This morning I went to work to feeling like I needed to explain myself to everyone. It has been a bad couple of days lately…well not bad…wrong word. But not great is not adequate either. I am in one of my cycles that I will eventually spin out of…and there… I apologized. I need to stop doing that. It should be enough for me to be me and that includes the not so great stuff. Somewhere, that wiring of self-compassion short circuited.
Yesterday was a perfect example of what it is like to live with PTSD. It started when the first weather alert was broadcasted on Sunday for a wintery mix. ICE…my most unfavorite weather. In 1991, our area was decimated by a catastrophe of an ice storm. We went without heat and power for 14 days. It started to lose the “gee, we’re camping in our home” around day five. Because my husband at that time was a cop, he was gone and working 24 X 7. (Later, I found out he was not working all those hours.) I was left to tend the home fires, so to speak. When they call for ice, I go into hyper-worry now.
On Monday night, they moved the prediction up to Tuesday afternoon. I had a huge workshop to facilitate and would be stuck until the last which meant after five pm. I started to become hyper.
Tuesday morning, I was a mess. I did not sleep the night before. I was up and out early. And exactly as they said, it started to snow right after lunch. It was heavy, wet snow and coming down in buckets. My physical reaction started in earnest. I was breathing short breaths. My gut was a mess. I lost my appetite, which was ok. But by two pm, I was starving and nauseous and had to eat. It went straight through me with vengeance. My voice was higher than normal and I spoke in short abrupt sentences, when I could say a whole sentence. I could not focus. I was not nice to be around because I was looking through people. I kept getting up and leaving the workshop to either pace or go to the bathroom.
Finally I was released from my self- inflicted prison and headed for my car. I took a lot of gruff and ridicule for being so upset. My team laughed at me at first and then became condescending. They have no idea what is really going on with me. It is not really their business. But I normally take a lot of kidding on many things. But this was too close.
I got home. The drive was awful. It is only ten miles, but it is up and down a lot of hills. I went from abundant snow to a down pour of ice that was so loud on the metal of the car, to just rain by the time I hit my town and my driveway. I had to peel my hands off the steering wheel. I unfolded myself out of the car and realized how unbelievably tense ever muscle in my body was.
The evening was spent watching stupid crap on Facebook. I needed to numb. I had eaten a huge meal of pasta and broccoli and cheese. In truth, that is my comfort food. I could have eaten the whole three cups of pasta, but I stopped myself and put half away for a lunch this week. This demonstrated that I can be mindful even in the worse response. I went to bed at my normal time and fell asleep.
At 12:46, I was done. I woke up and could not get back to sleep. I laid there and felt the chemicals still surging through my body. My hands, arms and legs were vibrating. I started deep breathing which did calm me. I had a few body discharges which is not to say I passed gas. (giggle) It means I do this shudder thing with my shoulder as a method to discharge tension. It is the same principal as an animal that plays dead and then has to get up and shake after the threat is gone. I kept cycling back between full alert to a milder calm by doing guided body mediation. But I did not fall back asleep for a couple of hours. Last look at the clock was the hour before the alarm was to go off. This morning, I was exhausted and muddle-headed.
I wrote about this in detail for a couple of reasons. Many people have some form of PTSD. It comes in varying degrees. Something in the person’s life programed them for this response. NO one asks for this. The programming is intense and can come from a long duration of exposure. It can also be a singular event. Our bodies learn from events so that we do not repeat them. Some learn and move on. Others imprint and hold the reaction which becomes more sensitive in time to fewer stimuli. Continual negative exposure hardwires the mind AND body to react uncontrollably. The threat is only perceived by the individual and the reaction is as personal as their fingerprint.
I write this because compassion is required by everyone in order to understand the effects of PTSD. I am not a war veteran. I come from a wealthy upbringing with little material needs. It is the same misunderstanding that many people have that domestic violence only happens in the inner city and trailer parks. Trust me, that is so incredible false.
But I do not want to have to explain myself. No one should. I do not want to wear a Scarlet A for abuse around my neck. There are programs now being designed to support children so they have a chance to reprogram. But for the adults of my generation who were told to shut up or else, or for women (and men) caught in an abusive trap, there is a lot of misunderstanding.
I even heard it yesterday. “Get over it. It’s only snow.” Well, not for me it isn’t.