It’s My Birthday!

This seems to be the year that I can process why I hate my birthday so much.

Last night was hell.

My birthday is a trauma anniversary. Eating is a coping mechanism. Work is a coping mechanism. Isolation is a coping mechanism. Ironically, all things that I can’t always avoid…

I stayed in bed most of the day yesterday and napped in between working. I had nothing left, and in therapy I identified that I felt like I didn’t matter to the people close to me and felt alone. I had forgotten that my birthday was used as a weapon against me in previous years, and it took most of the day for me to consciously remember that, and to realize that I was having a rough day because I was anticipating another horrible birthday. Another day that was supposed to be about me on which I was ignored, abused and made to feel like nothing.

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I ran off to the desert this year and thought through how to reclaim my birthday. I was going to make it about me doing for myself this year, about not relying on others to make the day special. My brain had other ideas, and last night was an emotional post-trauma hell. This morning I’m still shaky, still feeling a bit off. The well wishes started before 6 this morning, which I really appreciate. I still can’t connect to them, and I’m still a bit walled off, and still a bit emotional, but I’m much better, and the crazy has subsided.

I understand that sometimes the brain – and this seems to be true for mine – cannot process trauma until it feels safe to do so. My experience with that is as soon as I think I’ve taken a step forward in recovery and made progress, I get rewarded by the baseball bat of trauma memory. Congrats! You’re doing great in recovery! WHACK! It’s so painful and frustrating and…shit. This seems to be the year that I can process why I hate my birthday so much. Maybe that means a better next year? I was able to sit with the pain last night. I still haven’t needed Xanax this year. Yep, I made it through last night without meds to knock me out so I could avoid it. I took the beating, and today I kinda feel like I got that beating.

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I woke up early to a quiet house. No cards, no acknowledgement that it’s my birthday. It’s expected, my family doesn’t make a big deal out of my birthday. I used to be the one to make a big deal out of it, used to make my own cake and organize my celebration, so I can understand why they don’t. And the point for me is to not rely on others for this. Emotionally, it’s still a letdown, but rationally, I enjoy the quiet morning. It’s raining and cold and I’m temped to not even leave the house today. I can work from the comfort and safety of my bed again, and ignore the world for another day. I can nap again if I need to.

Cause, you know, it’s my birthday!

“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…

 

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…

Sick & Cranky

I’m not doing much to promote healing.

I can’t tell if I have allergies or a cold or both. Not the flu, I’ve had that before, but I’m about 2 weeks into not feeling well, and I’m feeling somewhat worse. Congestion, aches, I’m breaking out everywhere, my ears hurt, I cough some parts of the day…ugh.

I have stuff to do! Like a lunch meeting and an increasingly wonderful relationship and family drama and a car to clean out and a side hustle to work and I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS.

Isn’t that how it works though? When does anyone ever have time for this?

If nothing else, whatever has befallen me is serving to remind me that I could improve how I care for myself. That rest day? Hasn’t happened yet (rest days are a mental as well as physical thing for me, and I have to be very intentional about mental rest). I ate processed garbage for dinner yesterday because that’s what was socially acceptable, then I felt horrible (Oreos and chocolate pudding and Cool Whip are delicious, the processed potato salad and cole slaw less so, but it all made my body hate me). I am sleeping a little less than 7 hours a night (I’ve said before, I need about 9).

I’m not doing much to promote healing, at the same time I’m not masking it with over the counter remedies. I am therefore still sick, and very cranky.

And I just wrote out what I need to do so…fine. But if you have any remedies, let me know!

Letters to Linda – Feeling Like It Was Your Fault

One of the first thoughts after trauma or abuse is, “It was my fault.” That is a lie.

If you don’t have someone with you at the time to tell you that no, it was not your fault, you keep believing that lie, and that lie does a lot of damage, so I will tell you now:

It was not your fault.

It was not my fault when my car wrecked. Yes, I was driving the car. No, I did not have control over the road conditions and hundreds of cars drove over the exact spot that sent me spinning in the 5 minutes before I did. The assessment by emergency services and my insurance company was that I was not at fault. Did I still feel at fault? Yes, until a few years later when I got into therapy. Sometimes accidents happen. Things happen. That does not make them my fault. And if it’s not my fault, I do not need to assign blame or shame to myself.

When my brother was in a work accident and was injured by a machine, he felt that he was at fault until the investigator told him that he wasn’t. He was in control of the machine, right? He could have done something else that would have made sure he didn’t get hurt, right? Wrong. What happened was outside of his control or responsibility, and it was not his fault.

When someone abuses or assaults you, you feel at fault too. You should have walked away, should have said something, should have said no, should have…

No. Abuse and assault perpetrated against you are not your fault. You did not invite it, you did not cause it, and there is no fault for “allowing it”, because you didn’t. When you were in that situation, you had to balance and navigate threats and consequences, and you didn’t ask to navigate that. You probably weren’t prepared to navigate that. When people talk about abuse and assault like you can just walk away or say no, they miss what happened, which is that you were trapped by whoever was perpetrating this against you, and you didn’t see a way out. None of that is your fault.

Outside voices can also make things into something more or less than they are. As a survivor of a terrible car wreck, people told me over and over again that I must have been saved for a higher purpose, that I must be meant for something great. Two years later, on the edge of losing my sanity, I hadn’t achieved anything great, I was barely surviving, and the pressure to make something great out of my experience was almost too much for me. It was so freeing when I could embrace the statement, “It happened.”

No more, no less, it happened, and I could do with that what I chose. Not what others chose for me, but what I chose based on where I was and what I could do.

Blame and shame do not help you heal. Believing it was your fault does not help you heal. What helps you heal is accepting that it was not your fault, you are not to blame, and there is no shame in your experience, because you have done the best you could with what you had. Put the fault where it belongs, on abusers and assailants, not on you.

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. 

Reclaiming Communication (It’s More Than Words)

Communication can cause me a lot of anxiety.

This morning I was reflecting on my post yesterday about Reclaiming Sex and I began to realize that wasn’t the only thing taken from me. And I want my shit back.

Communication, my self-worth, my sexuality (not the same as sex), my boundaries, my sense of safety, my ability to trust myself, my birthday – those were all ripped out of my hands, taken without my permission. Those things were mine, and for several years now they haven’t been. It’s a weird realization, but also a positive one, because I can reclaim those things, and I don’t have to ask permission.

Now that I’m thinking about it, the one thing I did give him was a wooden puzzle, a cube cleverly put together with dowels and odd shapes. When he blew my life to pieces for the last time, I demanded that he return the puzzle. He gave me excuses and put me off for a year, but I insisted that I have my puzzle back. Eventually I wore him out and he sent it back, and it’s mine again.

I would do that for a small block of wood, but I wouldn’t do that for any of the things that are part of who I am?

Until now. Now that I realize those are mine, and I get to have them back. Even better, I get to have them back the way I want them, not the way I’m told they should be or the way I’ve been demanded they be made to serve someone else.

Communication can cause me a lot of anxiety. I’m just now understanding that I have a lot of trauma tied to communication, so that’s really not surprising. It’s a way that I’ve been abused and controlled and made to feel like shit, and I have A LOT of bad communication habits. It’s a broad term, but so is my bad experience. I want that back. I want to enjoy communication as a way to express myself and my needs in a healthy, positive way, and not fear it as something that will kick my feet out from under me at any moment. I want it to be about building connection and not building fear. I want to not have my default set to “take this the wrong way” or “assume the worst”. And I don’t want to be scared to say what I need and what’s important to me and ask questions because I might get hurt even more.

That connection part? It’s so important to me, because I find connection to be deeply satisfying. Connection wasn’t taken from me, but communication (what I need to connect) was, and now I want it back. I’m reclaiming that for me.