My brain connects me having an elevated heart rate with threat of death, and I’m guessing my heart rate was pretty high during my car wreck. I’ve previously had the experience of having a panic attack during or after a workout (why I haven’t worked out much beyond yoga and walking since my wreck), but today I was helping move a safe (pretty heavy object) up a staircase and it triggered a panic attack. Not during, thankfully, I tend to be pretty task-focused, but after I had to drop to a crouch to get close to the floor in case I passed out. I breathed on purpose, acknowledged to myself what had happened and how I felt (I also had an ankle and a foot smashed, and I think my feet tend to be pretty sensitive to injury), shook it off and went on with my day.
My dumpster fire of a life has just conflated to a bonfire, and things continue to not go well. It’s almost comical at this point, except that somewhere in the chaos and gritting my teeth, it really hurts. I’m watching a lot of things I’ve worked really hard for burn up in front of me, and there’s just not a lot I can do right now.
I’m weirdly at peace with it.
At this point in my life, after dealing with so much trauma, my faith in God is solid. I don’t question why these things happen to me, I trust they have purpose. I’ve come out of my experiences a much more compassionate and kind person, and I have an unwavering faith the God provides for His people. It’s not on my terms, and I agreed with someone today that I wouldn’t want to repeat what I’ve been through, but I also wouldn’t take it back.
I’m choosing that view now. I don’t want it, but I trust that this can be valuable, and as in nature sometimes fire is necessary to growth, so it might also sometimes be with me.
I’m still taking the steps I know I can take while waiting on a clear path. But shit this is hard.
I’m not sure how the majority of my life has blown up in my face in the last eight days, but here I am.
I’m sure at some point in the future I will look back on this fortnight with perspective wrought by time and I won’t mind so much, because I will have learned and grown and been pointed to amazing new opportunities that I didn’t see now. It’s not taking me down, I’m still getting a completely reasonable amount of work done each day, still responding to communication from others and still working through some tough conversations and realities. I haven’t given up, checked out or gone sleepless. I’m not drinking my way through it, I’m not blaming anyone else. In fact, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I did to get here.
And, against everything that I find comfortable, there are no fast or easy solutions, and there is nothing I can do about this mess and uncertainty but keep working and wait, because I am not in control of most of my current situations. And what I can control also needs to work and wait. I need to keep on the current trajectory, to keep taking the steps despite knowing that I might soon be going in a very different direction. It might be a good part of why I quit yoga halfway through this evening. I have enough uncertainty and discomfort, I didn’t need more today, and I just wasn’t feeling the video.
I’m starting to realize I may need to frame my experience differently just to give my self-confidence a break, but the onslaught of things not working well continues.
I was supposed to meet with a mayor this morning. A lot of mayors are really volunteers and don’t get paid for their elected position, and so work a full-time job in addition to their civic duties. I try to keep this in mind when I ask elected officials to meet with me. I have a lot of connections to this mayor, and when I requested a meeting to discuss a subject in which I know he has a lot of interest, I was pleased that he was excited to meet. That meeting got rescheduled because he had forgotten a prior engagement, and he requested to move to today. When I asked if the same time would work for him, he never replied, but I showed up this morning anyway, just in case. He didn’t show and hasn’t responded.
I was supposed to have another meeting either today or tomorrow at a research archive. They also never got back to me to confirm after inviting me initially.
For things to happen the way they did today after last week, my confidence is a solid zero and I am still struggling to process what is going on. To add to that I have colleagues on a project basically demanding that I produce my work when they have done NONE of what they were supposed to do – which was to come first. My mental game is not strong right now, and I feel depression rushing up quickly. It’s pretty rough, honestly, and I’ve had to pause and collect myself a couple of times today.
And I have a week of this to get through?
I really understand when people don’t answer the phone. And I’m not even mad at getting stood up, it’s really more about the cumulative effects on me, which are stacking up to a bit more than I can carry at the moment.
My will to keep going is pretty strong, but I don’t doubt I’ll have to have a few more pauses as I struggle though today and tomorrow. There’s not relief in sight unless and until I can get some work cleared off my desk, so that’s my focus for now. I have a lot of long-term actions that I need to start on, but with my limited capacity for the moment I’m having to break the to-do list down into small pieces and give myself small and reachable daily goals so that I don’t get too overwhelmed.
I know, hang in there, it won’t last. It’s just that it’s already lasted long enough to stress my ability to cope!
I like to help. Historically, however, I’ve gone too far in helping.
What I mean by that is that I’ve exhausted my own resources and not set healthy boundaries in taking others’ problems on myself. While it gave me meaning, it has been an unhealthy behavior pattern that has compromised my own health and well-being on a number of occasions.
I think there are times that sacrifice is noble, admirable and worthy. I think conscious decisions to forgo yourself in service of others are critical to the excellence of the human spirit and to the health of our souls.
I think what I have often done are not those things, but rather a lack of boundaries and an inability to say no. It feels better to present it as noble self-sacrifice, to tell yourself that story, but when it isn’t, and it’s an unhealthy relationship with yourself…I’m just grateful I have the ability to learn and grow and change and heal.
But now that I know differently, now that I am more aware of cause and effect and trauma and boundaries and the stories we tell ourselves and the reality of myself, now that I have to battle PTSD and my choices were to implode or to do the hard work of healing, how much do I do toward helping others? How much of my story and my experience and my knowledge do I share in order to help?
Very recently a friend’s brother has escalated a pattern of substance abuse to destructive behavior that is cutting him off from options, help and support. His pursuit of numbing has broken relationships and trust, and he is now facing homelessness and isolation. A few years ago I would have written him off as an addict. Now I’m recommending compassion and vulnerability to my friend, in the face of such a painful situation as confronting your sibling with the ultimatum of accepting help through the provision of a rehab program or losing all of your family support and your home because he cannot work and no one will pay his rent or provide a place for him to live (he has recently begun stealing credit cards and items to sell for cash). This is hard, and so many families have experienced this.
Having lived with so much pain myself in my experience with PTSD, I understand this person is seeking to numb pain, and to escape the existence he cannot tolerate. But for the Grace of God, I could have been there too, and there are such clear connections between trauma and addiction. There has been a lot of addiction and substance abuse in my extended family, so I knew what I was facing following my diagnosis if I did not stay very honest with myself and if I did not find a way to deal with the pain, and I am thankful that therapy provided me with the support and knowledge I needed to not get trapped in substance abuse. Not everyone has that, and so many people do not have either support or resilience or tools or resources to avoid addiction. Sometimes you aren’t in a place to be able to do things differently. Sometimes people aren’t able to reach help, even if it’s offered. You can care at the same time that you can’t.
So how much do I help? When I see people in distress or in these situations, if I have more insight into what is going on and if I can offer a more understanding or compassionate perspective, if I can provide honest feedback and discuss addiction behaviors in a way other than shame and blame, how much do I pour out to do that? Because there is a cost to me. Providing emotional support has a price for me. It wears me out, it takes my focus elsewhere and it sometimes brings up my own experience with trauma, which I then may have to manage. Depending on the relationship, it takes the focus off of the relationship I have and puts it somewhere else. In the case of addiction, it’s a resource suck on as many people as possible, feeding on energy like an insatiable beast.
Which is why boundaries are so important. In the past I likely would have directly involved myself in this. Not this time, I don’t have the ability to do anything more than support on the phone for a few minutes a day. In recognizing where I am right now, I have to know that I am limited in how much energy I can give right now and that my resources have run a bit low, and I have to carefully navigate what could push me over the edge into severe PTSD symptoms. It’s not an issue of sacrificing myself right now so much as foolishly wrecking myself and not being able to help anyone, including myself. It’s not a cycle I want to start or contribute to, so I am supporting how I can, and being honest about how I can’t.
Once we start the healing process, it can be so attractive to help save everyone else. It can be compelling and feel like a calling, we can feel obligated and we can find fulfillment in using our improved position to pull others up with us. And ideally that is a wonderful thing to do. Just don’t forget it also needs healthy boundaries, and a clear understanding of what is noble and what remains unhealed.