Archives for posts with tag: good mental health may also require practice

One of the big motherfucker’s of PTSD is the lasting impact, the lasting change to cognition, implicit memory, patterns of thought – all the things that make up the “D” (disorder) in PTSD. It’s hard. Recognizing the damage done, and the way it holds potential to “call our shots”, in the moment, is one of the enormous challenges involved in healing. It’s a lot of work finding – and maintaining – perspective and balance. I don’t point these things out as someone who has found her way, or has some solution, or is “over it. I point them out because I am still affected, even 39 years later. The worst of it, in the here and now, is the way it affects relationships with people dear to me who were in no way involved in the damage done, who mean me no harm, and indeed wish me well and want to share some piece of life’s journey with me.

Fuck PTSD.

It’s a major “begin again” moment, right here. My symptoms flared up completely “out of nowhere” (by that I mean, “predictably, but I wasn’t watching for it because I made foolish assumptions about my current emotional wellness, generally”). I certainly could have handled myself much better than I did. A chill calm morning shattered by tense voices, hurt feelings, frustration, irrational fears… it can feel like ruination. It can feel like more damage is done. It can feel like “spreading it around”. It definitely isn’t “fair”. There is guilt and shame beginning to try to fill the space where those irrational fears had been acting out their moment of drama. It’s fucking hard. It’s very very real.

Mental illness – and mental wellness – may not conform to our idea of what they “should” look like, who “should” be afflicted, or how we think such things “ought to” progress. I’ve learned a handful of things over the time and distance this healing journey has covered, though. Mental illness is commonplace. We’ve all got problems. We all hurt sometimes. No one is immune to communication challenges, or emotions.

I take a deep breath. I exhale. I relax. I let it go. My Traveling Partner alerts me he is going to soak in the hot tub. His tone is no assurance that I’m actually welcome… so I choose to do the hard thing; I open myself up to potential hurt feelings, and suggest I’d like to join him. He doesn’t say “no” or set a boundary. I take a deep breath… and begin again.

We soak together, listen to birds sing, and let the day begin.

It’s some time later, now. Feels like a mostly ordinary, pleasant morning, aside from the very deliberate gentleness and care we are taking with each other as we move on from a difficult moment. Do you love someone with PTSD? Complex PTSD? Bi-polar disorder? Depression? Anxiety? It’s hard, right? It’s not your “fault” – it’s also not their “fault”. Mental illness is hard work for the one afflicted – and hard work for the people who love them. Take a breath. Get some distance if you need it. Ideally… don’t punish each other. I know. Hard. All of it is hard. Good practices help – they take actual practice, and consistency, and they do help. A lot. Good therapy in the care of a qualified clinician helps (not always easy to find the right therapist, and it can be costly, I get it). Working to avoid compounding mental illness with “second dart suffering” and further inflicted hurts unwittingly delivered on each other is so important… and again, so much work. I can only say “keep practicing” and “begin again”. Yes, my results vary. No lie. Sometimes I fall short of my best self. I may never be wholly “well” in a reliable way that I can casually trust – my vigilance (regarding my symptoms) and (good) self-care practices are one thing I can offer my partner(s) to prevent doing them further damage. It’s not always enough… but I can’t take that personally.

I begin again.

So, I’ve got this day ahead of me, and things to do with it. I’ve hit the reset button, and the rest is a big pile of verbs. It’s up to me which of those I grab onto and apply to the day. 🙂

What about you? Are you ready to begin again? You’ve got this!

I’m feeling frustration and despair, this morning (yep, still morning, and not even 4 hours into my day). I’m struggling to pull myself out of the emotional muck, and find perspective. I’m working through the tedious effort involved “letting shit go” and “moving on”. I’m forcing myself through practices that both my intellect and my experience tell me definitely work, but I’m also having to fight a frustrating, pervasive feeling of resistance to the effort, and futility about the likely outcome. This moment right here is hard. Not what I had planned or expected for this first day of the new year. :-\ Fuck 2020. I mean, so far…

PTSD is an absolute motherfucker of a mental health condition. No need to exaggerate, or attempt to persuade; if you’ve been there, you know. If you love someone who has PTSD, you know. Flare ups, episodes, freak outs, flash backs, cognitive distortions, and the frustration, despair, depression, guilt, sorrow, grief, or anger that follow any of those, aren’t as predictable as they might seem they would be, and come at us unexpectedly – in spite of the fairly lasting certainty that we’ll experience them again. Trust me, it’s not a pleasant sort of “surprise”.

I’m having a rough New Year’s Day. Well. Sort of. Right now, I mean. Actually, only about an hour of it was unpleasant. Confusing, surreal, and scary – also good descriptions. Now I’m just… sorting myself out and trying to find my way.

Are you having a rough New Year’s Day, too? Have you handled your self-care skillfully? Are you in a (physically) safe place? Have you taken time to breathe, maybe even meditate? Can you convince yourself to take a step back from the problematic moment? Can you take that a step further and reflect on impermanence (“this too shall pass”), and non-attachment (letting it go)? Can you put your spun up consciousness on pause long enough to reflect on the small things for which you can feel grateful (yes, even right now)? (Anger and gratitude don’t easily exist side-by-side in the same moment.) Do you have a useful distraction at hand (a healthy one), like completing a task that requires some focus, or simply reading a book? (Or writing… see? Here I am, and it does work pretty well, for me, generally; your results may vary.)

…When “things blow over” (assuming you didn’t wreck someone’s property, or injure someone, or do or say something with lasting serious consequences), at a minimum, you’re probably going to have to deliver real apologies to people affected by your PTSD (yeah, I know, it fucking blows, because you already know you most likely won’t receive the same in return, however hurt you feel by the circumstances; it’s not a fully equitable, reciprocal world, and human primates can be dicks – you’ve got to let that go, too, in favor of simply being the person you, yourself, most want to be, because there is real healing in that). An apology is a relatively small thing, isn’t it? Just deal with it, graciously, compassionately, and accept that your “issues” really do affect other people, in some ways every bit as much as your PTSD affects you directly, only… their experience is the only one they can actually feel. Your experience of being disordered, broken, wounded…? They only understand any of that in the abstract, and yes, even if they also have their own PTSD issues to deal with. We have a limited capacity to truly understand each other, however commonplace our experiences may be. We are each having our own experience. For people hurt by a loved one’s PTSD, those sincerely intended, genuine, unreserved and unconditional apologies for the damage done really do matter. Say you’re sorry so you can move the fuck on.

“Stop catastrophizing” may be some of the least useful “advice” ever offered from one human being to another. Just saying – it’s a lot like suggesting that someone should calm down, when they are upset. Well-intended, often potentially correct, inasmuch as it would be helpful (and wise) to do so, but… who can hear the words and then act on them with fond appreciation for the concern? Like… no one, ever. LOL Not how that works. Still… if you can, it’s worth taking the steps needed to shift gears from catastrophe and despair to something, anything at all, less bleak. Small steps are fine. Incremental change over time may be all we can rely on in such moments. While you’re at it… breathe.

One of the nuisances of PTSD is how long it can take to “bounce back”, emotionally (the chemistry of emotion is tricky shit). I’ve been less than consistent with my meditation practice over the past year, and it shows; my resilience is less reliable, less deep, less durable, and I feel it today – it may take me hours (instead of minutes) to recover a positive sense of self, and move on with my day open to any outcome other than this bullshit right here, now. I feel sapped, and vulnerable. I take another drink of this water (self-care 101; if you’ve been crying, you need to drink more water), and remind myself that my “episodes” were once much more severe, lasted a great deal longer, did real damage, and the recovery period was measured in days and weeks, not hours, or minutes.

Progress made is not lost just because one moment goes sideways – it just feels that way. Expect that to be a thing, and be willing to give yourself a fucking break. This shit is hard.

Every word of this today is for me, now. I write, and read it back, paragraph by paragraph, as I go. I am reminding myself, practice by practice, of what it takes to maintain emotional wellness, and attempting to make good on that promise to myself. The feeling of internal resistance has dissipated, which is progress.

In the background, I hear my Traveling Partner slaying monsters of one variety or another; video games are another excellent “escape strategy” when a peaceful morning explodes in emotional chaos. He’s got his own hard mile to walk, and I don’t doubt being my partner makes that all much more complicated. I listen to the measured cadence of his game-play, and find it calming. I pause my writing long enough for a self-inventory of where I’m at right now. I still feel sort of muted and a bit blue, and may be prone to being easily hurt (emotionally) for some hours to come. I put that aside, reminding myself not to take shit personally. My head aches. The ringing in my ears almost deafens me if I turn my attention to it. I feel wrung out. Fatigued. Emotionally bruised. Having a bite of lunch helped. Drinking some water helped, too. The lingering feeling of personal failure and disappointment is a bummer, but, and this is true; it’ll pass.

Hell of a start to a brand new year. I expected better of the day – and of myself. It’s not “too late”, though. I can hit the reset button, any time I choose… right? I consider how best to make use of the moment; there is growth and momentum in mastering the chaos and healing the damage (more than any pleasant easy moment can offer). It’s definitely time to begin again… again.

Well, Monday comes around too soon after a busy weekend. The down-and-back to visit with friends and with my Traveling Partner was… interesting. Worth doing. Strange. In some moments just flat-out weird as the evening developed.  Good party. Good weekend. Weird vibe.

Mental illness doesn’t play nicely – with its victims, or with their loved ones. Let’s note that this is a true thing, and then set that aside.

I never actually slept on Saturday night. It was a huge effort for my Traveling Partner and I to get even an hour together to chill and hang out. It wasn’t the party that kept him busy, it was the on-again-off-again intensifying spiral of OPD generated by his other partner’s mental health challenges more often than not, but also just real-life hosting-a-party crap that comes up over a weekend (“hey, is there more water?”, “hey, I cut myself – where are the band aids?”, “hey, where can I park?”, “hey, what’s the wi-fi password?”, “hey, is the party in the house,too, or just outside?”). We finally got a few minutes together to cuddle, to catch up, to talk… in seconds he was fast asleep in my arms. I haven’t spent such a lovely night in a long while, meditating, relaxed, content, cuddled up with my Traveling Partner for a couple hours. I couldn’t sleep. I knew there would be that risk when I went down; I don’t feel physically (or emotionally) safe in that location now,so… No sleep. Still, huge improvement for me, inasmuch as I also didn’t continue to feel anxious once I got there, and the hours of the night passed gently in each other’s arms.

I dozed off once (so close). I woke to a knock on the door. I got up very carefully so as not to wake my partner, stumbled through putting my pants on, and went to see if there was something urgent that needed attention (the medical bag was with us). Nope. I went back to bed. Some little while later, we were wakened with more conviction; a neighbor had started a burn on their property in the very early just-at-daybreak time of morning. The party people, in various stages of intoxication, could see the fire…but couldn’t puzzle out whether it was a legitimate hazard, or not, at that distance. (It was unfathomable that people might actually wake up at such an hour and do actual work or life things. LOL) Farm folks are often up quite early, doing actual work. My Traveling Partner takes a look, says something reassuring. We go back to bed. He’s out like a light in minutes. I doze for a few minutes myself, wake again, and get up and dress for the morning; it was time for coffee, for breakfast, and time to hit the road. “No sleep at all” would mean a narrow window of opportunity to safely make the drive home before fatigue set in.

The drive back was pretty uneventful, and generally efficient and pleasant. I got home in a timely fashion, and messaged my Traveling Partner and concerned friends that I was safely home. I didn’t hear anything back for many hours (because… drama). I am okay with having made such a short trip down and back under the circumstances, and enormously pleased with how I feel today. (Untouched by OPD, and largely unaffected by the mental health issues of a metamour I am easily able to maintain adequate distance from). I am okay right now. I was okay Saturday. It was a good weekend, generally. My self-care was on point. 😀

There was an interesting moment, conversationally, during the party. Worth taking another look at, but maybe not this morning; it’s not relevant, specifically, to this topic, right here. 🙂 This morning? I’m getting ready for a new work week; it’s time to begin again. 😀

Where will the journey take me? What obstacles are in my path? Are they actually obstacles – or do I just need the gate code?