Dating with PTSD – When Communication Holds Trauma

It’s a horrible realization, and such a hard thing to battle through.

Dating again has opened up a whole new area of trauma that I did not realize I had. I have actually been abused and traumatized by communication, or the lack thereof.

Shit.

I have had it burned into my brain that if I don’t perform to expectation, if I don’t do what the other person wants or what works for them – with no regard for me – then I will be punished or abandoned. If I try to ask for what I need, I will get abuse. If I try to have a voice, I will get abuse. If I do anything that might assign any value to myself, other than an object of whim and convenience, I will get abuse. I will be manipulated through the withdrawal of affection, attention, acknowledgement or care. I will be abandoned or discarded without notice or explanation. There will be no resolution or discussion, only accusations, abuse and silence.

I had no idea.

One of the things that is so important for me to communicate is how I feel and what I need. If I am anxious, if I get triggered, if I am scared or uncertain, the best way for me to resolve that and mitigate severe anxiety/panic attacks is to have the space to talk about it or work through it so that I can understand what’s going on. Which is the exact thing that I have been taught will get me abused. It’s a horrible realization, and such a hard thing to battle through. Because the only way this gets better is to do exactly what I’m afraid of doing, and I have to not only look at my own scars, I have to show them to someone else, someone I am just now learning to trust.

Shit.

In staying with my practice of gratitude, I am grateful that I had the courage to start the healing process once I realized what was happening. I am also grateful he was willing to listen and be accepting.

But shit.

Restoring Through A Slow Day

In thinking about my usual impatience, speed through life and refusal to pause and enjoy…anything…(I even eat fast), I’ve been thinking about what I could do to balance that a bit.

The chasm between anxiety and sleep was wide last night. Sometimes I can’t make it stop, hence the Xanax, which still took 20 minutes to kick in because I took the lowest dose I could. Breathing, body awareness, addressing my fears with rational answers…it all resulted in tears and increasing pain. Usually means I’ve been triggered, and mastering triggers without chemical intervention is likely to be a long road for me. It’s really disappointing to start doing restorative things for myself and three days or so in have another round of severe anxiety, but as I said yesterday, sleep acts as a reset and I am back at it today, determined to stay the course.

Which brings me to my intention for today – a Slow Day.

In thinking about my usual impatience, speed through life and refusal to pause and enjoy…anything…(I even eat fast), I’ve been thinking about what I could do to balance that a bit. Even on my “days off” I have a separate list of things to accomplish that I blow through so that I can get it all done. Days off aren’t for rest, they’re for getting done the things I didn’t have time to get done while running around at high speed the other days.

This can hardly be beneficial for me.

Slow Day is an intention to set aside one day a month to be in no hurry to do anything. There will be no pressure to perform, no to-do list, no doing anything that I find disagreeable, lots of laying around, lots of slow drinking and slow eating and slow reading (I read fast too, no surprise there) and maybe some slow hiking or walking or yoga. There will be sleeping in and early to bed and maybe some knitting or coloring or other calming activity. Maybe brunch out, because is there anything slower than brunch?

Slow Day seems a good foray into slowing down generally. Slowing my mind, slowing my body, resting, restoring and taking time to meditate (a practice which still escapes me because I don’t slow down long enough to do it.) I will hopefully learn a lot from Slow Day and gain some balance to my crazy. I’ve had a lot more creative energy and problem-solving ability the last few days, so something is working. My resting heart rate is still high, but that’s an indicator not necessarily a goal at the moment.

In the middle of this I am still transitioning off of meds. I am one week into a three week process to taper off the antidepressant I have been on for two years, and some of this may be my body adjusting to the lower dose of chemicals. I’ll just have to wait that one out. Overall I think it’s a really good choice for me, just having a few hiccups on the way. But it got me to Slow Day, so even the hard things give me a reason to be grateful.

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.