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!

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…

Fat, Sick and In My Happy Place

I didn’t take the time to decompress the way I needed to so that I could fully embrace being here.

Y’all, my weight gain has hit a level that I finally had to notice. And I’m still congested and occasionally coughing. But I’m in the desert, the sky is clear, the temps are cool and warm and the air is wonderfully dry. Plus every color makes me happy. There is some good energy here. And I’m not sure I’m open to it yet.

I ran around like a mad woman yesterday to get a project proposal delivered on time, then had lunch and a walk with David before I hit the airport. I didn’t take the time to decompress the way I needed to so that I could fully embrace being here. The negative stayed with me, the stress and the being sick with whatever the hell I have and the realization that I couldn’t avoid anymore, that I am feeling pretty fat.

It would be easier to enjoy rockin’ my body if I had the clothes for my larger size, but I am pushing the limits of what I own and this is not a time I want to shop for more. And it just doesn’t feel good. Not much feels good at the moment.

Ashley wrote a post-vacay post via Pressing reset (or maybe just pause) that covered it.

I didn’t take the time to get ready to vacay, so I’m spending the first part of it recognizing that and deciding what to do about it. Yes, let it go and all that, right? I have PTSD, so the fact that I am even able to think through and acknowledge all of this (I did run away, but still have to work today so am sitting in my friend’s office working away before we head out on a hike) while I still have obligations and responsibilities to fulfill.

So here’s to taking a day to figure it out, reset, reframe, clear my desk and be ready to rest tonight and enjoy the hell outta tomorrow…while seeing if I can’t maybe also enjoy the hell outta today.

Chaos Strikes Again

I have a tendency to toss aside all of the things that are important to my health and well-being to manage crisis.

I have mentioned previously that my youngest brother was in a work accident last year, about 8 months ago. My mom was severely ill about six months before that. This weekend my eldest brother (still younger than I) was in the emergency room for anxiety and alcohol-related reasons that I am still not completely informed of. I don’t need to know, honestly, what I do know is that he’s back home for the time being, and in the very difficult first stages of recovery.

The illness and accident were things outside of my experience, and it was easier to jump in and provide care. This is very close to home, because I struggle with similar things. I keep a careful eye on my drinking because I’m fully aware of the family history with substance abuse, and I don’t want to poke that tiger. He’s made a different choice to this point. I do have the anxiety, but there again, I’ve sought help and have worked hard on recovery. He is just now almost being forced to consider recovery.

It’s hard.

Especially since, once again, I am moving on a clear path forward and now my energy is being pulled aside to help deal with the latest family health crisis.

I have a tendency to toss aside all of the things that are important to my health and well-being to manage crisis. I go all in, do all the things and ignore my health. This has been with work, it’s been with family, it’s been with friends…and this time it’s not happening.

If I am proud of one thing, it is that I am no longer willing to compromise my well-being or my goals for someone else in crisis. I have done that too many times, and have paid for it. I’m not where I want to be in life, and a good part of that is because I have put my life on hold to handle someone else’s problem. I just don’t have it in me this time. And this time is a lot more emotional and a lot closer to what could have been me. I can support, I can give hope, I can invite to join, but I cannot fix this, and I do not want to wreck myself in the process.

So I worked my side hustle, I made lunch plans, I’m working hard and I’m still contributing to my brother’s recovery, if not as full-force as I would have in the past. Now to just fit yoga in…

I Got My Ass Kicked Again

It opened the door to the kind of thing that moves the earth on its axis a bit.

And once again, I deserved it.

Twice in the last year I have said something that I did not intend to be harmful, and have gotten called out on it by women whom I respect. They let me know how they perceived my words, I apologized and explained my position, and through civil and forgiving dialogue the relationship was restored.

This time I had said a few negative observations about someone at church and her boyfriend (she’s dating the roommate of this guy), and I had said them to people who did not take them for what they were and move on. My comments turned to gossip, word got around to her through three people, and she asked me to meet her for coffee.

I’ll call her Linda because that works well for an idea I have that I’ll write about in a later post.

I don’t know Linda very well, but she has come across as cold, detached and not willing to invest in the group. That has not sat well with a few people, and some group dynamics have not been very receptive to her perceived attitude. I certainly have not been receptive to it. For her to ask me to coffee was weird. Not thanks, I don’t like you.

But this is church, and I didn’t want to be starting something by declining, so I figured I’d better hear her out, even if she was also going to lay into me for who I choose to date (or anti-date, as the case may be).

She blew me away.

She said she had heard that I had said some unkind things about her, and wanted to know first if that was true, and if so, had she done something to upset me? I was sitting across from a woman ten years younger, being schooled on maturity and kindness. I didn’t think I’d said what she had heard, so I told her that I had made some negative observations, that without knowing who said exactly what it was hard for me to know if the gossip was true but that didn’t matter, because I was sorry I had hurt her and I had no business talking about her, especially since I didn’t know her well. She graciously accepted my apology, then the magic of authenticity happened.

She asked if she had heard correctly that I have PTSD. Yes, I’m open about the car wreck aspect of my diagnosis, and have found that sharing that connects me to people who do not feel as comfortable talking about what their experience is. There can be so much shame with PTSD. I have a platform for talking about it that doesn’t have to get into the years of abuse, and I use that. She doesn’t have that cover, which I quickly understood as we spoke. She’s were I was, experiencing the after-effects of trauma without knowing what to do. As we shared our experiences and I told her that it’s more than a car wreck for me, she bravely told me her story, one that I related to, and one I understood.

When you have PTSD and you meet someone who understands and lets you know that they will give you only acceptance and not judgement, it is freeing. It’s a big step toward getting out of the prison. I have had people open the door to freedom for me, and I had the chance to open the door for her. It was wonderful, and I am kind of glad I got called out for gossip, because it opened the door to the kind of thing that moves the earth on its axis a bit.

That kind of experience also drains me, and I had a panic attack later that evening because I was too tired to manage anxiety. I ended up stonewalling (new term for me, I’m learning so much this week!) David, and shutting down, then texting him an hour later to try to explain what had happened. I had been triggered by something that connected to past abuse, and it took me a while to track it in my brain. I keep stumbling into these triggers and it’s exhausting.

This whole week has been exhausting. I have put so much energy and work into relationships and into myself. I’m back to work so I’m having to balance some tense dynamics there, and heading into the weekend I’ll be working with my grandma on her end of life directives. I may just stay home on Sunday and hide!

The work is worth it, and I’m so grateful for what I’m seeing happen from acting with kindness, honesty and acceptance.

 

I Got Up and Did Yoga

Something clicked for me last night. Something lit up that said this wasn’t going to happen without intention. Duh.

A few weeks ago I bought a book on mindfulness on the recommendation of my therapist. No secret that I am not where I want to be mentally, and I have not been doing much in the way of things that are highly likely to improve myself and give me an edge in my ongoing battle with PTSD. I’ve been flat losing the battle the last couple of weeks. I think some days I don’t want it enough. It’s misery to wallow in it, but then sometimes I don’t know where to find the energy to push out. Yeah, I’ll confess I’ve been wallowing.

I opened The Mindfulness Toolbox last night while I was spending some quality time with anxiety. Sometimes just opening a helpful book is enough to give me a push forward. I liked the first tool so much – working through how you talk about mindfulness. The author pointed out that mindfulness or meditation can be hangups for people of personal or religious backgrounds that aren’t very open to those words, and offered a lot of other ways to think and talk about mindfulness. I was initially attracted to “take a pause”, but on reflection I realized that is exactly what I don’t want to do. Wallowing in anxiety is a pause – I put my life on pause to do that. If I am going to practice being mindful and really get to working on my brain, I don’t think I want to pause, I think I want to flow.

Have I mentioned that I really like this book? And that was just the first couple of pages.

I also did yoga when I got up this morning. Not “I’ll do it later” or “I’ll do it when I get this other stuff done” or “eh I’m barely in shape to hold a downward dog, maybe I can work my way back up to it”. No excuses, no wallowing, I just went for it…I think for the first time in almost 2 months?

Something clicked for me last night. Something lit up that said this wasn’t going to happen without intention, and no one is going to do it for me (duh, I have overall very little support, much less help, which I am pretty sure contributes to the wallowing). It’s also possible that I am experiencing the emotional distress that my therapist warned me was a possible side effect of going off the meds. That should be temporary, which is good news, but rough while it lasts, which is why it’s good I’m finally opening that book and getting on my yoga mat.

A Hero Stepped In

I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal to replace the light. Wrong.

I’m pretty used to doing things myself. While it would be ungrateful and selfish on my part to claim that I don’t get help and support, I often don’t have what I need. People see competence and assume I can handle it, because I mostly do. I don’t see a choice, and asking for help often seems unnecessary because I can usually figure it out.

I meet up with my business partner every Saturday morning to walk several miles and talk business, the world and gossip. It’s great fun, and I pick up bagels for his wife and I on my way. He doesn’t eat gluten so I usually get the side eye, but I live for Saturday morning bagels. Client’s Brother, who I will call David, has had a lot going on the last few days, and we finally got to catch up last night. He asked if it was too late for me to come over and I said yes, because bagels and because I had early morning plans and because I was feeling a bit skittish after a couple of days of not really knowing what was going on or how I fit into things. Laken, your advice was great, I was just supportive and held myself in check a bit. It paid off, because I counter offered to come over this morning with bagels after walk and talk, and it was well worth being supportive and understanding and not reacting based on my worries for a couple of days. We had a lovely day together, and stayed in a couple bubble.

Until I left and he noticed I had a headlamp out on my car.

It has been very cold here and the wildlife are out frisking around. He lives a bit out of town and was concerned about me driving home at night with a light out, so he dug around under my hood until he figured out how to remove the burned out light. I had just enough time to get to the nearest car parts store to get a new one, and I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal to replace the light.

Wrong.

A couple hours later, after I had called to let him know neither I nor the guy at the car parts store could figure this out, he had removed the low beam light and all of its housing and wires and whatever and put it all back together with the new bulb. In the cold. In the dark. With a manual that was not nearly as helpful as it could have been. He didn’t once complain or get overly frustrated or say anything negative to me, he was just happy that I was safe and he could do something for me. Same way he’s calmly knocking down my walls, taking care of me and making me think that whatever magic it is that we have could actually work out.