Archives for posts with tag: old trauma new healing

I’ll start here. ­čÖé It’s not a bad starting point for restoring perspective, a reminder that we’re all human, all having our own experience – and that we’ve all got “problems”. The path we walk really isn’t paved. Life’s journey doesn’t have a map. We’re each having our own experience – literally so individual that it is pretty easy to wander around thinking “no one gets me” and feeling we are not being heard, or feeling attacked, while the person on the other side of that interaction feels exactly, precisely, very much the same way.

…That gets awkward when we’re sharing labels (but maybe not definitions, or experiences, in any practical way).

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to living with PTSD, lately. Not just mine. Yours, too. Ours. Theirs. Someone else’s. It’s not an easy thing to love someone who has PTSD. It’s not easy to live around it. It’s hard on our loved ones. Hard on our communities. Hard on familial relationships, friendships, and colleagues. None of that should derail any one of us from a committed effort to being our best selves in every moment in which we are able. Live around PTSD long enough, we may even begin to accumulate some damage of our own, related only to that experience.

I’ve been looking at this complicated puzzle for a few days, after a contentious moment with someone dear to me, whose PTSD may be as bad as mine (although as yet undiagnosed, it’s nonetheless very real, and a difficult complication in a relationship very precious to me). They were having an off day, and I missed the signs of symptoms flaring up. I overlooked a known trigger for this dear one. They “came at me” (verbally) reactive and confrontational, irritable over what looked like “nothing” to me, from my perspective on the outside looking in. I have PTSD, myself, and even after some years of managing my symptoms fairly well, I have my challenges, some almost daily. My dear friend’s flare up became confrontation, hostility, and words thrown at me that seemed absent the context of what was “really” going on. I could not recognize myself in their reflected perception of me. (I didn’t say that. I didn’t do that. That’s now “how it went down”!) I reacted. I became, myself, triggered by their anger and frustration. My own symptoms flared up. I had forgotten about the PTSD on both sides of our human equation. Fucking hell.

Aside from feeling like an insensitive asshole, I also managed to make things worse, simply by being myself in a difficult moment. It was hard. We got past it, but even now, I see that moment in my friend’s eyes, when we interact, and it’s been days. My feeling of emotional safety in the relationship feels shaken. (I’m not sure there’s any reason to feel that way, realistically, but PTSD isn’t about what’s real right now, and any tendency to treat it that way is likely to make matters worse, unfortunately.) I don’t know how to help my friend heal; we’re each having our own experience, and I too need healing. ­čśŽ

I know I have more to say about this, but I also know I have more thoughts to think, more to turn over in my head, more questions to ask and to answer. This? It’s advanced coursework in life’s curriculum. I do my best.

I’ll just say this one thing and move on for now; PTSD isn’t the same from one person to the next. It’s more like a fingerprint carved into who we are by the trauma we have survived. We can label a group of symptoms as “PTSD”, but it’s a long damned list, and each person suffering with lasting PTSD has lived their own experience. What triggers one, doesn’t trigger another. How we react, as individuals, to our very individual triggers, is a further complication; there are a lot of differences.

It did get me thinking about one thing that helps, generally; be the best version of ourselves we each can be. Be kind. Be willing to listen without jumping in with a correction. Be compassionate about just how fucking hard this is. Don’t try to make it a competition; our own pain nearly always hurts worse than anything we can really understand anyone else to be going through. Maybe avoid diminishing or diluting someone else’s message if they trust enough to share that they are in pain, or triggered, or overwhelmed; let it be about them, about their experience, and empathize through deep listening (instead of, for example, commiserating through “common experience”, which often misses the point of someone sharing in the first place).

Trust that these are things I consider myself; it’s a lot of work to look through, and beyond, my own symptoms, to “be there” for someone else who seems seriously unconvinced that anyone else could possibly have it as bad as they do. Let them have that moment. What they’re saying is more about the fact that they are in pain or struggling than about whether, or how much, you are. It’s not a fucking contest. I “get it wrong” every bit as often as I “get it right”, I think. I definitely need more practice.

…Having said that… Maybe also don’t overlook what is being communicated if someone is trying to connect and empathize by suggesting they understand through their own experiences. Maybe they really do. How much does that suck??

I’m just saying… be there for each other. Understand that the enormous variety in human experiences and perspectives really does mean that there’s a lot of shit going on in the world, that people endure every day, survive and move on from, that just really really sucks.

Did I mention being kind? It’s a good starting point… And it’s time to begin again.

I’ve got a solo weekend. The morning, so far, as been still and quiet…and strange. I didn’t sleep well, but I don’t feel fatigued. I tossed and turned wakefully much of the night, and managed to use the entire area of a king size bed alone…every corner, every side, diagonally, crosswise, splayed like a starfish, curled up like a hedgehog, with pillows, without pillows, blankets, no blankets… which is most peculiar since I generally sleep in just one or two positions throughout a given night, sometimes┬álaying flat on my back throughout, rarely┬árolling over (it’s a remnant of domestic violence, and nights when any movement might give away that I wasn’t sleeping, or remind my spouse I was there, at all). I sometimes wake in the morning to find that the covers are not even a little disturbed from the night’s sleep, just turned down at the corner from getting up, looking like a dog-eared book page. So…yeah. I didn’t sleep well. I didn’t want to wake early, and went to bed tired, sleepy, and ready to just sleep until waking caught up with me.

As it turns out, waking caught up with me around 2:38 am. I had some fun cat naps between then, and when I finally gave up and got out of bed, around 5:00 am. No nightmares. I feel reasonably well-rested and satisfied with the comfortable knowledge that I can nap later, if I care to. I took my time with my yoga. I had to. I’m stiff┬áthis morning and the pain of my arthritis, which is in my spine, is indescribably vast and commanding of my attention. This morning my spine feels like a rigid column of pain, on which my head sits; a first for me, I think, to have continuous arthritis pain from the vertebrae just above the line of my hips, to the second vertebrae above my shoulders. I keep finding room in my experience to be somewhat impressed by the completeness of it. I suppose that’s better than laying in bed crying because it hurts. I don’t really want to waste precious mortal time that way.

Droplets of mist gather everywhere on a foggy morning, each one a tiny universe for life I can't see...or perhaps a miniature gazing ball on the world I can see. I suppose it depends on my perspective.

Droplets of mist gather everywhere on a foggy morning, each one a tiny universe for life I can’t see…or perhaps a miniature gazing ball on the world I can see. I suppose it depends on my perspective.

It’s another foggy morning. I love fog as a metaphor for the unknown, the unseen, the mystery of potential, and choices yet to be made. I enjoy walking in the fog. ┬áI enjoy the whimsy of imagining that as I walk I create the world around me; each step I take revealing some new detail, what is beyond view slowly emerging. Yep. Almost 52, still daydreaming everywhere I go. lol. ­čÖé It’s a quality of self that I value a great deal; it has held the power to make the tragic and painful endurable, and it has kept me going long after I would have quit without it.

Tears unexpectedly begin pouring down my face… arthritis pain? No, it’s just old trauma, old hurts; there are things lurking in the darkness that I never really stop crying over. These days I don’t fight the tears that come when my heart is touched by my own hurts; I keep a safe space for myself, in my own heart, to comfort me, to show myself compassion, to recognize that it has indeed been a lot to go through, a lot to survive, and to recognize that these honest tears are no sign of weakness or failure. In a sense they are a strange celebration of strength; I am here, and that’s a pretty big deal, considering what I have overcome. I only need, in this moment, to be kind to myself and let the tears fall without stress, without anger, gently supporting myself on the strengths I have. Tears pass. There’s plenty to cry over, but it doesn’t need drama – only love.

Autumn is a season of change, a good time to break patterns.

Autumn is a season of change, a good time to break patterns.

Today is a good day to take care of me. Today is a good day to be fully present, and engaged in the moment, even if all I do is flip through a holiday catalog, answer my email, or have a coffee in the chilly autumn garden watching the dawn unfold beyond the fog. Today is a good day to appreciate how far I’ve come, and how good things are right now in spite of pain. Today is a good day to make choices that create the world I really want to live in. How about you? What do you think… shall we change the world?