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.

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.

If Your Dreams Don’t Scare You They Are Not Big Enough

I saw this recently on a Facebook wall post….and in my head, I cheered “hear, hear!!!”

And then I thought about what it really meant.

And a part of me felt short of breath, a part of me felt elated, and a part of me felt…terrified.

You see, my dreams are big, and they do scare me…and I try to pretend they don’t. But I suppose the big secret to being willing to dream is being willing to follow through, no matter how scary it might seem.

Years ago, whilst in the presence of some very wise folk, I was told that FEAR is really
False
Evidence
Appearing
Real

The first time I heard that, my heart stopped for a moment, and when it restarted, it went at hyperspeed.

You see, I grew up feeling I was always on the outside looking in. It’s not a unique experience, although I wish it was. Not because I want to be a martyr, but because it SHOULD be a unique experience, in my mind.

I grew up feeling that way because I grew up very poor. My second grade teacher bought me my first raincoat. My elementary school made special provisions to accept me at the school well prior to anyone else, so that they might give me some breakfast without the other students knowing. I am the child of two parents who loved me with their whole hearts, but couldn’t love eachother. As a result, and due to the “legal perception of proper parenting” at the time (and that is in quotes for a good reason), I was kept in the care of the one parent who was least able to truly care for a child. Now, do not misunderstand, it was not for lack of love or desire, it was for lack of ability. She was not well, and that is the most honest way to describe it. Her perception was skewed, her concept of mothering from a foreign place. She was not evil, she was altered. She was wired differently. It was only after several years of my own feet walking the earth that I finally came to understand that, and find some peace.

You see, in my view, a child cannot and should not be able to understand mental illness. The unfortunate reality is that many times, a child must understand just that, in any way they can. So, as my parents divorced in 1978, when I was 5, the concept in the courts at the time was that the child should stay with the mother. And whilst my father did everything he could to change that, that is where I stayed.

Now, as a boon from the difficulties, by the time I was 14 I spoke three languages fluently. I never perceived something new as “I cannot do that.” However I did believe, fervently, that I was somehow alien. I had missed some instruction manual to life. As an 8 year old I could relate to 40 year olds and discuss anthropological theories and philosophical doctrine…but I could never understand why purple was the “IN” color, or why everyone thought I was weird.

Of course, I was surrounded by children. Who don’t understand what is different. The only differences I ever really had was that I was poor and that my mother was ill. My clothes were out of fashion, I was skinny and I didn’t understand other kids…well, I was weird. I celebrate that weirdness now, and the strengths that came from my childhood, but it did leave some scars along with the blessings.

It left me wondering why I should have things. And as I went through my early years “things” translated directly to security. I wasn’t a normal kid who would make a list of “wants” for Santa. I was a kid that knew hunger, and cold, and living in a car. In many ways this prepared me for the “real world.” The difference between NEED and WANT was very clear. Like I said, this is something that is very unfortunately a common experience. I truly wish I could say it was my own, but that would be ignorant.

So, feelings of security were folly, purely because my Ma was driven by whimsey and a vivid imagination and, yes, true madness at times that meant that constancy, predictability….my perception of “security,” were things best not counted on.

So what happened?

I became someone who out of necessity learned that adaptability was key. You never knew who would greet you in the morning, so put on a brave face and find the willingness to roll with it. To demand something to be a particular way was futile.

My mother had a very real concept of “THEY.” They were very real, and always just at the door. As a result, I became someone who rebelled at the idea of Chicken Little. I just refused to believe that things were always bound for destruction, it was just too exhausting. I discovered the concept of cautious optimism, and that worked for me. And it still does.

But now, as an adult with several decades under my belt, I find some of that preparation for unpredictability still sticks.

Things go very well in life for me, and I find myself richer than I thought I could be. And when I talk about rich I’m not talking about money, although I do ok on that front. For me being rich is to find myself in a job I enjoy that enjoys having me do it, but mostly to find myself surrounded by a family across the globe, both inherited and discovered, that helps me walk when I am weak and encourages me further when I am strong. Yet I find myself nervous about that – anxious that these things might suddenly go away…that this is too much, this is too rich, and surely it cannot last.

I find my dreams create my nightmares…if I let them.

Dreams should be big…the plans we make for ourselves will inevitably fall short of what is possible. We shall never know what we are actually capable of, not if we’re truly honest with ourselves. If we think we do, then we think we have nothing left to learn, and that is true poverty.

So go forth, dream big, and if it’s scary, then you must be doing something right.

The safest path will always cheat us of our best…the best that we don’t even know we can deliver.

Do your dreams scare you? I hope they do — for I believe I am finally beginning to learn that scary dreams that you are willing to still reach for are the true sign of wealth.

OK Charlie Brown – What is Your Football?

Really.

We are ALL Charlie Brown at one point or another, so I ask you:
When are you at your most Charlie Brown moment?

I don’t just speak of the quintessential AAARGH! that we all remember from the PEANUTS comics, I’m referring to the solidity of the football NOT BEING THERE, and Lucy, and the perception of humiliation.

And perception is key.

Personally, because I am an overachiever, I have several footballs. And likely, several Lucys — depending on the day. So here are the highlights.

1. YOGA. Yup. It’s a football. Sometimes I am able to distract my Yoga-Lucy enough to persevere. Othertimes, she wins. She lives in my bed, and pillows and Duna….she is evil. She also, apparently, resides in my couch, which I refer to as the Evil Couch, and which sucks all motivation out of me in a nanosecond as soon as I stretch out. I think the YOGA-COUCH-Lucy might have a super-power.

2. PAMPERING. Yup. It’s a necessity, we should all do it. For me it’s acupuncture and actually doing something to the hedge that masquerades as my hair. For acupuncture, however, I seem to have found an anti-Lucy…only because I am travelling with someone who I unequivocally count as the best acupuncturist ever, and she forces me to make appointments and then comes to my apartment. Bliss. For the Hedge, however, positive results are not so common. I CONSTANTLY want to fix it but the Hedge-Lucy masquerades as WORK and defeats me easily. Now, it should be remembered, I just referenced myself as an over-achiever. I typically work 60 to 70 hours in a week, and that is reason for therapy. I have improved, it used to be closer to 80 hours, but I digress. As a protest against WORK-LUCY I am going to have my hair trimmed (with hedge trimmers, I expect) and colored tomorrow. This will be the first time in 9 months that I have actually attempted to go to war with Hedge-Lucy (whom I believe is the same as Work-Lucy) and have vowed to actually make this important. This is mostly because my split-ends have entered the realm of “weapons of mass destruction” (mostly because my hair reaches to my belt) and I just cannot stand it anymore. Plus, I am now not allowed in several pubs in London due to the dangerous quality of my hair. Pimps and Pinups in London have earned this special task….they better do well.

3. NUTRITION. Yup. I still seem to follow my collegiate habits of the quickest food wins the prize. Meanwhile, I’m almost 40 and feel pretty sure that I should have overcome this habit by now. And the ridiculous part of it is, I LOVE TO COOK. I drool over new recipes in the highest element of cooking magazines. These are all things my Aunt taught me so that I could cook well without thinking about it…yet, I will still buy a pre-packaged Tesco’s dinner without blinking. And Cooking-Lucy laughs maniacally as I walk out of Tesco with pre-packaged dinners but not a single piece of fresh produce. Really. I can hear her.

So, here’s what I say….DOWN TO LUCY!!! Whatever form she may take for you…she is not to be listened to. So let’s take a vow together that whatever form she takes (and yes, leave it to an Irish girl to lump Lucy from the Peanuts comics into the same realm as the Ban Shidhe)….SHE WILL NOT WIN.

If you do not take this vow, she will always hold the football. Just ask Charlie Brown.