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.
I caught myself casually ignoring calories last night. I had severe anxiety and just leaving my room was hard. I went from high to severe while I made dinner and felt myself tipping over the edge to xanax level.
That weight loss trigger? Haha, yeah. So I was unconsciously disregarding that I was coping by packing on the calories.
But I noticed.
It’s so hard to reprogram triggers in the middle of severe anxiety. It’s so hard to do anything other than what reads as necessary to survival. I can work. I can feed myself. I can usually shower and brush my teeth. That’s about it.
Which is highlighting an urgent need to pause and make space to dig into this and face it.
After I go get my hair cut.
I’ve leaned into healing this week. I’m still listening to Healing From Trauma: A Survivor’s Guide, and I’ve had to face up to my post-experience and the symptoms that are and aren’t going away. I’ve found that I have a lot of tension in my shoulders and neck – enough to limit my range of motion. I’ve had a couple of mild headaches. I hurt everywhere at times. I have muscle spasms at times. I have intense and lengthy dreams every night, and yesterday woke up with only survival brain functioning and not much else.
I went for walks anyway. I listened to the book anyway. I did yoga anyway. I slowly stepped forward with work anyway. I ate nutritious food anyway. I ignored all social obligations that were just obligations and not things I truly wanted to do. I handled some banking and finance transactions that needed to happen, I made the beginnings of a plan to run my company solo (my business partner has abandoned me but still has to be officially terminated from the business and we have yet to discuss any of it because he bailed out and has not bothered to communicate). I also made a backup plan for work in case that doesn’t work out.
I’m going to heal anyway.
I haven’t been intentional about it until now. I’m waking up to how often I disassociate, how much memory I don’t have because I wasn’t present, how numb I am, how overwhelmed I am, how often I am in survival mode. I’m still surviving, not living, and I am now starting to understand why.
THIS IS HARD. I’m going to do it anyway.
The next 100 days will end sometime near the end of September, close to the 5-year mark of the week of trauma that nearly took me down. And for the next 100 days, I’m going to be intentional about healing and see where I get.
A word has stayed with me over the last year as I’ve endured one trial after another. Not one I chose or a “word of the year”, rather one that came to me, that I’ve grappled with, that expresses the complexity of my experience.
It is used in different ways in English. It means a few things to me.
First it was that I’d had enough. How much could a person endure? I’ve since learned not to ask that question. Then I wondered if I could do enough, if I had the capacity to do what was required of me. I’ve struggled with believing I am enough, that what I offer and what I can do is sufficient.
There aren’t many aspects of “enough” I haven’t contemplated, worked through, worked around and sought to understand. I’ve looked at the concept expressed in Scripture, linking the idea of fullness and completion to the concept of “enough”. It’s notably part of Jesus’s teaching on forgiveness – how many times do you forgive? Essentially, “enough”. He said 70 x 7, but those words were symbolic, not a literal 490.
I’ve been so challenged by this word. But I think the challenge is past and the practice is present. To live with “enough”, peacefully.
I’ve had enough.
I have enough.
I am enough.