There’s a lot of backstory to it, but my relationship with my boyfriend has been challenging, and I have felt like I’ve been pushed to a place of calling it quits. We’ve both had to learn a lot about ourselves and communication in the last year, and recently I’ve been faced with a choice of pushing past all of that and being vulnerable and honest and starting – and leading – hard conversations, or quitting.
I really wanted to quit.
It’s so much harder to be honest with myself and with him, to say the things that aren’t fun to say, to draw the lines and hold to them, to lay out the situation without making threats, to set boundaries without making selfish demands and to practice love when I have no idea if it will be returned.
I’ve had moments of bright, happy and cheerful the past two days, which quickly tips over into what feels more like manic than actually happy and calm, but I’m still mostly struggling through the confining, dark depression of PTSD. It doesn’t help to be constantly triggered while trying to work through communication and behavior course corrections
I want to take a break from all of it.
But as we know, life doesn’t stop. And if anything, I’m proud of myself for not giving up on me.
is not the approach to life I want to take.
is not in conflict with the joy of living.
is so far out of my grasp that all I can do is see one step in front of me at a time.
As I near 100 days of being intentional about healing, the thing that is most evident is that I still have a long way to go. Nothing has become easy, none of my challenges have miraculously disappeared, I’m not some enlightened being, I don’t have my shit together, I still have trouble setting and maintaining boundaries, I didn’t achieve my fitness or weight loss goals, I don’t have better friendships or the relationship of my dreams, I don’t have a flush bank account or a wildly successful business or anything spectacular.
I have the ability acknowledge the small things that quickly build to big things when live with severe anxiety. I have the belief that I can change and grow, that my spiritually holds a critical place in all of this, that I can hold two opposing things to be true at once, that discipline and hard work are available to me, that I’m not trapped by my circumstances or by what life hands me, that I can have a life I deeply enjoy and that the magic is not in achieving the things on the horizon but in appreciating today for what it is and what it teaches. I can be and have been present, and I can be increasingly present in my life, which is what I have not been able to be for years. And that alone is worth the effort.
It only took 9 words to trigger me so badly that I had to hang up the phone and fight for control of my brain. It only took 5 seconds for my body to flood with chemicals so hard that I could feel it happening and knew I had to get clear of anything that might compound the trauma I had just experienced (being triggered can be traumatizing) before I put myself at risk of losing control of my car again. I got triggered by a comment that conjured up a past horrific experience while driving on the road I nearly died on 5 years ago next month. There is no way to explain the pain and fear.
But I can explain that I knew how to manage it. I got off the phone quickly, I started breathing deeply, I reminded myself that I can perform mechanical tasks just fine when under extreme stress – and driving is a mechanical task – I reminded myself that I was safe from the thing that was terrifying my brain even if being on the interstate at a high speed was not particularly safe, that even if I wasn’t in control I never really am anyway so that wasn’t worth expending energy on, and if I wanted to drop my plans and go home, I could do that. If I wanted to pull off the road and get someone to come get me, I could. If I wanted to never talk to that person again, I could. If I never wanted to work again, I could. If I never wanted to drive again, I could.
I got to my work meeting and parked, then sat in the car for a minute to collect myself and check in now that I wasn’t focused on highway survival. It took 90 seconds before I started feeling tired and defeated. That kind of experience – going from focused and intentional to fighting for your life in the space of less than 10 words – is one that I’m still not sure how I survive.
What I can’t explain is how I called the person who triggered me back and made sure they understood that they can never use that phrase with me again. Ever. I can’t explain how I walked into the meeting and was fully present and engaged for five hours, including calling back a difficult client during the break and walking through what he was requesting. Or how I drove straight to another client’s office to sign legal paperwork needed required for a project, checked in on project progress and had a long chat with the admin about something I care nothing about (but she does) before I got back to my office to finish and submit an application that has a critical deadline more than 24 hours before that deadline. I turned right around on a phone call and addressed an asinine response from a city official to plans I had submitted, made the “corrections” to keep the peace (even if everything was right there in the documents and the revisions were a complete waste of my time) and finished up with a 10 hour day…10 hours after I was triggered.
I ate whatever the hell I wanted for dinner. Which amounted to half a baked potato and a slice of bread in addition to what was otherwise a normal keto meal.
PTSD is a living hell. But life goes on, and I’m going with it.
You know when you have really good intentions and then a thunderstorm hits and you get jarred out of your meditative state and that’s the end of that for the day?
I finally felt so blocked by anxiety that I knew I had to do something about it, so I got comfortable and start to reprocess my thinking and my experience. It was nice at first to have the rain as a background (we’ve gotten a lot of rain lately), but after a few minutes of mental progress, lightning hit close to my house and startled me out of my calm. I don’t have a gunshot trigger, but I do startle easily at sudden noise and movement, so that was the end of my meditative calm. Damn.
But, after more sleep I’m a little better today, more calm and focused and more open to leaving the house and being in public while wearing actual clothes and not anything that makes me feel as invisible or unattractive as possible. My weight has inched back up slightly (those extra calories I was unconsciously sneaking in), but today it isn’t an issue for me to stick to the calorie plan and accept that the extra weight no longer serves me or the life that I want to be living.