100 Days of Healing – Day 93

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.

100 Days of Healing – Day 61

I’m back in neutral. It’s such a tenuous place, and I expect to be thrown out of it at any moment. Not exactly being present or living in the moment, but it’s going to take a lot of practice for me to be able to be comfortable with not freaking out. That may sound ridiculous, but the constant scan for threats to my perceived safety and security is beyond hard to turn off.

I’m noticing that I’m starting to be able to find some balance. It’s been nearly manic activity or hiding in bed for so long, and now, even if initially I find a task to be challenging, I can usually calmly consider it and get to a place that I can tackle it. If I don’t want to do something I think about it until I can calmly approach it. I even considered doing something that I then decided would be too stressful and told myself no.

Creativity is slowly starting to unfurl in my brain. I get little bits and pieces, glimpses of ideas and a hint of the motivation to pursue it. I’ve been in survival mode, then get standing mode, for so long that it feels like a new game to begin to get close to moving forward. And I’m kind of looking forward to it, and starting to believe I can.