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…

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. 

Making Friends From Total Strangers

A few tips from an anxiety pro.

I’m at a conference, making friends and connections and finding people who can send work my way. It’s finally time for a break before dinner, and do I need it! I was up late last night knitting my contribution to the silent auction (you won’t see me procrastinating on a craft project again!), up early to finish knitting and get to breakfast, and it is not the easiest thing for a person with anxiety to sit through a lot of sessions…which is why I mostly skipped them this afternoon. I’m here as a professional service provider, not as a learner (yup, may sound over confident but I am really good at this business and I come for clients), and it’s a challenge for me to not be completely exhausted a few hours in. Plus it’s cold and wet and dreary and I’ve had no coffee, only a cuppa Earl Grey early. I’ll sleep well tonight!

One of the things that helps me in these situations now is that I remember while there are a lot of friends and a few cliques here, there are also a lot of people who are here by themselves, who would be glad to not sit by themselves and who are here because what we do is also important to them. In a room full of strangers, I have a lot of potential friends, they just need to see me be friendly. So I am, and it works really well. As much as society has been seduced by the Modernist Utopia of efficiency, speed and mechanization, what we really want is connection and relationship. So I do that.

I’ll sleep even harder when I get home.

Not As Planned

I’ve had two trigger episodes in the last week quite unexpectedly, which does not exactly put me in a great place to care for my family.

Very little of my last 5 days has gone as planned.

My brother’s surgery did not go as planned. They only got to one of the three fingers they were going to repair, and it did not have blood in the bone so they stopped after repairing that finger to wait for more tests to develop a new plan. Healing will take longer for him and may be more painful. A plate in one finger is painful enough. I am so thankful his surgeon does not take any shortcuts with his hands and is willing to wait for a better plan to address my brother’s injuries.

My Mom is very ill. She can barely get out of bed at the moment and requires care as well. She had the same illness last year and nearly died, so I’m a little on edge since I know this can quickly escalate to a hospital visit. She’s not up to care and parenting for sure, and this is an even more challenging time for her to be ill since my brother is in recovery and may be back in surgery in the next couple of weeks.

I had some obligations this weekend that thankfully did go as planned, since it turned out my attention was needed at home more than anticipated. I bailed out of one commitment early and no one noticed, which was great. I have some work things to show up to including an all day event on Thursday, which I don’t really see happening at this point. Shame, since I’ve been looking forward to it for months.

I’ve had two trigger episodes in the last week quite unexpectedly, which does not exactly put me in a great place to care for my family. I didn’t get half done that I had planned (changing my workspace, which was important on my to-do list for myself until all of this happened, getting in some exercise and yoga, etc.) and have been up way later and way earlier than I would like to be. Last night I slept on the couch because getting my butt up the stairs was too much. Fitbit didn’t register the 43 times I woke up, and I wasn’t even Xanax’d.

Thank goodness therapy was scheduled for this morning, and I had a safe place to vent about how I COULD NOT HAVE PLANNED FOR THIS, nor, really, did I feel prepared to deal with it all. Family illness is hard. Family communication breakdowns because family is ill is hard. Mental health challenges for the caregiver are hard. Putting my job on the back burner while two projects got strangely intense at the end of last week is hard.

I don’t have a “but” today. Not “it’s hard, but…” Not “it didn’t go as planned, but…”¬†Nope. Just hard, and it could get harder. All I can do is my best, and I will use what I’ve learned in the last few months to take care of myself so I can take care of my people.

Weather-Induced Anxiety

My anxiety is skyrocketing with every decline in barometric pressure. I am freaking out.

Tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, flash floods, fires – I’ve been through it all. Storms don’t bother me and never have. I’m more likely to walk outside and see what’s happening than sit in front of the tv with concern. That was until PTSD, anyway.

I still don’t get bothered by severe weather. If anything, I prepare out of concern for my own convenience than because I think it’s necessary. I stocked up on groceries before everyone wiped out the grocery stores ahead of Hurricane Harvey just because I didn’t want to wait in long lines and I knew people would go bonkers the next day. I’m planning to stay home if we get the rainfall we are expected to get, and I will skip my social plans.

My brain has a totally different way of dealing with an approaching hurricane. My anxiety is skyrocketing with every decline in barometric pressure. I am freaking out.

I experience anxiety from several sources. Weather-induced anxiety is the weirdest for me because it is so disconnected from how I feel. My brain is flooding with anxiety chemicals as fast as my body can produce them, but I’m not actually scared, just exhausted because SEVERE ANXIETY IS EXHAUSTING.

I had a panic attack driving to an appointment this morning. The major source of PTSD for me was a car wreck on a rainy day, and I have had A LOT of driving-related anxiety. This was the first time that I have ever thought I might pass out and wreck the car. As I was driving I had to stay very conscious of my thoughts so that I didn’t let them wander off to death and destruction as the unavoidable consequence of being on the road. I can barely work today because – and many of you will relate to this – I just can’t.

So I set work aside for later and went for a walk (promptly got soaked through when the skies opened up and dumped rain on me mid-walk), that didn’t work so I took a shower and got into pajamas, that didn’t work so I rested for a bit, that didn’t work¬†and that is why I have meds. I’ll take it easy this weekend, sit out the storm and take care of my anxious brain. I might be medicated all weekend, and I’m fine with that because I am able to differentiate my chemically-flooded brain from what is “normal” for me. I know I wouldn’t normally be anxious, I can call this what it is and I can address it. I am also not going to let it keep me from doing things that sound fun.

Recovered? No. Recovering? Hell yes! Bring it on, Harvey!