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Saturday, October 30, 2010

So Now What?

It is the nature of PTSD to undermine the security and self-worth of the host.

Yes, I know it's a mental disorder, not an assailant. I maintain my belief in that first sentence.

One of the most pernicious effects of PTSD, in my case, is that is permeates my interactions with people I care about, reminding me that no one can be trusted, and balancing that belief with potent memories of countless moments when my worthlessness was screamed at me by my mother. It confuses me; cripples my ability to sort through nuances, sending doubt raging to the surface when positive comments are directed at me. I'm distracted by my need to disregard the denigrating thoughts and memories, while simultaneously trying to ascertain if those positive comments are authentic, or some weird sarcasm I do not understand.

I remember a time when I was trying to explain to someone I loved, why this process is exhausting and why it wears me down as nothing else can. I recalled how for brief moments, I sometimes cannot separate reality from fantasy, and memories feel more real than anything that is currently happening. I talked about how fear infuses my closest relationships, often blocking my ability to accept or feel love for people I adore. I told of my constant vigilance, how I am constantly assessing my interactions and length of contact with other people so that I won't become bothersome or too needy. And I ended by explaining how all this serves to undermine my self-confidence, and sometimes wreaks havoc on what should be stable healthy relationships.

My friend responded by telling me different ways I could circumvent the process, and let me know that I'm certainly in control of all this--I just need to be stronger (my interpretation of, "...I'm sure, in time, you'll learn how to stop feeling all those things")...

I don't try to explain anymore.

There are few things worse, in my opinion, than reaching out to someone, allowing them to know of the things that ache, hoping for support and understanding, only to have confirmed that, yes, I am a freak and this is all getting in the way of having anything close to a "normal" relationship.

I don't have normal relationships.

Therapist is trying to help me figure out how to approximate "normalcy" in my relationships.


I told him I am hurting no one. I have no co-dependent relationships, my marriage is solid and healthy, and I'm comfortable with the level of contact I have with coworkers, friends, and family, for the most part. He said I was lying (my interpretation of, "Sam, I think there's more--and it's based on your feelings about the relationships, not on what those relationships look like to other people.").

My feelings about the relationships...

I don't even know what that means.

My feelings change based on the number and intensity of PTSD symptoms I'm feeling. One day I may feel comfortable and safe in a friendship, and the next I'll be aggravated because I haven't had an opportunity to talk to the collaborator of that friendship for...oh...I don't know...two hours? There are times when I feel loved and valued, and a moment later I'm horribly afraid of the person I'm with and I don't want to talk to them ever again. There are days when I'm so bereft of self-worth, certain I cannot be loved or valued by anyone, when a friend will contact me online and I sit, weeping, because I'm an idiot like that, but also because in some inexplicable way, that person just saved my life.

And I can't figure out how to think rationally about this whole process because, clearly, I'm irrational.

How can I possibly be expected to interact in healthy, normal ways with people when I can't even figure out what's going on in friendships I've had for over four years now?

This is going to drive me crazy.

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