The War Within

Weekly visits to the counselor, monthly visits to the doctor, daily breathing exercises (usually multiple times through out the day), getting up at 4am to be at the gym by 5am, bed by 8pm to ensure adequate sleep, rigid eating schedule……This is what my defense against PTSD looks like. It’s a daily battle I get up and arm myself for. I don’t want to look at the world as if it’s after me but that’s where my injury has left me. There are good days, but there are better days ahead.

My goal for the turn of this blog was to encourage, not complain, so that’s what I’m going to do. Ptsd can take over your life, it can infect every ounce of who you once were and turn it into something you don’t even recognize anymore. A support system is important in that regard to be able to help you identify the pieces of you that shine through from time to time and to grasp onto those pieces. But those in your support group are just as susceptible to a bad day or bad days as we are. This battle is hard on the spectators, and sometimes that difficulty can be taken out on the one who is actually fighting the battle.

My husband has been the biggest supporter I have ever had. He believes in me when no one else does. He counts my breaths when I’m to heightened to be able to do it on my own. When the intrusive thoughts are yelling so loud to run, fight back or hide and cry, he’s there telling me to just breath. But sometimes the war within me is to much for him to bare witness to. Sometimes his helpless feeling gets turned into anger or frustration. He falls into thinking I’m just being selfish and dramatic, unhappy with my life, miserable. This can be the thoughts of most people who aren’t participants in the war within. But for those who gear up every day to fight, you know all you want is to fight so you can accomplish the exact opposite of those thoughts. You fight to be happy, to be content, to be grateful, to be appreciative but most importantly……to be safe. And the second one of those spectators voice one of those thoughts, new weapons are used against you in the battle. The few people you felt safe with are no longer on your side lines cheering you on but on the enemies sidelines yelling to take us out at the knees. You feel problematic and burdensome to your support group or person, you feel like you’ve exhausted your relationship all because of a battle you never wanted to engage in to begin with.

Here comes the encouragement friends……. regardless of what outsiders are telling you, you know the extent to which you wake up and fight every day. Sometimes this battle leaves us feeling like a one man army, and sometimes we need to just accept we have to be a one man army. At the end of this battle your spectators will gain something but the main one affected by getting through this battle is YOU. So regardless of what anyone says keep fighting if for nothing else then for yourself, for the prospect of being able to ignore anxiety and continue on your day as a happy human being, because that day is achievable. But it’s going to take work, tears, hurt feelings, flashbacks, anxiety, rage, depression, defensiveness…..battle.

I struggle when I feel like I’ve lost that support group to the other side. I feel like I’ve failed and lost the battle. But I haven’t failed, I had a bad day but that isn’t the end. I feel like I’ve started back at square one, but that isn’t the end either. Where ever you are at today in your battle, stand up look back at yesterday and thank God you were able to move on from it. I’m not always good at this, the PTSD makes things very difficult to leave in the past but that doesn’t mean we have to give up. We still put our armor on and continue fighting day in and day out. Those who are outside can’t understand it all, so give them a pass to be on the other side sometimes, remember PTSD affects everyone involved in your life and especially when they can’t comprehend it’s vile attacks, give them understanding and forgiveness, because that’s what you want and need when you lose a battle. But know that even when they aren’t on the sidelines screaming for you to win the battle, someone out there is. PTSD is our injury not our identity, Fight the hell out of that battle, wipe the sweat from your brow and know that one day you wont have to fight this battle anymore because you will have won it. But you can’t win if you give up your fight.

Because I haven’t been able to fight this battle with out first meeting with God every morning I encourage you to arm yourself with God’s armor and cling to the hope God gives us while fighting this battle day in and day out friends.
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

Ephesians 6: 10-18

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It’s okay…..But It’s not

It’s hard right…..being stuck in the maze of your own mind……screaming for understanding……pleading to be seen as more than just crazy. PTSD, 4 “simple” letters yet so powerful. I should mention simple doesn’t exist for those with PTSD, nothing is simple after enduring something that changes your whole view on the world and life in general. 

The hardest part is seeing how much pain I cause when I don’t even want to. I never want to hurt those I love especially the one who grounds me and keeps me on the path of hope. But that’s what PTSD does, it’s triggered by the simplest things (“simplest”) , what was meant to be a kind gesture is registered as abandonment and being unwanted or unneeded. It registers as pain and betrayal by the one person I should be able to trust, but now I can’t. And because I can’t that one person is hurt by my lack of trust. 

I’m one of the lucky ones, I have a husband who sees the PTSD monster for what it is,an ugly reality I never chose. Yet I still lose trust when I’m sent into survival mode, when my mind tells me putting myself in danger is safer than being with him. That’s hurtful to him, as it would be to any human being. But knowing he’s hurting doesn’t stop the storm, the storm.brew and grows and escalates. 

No, my PTSD is not from combat or risking my life for my country, that adds to the guilt of my symptoms and behaviors. But the things my mind creates and the fears I experience are a very real thing. I don’t want to be this way, but here I am. 

Although I’m blinded by the storm I can see that the storms are less severe now than they use to be, my mind no longer allows me to believe hurting myself is a viable solution, that in itself is a gargantuan step into the sunlight. I have to have a very structured day to keep my mind in check, I can’t veer from my plan or the storms come rolling in. I have hope although it’s but a mustard seed. I don’t know that anyone reads my blogs,this one wasn’t my best so I surely don’t blame you, but if you’re out there and your feeling misunderstood,  and your mind is screaming for someone to see you instead of your “storm” , I get it and even when It’s okay…..It’s not okay….. the good news is, even if it’s the size of a mustard seed, there’s hope for it to be okay again…….

Breathe in. Breathe out. Place one foot in front of the other. Keep your chin up so your crown doesn’t fall ……..

The Invasion

As I become more self-aware of my behaviors related to PTSD I notice more and more often a certain level of discomfort in almost every place. The news has reported more and more stories about college campuses and other socially intense places are creating “safe spaces” for members of that community who feel they are being offended by certain communications from others. These places are set up for students to relax and recharge. “Safe spaces” have a whole different level of meaning to me. My first safe space I discovered was of course my childhood home. This is where I retreated to once I was able to leave campus after the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007. I remember being tense the whole ride home, every muscle aching from the length of time I had remained tense. The moment I walked over that thresh hold and met our family dog with a hug my muscles melted into nostalgia. Needless to say “safe spaces” have been significant in my recover, they are places that I can let my guard down even if just a little bit to feel like myself again. It’s a comfort of routine and familiarity.

As anyone who has been involved in any kind of serious relationship it is certainly not always routine and familiar. The person you are in that relationship with becomes routine and familiar but the circumstances surrounding the relationship can change at the drop of a hat. My husband and I did not move in together until we became engaged. This was to avoid any issues in custody with his daughter’s mother. We only saw each other on weekends and talked on the phone during the weeks. While I missed him during the week this set up also gave me space to create my own safe space that was consistent independent of my relationship. I would have this safe space regardless of the curve balls that could be thrown in my relationship. For three years I had this safety net, until we got engaged last January and took the leap to move in together(daughter included) when a beautiful house fell into our laps. While I was beyond excited to start the next chapter of our lives together I was mourning the loss of my familiar routined safe space (my mom moved into a smaller place and sold my child hood home as well during this time).

While this house was better than any first house I could have pictured, it was big, it was unfamiliar, it was not routine. For the first six months in our home there was a lot of rearranging, a lot of family meetings, and more than I like to admit of arguments with my husband. I woke up in constant survival mode, not a moment of relaxed muscles, I went to work and worked more than my fair share of hours with children who were not happy themselves. After losing my job and getting into a car accident my world felt like it would never be familiar or routine again. After weeks of panic attacks and sleepless I began to relax in my home. My husband was my flashlight in the darkness through those weeks, while he became frustrated at times by how helpless he felt, he never left my side, he was my routine and my familiarity. I finally felt that there was some familiarity in my surroundings now, the family was coming together, the roles were being more solidified.

Which brings me to the whole reason behind this post…….the invasion. One of the major things I notice with my PTSD is the over reaction when there is a breach in the typical day-to-day routine. My stepdaughter’s mother is a unique person. She doesn’t understand boundaries and seems to lack an understanding for communication. I don’t say these things to be judgemental or petty, I say them because they have been shown through pattern. As I’m doing my afternoon tasks for my home I hear my Chihuahua on the deck barking like she does when someone is here. I let her bark for a few minutes to make sure it wasn’t over something uber threatening….like a leaf. There in my drive way is my step daughter’s mother at 2:30 in the afternoon when we clearly asked that she pick my step daughter up at 4. No call, no text, just showed up. Then instead of waiting in the driveway while we gathered a bag together for our girl, she invites herself inside. This crossed so many boundaries my chest started pounding I’m sure my husband and my step daughter’s mother could hear it. Not to mention the crazy vibes my chihuahua must have been picking up, I’ve never seen her hair stand so high!

My husband apologized and identified that I had a right to feel uncomfortable because he felt uncomfortable too. I was grateful he acknowledged my feelings but there was an invasion in my safe space. It was much more than discomfort I was feeling. It’s hard to explain that to him without him misunderstanding it. That is the most frustrating part of PTSD and relationships, trying to explain something that affects your every fiber of being  to the person you love most in the world and them looking at you like you are from a different planet. Invasions like this cause set backs, I’ve grown to be okay with set backs, I accept them and focus on coming back even better. My husband doesn’t see them as set backs, he see’s them as being miserable. This creates more tension for me, I’m feeling unsafe because my environment has been invaded but I don’t want my husband to feel like he ruined my life bc he thinks I’m miserable, I want to tell my step daughter’s mother to come at the scheduled time but I don’t want it to hurt my step daughter in any way.

Telling me to get out of my comfort zone is like telling me to go jump off a bridge. It’s a big request, but I did it for my husband because he makes me a better person, more than any medication ever has. It’s scary, exhausting and at times lonely but it’s worth it because the rest of the time it’s home.

Things of Life

Do you ever find yourself in a conversation with someone and think to yourself “we are on two completely different pages, they can’t understand where I am coming from and despite my efforts I can’t see what they are seeing. Before reading any further let me give a disclaimer about the different angles this post is about to take…at least 3 of them!

Let’s start with the first and easiest angle for me to discuss…..preconcieved notions about marriage. When I think of marriage I think of two people who love each other so fiercely they are willing to put their person before any other earthly thing. This means sharing in the good, the bad and the down right ugly. My husband and I had been together for three and a half years before getting engaged and married three months after the engagement. We had begun out relationship as two very different people who somehow met in the middle. Starting our marriage out I thought that is what would set us apart from other couples and the statistics of divorce. I thought because we had already seen each other at our worst, we would always be able to stay beside each other against anything life threw our way.

Here is where multiple angles start to be weaved in and out of the story.

Because me and my husband met later in life (25 and 33) we already had things happen to us that caused us to form certain character traits. My Husband unexpectedly and certainly unplanned, had a child with a woman he had just met shortly after his father passed away with cancer. This pregnancy and child turned his world upside down, he had new responsibilities and a new focus that caused him to become concerned about the future of our society and the world his daughter would grow up in.

I was diagnosed with PTSD after having close proximity with the shootings occurring at Virginia Tech my freshman year of college.

Although we each explained these things to each other and attempted to help each other understand the best we could there were conversations that go unattended because of these past experiences.

We didn’t know the impact of these until we moved in together after getting engaged and hiding was no longer an option when the stresses of life reared it’s ugly little head.

Our love is very unique, me and my husband have a clear understanding that even if we are in the midst of wanting to rip each others heads off we still love each other conditionally, so keep that in mind as your reading further! Since moving in together certain areas of discussion are almost sure-fire to spark an argument. Discussions involving his daughter, my emotions, his view-point on the future of the world and a few others to name some. When these things need to be discussed our past circumstances show where they have left their mark. The constant feeling of threat from PTSD causes me to become almost immediately defensive as if everything that is wrong in our relationship is viewed as my fault and I have to fight tooth and nail to defend myself. He becomes defensive and views my position as one of being inconvenienced or worth more than what I am being given. We go to our individual corners and don’t even wait for the bell to ding to start the throwing punches(verbally). By the end of it we both feel drained and more alone than before we began.

I want him to understand how completely PTSD has taken over my life and changed me. While it is more controlled than in the past, that constant survival mode is exhausting and terrifying at times. The pit in my chest grows and growls as the conflict continues to the point that I want to start clawing at my chest. He views my emotions as controlling me instead of me controlling my emotions, what he can’t see is the fight I put up every day trying to achieve just that.

I do everything in my power to not become a burden for my loved ones because of something I experienced 11 years ago. But as anyone with a traumatic past can attest to, there are days that I simply can not do it alone. While I thought his preparations for the future eased the insecurities I think it actually exasperates my survival mode in a way that confirms the need to be in survival mode. My husband is right, the world is becoming more and more wicked each day. I fear for the influences my step daughter will have to face. But God gives us exactly what we need each day and does not give us what we do not need. I spent the last 10 years of my life worrying about tomorrow and feeling ashamed of yesterday. Proudly I can say I am at a point in my PTSD treatment that I can start to let my guard down a little more and focus on the present. But it’s hard to enjoy the Present when your best friend and life partner is focused on the future instead of growing your marriage or building a new life together. We have come leaps and bounds in just a short time. We have both started to accept that even if we can’t understand the other it is important to us because it is important to them. But it takes work, time, dedication, patience and above all else prayer.  There is one thing my husband and I can always agree on, God used the troublesome times in our past to bring us together in some shape or form. There is divine intervention in our love that has brought us to this very moment.

I warned you the angles this blog would take……but here is where I try to pull it together. I never realized how difficult intimate relationships could be while battling with PTSD or significant past experiences in general. But I’m grateful that even when we are different pages my husband is still here with me. My hope for my revamped blog is to process the hurdles of overcoming my battles while strengthening my marriage despite my battles, and maybe helping just one other person fighting the same fight feel like they aren’t alone either.

Welcome to my soap box

I try to stay away from my soap box, I’m not a person who releases my frustration on the world through social media. I’m a firm believer in “to each his own”. As long as your decisions are not affecting me then they are your decisions alone to make. Recently a “friend” on facebook came out as bisexual. I imagine the power it took to do that was hard to muster up. I went to high school with this person and during those times that person was very outspoken and not scared to voice their opinions about anything, so this newly found sexuality kind of surprised me. Again let me reiterate, to each his own, I have no problem with anyone’s sexuality because that is your cross to bear not mine. However when every post becomes focused on the fact that anyone who doesn’t support LGBT is the the worst person on earth, I start becoming less empathetic. I imagine that it is frustrating to live a life many people don’t acknowledge or condon however that is their right to CHOOSE to support it or not. By judging those people you are placing yourself in the same position as them. You are doing exactly what you are mad at them for doing.

I strongly feel that this is one of the wicked reasons this world has become such as scary place. Instead  of respecting the fact that everyone is entitled to their opinion, people tend to take a side and spend all of their time and energy proving how their side is right and the other side is wrong. I personally am a deeply rooted christian, we fill our home with God’s love. I by no means feel that people who do not believe in God are any less of a human being than I am. However many of those people that I give respect to will judge me for my faith. For me, judgement of others doesn’t impact how I live my life, I will still choose what is best for me and my family. This doesn’t mean that those judgements don’t leave an impression on me.

My challenge for myself and others is to try to stop yourself when you begin to judge others for their choices or opinions. At the end of the day whether you agree with it or not everyone is entitled to their opinions, who am I to make judgements. Wake up everyday and do what you feel in your heart is the right thing. If you can do this than those judgements will just melt away!

Girl Brain

Ladies, we are all guilty of it……that mind frame that causes us to be presumptuous and down right self sabotaging. I for one am guilty of this more often than not, and while in girl brain I feel fully justified in my actions……then I step back for a moment and see the bigger picture. I see that it makes me selfish and spoiled, I see that I feel that whoever my girl brain is targeting should bend to my will or they are doing me wrong. Then I see how self absorbed this is.

If you aren’t familiar with girl brain, it’s when something burros it’s way into our minds, plays on our emotions and distorts reality. For me recently it’s been this nagging voices that tells me my boyfriend doesn’t consider me a priority because he has been busier at work than usual. As an outsider you may be having several different thoughts, one may be that he is only saying he has been busier but realy just does not want to be tied down by our relationship…..THAT’S GIRL BRAIN!! unless your certain that it’s going down like that never make assumptions. Girl brain feeds on assumptions and only gets stronger from them.

Girl brain can be useful, don’t get me wrong, it helps us self preserve in the right situations. However when the situation you are in has never given you reason to question or expect the worst ( like no lies within the last 3 years as in my situation) girl brain does nothing but shoot us in the foot.

So how do we stop girl brain? The jury is still out and I fully plan to market my cure once I discover it! But as for now I feel the best way to avoid girl brain is stay true to yourself. I find that when I try to act like a cold jerk my girl brain picks up on it and takes residence inside my mind until it’s job of screwing me over is complete. I’m a caring person, if someone I love has a bad day I want to hear about it so I can be that comfort or support for them, but society tells me that I should be put first no matter what, so instead of worrying about my loved ones busy day, I complain that he didn’t talk to me enough through out the day.

Girls, Don’t play into what society says your relationships should be. No relationship is “ideal”, but if that person makes you happy and makes you the best version of yourself, work hard for it, put all your eggs in that basket without being terrified of failing. Life will happen one way or another, it’s just a matter of if your going to take the time to enjoy it or let girl brain make you miserable throughout the course of it.

 

The extinction on consideration

A lot of times I feel like people are mean or hateful, I get my feelings hurt, maybe shed a tear or two and continue to wonder why. Reports of bullying increase daily and more people, kids and adults alike, feel inferior, inadequate or worthless. Its an awful feeling to truely believe in your heart that the world wouldn’t miss you…..no one should feel that way. The more I think about it though, the more I wonder if maybe the act of consideration is fading day by day. For example, when I see someone is behind me at the store I take the time to hold the door open. More often than not people will disregard everyone else and walk on into the store. Here’s my theory about it , while I may have emense consideration for others, my expectation for the same consideration in return is setting me up to be hurt. This doesn’t excuse others behaviors but its damn near impossible to change someone els . But I can change my way of thinking. This upset me for a few reasons. I want to have faith in humanity and mankind but its not possible to have absolutely no expectations and still keep that hope alive. The other reason this theory concerns me is , when did it become acceptable to project your misery or talk down to others. It may be the way I was raised but in my family you never took your aggression out on someone else just to feel better, especially if they were not the source of the aggression. Although I have this theory it will never change the fact that I will continue to have consideration for others. That’s the way my mother raised me, to always have compassion and be understanding of others situation. While I realize everyone is brought up differently I still strongly believe that blaintly being rude, hateful or selfish is in most situations uncalled for.

#selfworth #fillothersbucket

“No matter how much falls on us, we keep plowing ahead. That’s the only way to keep the roads clear.”

hit the nail on the head

Stacy Westfall Horseblog

“No matter how much falls on us, we keep plowing ahead. That's the only way to keep the roads clear.” %0A― Greg Kincaid

Ever have one of those days when you just feel like you are ‘plowing’ through? I guess this quote sums it up…or at least I hope it does. I know when these days happen to me I find it difficult to see the point, I just have to have faith that something good is going to come out of it:)

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When is enough, enough?

It’s in our nature as humans to be self centered and focused on “me, myself and I”. However there are certain people in this world that put themselves second and tend to get heart broken because of it. On the bright side of the matter these people tend to make great health care providers, they are nurturers at heart and have the world to give to others in need. On the less bright side, they put themselve in the line of fire everyday. I happen to be one of those people.

Starting from childhood I always tried to be a “helper” some saw it as sucking up or being teachers pet but I saw it as being helpful, being useful. The word “No” was not used in my vocabulary very often and even if I was busy I would take on even more tasks.

This has followed me into adulthood, which is much more complicated than handing snack out after nap time. I currently work in an Emergency Room, which for people like me could be a dream job or a daily nightmare. I feel that I always uphold the rights of the patients and families I work with, after all I’m a patient advocate so it’s literally in my job title. What people don’t see is the emotional baggage that comes along with this job. Every mother I sit with after losing their child, every wife I sit with after becoming a widow, it sticks with me, it makes an impression. I don’t let it consume me but I let it change me to better myself and appreciate life more. That being said it’s also exhausting to be a part of these tragedies day after day. It’s even worse when there is no support from the leaders in your work environment.

People come the the ER at the most vulnerable times in their life, it’s my job to easy the chaos as much as possible, but by easing others chaos it gets transferred into my already hectic life. I pride myself on the work I do for our patients, however constant negativity and lack of feedback from supervisors makes wanting to come to work a struggle.

Again this is where my helpful heart gets me in trouble, because I voice my opinions for my patients instead of following the crowd it makes me a target for workplace bullying. No, bullying isn’t just on the play ground, some adults never grow out of the bully role and continue to push others around their whole life. I can handle personal attacks, I brush those off, but when it comes to calling out my work ethic and my devotion to patients I have to draw a line. No one in a managerial position should make their employees feel personally attacked to the point that they feel they have no other option but to put their notice in.month after month, week after week, day after day, I am being called into the office for bogus things while other employees get away with much more.

I took a deep breath and looked at the past two an half years at this job, it began as a position with so much potential. But it has turned into a nightmare that withdraws me from the things I love most in life.

Yes, I realize quitting a job in this economy is very risky. But for once I felt it was necessary to take a stance and show my true worth. Even though I don’t feel that anything with change as a result of me leaving, it’s a huge step for me to see my true potential and the great things I’m capable of if I have the right support behind me.

 

In that moment we were infinite

I’m a big literary nerd to say the least, I love living in the romance of two fictional characters. Most people are surprised by this because I’m more of a realist than a romantic. But in a world full of confusion, mixed signals, heartache and pain, it’s nice to escape into a happy ending every so often.

The trick to these stories is not getting so wrapped up in them that you begin comparing your life to them. While I would love to be swept away to a glamorous Gatsby party on east egg, the reality settles in, there’s no glamor in getting hitting by drunk men in a bar. But what this reality does do is make you appreciate what you have that much more.

No my prince charming isn’t the best communicator, or always the most romantic, but he is a gentleman and treats me like a queen. That’s more than I can say about a lot of women and the men they actually married.

We’ve been going through some bumpy roads thanks to the evil queen afore mentioned in previous blogs. There have been times where I wish this were a fiction story so what I wished could happen would come true. But wishful thinking gets me nowhere, so being the realistic ray of sunshine I am, I look at what I see. It’s messy and incoherent sometimes, other times its beautiful and hopeful, but no matter what it’s my fairy tale. I’ll never have a love like Romeo and Juliet or Katniss and Peeta. But even those couples faced some pretty serious bumps in the road, actually my problems look more like a fairy tale than any of theirs.

So while I love a great love story, the stories also teach me that love isn’t suppose to be easy, it’s suppose to be hard because the best things in life are worth the fight and the wait. There’s also never going to be a relationship that you can compare to anything else, they’re like snowflakes, all different and all beautiful in their own way.