I do at the moment, and it’s starting to consume his energy too. My struggles with mental health killed any kind of “honeymoon phase” we might have had, and my continuing series of triggers has not made our relationship less challenging. I can barely function some days as an individual (my therapist has described me as “high-functioning anxiety”, I see it more as “high potential to fail” anxiety), and there has not been a lot of time for me to adjust to functioning as a couple before everything has kind of hit the fan. Yay.

Long story for another time, but I was at Disney World a few years ago having one of the worst moments of my life. I had been obliterated by my ex and the fireworks show was going on and on about your dreams coming true. What a shitty message to the broken person I was. My dreams were destroyed, thanks. Anyone have a flask in this park?

I’m not a fairy tale kind of girl. I don’t dream in sparkles, I don’t wait for a happy ending and I am certainly not going to be rescued from the shit show that is my life right now.

That message wasn’t for me because that message isn’t me. It doesn’t fit. And I think that’s part of what I’m struggling with right now. I don’t fit. I think I’ve outgrown my life without realizing it, and without the room to move and stretch I’m getting banged up. In figuring out who I am and what I want post-trauma (I am a different person, and it’s a good thing), I don’t fit. Anything. So I guess now I get to figure out how to make it fit…

Too Stressed to Heal

Once I each a sustained level of stress, my default perception of everything is that it’s a threat.

I’ve been coughing for about two weeks. Started with a strong uptick in pollen in the air, and now it may or may not be allergies/cold/pneumonia (that last one is my Mom’s thought). Whatever it is, I am pretty sure my stress levels, food choices and resistance to rest are not helping.

I was working, side-hustling and dealing with some communication chaos with David’s family yesterday, while very tired (when I say I’m tired I’m usually already in a bad place for PTSD-related anxiety and issues), and by the time I left David’s it was late and I just wanted to sleep. I should have stayed? But he had places to be today and I had work to do, and I didn’t want to sit in traffic in the morning. I kept alternately nodding off and hallucinating on the way home – I kept seeing things on the side of the road that weren’t there, like people and animals.

YES. I WAS HALLUCINATING DRIVING THREATS.

That’s a new one.

I finally called him after hitting my breaks for another deer that didn’t exist, and we kept talking till sometime after 3am.

I have no idea what to do. I am not in a good place. I’m snowed at work, but most of my projects are long-lead on invoicing, so I need to work a side-hustle to make sure I don’t get into financial trouble. I like the side-hustle, but it puts me in the path of a lot of germs, and it’s pretty intense while I do it, so I have a lot of adrenaline going and it’s a bit stressful, but I don’t take it home. What I am doing for work is also a few weeks from completion on everything, so there’s no satisfaction of completing something, and nothing I can clear off my desk yet. I am really struggling to put time and energy into my relationship with David, because I have never in my life prioritized a guy above work, and it’s freaking me out. As much as I know this is a good thing and he’s beyond worth it, new things = lots of stress and I need more time to adjust. And then there’s my family. When someone isn’t in the emergency room with a life-threatening situation, my Mom aggressively approaches me about everything, including my persistent cough, and can’t just ask how I’m feeling and do I think I need to go get my lungs checked out?

One of the curious and frustrating aspects of my experience with PTSD is that once I each a sustained level of stress, my default perception of everything is that it’s a threat. And I don’t have a single person who understands that beyond my therapist, so I don’t just deal with annoyances all day, I deal with constant threats. No shit I still have a cough…

Starting to Couple Up a Bit, and Get Interrupted

Obviously I needed to get my hands in that hair, so we parked in what we thought would be a quiet spot.

I’m really liking this not dating thing.

Yesterday I had an afternoon haircut appointment that seemed better used for David. He’s going back to work shortly so I’m making as much time to be with him as I can, and as much as I like the long curls, he could use a look that is less…feral (his words!). That turned into lunch, which turned into forgetting about lunch until we got interrupted like a couple of teenagers.

So we went to lunch.

There’s a really yummy (mostly) vegan place that was quiet after the lunch rush. We had tea and salads and a few kisses, and the waitress got to talking to us about playing full-contact women’s football. She goes by “Red”, and she is awesome. It’s so fun to watch someone light up talking about something they’re passionate about. I learned something new, and I admire her passion and physicality.

We had just enough time for a beer before haircut, and the kid at the bar was new, so David told him a few things about selecting beer. He was so genuine, and young, and he was all-in on our hog-hunting plans. We had to run off before we got to tell him the plan, which was possibly for the best. Jessica is amazing, and was very nice about switching clients at the last second. Obviously I needed to get my hands in that hair, so we parked in what we thought would be a quiet spot.

No.

Some creepy guy showed up and made a full circle around the car while we were snuggled in the back. What a nut.

It was too cold to be outside long, and on the way back to my house I asked him to pull in at a cheese shop on a whim. I had been wanting to go, and they were open another hour. That turned out to be a decent substitute for snuggles, and once again we encountered a passionate professional who was open and willing to share herself, her knowledge and her art. The cheese was so good it made my face twitch once or twice, and we got a few favorites and a bottle of wine for a picnic to be attempted later this week.

Until then, I need to scheme a bit on how to not get interrupted…

Talking It Out Is A Lot About Listening

Yelling and screaming are easy, but they don’t heal, because they mask what’s underneath.

I’m sitting in my warm house, not obligated to go anywhere today while Iceblast2018 churns outside. Or something. I didn’t get too much precip at my house, so I could probably walk outside without falling on my butt, but I hear it’s bad other places so I’m staying put. Plus I worked my side hustle delivering groceries the past two days, and it’s been intense as people have been stocking up before the forecasted doom arrived. The tips were awesome yesterday, but I didn’t go to bed till well after midnight and I didn’t sleep in.

After my massive trigger episode Sunday night I was not feeling very steady. It’s exhausting to have your brain wreck off into a trauma pit, and even more so to claw your way out. I did though, and I got stable by myself – no Xanax, no relying on someone else to fix it, no blaming anyone else for this (except the guy that did this to me). It’s really tempting to aim this somewhere else, want to be rescued, want to avoid, want to make it someone else’s problem. It’s not though, it’s mine, and I won’t heal if I don’t own this shit and manage it. No one can do that for me.

What David did for me was listen. I got an unusually early text from him yesterday, and since I was still in “everything is a threat” mode I was a little slow to warm up. He had no idea that I had been through a really bad night because one texted sentence was so loaded with trauma for me. I don’t carry a list of sentences and words that trigger me, because I’m not going to live like that. I couldn’t make a list if I wanted to, I have no idea until it happens. And him avoiding my triggers doesn’t help me heal.

What does help me heal is how ready he is to listen when I’m struggling to sort out what’s going on. I work really hard to stay blame neutral when I talk about what I experience, because that’s a fast way to shut down a conversation.  I’m not a surface-dweller, and neither is he. So we talked, and he listened a lot, and didn’t try to tell me what my experience should be.

I rolled into my regularly-scheduled therapy appointment in pajamas and a blanket-like poncho because I had too much else going on to get dressed, and I get to go to therapy in pajamas if I want to. I did want to, and I have a pile of laundry to do before I can leave the house in any semblance of real clothing. I talked about what had happened and what I wanted moving forward, and she was supportive of how I view myself and how I want to navigate what feels like near-constant triggers. My resting heart rate is pretty clear that I have a lot of anxiety right now. It was a really helpful session, because, again, it was about repairing the damage that I have, not trying to push this on to someone else to fix. No one else can fix this.

But someone else can and did talk to me for a long time on the phone, which was reassuring in itself, and brought sexy back to this situation with a “yes ma’am” that just about melted my panties off.

You know how warm fuzzy it is for someone you like to pay attention and remember the things you like and respond to? After working about 8 hours side-hustling, half of it in the rain and cold, I got a recording of “Yes ma’am” in response to something I asked for, and now I can listen to that sexy sound bite any time I want…

When Not Being A Priority Is a Trigger

I’ve paid so much for what someone else broke.

I want to vomit. 

There is just no way to understand what I live with. At least that’s my assumption. Because after sharing blogs, sharing books, talking about my experience, trying to share what goes on in my head and trying to develop a way of talking about what happens in my brain in a clear and specific way… “I am engaged with old school friends. Probably best to say goodnight.” was like being shoved off a cliff. 

Hello, familiar pit of mental hell. 

And no amount of him saying, “I’m not very good at communicating over the phone.” can repair the neuron paths in my brain that immediately take me to the worst moments of my existence when they get hit with the news that I’m just not important enough to be a priority. 

Ever felt your soul scream? You can’t hear it, thankfully. I don’t think I could survive hearing it. Feeling it is painful enough. And it happens for me when someone safe becomes a threat because my injured brain reads threat. I’m in fight mode right now and am desperate to survive. I’m also desperate to rein in the fight, because I’m about to destroy things… mainly the him that just became a threat. 

I’ve worked so hard to repair the damage so that this wouldn’t happen. I’ve paid so much for what someone else broke. And now, because of a trigger I forgot I have, my soul is screaming in pain in between waves of nausea. 

The only thing I have to hold onto is that I didn’t break before, and this might be the worst trigger I’ve had in a long time, but I was able to manage two of them, so I might be able to handle this one too.