In the past few weeks, I have started to notice my control over my triggers slipping. Nothing major, no blowouts. Just that feeling… the one where I feel like I am one step ahead of falling apart. That I have to keep spinning or I will collapse, like a toy top. That I am barely hanging onto the cliff of sanity. I used to feel like this 24/7. The difference this time is that it felt off, that I knew something was wrong. What that is, I couldn’t tell you.
What I noticed first was my behavior changing. In the past two weeks, I have been more of a shut in. Instead of going to the gym or getting things done, I curl up in my bed with Mystic. Not reading, not listening to music or watching TV. Just laying there, too paralyzed by anxiety to do anything. And angry at myself because I know I SHOULD be doing something. That there are too many things I SHOULD be doing.
This feeling has left me feeling panicy, out of control. Jumpy, like a scared animal. But this time around, I have tried to employ some different tactics to process what I am feeling. The first was this pressure of all the things I SHOULD be doing. In my counseling, I used this word a lot. How I felt that I SHOULD be able to behave like a NORMAL person. Over time, I have been doing a really good job of letting this go, and perhaps a big portion of what I am struggling with is that I have fallen back into the old habit of holding myself accountable against this impossible list of what I SHOULD do. And, I have realized, this list is crushing me.
Don’t cut your slices too thin
My mom has always told me that I “cut my pie into too many slices.” Or basically, I have so many things going on that I don’t have enough energy to fully devote to each task. Nobody gets a full slice. And when you have chronic pain or PTSD, you really do have to be careful how you spend your energy. It just takes us twice as long to refill that reserve. It all started when I decided to power through a work project In my most recent crash, I knew I would be spending that reserve and that I would have to pay the penalty. The crash ended up being more than I was betting on, and frankly, I think i’m still reeling from the aftereffects. You think I would be onto this by now… lack of total energy = lack of ability to deal with triggers. Yet here I am. Struggling. Feeling like I SHOULD have known better, I SHOULD have protected myself from this. That I have myself to blame.
Now, I know better. It doesn’t keep me from reeling on the physical effects of it, however. The difference is knowing what is happening. A year ago, an episode like this would have left me a mess, terrified, not knowing what the hell was happening to me. Feeling like this is NOT NORMAL. Now I know that what I am experiencing IS normal. Normal for PTSD. Its ok, because even though this moment sucks, these few days suck, maybe even the next week will suck, it will pass. I will be ok. This process IS NORMAL.
And because of this, I decided to say hang all of the crap on my list that I SHOULD do. I am going to take a good hard list of everything I have committed to, and be honest with those I committed that time to. Tell them that I simply cannot do it for a week. For a month. Or ever. Be honest that I overcommitted myself. I need to start slicing my pie in larger pieces, because, lets be real, who doesn’t want the biggest piece of pie? And if it’s my pie… I kind of want to have the biggest slice for myself.
You SHOULD take time for yourself
So yesterday, I decided to take care of myself. I ate a huge bowl of cereal for supper so I wouldn’t have to make anything. I lay in my bed with my neck pillow and heating pad, snuggled Mystic, and binge watched stand up comedy specials until I felt better. I didn’t do a productive thing all night. I left the to do list untouched, the dishes in the sink, and the clothes on the floor. I lay in the bed and talked to my dad on the phone for an hour. And then I went to sleep. It was beautiful. You SHOULD do it too!
Ive actually thought a lot about a friend who recently cashed out a savings fund and quit her job for six months. It just floored me. All I can think about is how I could really make some progress on my life if I could just have a month off. That I could be such a healthier person with a significant chunk of time off. If I could just take some time for me, guilt free! Just think of what I could accomplish! If I could just win the lottery….
But I also know that for almost everyone, myself included, that just simply isn’t an option. What we can do is take a hard look at our lives, and how to make that list healthier for you. So write that list that is weighing you down… its time to prune. When you only have so much energy, you have to make sure that what you are putting on your plate is manageable. Its like a financial budget. Sometimes you might have to dip into your savings, but if your plate is manageable, you can slowly put that energy back into savings before you need to dip in again. And if you find you are dipping more than you are replacing, its time to cut something from your plate. It might feel like failure at first, but the weight lifting off of your shoulders will more than make up for that feeling and let you allocate those slices of pie to things that make you happy. Like eating pie. Im really hungry right now…
Bake a pie you actually want to eat
You can make a list of everything you have to do. Everything that stresses you out or that is weighing on your mind. Look at what you can do to remove those stressors. Some will be easier, such as you need to clean out the garage. Block off a Saturday and stick to that commitment! It could be that you have a ton of paperwork to deal with. Take an evening to divide it into piles of easy to hard, or things that need immediate attention and those that can be handled next week. Organize chores into a priority list, and tackle them in that order.
For others, it could be far more complicated, such as how you are so frustrated about your weight gain because your job is too stressful (read, two intertwined problems). You could start hunting for a new job. Or you could start smaller. What is causing stress at work? Can you talk to a manager, escalate the situation to someone better equipped to deal with it, offload it to someone else, or work on setting a more realistic schedule? Are there ways to help you better manage the stress, such as breathing techniques, getting away from the office during lunch, or doing yoga, reading, insert enjoyable activity here?
We may not be able to take six months off, but maybe, its time to change our lives so we don’t have to. Personally, with so much of my mind dedicated to staying on top of my triggers… i’m ready to have more energy so that the things I SHOULD do are those that bring me joy and not those that bring me down.