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Catching you up (4)

by JustEliza on 12 March 2010

(Selections from June, 2008)

I'm beginning to see what finely sharpened swords 'normalcy' and 'sanity' are. As the weights of depression lift, there's nothing to slow my mind down, and I can't tell what I like less -- questioning what I have done and am doing, or questioning why I am here at all...

The best part of my parents' visit was when they were with someone else.

I wish I could be more ashamed about that, but what I'm really ashamed is how I have to lie when I tell people how my holiday was. I hate gritting my teeth and stomaching another 'oh bless, I'm sure they loved it and had fun' ...knowing full well that I'm damned if I do tell the truth (people can't handle the truth) and I'm damned if I don't (I can't handle lying). What's ironic is that I'm only in this situation now because I've never been able to tell people the truth about my experiences, though no one has actually ever asked.

As awful as the trip was for me, it was a superb learning experience. Now having tools to recognise what's going on with me emotionally, I can see my triggers more clearly. When my parents started fighting, I started shutting down. Once in lockdown mode (utterly numb), it was painfully hard to pay attention to them (anyone really) and respond to them positively. My body just wanted Fight or Flight, and this isn't said for poetics.

It was incredibly difficult to get through it. I did everything I could, waiting for the adrenaline and cortisol to wear off, but, as expected, the effects still haven't fully gone. And I'm left battling the physical illness that comes as a wave of intense stress passes and left fighting the realisation that it will be a long road to see my parents as parents. Worse yet, because I have taken the lead sheet of ignorance off my own mother's eyes, she's falling into depression. Is depression better than ignorance? Will she stop trying to be a token mother now that she's realised she never was a real one?

Moreover, why is it still my responsibility to keep everything and everyone together? Why do I feel culpable for my parents' decisions?

I had my first 'wakening' years ago near the equator. At the time I thought it had everything to do with the equator, but really it had more to do with the distance between me and everything I've learned to fear. There is nothing in a rainforest I feared as much as home, truly. So for the first time in a long time, I calmed down.

Depression or Mania, none of it is ever 'just in the mind' and I defy anyone who says so. My body transformed this past week; my whole body reacts to my triggers. My whole body fights and shuts down, in a myriad of ways.

So, I have post-traumatic stress disorder. I have had PTSD for almost a decade now, untreated. I have no memories of my parents as parents. I have no memories of intimacy and trust. I have no memories of being anything but a rational, sometimes ignorant, but mostly capable adult, who is only now recognising and respecting what are clear disabilities. Moreover, I have memories laced with fear and loss and anger. I have my trauma and I have me.

In documenting this discovery, it's clear I need one thing before I start treatment.

I need to grieve.


My 'lifespan' in a certain place with certain people is about 1-2 years, give or take some stressful episodes. It's easy to say I just have wanderlust, but in examining my emotions it's clear that the way my body stores memories is dysfunctional. I have the growing need to stop something because the accumulated memories become washed in fear, and no one likes flashbacks that involve their current manager.

The anxiety builds, and surely there is a threshold. How much can I tolerate? I am starting to walk on my toes again, wondering how long it will be before I hit another stressful episode and want to run again...

This is why I am seeking treatment. I am tired of running. There is something wrong inside me that I want to fix. I want to be able to store my memories without pain. I want to be able to face conflicts and stressful situations without worrying that these relationships and roles will be scarred forever with flashbacks and anxiety.


The lady who promised to find out where I was on the waiting list and to confirm that the therapist had received my referral? She must not exist anymore, because I haven't heard a word. It's been two weeks since then, at least, so I called the team again and spoke to a very tired woman who had no recollection of my situation and couldn't see a referral anywhere. She explained to me, patient but tired, that the waiting list was Very Long, as though it were reason enough for them not to assure me I even was on it at all.

Which is all, in the end, I really want confirmation of, since every time I call to check I don't seem to be.

So I'm waiting, again, for someone to confirm with me. This lesson in patience and trust is almost therapy in itself.


Still playing the complacent waiting game.

My moods and sleep have been the most stable since I started, but I'm emotionally-aware enough to recognise the signs of a stressed body. The effects of adrenaline can take days to go away, allowing the body to be hyperreactive and sensitive well beyond what is cognitively required.

It's all well and good to be stable when everything is going well, but I'd like to be stable when the bottom drops out. I'd like to be stable as I can during PMS, and I'd like to get in a single conflict without feeling like everything in my life is ripped out from under me. I still haven't written my goals on the board. Still haven't listed the things that bring me out of melancholy and give me purpose and drive. Still haven't figured out what brings the stress down.

But I have been taking my vitamins and supplements. I've been more or less active. I've kept up a reasonably healthy pace at work. And I'm much more intimate/open with key other people. Truthfully, without a test, you would have no idea how much maintenance goes into being me.

I expect to be triaged at the end of July by the mental health team, making it a full four and a half months since I first was referred. I'm not even sure I'll even believe in my diagnosis by the time I see a professional, as I have been so successfully managing it. I'm worried that by the time I actually do meet someone, we won't connect, I won't open up, and/or I'll be so convincing that I can manage just fine on my own.

Sometimes, charisma is damaging.

My problem is that I exist on the extremes. The PTSD is derived from disregulation in the brain. While it may not be possible to change my immediate physical and emotional reactions without specialised therapy (CBT, etc), it is possible to rely on my own cognition to control the effect these emotions have on me. Similarly, it is great to have such a keen empathy, but I need to learn how not to feel responsible for everyone's feelings.

There is a state beyond numbness that doesn't leave me paralysed with emotions, and we'll find it.

How I reacted to some of my traumas is a black box to me still. Why did I internalise everything? Why didn't I point fingers when I had the chance? Is it really just 'pride' or is there something more complex at work? Some clue to my strengths and weaknesses? Some idea of my natural level of emotional intelligence?

It's hard to piece out what might be 'me' when those years are so well intermingled with grief. I have to think in terms of what a grieving child would do. Who a grieving child might be.

And I have to be diligent, not complacent.


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