I am dealing with multiple weekend-long situation triggers, and it has been tough. I can do nothing about it, and have a lot of chores, errands and THINGS to get done, so I am busy and a little frustrated on top of experiencing severe anxiety.
I used to wish time away, and consciously stopped doing that, but it is really tempting to wish this weekend done already.
In the last two days I have started to feel good. My PTSD symptoms seem to be significantly reduced, I have more energy and am more interested in personal projects, and I am willingly exercising, taking breaks from work and stopping work when it’s time to stop for the day. I’m looking into creative projects for myself and for work, and I seem to be paying much more attention to what’s going on around me.
The last two times this happened I was blindsided about a week later by trauma. It has taken me months to recover from both.
My parents are headed on a vacation that my mom is really excited about, and rightly so. They’ve been through the same trauma, and it’s been a long, hard effort to get everyone well and stable. I’m excited for them, and I think it’s long overdue.
My parents were supposed to leave town the day after my brother’s accident. They spent the weekend and the week after in the ICU with him.
My body remembers. Parents plan to leave town: trauma. I start feeling really good: trauma. I’m usually blindsided by trauma anniversaries and triggers, and I spent the month of October struggling to cope with the terror lodged in my brain. This time I know what’s coming, I know how I feel, I quickly recognized the circumstances, and I am making a plan to address them the best I can. I’m having someone stay with me this weekend so that I’m not alone (and therefore all up in my own head), I have plans to do things I enjoy with people I enjoy, and I don’t have any set responsibilities, only a plan of action in case an emergency happens. I communicated how I feel and what this is like for me, my concerns have been acknowledged and accommodated without negativity from anyone involved in helping me, and I am so, so grateful that even though positive growth and change can be a trigger, then can also be an opportunity for better.
I had a pretty great morning lined up with a mentor meeting followed by lunch with a friend. The morning was still great, but it was a bit disrupted by an email I received regarding a former project. The person claimed that a document amendment process had not been followed correctly and did I have a copy of the document that was supposed to have been used for the formal adoption?
Nope. That would have been your job or the attorney’s job…yes? This person was not my client, they are part of an ongoing sabotage attempt against my client, and apparently forgot who works for who in this situation…and who is good and who is not good at their job. I called my client to check for any back story information before I responded, then went on with my plans.
I checked into the paper trail when I got back to my office and found that this person was incorrect, procedure had been correctly followed and they were only reading the new rules, not the old rules. Old rules didn’t have that requirement (which is why I wrote it in for the new rules) so this hunt for non-existent paperwork was unnecessary.
Which this person would have know if they had done their job correctly. They have every file and document that I have. I know this, because I delivered it to them myself.
Anxiety – the heart-racing, curl up and vomit kind – hit as soon as I sent my brief response referencing the relevant document sections.
One of the reasons I now work for myself is that I spent about ten years working for people who were abusive and who constantly discredited my abilities and my knowledge. It may have pushed me to be really good at what I do, but it left some scars – one of which is clearly my PTSD response when my work abilities are questioned without merit.
I’m gonna go meditate now…and hope my heart rate strap arrives soon…
I don’t often have nightmares. I don’t recall ever having a triggering nightmare, although I don’t tend to retain memories of triggers so I may have just forgotten. That all changed the other night when I started awake at 3:30 in absolute terror. I had been dreaming that I was riding home with my mom and instead of turning left onto our street, she turned right and we were facing the street dead ending into a cornfield. Sirens were suddenly blaring, lights were flashing red, it was the end of the world, people were starting to appear, screaming, the car hit something, she was dead and I was crumpled in the passenger floor board.
It took over an hour for me to calm down enough to go back to sleep.
I rarely have literal dreams. I don’t remember having dreams that resemble flashbacks. I don’t have flashbacks. It was so literal, and so related to the car wreck that broke my brain. It was horrible and terrifying and shocking after I’ve worked so hard at recovery and have experienced something like that so seldom, especially after the 5 years it’s been.
I wrecked in early October. We’re approaching that time, and I don’t want to make a deal of it. One year, maybe year 3, it didn’t bother me and I seem to remember sailing through like it was past. That doesn’t seem to be true, and I think part of the difficulty I’m having now is related to an approaching trauma anniversary. Maybe because I’ve dragged so much up to deal with? Maybe because I’ve dug so deep? That answer feels like the right one, much as I hate it. I hear the body keeps score, after all. And I still need to read that book.
I still get triggered. Frequently. And I’m still surprised every time. Even more so when it’s not clear to me two hours later what exactly happened. Was it because I had dessert for dinner and the sugar tripped a wire? Was it because I did exactly what I wanted today and my body didn’t like it? Was it because I put myself out there and took a risk at work and my brain connected that to trauma somehow? Was it because I want better in an area of my life that I need to be patient with and the discomfort of having to be patient and keep working lit up a neuron path that reads DANGER?
Hell if I know.
As I’ve worked – so hard – to repair what I can of my brain, I’ve hidden at home a lot. Leaving the house for work and necessary errands is usually enough for me to handle, and it feels like a long time since I’ve been social. I don’t go out. I don’t have that many friends nearby (most of my close friends are in other states or countries and I keep them forever but also don’t see them often) and I haven’t really exercised in something like a month (the weight loss thing has made me stay in more than usual, and I reckon will keep me in until I can fully resolve that one). I haven’t always been like this, and it’s not a form of existence I particularly like, so I find myself increasingly pondering thoughts like, “I wish I were strong enough to do ___________________________ (fill in the blank).
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.