Letters to Linda – Feeling Like You Have No Support

There’s something powerful about knowing – and asking for – what you need that can be a great step toward healing. 

Dear Linda,

One of the most challenging aspects of living with PTSD is feeling like you have no support. I still don’t really feel that my illness is supported, and I live openly with it.

I think that people generally have a hard time understanding things outside of their own experience. This isn’t really something you can understand from the outside, because it happens inside your skull. Your behaviors, your feelings, your experience – those aren’t things you can easily share, so they are things that make it difficult for someone to be able to support you in if they don’t know.

It’s almost harder if someone wants to be helpful, because they try to take your experience – or what they understand of it – and put into the context of their experience, which means that THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND. And they’re telling you they do, and you know they don’t, and you don’t want to deal with it because you have enough pain, so you do whatever you have to and agree to whatever they say just to make it stop. Most people can’t just listen. They can’t just let your story be your story. They can’t just figure out what you need. And you feel like you have no support, when you desperately need someone else to help carry the burden.

So take your experience back, and make it about you.

You need to know what you need before you can tell someone else, so spend some time understanding what you need. Is making dinner every night just too hard? Do you need solitude and silence for a couple of hours a day? Do you need to be told good night every night before you go to bed? Do you need someone else to get the oil changed in your car because that errand is too challenging and overwhelming for you? Do you need someone to remember that you hate broccoli and not make you try to like it or eat it? Do you need someone to figure out another way to exercise because what you were doing is now attached to the trauma you experienced? Do you need someone to act as a buffer between you and someone who is unkind to you?

Whatever it is that frees you from everyday stress related to the trauma you experienced, understanding that will help you to either know what you need to address and recognize so that you can deal with it in a way that is less horrible for you, or you need to hand it off to someone else to deal with.

When people don’t support you, it may be because they have no idea how. If you know what you need and can be specific about it, you can assign a way for them to support you that is authentic to your needs, and far less frustrating for you.

Thank you for wanting to help. What would really benefit me right now and a way that you could really serve me and make my life easier is if you could come with me to the two professional events I have this month. I’m not very comfortable with crowds, and there will be people there I don’t like to be around, but I need to put on a good face. I don’t need you to hover or to tell people I’m anxious, that’s not information I want to share. 

Dealing with driving and parking makes me anxious, so would you be willing to drive? That will help me to be more calm. I would also like to leave about an hour into the event, so can I use you as an excuse to leave? If you could let me know after we’ve been there an hour that we need to leave for our next event (i.e. me going home to comfortable pajamas and my cat to watch a movie), that would be really helpful, and I’ll feel more comfortable leaving at a time that is better for me rather than staying past what I can comfortably manage.

It’s a clear ask, it’s specific, and it’s something that most good friends would be willing to do, if not happy to do for you. And it comes from you knowing what you need so that you can ask for the support you need.

It would be so great if people just understood. It would make our lives so much easier. But they don’t, and a lot of times we don’t. It can feel like a burden and one more thing we have to do on top of all of the other things living with PTSD requires, but there’s something powerful about knowing – and asking for – what you need that can be a great step toward healing.

Whirling Through the Week – Until I Hit a Wall

The last thing you want to be when your brain is wrecking on past trauma is vulnerable.

I had a lot going on this week.

I had some kind of idea that work would slowly pick up over the month and I could adjust. Nope, things blew up this week and I’ve been scrambling to do it all. Plus I had to be “public me” a lot, and spent a lot of time managing conflicts, in conferences and meetings and taking on more work. Not surprisingly, I hit a wall this afternoon and started to slide into a panic attack.

I have been doing a lot to recognize and address past trauma, which I am increasingly aware was in great part due to abusive communication, and when I have already hit my stress limit I have a really hard time not taking everything the wrong way.

Basically, if I start saying I’m tired, there is a meltdown on the way.

I realized today that I have a tendency to recoil in preparation for a verbal beating when I start toward a panic attack. I start making plans to isolate, I use any and every excuse for why I must not bother someone and I make a really big deal out of something that hasn’t even happened. My brain, in the process of wrecking, ties communication to abuse and prepares me for it by telling me to shut down and shut out.

This is without there being any verbal beating or any communication abuse. Or any abuse. Or…anything.

Sometimes dealing with this shit is really weird.

It’s a little terrifying too. I was in the middle of talking to a client, changing a drawing and trying to tell David what was happening so that I could hopefully stop the process of making problems where there weren’t any. He reminded me to breathe, and that helped for a few hours, but now I’m back in a similar place, where I’m making a lot of assumptions and creating problems that aren’t there. I’m glad I’m starting to recognize what’s happening, but dealing with it while I’m also exhausted and have hit my stress limit for the week is challenging.

I did a couple of yoga classes when I finished work to try to continue the process of calming. They were more meditative than active, and I found the word vulnerable coming up repeatedly as I stilled my body and slowed my breathing. As in be vulnerable.

The last thing you want to be when your brain is wrecking on past trauma is vulnerable. I want to put up my defenses and not have to challenge myself and my thinking and repeat to myself that I am experiencing cognitive distortion and that things are not what I am making them out to be. I would way rather tuck in and take a Xanax than sit in pain and stop the negative, destructive thought patterns that I lived with for a few years.

I’m done waiting for a better time to deal with this. There isn’t a time that I will be less busy, will be in a better place, will have less on my plate, will have my shit together or will be more ready for a relationship. I can’t put my life on hold because this shit is hard, and I have so much opening up to me. I think that was the message in yoga. When the choice is before me, and the choice is hard, time to choose vulnerable.

Dating with PTSD – Communication Failure

I’m pretty used to doing this by myself, at least that’s a more comfortable place than this new hell. 

The post I wrote yesterday? Ha. Yeah.

I didn’t hear from David for hours yesterday. No response to the text I sent in the morning, no response to the text I sent in the afternoon asking if he was ok. I put all of my energy yesterday into not freaking out, into not assuming that something had happened to him, to one of his family, that he wasn’t massively hungover, that he hadn’t ghosted me…and worst of all, that after WE JUST HAD THIS CONVERSATION, he hadn’t just failed to hear me or failed to care and done exactly what I had asked him – and he had agreed – not to do.

It brought back all of the abuse, all of the manipulation, all of the fear, all of the four years that I lived through absolute hell in a relationship. Merry Christmas to me, those wounds are still there.

On top of that, I had to deliver news to my grandma that made her cry, deal with general family holiday angst around me and advise my brother on asking out a girl he likes (which did not go well, she just wants to be friends, so now my empathetic ass is taking that disappointment on as well).

I was already a Xanax in when I did hear from him. He’d left his phone at a friend’s the night before and it was dead when he got it back, so I finally hear from him when he got it charged. Did I want to talk?

No. I didn’t want to talk. Ever.

I did talk, last night I told you exactly what will violently drag up horrible pain for me, and that is exactly what you did the next day. You keep telling me you understand, but your words don’t mean shit. Words are empty, they’re hollow, they have no meaning without action, and your actions made it quite clear that I’m not a good fit for you.

I don’t have anyone walking with me in this. I don’t have anyone that I can let in to where the past hurts the most to help me stare it in the face and tell it I’m no longer a prisoner. PTSD doesn’t go away, it doesn’t have a cure, it doesn’t have an end. Do I want to talk? I barely fucking know what to say to myself, much less to you. I am dragging up all kinds of new hurt by dating again, by letting someone in, and there is a reason I have done this by myself for so long. You make it worse. I asked you not to, and you made it worse.

I did talk last night. I kept calm, I didn’t blame, I tried really hard to say how I felt without losing my cool. I tried to say what I need. I was also on Xanax so who even knows. We’d had plans to meet up, and those had been blown to hell, and I really didn’t want to see or talk to him until after Christmas.

The guy who put me here in the first place? He loved to wreck Christmas for me. So this happening so close to Christmas was just another layer of pain.

Did I mention I got Christmas gifts from my stalker yesterday too? That pushed me over into a profanity-laced screaming episode about…everyone.

This morning I was the first to reach out again. I let David know I still wasn’t ok. He made it about him, asking, “Still me?” “Let’s maybe say the situation.” Because I am not wanting to assign blame to him when it was something that just happened. I called him after church and he was on his way to help his brother. Again, not available.

I can’t fix this one. I don’t want to. I’m trying so hard to not let one mishap wreck a relationship that has been so good up to this point, but I needed to see more from him. I needed to see that he understood enough to try to reassure me that he’s there. But he isn’t, and since I’m pretty used to doing this by myself, at least that’s a more comfortable place than this new hell.

Liebster Award Nomination!

Pancakes are my love language.

I started blogging on my birthday earlier this year. I had to shut down that blog because of a stalker, and for a couple of weeks I really struggled with whether blogging was a good thing for me. So many thanks to Girl With The Paw Print Tattoo for nominating me! She shows stunning and raw vulnerability through her blog, and she is what the world needs more of. Blogging has connected me to some incredible humans, and I appreciate this so much.

liebsterawards

What is the Liebster Award?

The Abroad American described it thusly: “Bloggers are a funny bunch. We read a lot, write a ton, scour the web for new content to consume, and even give ourselves awards for this stuff. That’s what the “Liebster Award” is – a recognition of bloggers by other bloggers. It’s only coincidental that the name is derived from the German word that means “beloved, or dear” in English. It’s been around in some form or another since 2011, so I think there is at least some credence to its name.”

 

Rules of the Liebster Award:

  1. Acknowledge the blog that gave it to you and display the award.
  2. Answer 11 questions that the blogger gives you.
  3. Give 11 random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 11 blogs and notify them of their nominations.
  5. Give them 11 questions to answer.

 

Questions for Me:

  1. Why did you start blogging?

I was looking for connection. I was looking for an outlet to express myself, a way to be honest in a space that wasn’t connected to my everyday life and all of the stress in it. I wanted to see how other people deal with PTSD and anxiety, I wanted to talk about my experience and I didn’t really care if a single person read my blog, I just needed to get it out of my head.

2. What is your favorite movie?

I really like Layer Cake, starring Daniel Craig and Sienna Miller before they made it big. Craig’s character is so frustrated by everyone around him and he just wants to do his thing on his terms. It’s fantastic and surprising.

3. If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

I’m a Texas girl and here I stay. I would consider New Zealand though.

4. What is your favorite season?

I like fall. It’s often hot here, but the air feels different. There’s a relief from summer heat and it’s before holiday stress kicks in, so in my mind it’s the perfect time of year.

5. What is your favorite holiday?

New Year’s! I don’t make resolutions or do anything crazy, but a lot of memories for me are from New Year’s, good and not so good but experiences I learned so much from. It doesn’t have the stress for me that comes from other holidays, and half the time I stay home and am sound asleep before midnight, which was my first conscious foray into ignoring the expectations of others and doing what was the best for me at the time.

6. Dogs or cats?

Dogs. Recently an adorable muppet named Falkor nosed his way into my life, and you couldn’t replace him with a cat.

7. Coffee or tea?

Earl Grey with a splash of half and half.

8. What is your favorite book?

I just read Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey, and it is a stunningly beautiful book of illustrated poetry. It was recommended to me as a rape survivor, and I will continue to benefit from reading it.

9. If you were only given one meal to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Chips and Guacamole.

10. What is your favorite hobby?

Dreaming up business ideas. It seems to be a good creative outlet.

11. Who is your favorite band?

Shinyribs! They are a hoot and a holler, and the amazing human I’m dating got us tickets to see them. So excited!

 

11 Things About Me:

  1. I’m a 6th generation Texan.
  2. I love to eat butter and sugar creamed together.
  3. I have a large collection of art that includes painting, sculpture and jewelry.
  4. I won’t sit on a toilet seat I haven’t cleaned myself.
  5. I love to give gifts outside of holidays and birthdays.
  6. I have thus far out-lawyered every attorney I have interacted with professionally, and I am not an attorney.
  7. I love bamboo fabric.
  8. I don’t like Christmas music.
  9. I am not nearly as sexy in a baseball cap as I would like to be.
  10. Pancakes are my love language.
  11. I read really fast.

 

Now I Nominate:

These blogs have all made me think or make me want to do me better this year, I hope they impact you too!

 

Questions for the Bloggers I Nominated:

  1. What is your favorite food memory?
  2. What is your favorite way to get outdoors?
  3. What are you having for dinner tonight?
  4. What is your preferred mode of transportation?
  5. Do your family and friends know you blog?
  6. M&Ms or Skittles?
  7. Do you think pennies (one cent pieces) are necessary?
  8. Can you curl your tongue?
  9. What would get you out of bed on a day you could otherwise sleep in?
  10. What makes you happy?
  11. Do you sunburn or tan?

 

So grateful for what y’all write, and looking forward to reading your answers!

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!

 

Second Date/Planned First Date

There will be more of these.

Second date with Client’s Brother ended up being 12 hours. Sometimes you just don’t wanna leave…

Experience (which is not what any sane person wants to claim, but my 20s were a rough time in my life) has taught me that if I don’t bend (at times until I break) for another person, they’ll leave. I have been so accommodating for so long that I forgot to say what I want and need and not care if that didn’t work for him. That changed last night.

Client’s Brother met me after church to grab some supplies, eat lunch and head out Talkative Friend’s house to work on our charity craft project. He met the kids, was very helpful and actually worked, whereas they mostly socialized. I have some large wall art pieces to finish, and he painted framed and nailed boards like a pro. I introduced him but didn’t mention how I knew him, because, frankly, it’s more fun for them to wonder. We finished for the day in just enough time to make it to watch the sun set over the lake, and it is not terrible to be held and have your neck kissed while you watch the sky aflame with color. My favorite restaurants are closed on Sundays, so we got margaritas, then pizza and beer, splitting a massive slice while we snuggled and watched football.

Then we kissed in my car in the Home Depot parking lot till 1:30 in the morning. PG, y’all.

I am all for taking time to get to know someone. I think relationships happen at so many different speeds. I also think that with what I live with, and the lingering damage of assault, it’s better for a guy to know up front what he’s getting into. I may come off as bubble princess in public, but my private life is far different, and I don’t want to have to pretend with him. So I told him what being in my life entails, what I have to work through still and that I am still learning to ask for what I need. He was so accepting and accommodating. He asked what he needed to do and what that would look like for him. I just asked for patience, and he told me I was worth it.

We traded stories of our demons in between kisses. So many kisses. He’s just as hesitant that I won’t accept his past, even though he’s now a different person. He has similar family obligations, responsibilities and concerns, he has made bad relationship choices and he wants better. And he’s smart. He doesn’t understand what I deal with but he’s already shown he’s willing to take care of me. He’s affectionate, which I need because I am too. Two grown-ass adults PG kissing in a car for 4 hours? Because I was vulnerable and he valued that? It’s a way better experience. Here’s to trying new things.

Bone Deep and Mind Breaking

‘Tis the season for joint pain.

Pain, you make me a believer.

I’m a summer girl, if for no other reason than hot weather doesn’t cause me joint pain. I inherited the family curse of old bones in a young body, and I can sit around with mature members of society and chat aches and pains with the best of them. They never believe someone my age can know how they feel, but since I can predict weather changes based on my elbows and hands and predict the overnight temps based on my knees, they eventually come around to accepting me as one of the wise. Or at least one of the chronically inflamed.

Add the prospect of months of constant deep joint pain to my neurological disorders and you get someone who hates winter. Me.

I finally broke again yesterday. I hit my limit of stress and went over the edge into nausea, dizziness and headache. Am I getting sick? No. I have PTSD, and the stress overload I’ve experienced in the last two weeks sent me over the edge again. The nausea is not completely new, the dizziness was. Thankfully I was able to hold it together to work with a couple of clients, and my mom and my brother kindly drove me where I needed to go. I was not about to drive in that state. Could I? Yes. Was that the best thing for me and everyone else on the road? No.

It would have been better if, when I got off work and got my hair cut, then grabbed some crafting supplies for a project I’m working on for a charitable organization, I had popped a Xanax and gone to bed. Just be done with the day and the stress and sleep it off. But I am so determined to not let the negative part of my brain control my life. So I texted a friend to see if I could catch a ride with her to Bible study and she gracefully didn’t hesitate. That support network? It’s everything on the days I can’t.

I took my knitting because it helps me stay present in group discussions, and knitted my way through tackling Jonathan Edwards’ writings on Charity. It was challenging, and it was good. The woman who hosts us in her home had made a spiced tea and cookies, and she has such a calm, loving presence. Toward the end we shared prayer requests, and I opened up about my struggles, about trying to come to terms with my new normal, that there are always barriers to living the life I want to live, that I have realized I will never be healed and I will live with this for the rest of my time on earth.

I live in pain. Every waking moment is hell because I have no hope that this life will ever be what I want, that what has happened to my brain will subside and I can live free from the demons in my head. I expressed that, and was received with love. One of the women in our group said that what I was saying was exactly her daughter’s experience. I found so much comfort in that, that someone understood. Those that didn’t understand met me with love and compassion.

That moment of vulnerability? It opened up so much love for me. It added women to my circle and to my team in struggling against and with what I’ve been dealt. I have gotten really ignorant responses from church people about my condition and what I do to try to heal. Last night was not that, and I was so comforted.

It is so fucking hard to be vulnerable when the person you were is ripped out of your hands and you’re trying to find your way again. But damn is it sometimes worth it.

And Client’s Brother messaged me all evening, showing a lot more interest than I expected.

When you live with chronic pain it can be hard to be thankful. But today I am so, so thankful.