Blogger Recognition Award

Many thanks to Ashtyn at Through Her He Speaks for the recognition! Her blog is a positive and encouraging space rooted in God, and her recent self-love challenge has been really great to follow along! I find self-love to be challenging for me to practice, and I was glad to see examples of what that can look like!

This came a day before I reached 100 followers – thank y’all so much for reading my thoughts and experiences. The blogging community has been a gift, truly.

Here’s how the award works:

  1. Post the Blogger Recognition Award Rules.
  2. Use Blogger Recognition Award badge on your website.
  3. Share the reasons why you blog.
  4. Share two tips for new bloggers.
  5. Nominate other bloggers for this award and notify each of them about this nomination.

Ok!

I started blogging a week short of a year ago because I wanted a space that I could be unfiltered and raw with my experience living with PTSD. The trauma week that nearly did me in was almost four and a half years ago, I was diagnosed about two and a half years ago, I’ve been with a great therapist for almost two years, and I moved from stable to progressing about 9 months ago, which got put on hold due to a family emergency, and I am almost ready to progress again. I keep blogging because I don’t have too many people that I can be this real with…yet.

Tip #1: If you don’t know what to say to another blogger, be supportive. A lot of people do this because they don’t have support where they are, and this is a relatively safe space for them. Lift them up! They will do the same for you.

Tip #2: Be your authentic self. This is a space to be real and see other people be real, and if you haven’t figured out who your authentic self is yet, this is a great place to work on that!

Here are the bloggers I would like to recognize for being so supportive of me:

Life is a Gift

I cried.

I got triggered while driving again last night. Two cars stopped IN A LANE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HIGHWAY to deal with their fender bender. No pulling off the road, no hazard lights, no brake lights…until the line of speeding cars in front of me slammed their brakes and started swerving.

It set me off…lately imminent threat throws the trigger switch. I stayed calm and breathed until we got to David’s house. Then I cried and had to lay down for a bit. I drove home rather than staying the night, and I hated every minute of that drive. Every. Minute.

This morning I’m still a little shaky, and I got maybe 5 hours of sleep last night because I got home so late and was up early for the weekly walk and talk with my business partner. He failed to wake up, however, so I grabbed some bagels for myself and my parents and ended up in a long talk with them about what’s next for me.

I’ve been given a very substantial gift, they let me know this morning. It’ll let me focus on what I want to for the next six months or so without having to worry about having to sustain myself. No strings attached, just a gift.

I cried.

I don’t understand something like this landing in my lap. I’m still trying to process this kind of generosity. It doesn’t mean I don’t have to work as hard, it just means that I have some room to fail or grow or both without it taking me out. It also means I don’t have to side hustle this weekend, so I’m taking that opportunity to rest and recover and think about what I want to do.

Grateful doesn’t even get there, but it’s a start.

Restoring Through Making Decisions

I didn’t even realize I was frozen. I didn’t realize that I was stuck, but I was STUCK.

I have been sitting on a lot of decisions, I realized this week. As I’ve started taking a hard look at the anxiety hole I’ve been wallowing in and making plans to do some work to restore myself to a more positive human, a person who does things (I am a doer, for sure), I have needed to pull my head out of the sand, as it were, and make some play calls.

I didn’t even realize I was frozen. I didn’t realize that I was stuck, but I was STUCK, and I think I have David to thank for the realization, because as he was describing someone else who was stuck, I was taking in those comments and starting to think, “Wow, that’s me.”

I don’t want to be stuck. I like to do things, and I haven’t been doing things, I’ve been letting life happen. There are a lot of reasons why, the primary reason being that my family experienced severe trauma through my youngest brother’s accident earlier this year. It has taken me months to recover and get to a new path of healing The path I had been on is no longer available to me, and it has taken 7 months for me to see that. I kept trying to get “back on track”, but that track is gone, so time to find a new one. Enter this process of restoring. It has been a way for me to find that new path toward healing from my current circumstances, not my previous or imagined circumstances. No doubt I’ll have to do it again, but that’s for when it happens.

With my substantial insurance and mental health care cost increase that starts tomorrow, I’ve had a lot of anxiety about cash flow and getting my bills paid while we ramp up contract work in the new year. A lot of my work is long-lead on invoicing, and we just went through the annual slowdown plus delay on decisions from the tax reform uncertainty. I like to plan ahead, not wait till I hit an emergency to make a move, but I’ve been worrying without taking steps to reduce my worry. That ended this week when I teed up some options and scheduled some time to see exactly what my options look like so I can make that play call. Even if none of it works out, I made the effort, and I don’t fear failure of attempt so much as failure to act.

I’m going into the New Year already on a path to restoring, and already having made some decisions to push me off high center. Happy New Year!

XOXO,

Ashley

Reliving the Worst Day of My Life

I can take care of things in the moment, but then who takes care of me? 

My brother was working on his truck bed yesterday morning. He had a hand-held grinder, and the grinding blade hit something that jerked the tool out of his hand. The blade cut across the back of two fingers on his right hand…the same hand that is very slowly healing after his accident in May.

I was upstairs on the phone with my business partner when I heard both of my brothers hollering for me to come help. I was at the bottom of the stairs when I saw the trail of blood across the floor. I quickly hung up and ran to the kitchen sink, where my youngest brother had his hand under running water, groaning in pain.

Thankfully the cuts were fairly shallow, and after some bleeding, cursing, near-barfing and fainting on his part and a few laughs, I got him bandaged up and on Tylenol. He was back at it a short time later after the pain and shock subsided.

Then it was my turn.

His accident was the worst day of my life, and reliving that by seeing his fingers cut, hearing his pain and bandaging him up – we’re not that far removed from when we weren’t sure if we could keep his fingers healthy enough to avoid amputation. I could respond calmly and quickly in the moment, sure. I wiped up the blood trail from the garage to the kitchen, scrubbed the doors and floors, bleached the sink and the dishes nearby and threw the towels in the wash. He didn’t need stitches, but he did need a good bandage job, which I did carefully to avoid putting him in more pain.

I freaked out later. I wasn’t even willing to drive.

Handling my own triggers is one thing. Supporting someone I love dearly while they deal with a trauma trigger that is also a trauma trigger for me? Almost more than I can handle. 36 hours later I am still shaky, still distracted, still just wanting to sleep it off…for a week. This is so hard…and it will happen again.

External support systems are so important for this very reason. My family has experienced trauma together, so when we get a trauma trigger, like my brother’s mishap yesterday, it’s hard to learn on each other because we can’t hold each other up, at least not for long. I can take care of things in the moment, but then who takes care of me?

If you don’t say what you need, people don’t know. I was not at all excited about trying to learn to lean on David when our relationship is still new and I was a hot mess, but he needed to know. I wasn’t willing to drive, I was not in a good place and I was not interested in surface conversations. I needed to connect, I needed reassurance and I needed to not further burden my family. I didn’t even tell my mom till later in the evening so that she wouldn’t worry while she was working. So I said what I needed, and got more than I asked for. Find your tribe and appreciate them for what they do for you. When people are willing to be a gift, accept it with gratitude and keep moving forward.

Dates = 2, Me = 0

This guy is going to think I have no elegance, and that couldn’t be further from reality.

Surprisingly (my dating history inspires no confidence in the activity), dating Client’s Brother is still going well. I might even give him a real name next week.

Dates, however, have resulted in a 50% injury rate for me.

On our first date I scalded the hell outta my throat eating pizza that was way too hot. I almost only ever get it takeout or delivery, and in that case I can eat it straight away with no problem. I somehow missed that it would not be so eating pizza right out of the oven. I also did not want to spit out my food. It took 5 days to recover.

Yesterday we went for an afternoon hike along a creek on a moderate trail. There’s a bit of climbing around and walking on rocks to cross the creek in places, and while it was warm enough that the water wouldn’t freeze us, no one wants to hike in wet shoes. We were on the last creek crossing on the way back to the cars and I had carefully made it across. He was ahead of me and kept going when he got to the bank, I stepped on the bank, my left foot slipped and I crashed into a bush, cutting my ankle on the rock I slipped on in the process. Yeah, that’s an attractive quality in a hiking partner.

When I realized I was neither injured (hadn’t seen the cut yet) nor impaled on the bush branches, I started laughing at myself. Whatever, spills happen. I did have a branch of the bush stabbed through the band of my Fitbit next to my wrist, and how that happened without even scratching me I have no idea. By this time Client’s Brother realized I wasn’t behind him, and he and the dog came back to see what was up. I was still laughing at myself and getting off the ground, and the dog kindly removed the stick from my arm. Good puppy.

None of this kept us from kissing in the car before we headed off to separate obligations, and I found the cut when I got home. I almost never have this kind of thing happen to me, but ya know, ya fall down, ya get up, and I’m thankful that I could laugh at this spill.

Late Nights & Lots of Crafts

I’m in my natural state – overextended.

I stay in a constant state of overcommitment. I still haven’t learned that I can’t do as much most days, so I do what I want to do, rather than what would be a better balance. I really love to give my time away. ALL OF IT.

I have zero space for dating, because I hadn’t planned on it. Now I’m dating, and it’s making for some late nights on the phone because that’s when we can catch up and focus on each other.

I am working with my lovely if occasionally annoying group of kids to make crafts to sell at my city’s massive Christmas Stroll this coming weekend in support of an orphanage near Monterrey, Mexico. It’s beyond giving to the less fortunate, it’s about providing for the most vulnerable people – impoverished and abused children. We heard about the booth and promptly offered up all of our creativity and spare nights, and we have been busy. It’s a great bonding time, but sitting on a tile floor painting for 3 hours last night is not without its consequences for me this morning as I creak around. My grouchy old bones are not as willing of participants.

This is on top of work, caring for my grandma, running the house, my brother starting to open up to me, various other holiday commitments for care packages and gatherings, my pro bono work, my volunteer work, and at some point starting to make Christmas happen.

Can I not adult today?

But it’s so worth it. Sacrificial giving is such a fulfilling thing. Not the giving from excess, but giving from having little. It’s part of my practice of gratitude, and I have rest planned as soon as I finish my whirlwind of commitments. I will be grateful for that too!

 

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.