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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Working on the impossible

All quotes are from the National Center for PTSD.

"Trauma survivors with PTSD may have trouble with their close family relationships or friendships. The symptoms of PTSD can cause problems with trust, closeness, communication, and problem solving."

Always. Always. Always. I'm so tired of this. And it's been the case for so long that much of the time I no longer address what's happening inside of me as it pertains to relationships. Everyone's tired of talking about it. I'm tired of talking about it.

"Survivors with PTSD may feel distant from others and feel numb. They may have less interest in social or sexual activities. Because survivors feel irritable, on guard, jumpy, worried, or nervous, they may not be able to relax or be intimate. They may also feel an increased need to protect their loved ones. They may come across as tense or demanding."

That first thing. I have trouble with it. Pretty much always. There have been moments when I've been able to escape it. Those have felt glorious. And then awful. The glorious is always followed up by guilt and fear topped off with an obsessive need to repeat the moments as soon and as often as possible. Which leads to the feeling that I'm using the person I love simply to get what I want. Ugly.

"Dealing with these symptoms can take up a lot of the survivor's attention. He or she may not be able to focus on the partner. It may be hard to listen carefully and make decisions together with someone else. Partners may come to feel that talking together and working as a team are not possible."

That's my fear, really. Dealing with symptoms often distracts me from conversations or potentially intimate moments. Dealing with symptoms keeps me from fully committing to what is happening now. And I'm pretty sure that someone on the outside, looking in, can only see that I"m not acting or reacting in a way that will foster closeness and trust in a relationship.

"Certain types of "man-made" traumas can have a more severe effect on relationships. These traumas include:
-Childhood sexual and physical abuse
-Domestic violence
-Prisoner of war"

Okay. The first two. Only two on a list of nine.That's less that 25%. So why am I having such difficulty? And seriously, genocide and torture would be so much worse. Except, clearly, my brain and body do not perceive it that way. Still, it does seem that I could manage a little better. Childhood was a long time ago.

"Survivors of man-made traumas often feel a lasting sense of terror, horror, endangerment, and betrayal. These feelings affect how they relate to others. They may feel like they are letting down their guard if they get close to someone else and trust them. This is not to say a survivor never feels a strong bond of love or friendship. However, a close relationship can also feel scary or dangerous to a trauma survivor."

They do. All close relationships feel scary and dangerous to me. But I still feel strong bonds of love and friendship. Which makes everything feel even more complicated.

"People with PTSD can create and maintain good relationships by:
-Building a personal support network to help cope with PTSD while working on family and friend relationships
-Sharing feelings honestly and openly, with respect and compassion
-Building skills at problem solving and connecting with others
-Including ways to play, be creative, relax, and enjoy others"

Working on this. So much work. It's a lot of work to play, be creative, relax, and enjoy others. It's a lot of work to figure out how to connect with others. It's a lot of work to share honestly and openly. It's a lot of work to find a personal support network. I'm sort of exhausted.

"What can be done to help someone who has PTSD?
Relations with others are very important for trauma survivors. Social support is one of the best things to protect against getting PTSD. Relationships can offset feelings of being alone. Relationships may also help the survivor's self-esteem. This may help reduce depression and guilt. A relationship can also give the survivor a way to help someone else. Helping others can reduce feelings of failure or feeling cut off from others. Lastly, relationships are a source of support when coping with stress."

Well, that's not really an answer, is it. It just tells me all the reasons relationships are important. The next paragraph talks about all the ways you need to seek profession (expensive) help. Yay. And I'm not blaming the information source. It's really, really hard to figure out how to help someone with PTSD. Everyone experiences it differently. Therapist keeps telling me to stop worrying about overtaxing the people in my life and bank on their love for me instead. Those aren't his words, of course. They're my interpretation of his words. Still, it does seem that he's asking me to do something impossible. That's just how it feels.

But I'm persisting, I think. At least for now. Until I completely run out of stamina. I want to be different. I want to stop being a afraid. I want to be loved because I'm worth it. And I want it to be less taxing to love me. 

But I've been working on this a long time. And I'm so tired.

Monday, June 19, 2017

How to proceed?

I gave myself a few days for everything to calm down. I told myself to stop being dramatic.

The result?

PTSD management isn't even a thing anymore. Today was rather horrible. I spent the morning dealing with nausea from panic attacks that wouldn't stop. And I locked myself in my bedroom until 2:30 in the afternoon when I finally went to work. And I didn't answer the phone. I turned it off.

I'm not really sure what's triggering all of this, but I think it's that I don't feel like I can talk about it anywhere except on my blog. And there's no feedback here-- no one to tell me it's okay or it's not okay. No one to say I don't have to be afraid of the mailman. No one to suggest that I use my voice and talk to a real human being instead of sitting quietly in my bedroom on my bed with the door locked so no one will know I'm there.

I went outside to run this morning. And I went right back inside. I couldn't do it. There were people outside.

This hasn't happened to me before.

It's all in my head, right?


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I had a friend once who read my blog. This was back when I wrote things of substance that were upbeat and sometimes even funny. He would read something and then, months later, say to me, "Remember that post you wrote about [insert topic here]? I know someone who could really benefit from reading that, but I can't find it. Am I just searching for it incorrectly? Can you help me find it?"

No. I couldn't help him. Because from the time I began blogging, more than 10 years ago, I have written posts and then, later, removed them. My friend would get frustrated. Why would I do that?

I don't know. I just did. And I've done it again today. For some reason, removing posts makes me feel better.

My blog has been the place where I've not really worried about what people think or say. It's where I've felt ultimate freedom to speak or not speak, to publish or delete. My blog is and has always been for me. It has never been intended to inform or entertain or teach or, well, anything that would require an outside response. It was purely serendipitous that, many years ago, my blog was discovered by a reader who linked me and invited others to come. I did not do that.

And for a few years, people came and read and conversed. Some of us met and became friends. Some of us did not. But that's not why I wrote.

I wrote chiefly because for most of my life I have felt that my words were unimportant. I thought I would be mocked or disbelieved or, worse, ignored. I thought there was nothing I could say that was good enough for anyone else to hear. I thought I did not matter.

When I began writing here, I had one reader. He checked in with me every day for many months. And then he left. At that point there were others checking in and reading and talking to each other. Some of them told me they appreciated my willingness to share my story. They found it inexplicably helpful.

Probably they said those things because in those days I was not depressed. I was rarely sad. I was a fighter. I was delightful and funny. And then they left, too.

That was okay. My blog was certainly fun with their additions and their presence, but I never lost sight of why I was writing. I was proving to myself that even if my words meant nothing to anyone else, they were important to me. I had a voice. I was a person.

So when I became sad, when my life became overwhelming, when I was no longer funny or delightful or entertaining, I kept writing. It made me feel that I still existed, and I knew I did because I could come here and see that on a day previous to the one before, I wrote and published something. And it really didn't matter if anyone else saw it. I saw it.

I have been in terrible, deep depression for more than a year now. I talk about it here and nowhere else. I have learned that terribly, deeply depressed people repel others, even those who love them.

My friend who used to chide me for unwriting my posts has been saying for months now, "We should talk. We don't talk anymore." But when I send a text, pressing him to schedule a time, he responds with a heart emoticon but makes no commitment.

Another friend sent me a text on Mother's Day. My phone didn't recognize her number. I asked who it was. We texted back and forth for about an hour, then I said, "We should go to lunch! I haven't seen you in forever!" And the texting ceased. No answer. Nothing.

Jeff tells me he wants to spend time with me. I say, "Yes! When? Come to dinner on Sunday!" Crickets. No more messages from Jeff.

Three other people have created similar stories with me during the past six months. And I am understanding that lip service happens because they used to love me in the days before I was terribly, deeply depressed. They still want to love me. They still want me to remember who they are. They just don't want to spend time with me. It's hard to spend time with the terribly, deeply depressed person.

Even people who spend time with me regularly in spite of the depression, I believe, do not feel comfortable with me. Few people touch me anymore. Darrin say's I'm giving off the Keep Your Distance vibe again. I don't mean to. I would love to be hugged by someone because they want it, not because I seem to need it so badly. I would love to sit close enough to someone that they could put their arm around me or at least let our arms touch occasionally. I would love to have my hand taken and held simply because we care about each other.

The process of existing through terrible, deep depression has made me feel less than human in many ways. Today I saw a picture of someone I know doing something fun. Under different circumstances I think I might say, "Hey! That looks fun! We should do something fun, too!" Instead, my brain simply said, "That looks fun. I'm glad they're having fun." The end. No need for connection. No desire to reach out. It felt like looking at a page in a magazine, recognizing someone I once knew, and understanding that their life was no longer connected to mine. This is happening more and more often with more and more people to whom I used to feel inextricably bound.

Terrible, deep depression. I tried to talk with someone about it. Apparently, they have pills for terrible, deep depression. She said it like I would, of course, not know anything about medication. I tried to explain that I react to psychotropic drugs adversely. Well, clearly, she said, I haven't tried all of them. No. I haven't. But drugs belong to different families. I've tried something from most of the families. Well, was her simplistic response, maybe I just need to try something different.

She's right, of course. I do. But when one is already terribly, deeply depressed, dabbling with medication that could, and probably will, make me terribly, deeply, suicidally depressed seems unappealing. It's all in my head, of course. I'm just making excuses probably. Maybe I really don't want to get better.

Don't want to get better? Why would anyone ever WANT to remain terribly, deeply depressed? Why? It's not like I'm getting any mileage out of it. I don't talk about it outside of this place. I spend my life pretending I'm the happiest, most amazing person anyone could meet. How could I ever prefer pretense and solitary misery to getting better?

I know. It's a mystery. Probably I should just get better.

In the meantime, I'm finding myself becoming at peace with lack of connection. It's an inevitable consequence of being depressed for so long. For about eight months I fought against it. I reached out to anyone who would listen. I tried to talk about it with people closest to me. I devised ways to spend time with people, trying to create new memories, pretending all of that was helping. But what I felt was that I was doing a whole lot of work to be with people who were happy to humor me, but wouldn't really miss me when I was gone.

Feelings are not necessarily reality. But these feelings are very difficult to shake when one is terribly, deeply depressed. And, honestly, I don't know what to do anymore. I think, probably, anyone who used to love me doesn't know either, hence the lack of response when I request any interaction beyond a text or a Facebook comment. And I'm teetering here between wanting to weep at the sadness and unfairness of it all, and just letting it all go and allowing the chips to fall where they may. Am I worth fighting for? I just don't know anymore.