I have had a rough time over the last little while.
I was carrying on in what seemed like a perfectly normal fashion … doing chores once a day (love the new feeders The Boy made, one top up per day is enough to keep everyone fed!), keeping up with the online store, doing my knitting projects, working on the new book … just … you know, living and staying within my limits, not pushing anything too hard.
Then I woke up one morning last week a little bit later than usual, and headed out to do chores without first eating breakfast.
I came in after feeding the animals, and just didn’t want to eat yet. Lunch came and went, I wasn’t hungry.
I made supper for everyone … but I wasn’t feeling up to table conversation so I went in the other room and came back just to do cleanup.
I went to bed early. I hadn’t eaten all day. I knew something was not right.
The next day, I did the same thing. I realized that I could hear Scared Girl in my head, screaming “Don’t stop working, whatever you do, KEEP MOVING!”. I cleaned, I did laundry, I made meals that I did not eat. I made it another full day with no food. I did drink a glass of milk and two small glasses of water. I’d had nothing else for two days and just couldn’t stand the thought of eating, even though I was hungry. Scared Girl wouldn’t let me go near food. Or ask for help. Or slow down.
I went to bed early again. I was miserable. Everyone knew it. They tried to stay out of my way, and I just felt worse.
The third morning, I still couldn’t eat. I was doing every job I could think of, yet feeling completely at loose ends, and utterly terrified for no reason I could identify. The Reluctant Farmer said, “You are safe here. It’s okay.” I yelled at him and said that it wasn’t safe, he was lying, it’s NEVER safe. He actually took it all very calmly, which is much to his credit. I was way over the deep end by then.
Finally, after everyone else had eaten dinner and everything was cleared up and put away … I heated a small plate of spaghetti and slowly, carefully, managed to take a bite.
It was far more difficult than it should have been to put that first bite to my mouth and taste the food. But once I got started, I was able to finish the whole serving … and I reheated some more and ate that too. Things began to look up when I was no longer starving.
I talked to the Reluctant Farmer, a little bit. It was hard. My words would not come. He was very kind and supportive.
I slept. I rested. I had no energy.
I am slowly regaining my strength, but I do not really know what happened to knock me on my backside so thoroughly. It was like the old stuff just overwhelmed me out of the blue, and I was back in the nightmare.
I will see my counsellor in a few days and we’ll see what we can sort out. In the meantime, I am doing only the bare minimum, and resting. My mind is thoroughly scattered, but I’m at least taking care of myself now.
I’m calling it a relapse, for lack of any better phrase. Something just … caught me, pulled me under, and it took a lot of patience, support and strength of will to choose to come back out.
It goes to show that I still have a ways to go to get to full healing, I suppose. For all the breakthroughs in my understanding, for all the insight I’ve gained, all the compassion and forgiveness and empathy I have found … my biochemistry is still fragile, and without proper care and attention, I can be very unwell in very short order.
Hopefully with the help of my counsellor we can figure out how to get me on more of an even keel … maybe what I thought was “not doing too much” was, in fact, more than I can handle. Maybe there was some small triggering phrase or event that tripped me up and I didn’t notice because the reaction was delayed. Maybe we can defuse those triggers, find those boundaries, and stabilize things some more.
At least now, I recognize what’s happening. Even in the middle of it all, I knew I was terrified – which was a step forward. Before I didn’t recognize the fear, I thought I was just angry about being such an inadequate human being. This time, I heard the fear – and although I couldn’t conquer it as readily as I would have liked, in the end, I *did* choose to step towards the light, and I did choose to ask for and accept help. It was really hard, but I did it.
So why write this post, and tell everyone about something so embarassing, so frightening?
Because I have made a commitment to speak honestly about my journey out of the darkness that is PTSD – for the sake of others who walk this road, or who walk alongside someone travelling this road. I want people to understand that even when someone seems to be doing really well, even after they have made the connections and come to grips with the past and found peace with all that happened, there are still obstacles wired into the psyche and the body that can trip you up with no warning. That healing from trauma is a lot more than just “finding closure” or “making peace with the past” – that even after you have thought and talked and written your way through the old mess, the hard-wired, deeply conditioned responses to (frequently invisible) triggers are still there, and those take longer to undo.
I didn’t go over the edge because of anything I was *thinking* … thinking wasn’t even involved. I just … reacted. To something. I have an idea what it might have been, but honestly, even if I’m right in identifying the trigger, it was just an ordinary, every day kind of thing that to anyone else would have been utterly unremarkable.
Yet my mind reacted to it like the dogs to Pavlov’s bell.
In time, and with hard work, we can get that response deconditioned, but oi. In the meantime … one foot after another on this road to healing. I know where I’m headed, and I know I’ll get there. With help, and support, and hard work.
I’m okay now, really. But I felt compelled to write about what happened, because I have chosen not to hide anymore.
Yes, I’m wounded … but I am healing. Verb. Active process. Still ongoing.
Thank you for bearing witness to my journey.