so sometimes I rush through resolution rather than waiting for better.
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 have a Fitbit for feedback. I like to know where my resting heart rate is, I like to know how much I’m moving, I like to know how I sleep, and I count calories. I used to do it obsessively, but I’ve stopped that and now just use it for data. I stopped counting this past weekend when I let my phone battery die. I ate when I was hungry, I rested because that’s what felt good, and when I got home the weather and some chores I wanted to get done didn’t give me the time to go for a walk and get in a little exercise. And that’s ok. My weight is back up a bit, and that’s ok. I listened to my body and gave it what it asked for.
And now it’s asking for something else.
Yesterday started out sleeping a little bit too long and being rushed to get out the door to an appointment. As soon as that was done though, I went back to the routine I wanted, slowed things down, took some time to check in with my schedule, make some plans and decide what was important for this week.
I also decided that I was going to go low calorie through Thursday and start engaging in some small exercise every day, because my body needs balance. I don’t do balance, that has been escaping me my whole life, but I think I am ready to begin balance.
And maybe I have viewed balance as something it’s not – a constant state. I think maybe it’s more acknowledging that things are rocking and responding by doing the things that bring harmony back.
I indulged in food, now I am going to un-indulge.
I’ve avoided exercise, now I am going to practice it.
I’ve ignored unhealthy relationships that called and demanded my time and energy, now I’m being intentional about connecting with people who are meaningful and supportive of me.
I rushed out the door, now I’m taking a few moments to calm and center and drink some tea before I go to the next thing.
It’s a small start, but practice begins with those small starts.
Getting out of bed was too much of an effort this morning, so I didn’t. I alternately slept and meditated, trying to put the things that got misfiled where they belong. I had a dream based on very recent and real experiences, which is unusual for me, and when I finally got up it took me about an hour to make an eat a salad.
I gardened, I wrote a note to a friend with post-partum depression, I did a ten minute yoga video, I returned a work call and I coordinated partnering with another firm for a project proposal.
That was way more productivity than I intended.
I have rushed everything so much for so long that making myself wait to tackle my mountain of to-dos is both challenging and gratifying. Being slow, laying around and thinking and making no intentional moves toward accomplishing anything is…kind of great. I’ve told myself for so long that I couldn’t do this, but it turns out I can. And I am.