Big Moments of Change with PTSD

Listen to your body, and be kind to it. It has carried you this far.

I start my new job two weeks from today! The details are finalized, the confirmations have been sent, and now I have a couple of weeks to wind down my current projects and transition to an office. I am so, so grateful for the opportunity, the timing and how accommodating my new workplace is toward my existing commitments.

I work to learn, and this is the learning opportunity I’ve worked for and dreamed of. This is exactly what I want to do, and where I want to be. It’s also a huge transition right at the time of year that I normally struggle considerably because my car wreck was in early October, and trauma anniversaries are very real for me.

I’ve had a few big moments of change since the wreck, but a lot of them have been really negative. I finished two master’s degrees, but also had three major health crises in my family. I started a company, but my business partner didn’t hold up his part and I had to learn so much the hard way. With PTSD I’ve had to learn so much the hard way, and it’s taken a really long time. I’m coming up on 6 years, and I feel like I am just now starting to get my feet under me.

Big moments of change are hard for anyone. For those of us with PTSD, they’re harder. They can shut us down. They can terrify us. They can cause symptoms we can’t explain, and emotions we can’t describe. They can cause intense pain, and we don’t necessarily get to enjoy the positive emotions – the excitement or pride or celebratory glee – because the negative emotions are so much stronger.

In my case I start anticipating massive disaster because my brain associates good things happening with incoming chaos, pain and destruction. I brace myself for horrible every time things start going well. This time is no exception. It’s exhausting, and as I’ve gone through a 6-week hiring process for this job, it’s been a long several weeks of strain on me. Now that it’s settled, I’m crashing because my body knows it can finally take a break. I have a sore throat, not a lot of energy and that sense of “bad things will happen if I leave the house.” I’m about to leave the house a lot, be in public a lot and be in a completely new environment, so it’s good my body is telling me to rest now, because things are about to be really hard.

The best thing we can do in these moments of big transitions is to take really good care of ourselves, and plan ahead as much as we are able.

There was a long time that planning ahead to take care of myself was not accessible to me. I could not have done this very well in previous times. I would have overworked and strained and stressed myself and put a ton of pressure on myself and focused on not important things if I were able to focus at all. I would have shamed myself constantly and had a hard time sleeping and run around burning energy on things that didn’t take good care of me. It’s still tempting to do it. It’s still really tempting to forget to establish boundaries.

I’m leaving a situation in which I’ve struggled to set boundaries for a situation that will help and support me in setting boundaries. It is important to set boundaries as I leave so that the old behaviors that no longer serve me don’t come with me. I mentally have been thinking through and working out the communication plan ahead of executing it, so I know what I am doing about that and on which day that will happen. I’ve assessed what I need for my new position that I don’t currently have, and planned out when I can get those things and from where. I’ve put boundaries around my time the first few weeks of work as much as I am able around existing commitments so that I have adequate time to rest (I will need it!). I’m working on my expectations for myself the first few weeks of work, but rather than being performance-based, they are interaction-based. I want to remember names, build connections and start with good time habits. The work will get done, and I’ll learn pretty quickly. Because I haven’t worked in an office in six years, that will be the part with the learning curve and the need for attention and practice and good communication.

Those are all things I can do because in being kind to myself, I am prioritizing preparedness to the extent I am able. If I can prepare and make ready, I am. If I can take small steps toward transitioning, I am. If I can do things I enjoy and make sure to include time for positive experiences and rest in the next couple of weeks, I am. If I can protect my time after my new start date so that I can rest and recharge and be intentional about being my best, I am.

This is all the culmination of taking small steps to practice discipline after all discipline went out the window six years ago. I could keep going, and I could show up and do and work and grind away, but I have never until now been disciplined about taking good care of myself. It’s nice to notice, and I’m so glad to see all of the little steps building up to something I can look at now and be pleased about.

photo of woman walk through pathway
Photo by Dương Nhân on

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