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. 

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. 

Freedom and Safety

Waking in the night a breeze of fear passes through me. All the people called ‘family’ were put in the block sender list yesterday to feel safe. But what of the love felt for each of them? The love is from an immature girl, remaining a girl all through my 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s, only beginning to mature in the last decade… a slow and painful process. 

And with maturity comes the realization that lies are not OK. Interacting with each of them, always on their terms, is not OK. Pretending is not OK. Being buddies with an abuser, aligning with him against me, is not OK. Pretending he didn’t slink up in the night to abuse me… is not OK.

By not talking about the crimes committed against me make the crimes loom larger. Lying awake in the night remembering. The confused mixture of pleasure and confusion as a little girl, still sleepy laying there at the end of couch with my little brother asleep at the other end.

Tommy’s head between my legs— waking to the soft pleasure but not understanding. The next morning, and all the years after, the brother I loved so much with admiration and trust, turned his hate upon me. I was a reminder of his crime. His fear of exposure compounding the punishment that would defeat me for decades. That leaves me fighting for a life even now. 

On little shoulders that would take even more trauma, some so violent that remembering isn’t safe to this day. My psyche protects me from it still.

I am blocking emails that never come unless someone dies or wants something. No one dares to get close, reality might set in. But what of my reality?

Attachments cause deep pain. My preference is to attach to the land and mother nature who soothes, bringing smiles of joy as the chipmunks play, or a flower blooms .

Attach to my children, and their children. To Samuel, who I’m learning to trust for the very first time in over 40 years of marriage. Trust for a friend whom I’ve finally learned to erect boundaries with, a miraculous feat… trust that will reach out only so far because she will slam me down if I let her. 

That is enough to be challenged with. The origin family carries baggage with heavy requirements I have no energy to meet. (Yet agree to anyway when pressured.) So take away the temptation. 

After trying repeatedly to develop relationships individually with no takers, it became apparent that groups were only what was wanted— herd immunity. My need for safety equates to detaching. Craving freedom that was lost when feeling forced by pressured guilt to do something I did not want to do paralleling my formative years. Freedom and safety come home. 

The Destroyer

Giving up control so easily, has that become a way of life? Well, yes. Giving into a sister-in-law’s guilty pressuring to come to a party, or a myriad of other cave-ins, it happens regularly. Not respecting and paying attention to my own soul whispering’s, neglecting my needs for another, is a way of life since age 8.

Always please or be alone in the dark in the middle of the night. Be kicked out of an abusive family, or stay with it. As a child this doesn’t come in words but in the gut to survive. The family is all a child has, though someone should have come to remove me, or them.

It takes every atom to stand my ground, simple things like saying no, and it is exhausting. The terror of rejection and taunting too keen, because in childhood that’s what Tom did after his night-time attack.

I am the victim, victimized and ganged up ever after. But the subtleness of his emotional attacks after the physical attack were what annihilated me. Any chance of wholeness pick-axed till nothing was left but a shell in a whiff of smoke.

Every time he smirked, a part of me died that could have flourished.

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.

SADNESS

It is hard to come to grips with the present when the past often pulls me back. Think of those suffering so much more than me right now, as tears fall watching the funeral of a family as they say farewell to yet another victim of the corona virus.

Yet denying my own place in the world which encompasses reality, not the origin family’s narrative of the truth which obliterates the trauma’s endured as a child, is not living wholly or authentically.

There is sadness, there always has been since the first attack, but the reality of what happened was denied. So I denied it too, there wasn’t an alternative. But then, like now, denying something doesn’t make it go away.

Opening up the country as if the virus suddenly has disappeared is causing great grief inside me, rupturing a well of sadness and loss that is preventable if we had a leader who would lead. He instead sits on his ass pontificating how wonderful he is but admits, yes people will die. Does he give a fuck? No. 

And opening myself to the reality of my life causes sadness, often choosing to try to act like others instead of with my own truths. Living split. The body moves but the rest of me works to catch up, or fast forwards ahead of it.

Prostrate over my mother’s grave 11 years ago, cut in two with grief, it took years for the pain to ebb. But during that time was when healing was more than a word. Instead of going to a dry well for love, my mother who really did love me but with exceptions, I learned (and am still learning) how to love myself.

That little girl hurts. She’s sad. She may always feel sad. A family left, abandoning me as they had their own grief to attend to. Living in the same house, still they left in all the ways that matter.

And I left her too. Coming back as a whole means owning it all.  Wrapping my arms around myself, just as Mother Nature does when sitting on the patio in the warm sun.

Mother Sun caresses me while in my thick bathrobe wrapped in a blanket on a sunny spring morning. The heat warming through as if she is rocking me. There must be ways to soothe a tender heart as the nation fractures in chaos due to the evil one. I know that the majority of hearts are pure. That they will conquer and endure, but hell is still to come.

Trying not to think of what is really happening is the same as not being who I am. How to stay in the boat as it sways sharply in the swells.

 

 

 

 

What Broke

photo by Patricia

Re-entering my body has taken days. To notice and absorb the scent of the candle in the warmer, to check internally understanding the depth of tiredness that descends each day, acknowledge it, and attend to it. Then do things accordingly at the pace that meets my energy without splitting.

My being feels like a walking injury that must be cared for, and who else but me? Yet for much of life that me was buzzing around my body disconnected not wanting connection. Living that way causes dis-ease. People take time to care for themselves.

I was taught not to. To ignore traumatic injuries, to stuff them down because no one comes to help. The ever-lasting loud message is STAY SILENT.  That equates to a life of disrepair spent chaotically and desperately craving healthiness. It isn’t possible to make healthy what was severely broken. Some pieces cemented back together became stronger. Others break over and over again cracking at the joints. There is no fix. 

What is possible is to tend to my needs, which also requires staying present, another affliction caused by leaving my body at age eight and thereafter. The energy required for the task can be draining calling for great care and attention. Slow is the pace, long is the way, wonder and joy are found in the ‘moment.’ 

As the lines on my hands are noticed. As the birds sing across the meadow to each other. As the sun rises full and bright with rosy wisps of clouds in the purply turquoise sky.

There are pressures adding to the already pendulous weight of living that make caring for oneself harder but more necessary. Pleasure awaits in this moment of time, simple pleasure that money can’t buy.

Peace During a Pandemic

photo by Patricia

Having a plan for the day brings goals. Sometimes the goals need to be cut back in order to go at a pace without rush or anxiety. Anxiety bubbles below like constant running water during the pandemic scare.

How to find calm? The usual ways, puttering in the kitchen making home-made whole wheat pizza. White, of course, for Samuel. That is an all-day project, making the dough, letting it rise on the stove, baking, toppings, then baking again.

In between kitchen prepping, a call to a friend who isn’t able to zoom into her church services or our planned zoom group gathering today. And between the two of us, success! So a lovely visit with a friend where I could see her face and her smile.

And the most precious times are walking the meadow with meditative time at the creek. Samuel eventually joins me. We sit quietly listening to the orchestra of birds. .

There is peace to be found during this pandemic, a marathon rather than a sprint.

TRAUMATIC

photo by Patricia

There will come a time when looking back, what is happening now will be less traumatic. Living through it is traumatic. My escape is eating, eating so much nothing else can be thought of except that. Eating fear works but with a toll, self-loathing. 

It eats me up with no room for escape making everything worse and harder, even sleep. Waking, or not falling asleep, with an urgency close at hand, the emergency is internal adding to the external chaos.

What I do matters. If actions are used that are self-destructive such as over-eating, dread increases, even if unconsciously. My body knows it isn’t able to remain stable if fed incorrectly or too much. No wonder sleep evaded me. The threat to life was me.

Living through this is traumatic. While walking the meadow on a sunny morning, spring renewing herself with green adornments growing daily, my thoughts uncovered a truth. Even without the virus’s taunts of death and sickness looming every moment, my life has been much like that anyway.

Threats to life were everywhere, in every person, around every corner, my hyper-vigilance since the eight only compounding as each year passed. This additional threat topples me over the edge even while trying to act nonchalant about it.

Whether alcohol, shopping, food, or drugs, SOMETHING needs to take me away from the truth of so much suffering. Yet that isn’t the answer. Taking a stand does. Stand up in the middle of it. Do what can be done to be healthy.

A friend calls, the first in the last many weeks, and we spend time together on the phone as if we were together. My friendships are precarious due my issues of trust, or lack of it, compounded with the inability to speak up for myself causing great anger when taken advantage of.

Yet some friendships have endured and are so needed right now. They are fresh air compared to any interaction with the origin family whose own baggage interferes with any chance of closeness.

A failed zoom meeting will be tried again with our little group of five who have met consistently each month for many years. We are all less capable with these digital things than our grown children who are adept at computers and their workings.

Time was again spent in my studio after being absent from it for many months. Rolling out clay to be baked in the kiln, music playing gently in the background while the cat hunched on the shelf curiously looking down at me as incense burned… my hands worked with satisfaction.

All things nurturing are so precious right now…