PTSD = Putting The Stuff Down

Ok. First. I am not being flippant about PTSD. I have been diagnosed with it, I come by it honestly. If you’ve read other posts in my blog you might figure out why, but that’s not really the point here. I just want it to be understood that I have reworded the acronym as a mantra to myself, NOT as a mandate to other sufferers of PTSD. I can only discuss my experiences, and I would never judge, belittle or mandate someone else’s process.

All I know is, I can’t make the PTSD go away, no matter how much I would like to. I have to accept the fact that, depending on the day, I may always feel the symptoms of it. I will jump at loud noises, at times I will not want to talk, at all. I will try my best to avoid what is really eating at me and sometimes that means I try to avoid people. And I will experience everything else that comes with it. Teeth grinding, night-sweats, flashbacks, mis-associating current events with past events. These are things I have had to accept. However, I do NOT accept being ruled by it, as I once was. I have to accept it but find my way to cope with it. Denying does no good (trust me, I tried that). So Put The Stuff Down works for me. Even if some days I have to say it A LOT. And while my PTSD was certainly not instigated by what I talk about here, I definitely taste the flavor in my recent experiences. I suppose it’s like a spice that you just can’t shake the taste of. And it can pop up in the most surprising times and places.

I wrote ages ago about how your dreams need to be big enough to scare you, else you are not doing yourself justice. You are selling yourself short. And now, I am living my dream. A dream that I frequently worried I did not have the patience to wait for, a dream that I thought would just go poof right before I got there….A dream that I was terrified I would wake from, and never be able to get back to.

Well, it didn’t go poof. I’m in it, now. And I constantly feel the need to pinch myself. And it’s amazing, and terrifying, and…I notice myself smiling all the time. So that’s all good, right?

But then I also wrote about that awful other hamster. The one not actually featured or allowed on my blog unless I’m casting him out. I’m not talking about Past, Present or Future hamster. They’re all ok. They’re allowed. They’ve passed their security checks. And so we’re clear, Past Hamster should not be confused with that other Hamster…who is a derivative of my PTSD. They are two different things. Your past is the tapestry of the building blocks that make you who you are. PTSD is, well, like a solvent to the mortar between those building blocks. No, the other hamster I’m talking about the is the Fear-Monger Hamster. The Lying Hamster. The False Evidence Appearing Real Hamster. As I’ve warned before, he’s insidious, and devious, and downright nasty. He can take a perfectly good day, and, if I listen to him, transmogrify it into something dark and scary. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but just so we are all on the same page, this particular hamster really annoys the crap out of me. I hate him.

But he’s clearly been nibbling away at his restraints. I think I need to send my other hamsters to martial arts classes to keep him from getting this close.

You see, my dream, that I’m living now, which is beyond anything, ANYTHING, I would have ever imagined for myself, is that I am living on the other side of the world, with an amazing man who loves me, who makes me laugh, who makes me feel safe, who makes me feel like I belong with him, in this beautiful country, here. Five years ago we met, and I thought, instantly, “wow….I really like this guy. I mean, I really, really like this guy. But, hey – I’m just out of a bizarrely awful breakup, and I should take things slowly. Make sure I heal from that.”

And I did take time. It was two years after we met before we actually started dating. And I thought I had healed. And, if I’m honest, I really did. I have healed. I almost took too much time though, at least that’s what my love tells me when we talk about how we got to know each-other and how we finally decided to give it a go. It was sheer serendipity that we didn’t both succeed in talking ourselves out of taking the chance. But that’s a story for another time.

So, that Furry Fear-Monger, he is incessant. When it’s quiet, and I let my guard down, there he is, nibbling away.

Because you see, that bizarrely awful breakup, was with someone that I had thought was pretty perfect. I’ll call him Wally. And with Wally it was all perfect. Until suddenly, it wasn’t. And I guess that’s the big difference that I need to remember.

Don’t get me wrong, my love and I, well – it’s a fairy tale for me, in so many ways that I cannot even begin to describe. But are either one of us perfect? Not a chance. I annoy him, he annoys me–at different times and for different reasons of course. But none of those things are a big deal. In reality we are simply two imperfect people who want to be with each-other. That’s the key – we WANT to be with each-other. And for all of our individual imperfections, I believe we make a perfect pair.

So where does Putting The Stuff Down come in?

It comes in during those quiet times, when that stupid Furry Fear-Monger takes advantage, and I flash back to when it went so very wrong with Wally, and sometimes, the bad Hamster can blur the lines between then and now. Just enough for me to do a double take.

You see, Wally was really good with words. He used words so well I believed him, even if something about his actions just didn’t smell quite right. I met Wally after having been significantly single for several years. And what he said, well, I thought that was what I wanted. I thought I wanted someone texting me all the time to tell me they were thinking about me. I thought I wanted someone to tell me they want me to move in and marry them. And, yes, I did want that, but I wanted someone who not only said the right things, but did the right things, and Wally wasn’t so good at doing the right things.

And then it all went instantly pear-shaped, and although his prior actions had seemed relatively benign at the time–at least without the benefit of the hindsight glasses….well, let’s just say that putting those on was a shock to the system for sure.

I could drag it all out but in the end, it all seemed perfect because Wally really wanted it to be perfect. He didn’t just want it to be perfect, he NEEDED it to be perfect. But, because it wasn’t really perfect, and the alternate routes to perfection were also not working for him, one day he found someone who really did make it perfect for him. And that someone wasn’t me. And therefore, I came home from work one day and it was time to go, within two hours. It was all over. No talking. Pack ya bags.

And you know what, I didn’t really want to talk about anything. It was like a cold glass of water got thrown in my face, and all those actions that I had noticed but, hell, ignored, justified, whatever, suddenly they were all tap dancing in front of me and I knew, it was over before it started. So I packed up my stuff and left. But, wow, no matter how much I knew that it was the best thing for me to get the hell out right then and there and never look back, it taps on my shoulder. And I find myself wondering, what did I do wrong? What if I do it again, whatever it was? THAT is from my PTSD. That has nothing to do with Wally or my love, it has to do with something completely separate. I know, when the stupid Furry Fear Monger is safely restrained, that I didn’t do anything wrong. Wally and I were a concoction, one that I think he wanted to be real for a period of time but he just couldn’t keep up the farce when it became clear to him that he wasn’t being true to himself. Whether being true to himself made him a good or bad person is irrelevant. We all go through our shit and sometimes we take people with us. Most of the time, I am good with remembering that.

Hindsight is 20/20. No doubt. But it doesn’t take away all those moments before you had the hindsight, when you really thought you were actually walking down the rosy path to…something good and just didn’t know how dead the roses were. It doesn’t take away the fear that you might just be an idiot with no sense of observation and you could really be living a life of the worst kind of groundhog day.

Well, at least not if you are me.

Way back when, I had really thought Wally was perfect. Too-good to be true perfect. Like NOTHING either one of us said was ever wrong. Ever. That takes a lot of concentration, and effort, and manipulation, and I fell for it. I mean, really? What true, honest, open relationship involves two people who always say exactly the right things? ALWAYS? You can check in with Hollywood if you like, but even I can tell you, that makes for a pretty stale script.

So, fast-forward through all of that to now. Today, my love will tell me, honestly, exactly what he thinks. And I love that about him. I may be disappointed at times when we don’t agree on something, but in the end, whatever we might disagree about we actually find a way to meet in the middle, naturally. I know from his actions, that he is genuine with me. Good or bad, pretty or ugly, it doesn’t matter. He is himself with me and is expecting me to be myself with him. I am not afraid to be upset by something because I am not afraid to tell him what I am upset about. Most of the time I am not afraid to be imperfect–as long as the Furry Fear Monger is still in his chains.

So when the Furry Fear Monger nibbles through a bit of those restraints, and gets a bit more reach into my head, I know it, because that’s when I start to find myself fearful of making a “mistake.” I find myself second guessing whether my love really wants me here or if he’s just following through on his words. And that’s when I tell myself to PTSD, or Put The Stuff Down. Because the stuff, it’s…exhausting, and…well…it’s just a complete waste of time, of my NOW, of my dreams.

You’re Gonna Hear Me Roar

Ok, so trolling Facebook today at various times I noticed several people had shared a link to a video called Roar….

Being at work I never clicked on the link. Didn’t really look at the commonly shared post at all.

Until I got home. Then the newest post on my newsfeed was my best friend sharing it….without a comment…and I thought, hmmm….pretty rare she doesn’t comment. I wonder why? I wonder what this is all about? She didn’t comment because she didn’t have to.

What it is all about is joy and beauty and grace and strength and….

Oh my god….when we all tweet or joke about #firstworldproblems WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT.

Watch this. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lnG3MKos87A&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DlnG3MKos87A

WATCH IT RIGHT NOW. AND WATCH IT AGAIN.

And rejoice, celebrate these amazing children, and doctors and nurses that face untold horrors every day AND CAN STILL FIND JOY.

All of us are guilty of tunnel vision. Guilty of falling into our own little molasses pits of….whatever. I make no judgement against that, I have my own molasses pits. I come by them honestly. I’ve earned both my scars and stripes…however…

These kids make me want to stand up and roar for them and meekly apologize for what I thought was so important it justified choosing to be Eeyore with a perceived perpetually lost tail.

Watch this video again and again and again.

Remember you have more than you know.

Remember what you HAVE faced, and fought, and come out the other side of and be glad. Don’t just be glad, be PROUD. Every single one of us has endured something that shifted the fabric of who we are. No can stand in judgement over that. However, it is so very easy to let the small stuff, the stuff we have no control over, achieve equal status to the big stuff…let these kids get our perspectives back on track.

Be grateful for the lessons you have learned.

And if nothing I have said here resonates with you, for pete’s sake, at least….PLEASE SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL.

And thank you, to the children and staff of Dartmouth-Hitchcock—you gave me more in a few minutes than I would have thought possible.

I bow to you all…

At a Loss for Words

So I’ve been at a loss for words, literally, for the last several months. It’s not that nothing has been going on in my life, or that I’ve been in a coma, or that the world stopped spinning….I just kept hitting “Add New Post” right here on this very blog and just couldn’t seem to go any further with it.

I think my hamsters were stuck, somehow. Usually they have lots to say, so much to say, in fact, that they prevent any regular sleep and generally leave me feeling a bit out of breath.

Lately, though, they’ve been pretty quiet. Well except for one particularly diabolical one that I hadn’t heard from in a while, but he always manages to tie up the other hamsters, tape their little mouths shut and yell until he’s the only one I can hear.

That hamster we try to keep locked up and away from the rest of us. He’s insidious, devious and clever at finding new ways to crawl into the space between your ears. He is arrogant, full of himself and convinced he’s always right and everyone else is always wrong. His formal name is FEAR but I like to call him by all sorts of other names when I’M feeling particularly creative.

But I guess that’s why I was at a loss for words all this time. I mean, really, here I am, about to embark on an adventure that I was AFRAID would never happen and it all rested on whether or not I would be granted my partner visa for Australia. Well, Mr. Know-it-all-evil-nasty-fear-hamster, I DID get my visa and I DO get to start my life there very soon. Contrary to your perception Mr. Stupid-Furry-Fearmonger, Australia did not rise up against me to prevent me from being able to finally be in the same place as my boyfriend so we can start our life together. We win, you lose. So there.

Of course now is all about the waiting. I suppose life is always about the waiting, but really it`s about patience, which I work REALLY hard to have but don`t always seem to be patient enough to wait around for it. And don`t even start with me on the whole `The reward of patience is patience`thing….that is guaranteed to make smoke come out of my ears. But it is about waiting, and that is the time the Furry Fearmonger likes the most — when you are waiting, you don`t just need patience, you need to have at least a little bit of faith….waiting eats away at faith, if you let it, and if you listen to the Furry Fearmonger.

The Furry Fearmonger also doesn`t seem to like the other hamsters, the hamsters that I am perfectly ok with living in my brain. I`m not sure what he does but I would think that if there`s three of them and one of him that they should win and be able to keep him locked away from the rest of us, but he managed to get the upper hand somehow.

And then I realized, he would continue to have the upper hand as long as I kept quiet and let him take over in my head. So, after many more months than I care to admit since my last point, I am breaking my silence and declaring:

DIE FURRY FEARMONGER!!!!

We don`t need your kind around here anymore.

Yesterdays, Todays, and Tomorrows

A friend of mine posted the other day on facebook something she overheard in the hallway at work….

“I have more yesterdays than tomorrows.”

It prompted her to think of her own life, and her own mortality. It resonated with her enough to post it (and she’s not one of those let-me-post-every-single-moment-of-my-life people.)

Then yesterday, there was a phrase in a book I was reading….

“You have more tomorrows than yesterdays.” 

And that one resonated with me.  For two reasons; first, I immediately remembered my friend’s post from the other day, and second, for me, this was absolutely true.  I’m 39 years old and I have decades yet ahead of me. And it gave me one of those “aha” moments. 

But then I wondered, what about today? What does it matter how many yesterdays you’ve had and tomorrows that you might have if you’re not paying attention to today?

It made me realize that I spend a lot of time on the other side of today. 

Sometimes I’m musing about my past, and the influence it had on me, and the part it plays in who I think I am now.  If I’m not doing that I tend to think alot about tomorrow.  For example, right now I’m thinking about furniture, and planting vegetables.  Now, that’s not something that matters today, currently I’m touring full time, and it will be that way through the end of the year.

But I like to analyze (others who know me might say “over-think”) and I like to plan. 

I like to feel as if I have an idea of where I came from and that there is a form for where I’m heading to.

Now, don’t misunderstand, I’ve never been one of those people who always has a 5 year plan.  There is a certain element of “go with the flow” that I have found absolutely essential to not completely losing my mind on a minute by minute basis. But all the same, I like to feel as if there is a pattern somewhere.  A piece of tapestry, perhaps, that I am a part of that may not make much sense now, but sometime down the road I’ll get a glimpse of the pictures on that tapestry and at least a little bit will make sense.

That takes a certain willingness to take a regular leap of faith. And I guess the reality is I’m not always ready to leap. I suppose that’s just a part of doing the best I can with what I have. On a moment by moment basis.

YOUR PAST DOES NOT DEFINE YOU

Ok…so here’s a story I have struggled not to write.

My mother passed away December 8th, 2012. It is a day I will never forget. It is a day I thought I would find freedom, and yet it is a day that sent me back in time, sent me right back into so many things I never wanted to think about again. EVER. It is a day that re-awakened a PTSD that I hoped to be free of, a syndrome that my staff cannot begin to understand, yet I do my best to keep separate from them the shadows that can follow me if I give them the space.

You see, I am a child of abuse and divorce. Not unusual. Also not unusual, custody was given to the mother, regardless of fitness. The perception at that time (1978) was that children should be with their mother–unless some grievous act was performed…but we rarely have proof for that which will stand up in court, so I was with Her. And she was unfit. And yes, read into that what you may.

All the same, she was, by all accounts, a genius–a brilliant woman, but she was also jealous of me. Apparently I scored higher than her on an IQ test when I was 12 and it all went downhill from there. she became bitter towards me, vindictive, and poisonous…nothing I did was safe or ok.

She held me up by my throat at the age of 11 and kicked me out of the house. She believed I was trying to supplant her. Said I was an ungrateful bitch. She did it again at 16 and 17. Each time marked an occasion where I was celebrated for my own achievements. She wanted to have a daughter that excelled, but when I did it was a catastrophe. She wanted the perfect child, but not if that child took her spotlight. Each time that happened she was altered. Not necessarily on wine, but altered. But it does have alot to do with why I still refuse to drink wine today. I cannot stand the smell.

So, She passed away last December. Before she passed I was able to be there to get her settled into hospice, and to hear her version of our life. My best friend was there, and I am grateful for that, because otherwise I might have gone completely crazy. She heard my mother’s version of my life and she knew the truth and she knew not to fight, but just stood by me. My mother’s version was completely off the hook, but it was important to her to believe it, and it was important to me that she could depart this plane in peace. But oh did it break my heart to hear what she needed to believe.

My best friend? She has no idea what I owe her.

The reality is,

No Child should ever have to clean up after her mother’s binge.

No Child should ever have to learn how to pay bills at five years old.

No Child should ever be OK with not celebrating her own report card just so that her mother’s boyfriend’s children won’t feel bad.

No Child should ever have to understand that “staying with friends” really means “I have no home for you.”

No Child should ever have to raise their own parent.

No Child should ever have to be fed their breakfast from their teachers.

No Child should ever have to be given a rain coat from their school.

No Child should ever apologize for being abused by the children of their mother’s boyfriend.

No Child should ever know want, or hunger or abuse.

I say all of this, but unfortunately I know that my experience is not unique. So all I can say is that YOUR PAST DOES NOT DEFINE YOU.

YOU have all the choice in the world to change what you THINK is your destiny. And if you came from anything like I did, there have defintitely been times where you destiny seemed pretty grim.

DO NOT BELIEVE IT.

You are the strength of everything, and no one, no where, can change that unless you let them. Rise above your own expectations. I promise, you will constantly be surprised.

Delinquency…or Why You Should Write About it Anyway…

Ok…so I do feel a bit delinquent…honestly. I had started this new blog on wordpress.com, and for a while I was pretty good at posting regularly. Then life got in the way and I put it to the side. Not consciously, but I did it all the same. So I just blogged about how life is short and you shouldn’t put things off, and why the Desiderata is important to me (and it really is, I inherited the fascination with the Desiderata from my Grandmother), and I realized that I had stopped doing something that matters to me. And I wondered why.

Well, the why is because things got busy. But then I wonder why if things get busy I let what is important go by the wayside.

And really, what IS the wayside? Is it completely in the trash or is it recoverable? I like to think it’s recoverable, personally, otherwise I would just have to toss a bunch in with the towel, or with the baby and the bathwater, or whatever expression floats your boat.

Writing here, and seeing that others see it and even (gasp) like it, means something to me.

So, thanks to those that keep checking in, and thanks to those who have found this place regardless.

The hamsters (past hamster, present hamster and future hamster) turn in their wheels whether I write about what they churn up or not, but for sure, I know that if I don’t tell their story, the only thing that is guaranteed to happen is I will grind my teeth into oblivion, and my other half will get no sleep.

Thank you, hamsters, for not giving up…and thank you to everyone out there that reads this.

If the best you think you can do is write, then please share your story, no matter how much you may think it is unnecessary or a waste of time or irrelevant to everyone else….write about it anyway. Please. I know I always benefit when you do.

Life Can Be Short…Make the Most of It.

Honestly. I don’t mean to sound morbid, because I actually feel completely opposite to that. I’m asking everyone to remember that what you put off is what you might never achieve.

I’ve blogged before about my job and how all-consuming I can let it be. Heck, I was in London for several weeks and managed only to see the London Bridge in person. When I got a day off I was tired and I slept…necessary but still, perhaps the job wouldn’t have felt so exhausting if I’d put some energy into actually trying to have a life outside work. That’s all on me.

So now, I’m in Madrid, and it is raining all the time, and it would be super easy to justify not leaving the house on my days off, but starting in this city I was blessed to have my other half with me, and that made a difference. I wanted to get out, walk, explore with him…and hopefully I will retain that urge now that he has had to go home.

I regret not doing what I had planned while I was in Japan, and then in London…so there is no time like the present to make the most of the time I have.

Here’s to the Desiderata….and if you don’t know it you should…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desiderata….and while you’re there, please contribute to http://www.wikipedia.org…they are worth the investment.