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. 

Bestow Love not Hate

photo by Patricia

An unease invades the morning reverie. Perhaps it is the lack of sunshine hiding behind thick clouds on a balmy morning still warm from yesterday’s heat. Perhaps it is a change in me. Day after day of an upset stomach the realization surfaces that my body is telling me something. But what, so disconnected from it that I really don’t know. 

Connect. That doesn’t come naturally, though it must have in my first 8 years before the attacks began. A skinny kid with long blonde hair, happy on a beach before my father died, Then all went tragic and crazy.

Boom, like lightening, weight came on and stayed on for the next fifty years keeping me safe, hiding me, making me someone other than who I was meant to be.

Trust is the most grievous loss, gone forever. What kinds of relationships sustain without trust? None. The daily feat is picking up pieces of shattered me trying to trust enough to get close… husband, son, or friend. 

The timidity to speak up about likes, dislikes, to put forth anything looking like a boundary, gone. Boundaries obliterated when even my body was not my own. When unmarked boundaries are crossed and my mouth stays mute, then grudges, resentments, and hate howl. 

Oh that anger, not allowed either. It takes a lot of food to suppress anger. Over the years anger began to  erupt naturally on rare occasions expressed in the moment, naturally, freeing and normal. Taught to stay quiet this was miraculous even in its rarity. 

And with a quiet muted mouth, my body grew large screaming unhappiness, terror and pain. Nobody listened. It was one more thing to hate about myself.

But what if I listened to its cues? What if love was bestowed not hate? With no map, no direction, no permission, could I do it? Over and over I try, and fail. But what if?

 

LOST

photo by Patricia (lilac)

Sit, stay. The mourning dove coos at 6 AM, a gentle breeze softly skimming over me, leaves newly erupted soothing with a ruffled whisper. Lost, feelings of losing my way for the last several months.

Could it be the challenge from a sister-in-law hardly ever heard from though she lives in the city less than an hour away?

“We are all getting older,” she said in an email, using the heavy power of guilt to persuade me to come to the Christmas party with the other two brothers and wives.

My relationship with Don, once father-like, changed over the years after he expressed the burden of playing that role. The rift became pronounced during my mother’s decline when bickering under the duress of debilitating emotions, explosive and labile. 

Her words swayed me, going to the gathering with a chip on my shoulder, not hugging, not entering easily into conversation unless wanting to. A person different than the malleable people pleaser they grew up with.

And with it came a very fast weight gain still hanging on making me so unhappy. The different person is not so different, pleasing by going to something I did not want to go to. My going meant losing respect for myself, and my ability to look out for little girl me. ‘She’ is scared of them, and I didn’t protect ‘her.’

But if my brother wanted it so badly that he enlisted his wife to work for it, I went, not wanting to live with regrets. But in going something inside myself was denied. If the question is whether to hurt someone or myself, it is almost always myself, even, or especially, when unconsciously… a knee-jerk reaction taught and beveled into my core when very young. You don’t matter. Never put yourself first, you’re invisible and unworthy anyway. 

And with going so did my safety. Weight is about safety. The more weight, the safer.

That group of people always felt safe. Those three were the three out of seven who didn’t sexually attack me. So safe, right? But aren’t those that know and do nothing just as culpable? Maybe more so.

There are still no words of comfort or support. Each continues a relationship with the last surviving attacker now living out west.

His presence, though distant, casts darkness on the sunniest of days. He haunts the brightness in the form of Trump, or other people lacking integrity. Those that love to manipulate while acting like victims as they manipulate and greedily take without remorse or shame. The only shame lies in me for ever being born. 

The craving for family will continue, the need for safety remains.

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.

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…

At Ease

photos by Patricia

Once precautions were taken to the extreme: dipping all groceries into a bleach solution, spraying mail and the weekend papers with disinfectant, leaving all packages on the porch 24 hrs. or more before opening, not going ANYWHERE except to have the Walmart worker load the trunk keeping my window closed…. after doing all that and adding a few drops extra of CBD oil in the mornings, anxiety abated, and so too the constant fear accompanying it.

Things almost feel normal yet patterns of eating since childhood when the attacks began erupt like a snake head with sharp teeth. Eating anxiety, a life-long survival tool. Go to the core where my being resides. Go there, be there, be connected. It is still scary. It is not possible to forget the suffering of people unknown to me yet close to my soul as they cry.

Still, an ease floods my being while sitting next to the creek. An ease unheard of for most of my life. Feeling at ease in my body, with my feelings, emotions, thoughts, and my body’s workings— something that others not dealing with the after effects of trauma take for granted, is something yearned for since childhood. It was not to be until recent years.

For decades the wish to be someone else who seemed connected within themselves consumed me. The pain of the shattering left in the wake of repeated sexual attacks by those looked up to, loved, and trusted wholly caused a rift within that may never have come back together.

But the parts came home, came together, and I am whole, at ease within myself, a miracle savored during those quiet moments when recognizing it. Meditative time by the creek warms throughout, deep down, through and through. The stillness of my being novel. 

 

 

Each Day

“Today felt better than all the other ones,” I said to Samuel, then remembered starting the day with an extra dose of CBD oil. It seemed a good idea due to the anxiety bubbling in my belly that is in addition to the usual daily challenges with it.

Normally a full dropper is taken at night before laying down in bed, under the tongue for five minutes before swallowing. It is a helpful habit to keep until safer days arrive. It may also help with sudden wakings due to an increase of nightmares. We gut laughed during a TV show. It has been weeks since laughing like that. 

Interestingly, food cravings stabilized almost immediately with the additional dose, meals becoming healthier frosted with a greater capacity to connect with my body. 

The current of anxiety thrumming deep down has vibrated constantly since the crisis began, rising as it crept closer and closer finally arriving within the community. Waves of apprehension heighten during news reports. That gratefully lessens while outdoors. Bird songs, fresh air breathed in fully, and the current of the creek meandering by comfort the ragged edges.

A beaver appeared, then a weasel slipped in and out by the bank where it made holes in the mud looking for roots to eat. A fox appeared only yards away. The wild gardens are full up with snow-drops with many bulbs popping up growing taller each day. Yellowy jonquils are almost ready to open, my term for them ‘miniature daffodils.’ The majesty of solitude, peace, and quiet smooths away unease offering respite. 

Meditation helps to settle my core, concern rising again during news reports, feeling the buzz as it erupts internally. The draw for the most current news has reduced feeling assured we are doing all that can be done to protect ourselves and others by self-isolating. 

The jerk of a president refutes the numbers of ventilators desperately required en mass, choosing instead to let the older population die. He bizarrely talks of filling up churches by Easter relaxing social distancing before the pandemic has hardly even approached it’s peak.

It is more of the same lunacy. Networks don’t broadcast his long-winded reports anymore which are full of lies interspersed with self congratulatory propaganda.

 

 

Feelings Need Comfort

photo by Patricia

Listening to news brings deep vibrations of fear coupled with anxiety. Maybe not watching would relieve it, yet every scrap is consumed needing to know, be prepared, and to be preventative. Like a moth to flame, or to safe ground?

Trying not to feel what is there doesn’t work only pushing me to old habits of stuffing my body with unwanted food, no longer an escape that helps much. Causing great dis-ease instead, intensifying fears because now my own actions are causing harm. And it is a very big clue that emotions need tending to with care, gentleness and compassion.

So feel the feelings. Oh that. Yes, feel it. These feelings don’t run through dissipating like others moving on to the next issue. These rumble on as the emergency heightens.

So continue with the things that keep my body strong and healthy. Meditation. Time in nature with the relaxing repose by the creek after lap 5, healthy nutrition, sleep, and past-times that unwind stressed nerves.

 

EACH MOMENT

It couldn’t be true that fear lay in my belly. Cocooned in our little home, my belief is I’m above becoming terrified of an arriving virus. Yet why suddenly had eating without hunger become all consuming? There is usually a reason, especially after all was going so well.

The robotic state of constant numbness from overeating returns instantly when fear seeps in. You’re making excuses, the harsh voice whips. Am I? Could it be terror? Yes, terror. Never far away especially when feelings of victim-hood, helplessness, or powerlessness visit.

Eating it away doesn’t make it go away, only boxes it in wrapped with self-hate. I can do without the hate. Only with compassion can the terror be unearthed, real terror that feels shameful as if it is something to hide.

But on the news the influx of others seeking therapeutic assistance has increased greatly, even if virtually on-line for safety reasons. Those with anxiety or depression issues are hit especially hard. Duh.

It is with compassion that acceptance of real feelings and my whole self occurs. That’s missing when the eating machine emerges. Food was, and is, the bank vault locking in terror tightly so that daytime life can go on. Not good sustenance at all, just a habit since age 8, a survival tool that hinders my health and well-being.

As a child that was what mother insisted. Go on as if nothing happened Love your brothers, wolves in sheep’s clothing, monsters who look human. Nighttime terror locked in daily with food, the one thing she gave freely.

Identifying the terror is the first step. Then do all that you can to protect yourself, especially while out in public which is very little except picking up groceries and other items. Even that is being curbed as much as possible. My friends continue church services, and attendance in chorale and other groups. Which is why I am not going to attend our upcoming monthly gathering, or the next month’s.

As one not involved in group things, seeing them exposes me to their perspective groups of people. Each of their families, kids, and grand-kids, and all the separate churches because each belongs to a different church. So our little gathering of 5 exposes me to a much greater population.

At the risk of anyone saying I’m overdoing it, feeling safe needs focus and respect. I’m worthy of listening to my own rationale as an intelligent person, not going along with others because they know best, or because getting together doesn’t worry them.

It worries me. They don’t know what’s best for me, only I do. The hammerings of  negatives in my head are not coming from others, only me. Just say no, and know you are doing the right thing. 

Do what can be done to protect myself. Accept that terror is there which helps lessen it. Come back into myself, into each moment, feeling the new thick carpet under my bare feet in the bedroom. The sparkle from hanging gems sending prisms dancing on the wall as the sun sets, an orange orb that dazzles my eyes with brilliance

Come back to this precious moment. Each one comes never to come again. Be here now.