I bounced back from this weekend faster than I ever have from a severe PTSD episode, but I still don’t have the momentum and sunny disposition I’ve previously had when whatever it is that flips the switch in my brain does its thing. I’m in vaguely familiar but still uncharted territory, and it’s about as uncomfortable as you might think.
But I have so much to do.
I feel like I’m grinding gears, trying to find the right gear to move forward in and not quite getting there while the engine is working. It’s creating a lot of tension and not helping me focus while I try to balance the forces of energy and find the right fit.
Mostly I want to fight.
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 have been pretty intense this week about sorting myself and my environment out. Brené Brown has a great comment from her therapist, which is rather than put on a shell, get yourself out of the briar patch. I’ve been living in a briar patch and blaming the thorns for being there. Time to get out!
I started purging my belongings yesterday. A quick, temporary move has turned into five years of stuff stored in boxes, stuff that I don’t even remember that I have and certainly a lot that I don’t need or someone else could use. There are some family heirlooms and some things that I will use later in a different living situation, but there is also a lot that I can release: the bag of info and giveaways from a conference I attended over a decade ago. The scraps from handcutting invitation postcards for a program I ran over fifteen years ago. Yep, hoarder tendencies run deep in my family, and I used to keep some weird and unnecessary stuff because I found it painful to throw anything away. Now I understand the weight these things place around your ankles, and how difficult it makes it to get up and walk again when you fall. So out it goes!
I’m halfway done, and that’s enough for now. Usually I will force myself through a task like that until it’s done, and I’ve been forcing myself through some tough stuff already this week. Then I get to Monday and wonder where the weekend went and why I am so exhausted?
So it can wait, I can take a break and rest, because it will still be there to deal with this week, like everything else on my schedule. But I will feel better and be more prepared to handle it.
As I’m “catching up to now”, processing unprocessed trauma, one of the hardest things for me about processing trauma is reliving it. Having to feel things I didn’t the first time because I was shut down or unable to while I was trying to survive what was happening.
Last year my parents were going away for the weekend to celebrate their anniversary early. They never went because my brother’s work injury happened on Thursday.
Fast forward a year and some change, and my parents are going a couple of towns over for the weekend to celebrate their anniversary. I am completely freaked out and have to stay close to home.
Because it’s a trigger. Because my brain tells me that my brother gets hurt when my parents plan to go out of town. If I go somewhere I won’t be available if there is an emergency. THERE IS GOING TO BE AN EMERGENCY.
This is now affecting my willingness to move forward with my travel plans, because I HAVE TO BE HOME THIS WEEKEND quickly turns into I CAN NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE. I go through waves of panic the whole time I’m trying to calm myself and disconnect the things that don’t belong together – trauma and my parents leaving town.
I got four solid days of work in this week, and I’m glad for that because yesterday I had to retreat back into processing space to deal with this.
My boyfriend triggered me the other day, and my brain is now reading him as a threat.
He didn’t mean to, but he did something that I’ve previously expressed can be triggering for me. It was a communication issue, and he dropped the ball, so to speak, without having a reason or explanation why. I was PISSED, not only because I had been triggered but now I was facing having to do the work to make him not be a threat. Work I really wasn’t sure I even wanted to do.
Avoiding is easier!
I am working hard to not avoid, to face my challenges and the reasons behind them and I am really trying to heal. It’s hard, it’s scary and it makes me sleep a lot. It makes me react a lot when I even think it should be a fairly calm scenario.
Throw on top of that a person I am close to and trust triggering me because he didn’t bother to do something that is, frankly, common courtesy at least and for me a necessity.
So I did what I have a really hard time doing. In my last decade I had a lot of people run roughshod over my boundaries – a lot of that at work, but trauma stacks up, and I had some traumatizing work experiences. I set a hard line boundary of what I will and will not tolerate, and made peace with whatever outcomes resulted from holding that line.
The result has been both of us working to calm the effects of the trigger, a good weekend, honesty and some teamwork.