I’m traveling a lot for work this week, not sleeping much and still getting dozens of emails, notifications and phone calls. I’m irritable, to say the least, and as much as I would love to cut loose and enjoy the opportunities before me, that whole PTSD thing isn’t really accommodating me.
I almost got pulled over for driving too slow on a highway around midnight the other night. I was headed home from the airport, and took the route I knew would have the least traffic so that I could drive a bit slowly and not cause problems for other drivers. It had already been a long day of travel and I was not doing particularly well with the drive, but I was making it and keeping up a reasonable speed.
Unless it’s midnight on a highway, and you’re law enforcement, and then I probably looked suspicious. Suspicious enough to slow, pull behind me, run my plate and see if I was a good candidate for a stop.
Thankfully I wasn’t – no warrants and no outstanding tickets here – and he sped off, but in the process of thinking through “I’m going to get pulled over and have to explain that I’m driving relatively slowly (still 55-60 mph) because I have PTSD: I’ve had a long day of travel, I don’t feel comfortable at higher speeds and I keep having to roll my window down because it brings me to the present and helps manage my anxiety while I cross bridges and when I start experiencing proxy symptoms for passing out.”
I just couldn’t see that story getting a lot of credibility.
But thankfully I didn’t have to tell it, made it home and have been rushing through the work that piled up while I was gone and getting prepped to head back out today.
In the process of all of that, I have really wanted to use my previous behaviors when I’m overwhelmed and irritated and exhausted, in which I lash out and have no patience for anyone and make cutting remarks to people who stand in my way at the airport. I’ve wanted to dump my distress all over the people close to me so that I don’t have to keep dealing with it.
This time I didn’t.
I’ve been careful to practice a different way of handling things this time. I’ve been faster to ask questions than make statements, mindful of my tone of voice and that I am not the only one who might be having a negative experience today, communicated my needs calmly instead of accusing others of not caring about what they hadn’t been aware of, and trying really hard to remember that just like strangers don’t know what’s going on with me, I don’t know what’s going on with them, and I can only do my part, not theirs.
It has helped, and while my resting heart rate is still on red alert high and I am still having to do a lot of symptom management, I am finding this way much easier overall than my usual not pay attention/not be aware/suddenly have a meltdown methods of the past.