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. 

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.

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. 

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.

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…

STRENGTH

photo by Patricia

My Mom died 11 years ago, May 9th. Years passed as the grief lessened, never grieving anyone as she was grieved. It was springtime, only weeks away from today, and thoughts of her have cropped up more lately than years passed even at the anniversary date.

“Samuel, my thoughts go to Mom frequently lately. I think it has to do with the similarity of feelings then and now. The beauty of spring bursting forth, at the same time unbearable feelings of loss as she became sicker. It is much like now, the glorious grandeur of spring and the horror of death with no end in sight,” I said thoughtfully, wondering at the complexity of feelings inside myself with no apparent names to define them. 

He nods and walks away. Samuel is not a talker unless it’s about how a motor works, or should work. And living with Samuel goes along fairly well during this imposed togetherness. We are together most of time anyway, but he seems almost clingy sometimes causing my need for space and separateness to intensify. 

Just because a person doesn’t talk about their feelings doesn’t mean they don’t have any. He must feel scared too, leaning on me in his own quiet way. 

 

 

Care and Love

photo by Patricia

So easily the ‘self’ is lost in the fray. Going robotic happens quickly. Then the letdown, the loss of sleep, anxiety consuming like a hungry bear.

Moment to moment, be there. Slow down. Slow way down, catching the inner workings as they happens, not going on as if all is wonderful, but as it is. Not so wonderful. Not when the world suffers, and fear gurgles in the quiet moments.

Only in being there can it be soothed. And it is OK, more so, necessary to be there deep inside where my being hides and resides, even from myself.

Playing old roles when interacting with the origin group, the pull of the role that makes others comfortable. Losing all growth in an instant, becoming clay molded unrecognizable.

Come back home inside, moment to moment. Take care of the precious soul finally found; spiritually, physically, emotionally, and wholly.

Feel It, Own It

photos by Patricia

To say my feelings of sadness are irreverent, or shouldn’t be felt as was written in yesterday’s post, is not how the hard won freedom of authenticity is honored. The sadness is real, not just the barriers between touching my grand-children and now only being able to see them through a screen, but so much more.

To say my rights don’t include accepting my feeling, all of them, is denying my true self, a life-time pattern. Sadness, fear, and the ever lagging self-esteem that plagues my psyche since age 8, are issues that need work daily.

Disregarding any feelings as if not there is the same type treatment from the origin family to this day. Be invisible, don’t be REAL. The other difficult concept escaping my ability more than not is self-love, comfort from within, and a soft place to be inside myself that welcomes with warmth.

Be a hero, rise above, be something you are not, says the harsh voice ever present. I feel scared, alone, lonely, did I say scared? I will say it again, SCARED. Scared that the killer among us is here to stay.

Yes, others will go to work eventually, out and about because they have been ill, lived through it, and have some immunity. But the fear is always there. Can you get it again? And when is my time, or Samuel’s, or friends, or even family from the origin group that I’ve reached out to.

Because during this pandemic, holding back when that group was pulling me in seemed senseless. Yet putting myself in there has caused its own problems. My critic bashes my doing so. You dummy. Why do you do that? Telling them you love them, do you really?

None is to be trusted. Accepting a role in whatever they have managed to erect has caused sleepless nights again. Yet I seem incapable of stopping, pulling me back to the vulnerable, play-dohish easily manipulated victim.

So the day starts bright with sunshine as well as the quandary swirling within.

 

What Path?

Time will come soon when it is warm enough to sip coffee on the patio. Samuel filled the finch feeder after empty all winter. The birds will begin to turn bright yellow and we’ll be able to observe the change while the sun warms us.

For now we still rock by fire. Knowing what’s at stake, we are doing all that we can to keep ourselves safe. The only time going out in public is to pick up groceries that are put in my trunk. Holding up a sign to the worker through the window also keeps me safe.

Once all avenues are explored, and action taken, feelings calm somewhat. Yet tears fall while meditating thinking of others, and the way they are dying… alone, gasping for breath, or hooked up to a ventilator almost in a coma. 

There are many ways to deal with the terror. Some don’t listen to news much. I am not one of them, each time gravitating toward it like a lifeline. But what comes with it is a connection to others even while sequestered away.

But that has been how I live, isolating myself from becoming overwhelmed due to a life of cortisol dumps on a daily basis leaving my adrenals depleted, and vulnerable. But I’m not isolated as my spirit world connects me to all others, and all living things.

It is not living alone, but on my own, finding true strength within that hadn’t been sourced. And in that choice to listen to what is really happening comes deep compassion and empathy. I hurt when you hurt. I hear the cries. It hurts to know of such suffering, helpless to stop the increasing tsunami of death, panic, and sickness.

Each have their ways of coping. All ways, if it works, are the right way. My path leads to the forest, within myself, and into the universe holding us all together. It has always been there, but only in the last several years was connection possible as the scattered pieces were welcomed home.