Archives for posts with tag: PTSD symptoms

I’ll start here. 🙂 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. 😦

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 woke smiling this morning, although in pain, and feeling light-hearted, balanced, and calm. This would seem almost commonplace, except that last night, at the end of a wonderful evening with my traveling partner, some particular turn of phrase, repeated several times in conversation in relatively quick succession, triggered my PTSD symptoms. My emotions quickly spiraled out of control, and somewhen in the midst of it, I directed my dear love to go, to leave, to walk on…and found myself alone and crying; he respected my boundaries, which sucked then, but this morning it is something I cherish. I can count on him so utterly.

p.s. I love you.

p.s. I love you.

He phoned me after he left, upset and concerned. He pointed out my symptoms (because I am not always aware that I am interacting with some other experience). We talked.  Afterward, I took time to meditate. I calmed and soothed myself – relying on emotional resilience and self-sufficiency that I am building over time through all manner of practices (like meditation). I reflected later on what went down, and how and why. Moments like last night are outstanding for monitoring growth and progress – but they still suck completely and entirely. I emailed him an unreserved heartfelt apology, making no excuses for my behavior (let’s be real here, it’s been much much worse in the past, and that’s not relevant to treating someone I love badly now!), which was uncomfortable for both of us, and unpleasantly emotional. I was already over it such that I could also express gratitude and appreciation for what he was attempting to discuss and help me with, and I had taken time to follow up on our shared concern and the practical relevant details… like a grown up. 🙂

I made a note for myself to follow up later on developing more effective ways to gently communicate that some particular detail, phrase, approach, or behavior has the potential to trigger me – not in the hope of having it avoided, but because in real life these things come up, and one by one I must move past them, for my own emotional well-being, and as a loving investment in my relationships, and wouldn’t it be nice once in a while to just say ‘Oh hey, could you rephrase that one this time? I’m still working on that and I’ve got some challenges with that verbiage’. It takes time, but I no longer view improving on these things as unachievable; I may have some measure of PTSD for the rest of my life, but there is nothing about that which suggests I can’t continue to improve, to grow, and to become the woman I want most to be.

We've all got some baggage.

We’ve all got some baggage.

When my traveling partner had gone, and I was sifting through my chaos and damage, it was quickly very clear that the entire problematic exchange wasn’t at all about or with him (or us) in any way at all; I could feel my violent first husband standing in the room with me. It was an eye-opening moment to be so able to clearly sense the anachronistic miasma of ancient fear and pain. It was also part of what allowed me to move past the moment – and my symptoms – so quickly last night, once I was alone. I could really feel that it didn’t source in my real experience of the moment in any way at all. I had been triggered – and I don’t mean mainstream press too-pc-for-adulthood-don’t-say-things-I-find-discomfiting- “triggered”*.  I mean no bullshit, I was having a post-traumatic stress flashback. Generally, in the past I have had no way of clearly discerning that such is the case until well afterward. This is growth. I don’t know what to do with it, but it is very promising, anyway. I haven’t had a flash back in a long while (months, and well before I moved into my own place, back in March).

Every moment of growth is as a rainbow in a stormy sky; a promise of better things.

Every moment of growth is as a rainbow in a stormy sky; a promise of better things.

Last night – and a couple of times early in the day – I was having a strange very severe headache in a weird location, that throbbed with a deep dull nauseating ache that pulsed every 10-15 seconds or so. I’ve no idea if it was related, causal, or worth consider a serious concern… except that any headache that is unusual is also of great concern for someone with a TBI and a family history of stroke. This morning I made a point of emailing my physician to make note of the headache, and ask if I should make an appointment. I haven’t felt it yet today, so perhaps it was just a headache.

Today I'm not making this complicated.

Today I’m not making this complicated.

I am okay right now. Love is okay right now. Human beings persist in being human, and life offers opportunities to learn, to fail, to grow, and to connect our hearts through what is difficult more often than through what is easy. It’s worth becoming skilled at managing my worst moments more skillfully; I can count on most of the best moments to take care of themselves.

It helps to have the right tool for the job.

It helps to have the right tool for the job…

Today is a good day to practice good practices. Today is a good day to take care of me – and to take care of love. Today is a good day for listening deeply, and connecting honestly. Today is a good day for authenticity and vulnerability. Today is a good day to say thank you, when love shoulders the heavy load my post-traumatic stress carries every day. Today is a good day to walk on, and enjoy blue skies. I am okay right now. 🙂

...and perhaps a change of perspective.

…and perhaps a change of perspective.

It's a journey. Each step I take is my own.

It’s a journey. Each step I take is my own.

*Just an afterthought…Can I just say that I find it damned inconvenient that people have undermined the value and meaning of the word ‘triggered‘ by diluting it for their everyday over-sensitivity or bad-tempered moments? For someone with post-traumatic stress the experience of having symptoms triggered is not a mildly uncomfortable moment, or inconvenience – it’s a pretty big deal, associated with brain chemistry, volatility, mood, physical experiences, and isn’t something that can be easily turned away from or ‘managed’. By mis-using the word to cover feeling uncomfortable to read the ‘fuck’ in a news article, or because a moment of provocation caused a bit of temper, people who really need to express an experience are robbed the language to do so. Knock it off – go find your own words. Seriously. There’s a big difference between being a bad-tempered over-sensitive little bitch, and being having one’s post-traumatic stress triggered – trust me, I’ve had both experiences, and I’m pretty clear on the difference. 🙂