I moved my grandma into a nursing home today. While she moved voluntarily, it was not without a lot of fear and upset on her part and sadness on mine. She needs full time care and I and my family are not able to provide that any longer, except through a residential care situation.
It sucks, that’s all there is to it. I still have work today, I have a public hearing tonight, I haven’t said much about moving her so don’t have a big support system for this, and apparently my boyfriend’s phone is dead, so…I’m just leaning into the suck and being grateful that this is not the worst day of my life.
This week is insane.My boyfriend is having a meltdown about moving and about his family.My grandma is having a meltdown about moving to a nursing home. She doesn’t do unknown well at all and can’t figure out how she’s going to eat.My family is emotional about grandma moving to a nursing home and she’s decided to go ahead and distribute her belongings, which is… causing some less than desirable behavior in some corners.I packed my grandma’s burial items today at her direction. I’m helping boyfriend move. I’m helping grandma move and I’m in charge of her belongings (so in the middle of the inheritance unpleasantness). I’m in the middle of EMDR. Work is bananas with a lot of fast moving parts and I’m speaking at two hearings this week.And I’m the calm one, the one supporting everyone else, the one who is steady in the swirling chaos.I feel the most capable I have in a long time, and it’s a rapid change from discovering in therapy that my limiting belief is that I’m not capable.I can’t say it enough, practicing your mental game and taking the endless small steps is crucial. I had no idea I could do this.
I’ve been pushed to my limit so many times in the last few years, and have thought I would break more times than I can count. I honestly don’t know how I haven’t.
The hard thing about being pushed to or past our limit is that we often don’t know where the limit is. It may be further out or closer in, and we may know the limit of the boundaries we set, but this is more about life – unexpected, unasked for, traumatic circumstances and events – pushing us with no regard for our boundaries or limitations.
When we don’t know, there is uncertainty. PTSD can make uncertainty especially challenging, and our brains can rapidly sort through the files trying to fill in the blanks, and often coming up with information that is not positive or even terrifying.
Today is my only day of rest this month. My grandma is moving into a nursing home this week, and I am responsible for stewarding her belongings. I also have a series of public hearings, a high-pressure business deal, meetings for potential new projects, a lecture at a university and a draft of a paper due – all within the next week. My schedule isn’t going to slow down the week after, nor do I forsee it slowing down for the rest of the month, and the last few weeks have been just as packed. I’m having to toss aside some things that I just do not have the time or energy for.
I slept in and slept hard this morning, and was planning to just stay in bed and listen to classic literature on Audible and have food delivered to me. I wasn’t going to even look at my phone, and today was for myself.
Then the text messages started coming for the business deal I’m working on, and back to work I went, coordinating document delivery timelines and establishing which backup documents will be needed.
For so long I have focused only on how close I might be to my edge and terrified of what happens if I go over, and I haven’t been able to look up to see what else is going on. I haven’t been able to acknowledge how hard I’ve worked to heal or enjoy the payoff of the mental battles that I’ve won so slowly and by such narrow margins. The tiny victories have become small victories, and the small victories have become strength while I wasn’t watching.
I’ve written a bit about how helpful yoga has been for me mentally, which also happened while I wasn’t watching. I don’t do anything very difficult on the yoga mat, and between my weight gain and the lack of strength and flexibility that have resulted from not addressing trauma in my body for so long, I certainly don’t plan to have a yoga Instagram anytime soon (or ever). I move along to Yoga with Adrienne videos, and her approach to teaching yoga was what helped me get started when I could barely even stand it. I still swear at the screen sometimes, but I’m getting better at going with it.
This morning I found something that in the past would have spawned a lot of jealousy on my part, but which this morning I found incredibly inspiring:
Not only can I not move like that now, I don’t think I ever will. And I was no less inspired by the dedication, courage and constant practice it takes to be able to move like that, to hold the poses and to stay focused. What a beautiful thing that she has practiced for, and what a beautiful outcome you can have from practice.
I am not overwhelmed by the weeks ahead of me, I’m focused on the practice that will get me through them, maybe this time not just barely managing to hold it together (which it what I’ve been telling myself it will be like) but using the strength that’s been slowly building. Also, sleep helps.
Numbing is the masking, ignoring or avoidance of feelings. It’s very common for people who experience PTSD, and it come in a lot of different forms.
Numbing – for me that looked like workaholism – is how we cope when we cannot bear how we feel. I had PTSD for about two years before I was diagnosed, and numbing was the only way I could cope because I didn’t have any other options available to me and I could not tolerate how I felt. It was another two years before I began to really be able to face my feelings, and to process through all of the emotion that previously had no place to go.
One of the first things I learned how to do was to notice how I felt. Not with judgment, not with assessment or analysis or shame or blame or fear or anything but just noticing. I learned to ask myself how I was feeling, and to check in with myself. So much benefit has come from that practice and from developing that skill, which is like a muscle and must be exercised, and now I’m able to notice how I feel and then manage how I feel, which has been really effective as a way for me to manage my PTSD symptoms, but it started with just learning to notice.
It sounds simple, but it’s very challenging, especially if you have been numbing for a long time. Start slowly, be kind to yourself, be honest with yourself, and if you don’t have the language to describe how you feel, even to yourself, check out the Feelings Wheel for some help with naming how you feel. At first I thought I was frequently “frustrated”, but I was really several shades of angry and fearful.
I had to also learn to notice how I felt without judgment, because the point was not to feel bad about how I felt, but to understand and recognize how I felt, and that eventually led to acquiring the tools to manage my feelings once I noticed them. This practice has taken quite some time, but has been well worth it as I am so much more successful with managing PTSD now.
So take some small steps, as you are able, to noticing how you feel without judgment. It could lead to really amazing things.
One of the results of having trauma come back up is that either consciously or not, I feel under threat constantly. So I put the armor on to try to deal with it, because my emotional brain is much, much louder than my rational brain.
Which is why it’s ironic that I have such a hard time connecting to other people when this happens. For all of the emotional brain going on, I’m closed off behind an emotional wall.
I can go through the motions, but I can’t really connect.
I’m really upset by this, because it feels like one more thing that has been taken away from me. But. I know it won’t last, I know I’m doing the work I need to for my symptoms to calm down and I know that the trauma-related thoughts and feelings, while they feel very real, even physically, are based on past experiences that my brain and body can’t yet realize are in the past. It’s a lot to deal with, but it’s part of living with PTSD.
My therapist asked yesterday how I would respond to someone else who had a recurrence of PTSD symptoms after a triggering event, and would I think it was their fault? One of the biggest things was my response. I wouldn’t blame them, and I don’t blame me. It’s just what is. Kind if like the walls, but the walls are something that I can more than acknowledge, I can do something about them.
I’m back in therapy after an incident while driving that has caused me a lot of problems.
We were planning to start the eye movement process today, but when we got to the step of creating a safe space and defining that clearly, I had a lot of emotion.
It was because I don’t feel like I have the calm, peace and safety in my life that the place in the exercise represents. That was a hard realization, and I’m really glad I decided to go back to therapy to get help with this.
We didn’t get to eye movement, which is fine because the healing process happens as it happens and as we are able, and living with PTSD is full of a lot of unknown and unexpected. This unexpected at least helped get closer to the root of the issues I’m currently experiencing, and provided a path to address them.