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.

Location, Location, Location

Lately it seems I’m all about thinking about being somewhere else. Which of course means that I’m not really present wherever I’m actually at. Sometimes I’m just thinking of being someplace only 20 minutes away, sometimes that place is a world away. Kinda feels like I stepped in a wormhole somewhere.

There’s the basic every-day aspect – sometimes I have to work too late, and then have to get up too early, so while I’m in bed I’m dreading going to work, in fact, I’m actually wistfully thinking about when I’ll get home from work so I can go back to bed. When I’m at work I’m desperately thinking about being back home in bed.

Then there’s the longer term of it all….in a few weeks I’ll be travelling again to Madrid, Spain. I’m already there logistically, looking at site plans, wondering what the new apartment will be like, heck what Madrid will be like.

And even longer term…I’m in the process of applying for a partner visa for Australia, since that’s where the other half of my heart is from, and where we will live when we stop touring for a living….and believe me, when I contemplate packing my suitcases again in a few weeks, I’m not just thinking about settling down in Australia, I’m closing my eyes and imagining it vividly. Yet simultaneously, I’m thinking about the city we’ll go to after Madrid, and where we are in the planning stages. It’s a mess up there, in my head, like some sort of temporal shift on a ridiculous scale.

And I wonder….what part of me is actually here? I mean, heck – I do yoga, practice meditation, attempt to breathe deep on a regular basis (although I do find myself holding my breath a lot), really, what else is a person to do?

To be present….I guess maybe I just don’t know what that means – or perhaps I have set an unreasonable expectation for what that should feel like. I work with great people who are both friends and family, I enjoy the time we all spend together, whether at work or at play. I have an amazing family, both inherited and adopted over my lifetime that are always in my thoughts even when they are far away….I honestly care about what is going on around me and these people I move about the world with, and I pay attention…so what else defines being present? Is it normal to have a part of your brain projecting forward while your feet are standing in the here and now? Is that the “future hamster” in my head, sort of like the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Be?

Aha, wait a minute, I might have stumbled on to something there. Perhaps it’s not just the “future hamster” in my head….perhaps there are really THREE hamsters (each in their own wheels) rolling around up there. That would explain a lot actually. Perhaps THEY are the ones who are not present (well, except for the “present hamster”, since that’s his job and all). Perhaps I really am as present as a human can be, and it’s really the hamsters that are running in different timelines and locations.

Yeah, that’s gotta be it. It’s the hamsters.

Phew. I feel so much better.