Catching Up to Some Decisions

I’ve been trying to get caught up after being out of town for work all last week.

It was a lot for me to travel, and I went right back into this work week without any time off or time to rest. Not a great move for me, and it’s been difficult to manage my post-travel symptoms and the avalanche of work tasks.

But I’m doing it.

I had a hard morning trying to navigate prioritizing and scheduling and dealing with a lot of really annoying and unnecessary emails, but I stayed with how I was feeling rather than numbing or ignoring or avoiding, and things are better. Hot tea and slowly clearing stuff off my list have helped, as has a real lunch break, which I haven’t taken in over a week.

I can get stressed by having things hanging over my head, and one of those things was a stack of emails, including some WordPress emails with blogging tips. Much as I don’t put enough effort into my blog to have any notions about growing it or monetizing it, I was interested in reading them. I thought the tips were helpful and I learned something. I mostly learned what it is I’m not in this for right now.

I started my blog as a way to help me deal with PTSD, and it has certainly done that. In the meantime some scarcity thinking has been grabbing at me, and things like follower counts, likes, looks and lifestyles can be really hard to keep calm about while it feels like I live such a constant, uphill battle just to be sane. When I see things about monetizing my site or how to optimize SEO or get more likes, it’s hard to stick to why I really do this – as a tool to heal.

Scarcity thinking is such a hard thing for me to combat, and it’s so pervasive in my life. I think it’s better to face it and be honest about it than not, however, and hopefully consistent awareness of it and being quick to address it will help defeat it.

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Find A Helpful Way to Express It

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.

i hate nothing about you with red heart light
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The Silliest Thing I Do to Manage PTSD

Sometimes you do what you gotta do to cope.

I have a friend who is a kid’s musician as part of his musician profession. I don’t even know how or when we met, we just know each other, and a while back I ran into him at regional event that relates to my work. He kindly gave me one of his CDs, and I played it on the way home, curious.

That CD has been one of the best tools I have to cope while I’m driving.

Kid music often has a lot of wiggles and movement built into the lyrics, and I play it constantly while I drive. As much as the music is simple and quickly repetitive, it is also happy, sincere, full of wiggles and far from triggering for me while I drive. Listening to the radio has a lot of unknowns, and as I’ve now memorized all of the songs on this album, there are no unknowns, and it’s comforting!

What I did not realize at first is how important the wiggles are while I drive. I’m not having an all-out dance party, but I do move my shoulders and bop around a bit, and it keeps me loose and from clenching up as I’m prone to do when I’m under a lot of stress of have a lot of anxiety (i.e. when I drive). Those movements, particularly moving my shoulders, have made things so much easier for me while I drive, and help tremendously to keep me from locking up in a freeze position.

Silly? Yes. Stupid? Maybe. Working well for me and helping me add some happy to my day? Absolutely.

photography of woman listening to music
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This is Why Managing PTSD is More Than a “Change in Attitude”

I decided to go to a 90s/00s dance party fitness class last night. It sounded fun, I knew people who were going, and I felt that I was prepared to be aware of how I felt and not overexert myself.

I had a great time, got a good workout in, and made it home to shower right before I had a panic attack that left me in the fetal position, unable to do much more than stare at my hand or sob for over an hour.

This is why I don’t do things or go places. It’s hell after.

I still don’t feel fully cognitive and it’s been 12 hours.

There is no “try harder” or “think positive” or “be more prepared” that prevents what happened to me last night. I did something I thought might be fun, and my brain gave me a beating. There are other factors that were likely at play, but the timing wasn’t coincidence, and I’ve had issues with exercise for years because my brain reads my elevated heart rate as a threat.

It’s experiences like that, reminders of how much of your life has been ripped out of your hands by trauma, that can be almost unbearable and make it seem like leaving the house it not worth the risk.

But I have things to do today, so I might be a bit slow, but I am going to leave the house and do them and try again, because trauma isn’t winning today.

How a Commitment to Kindness Saved My Relationship

Relationships with PTSD are hard.

My brain reads so many things as a threat, including many personal interactions. It makes most of my relationships very difficult, and I have spent a lot of time being cold, aloof and out of contact for periods of time that vary with the severity of my symptoms. I can have a hard time listening to things I think are small and insignificant when I am dealing with severe symptoms, and I can lack compassion for other people’s challenges and disappointments.

I had to commit to being kind no matter what in order to save my relationship with my boyfriend.

sunset hands love woman
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It wasn’t because I struggle with kindness, I needed a reminder and I needed to really commit to being kind no matter what so that I didn’t let my reactivity harm my relationship. If I am committed to being kind no matter what, I am careful about my tone of voice, my words and my responses to things that can be triggering to me. If I am committed to being kind no matter what I am not ignoring or discrediting my own needs, but I am making good communication a priority and focusing on what it looks like to engage in communicating in ways that are kind rather than in ways that are meant to retaliate. I am being much more aware of my response and how and why I am responding that way rather than closing myself off and listening only to my emotions.

It pulled things back from the edge, it has helped me to take a breath and be a more kind and thoughtful person. Wherever this one goes, those are skills worth keeping and practicing in any relationship.

Scheduling Self-Care

I’m a person who likes plans and schedules.

I’m also a person who likes to forget and ignore making plans and scheduling things to take care of myself.

This week I’ve been busy scheduling haircuts, eye appointments, checking into CBD oil (more on that when it arrives!), scheduling therapy appointments and knowing when I need to show up and meet deadlines and when I can take breaks.

It’s not pampering, it’s care. It’s not things that are ok to put off, it’s things I need now.

One of the hardest things about PTSD is that taking care of your own needs can be overwhelming, making plans and scheduling appointments – then keeping them – can be challenging and ever-changing symptoms can be obstacles to knowing what care you need and when you need it!

I find it helpful to write down appointments I need to schedule when I notice I need them, then schedule the appointment when I feel able to manage my calendar and needs at the same time. Some days I have a lot of work and addressing those responsibilities takes most of my energy, so making appointments for myself is just one more thing to do, and I tend to skip it to reduce the demands on my energy and attention. But writing the needed appointment on my to-do list has helped me to not ignore it for too long and get to it when I can.

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