This has been the first week when I’m working an extra afternoon a week. Granted, this week one of those afternoons was a morning , but the principal is the same.
An extra afternoon a week you say? I work nine-to-five, five days a week, every week, what’s your problem? Fair question. For someone dealing with CPTSD, chronic depression and anxiety and extreme exhaustion … an extra afternoon a weeks work becomes a big deal.
So this week I worked an extra half day – one that had me leaving the house before 7:30 in the morning … kind of a tough call if you’ve spent most of the night tossing and turning, between nightmares of past experiences mixed with your present day challenges, repeats of nightmares from your childhood, and painful people spewing horrible words into your current worries…
The little boy I look after had an accident just before I got there on Thursday and had to be taken to an emergency service for stitches. The little sister was distressed and worried all afternoon; too young to verbalise her worries, but knowing her playmate was missing and something was wrong. I spent the afternoon trying to soothe and calm, hug when needed and distract as I could, but knowing I was no real substitute for the family she was missing.
Add in a very poorly husband and all the usual tasks of cooking, shopping, washing up, laundry, bin collections, and sorting time with friends and you have someone who has messed up.
I’ve missed dates with friends – I’ve even completely forgotten some. I haven’t done all the washing up I should have – the dishes are piling up. I know if I don’t do some laundry tomorrow we’ll be out of underwear – I think. I really don’t have the honesty to talk about the fridge; trust me on this – I’m embarrassed!
Next week I hope there will be a husband that isn’t poorly (and hopefully not me either!) and that super-early morning will be an afternoon. Hopefully next week the washing up, laundry and cooking will be more of a natural rhythm – here’s hoping! Maybe next week the nightmares will recede and I won’t have any flashbacks – we can always hope, right?
Until then … until then.
Until then, every action is going to have a cost. Until then, every thought is going to have a battle. Until then, every night is going to be exhausting. Until then every hour is going to have a cost.
Every hour has a cost.
Not all things,
Are black or white.
Not all things,
Are black and white.
Not all things,
are black and white.
Not all things,
Are are black and white.
Not all things,
Are black and white.
I really wanted to post some words and thoughts that have been bubbling through my mind for the last few days, but after two efforts and fails at posting I’ve had enough for tonight …
So here are a few photos I really enjoyed taking in the gardens of the property where we stayed … I was gutted to realise I’d left my proper camera behind, but very grateful that I had a good camera on my phone …
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.
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.
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.
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.