It’s My Birthday!

This seems to be the year that I can process why I hate my birthday so much.

Last night was hell.

My birthday is a trauma anniversary. Eating is a coping mechanism. Work is a coping mechanism. Isolation is a coping mechanism. Ironically, all things that I can’t always avoid…

I stayed in bed most of the day yesterday and napped in between working. I had nothing left, and in therapy I identified that I felt like I didn’t matter to the people close to me and felt alone. I had forgotten that my birthday was used as a weapon against me in previous years, and it took most of the day for me to consciously remember that, and to realize that I was having a rough day because I was anticipating another horrible birthday. Another day that was supposed to be about me on which I was ignored, abused and made to feel like nothing.

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I ran off to the desert this year and thought through how to reclaim my birthday. I was going to make it about me doing for myself this year, about not relying on others to make the day special. My brain had other ideas, and last night was an emotional post-trauma hell. This morning I’m still shaky, still feeling a bit off. The well wishes started before 6 this morning, which I really appreciate. I still can’t connect to them, and I’m still a bit walled off, and still a bit emotional, but I’m much better, and the crazy has subsided.

I understand that sometimes the brain – and this seems to be true for mine – cannot process trauma until it feels safe to do so. My experience with that is as soon as I think I’ve taken a step forward in recovery and made progress, I get rewarded by the baseball bat of trauma memory. Congrats! You’re doing great in recovery! WHACK! It’s so painful and frustrating and…shit. This seems to be the year that I can process why I hate my birthday so much. Maybe that means a better next year? I was able to sit with the pain last night. I still haven’t needed Xanax this year. Yep, I made it through last night without meds to knock me out so I could avoid it. I took the beating, and today I kinda feel like I got that beating.

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I woke up early to a quiet house. No cards, no acknowledgement that it’s my birthday. It’s expected, my family doesn’t make a big deal out of my birthday. I used to be the one to make a big deal out of it, used to make my own cake and organize my celebration, so I can understand why they don’t. And the point for me is to not rely on others for this. Emotionally, it’s still a letdown, but rationally, I enjoy the quiet morning. It’s raining and cold and I’m temped to not even leave the house today. I can work from the comfort and safety of my bed again, and ignore the world for another day. I can nap again if I need to.

Cause, you know, it’s my birthday!

Which Pulls the Trigger?

We (my therapist and I) are asking what the root question is that not having the answer is so hard for me to handle.

Millennials and trigger warnings – we all roll our eyes, right?

I think I might have to get a t-shirt:

Warning: Don’t Trigger Me. 

I’m looking at you, grocery store parking lot drivers.

Four years after the event that gifted me with PTSD and a year and a half into therapy, we are finally able to start looking into why I still get triggered. Why my brain floods with a burst of chemicals that wreck me without chemical intervention. We (my therapist and I) are asking what the root question is that not having the answer is so hard for me to handle. Why did I end up crumpled on the floor last week? Why do I have so much anxiety about my brother? Why is work Such. A. Challenge.?

I had no idea you could even ask, much less answer those questions. I find it encouraging. I like that I can keep learning and growing and figuring this mess out, that I’m not stuck in a black abyss of not knowing. It’s hard work, and having to do this while my brother is both recovering and rebelling, while my mom is bedridden and while my clients are a collective dumpster fire is HARD.

But hell, it’s better than doing all of this and not believing I’ll be able to get a handle on my brain some day.