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 – PTSD Basics

Here are some things I wish I had known earlier:

Welcome to hell.

That feels like the real welcome. PTSD is hell. It’s worse if you don’t have information about it, support for your experience or can see a way out. It’s standard-issue to feel trapped and unable to escape. Not only can doors seem closed, they can seem to not exist at all. And that’s why it’s hell. It is really hard to have hope when you first come to understand that you have PTSD.

It doesn’t always show itself at first. It took me two years to get diagnosed, and until then I had no idea what was wrong with me, I just knew I either needed to get help or I was going to move to Canada. That’s not a joke, I was checking into travel when someone opened a door for me. And that is the beautiful thing about this experience, and something worth holding onto: people will open the doors that you couldn’t even see.

I hope these letters give you comfort and encouragement. I hope that my experience helps you reclaim yourself because you have more information, and you have someone who understands. So here are some things I wish I had known earlier:

  • You are not crazy. It feels like you are, yes, but what you have is a diagnosable condition from trauma. Your brain has an injury that needs to heal, and that does not make you crazy, it makes you absolutely deserving of love, support and healing.
  • Not all PTSD looks the same. If comparison is the root of envy, it is also the root of you being really unsure if you even have PTSD. Humans are unique and our neurologic response to trauma is unique. Just because you don’t have the symptoms on a list on the internet or because you don’t think your experience with trauma was “as bad as someone else” doesn’t mean that you are any more or less, it means that there is good reason for addressing your experience and needs, not someone else’s.
  • You can heal. In a lot of ways this can feel like a life sentence, and it is. There is so much damage from negative thoughts and behaviors that come from PTSD, especially if your trauma experience is not addressed for years after it happens. But there is always hope! It takes work, and it’s hard, but you can heal. It starts with believing that you can, and I certainly believe you can, because I’ve been there.
  • Give yourself some space to heal. If you had a broken arm, you would have gone to the doctor, had your arm repaired, be in a cast, possibly had surgery and have a timeline of several weeks to heal. Then you would get your cast off and still have time to rebuild strength in your arm and get it back to full use. If you didn’t get medical help very soon after your arm broke, your arm might heal in a way that made it hard to use, or very painful. Our brains aren’t very different! The big difference is that we often can’t see when our brains break, so they are much harder to get help for, and, unlike a broken arm, brain trauma can have a lot of shame with it, so it can be really hard to talk about and get help for. And that’s ok, because you didn’t know. Don’t beat yourself up, rather acknowledge that you didn’t know, and now that you do you can start the healing process.
  • There is not a timeline. This is not school or work. There are no deadlines or requirements, this is all at your pace. You get to decide what you’re comfortable with and what kind of progress you want to make. For me, it has take two years to get stable, to understand my trauma and my experience to the point that when I have severe anxiety or flashbacks or triggers I can deal with them in a healthy, healing way rather than a negative, harmful way. I still have a lot of work to do, and as I heal, I am finding more trauma I wasn’t aware of. Not fun! But I have accepted this is a process that does not have a timeline or expectations, it’s a journey at my own pace. The more effort I put into healing, the faster I heal, and the more I put off taking care of myself, the less progress I make. That also means I get to take breaks when I get tired of this whole thing or if I get busy with other things in life. When I have the motivation and space, I can really dig into re-wiring my brain.
  • Start with acknowledgement. PTSD can have so many lies. Anxiety is a lie, depression is a lie – there are so many things your brain will tell you that aren’t true. However, that experience is very real, and very valid. All it takes to start on the path to healing is to recognize what’s going on. If you are experiencing anxiety, acknowledge it. If you have a trigger experience, acknowledge it. If you are drained and exhausted, acknowledge it. If you can’t deal with groups today, acknowledge it. If you are in fight mode, acknowledge it. If you feel like you are stuck, acknowledge it. For me this was the hardest and easiest step to take. “I acknowledge that I have a lot of anxiety right now.” may seem silly or pointless, but recognizing what you feel and pausing to acknowledge it is actually a very powerful step forward. When you recognize negative experiences, you can address them. Start there.

Dating with PTSD – Communication Failure

I’m pretty used to doing this by myself, at least that’s a more comfortable place than this new hell. 

The post I wrote yesterday? Ha. Yeah.

I didn’t hear from David for hours yesterday. No response to the text I sent in the morning, no response to the text I sent in the afternoon asking if he was ok. I put all of my energy yesterday into not freaking out, into not assuming that something had happened to him, to one of his family, that he wasn’t massively hungover, that he hadn’t ghosted me…and worst of all, that after WE JUST HAD THIS CONVERSATION, he hadn’t just failed to hear me or failed to care and done exactly what I had asked him – and he had agreed – not to do.

It brought back all of the abuse, all of the manipulation, all of the fear, all of the four years that I lived through absolute hell in a relationship. Merry Christmas to me, those wounds are still there.

On top of that, I had to deliver news to my grandma that made her cry, deal with general family holiday angst around me and advise my brother on asking out a girl he likes (which did not go well, she just wants to be friends, so now my empathetic ass is taking that disappointment on as well).

I was already a Xanax in when I did hear from him. He’d left his phone at a friend’s the night before and it was dead when he got it back, so I finally hear from him when he got it charged. Did I want to talk?

No. I didn’t want to talk. Ever.

I did talk, last night I told you exactly what will violently drag up horrible pain for me, and that is exactly what you did the next day. You keep telling me you understand, but your words don’t mean shit. Words are empty, they’re hollow, they have no meaning without action, and your actions made it quite clear that I’m not a good fit for you.

I don’t have anyone walking with me in this. I don’t have anyone that I can let in to where the past hurts the most to help me stare it in the face and tell it I’m no longer a prisoner. PTSD doesn’t go away, it doesn’t have a cure, it doesn’t have an end. Do I want to talk? I barely fucking know what to say to myself, much less to you. I am dragging up all kinds of new hurt by dating again, by letting someone in, and there is a reason I have done this by myself for so long. You make it worse. I asked you not to, and you made it worse.

I did talk last night. I kept calm, I didn’t blame, I tried really hard to say how I felt without losing my cool. I tried to say what I need. I was also on Xanax so who even knows. We’d had plans to meet up, and those had been blown to hell, and I really didn’t want to see or talk to him until after Christmas.

The guy who put me here in the first place? He loved to wreck Christmas for me. So this happening so close to Christmas was just another layer of pain.

Did I mention I got Christmas gifts from my stalker yesterday too? That pushed me over into a profanity-laced screaming episode about…everyone.

This morning I was the first to reach out again. I let David know I still wasn’t ok. He made it about him, asking, “Still me?” “Let’s maybe say the situation.” Because I am not wanting to assign blame to him when it was something that just happened. I called him after church and he was on his way to help his brother. Again, not available.

I can’t fix this one. I don’t want to. I’m trying so hard to not let one mishap wreck a relationship that has been so good up to this point, but I needed to see more from him. I needed to see that he understood enough to try to reassure me that he’s there. But he isn’t, and since I’m pretty used to doing this by myself, at least that’s a more comfortable place than this new hell.

I Just Got My Ass Kicked, And I Deserved It

I made a light-hearted social media post this morning about getting coffee and bagels from a local joint in spite of the “hurricane”, which hasn’t actually hit my area yet with anything bust a bit of rain and wind. I was watching a lot of local businesses say they were going to be closed today out of panic over conditions that weren’t happening, and as a staunch supporter of entrepreneurs and local business I was happy to promote a new coffee truck that had creatively figured out how to keep customers out of the rain and in good supply of coffee and bagels, which happen to be my favorite coffee and bagels ever, THE END.

A friend who is from one of the coastal areas most affected by Hurricane Harvey was upset enough about what I said to tell me what she thought about my insensitive post and relate all the hell her family and friends are going through.

Did I mean it like that? No. Did I make reference to anywhere other than my own town? No. Did I mention harm or coastal areas or make any lame “thoughts and well wishes for those affected” statements? Nope. I told my local friends to not be pussies and go support a local business that couldn’t afford a major hit on a Saturday.

That was not the point. The point is I inadvertently hurt someone with my cavalier statement, and she was friend enough to call me out on it. I was friend enough to not be defensive, but to explain my perspective, acknowledge she was fair in kicking my ass and I immediately changed my post. It didn’t matter that I didn’t mean to, it mattered that what I said upset her and maybe other people. She didn’t call me out publicly, she texted me. We had a sincere dialogue about it, she understood and admitted she may have reacted a bit strongly, and I corrected what I had said wrongly in her eyes. We both walked away in agreement, satisfied and committed to a friendship that has lasted over a decade.

I want that from my friendships, and I want that from myself. I don’t want to get defensive when someone tells me I’ve done wrong, I don’t want to deflect a rebuke, I want to have the maturity and humility to say yes, I am sorry, how can I make that right? I have heard so much refusal to take responsibility lately, and I’m glad I’ve learned from it rather than participate in it. I’m glad I got my ass kicked. I’m glad I have a friend who was willing to kick it.