“If We Talk Tonight, Make Me Do Yoga First”

The goal is just to do.

As though anyone can “make” me do anything…ha!

But really, David and I had a long chat yesterday about what I want recovery to look like for me for the next few months. All the running around, all the working, all the public appearances, all the family concerns…when it gets to be too much, it tends to stay too much. Balance…priorities…I don’t really feel like that will ever be a struggle I win.

Necessary struggle though, so last night after I got home from an event I was determined to get a longer yoga session in.

When I was walking and practicing yoga last summer I wasn’t very much smaller than I am now, but at least I had the muscle to engage in the exertion. Now I’m laughing at myself while I follow a Slow Vinyasa video because I can barely hold a position without thinking I’ll crash on my face. It’s also really funny to do yoga when you have a lot of body fat, because the very trim yogi is bending in very cool ways and I am thinking, “um, not sure I can move my fat rolls out of the way enough? Also wow I am not very flexible at the moment…” I mean, is that much downward dog necessary? I am holding up a lot of weight here!

I take it all with a sense of humor because, really, I am so damn proud of myself that I stuck to it. By the end of 45 minutes my down dog form was so much better. Side bends looked like me not really bending, I’m pretty sure, but I listened to the intent and engaged the right muscles and kept my sit bones firmly planted. Not hard when you got a booty, lemme tell you!

The goal is just to do. To do and practice and repeat to the point that my brain learns this is a much better thing to do when I have anxiety. I need to reprogram my defaults, and after the last two weeks of high anxiety, that is more clear than before. It’s a series of waves, and now that I’m in a down wave it’s time to do the good things and practice the good habits so that they’re easier next time. I need a different plan when everything goes sideways.

So I did yoga first, then we talked. Now to work on more sleep…

 

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…

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…

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. 

Letters to Linda

I can open doors and invite her to walk through.

Sometimes you go through hell so that you can help others through it.

If all of the pain that I have lived with for the past few years can be used to help someone else who is in pain. It’s worth it to me. Not because I’m that self-sacrificing or any kind of imagined hero, but because it gives my pain a purpose, and it isn’t wasted. If someone benefits, whether that’s me or another, there’s purpose, and I find peace in that.

Having a platform to speak about my experience with PTSD (traumatic car wreck) in a way that I don’t feel compromises me the same as speaking about my other PTSD-causing experiences (traumatic abuse and sexual assault) gives me the freedom to say things that I find many trauma survivors don’t feel the freedom to say. When your trauma comes with shame, the last thing you want is for people to know. It’s why I don’t talk about being in an abusive relationship. I don’t want to re-live it, I don’t want to explain it and I don’t want to hear what most people have to say about it. Car wreck is different, it’s much more socially acceptable, elicits sympathy and the stupid comments don’t hurt as much (anymore).

Through a series of mistakes and judgmental attitudes (mostly on my part), I ended up at a coffee shop earlier this week sitting across from a woman ten years younger than I, who I will call Linda. After a brief conversation that you can read about in the post link, we got down to purpose. She asked me about my experience with PTSD, because she also has it. She was exposed to violence in a Mexican drug war and later to sexual abuse from a group she thought were her friends. In a story that felt so familiar, she didn’t realize for a long time that the violence was traumatic, or that the abuse was not ok, and that she wasn’t able to exercise choice. It left her empty, detached, obsessive and ashamed.

“Normal” things are triggers. She’s working so hard to hear a bachelor’s degree, but she has a hard time focusing and her grades suffer. Groups are uncomfortable for her at best. Her friends don’t understand and don’t try to. She’s ashamed of her response to “normal” things and hates that people perceive her as cold and disinterested. She’s dating a guy who loves her for who she is and is trying to learn how to support her, and she’s scared she’s going to sabotage the relationship because she doesn’t feel that she deserves to be loved. She doesn’t feel that she has access to mental health care, and she is swirling around in anxiety, not knowing what to do to break free.

That was, and to some extent still is, me. I’m further along in recovery, so I have a bit more clarity, but that is me. I don’t have to say I understand, because the energy I give off in response to what she says communicates how deeply I understand. And accept. And don’t judge. And I know how hard it is to ask for help. I know how hard it is to even understand what’s happening, or why all you want to do is lay in bed and watch tv. Why you torture yourself with negative thoughts and why self-harm is so attractive.

I’m not a mental health professional, I’m a client. And I can’t fix people, I gave that idea up already and my life improved drastically when I did. I can, however, share my experience with her in a way that meets her where she is. I can open doors and invite her to walk through. I can explain why she experiences some things in the way that she does, and I can give her the space and support to recover in her own way and her own time.

I think in this instance giving is the gift, and it’s one I want to share on my blog, so I’ll be posting the letters in the hope that they multiply the encouragement and acceptance for whoever will benefit from it. ❤