Stress is a sneaky, tricky beast. We’re so used to living with a certain amount of stress that often when more gets heaped upon us we hardly notice. Or, if we do notice, we do our very best to go about our lives as usual. Bad move! (Let’s not get into the good versus bad stress discussion now, okay?) The more stress we’re carrying, without actually attending to it, the more difficult life becomes. It will wear you down and rob you of any joy in your life. You’ll eventually forget who you really are and what you truly want out of life. “How did I get here? This is not my beautiful wife! This is not my beautiful house!”
Anxiety is a sneaky, tricky beast. If you live with anxiety, you must work extra hard to avoid known triggers and be mindful of how you’re feeling at any given moment, because you don’t know when you might have a panic attack, but you do all you can to avoid it. There’s also that part about going about your life and living and all of that but you know what? It’s so much harder with anxiety. So much! It feels like having to be my own lookout, watchdog, bodyguard and therapist all at once always. Sometimes I take a tumble or get hit with an unexpected boulder (not literally, I mean could you imagine?!) and it’s like I never saw it coming. I was so careful and worked so hard and was hyper vigilant and it still blind sided me. I was so worried and busy keeping watch that I forgot to listen to my gut. I forgot to ask myself why I wanted something (or to do something). This was the unexpected boulder.
Depression is a sneaky, tricky beast. If you live with depression, it feels like you’re always assuring others that you’re fine, you’re okay, yeah I’ll call you back. UGH! Because everything is too much. You don’t really feel anything inside anymore (while depressed), it’s just sorta dead in there and part of you is okay with that. Part of you finds this calming and familiar. The part of you that is hurting maybe gets a break right? Not exactly. The dead inside part feels like relief at first but eventually it becomes it own burden. You forget how to act around loved ones. Are they staring at me? They think I’m nuts! Is this normal? *ShiftsInSeat* Is THIS normal?!?! Ultimately you just want to crawl back into your cave or hidey hole or whatever and pretend you don’t exist, hoping that soon everyone else will forget, too.
When you have PTSD your life is never truly your own. It will feel that way some times, you’ll feel so normal and your symptoms so far away you can almost forget that you have it. Something will always come up that will trigger you and you’ll feel as though you’re right back in the trauma zone, trapped and unable to ever escape, all over again. I don’t know that this ever truly can end.
My life has taken some interesting turns these last few years. More changes than I can count, that is for sure. I made decisions to create many of those changes in my life, it felt right and necessary and so I proceeded. What I took for granted was stability, or at least the illusion of stability. Living with my husband for fifteen years certainly felt stable, even if it was stressful for both of us at times. When I was laid off the first time, it was terrifying, but there was another income and so things would be okay. I would find other jobs and eventually start my own business. But my own personal stability was shaken and I don’t think I’ve been able to get it back since.
That first lay off was scary but soon after things were on the up and up. Not only that, a year later I found myself on a fast track career path and was loving every moment! I was making more money than I ever had before, constantly learning new skills and technology while also helping people learn new ways to make their jobs more fun and a lot easier. It was great! It was also in mortgage (though I was on the appraisal side) and when that bubble inevitably burst, it seems the trajectory of my life burst with it. Prior to that lay off, my second, we were trying to buy a house. We talked about getting a dog and eventually having a baby.
Things got harder and more stressful and we both began to exhibit signs of anxiety. We tried to support each other emotionally, but we were both survivors of abuse in some form and weren’t whole to begin with, we thought we could be or were whole together. We stopped talking, at least it felt that way. We no longer waxed poetic about our bright future or adventures we’d take or baby names or anything. He the consummate introvert, retreating into hobbies and games. Me, neither introvert or extrovert, but sick of being home alone all of the time, I soon sought out kindred spirits and found them. They’re love, support and adoration of me felt fantastic and new and exciting and needed. I fell under it’s spell and let it lead me away from what needed to be dealt with.
You get to a certain point years later when you can look back and see the exact moment things broke loose. I know now that I never had control of my PTSD, but the illusion of stability and years of self work and a loving and supportive husband helped so much. Struggling together was better than struggling alone, less scary at least. Everything takes a toll in the end, though, and you don’t get to decide what that toll will be. That toll was my marriage, my stability, my business, my health, and my sanity. It felt so right, I was so confident and certain that leaving was the right thing to do. I still think that it was, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not so sure that my reasons were correct and true. And then everything happened so fast that there was no time to stop and think and look around.
You always think you have time, but that’s not so. Time is its own tricky beast but when it comes to making those huge life changes and decisions, time is exactly what you need. I never could have foreseen or predicted the turns my life’s journey has taken, for better or worse. I am beyond grateful that I still have so many lovely, close and supportive friends that have stuck by me all these ridiculous years. I often don’t feel worthy of their presence in my life but I do try to. They have proven to be my true guardians and watchdogs and protectors, even when I need to be protected from myself. I think it’s why I have such a hard time making new friends and trusting people, I know I’m not normal, but I don’t have a handbook to give either. How do you forewarn someone that, while you seem and probably are pretty fucking awesome, you also have a brain that has been broken by trauma?
I have said many times that in the end we only have ourselves. I felt good about this as I have worked long and hard to become the person I wanted to. I have proven to myself time and again that I need only me and can figure out the rest. Oh ego! You’re the trickiest beast of all! It’s true that in the end we only have ourselves and this is why self work is so fucking vital! But we also need support, we need people in our lives that can ground us when we’re drifting too far out into the clouds or the into danger zone. I’m someone who will always push myself too hard, often to my own detriment. My chosen family is my life raft!
The events of the last few months have thrown everything I thought I knew, even about myself, into chaos. I thought my PTSD symptoms were a thing of the past. I never thought I would struggle with the weight and sickly veil of depression again. I had no idea that panic attacks would become more frequent in my life even as I was more aware of them and how they worked. Stress and anxiety are already too much for most folks to handle. Throw PTSD and depression and a heap of disappointment and struggle in a very short amount of time into the mix and you have a mental shit storm on your hands, metaphorically speaking.
I wish I had been a better caretaker for myself so that I wouldn’t have put myself in the position to become so overwhelmed. I feel like I should have known better, but I was just trying so hard to appear normal and be there for people and show up when it mattered. I didn’t think about what was best for me or what I could handle. I wanted to be there this last weekend for the right reasons, but for all of the right reasons I see now that I shouldn’t have gone. While I am bolstered by the fact that I was surrounded by loved ones who were willing and able to take care of me when I couldn’t, I feel awful for having put them in that position to begin with. They just keep telling me how amazing I am and I’m over here losing my actual mind and not understanding at all what they see in me. I’ll just have to believe them.
I share my story because it helps me work through it and it has helped others in their journeys in the past. Sometimes writing it is very painful, other times it is a balm on my soul. I never know until the words come forth on the screen what will become a post, but the process usually feels necessary to do so.