PTSD Rant from March of 2015

I started this post in March of 2015 but was too freaking messed up to publish it. Reading it over today, it still stands as a testimony of how horrifying it is to be in the throes of a PTSD episode. It’s time to share it.

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Hello my fellow adventurers. I started this post in March of 2015 but was too freaking messed up to publish it. Reading it over today, it still stands as a testimony of how horrifying it is to be in the throes of a PTSD episode. It’s time to share it.

I AM NOT LOOKING FOR SYMPATHY. Truly and seriously. I adore the heartfelt love that prompts such commentary but that’s not why this is finally getting published. I hope that maybe someone will ‘get it’. Maybe this will speak to someone. If it does, tell me that.

I’m not going to update the original post for my 2017 brain. This was written in 2015 as it was happening, so I’m leaving it in the present tense. Emphasis on tense. With a heaping helping of truly fucked up.

Please bear in mind – This is not me any more. This was me on a treacherously rapid trip to the bottom. I’ll tell you about climbing out of the hole in another post. In the meantime, here goes…

March 2015, Milwaukee, WI… Okay, here’s the deal. I have PTSD. I have been a near constant state of trigger for over a week now… more… can’t keep track of time. I cannot take it anymore.

The PTSD is not my fault. That doesn’t stop me from feeling guilty and horribly sorry for every moment that I spend utterly devastated.

I seriously have a hard time remembering when things happen, but Ron tells me that it’s been years since I’ve had this kind of trigger. Where are my tools for dealing with this? Nowhere. Rusty and impossible to find.

I am a victim of the stigma associated with PTSD. Telling anyone puts suspect all my efforts to do good things. If I have a bad day, or am upset about something or mad or think something is wrong, people I work with who know that I have PTSD will ask themselves if my perspective is ‘valid’ or is it just the PTSD talking? I’m not imagining this. It happens.

Doesn’t matter what I accomplish in life, it’s always there. Undermining everything. Making me feel like a fake. Like I’m lying to everyone. That no-one should believe in anything I’m trying to do. Yes, I also stigmatize myself.

Yes, this is screwed up.

CPTSD definitionHere’s my trigger. I grew up in a very violent household. Every day was a threat. Instead of beating me or my little brother, my step father would beat my mother. The bruises around her neck and black eyes were always there. Me? I was a constant source of irritation to him. I threw his shit back at him but it didn’t stop me from being terrified all the time. So, I grew up being a fighter and terrified all the time. One goes with the other. Of course, having my Mother as a punching bag didn’t keep him from trying to kill me. My Mother put me in a foster home to keep it from happening again.

Being afraid for myself is not my trigger. It’s when a violent, unbalanced psychopath threatens someone I love that I loose it. When this asshole threatened to beat up Ron, I tipped. I became that 8 year old failure who couldn’t keep her Mom from being beaten up, who couldn’t keep her little brother from being terrified and who poked the vicious bear with a sharp stick. Making all the horrid things he did all my fault.

This person who is triggering me now is mean and angry and it’s not just me who marvels at how awful he is. There is only one person I know who will defend him – and she vehemently does. Everyone else stands back wondering where the hell he’s coming from with his constant vitriol. There is never a nice thing out of his mouth. I am prone to hyperbole when triggered, but in this case I’m not exaggerating.angry-dark-stare-l

I shared with someone how he was affecting me and they told another person who told him. So, now my messed up mind is terrified that he will increase the level of agitation. That now he knows he can get me – that he can incapacitate me – so he will. This also reinforced the need to keep quiet. Don’t tell so no-one else has that kind of power over me.

How screwed up is that?

So, now. I’m trying to function and am failing on all fronts. My work is for crap. I look at the people I need to be helping and supporting and working with and feel guilty for how badly I’m letting them down. I feel like they have every good reason to give up on me – and assume that they have. Why should they stick with me? They don’t owe me anything. Just the opposite. I owe them everything. I owe everyone everything.

I cannot go a day without sobbing. I cannot sit in a meeting with others associated with this project and look them in the eye. I stare down at the floor and hold my breath and pray for it to be over. I cannot contribute at these meetings.

Ron has had to drop everything and sit with me. He has had to get an emergency ride home in the middle of a workday on this project so that he can pick me up from the floor and sit with me for the rest of the day. I am trying to put all my things together for this project and am failing. Yet, I can’t quit. There’s no one else to do this stuff. Seriously. I’m not martyring myself. There is no one.

I have a friend who has talked me down. I tried to make light but he understood what was going on. I reached out because he also suffers from PTSD and it’s different talking with someone who gets it. Of course, when I say ‘talked’, I mean via email or chat or text. I can’t actually talk out loud with anyone about this – but Ron. Lucky him. Another friend texted with me until Ron could get home. I couldn’t contact him and directly beg for help. She did it without my knowing – which is good.

This person who triggers me is attached to this project. The project that Ron and I are valiantly trying to work on. The project that I keep sabotaging because of my inability to function. The project that Ron keeps loosing more and more valuable time to work on so that he can sit with me. All the hours we have both lost that we could have been doing the work. Now, I can’t tell Ron when I’ve lost it because it’s just not fair to him.

I just want it to be over. This project that should be a joyous, creative, endeavor. I just want it to be over. Most of the people I’m working with are outrageously wonderful. I swear – I’ve never laughed so much at rehearsals. I have sincere admiration for how hard they are trying and how much they are giving. We hug and miss each other between rehearsals. Now I feel like I need to protect them and that I can’t. That this person will show up. That he will hurt them.nvwordleblue

We have our opening coming up in a bit over a week. We’re in crunch time. Too much to do and not enough time or resources. You know – theatre. The person who told the asshole that I have PTSD also told a board that governs a lot of the activities associated with this project. He’s a part of this board. His behavior prompted them to censure him. Oh great. Now this violent jerk with a massive chip on his shoulder about all the abuses he has suffered in life has a specific bone to pick with me.

He will be there opening night and all I can wonder is if he is the kind of person who will show up with a gun and start shooting. My heart will not stop racing.

I had an emergency session with my former therapist and am back on her books. We’re going to tackle the PTSD together. The soonest I can get with her is after all 5 of our shows are over. So, yeah. That’s nice. In the meantime, I’m seriously messed up.

So, I’m outing myself.

I’ve been trying to keep the PTSD a secret but it’s too big for me to deal with. I have no choice but to out myself. It’s so bad that I can’t cover it up any more. I’m backed into a corner. And, I promised Ron that I wouldn’t off myself.

September 2017 Post Script. That was as far as I was able to write 2 plus years ago. No nice neat conclusion. No uplifting ‘and I’ll be okay’ cause I’m a plucky woman’ message to tie it up with a pretty ribbon. That’s not how this works.

Needless to say, I got help. I’m probably at the loveliest mental health place in my whole life right now. And, like I said in the preface, that’s another story.

You were marching for me


Today is a day that will go down in herstory. 3 million women and honorary women marched around the world to make their voices heard. Our voices. Our outrage and love. Our fears and hopes. Our refusal to allow the horror looming on the horizon to go unchallenged.

Apparently, the world has our back too. They are almost as terrified as we are. Those 3 million people weren’t just here in the United States of America. They were all over the world. Women. All. Over. The. World. Marched. Thank you England, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. But holy mother of god thank you Kosovo. Seriously, Women in Kosovo feel badly for us and wants to stand in solidarity. This war torn country want us to know that they’ve got OUR backs.gty-womens-march-washington-4-jt-170121_12x5_1600

Just before I began writing this, I posted on my Facebook page, “I cried so much today and wore out my love button on your brilliant and beautiful posts from the front lines. I am in love with every woman out there who joined hands and carried signs and loved each other. My spirit soared with every glorious moment you shared and my spirit sped to everywhere you were. I am in awe of the truths shouted loudly, clearly and full of passionate intelligence, wit, and force. No-one will ever forget this day. I have my work to do – work that I can do to contribute to the greater good – and I’ll do it. Proudly, fiercely, and with devotion. You are my heroes and I have your back. Now, I need to blow my nose and charge my iPad again. I’ve got work to do.”

(I apparently was so much in love with the word ‘love’ that my composition skills took a back seat.)

So. I’ve opened my internet mouth. What do I do? I started scrolling down and immediately under my post was one of those Facebook things urging you to pimp your business page. See, I have another page. It’s not a business but Facebook doesn’t get that. Anyway, the only things in the box were the name of my page, the cover photo and the page description. It’s the description that slammed me. It said…

I write.

That’s what I do. That’s what I can do.

I’m a writer.

I write about my journey. I’ve been told that that’s helpful.

So. I’m starting right now.

Why wasn’t I out there marching?

I have friends all across the US who got on planes, buses, cars and trains to get to the front lines. To wear pink pussyhats and carry signs and Be There. Instead, I obsessively watched every moment. I cried. I reveled in every photo and post. I took immense joy from speeches and raps and those fantastic signs. I felt guilty for not being there. Horribly, horribly guilty. And ashamed.

Why wasn’t I out there marching?

I’m not agoraphobic. I’m great one-on-one. I love going to events like the theatre and jam sessions and giving big parties. At the moment, however, I don’t have the ability to handle crowds of potentially angry people. Seriously. Pathologically. I saw how passionately loving and peaceful these 3 million people ended up being. Well before it played out that way, I’d have passed out from fright just before I thought my heart would burst from the adrenaline that pumps through my body when I’m on constant startle reflex. Sadly, this is not hyperbole.

You were marching for me because I couldn’t do it. You marched for everyone who couldn’t do it. There are a number of us. In case there are any who are ashamed to own it, I’m taking this one for the team.

My point? I refuse to be ashamed anymore. This will take some personal work but everything we believe in takes work. This is also work I know how to do. I create things behind the scenes so that everyone in front and in the audience can shine. This is my love for the world in action.

You deserve, in turn, for me not to be ashamed to own it. I’m standing up for every woman and honorary woman who works tirelessly to contribute without marching. Your actions enable me.

I am a powerful and brave woman, responsible for my own destiny. I take chances and both soar and fail spectacularly. I know this.

So, why couldn’t I march?

I also have PTSD and have been living triggered for almost 2 years now. If you don’t know what that means, let me give you a shortcut. Imagine walking through a Halloween haunted house and discovering that they are all real and you can’t get out. That’s what it feels like.

Last August, I began a Hail Mary effort to make the horror stop. The woman – of course, it’s a woman – who is helping drag me kicking and screaming up for air has performed miracles. This is an agonizing and funny-not-funny story in itself. I will brave the telling another time.

When working on PTSD (and just about anything like this), shame is a frequent roommate. It’s not unusual for even the most enlightened people (cough, cough…).  I have to fight the shame and self-recrimination along with fighting the PTSD. And, I have to not be afraid to admit it. It’s such a rude condition, too. Can’t I just have the one thing to deal with without it imposing these pissy complications? Whinge, Whinge, Wink.

I’m no longer constantly triggered. It’s been about 3 weeks. I am like a toddler who falls down a lot but can sometimes giggle about it because I fall on my padded tushy and occasionally miss hitting my head on the living room coffee table.

I’m no longer living in crisis. May I express here and now what a mind-blowing thing this is? In the process of going from 100 to 5mph, I’ve discovered that my day-to-day stress management skills are a little atrophied. I don’t need those super-powered survival skills that my brain has been focused on every day. So, she’s also teaching me how to deal with the whole spectrum from miffed to ripping mad. It’s pretty cool.

Here’s how your marching + my personal brain health work are now combined.

Last night, as I was writing this, I made my first Facebook post about Donald Trump. The afterglow euphoria of this herstoric day was not yet faded and I was getting to work like promised. I am accepting the baton. I feel empowered and supported enough to do so. I stood with you every moment, soaking in your ability to do this. I feel my post was intelligent and had substance. I’m happy I made it.

Is this a big deal? It is for me. I put myself out there and stated what I believe in with no fear of repercussion because the repercussion didn’t matter. I felt I could handle it. It’s also what I do and I love it.

I write.

I bet there will be a day when I can go to a gathering. I fantasize about going with friends and not puking in the car on the way there. Maybe it can be like hountitled_artworkw I learned to love broccoli. It started out covered in stir fry sauce and great gooey things like that. Slowly, there was less and less goo and more veg. Eventually I was like, “Give me the broccoli STAT!” Maybe we can get together for coffee and I find that we accidentally run into more friends at the Colectivo. We have a great and passionate chat about something important. Maybe we all walk to our cars together and stand in the parking lot getting worked up about the thing that’s happening and what we’re going to do about it. All of a sudden, someone’s holding a banner and it won’t phase me a bit. I’ll be like, “And, my banner is going to say (something really brilliant)!”

Thank you for marching for me.

(Did I mention, I love you?)

 

 

Did I really wish for a good cry? How cute…

A good cry? HAH! I laugh in the face of a good cry. I don’t do ‘good cries’. I do forced-march-blind-with-pain purges.


A good cry? HAH! I laugh in the face of a good cry. I don’t do ‘good cries’. I do forced-march-blind-with-pain purges.

Did I really wish for a good cry? I’d like to say ‘be careful what you wish for’ in a sweet, smug sing-song voice but really, I can’t. I’d like to have gotten what I wished for but I didn’t. For a couple of days, I thought I’d gotten my wish. I cried. It was good. It included a picture of a tragically cute dog. I was fooled into complacency and then – wham. Why do I always forget that this is not how it works? Is it some kind of pain of childbirth memory block?

“The Fantasy”beautiful-fantasy-girl crying

I am tired, stressed, and stick-a-fork-in-me done. It’s usually the end of a big project and regardless of the brilliance and beauty of the end result, I’m strung out. I need … something. In my romantic, wishful thinking lizard brain, I imagine that a ‘good cry’ will do it. Some sort of episode that generates cleansing tears of relief and transition. An event where I’m ensconced in pillows and heave deep, heart-felt tears into soft cloth hankies. I will emerge on the other side with a clear head, glowing skin, and resolve.

“The Reality”

I am tired, stressed, and stick-a-fork-in-me done. It’s usually the end of a big project and regardless of the brilliance and beauty of the end result, I’m strung out. I need … something. I search and search and try to do the right thing and try to take care of myself and have patience and try not to become progressively more and more of a raving bitch. I fail. I fail more. I fail bigger. And bigger and bigger until my failure combined with exhaustion tips me over the edge. I hit full blown PTSD breakdown.

Day 1 is spent being utterly shattered and wracked in agonizing pain. If you’ve never suffered this, I’m not going to try to explain right now. If you have, I feel you blanching in horror with me.

Day 2 is spent being hypersensitive to light, sound, thought, breathing, and whatnot.

Day 3 is energized. Today is day 3.

I’d like another option, please. I grudgingly accept that good cry is a dumb wish for me. My extreme brain chemistry doesn’t get the cleanse. But, is this horrid mental purge the only option? Is this the way it’s always going to be? No figuring, reasoning, bargaining or trying something constructive has eliminated this process for me. Holy crap. On the bright side, it is shorter than it used to be. I’m kind of functional after one day.

I have no pithy conclusion other than the truth. Will it set me free? Perhaps, in a way. It doesn’t change this currently inevitable process but at least I’m not lying to myself about it. Oh, and perhaps I should calendar this cycle. Remove sharp objects. Lay in bottled water. Prep for fallout.

Significantly,

Susan

My good cry – Meh

If a mental breakdown wants my attention, it should request an appointment.


Beware what you wish for.

I spent much of the weekend aware there was a straw ready to break my back and send me into hysterics. It was out there somewhere, lurking, ready to drag me under. To catch me unaware. Not actively seeking it but suspicious. Would it nail me at the photo shoot on Saturday? Or thrifting with my BFF? Or … what? Show yourself, coward!

The insidious straw (see my Blog from a couple days ago) pounced from the e-glow of the daily news. Lalala-lah. I’m curled up on the sofa reading the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on my iPad – we subscribe but don’t get the physical paper any more – which is it’s own story. The headline should have read: “Susan! Run! This is THE Straw”. But, no.

This undated rendered image provided by Activision shows canine star, Riley. "Call of Duty: Ghosts" isn't due until November 2013, but Riley has already become the breakout star of the military shoot-'em-up. After footage released earlier this year revealed that "Ghosts" would feature a four-legged soldier, the Internet uniformly wagged its tail in anticipation. (AP Photo/Activision)

A war veteran bomb-sniffing dog needs emergency medical care and there are no vet (pun not intended) benefits for repatriated canines. Bonus: She’s also suffering from PTSD. I immediately teared up. My brain started spinning. Injustice. Hurt. Anger. A deep need to do something about this situation and an inability to do anything.

Heartwrenching sobs later. I’ve been rude to my husband. I’ve cried for myself and everything and everyone and all the things that have ever happened in my life and everyone elses. It lasted for about 4 1/2 minutes – including the time it took to indignantly drag my sorry butt upstairs and away from the world. (Unless you ask my husband, who will swear it lasted about 3 days)

WTF?

A good cry used to lay me out. Not that I looked forward to it, but I could at least count on a familiar process.

Again, I feel gypped. Only, this time, I’m still wary as well. Will I craft a self-fulfilling prophecy? Will I worry myself into a mental and physical breakdown? This is so tiring.

Whatevs.

I know, I know… what about the dog? She is living with a wonderful young man – the guy who brought her home with him from Iraq – and she’s getting the help she needs.

Me, I’m moving on. I have a full schedule of stuff. If a mental breakdown wants my attention, it should request an appointment.

Have a good one.

Significantly,

Susan