Real Life

To the man walking down the street at 11:30pm, staring at the woman putting out the recycling collection, in her cheepo jogging trousers with a hole in the bottom and her broken Birkenstock-look-alikes, swearing when the lid fall off the shampoo bottle …

Yes, this is real life.

This is real life when you have the first physical sensation flashback you’ve had in years.

And you don’t do anything, your face remains the same and you carry on listening to your friend talking. You swallow the panic and the intense nausea. You space out but try and act engaged.

You call your husband when you leave and forget why it was you called him and what it was that was so important you had to call him, when you’d be home in 5 minutes.

You go home, even though you need to go grocery shopping, and one of the first things to leave your mouth?

‘Why can’t I even react to a flashback like a normal crazy person?’

You try to take a nap, but can’t – or you drift out of waking and dreaming so quickly you can’t tell if you slept or not.

But you go get groceries and you cook your husband supper. Because that’s what you do.

You push away thoughts you don’t want all evening. Because that’s what you do.

And then you remember at 11:30 at night that you haven’t put out the recycling for the collection in the morning. So you do it in your comfy clothes that don’t get worn outside. Even though they have holes in and you’re grumpy.

Because that’s real life.

When Your Heart Is Just Too Heavy

TRIGGER WARNING: This post talks about some issues that might be triggering, please consider before reading.

My heart is so very, very heavy and I have that aching tightness in my throat from needing to cry, but not being able to get out one tear.

I have read too many stories today of CSA (Childhood Sexual Abuse) and ChurchToo survivors. I have to read them – my heart demands I bare witness to their stories and hear their truth. But it brings pain – not just the pain that flows from their words and must be a daily part of their lives – but it stirs up my own pain, reminds me that the lid is still open on the well of my own experiences.

I also printed out almost an entire journal to read, that was recommended through the GRACE organisation – Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. The journal was titled ‘Child Absue and the Chrusch – Prevention, Pastoral Care and Healing. I didn’t really read it as I printed, but my heart broke again that it is even needed in the first place.

Why am I putting myself through such tough reading, such constant exposure to horrible issues? Because I can’t just sit and do nothing. There are too many hurting people out there, hurting people that all too often don’t find the comfort they need within churches, and if in my battles to make people talk about these things more and have a gentle, loving response to survivors, I can help at least one person to feel listened to, valued and loved, through one of the most horrific life-experiences, then it is more than worth my pain, my heavy heart, my sore throat, my nightmares.

For now, my heart is too heavy and it has exhausted me. Sometimes seeing hope is nearly impossible and the mountain seems overwhelmingly steep.

So for now, I’m going to seek hopeful-oblivion in an afternoon nap.

Anxiety is Exhausting

Being anxious isn’t exactly a new thing for me. But I’ve lived with it a long time, I get familiar with the regular feelings of anxiety and it kind of melds into the background normality of my life – maybe not normal or healthy for most, but it’s become my normal.

I’m about to do something pretty big and pretty brave – watch this space for more details in a few weeks.

I’m very excited about it and am convinced it is the right thing to do… but it involves me being pretty open about my story, in front of two-services-worth of my whole church …

That is just one part of the project, not even the most important part for most, but it is the motivation behind it and without doubt, the most scary part for me!

So right now, my anxiety is screaming, rolling around on the floor and demanding I pay attention. As I said, anxiety is something that’s become normal for me, but right now it’s more than I usually have to deal with. The constant reminding myself to breath evenly; trying to ignore my fast heart rate when I’m meant to be sleeping; the tightness in my breathing and the pain in my chest; the feeling deep in my throat like I’ve been breathing in too much freezing-cold air; the constant effort to un-clench my jaw and relax my shoulders… it’s exhausting.

Not just the exhaustion from the physical symptoms, but the exhaustion from a mind that won’t stop whirling with possible scenes of the events, what the repercussions might be, who might not understand, what people will say – if maybe I have made some horribly big mistake and I shouldn’t be doing this or maybe even that none of ‘it’ ever happened in the first place.

Despite being excited for this project, despite knowing it’s the right thing to do, despite wanting this to be a first step towards more… my anxiety is trying to cripple me, and it is exhausting.

When Anxiety Wins

This evening I was meant to be baking a birthday cake. 

The cake didn’t get made.

Was is just because of exhaustion? No. If I had just been tired, I would have made the cake. 

I was anxious. And my anxiety won. 

Now I’m going to have to make it tomorrow morning before work … ever heard about chronic lack of sleep and mornings? Yeah … 

My husband just asked if I’d made the cake this evening and when I said no I felt like I had to justify it (what’s new?) and said that after work, shopping for cake bits, phoning my Grandma, supper and doing a couple of days worth or washing up, I just didn’t have any energy left to bake a cake … I can imagine him thinking that, as I knew I needed to make a cake, I shouldn’t have phoned my Grandma. 

PLEASE NOTE: this is what I’m thinking, not what he said! I am probably wrong (as I usually am in these cases) and he is just looking sympathetic of my exhaustion. This is my anxiety/issues talking, not him. And later it turned out he really did understand …

This week I have been thinking of my Grandparents a lot and thinking that I should call them. Maybe because it was my birthday this week, so I normally get a card from them. Maybe because I am mourning the loss of my immediate birth family and that makes me think of my Grandparents who have been so faithful and supportive.  Whatever the reason, I meant to call them every day this week …

When I didn’t get a card from them on my birthday I (mostly) dismissed it, but the next day I was battling the paranoid thoughts that something awful had happened. It’s a long story, but basically my parents have kept emergency stuff about my Grandparents from me more than once, so I worry it will happen again …

This evening when I got home from work I was relieved to find a birthday card from my Grandparents.  It had the usual birthday cheque inside and a very typical amendment to the contents made by my Grandad!

Despite the relief of getting the expected card, I felt like I should ring them. I was exhausted and knew I should really make this cake … no, I NEEDED to ring them. 

I got on with some aimless bits and bobs, downloaded some programs to watch, but some fish fingers in the oven for supper (L was out) but got more and more panicked as the minutes went by.

I became convinced that if I didn’t phone them this evening, I would regret it for the rest of my life; that if I didn’t phone them this evening something awful was going to happen to them and I would always blame myself for not talking to them one last time …

Logically irrational? Yes. A very real, panick-inducing force? Absolutely. 

So I phoned my Grandma. The expected 10 minute chat was half an hour. Lovely, upsetting, exhausting. 

I knew when I put down the phone and started a late supper that the cake wouldn’t be made tonight. I was done. 

My week, my working day, my needed tasks, the panicked pressure to call family, the attention and emotional energy needed for a Long talk with my Grandma….

It was always going to be a slim chance of me baking after work, but my anxiety decided for me. 

Do I really think my Grandparents are going to be in some horrific set up tomorrow? Of course not! Not really … I mean, a little part of me …
Anxiety how I hate you. 

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. 

This Day, This Week, This Life

This week I have got up in the morning. I was assertive and persistent to get needed blood tests; I went and had the blood tests. I have washed my hair.. maybe once, maybe twice, I can’t remember. I’ve fed my husband every day. I made it to coffee with friends for 10am this morning. I have done maybe one load of laundry. I have woken up from nightmares not knowing where I was too many times. I have tried to bury myself and my thoughts in books and their stories every day. I have breathed. 

This week, this is what my CPTSD life looks like. 

God Wins?

Origionally Posted 4th August, 2016

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I was just reading a blog post with this very title – minus the question mark.

I love the blog and the writer and have enjoyed following her life for a good number of years now. I value her honesty and her attitude to life. Nicole, you’re great! So this is no criticism of the blog or the post, just reflections on my response to this particular post.🙂

I started reading about how God has provided for this family when they need it, specifically in the form of providing money when it was needed, through friends. At the same time as thinking “this is great!” I was also thinking, “but this kind of thing never happens to me…”

When have I ever seen God’s amazing provision demonstrated like this? Why can’t I say “God wins, God is good, God is there in the tough times” and not question it? The questions snowball and the resentment spreads further…

I have never had my next mortgage payment provided when I didn’t know how it was going to be paid; I’ve never had friends rally round and pay for cars, food and bills. I’m not in a place where I can see God’s hand in my pain, or even him carrying me when it hurt; God hasn’t miraculously healed anything for me and I can’t be forgiving of some things. Why everyone else but not me? Maybe I just don’t have enough faith?

But then a list started unfurling in my brain: that job, essential to getting out, came through despite the odds; a family came forward and let me live in their house when I couldn’t be where I was before; I was let out of my rent agreement early without charges; I was handed a bakery treat bought for someone else when I hadn’t eaten that day; there was that £200 given to all the interns when I was still living with my parents, so I got to squirrel it away in my bank account for leaving; I had friends’ sofas and beds to sleep in when I needed it; I called someone and got to hospital, instead of taking more tablets; I never got to the point where I took drugs; I never slept on the street; I married the most amazing man who understands; I have friends who believe in me; I’ve found the box of curry I thought we’d already eaten, on the night when I thought I just couldn’t take another thing…

Hang on a minute – this sounds a lot like God’s timely provision to me … right?

What about that day when I really thought I had taken all I could and just wanted someone to sort everything out for me while I curled up in the corner? God didn’t send anyone to step in and do the dishes for me and fix supper. I did the dishes, I fixed supper, then I went to bed and I got up to face another day. It wasn’t the solution I wanted, but surely God still provided by giving me the strength to just get through the next thing?

What about when the pain of all that had and was still happening was just too much, and I felt like my chest was going to burst apart from sadness, and I couldn’t stand to think what life was going to look like in another half hour? No one dried my tears and said it was all a mistake and it had never happened, and no one came and showed me a photo of how much better life would be in a year. I had to dry my own tears, take my own breaths through my own pain and live one more minute, just to start the next minute and get through that one too. It wasn’t what I wanted to happen, but surely the fact that I’m still here means that God gave me the strength to cope with the pain and live the next minute, even if not with joy?

I don’t feel like I have any victories to encourage people with – I feel like I’m still in the middle of a never-ending battle. I find it hard to see the evidence of what God’s given me. But what if each time I manage to raise my sword off the ground again and each time I just miss being slashed across my leg by the opposing sword is God at work too?

Small and Tired

Origionally published 24th April, 2016

Today I am feeling small and tierd. I’ve actually been feeling that way for the last couple of weeks.

Scrap that. I feel small and tired all the time. I can acknowledge that what I have done and what I continue to do takes strength, from an intellectual point of view, but inside? I’m still just little old me.

I cancelled a Skype talk with a friend tonight. I didn’t go to church this morning. I was so glad some friends couldn’t have us over on Saturday. I bailed out of coffee with a friend on Friday. I can’t quite bring myself to say how long it’s been since I had a proper shower. I’ve had to put more than one washed laundry load through on the 15 minute cycle because it had been sitting in the machine too long. I cancelled seeing a friend on Monday afternoon and then cried over the phone to my husband. I slipped back into bad coping strategies this week.

I see a whole lot of failure. I see a whole lot of letting people down. I see a whole lot of weakness.

If someone in a like position came to me, upset because they were feeling a failure, I would be able to list all the things they’d done this past week, all the ways they’ve fought and stood their ground, all the ways they’ve continued to be brave, all the two steps forward they’ve taken to their one steps back … Somehow I just can’t give the same grace and understanding to myself.

I’ve been trying hard recently to show myself love and care, to extend the same understanding to myself that I freely give to other people, to at least give myself some slack and allow myself to have a bad day.

It’s a slow process. It’s a hard process. It feels so often like it goes against everything I should be thinking. But it is a process.

So yes, I’m feeling tiny and am just so exhausted of fighting.

But you know what? I’m still fighting. Whether I can forgive myself for what I think went wrong this week or not, I am still here, I am still fighting and tomorrow is still going to come … although hopefully after a night of nightmare-free sleep.

We’re still here and we’re still fighting.