Archives for posts with tag: we all got problems

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’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.