PTSD-THE LIGHTENING STRIKES

Little did I understand my ‘illness.’ Calling it that is a first for me. All these years I loaded blame onto my shoulders and into my being for not keeping up, for intense reactions, even screaming if someone came up from behind or around a corner. Usually that was my kids, and most times not purposely because they learned early on that’s not funny with Mom because it caused a very serious scare.

But there is so much more, and it hasn’t been given gentleness or compassion, only self-hatred for being so different, for not being able to do what others do so easily, for being so tired, scared, and forever mistrusting. Even when someone truly cared, in my mind it is, ‘What are you up to? What do you want?’

It is not a life anyone else would want. In the night it strikes. I hadn’t thought of my sleep problems being connected with PTSD. Waking, it is as if a bomb went off. I must get out of bed to be safe and ready.

When anything small or large concerns me, it is during night waking’s that it feels life threatening. My entire body goes on alert without my permission. There is no sleeping when all the bells toll. What if, why didn’t I, oh, the hammerings at myself are deadening.

Last night something new occurred. A voice of calm began asking, ‘where is the compassion? Why aren’t you treating this body that has been through so much with kindness,  care and understanding? It is time you did.’

PTSD strikes many days causing my body to snap with electricity on alert.  It is my norm. To have moments of true relaxation is a state others live in most of the time but not for me. Finally speaking up to my son requiring respect has intensified my usual PTSD symptoms;  sleep problems, a buzzing during daytime accompanied by bouts of tears, restlessness without relief, rat in a wheel repetitive negative thoughts, and despair.

The rift is deeply painful yet necessary. I am the only one who believes that. Others would prefer what they are accustomed to. To act in loving ways towards oneself when others disapprove, or don’t like it, takes great resolve and is oh so needed. 

More meditation, rest after a bad night, diligent work at positive, validating thoughts, and an intense fortitude to work through this differently in a way that finally allows my voice to be heard and respected are all issues being worked on. I won’t apologize for being alive.

When all others are against you, sometimes you must be strong. Making changes in the status quo meets with resistance, even, or most, from those we love. It is as necessary as air, or why exist?

No one else understands the deep currents of how PTSD interferes with one’s life, how much is taken, and I won’t get back. No amount of work will change it. I can learn to understand and care about myself though. That miracle can happen. Laying down every last atom of self-respect so others can trample all over it is my norm.

It is only this year at age 65 that I put out my arm like a cop and said no to Samuel’s brother when he kept coming towards me to hug me as I kept backing away. I said, “That OK, I’m not much of a hugger.’

I have suffered his embrace just as I have suffered Tom’s embrace all these years because I couldn’t say NO. Samuel’s brother also raped his sister way back before I knew him. It is no accident I chose a family with the same dysfunctions and crimes, though not consciously. 

Others don’t understand PTSD symptoms because they have healthy boundaries in place and always have. They weren’t trained to take and expect abhorrent abuses to their bodies, mind, and psyche. And it doesn’t happen to others because since the day of meeting a new person each feels the other out and learns about where boundaries are.

That is how it’s done, but for me, so much time is spent dissociating I’ve missed all the cues, and have no boundaries anyway. If you mistreat me, I act nicer, placate more, bowing at your feet even shining your shoes while down there. Whatever it takes to feel accepted especially after any iota of disapproval, but never knowing, accepting, or respecting myself. 

One must grasp onto what’s left before it is gone. A long standing dysfunction is hard to change. A relationship can either sustain the shift or not. One must stay strong to protect their right in this world, on this planet, and in this little plot of land I call home.

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COCOONING

photo by Patricia

Cocooning myself against the threats in the world was crucial to survival. Every living being posed a threat. This type of cocooning lead to decay, not growth, but I knew no other way.

Reaching out for help from the black hole took great courage and persistence. One starts where one can. The local Mental Health Clinic took on clients based on income so my fee was very low. With only Samuel working at minimum wage we scraped by each week. My babysitting, crafts and frugal spending habits kept us afloat.

Those steps outward were so terrifying. What will they think about me? The urge to blurt forth what brothers had done had become too much to contain, yet along with it was great fear of how badly I’d look. The dirt by others dirtied me and in my mind must be my fault.

Yet there remained one glittering speck of instinct knowing all that was not true. And that speck grew and grew with the help of therapists throughout the years, even ones that behaved badly. Perhaps those spurred me on even more.

Reaching out for friends and outside activities brought anxiety and was scary yet the need for connection grew greater. Always a part of school chorale my love of singing drew me to the local chorale. That became a healthy opportunity for growth in many ways for years. With shaking knees at concerts, friends held me up with their kind support. Each concert became easier and rehearsals less scary and fun.

Friends have remained and due to taking risks and asking others, a group was formed that has met monthly for over 15 years. We rotate at each other’s houses for crafts, cards,  snacks then a dessert. The comfort and camaraderie of other women became a base like earth to grow from.

The need to cocoon myself from too much stimulation remains. Many should’s arise in my mind, yet one rational voice whispers my truth, It’ OK, do what you need to for you…

 

PTSD

Sleep, oh blessed sleep. This dam nervous system that can’t even take a disruption in routine kept sleep at bay. My son, his wife and their angel of a baby had arrived from Boston. After a happy evening of conversation and joyful moments with our precious grand-daughter, my usual time for bed passed by. Trouble for me was brewing. Keeping to routine is crucial to my ability to sleep. 

Everyone retired at 11 pm. Hoping for sleep, none came. Donning my bathrobe with  resignation, downing a double dose of a sleep aid, and flipping on the TV, it wasn’t until 2 am that sleep came. 

Caring for myself means keeping a routine. Tonight my cat and I will need to say our good-nights at 9, watch a show in bed, and by 10 sleep should come. 

A nervous system shot by PTSD needs routine. None of the others had trouble falling asleep, even the baby. My husband’s even breathing within minutes of lying down next me made me envious.

 

 

 

FLAWED

Pumpkin spice coffee brewing, Christmas music softly playing, candles flickering, and decorations offering a gentle colorful sparkle, something still pulls at me on this dark morning the day before Thanksgiving.

You are you own entity. A life of leaning into others reality because there was no connection to my own has evolved. Looking within instead of looking to others for worth, acceptance and answers is a new way of being offering wholeness, groundedness, and autonomy. Yet it also comes with responsibility.

Instead of feeling bad about everything because essentially “I am bad,” one looks for where they really do need work and really did make mistakes. And not with an overwhelming “I am bad” mentality, but with a realistic view of themselves; that we all are human and are flawed, imperfect and often messy.

So look within and forgive because then you can forgive others for the same flaws that may look different but are very human.

Happy Heart

Fall has come and gone, the trees are bare as wind whistles through the branches. Sitting by the fire cozily with the cat by my feet, thick fog fills the back hillside while the hickory trees nearby in the hedgerow sway dancing like black lacy tendrils entwined together. The bareness seemed to happen overnight but it really took weeks. Perhaps night winds took the last leaves. Dawn comes in a steely grey gloom, the sun cast away behind the smoky carpet.

Days like this tend to be more common than sunny ones in NE America during the long months of winter. One must make their own joy. Dragging the six foot fake Christmas tree up from the basement, a day is spent decorating the house with strings of lights a week earlier than usual. The brightness of color and sparkle lift the dreariness. As the gold shimmery tree skirt is gently tucked around the tree base, Molly the cat curls up under it in her favorite resting place, the echo of purring floating up to my ears.

Hunting season has begun, so bright red is added to outdoor gear for the usual meadow walks. And unless it is raining, the walks continue to boost my moral, invigorate the senses and keep my heart healthy. Keeping attuned to the needs of the heart- spiritual, emotional and physical, are what makes a day fulfilling and sustaining.

You Have a Right to be Here

You are OK just as you are. Breathe. Slow down. Moving into the next moment before living the present one makes me hurried when there’s no need to. That is the injured brain operating from years of unprocessed trauma. Don’t judge it, befriend it.

You are a child of the Universe. You DO have a right to be here; and not by other’s standards but by your own. Remember what you have suffered, because it is with accepting the truth of your past that you can offer gentle kindness, patience and loving support to yourself now.

 

FORGIVENESS

photos by patricia

Guilt? Who needs it? I suffer from it a lot, but am learning to forgive myself, even if I’ve done nothing more than not know how to be ‘my own best friend’. I’m hard on myself. I learned this only because others pointed it out over the years repeatedly. After hearing it enough, I began to believe there was something to it.

I had to forgive myself for the abusive sexual attacks against me by 4 siblings when only a child of 8 and the next few years after. A tremendous amount of guilt and shame invaded my entire being which only intensified as I grew and my thoughts about myself worsened.

In my 20’s, 30’s, up to my 50’s, rage ruled. Behind every interaction rage had to be contained, rage at myself and rage at the world and all the people in it. I was a pressure cooker with the tightest lid around. I appeared nice, sweet and passive but inside it boiled. I do not like looking back at my life and how all feelings had to be contained. 

Writing chapters of who, how and why allowed the pain behind the rage to come up and the tears of healing flowed. As I let the rage and hate go for what they’d done, I needed to forgive me too, for whatever I thought I’d done…even if it was only  that I’d been so cruel to myself, yet kind towards others.

Hate and rage began to loosen its grip during my daily half hour meditation. When I began to find myself and feel my center, nothing else mattered. Being present instead of zoning out began to feel safe and happened more often.

Have I forgiven them? I believe some things are unforgivable. Being sexually attacked as a child is one of them. The best I can say is I let the rage go and let myself off the hook too- and maybe I have forgiven. That doesn’t mean I want to be around people I’m still afraid of.

The most valuable forgiveness was and continues to be… towards myself