By the time Friday night rolls around, my brain is doing something like this:
(checking weather forecast) ok so I didn’t get around to my side projects for work this week and I could work on the mapping project tomorrow, or I could work on that paper I want to write…exercise would be good, but it’ll be pretty warm so maybe I’ll go for a walk if I get up early enough because I don’t want to sweat a lot…but I could work all afternoon and that would be fine, and it’ll help me get caught up so I’ll be ready to deal with whatever happens next week, and I’ve been wanting to get some forward progress on that mapping and haven’t done it…I really need to get my shit together…maybe Monday I’ll try to be better about eating and exercise, I just need to get caught up on these projects……………………
By the time Friday night rolls around, my body is doing something like this:
Wow, I still have a lot of tension in my shoulders, and the spot on my shoulder that sometimes has stabbing pain is flaring up…I really want to rest and take a break…are you noticing what is happening? I need you to take a time out and start writing about your trauma experiences, because you’re still stuck on a few things and you just learned that writing can be an effective way to integrate trauma…you’re also carrying a lot of tension in your hips and your breathing is still shallow a lot of the time, so take some time to practice yoga…you just learned that approaching yoga differently than you’ve done it so far could be really beneficial to your nervous system, so take some time to try that out and see what happens…………..
My weekends need some practice.
I still feel like I was just in a car wreck, and I have a lot of neck and upper back pain. PTSD is a weird animal. I slept 12 hours last night and spent a lot of it dreaming about whether I experience schizophrenia. It was a main point in my dream sequence, questioning myself about it and evaluating and seeking out evaluation.
When I was diagnosed with PTSD I was evaluated for numerous mental health conditions, all of which were ruled out, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I don’t believe that’s what I’m experiencing now, but I’m also curious as to why that condition specifically. I don’t know much about it so I’m not approaching the question with a lot of knowledge, and I’m not aware of knowing anyone with that diagnosis, so I don’t have personal experience to speak to. I don’t know why that was part of my unconscious processing. I don’t know what, if anything, it means.
I do know that this week, the anniversary of the trauma that got me an altered brain, has been painful and limiting. There are so many things that I want to do that I am not able to access because my body’s memory of being under life-ending threat is so powerful that it is blocking my attempts to live. I’m not even talking about jetting off on a last-minute weekend trip or kayaking on some of the fast rivers created by recent flooding, I’m talking about cleaning my floor and pulling out the cold weather clothes I’ll need for Monday. I’m listening to The Body Keeps Score, but I’m not making it through fast enough to know how to address this and what I can do differently. It feels like I’ve reached a sticking point in recovery – as in I AM STUCK and don’t know how to wiggle past. Somewhere in my brain below the trauma I have the desire to wiggle out and start living, but that desire is under a mountain of trauma that does not want to budge.
I am struggling this week. Losing Josh in the middle of the week that my body remembers as the most traumatic week of my life is just hard. I didn’t prepare for it because my therapist thinks that creating that expectation will make the week inevitably negative, but not preparing for it has just left me unprepared for what I’m experiencing. I worked well past midnight last night and have been busting my ass for the last few weeks. I’m busy with work, yes, but I am also using it to cope, per usual. I didn’t plan to take a day for myself to be still and reflective and work on reprogramming, I was going to travel out of town on an unnecessary work trip just to accommodate someone I have already over accommodated. This was not a good approach for my situation, and now with a funeral tomorrow and my owns needs and experiences not met or addressed, I am struggling to hold it together.
This shit is hard.
It’s likely that by Monday (or even before) I’ll be ok and the moment will have passed and I will have some freedom for a while. That does not help me today. Today my body hurts, I feel compressed and pinned, I want to isolate and disappear and be swallowed up and I am so consumed by stress (not anxiety, strangely) that I cannot let my foot off…
And in writing those last 6 words and reading them on the screen I realized what I am doing. I pushed down on the brake of my car so hard and for so long as I smashed down a highway that my heel was bruised. I tried so hard to stop the crash that could not be stopped that I have stayed that way, foot on the brake, for five years. I am that way now. My body feels like it did while I was bracing myself to die. It hurts.
I don’t know why today. Today isn’t the anniversary, but it’s the date that I’ve had in my head. The 14th will be the 5th anniversary by date, it was on a Monday. Today is the 11th, a Thursday, and it’s in the middle. I had a traumatic breakup (the back story covers four years so just understand that it was a severely traumatic moment) on October 8 or 9 (I can’t even remember things were so blurred at the time) so the 11th is in the middle of the two events that resulted in my PTSD diagnosis. It was too much for me to handle. I had no support. I had no way to talk about it. I just had to keep going. And my body remembers.
But now I know. I don’t quite know what to do about it, but if the first step is to recognize what’s happening and notice how it feels, there are surely more steps to take following that will lead away from what I’m experiencing now so that I don’t have to do it again. I would really like to let my foot off the brake.
I don’t often have nightmares. I don’t recall ever having a triggering nightmare, although I don’t tend to retain memories of triggers so I may have just forgotten. That all changed the other night when I started awake at 3:30 in absolute terror. I had been dreaming that I was riding home with my mom and instead of turning left onto our street, she turned right and we were facing the street dead ending into a cornfield. Sirens were suddenly blaring, lights were flashing red, it was the end of the world, people were starting to appear, screaming, the car hit something, she was dead and I was crumpled in the passenger floor board.
It took over an hour for me to calm down enough to go back to sleep.
I rarely have literal dreams. I don’t remember having dreams that resemble flashbacks. I don’t have flashbacks. It was so literal, and so related to the car wreck that broke my brain. It was horrible and terrifying and shocking after I’ve worked so hard at recovery and have experienced something like that so seldom, especially after the 5 years it’s been.
I wrecked in early October. We’re approaching that time, and I don’t want to make a deal of it. One year, maybe year 3, it didn’t bother me and I seem to remember sailing through like it was past. That doesn’t seem to be true, and I think part of the difficulty I’m having now is related to an approaching trauma anniversary. Maybe because I’ve dragged so much up to deal with? Maybe because I’ve dug so deep? That answer feels like the right one, much as I hate it. I hear the body keeps score, after all. And I still need to read that book.
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.
Somehow today ended up being the day I’ve had to stare my self-worth in the face. @#$%
The message I’ve gotten for as long as I can remember is that I’m not good enough, or I only have the value assigned to me by others. Which still means not good enough. It’s come from so many people in so many situations that I don’t even remember how it started. Trauma hit that mess with an exponential multiplier, and here I am, today, getting knocked down again with where that’s gotten me.
After some painful reflection, this might be the first day in my memory that I’m enough for me. Which means I don’t need to be good enough for anyone else. Just me.
I have recently become aware of how often I disassociate – I am presently lacking memory of a lot of time. I hurt everywhere. My weight is at its highest ever at 216 lbs. Getting out of bed is unappealing. Vigorous exercise is less appealing. Healing trauma is appealing, but it’s hard and makes me tired. I kind of just want to quit, in a general sense.
I’ve been sleeping this week. I’ve been trying to let my body rest as much as possible. That has meant I am also dreaming vivid dreams every night. I’ve noticed that the last two nights my dreams have shifted from a seemingly random and meandering narrative and wandering around places then waking feeling disturbed to dreaming that I am taking control of and addressing situations I don’t like. Last night, for example, I was eating dinner outside under a large awning and someone was flying a drone right over our heads and up under the awning. It was disturbing and unpleasant, so I reached up and pulled it out of the air, knowing that I could do that with no injury to myself if I caught the part that rests on the ground during takeoff and landing. I shook it to break it out of radio control and tossed it on the ground, to everyone else’s shock.
I like to think it’s a sign that I’m ready to take charge of my life again.
I don’t like myself right now – I don’t like who I’ve become post-trauma. I realized this yesterday evening. Disregard the weight gain – I’m not comfortable in my own skin because I don’t like my skin. I don’t like my limitations, and I am not willing to make peace with something I don’t like. Changing myself will be hard, but this whole effort to heal (and therefore be a person I enjoy being) is hard anyway. I understand that self-judging and criticizing isn’t helpful to me right now, and I don’t think I’m doing that, I think I can just admit that I don’t honestly like ME and want to be someone I do like.
So here’s to the start of 100 Days of seeing where I can go with an intentional effort to heal, with a big curiosity about what I can learn and who I can be.