Go Away PTSD

photo by Patricia

It was bedtime. Routine in that area has become very important, extremely so. Yet forgotten, or the hope that maybe this one time I could do something excitingly spontaneous and it would be alright.

It wasn’t. The next two days didn’t go so well.

So on the way back to the bedroom after putting the crazy cat in the studio for the night, I took a peek at the night from the back porch. Fireflies appeared, one by one, watching, mesmerized, feeling childhood awakening in the bones of my memory.

Dashing around the yard at dusk with the kids from the neighborhood playing Kick the Can, or Ghosts in the Graveyard. Being called in late once dark settled in, all dirty and tired, falling asleep easily after a day of hard play. But that is not Patricia-world now. Now routines must be adhered to.

But only this once? Since things are going so well, can’t this once be added on to what has been a stretch of wonderful summer days? Days when miles upon miles of bike rides along the path by the water are also combined with laps and laps of walking, because energy expended seemed to compound into more energy.

Can’t a quick dip in the pool be enjoyed? The quiet water luring as the last pink faded from the sky casting a rosy glow. Donning my swimsuit, an irresistible dip was risked. Fireflies grew brighter as the waves cuddled me. But my senses began to ratchet up rather than calm down as they should have been doing.  

The impromptu fun delighted, the water warm, the twinkling solar string lights making it a magical wonderland of joy. Too much joy, exciting me beyond any possibility of sleep. The haranguing voice began its pounding, ‘YOU KNOW BETTER! YOU YOU YOU.’ 

Routine. Remember that? You must pay attention to your unique body needs. Stimulating your senses when they should be winding down won’t work. Lying awake long after Samuel came to bed, medication had to be taken. Not only did my body go off the deep end, so did my mind.

The negative thoughts chewed like snarly, dripping fangs, taking bite after bite, pounding my being with fearful stabs. After staring at the television for over an hour, another dose had to be taken.

Finally drowsiness, and back to bed. Sleep came as if encased in a tomb like a mummy with no movement until waking. There goes a day of waste. No walking, no chores, no nothing except for the escape into watching beloved movies. Because a body that jumps into the dangerous pool of PTSD needs calm. No motion, nothing except feeling sorry for myself. That equates to food used to numb it all out adding to the load of crippling self-hate.

It takes a second day to recover and feel as if back into myself. Depression, disconnect, and displacement from my very being all needed time, quiet, and seclusion before re-connection to body, thoughts, and spirit. Go away Samuel, leave me alone. Everything had spiraled about like a mini universe out of control, all from a simple quick dip in the pool. 

This morning wholeness. The fresh picked lavender scent is noticed as the gurgling fountain settles my soul. The morning feels cherished, not feared. Because once the PTSD breaker is tripped, fear, panic, and the surety that a terrifying thing is about to happen exposes every nerve as it readies for danger. Terror from childhood when the peril was real crashes in putting my alert system on edge with red-light vigilance. THAT is tiring, and once happening, out of my control. 

A special day is one when my being feels whole and is whole. When the tiniest event floods me with pleasure; the toad living in the potted plant on the patio blanketing himself under the wet dirt as if it is a home with a bed, the birds sipping at the birdbath, the abundant lavender in bloom along with the heady scent calming my very pores with their aroma.

The morning is sweet again with wonder as we celebrate 42 years together. On this day, at this moment, I feel whole. 

PAPER DOLL

Though summer brings oppressive heat, walks bring peace to a mind working on over-drive. Before breakfast the heat and humidity is tolerable, even pleasant until the sun comes full up. So many thoughts bombarding into each other on a day when feeling scattered too.

How to come together? Time alone by the water— birds, raccoons, turtles, frogs, carps as big as sharks, and the water weasel, all keeping me company. It is OK to stay where safety is found, the decision to cancel so many plans repeatedly questioned.

No, we are not being too extreme. Others seem to be taking risks we’d rather not take. We are being cautious. Camping next week with Shane… no, nor any camping. A trip to Cory’s in Massachusetts’s…no. We don’t care to deal with public restrooms, or any other possible source of contamination.

And finally peace over these things. It is the right and safest decision for us. Whatever is needed is right here, it always has been. There is also relief at not having to travel. It always took its toll on my fragile nervous system, depleted after a life of excess cortisol coursing through my body unnecessarily. My startle response raced into fight or flight many times daily. My body still does it, though years of meditation have helped calm it down.  

There are wounds still needing attending to. Trust is not something regained, but maybe in increments. Samuel and others aren’t out to get me, a belief cemented into my views since childhood when learning just what human beings are capable of. That belief won’t completely change, but some cracks open up letting in light during rare moments of peace and safety.

Chet spent a good deal of time figuring when he could get at me, and that expectation, that others are trying to do evil, will last. It made an indelible imprint, a deep wound to attend to… a crumpled paper doll needing gentle care.

BOUNDARIES

An idyllic day ruffled by selfish requests from two people once considered friends.

“Oh hi Rosalie!” I exclaim, not hearing from her in a while.

“Hi. Could Samuel come over to help Rob with some electric work?” she asks unceremoniously.

“We are being very careful, it will have to be over the phone,” I answer agitated at her lack of concern for our health, for our very lives, all for a dimmer switch. My body became hyper at the knowledge that this person is once again taking advantage me.

“We are wearing masks,” she responds plaintively.

“No, the phone will have to do,” I reply sternly.

While listening to Rob interact with Samuel, I became more and more upset as he pressured Samuel to come do the work for him, not once but at least three times in the next two hours over the phone. Knowing Samuel, fear ratcheted up that he’d cave to the pressure, throwing all our carefulness away for a switch she could easily do without. 

“Wear three masks,” Rob whines like a child.

By that time Samuel had hung up to search the web for the precise dimmer that had Rob stumped. That allowed me to vent my anger at their lack of concern for us. To even ask! Back and forth we went leading to my withdrawal from Samuel for the rest of the day, needing space and time to cool off.

It wasn’t until evening that I could talk to him again, or decided to, because it was a decision. Upon waking this morning my actions left a bad aftertaste. We talked about it on the patio this morning. Being less stressed, and less emotional made the discussion fruitful, and a relief for both of us. We have progressed!

“If you told him right away you wouldn’t go there to work inside her kitchen with them because it made you feel unsafe, he would have stopped pressuring you,” I said.

But Samuel isn’t one for directly relaying feelings, or much of anything like that, not directly. It is indirectly, saying repeatedly that he wouldn’t be much help as the device wasn’t one he was familiar with.

“Well, what if it was one you were familiar with?” I ask him exasperated.

“I still wouldn’t have gone,” he said.

“You should have just said that, then he wouldn’t keep at you for two hours,” I replied.

But Samuel found the device on-line and gave him the information. Though Rob could have done that too, and should have. Don’t take on a job you can’t do then ask my husband to risk for our lives to help with a non-emergent job.

Both Rosalie and Rob are on my shit list. Friends? No, friends do not ask that you risk your life for nothing, or for anything. The asking shot through boundaries. Rosalie always had me pegged for an easy mark. It wasn’t the first time she took what she knew she should not. It was the first time I said NO.

If you have a repair person in your house, you are supposed to be in another room to keep yourself safe. She blithely asked Samuel to come spend an hour or two with her and Rob in her kitchen. Even with masks it would be risky.  

If Samuel had just been clear from the beginning and be done with it. They created a dysfunction wanting another fool to join in. Thankfully he did not.

Make a Nice Day

photos by Patricia

With a temperature dip of 20 degrees, my bathrobe feels snuggly and warm socks are pulled on again. Yet the sun rises in its glory as an array of bugs, birds, and breeze fill my ears with pleasurable sound.

The ridiculous bird is at the mirrored mosaic, wondering during meditation what that pecking was. He will make himself in need of therapy if he doesn’t stop attacking his own reflection trying to ward off competitors that are really just a ghost of himself.

But that is also my own problem, the person living within always harping on my faults, mistakes and shortcomings, like two people residing inside myself. During a walk, huffing up the hill, the conversation goes on.

One side plummeting my self-esteem with jabs, the other answering, ease up, be gentle, be kinder. That takes work with conscious effort. The wild roses are out, pausing a moment during my walk coming close to a blossom, its light scent sweet.

The comfort of sitting creek-side after laps is exquisitely restful, and one of the best parts of each day, losing myself in peaceful reverie. Go easier, be easier. That is the way, though that ‘other’ person takes me on detours from habit, places that hurt, cause needless pain, and slam me down.

Make a nice day, make the effort.

Quarter Back or Openness?

Waking, shoulders tense against the day. While sipping coffee on the porch, squelching the tendency to move, the message to self—stay. Go deeper. Go into the body.

Go from the shoulders, which hold a defensive position from habit, as fighting my way through life has been, or seemed necessary, and instead relax into my body.

With a sigh, the rest of my body is felt, wholeness occurs which isn’t all in my head and shoulders. It is in every pore and sinew, it is in that space with no name that dwells between the muscle, bone or blood.

The songbirds sing sweet melodies as the rock fountain gently gurgles brook-like waterfalls, and I am complete.

The Tooth

“How are you?” asks the dentist.

“I am two people,” I reply, and the air was still, adding before she was able to figure out what to say next, “a terrified child, and a person who asked you for help knowing you are competent to do it.”

“I’m sorry you went through all that,” she replied, and the two of them went to work.

The process of getting the lost filling repaired took about an hour, but the rest of the day felt wasted. Too tired from the medication needed to calm my flight of flight response meant resting afterwards. I even fell asleep for a lengthy nap which is a rarity. But still, this time was different.

Rather than a rumbling terror each day prior, my message to myself, or more precisely to the terrified child within, was, I’ll take care of it. It’s only a tooth to be fixed.

And compared to the terror of what’s floating in the air these days, tooth problems do seem minor. Yet my PTSD symptoms worsening with age won’t go away because I tell them to. Medication was still needed.

Though seemingly a wasted day, it was not. It was of great achievement. The hunk of filling came out about when the pandemic hit. My tongue has slipped over the rough edged gap ever since not chewing on that side.

The owner of the office assured me that the they dispel a spray in-between patients, and I’d be first in anyway. But I wish the two working on me didn’t chat back and forth while only 6 inches from my face. Stick to what is needed to be said about the process, not senseless chatter.

In normal times unrelated chatter soothes, but now caused worry. They had on masks and eye gear, but no shields. How do I know if their breathing and talking wasn’t getting on me lying there with my mouth open? It seemed very wrong for both patient and provider.

But it’s done, I did it!

POWER

Turning on heat at the start of June is a first, the register next to me soothing as the warmth spills out. The temperature has uncharacteristically plummeted breaking records at one extreme then the other. Frost and snowflakes in May, catapulting to record highs, then needing heat from the furnace a few days later. 

Though the pool is open, and for a few days the temperature was 90 or close to it, my idea of going in was floating in circles as the force of the filter splashed a current to ride on. Samuel went all the way in a few times, but it isn’t quite warm enough for me yet. Now in the 40’s the water will take awhile to warm again. 

The summer looks different, is different. Cancelling an upcoming camping trip with Shane and his family at our favorite place in the Adirondacks, along with a trip to see Cory’s family and new baby… both a loss, but curiously a relief too.

Traveling is hard for me. The less it’s done, the better. My system hypes up and once that happens it is hard to calm down. And that is during what is the best years of my life.

Looking back would I want to live it again? No way. The anxiety running me was wild, reverberating like live wires through my system. The daily fear of living, and people, caused even simple decisions to go awry.

Even now I must tell myself, slow down, breathe, where exactly are you going so fast? Living in over-drive separated from my body is the norm. But not now. Now is the time to go slow, protect myself, and for the first time take care of myself in all the ways previously neglected.

It is not an easy job, or one that comes naturally. Taught to deny all needs, this takes conscious effort. Taking action to block all those called ‘family,’ even if only for a day or two, brought back a feeling of power and control that being pressured into doing something not right for me took away. Freedom was lost, victim-hood floundered, priceless freedom gone— poof, like a puff of smoke. 

Strength flowed back. Seeming a silly move, it was not. Then the thought of those I cared about possibly contacting me without my response caused me to unblock all but the sister-in-law who pressured me. The others can access me if needed.

That action reminded me where my power lies, within me. It is not something to give away again, but I will. The craving for family always there, always pulling, always in need of. A cauldron calling me into her dark brew where wishes come true. 

Dig for Joy Beneath the Terror

Sleeplessness occurs on the night after picking up groceries. Going out in the world in any way terrorizes in unconscious ways, yet my body knows and reacts. Mostly OK, there are moments when it hits piercing like dark rays of fear almost bringing tears.

Dying is scary enough, faced each day as part of living, and on good days causing me to squeeze every sweet moment from every day that is possible. But dying this way? Thinking of others in the hospital all alone, gasping for breath, or comatose under assisted breathing never to come out of it. How horrific.

That is no way to die. No way is a good way to die except in ones’ sleep, but who chooses? And only humans know there is an end to life. Animals blissfully nap life away, at least domesticated ones. The others are out surviving never sitting around wondering about death and how they will die.

I do. Sometimes I do very much, especially now with air a possible killer. Driving to pick up the order the thought occurred, if the driver going past has the window down, and my window is down, what if they cough and I breathe it in?

Quickly closing the window and opening up the passenger window, some relief creeps in. But what of this terror filled world? Always a fearful place for me anyway since age 8, it is uncommonly stressful now. Blogging out posts of our incapable, bloated, selfish president deters me from the fear, rage an easier and more familiar feeling to me.

But the stress of anger on a heart is no good. Mercy, and compassion for humanity softens my heart. That doesn’t make his crimes less or OK. But my heart. Save my heart.

Go back to the basics of love and care. Do the things that bring joy. Walks in the meadow. Planting the flowers that were chosen by others in this curbside pick-up world. They did a good job, scarlet bright geraniums, and deep magenta impatiens now dot the patio and front porch.

Hands in dirt on a spring day is joy. It didn’t allow for sleep, but that will come again with the knowledge that I’m safe at home, or as safe as possible. Samuel has started to go again for coffee hour with his friends. They sit outside and he assures me they are far enough away from each other, but are they? 

Little Girl Me

My Secret Garden

Running out of THC has caused sleepless nights with groggy days due to having to take other medication for sleep. CBD oil on its own does not work. An added bonus unrealized until the whole plant oil ran out was my legs and how much better they work.

Huffing up the meadow hill, or even just around the house, painful aches with stiffness became highly noticeable. How can this simple oil be so helpful in so many ways? The rat brain cycle kicks in, that of negativity, round and round, over and over again.

The little girl at eight, all alone when loved ones attacked, growing to believe it was all my fault. The loud voice of blame attacking me by day as brothers attacked at night. Those voices bang loudly again.

Despair knocks as tears fall. Going through years of sleeplessness again after months when the miracle of sleep was blessed upon me is untenable. 

“I cannot handle this,” weeping without wanting to while telling Samuel about yet again another sleepless night needing to take a sleep aid.

Samuel says, “You can get a prescription!”

“No, I tried on-line,” crying more, defeated, adding, “It is too hard, and too complicated.”

“It’s not,” he said. “I looked. All you have to do is find a provider. Fill out an application, pay the fee, get a card, then you buy it from a New York dispensary.”

Tears fall more. He had already been on the computer after the first rush of tears when I’d left the room. The tenderness towards him touched a very deep place covered with mistrust put in place years ago.

The only way to survive was to protect what was left after brothers obliterated the essence of me. The spark nestled beneath layers of iron needed protection, a tiny ember below all the doubt, fear, and surety of the destruction to come.

Not the virus, though that can kill, but people. My life has been about fear of people. Because little girl me learned early what people can do.

PANDEMIC PARALYSIS

Though retired, living off hard earned funds, there is work to do. Remember being in the moment, not carried away like a schizoid in the stratosphere of worry and concern? Oh yes, that. Being here now isn’t my preference. Being here before Covid is.

Facing reality and being in the moment. One day on, one day off, one day both, those are the best days. This period is historic, not a history desiring to be a part of. How did others endure what they did in generations past?

We live in our little bubble on this plot of land, then like a bomb– reality hits paralyzing my body parts. Get up, do something, yet I can’t. Samuel looks over into the living room where I haven’t moved all day. (adding to feelings of low self-esteem)

But my limbs won’t move, my mind on hold.

Pushing myself the next day, the path of being present is the answer. Joints ache upon rising. Work to move, to do something, any little thing, and be in the body while doing it. Small things matter especially during this time. Be gentle and patient with yourself and others. Gentleness and presence is the way.