Done for the Year

My emotions need a break, and I want to do things that are comforting and not the least bit stressful.

I mentioned in therapy yesterday that I am done with 2017. I’m done with work, done with social engagements and all I want to do is sleep in comfy pajamas and bake in between reading books and sipping tea. Really, in two more weeks I can do that, but I don’t want to wait two more weeks. Even a week and a half.

I think a lot of other people are feeling this. We’re done. This year was rough, there has been a LOT of trauma and anxiety and negative energy, and I want to just bubble up and pretend it doesn’t exist for a bit. My emotions need a break, and I want to do things that are comforting and not the least bit stressful. I want to do things that bring me joy and that are gratifying to others. I’ve spent so much energy trying to hold it together this year that I am depleted and in need of rest, rest I haven’t taken the time for because…reasons.

Maybe a re-frame is better. Maybe I’m not done for the year, maybe I’m done expending energy on anxiety for the year. Maybe I’m done expending energy on externalities for the year. Maybe for the rest of the year my energy will go toward positive things that bring me joy rather than black holes of negativity. I think I’ll be in a much better position to give in the new year.

Flashbacks in the Rain

I almost died in a car wreck that happened in the rain. For the most part (and thanks to EMDR and a lot of therapy) I don’t really have problems anymore when I drive. When I do, I have coping skills that work well. So today was a pretty big surprise when I was driving in the rain on my way to a meeting and started having flashbacks, not about my car wreck, but about the day of my brother’s accident. Clear as anything were the memories of getting the call from my mom, picking up his truck, sitting in the ICU waiting room unable to pray and barely able to hold it together, leaning on the prayers and shoulders of friends.

I’ve rarely had flashbacks of my own trauma, much less that of someone else. And while that day was traumatic for me, it hasn’t had nearly the impact that my own trauma has.

As I began to write this post, I also began to ask why and to process what happened this afternoon. I’m dreaming again… I’m processing again… I’m resolving trauma again.

I am done being afraid of the hold the past has on me. I’ve survived this much this long, and I can deal with whatever else boils up. But this was interesting, because as much as the flashback experience while driving on slick roads was not pleasant, it didn’t shake me. I’m now more curious about it, about where it came from and why that day?

I dream when I’m relaxed or when I am processing. Emotions, events – they all get run through my dream cycles in full color and epic drama. I don’t dream the exact thing, I dream versions of it, or nothing at all related. I started dreaming again this week after a long time off. My resting heart rate is slowly dropping, I’m a little more calm during the day and now memories are emerging that probably haven’t been dealt with. The human brain is fascinating.

Am I excited by this? Nope. Am I afraid of it? Also nope. Gonna deal with it and move on…

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Getting Me Back

Sex and dating have been the last big issues I haven’t really dealt with post-PTSD. I didn’t have to, so I didn’t, and figured I’d deal with it when I had to. Well, now I have to if I want this relationship to continue. Which I do, because Client’s Brother is an incredible surprise, and I’d like to see where we go. He knows I still have a lot of shit to work through, and he’s kind and compassionate about it. Since I have a giant question mark about my reactions to everything (post-assault I am pretty skittish about, well, everything), I have no idea what I’m comfortable with and what I’m not. I have so many negative emotions about sex and dating, and changing that is going to take time and energy that I don’t yet have available for this. He’s walking through this with me, and I couldn’t really ask for more. It’s quite wonderful.

As I’m rolling into the end of the work year and things slow down for about a month, I have some space to step away from the office and focus on myself. It’s time I really need to do this, to get ME back. I need to form different coping habits, need to resolve some background noise and pursue some things that bring me joy, things that I haven’t had the energy to pursue. As much as the recovery process is central to my life, I’m ready to move beyond recovery and be more than the anxiety and scars. I think that identity was ok for a while, and I think it gave me a bit of shelter, but I’m more than the scars and want to be more than the anxiety. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, I don’t start things on Mondays and I try to avoid high-expectation change scenarios. I’d rather start something on a Tuesday in April. So no end-of-year or new year plans, just seems like the right time to push myself forward a bit and regain some of what I like about myself.

Second Date/Planned First Date

There will be more of these.

Second date with Client’s Brother ended up being 12 hours. Sometimes you just don’t wanna leave…

Experience (which is not what any sane person wants to claim, but my 20s were a rough time in my life) has taught me that if I don’t bend (at times until I break) for another person, they’ll leave. I have been so accommodating for so long that I forgot to say what I want and need and not care if that didn’t work for him. That changed last night.

Client’s Brother met me after church to grab some supplies, eat lunch and head out Talkative Friend’s house to work on our charity craft project. He met the kids, was very helpful and actually worked, whereas they mostly socialized. I have some large wall art pieces to finish, and he painted framed and nailed boards like a pro. I introduced him but didn’t mention how I knew him, because, frankly, it’s more fun for them to wonder. We finished for the day in just enough time to make it to watch the sun set over the lake, and it is not terrible to be held and have your neck kissed while you watch the sky aflame with color. My favorite restaurants are closed on Sundays, so we got margaritas, then pizza and beer, splitting a massive slice while we snuggled and watched football.

Then we kissed in my car in the Home Depot parking lot till 1:30 in the morning. PG, y’all.

I am all for taking time to get to know someone. I think relationships happen at so many different speeds. I also think that with what I live with, and the lingering damage of assault, it’s better for a guy to know up front what he’s getting into. I may come off as bubble princess in public, but my private life is far different, and I don’t want to have to pretend with him. So I told him what being in my life entails, what I have to work through still and that I am still learning to ask for what I need. He was so accepting and accommodating. He asked what he needed to do and what that would look like for him. I just asked for patience, and he told me I was worth it.

We traded stories of our demons in between kisses. So many kisses. He’s just as hesitant that I won’t accept his past, even though he’s now a different person. He has similar family obligations, responsibilities and concerns, he has made bad relationship choices and he wants better. And he’s smart. He doesn’t understand what I deal with but he’s already shown he’s willing to take care of me. He’s affectionate, which I need because I am too. Two grown-ass adults PG kissing in a car for 4 hours? Because I was vulnerable and he valued that? It’s a way better experience. Here’s to trying new things.

About That Date Last Night

Really not ready to date yet. I did it anyway.

I met up with some friends downtown for the annual turning on of the Christmas lights. I don’t care for crowds and getting bumped can trigger me so I generally avoid this kind of thing, but I figured why not? Client’s Brother decided that was a great reason to meet up with me rather than wait for Sunday, so we ended up on a spontaneous date. We grabbed some beers, watched part of the game, took a picture with the most epic ugly sweater ever (the guy also had Christmas ornaments hung in his long beard) and made out in my car for over an hour.

My post-trauma dating history is terrible. My ex did damage I am still trying to recover from, I have gone out with psychopaths (clinical) and guys with severe attachment disorder and it has all left me not wanting to date again, because I am tired of picking the bad apples. I’m pretty skittish.

But, you know, what the hell.

Thankful

Practicing gratitude does a lot for mental health.

I woke up in the middle of the night with searing pain in my tension spot. I have a place near my right shoulder in my trapezoid muscle that seizes up when I am really tense. It feels like the muscle is being ripped out. Fun times, right? I had just finished a REM cycle and had had a nap yesterday, so I ended up being awake for about an hour, which was plenty long enough to slap a Tiger Balm patch on it and consider just getting up already.

I went back to sleep.

I previously wrote about living with near constant physical and emotional pain. It can be hard to be thankful, but gratitude is so necessary to a good life. A friend asked me yesterday how I deal with it all. I do exactly what I was doing yesterday – serve other people and meet their needs. I mixed dressing (not stuffing cause it was in pans, not in birds), filled to-go boxes, made friends and delivered meals to elderly members of the community. I sat with a woman who cried because she is lonely, having lost her husband about this time last year. They were married for 74 years. I offered to come back to see her and bring some friends, and she accepted.

I got so much more out of that than I gave.

I met a woman who also has PTSD, who works with veterans because it helps her to be around people who get it. She, too, is a survivor of sexual assault, and she, too, knows the incredibly stupid things people say when you open up about an experience others don’t understand. That connection was such a blessing, and we plan to get to know each other better. She is surprised I am still here. I’m thankful someone recognizes the hell.

Client’s Brother (I really love ridiculous nicknames so that will be hard to change if this goes forward) asked me out, and we’ve been talking in the meantime. He invited me to lunch and a brewery on Sunday, and I countered with my commitment to make wall art to sell to support an orphanage. He offered to help with that instead and said the brewery could wait. I’ve been clear about having PTSD, that crafting is with some bonkers 20-ish church kids, he knows I have a stalker because stalker emailed me yesterday to wish me and my family a Happy Thanksgiving (ugh) and so far the date is still on. I’m not used to people just rolling with me. I’m also not used to standing on a position of join me or don’t, this is what I’m doing regardless, because this is what I want.

So many reasons to be thankful, not in spite of, but in the midst of.

Bone Deep and Mind Breaking

‘Tis the season for joint pain.

Pain, you make me a believer.

I’m a summer girl, if for no other reason than hot weather doesn’t cause me joint pain. I inherited the family curse of old bones in a young body, and I can sit around with mature members of society and chat aches and pains with the best of them. They never believe someone my age can know how they feel, but since I can predict weather changes based on my elbows and hands and predict the overnight temps based on my knees, they eventually come around to accepting me as one of the wise. Or at least one of the chronically inflamed.

Add the prospect of months of constant deep joint pain to my neurological disorders and you get someone who hates winter. Me.

I finally broke again yesterday. I hit my limit of stress and went over the edge into nausea, dizziness and headache. Am I getting sick? No. I have PTSD, and the stress overload I’ve experienced in the last two weeks sent me over the edge again. The nausea is not completely new, the dizziness was. Thankfully I was able to hold it together to work with a couple of clients, and my mom and my brother kindly drove me where I needed to go. I was not about to drive in that state. Could I? Yes. Was that the best thing for me and everyone else on the road? No.

It would have been better if, when I got off work and got my hair cut, then grabbed some crafting supplies for a project I’m working on for a charitable organization, I had popped a Xanax and gone to bed. Just be done with the day and the stress and sleep it off. But I am so determined to not let the negative part of my brain control my life. So I texted a friend to see if I could catch a ride with her to Bible study and she gracefully didn’t hesitate. That support network? It’s everything on the days I can’t.

I took my knitting because it helps me stay present in group discussions, and knitted my way through tackling Jonathan Edwards’ writings on Charity. It was challenging, and it was good. The woman who hosts us in her home had made a spiced tea and cookies, and she has such a calm, loving presence. Toward the end we shared prayer requests, and I opened up about my struggles, about trying to come to terms with my new normal, that there are always barriers to living the life I want to live, that I have realized I will never be healed and I will live with this for the rest of my time on earth.

I live in pain. Every waking moment is hell because I have no hope that this life will ever be what I want, that what has happened to my brain will subside and I can live free from the demons in my head. I expressed that, and was received with love. One of the women in our group said that what I was saying was exactly her daughter’s experience. I found so much comfort in that, that someone understood. Those that didn’t understand met me with love and compassion.

That moment of vulnerability? It opened up so much love for me. It added women to my circle and to my team in struggling against and with what I’ve been dealt. I have gotten really ignorant responses from church people about my condition and what I do to try to heal. Last night was not that, and I was so comforted.

It is so fucking hard to be vulnerable when the person you were is ripped out of your hands and you’re trying to find your way again. But damn is it sometimes worth it.

And Client’s Brother messaged me all evening, showing a lot more interest than I expected.

When you live with chronic pain it can be hard to be thankful. But today I am so, so thankful.