Day 22 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.
It promised to be a wonderful day by myself. I was to spend part of the day in one of my favorite places in the world. I love the hustle, crowd, smells, diversity and artisans of the market. The weather was perfect and I really looked forward to it. But, like so many other things this year, the experience was tainted by my new found recognition of my own needs.
Less than one hour into my adventure I started to be sick. My anxiety kicked in full force. I found a couple of quiet spots to step outside the overwhelming pressing crowd to catch a deep breath. I put my earphones in and listened to some happy country tunes.
I think I am a fringe person now. I love the activity of the world. I just need to be on the outer rim where I can experiences the sights, smells and activities without being obligated to participate.
A sad and clarifying experience. The upside? I am getting better at recognizing what I need and being willing to take care of myself! This is the learning curve of PTSD. I may be a slow learner but I can be taught!
Day 21 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.
I didn’t understand the rules. With every family I lived with there was a different set of rules. I was used to rules – my mother’s home was one of the strictest, cleanest and OCD producing environments known to man. Even the magazines on the coffee table where placed strategically and equi-distance from one another. But this was not the case in every house I visited.
In one house I frustrated my siblings because I didn’t get my hair out of the drain catch in the shower. I hadn’t noticed the drain catch. I also frustrated them because I would study in the sun room with the door closed. I didn’t know this made them feel left out and feeling like I didn’t want to interact. I was just trying to find a place where I could get my homework done. In another family I didn’t understand the episcopal church AT ALL. It was so very different from my charismatic hoppin’ church home. Where one family ate at a counter another ate in the living room. Still another ate in a formal dining room. And in my husbands family nobody warned me that they are all lip kissers!! What is normative and acceptable in one family is certainly not in another and it takes a while to learn the “rules.”
Life now is filled with new rules. I have decided that instead of trying to fit other people’s rules and expectations into my life that I would make my own house rules. For instance, I will talk about mental illness/depression/anxiety openly and on the world-wide web. I can regulate my caffeine so it doesn’t produce more anxiety. I will freak out or curl up in a ball when I need to. I can turn down social invitations just because the setting is too crowded and I may not enjoy it – or because it is too late in the day for me to get enough sleep to accommodate my sleep meds. It’s my house. I’ll make my own doggone rules.
Day 19 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.
A door slam, twig snap, weird sideways glance, chair screeching across the floor, standing too close, jostling, emotional weirdness.
My heart races. I start sweating. Eyes race back and forth looking for an exit in case I need it. Hands tensing. Muscles twitching and taut. I think, consider what I need to do, say, throw etc. to get away, the quickest route to safety. Play and replay conversations in my head of how to end relationship, terminate conversation, leave.
I don’t have the ability to consider whether or not you are here to hurt me. History and instinct tell me that is a certainty. I will protect myself at all costs. This is my PTSD.
You? You want me to pray. Stop. Think it through? Calm myself with talking to God? You’re so foolish.
Pray. YES! This is what kept me alive. This is what keeps me going. This is what gave me my survival instincts. This is what gives me strength to go out into public and interact. This is what heals my soul. I pray before I’m scared and I pray for peace in spite of fear. All the time.
But don’t mock my “in the moment” need to survive. Allow me to respond instinctually, animalistically, and reactively. It is a base survival skill that God gave me. You respect that. Respect it.
Day 18 of 100 intentional, reflective steps.
They attached electrodes to my earlobes and to the top of my head. I could watch my brain waves. It was amazing, not just to discover that I actually had some, but to visually see my brain in action. The goal was to be able to visually see my brain waves freak out when anxiety crept in, and then be able to control them.
There was a variety of games; “pacman” where calmness made the yellow guy go and overanxious waves made him stop, skateboarder where she fell off her board and crashed if you were going too fast or too slow, cruise liner where you helped the boat get to an island by encouraging it with calm thoughts. I TOTALLY SUCKED AT THESE. Pacman refused to move, the skateboarder ran into everything.
My internal dialogue was something like this:
“Ok. Calm. Breathe. Relax. Wait?! Why won’t you move you freakin’ little . . . Calm. Breathe. Breathe slower. I hate this game. I hate it I hate it I . . . Ok. You got this . . . OH MY WORD, You are an ugly skateboarder. I’ve always hated skateboarders . . . Is my time up yet? Damn. Only 10 seconds used up. . . . I have an itch. Let me think about it. I wonder if there is peanut butter yet in the cafeteria. I think its my butt that itches. Oops. I have gas. That frickin’ sugar free stuff gives me gas. Oh, skateboarder . . . .right. You’re still sitting on the ground. Hope that hurt your ass when you fell you stupid little . . . Calm. Your time is almost up. WHAT? I have another 2 30 second intervals to go?”
My charted brain waves seem more useful to predict a seismic anomaly of a huge scale than calming my anxiety. But believe it or not, eventually I could be a little more focused and a lot less spastic about this torturous therapy. Actually, it was really fascinating and very helpful. My point is, I wish I had a screen in front of me all the time to tell me if my brain was racing, anxious or spastic. Many days I can’t tell until I’m in full out panic. I really need that today. But I’m working on it. It is slow going for sure.
And my ship never did reach its destination. Surprise.