Don’t Let This Be Happening

I’m watching a relationship crumble and I just don’t feel that there is anything more I can do for it.

At some point I will try to figure out how I could have done better, how I could have been more patient, more understanding…how I could have done more, but I’ve done the best I can.

The process of un-numbing and loving yourself is not a fun one.

You Have Time to Ground Yourself

I get overwhelmed somewhat easily.

When I do, it’s hard to un-overwhelm myself. I know there are a lot of techniques to do it, but it’s still hard to calm the waves of anxiety.

I practiced yoga every day for a month, and so far this month have done it once, and just a quick video to work on my hands and wrists. I sat in my desk chair and checked my watch every couple of minutes.

What I learned from that month is how important it is for my well being to do yoga every day.

Now that I’m not, I want to go back to that daily practice. It feels like all hell has broken loose since I stopped, and it has, but I also cope with stress and anxiety better with a daily yoga practice.

That said, I’ve been going nonstop since last Friday when I almost passed out while driving, and I’m fraying at the edges. I’ve had a lot of personal drama, and I’m pushing really hard at work because opportunities are starting to open up and I’m pushing the doors the rest of the way open. I need to slow down, but I still have a packed schedule tomorrow that I don’t want to skip out on. It’s an exciting and energizing day, if taxing for me.

I stood still for a few moments, barefoot and still, rooted to the ground and acknowledging that I’m exhausted and overwhelmed and need to slow down.

Just that small reflection and actively feeling my feet fully touching the ground (cold tile) improved how I felt.

I was really doubtful that any mental or physical practice could help my experience with PTSD, but they do – when I’m practicing them consistently. And I’m noticing now that I’m not. Good to know I need to do more work on making myself a priority.

God, Monday.

I feel like I’m stuck in an impossible situation. I have a long day ahead of me work-wise, I have a longer weekend behind me personal-wise, my HRV monitor isn’t working and might need a new battery so I have no idea where I might be stress-tolerance-wise, and I have to drive for several hours, which I do not want to do.

I guess it’s time to figure out what self care looks like today? But since where I grew up that was the last thing we did, I don’t even know where to start.

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I Lived Through a Nightmare Yesterday. Twice.

This is about trauma post car wreck, so if that is challenging for you, might want to avoid this. I would love to have avoided it, but I couldn’t, because PTSD doesn’t let you do that.

My boyfriend moved this weekend, and there is a lot going on with that, including issues with his extended family, not feeling safe where he was and him re-establishing himself in a life he loves after not having the support to cope with what life has thrown at him for the past few decades. I’m so proud of him, and so glad that we finally figured out how to communicate right before so many things have hit the fan.

That said, it has been a lot for me to support him, and it is a lot for me to support anyone right now following a couple of years of putting my life on hold to support my family members while not being able to enjoy the same support for my fight with PTSD.

I’m a bit worn out, is what I’m saying, and his drama happened fast and unexpectedly.

That said, I was on my way to help him grab his stuff to move to his temporary living situation, which looks like it will have a lot of benefits as he transitions in his job, and I was driving through a metro area on a Friday, so I took the road that the Google said would be the fastest. I was listening to¬†Educated on Audible and enjoying the book when the author got to the car wreck that her family had been in when she was a girl. The circumstances leading up to it were fine, the description of the wreck was fine, but when she began describing the injuries to her family, I suddenly found myself fighting to not pass out. While I was driving 55 mph. In a constrained bypass lane that I couldn’t exit for another two miles. It was the longest two minutes of my life.

I cut the audio, switched to pop music, rolled my window down, slowed my speed and put on my hazard lights, breathed deeply through my nose – anything I could do to maintain consciousness and control of my car. I almost died five and a half years ago because I lost control of my car, and the terror of thinking I might pass out and repeat that event was almost too much for me to handle. I have no idea how I did it, but I got out of the lane, pulled into a parking lot and parked. Then I sobbed.

I’ve never done that. Not with all of the triggers, not before I was diagnosed with PTSD, not with all of the symptoms and challenges and headaches and body aches and crippling anxiety and mental terror and spinning through absolute hell have I ever thought I would pass out or have that experience. It was terrifying, but perhaps more terrifying was the thought that I might lose my ability to drive.

I called my boyfriend, who didn’t answer, and I already knew my mom was busy so I pulled myself together, made a plan to stop at a particular Starbucks for a drink and set off down the road again. I didn’t stop being a bit shaky, but I was able to stay present and alert, and my boyfriend called about ten minutes later. I skipped over the cause so as to not trigger myself again, and he was pretty concerned. I could have gone home or called for a ride, but I was determined to help him get his stuff and get out (long story short his sister-in-law had picked a fight with him and was escalating things after two weeks, and he felt he needed to expedite his moving out), and I wanted him to have the support I’ve not had. He was not prepared to pack up in a 3-hour window, and I am nothing if not organized), and we pulled it off somehow, loading up both vehicles and making it to his temporary place on time.

I drove home after dinner, and passed the same place I had nearly passed out earlier because I didn’t want to take the higher speed highway. About three miles before I got there I went into high alert, and I was on the phone with my boyfriend so talked through how I was feeling with him and my concerns about what avoiding the constrained bypass in the other direction would do to my ability to drive where I wanted to in the future. I decided to go for it, and about 100 feet later it all hit again. He helped talk me through, and I was able to slow down and hit my hazards again, but it was horrible, and not something I want to repeat. I’ll go through the red lights next time, because I can not have that feeling while I drive. It was hard to make it home after that, and I was grateful he talked me through. I didn’t go anywhere today, and the effects have stayed in my body. That’s what PTSD does, it traps those experiences in your body so that they stay with you even when they don’t belong there.

I have to make a 300 mile drive for work on Monday, and I don’t even know how that’s going to go. I’d rather never drive again, and I still get the beginnings of that dizzy, out-of-control feeling when I think about it. I hate it, and it’s terrifying. Maybe I did make it, but the cost was high, and I don’t know when I might be able to drive again without feeling like I’m going to pass out. It’s way worse than being concerned that you might pass out, and my body hasn’t forgotten in the least what it feels like to lose control of a car.

I did not expect that after this much time and work I would be facing a new debilitating symptom, but this condition doesn’t play nice.

Relationships with PTSD: Can They Be Successful?

According to the National Center for PTSD (Department of Veteran’s Affairs), “Trauma survivors with PTSD may have trouble with their close family relationships or friendships. The symptoms of PTSD can cause problems with trust, closeness, communication, and problem solving. These problems may affect the way the survivor acts with others. In turn, the way a loved one responds to him or her affects the trauma survivor. A circular pattern can develop that may sometimes harm relationships.” Veterans have a high rate of divorce, but they also have a high rate of multiple divorces, and from my own experience I would guess that people who experience PTSD have a high failure rate when it comes to relationships. Your brain can wreck you.

PTSD can amplify “normal” problems into intense and severe problems, and relationships are no different. If anything, they’re worse, especially when you struggle with effective communication, and even if you were good at communicating before, it takes A LOT OF EFFORT AND ENERGY to communicate when you live with PTSD. And you are already spending that effort and energy on trying to manage yourself and your anxiety.

My boyfriend and I spent a little over a year learning to communicate, and almost broke up several times because we just couldn’t work out what wasn’t working. I haven’t dated much since my car wreck, because I just couldn’t deal with it. I also haven’t made many friends since – I have a lot of recent acquaintances, but not many new friends.

It took starting to walk away from a person I love dearly to finally get to the source of our problems. We couldn’t communicate successfully, and I was having a really hard time managing my symptoms so that I could have the space to figure out what was going on. For a couple of months I didn’t even want to, I wanted to just find someone else that has their shit together and wouldn’t be so hard to deal with. I wanted someone to fix it for me and not have to do the work. And had I done that, I would have taken my problems with me.

I was desperate for safety and security from a person who couldn’t offer that at the time, and I think that’s what we often do to set ourselves up to not succeed in relationships, PTSD or not. I had to be able to do that for myself, and I had to be able to trust myself to provide my own safety and security – after I had nearly died because I lost control of my car. It felt impossible, and I’m still not quite sure how we stayed together long enough to work things out, except that I think what we see in each other under all the layer of life is a person we really want to be with, because we know how amazing that person is and what they could be if they were able to break free of the past.

This is not true for everyone, and please don’t think I’m suggesting that you stay in a bad relationship. Had I not seen so much change, improvement, willingness to listen and desire for better in him, I would not have stayed with him. But I did see these things, and I am with someone who is willing to change and work on issues while being kind and working through the process of stopping numbing so that he can be more aware, more available and more present.

When we finally got to the communication issue, we had been arguing about it for a few months. He thought he was doing everything right – we talked on the phone nearly every day, we see each other when we can, he’s been working on himself – what more could I want? In the meantime, because I was feeling more and more isolated and on high alert, I had stopped being affectionate and barely even greeted him anymore. This bubbled up after a friend’s birthday dinner at which he felt he had been greeted more warmly by acquaintances than by me. He didn’t know how to tell me that I wasn’t showing enough affection (his love language), and not showing it in a way that he understood it as affection.

He was so checked out in our phone conversations and often in person that I didn’t read any of it as quality time (my love language). I was started to feel so isolated and detached that I started to do the same thing, and got even more upset when I felt that he was criticizing me by commenting on how little I talked. It was like talking to a void, so what was I supposed to do? And he was on his phone so much when we were together I felt that I might as well not have bothered. Of course I wasn’t showing affection, I wasn’t connected to this person I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE DATING.

When we were able to get this all on the table and figure out that we weren’t “speaking” to each other in a way that we could hear each other, we acknowledged what we were not doing right, took responsibility for it and agreed to work on it. What followed was a transformation that is like magic. We have both taken this seriously and worked on our own version of not showing up, and we have practiced this consistently every day. It’s far from perfect, but it has alleviated a lot of the stress and tension in our relationship, and has allowed us to have the space and energy to support each other through some tough and unexpected circumstances. We are kind and respectful, we check in with ourselves and each other, we take responsibility for managing anxiety and engaging each other’s love language, we use calming language, and we don’t yell or argue, we discuss and we trust ourselves and each other to tell the truth. It was like jumping off a cliff, and it was terrifying to think that if I did this, my efforts might not be matched. That I might be alone in making necessary changes, and then heartbroken because it didn’t work out and I had tried yet again.

Something funny happens when you take responsibility for yourself and your actions. We didn’t take on each other’s burdens, we took on our own, and we are able to carry our own. We support each other and we communicate that support openly and fully, but we don’t take responsibility for each other’s problems. We own our shit, we remind each other how to manage anxiety in a healthy way and we don’t use shaming or blaming language. It has been a life and relationship-changing experience, and it happened so fast that I’m still wondering how we were able to do this.

Probably a lot of Grace, but also communication and practice in being able to look into myself and tolerate what I see. Not everyone can do this, and if you aren’t able to do that yet, don’t feel bad. It has taken me nearly four years of recovery to be able to look at myself and be honest – and compassionate – about where I am, what I am dealing with and how to change it to be what I want to see. I was not able to do this work for a long time, and it hasn’t come easy. It is so worth it though to be able to partner with someone this deeply, this compassionately and with this much love, for him and for myself. And that’s where it came from first, in learning to love myself.

 

If You Were A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

There is a lot of “just believe it and it will happen so believe great things!” and “you manifest your thoughts so focus on success!”, etc. going on out there in the wide world.

I think that has limitations.

If you live with PTSD, you might understand me when I say it doesn’t quite work like that for some of us.

If it did though, and if by thinking about what you would do if you weren’t afraid, and if you didn’t have debilitating anxiety, and if you felt like you could make the effort and do the work and lean into the dream of living a life that you find fulfilling, what would that look like?

And if you knew what it looked like, could you take small steps toward it?

And if you could take the small steps, would you gain the strength and balance to take bigger steps?

Sometimes the dream, the vision and the desire for better are all we have. But please don’t underestimate the value of that dream, that vision and that desire. Wherever you are in your experience, you are worth it, so if you have one, acknowledge it and hold onto it. If you don’t, let yourself put some energy toward it. It’s worth it.

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