I’ve mentioned before that I was diagnosed with PTSD about a year ago. I’m pretty sure I’ve had PTSD all of my life, though, since probably before my father died. I’ve always been an anxious person. I’ve always worried a lot. I’ve always been kind of moody. But I think the defining thing is that I’ve never been able to let go of my emotions. They sort of get stuck, and a simple feeling that should just move through me, stays with me and eventually becomes a much bigger thing. A lot of that is due to the neglect I experienced as a kid. Over the years, I developed very specific ways of coping with these things that allowed me to function and–actually–thrive in a world that was really scary to me.
One of the things I do when I’m really upset or stressed is disassociate. Sometimes, it’s an automatic thing where I literally just sort of detach from the feeling and become very calm. Other times, though, I use things to distract me or numb me to the feelings I absolutely don’t want to deal with. Living in a home where 2 out of 2 adults had unhealthy relationships with alcohol, I learned how to use other things to numb out. It’s almost scary to me how easy this is. It’s a place of basically living in my head. There’s a huge disconnect between my brain and my body.
I also tend to be very controlling and perfectionistic when I’m in that place of being overwhelmed by feelings. When I’m scared or lost, I tend to try to assert my will over everything–and stuff down my emotions in the process. I can always tell when I’m off-balance. Am I caring way too much about my hair? Am I obsessing over that spot on the carpet? Shit that normally would never matter to me becomes my Universe.
I’ve only recently started connecting the feelings of overwhelm I’ve been experiencing this year with school and my upcoming move to the PTSD and anxiety. I think, until recently, I thought the anxiety was just a normal feeling. That anyone would feel this crazed and obsessed about things. But I’m realizing, more and more, that the anxiety I felt when I took that course before was totally a PTSD response. It’s not normal for me to feel so paralyzed by an academic project. And the overwhelm I felt was not just about that project. It was about EVERYTHING. I realized now a big part of it was trying to do something that big during the month my mother died. That was just a shitty bad idea. And now, trying to move the anniversary week of my Mama’s death is probably factoring into the complete overwhelm I’m feeling. It’s probably a big factor in my procrastination. Oddly, while I’m emotional about the move and what it represents–I’m not really in a breakdown mode. I feel it coming though. I know I’m going to lose my mind in December.
I’m finally connecting this all to some of the things that have happened since my mother died. I’ve mentioned before how, in many ways, I’ve felt like my mother’s death added a layer of grief to the mountain of crap that’s been in my life these past several years. I think it brought up a lot of stuff for me that I wasn’t ready to process. And my normal ways of coping just no longer work. So, while I was trying really hard to do things that meant a lot to me–part of me just got into this anxious spiral of doubt and procrastination and crap. I wasn’t ready. Flat out.
School was one of the few things I could always focus on and do. But, even this time, I had a lot of problems. I’ve felt, over the last few years, like I was half-assing. Like everything I did, I did half-heartedly. That I held parts of myself back. I absolutely did.
And often, too often maybe, I withdrew to figure it out. But didn’t know how.
I’ve learned a lot in therapy. I’ve learned how to be present in my body. I’ve learned how to let the feelings move through me. I’ve learned how to breathe. I’ve learned to seek support and draw boundaries. I’ve done so much of these things lately, and honestly, without them, I’d be a mess. It’s helping me be brave. It just really illustrates to me how much that time in my life has affected all times in my life. All relationships. All decisions. All of my happiness. And I’m tired of letting the past dictate my happiness now.
It doesn’t mean the anxiety goes away. It just means I know how to manage it better. I don’t bully my way through it. I have to honor it and let it be. Honoring all the parts of me helps free them. Instead of violently stuffing them down like I used to.
But, man, it still sucks.