19 January 2013

Things to think about

Lots to think about in the last few weeks.

As messy as things are right now, metaphorically speaking, I think it’s a sign of progress. I’m getting a little better at wrapping my words around my feelings and finding the courage to ask for the help I need from my family. It’s hard. It’s risky. It’s also necessary.

I attended a lecture hosted by the Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction this week. Dr. Candice Monson spoke about the importance of families, particularly significant others and spouses, in treating PTSD. We go to our counsellors for an hour or two every so often and then we go home … where our families have to live with our anger, our exaggerated startle responses, our nightmares, our flashbacks. They do what they can to help us, but some of the things that are helpful aren’t intuitively obvious, and much of the time, those of us living with PTSD don’t have the words to explain what it is we need our families to do for us, so we can’t even tell them what would be helpful. We may not even know.

I’ve been struggling to figure out what will be helpful for some time now. At first, it was the simple practical stuff: don’t sneak up on me, don’t make any sudden noises, let me sleep (because even if it’s 9:30 am, chances are I didn’t fall asleep until 5), do the chores because I am too tired. But after two years those aren’t the big things anymore: I don’t startle as easily as I used to (thank heavens), I sleep a lot better (though still not well), and I can finally do more in any given day. Balance is still elusive: I’m still not sure what ‘too much activity for one day’ looks like, or ‘not enough’, and not enough is almost as troublesome as too much. It’s the subtler things, now: what situations trigger me into overreactions? What phrases or words tend to push me over the edge? You’d think that would be easy to identify, but it isn’t. Simple, every day things, things that “don’t mean anything” to anybody else seem to pile up in my head, creating an icy snowdrift that eventually knocks me off balance. And by the time I slip and fall, I don’t remember what went into the making of the snowdrift, I’m just lying there in the cold, chastising myself for being so stupid as to have lost my balance. Getting back up again is harder than you’d think.

My emotional bones were broken in several places, and though they’ve healed pretty well, all things considered, I’m still not quite steady on my feet. I need to accept the helping hands that are held out to me. I need to be able to explain to those offering to hold me up what I need them to do, and I need to be grateful for their help instead of feeling guilty about needing it.

This, of course, means honestly admitting my vulnerability.

A friend posted a link to this the other day: it’s worth watching.

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