PTSD Sucks

“Can we talk?” The words fill my heart with dread. My heart pounds and the panic button in my regulatory system gets pressed repeatedly,  I’ve said something or done something wrong. They’re angry with me. They hate me. I know it. I can feel it.

My past abuse amplifies the fear – after conflict there is inevitable anger, rage or a beating. I steel myself for whatever might come. I can handle it I tell myself. I’ve survived before and I will again.

The speaker just wanted to have a gracious conversation with me about something I said that came off inappropriately.  He was kind, loving, curious and corrective.  All good things. I was in the wrong. I apologized.

However, after we got off the phone I began to panic. Did I apologize correctly? Did he hate me? Was he angry? Was this the end of a friendship? I feared emotional harm and ultimately rejection.  The feelings or potential of rejection are ominous and palpable and paralyzingl 

This is Complex PTSD in action – reacting to a present situation as if an old threat exists.   It is waiting for the other shoe to drop and the guillotine to fall.  This is what it feels like to be stuck in the vortex of the disease that always tells you that you are not safe or loved.

My anxiety was so high it required medication to calm it down and for me to begin to think rationally. PTSD sucks.

The lethargy of loneliness

I have developed a camaraderie with solitude. My calendar and life are comfortably quiet, punctuated with occasional phone calls and text messages. Periodically there is some unrequited call for warranty replacement, or notification that my social security has been compromised. But overall I work quietly, create art and putter around the house in almost complete silence which usually doesn’t bother me at all.

But some days the solitude is different. Some days the solitude feels like burden, an obstacle, rather than a state of being. Those days carry with them the heaviness of climbing a mountain in boots that weigh a thousand pounds. Deep drifts of soul fog blow in, suffocating life and light and joy

On days like these I move in a slow circle from the coffee pot, to the desk chair, to the recliner. My wandering barely shifts the dust on the floor that has taken advantage of my cleaning abstinence. A few moments during the day sputter and stop just shy of igniting creativity or ambition.

The day feels long with empty hours and purposeless minutes. I struggle to find intention and motivation. Its hard to decipher whether my lethargy is loneliness or depression. The distinction between the two feels negligible.

“Am I ok?” I wonder. “Does everybody have days like this, where movement is heavy and painful and the world feels far away?” And “What if I always feel this way?” The panic of wondering about the longevity of loneliness and depression is as stifling as the feeling itself.

But one day inevitably turns into the next bringing with it a whole new realm of possibilities and endings. Sometimes it is one long day followed by another long drawn out day. Other days are filled with peace, lightness and joy. There are no guarantees of more days or of better days. But to be sure, at the end of all searching for meaning and answers there is always faith, hope and love.

About the dodo bird

blogI bought a dodo . . . And other things that aren’t true.

I received an email today from an unknown source requesting my bank account information so they “can do a bank transfer for the payment of the dodo you purchased.” I didn’t buy a dodo. I didn’t send them my bank account information. I probably won’t get the bird I didn’t purchase.

Covid culture is a new and uncertain time for all of us. It has us isolated, stir crazy and reprioritizing what is essential for our lives to continue with some sense of normalcy.  We have  been given a dodo we didn’t want. And as of now we aren’t allowed to shake this bird.  We are stuck with it.

Everybody copes with the unwanted and undesirable things in life in different ways. Some chose to ignore the unpleasantness, some divert or distract themselves from it and some hit it head on and try to change the situation. Far as I can see changing the situation isn’t an option. The government has imposed unprecedented restrictions to our lives. Ignoring covid is also not an option. As if the changes in our daily life structure are not enough, news and social media is a swarm of information of both reputable and ridiculous nature.

So, we are left with diversion and distraction. Physically I have been distracting myself with a book, craft project and mindless tv. Mentally it is tougher to distance myself from the anxieties and inconveniences this season presents. Its easier to distract the body than the mind. However, my mental health and spiritual health are priorities. I have found a few things that have helped.

  1. I am reading a book with friends. Having a like minded community to talk with about things of mutual interest is mentally stimulating and uplifting.
  2. I am following a daily Bible reading plan.  This has become an intentional and uplifting time of the day. I feel like I am connected with the Church by reading a prescribed plan along with so many others. I’m part of something bigger than myself.
  3. I am focusing on what I have and expressing gratitude for what we have been given. I know this circumstance is so hard for so many and I also realized my family has been blessed and slightly insulated from the covid casualties in so many ways. I want to be sure and give thanks for all the good I see and experience.
  4. I know its serious. I know people are dying and terribly ill.  I also know that all of us need a modicum of joy and laughter.  Laughing at the silly, the odd, and the foibles help keep our hearts light.

We can’t shake the dodo but we can live well in spite of its intrusion.

The Music of Laughter

nathan-anderson-FHiJWoBodrs-unsplashThe night our toddler was diagnosed with cancer was terrifying, confusing and full of unknown fears. As I consider the condition of the world today I know these are emotions that are shared by so many. On that night we had friends who rallied to help us pack for a journey to the children’s hospital in Denver, 8 hours away, where our daughter was to receive treatment.

As I watched one of our friends having a fight with our portable crib I was overcome with laughter watching him struggle to collapse the crib into its carrying case. He, having no child equipment experience was overcome with frustration, trying to get all the levers clicked and buttons pushed to origami fold the crib. Something about the wrestling match he and the crib were having struck my funny bone and I sat back and roared.  He looked at me and said curiously “Now?You’re laughing at a time like this.” I remember thinking, “If we can’t laugh we’ll never make our way through this.”

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about foolishly disregarding the situation at hand or laughing carelessly in the face of danger. Its just my firm belief that no matter the circumstances joy, joviality, laughter, fun, happiness, gratitude or appreciation are always beneficial, especially when they are in short supply. Music is definitely a plus, a simple way is to let your kid play percussion time to time to help him heal and grow. These things cost us nothing but the return on their investment yields improved outlook and best case scenario attitude.

Smile when you’re alone. Enjoy one another’s company when you can and laugh because the world, especially now, needs to hear that music to soothe its soul and fears.