What I have to offer

Sometimes my insecurity overcomes me and I wonder what I have to offer. I can usually work my way around that thought because I do in fact have a lot to offer. I have some very important skills of empathy and knowledge that I have developed because of what I have been through in my life.

At one low point however my husband read something to me that reinforced how I have been feeling lately and in a way it was also very empowering. He read this quote by Martin Prechtel from The Smell of Rain on Dust:

“Those who lose what they cherish most, whether they are warriors or housewives, must become our blessers. This means we must seek them out and kindly petition them for their blessings. It has always been that way in village life the world over. But this has been lost. We must relearn how to be blessed by those have lost the most, for their blessing really are the best kind. That means we might have to respectfully approach people we’ve been mistakenly warned to stay away from. Not accepting the blessing of those who have fought and lost, loved and lost- those who have lost a lot and then taken the courage to again learn to live- is the same as endorsing war as a good way to forget to whom and what we owe the blessings of being alive in the first place.” (p. 101-102)l

Now, when I think about what I have to offer I think about what I have been through, lived through, and learned from as the gift that I have to offer to others. I am learning to embrace all that I am and all that I have to offer, finally.

Square pegs, round holes

Now that I have finished with school it is time to figure out how I will pay back my student loans. I have been offered a job where I have been doing my internship. However, I am uncertain as to whether this will be a good fit. I have spent the last 11 1/2 months working somewhere while trying very hard to work within my limitations and not look like i have limitations. This has involved hiding in the bathroom and doing deep intentional breathing and simply smiling through the day regardless. It also involves trying to come down from a days worth of anxiety attacks that I have hidden deep down.

I finally lost it a few weeks ago and made some of my unhappiness known. There had been several ongoing things that simply made me feel not very valued. And they had never been addressed regardless of my hints. Apparently I needed to have a meltdown and spend my lunch hour crying in my car for anything to happen. And now with just 3 weeks of my internship left things are finally being addressed.

As I listened to people’s apologies I tried to follow my wise sister’s advice and look for sincerity. There was sincerity with many of those that have tried to make things right. I have yet to meet with one of those people who have inadvertently made it a hard internship. But I don’t think there will be a problem. They really want me to work there.

The real problem is that I have struggled for nearly a year and it gets harder and harder to get out of bed and go to the internship site and I am not sure this is where I can work. It is not because, or at least not only because, of the difficult time I have had. I have made it through because I have seen an end. There is a definitive time when this internship will end. I do not know if I can work somewhere full time where I cannot shave the corners to make my oddly shaped peg fit.

Making things fit my needs so that I can function in the world is something that I have become very good at. I have a safety list for things that I need to do that I struggle with. And protocols that make it possible for me to feel safe. Since feeling safe is something I did not have until as an adult I found ways to make it happen I am very aware of when I do not feel safe. For example: My tire went flat. I changed it and we got it fixed. However now I feel unsafe driving. I check my tires every time I get in the car or get out. At some point I will regain that safe feeling. It takes time.

Generally I learn from things that happen. I overreact to things and I see by the expression of those around me or from my own processing that what I did was an overreaction. I then learn how to react appropriately. It is always a learning experience. New experiences throw me for a loop. I know that this is normal. But I do not think it is normal to break out in a rash and not breathe as well as having your ulcer flair up when you have to fill out new forms. Once I do it however I know how to do it and the reaction is not the same.

What I am faced with now is how do I get my needs met, shave the hole to fit my peg and fit the needs of an employer? I am still looking for opportunities and also looking for ways to create opportunities. I just hope that through all this I can find a way to not hide my limitations but to make my experience something of value. Because I know that I have a lot to offer that is of value. I simply need to find a way to make a square peg fit in a round hole.

Pushing to hard

For the last few weeks I have been insanely busy. For those of you who have come by looking to see if there was anything new I apologize for the lack, and I will try to be more diligent in writing.

For the last year I have been pushing myself very hard. I have tried to accomplish many things that are difficult and all of them simultaneously. I have had amazingly good days and some that were not so good. I have stuffed down terror and anxiety as well as pushing through flashbacks in order to accomplish both my internship and my schoolwork. The bulk of the difficult emotions and the stuffing revolve around doing an internship. After almost 20 years of isolating myself I have had to be around people, a lot of people, more than was ever comfortable.

I have also met some of the most intelligent and creative people I could ever hope to find. They are dedicated and caring. And with the exception of one know very little about me or what I have been through. And that is fine. It has been difficult at times as I struggle through the panic. A part of me thinks that if I say anything about any of the struggles that I am having that they will not want me to be there. (The little child in me that was always pushed away still shows up sometimes.) I want them to see me as whole and competent. Even if inside I am struggling to do all the things that are required of me.

I spend a good deal of time reflecting on my actions and reactions. I spend a very large amount of time thinking about how I can turn my panic reaction into a viable response rather than the knee jerk reaction I want to give. I have done a lot of painful growth. Good growth, just very painful.

I also found out last week that there is a price to be paid for all the stuffing of emotions, the repressing of thoughts and the forced movement. My body simply did what it needed to and just shut down. My energy levels tanked. I had gone into the red zone of energy levels. For four days I could not do anything beyond moving from the bed to the bathroom, bed to the chair, and sleeping. I lost 10 pounds in 36 hours. And I am just now feeling moderately functional.

I am currently working on as course on mindfulness and that has been my saving grace. I breathe through the panic that comes when I think that I am getting behind. And I try very hard to stay in the here and now. One of the things that we do at my internship is a diary card. This chart helps me to see where I need to focus in order to maintain a balance in my life.

I am doing better. Life is good. I am learning to ask for help. The end of the semester is only two months away. And then I can get my brain back.

Continuity

Lately I have been overwhelmed by stress and changes in the things around me. By the end of the day I am filled with extreme sensory overload. It sometimes reaches a point that the only thing that I can do is go to bed and hide under my covers for half an hour.

After one particularly hard day at my internship site I called home and told my family I would be home a few hours later than usual. I needed to decompress from everything that had happened that day. I went to a restaurant that my husband and I go to regularly. I sat at the table where we usually sit. I ordered something that I have had many times in the past. And I pulled out my kindle and started to read a book that I have read before. There was no new input. Everything was familiar. After about an hour I felt calm and a lot more peaceful. I was able to process the stimulus of the day.

I had gone to a place that was constant. There was nothing new to interfere with the processing of the day. Later I thought about how I was feeling and how I had decompressed in such a short time. And how it had been such a thoroughly relaxing thing. The thought that came to me was that I was processing in a place where there was continuity. A place where nothing new existed and nothing was competing for my attention. There was no new input.

It felt like a moment where a light bulb is turned on and you realize that the switch for the light had been there the whole time. And I was just noticing it. Having a space that is continuously the same and never changing or at least only subtly changing can be extremely healing for an over stimulated mind. I had heard of people having a meditation space where they would always go and thought that it was a very cool. I never felt that it was something that would benefit me.

Creating and having a space of continuity has now become very important in my self-care plan. It is part of the “what pleasant activity did you do?” section of my plan. Doing this helps me to work with my difficulty in dealing with change in general. I am finding a place in the storm of my life that is always calm. A place that is not overstimulating and whispers to me to come in and find peace.

I hope everyone can find that place and visit it often when things in life become overwhelming.

Looking for Family

When I was younger I desperately wanted a family. At the time I was not particularly close to any member of my birth family. Because of this I would try to meld with others into their family, I felt like the proverbial cuckoo’s egg. I was trying to plant myself in to a family. Doing this is basically how I survived a large portion of my childhood. I would find a friend that would let me be a part of their family in a small way. Even if it was only in my imagination, I created family.

When I was twenty-one I moved from San Antonio to Massachusetts to be near other parts of my birth family. By that time the need for family had become so great inside of me. I just wanted to have family and here were actual blood relatives. At the time the need that I projected was so great that I am surprised that they did not just turn and run away. My need to feel nurtured or to nurture was so huge that I did not even recognize it. As time past I felt as though I was isolating myself from them in many ways. I felt that I was intruding into their lives. Or I would feel as though I was taking advantage of their generosity. As I saw the need in me I tried to be casual. I also felt their withdrawal from me as I withdrew. In some ways I was the unknown interloper trying to impose myself on them and their family. I did not grow up around them and I did not really know them. I had grown up thinking about them. And was jealous of their closeness to each other. And here I was an outsider trying to get into their inner circle.

As I gained more knowledge of myself and who I wanted to become I found that I did not quite fit in with some of the family that had welcomed me. Or this was my belief. Whether or not this was true it was what I believed.

I moved on and away from family at some point. I stopped trying to become one with them and stopped trying to find what I was missing. In time I found the man that would become my husband. Together we created our own family. A large, loud, and beautiful family. That I have been very honored to be with as they grow into adulthood. They have given me an immeasurable sense of being a part of something truly amazing.

I often look back with regret on the family that I seemingly scarred off. I don’t think it was all me. I don’t think that it was anyone’s fault or anything like that. I just regret that the only contact I have with most of my family is on facebook. I am just glad that the deep need that I had,from the time I was very little to be a part of a loving family, has finally been realized.

I have often wondered if others who have come from abusive homes have similar experiences of looking for family. I have a very big family now. I am close to my sister that I grew up with and I have created an extensive family of friends who function as family. My choice family rather than a birth family. There are many members of my birth family or extended family in my choice family. For which I am very grateful. I guess where I am going with this is that family is what you have. Even if what you have is family that you brought together and not one you were born into. If home is where your heart is than so is family.

Relearning Self-Care

One should never underestimate the importance of self care. Those words make a very important statement. It is something that I have been failing to do for some months now. I have not taken time to do things that are healing or nurturing for myself in a very long time. As result I have slowly stopped being there for people.

In my internship I show up and I am actually the most present with people that I am anywhere. But home life and personal life have been in a fog. I have dreaded getting up in the morning. And I have struggled to try to find some joy in the world. Things have been bleak. The funny thing is that I have also been thinking that it was not very obvious to others. My family however have been very much aware of how I have been unavailable.
Letting my self get into this state has also opened up old trauma wounds and anxiety. The anxiety attacks seem to get stronger and more frequent the less self-care I do.

Things are doing better. I have started to remind myself to stop and enjoy small things. Starting the process of self care with small things is important. Otherwise the act of caring for yourself becomes almost a herculean task. Little steps do the most. Recently I was told that I needed to take small things that give me joy and do them until they are large parts of my life.

I have been taking more time to spend with my children. I have been giving and receiving longer and more meaningful hugs. I have been petting and talking to my dog ( who has also felt my distance from others). Listening to music that makes me dance. I have been coloring in an amazingly detailed coloring book. And eating with more meaning and not just trying to fill some unattainable need. I have also begun to realize that I have a deep need to keep doing this. I am feeling the stirrings of peacefulness again.

So, today’s goal is to enjoy the day, the people I am with, and the time I can spend with my family.

How I want others to see me

I was going to write about what I would like people to know and understand about having PTSD. I deleted the whole thing. It felt like a rant and not something helpful at all. Although sometimes rants are helpful. But I would like to share instead all the positive things I feel that I have because or in spite of having PTSD.
And unsure of how to do that I decided to write a poem. And here it is.

I am only as strong as I believe
IF everyone could see me in my true form
They would know and understand
If everyone could see me when I push through
When I make it to the other side of the pain
They would not be so quick to judge.
If everyone could see the courage that breathing requires
They would stop wondering if I could accomplish something
If everyone could see that the greatest strength I have
Is in knowing that I can do what I need to
It is in knowing that though the price is high
I can hide and lick my wounds later
After I have accomplished what I am doing.
If people could understand
That I do truly know my limitations
And that I am perfectly capable of challenging them
I change and grow everyday.
I can move beyond the limitations people put on me
Because the bar I set for myself is so much higher
If everyone could see my true form
They would see the scars that have healed
And the great beauty of the healed scars,
Mixed with the great light of my soul
Have made me who I am.
Not perfect, not the same as everyone else
Sometimes more fragile
But infinitely growing and always changing.

What does it feel like to have PTSD

Someone once asked me what it felt like to have PTSD. They asked me what it was like and how did I handle the things that came up because of the PTSD. I don’t remember what it was that I said or if I was able to give an accurate assessment of what it feels like. But I was asked this question again recently. And though I have a better handle on life, my depression and the triggers that set off the terrors, panic and anxiety this is what it is like.

It is waking up at night for no real reason with sweat pouring off you and your heart racing with no way to calm yourself. It is walking into a room and having a door shut to loudly and feeling like someone just hit you with a mega dose of adrenaline and you have no where to run and depending on where you are, no way to release it. It is walking through a room and a certain smell hits you and you find that you are not in the room but reliving some of the most horrific things that have ever happened. It is going to work in the morning and leaving as much of the PTSD as you can outside the door so that you can function and get through the day. It is walking back out to your car where you try to put all the pieces back together and come down from the amazing job you did of holding things together in spite of the panic.

It is learning how to draw on the things that you have learned as a survivor so that you can help someone else through their own hard times. It is trying really hard to not judge people about how they respond to you because they have no idea you are struggling to keep it together. It is realizing that for the last however many years you have lived in a fog just to get through and that you have missed so much of your life. It is living with a sense of impending doom and panic when there is nothing to be afraid of anywhere near you. It is about being terrified of losing everything that is good in your life because for the first time you don’t feel alone.

It is also about waking up and realizing that you are still alive. It is about remembering to breathe. It is about relearning to open your heart. Relearning to trust. Relearning that the world is not as dangerous or as bad as you thought. It is about being in this moment right now and knowing that I am safe. It is about remembering to feel the snow as it hits my face and not thinking about any other thing that may have happened in the snow. It is about an amazing act of courage that gets you out of bed, through the day, through the large groups of people, and safely back home. It is about trusting that you are not the things that happened to you. It is about releasing the past at whatever speed you can. Even if it can only be measured in nanos.

Having PTSD is feeling like everything from yesterday is involved in today and making it though anyway. It is about being courageous and remembering to breathe.

Being Present not just getting presents

Here we are back at Christmas. This is probably one of the harder times of year for people. It is also the time of year that people think there is no problem at all. And for some that is a completely honest statement. But for others it is something to think while the world falls apart around them.

This is not an easy time for me. I find myself more depressed, more easily stressed out, and suffer unexplainable crying jags. In other words I am profoundly not having a jolly time. For me the reason is trauma triggers. A lot of not good stuff happened for me this time of year as a child. As a result I struggle with this time of year.

Don’t get me wrong. I totally love Christmas music. I love the stations that play holiday music for a solid month. I love the stories that are shared of holiday experiences. And I very much love making people smile with gifts or acts of kindness. I am not a humbug sort of person. I even have a shelf of sappy Christmas movies that I watch. But sometimes the past and the triggers that come up are often more than I can handle.

This is really hard for some of my children. I know that some of my adult children want to fix it and make it better. That somehow there must be something that they can do that will make this easier for me. There really does not seem to be anything that they can do that can fix it. I have explained to them that it is really me and that I am the only one who can change how I react and respond to the holidays.

I have made a few goals for getting through the holidays. Goal one is to just relax and stay present. Don’t worry about anything that is not relative to this moment. I have a schedule of things that happen and when they happen. Things like bill paying and so forth. Goal two is to just enjoy my family. Enjoy the moments that I am with them. Make cookies with my children. Play games with them and just enjoy being with them. Goal three is to enjoy what comes my way. Whether that is something fun having to do with family and friends, snow days, or just being in a quiet moment. All the goals are really about being in the present moment and not continuing to allow the past to ruin this time of year.

It is also important for me to allow myself to grieve if that is what I need to do and not block hard feelings from coming. Being present means I can allow them to come but I don’t have to hold on to them. I can acknowledge them and let them go. Way too often I hold on to those thoughts and let them take up valuable space in my mind. When what I need to do is to acknowledge and let them go.

This holiday season I will sing, dance, and make merry. And I will engage in self-care and tenderness to myself. I will remember to take deep calming breaths and be courageous.