Lights Out

There was a loud click, the slight whining of electrical units shutting down and blackness.


This evening the power went out for the entire postcode area where we are on holiday.
L immediately asked if I was ok, because he’s just that thoughtful and that aware of different things that could frighten me or make me panic.
I was totally calm. Absolutely fine – almost like I knew it was coming so wasn’t surprised. I just reassured L and turned the flashlight on my phone on – glad to say it’s fricking strong!
I went in to super-capable-Ruthie mode. Obviously L, already having only 10% of the vision the rest of us have, is completely blind in a phone light lit blackness, so his hand grasped I led the way outside to see if the cottage owners – who lived in the next cottage, thank goodness! – could help.
We were standing in the drive trying to see if there were any lights on in the house – or any house close by – when the lady came out apologising, said the whole street looked like it was out and she had candles she’d get for us. Bless her for remembering us and being so sweet. She later texted me and said the whole postcode was out.
We had spag bol – which had just about finished cooking –  just without the spag and with bread and butter instead. We ate almost all of it by candlelight and just as we were finishing – bam! The lights were back! They were a bit flickery to begin with, but way too many hours later they are still working perfectly. Beyond thankful for how short the blackout was for and that we have so much access to electricity all the time.
It was only after L asked if I was ok after supper, and I’d said of course I was fine in a slightly hyper tone, and he’d then asked if I needed a bit of me space before we watched a film,  that I realised …
I’d responded to a slightly scary, unexpected event with a typical PTSD response, one that I do often and can recognise in others, but just in that moment I identified when I do it myself … and how often I do it.
I thought I was just quite good in emergency situations. Even when I was little I was the one who kept her calm when others didn’t. When my mother and sisters folded under stress, emotion, shock, exhaustion… I was the one who kept on going because that was what needed to be done. Someone had to keep going and get things done, and apparently I was that person.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had my moments! I think there were a good number of years, when I was most ill, that I hid from life and all but abdicated responsibility for my life. But throw an emergency at me …
Tonight – as in so many other situations – I slipped into fight or flight mode. I’m not often one to run away. Fight is my go-to setting. Yes, yes! It really is. Maybe not in an outward way that many of you might recognise, but trust me I’ve never really had a time when I haven’t been fighting. Stealth is my game! 😉
Without acknowledging it at the time or even being aware that it’s happening, I hone in on the immediate issue, blocking out all of my emotions. I can sense other people’s and take their needs into account, but it’s like anything personal to me is just, gone somehow.
I act sensibly (mostly) and compassionately (I hope) but it’s like it doesn’t bear any relation, or have any impact, on me. I do, I prepare, I reassure, I make plans for the worst case scenario, I am overly cheerful.
Then the situation/threat/emergency/hard task is over. Exhaustion floods me to my bones. My heart is beating really fast. I realise my chest is tight and I’m not breathing naturally. My muscles are stiff and I’m on super high alert – paying attention (often subconsciously) to the slightest change in sound, a flicker or shadow  – even a tiny change in the tone of a voice or an expression.
Oh yeah, adrenaline has just been pumping through my system like crazy, only magnified by my brain hurtling straight to DEFCON 1 in a millisecond.
It’s five hours after the lights first went out and my brain and body are still feeling wired. It hasn’t been helped by some minor noises – L taking his boots off and plonking them down on the floor – and surprises – me not hearing L coming in the room – which have scared me enough to make me jump and gasp … what can you do but laugh at yourself? I do anyway!
We’ve watched some film, listened to some audio book, had some much needed brandy. Against all my common sense I’m still on edge listening and waiting for the next ‘thing’ to happen …
Why I hadn’t fully connected my calm in emergencies/crisis to my PTSD before I’m not exactly sure. I was recently going on a bit of a private guilt trip that here I was being all ‘tired’ for nothing, because my symptoms are pretty minor to nonexistent, I was just making a big deal out of an un-officially-diagnosed condition that I was using as a cover for my own laziness (whole different story, don’t ask).
Umm,  maybe not. Maybe it’s easier to see those symptoms and how they affect daily life in other people. Maybe it’s easier to be understanding and considerate to other people. Ok, not maybe – definitely.

I don’t really have a conclusion to what has turned into a bit of an essay… I just startled and had a shock of fear go through me when L, sitting in bed next to me listening to his audio book, said a word out loud to ask if I knew what it meant … I guess I haven’t calmed down then yet.

Maybe … just be kind to yourself today. Take a little time to understand your thoughts, your feelings, your reactions. Take a little time to give yourself some love – some of the love you’d show to a friend. Make yourself a cup of tea when you’re tired; don’t force yourself to cheer up when you mourn the loss of a situation, friend, time; don’t beat yourself up over dropping the egg, forgetting to post the birthday card or whatever little thing you didn’t manage, because right then, for you, it was too big a thing, for many reasons.

Another day

The main smell right now is of drying laundry that stinks of damp.

It’s been sitting in a washing machine or washing basket waiting to be hung up for too long, then put through again on an optimistic morning and left a day or two… then again … and now the damp smell just won’t leave. It’s too wet now to hang outside to give it a good airing, so I guess L and I are going to be smelling a bit musty for a week. 
At least, I hope it’s just a week. It’s not like this hasn’t happened before.  Seriously, if smells could be the soundtrack of your life? Damp laundry would be a major theme in mine …
I wasn’t going to write tonight. I thought about it and decided I didn’t have anything positive to say; I didn’t have any sort of conclusion to arrive at; I had no funny story to tell or any nice photo to share. 
And then I realised. 
That’s kind of what this whole thing is about, right? 
I’m here, past midnight, can’t sleep, lousy day, crap thoughts, bad habits, depressing weather, sad prospects, confused AF … but this is my reality. This is life with PTSD. This is life fighting to recover from 22 years of abuse. This is life not making it every day. 
You know what? This is life. This is life!! I’m still here! I’m still fighting. I’m still searching for God in all of this. I still want to try. I’m still living this life. 

Gratefulness Really Grates…

It’s sort of been creeping up on me. 
By creeping up I mean the individual thoughts have been gathering for years, but in the last couple of weeks they have exploded in a flood-list of all the things we don’t have, but would surely make our lives oh so much easier if we actually had them. 
I’m going to be absolutely honest here. Yes, our life would be a huge load easier if we had a dishwasher! (Seriously, don’t underestimate it until you have CPTSD, chronic depression and anxiety, a hubby who’s registered severally sight impaired and other life complications. I’m not the only one!). I long for a dishwasher.
Yes, our life would be a huge load easier if we had a car! I could drive L to work when he was too out of energy to get there himself. I could drive to work and take the kids I look after to activities instead of having to depend on dry weather and the local playground. I could drive to the supermarket and load a weeks worth of food in the car instead of trailing my trolley, choosing which item is more important and hurting my body hauling it all home again. 
Yeah, you can’t tell I’m jealous at all …
The fact that I work for a rich couple who don’t even know why we wouldn’t have a car doesn’t help. Enter Pinterest Mum of the South West 2017…!! As I said, no jealousy here …
Other things add into my feelings right now, but despite not being an advocate for the whole ‘think happy, be happy ‘ campaign, I could see that I was in need of a gratefulness exercise…
Cue a little scrapbook, just for me (whole other post, watch this space), where every day in September I am going to record something that I am grateful for. It doesn’t have to be something that is purely positive, none of mine will be 100% joy – that’s life for everyone!
Maybe you’ve had a hard day at work, but you had a really friendly bus driver; maybe you’ve had a night of horrible dreams and sleeplessness, but your boss was particularly friendly that day and made you a cup of tea.
I’ve got three days in so far, record for me. 

I am so, so tired. 

Today has been on of those days when the only answer I can come up with to ‘how are you?’ is ‘I’m ok’ or ‘tired’. 
In reality, I’ve been a couple of minutes or the wrong words away from tears … which for someone who hates to cry as much as I do is saying something in itself. 
I just read this article and it says so much of how it feels. Not all of it, not all the time. But too many of them too much of the time right now. 

https://themighty.com/2017/03/mental-illness-im-tired/

Beauty In Pain

A couple of weeks ago I walked through the industrial estate that lives on the other side of a playing field from my road.

It’s not the prettiest path, not the best walking route in the area, but it works.


All these photos are of flowers growing in concrete. Flowers growing in industry. Flowers growing where everyone most people have forgotten to look. Beauty in strength. 




Sisters 

Tomorrow afternoon I’m meeting my sisters for drinks at our local Waitrose.
I haven’t seen them since about February this year, I think. I have texted all three of them a couple of times and I’ve had four or so letters from my youngest sister … to my shame I haven’t replied to one of those letters.

So last week my youngest sister texted and asked for us to meet. Tomorrow is the day they chose. 5pm. So it’s not going to be a long meeting. L gets off work (just across the road where I’m meeting my sisters) at 5:30, so he will join us then. We’ll need to get a bus home abbot before 6pm. A definite finish time has got to be good, right? I wish it felt like it.
L doesn’t trust my sisters. He doesn’t really want me to meet them. I don’t blame him. I get it. I do. He wants to protect me from the pain he knows from experience will come from me meeting with my sisters. I kind of want the same thing. But I can’t do it.
I can’t say no to meeting them! If I say no to them asking to meet me, then the responsibility of a relationship break down is mine … right? I worked so hard and worried myself into a hospital bed trying to keep my relationship with my sisters – my school mates, my best friends, my playmates, my confidants, my buddies, my partners-in-crime, the ones who believed me when I told stupid stories, the ones who were beside me when we besieged foreign lands, the ones who shadow-boxed with me in my underwear, who cried on my shoulder when we were all hurt, who confided their deepest fears, who came for cuddles when they needed them and I wrote silly poems for when they were sad … So I can’t be the one to break off any kind of relationship we still have left …
No matter how much it hurts. No matter how anxious I get. No matter how many tears I cry. No matter how many drinks I have. No matter the pain, the stress, the worry … because they’re all the good I have left from the first 21 years of my life.
And that’s a flipping load to give up when you don’t have much else from over half your lifetime.

Fast,Windy and Loud

Last Thursday L and I got a day to ourselves. We hired a car, packed up and went bombing down the dual carriage way to a favourite walking spot, windows wide open, wind rushing, music blaring at top volume. Absolute perfection!

As a teenager, driving meant freedom.

From just about the moment my older sister filled out the application for her learners drivers license I was counting the days until I could get my own license. When I say days I mean days and for a maths hater like me… that’s keen! It seemed even more unfair that my older sister didn’t even want to drive and hated it for years …

I got pretty stressed in the months coming up to my 17th birthday (the age you can legally drive in the uk) because my parents were pretty short on money, not to mention a load of horrible stuff going on with the Messianic Jewish fellowship my father had been trying to run. I wasn’t sure I was going to get to learn how to drive.

I cannot begin to work out the reasoning behind my parents choices. Based on a lot of their beliefs and views, you would have thought they wouldn’t let us learn to drive, to keep us more dependent on them. But then, they were going to get a second car out of me working as a mothers help and didn’t want to have to drive 2 hours each time to make that happen… I was also basically my mother’s personal driver for years, when she was too ill to drive herself … or maybe I am being unkind and they simply wanted to make sure we all had our basic life skills. 

Whatever the reasons behind it all, on the day of my 17th birthday there was a knock on the door and there was a driving instructor ready to take me out for my first lesson. 
The first lesson was awful, but after that, I never looked back! I loved learning to drive, I loved practicing (kind of…most of the time…long story…) and was so smug when I passed my driving test first time with minimal faults … especially since my older sister took two tries – I never said I was perfect!!

Once I got over my first fears of driving alone I lived for it! I got space (hard to come by in a house of 6 homeschooling, work from home people with no real friends or activities) I got quiet if I wanted it and I got the a rare feeling of freedom. 
In a life that was pretty much dictated by my father and the restrictions he placed on what we wore, who we saw, what we read, watched or listened to – supposedly even what we believed and how we thought and felt – the act of driving at 60 with the windows all down, the wind roaring and my own music as loud as I could take it was absolute freedom!

It doesn’t matter that the music was somehow still sanctioned (or quietly ignored) by my parents, or that I had to have their permission (and a practical reason) for driving somewhere. This helped me feel like my idea of a normal teenager. This helped me feel like I had some control. This helped me feel free. 

Most of the time I’m fine with not having my own car. I know we can’t afford it right now and we’re very lucky in where we live that we can walk most places and have really good access to public transport. But the days come when my past gets really heavy and I get an itch under my skin, a longing to get in a car and go really fast. The feeling of being able to drive fast enough to be free of all those things that weigh me down – even though I know that such a thing isn’t possible. 

One of my ideas of heaven is fast cars, straight roads, good sound systems and lots of summer air. 

Mental Health Day?

This is the last of the posts I wrote only first blog, which I got locked out of. It was inspired by Mental Health Day last October, but is relevant every day of the year. 
I think it’s great that there is a Mental Health Day. Don’t get me wrong on that one – this is something that needs ‘A Day’ and the publicity so YES! Let’s embrace it!
This post, though, is for those whose Mental Health goes beyond a day … those who wake up every morning and wish they hadn’t … those who were told eight years ago that they’d only be on meds for 6 weeks … those who were given a cd of calming music to cure the sleeping problems and knew it never would … those whose experience doesn’t fit into a box.
This post is for those who exhausted all the treatment they could have on the NHS and still need something else … those who spent 3 years plus filling out those “1-to-10-how-do-you-feel” forms … those who can’t say whether the meds make a difference or not anymore … those who aren’t sure what ‘normal’ is … those who can’t picture a life without mental health … those who keep on fighting.
This post is for those who work so hard to get out of bed in the morning … who fight their way into the shower maybe twice a week … who conquer a pile of plates … who have to climb the mountains of laundry.
This post is for those who keep on going day, after day, after day; sometimes just minute by minute; the next breath, the next cup of tea, the next glass of wine; work day by work day; getting through the next week.
We have survived every single thing that has ever happened to us! It might well have been horrific along the way, but we’ve survived it and we’re here!!
Go us!!

Church One Morning 

Originally published 23 October, 2016
It’s never a great start to a Sunday morning service when you’re fighting hyperventilation and keep telling yourself that you’re going to be strong and stay in the sermon.
I desperately wanted to get up and leave … but there were people I wanted to see after the service… and I knew we wouldn’t be in church for the next two weeks. So I stuck it out. I wrote ‘to-do’ lists in my diary and planned our long-over-due holiday next week. I tried hard not to think about the sermon and how I was negatively reacting to it. I tried to block it, and all the negative thoughts and feelings spiralling crazily out from it, from my mind.
By the time the service was over I was worked up, angry, tense, short of breath, emotional, completely exhausted …
And how do I explain that to other people? Some don’t need to know one way or the other, but I can imagine some people wondering what the flip had me so dazed, tired and disconnected.
How do I explain that? How can I say that I found the sermon massively uncomfortable and triggering and I’m still coming down from that? In what world but mine do hebrew root words, talk about covenant relationships and the umbrella of God’s law set off a panic attack?
But this is my world!
In my world, talking about hebrew roots, the torah, covenant relationships, shalom, the umbrella of God’s law/will, God hating injustice … I’ve actually had to calm myself down after writing that sentence.
Each one of us has our mix of triggers; our own combination of events, words, sounds, situations or smells that will set off a reaction. This is one of mine. Your’s might be another.
It leaves me feeling isolated and alone. I look around me – to the friend to my right who is enthusiastically taking notes on her phone, to my husband on my left who I know is mostly not paying any attention to the sermon – and I’m by myself having my panicked reaction to the words and phrases the preacher is using.
I leave the room longing to express my feelings to my close friend who knows so much … but even this is beyond our shared experience and empathy. I say the words that sent my pulse erratic and it means nothing.
I don’t blame her, I don’t blame my husband – in one way I’m glad they don’t get it! But I’m still here feeling sore, lonely and misunderstood.
Why would anyone get why this was so difficult for me? Oh yeah, they wouldn’t. Because they weren’t brought up a fricking Messianic Jewish Fundamentalist Homeschooled Girl in the South West of England.
Church can be a very painful and lonely place.
I hope that today church was an encouraging and happy place for you!