In my journals I have always written some of the questions and issues swirling around in my mind. Below are those that I am learning to answer presently, however, I do have further questions and issues that I would like to pursue over the next few years.
Future Questions and Issues
I am beginning to question whether PTSD is really a disorder or is it a way of being, thinking and looking at the world that developed because of unresolved traumatic experiences and energy in the past. Does this way of being, thinking and looking at the world need a more quiet, contemplative life to live and negotiate the distress that comes from being sensitive to the energy fluctuations that come about from the internal and external worlds in which we live?
I have been using red wine as a way to manage my distress in the evening and sometimes I definitely overuse the alcohol. I am trying to learn to live with using and not overusing alcohol to manage my distress. I don’t want to avoid it all together. I want to observe my desire to have more, more, more to fix my uncomfortableness. I want to just feel the physical urge and not have anymore. So far I have been unsuccessful on some days to just feel this urge, not judge it and let it pass. There are other days where I am able to let it pass. I want to relieve my distress at night and alcohol does take the edge off a bit. The question is can I be with the urge and not take the next glass? I don’t think there is anything wrong with having alcohol to relax but moderating the alcohol is key. Can I moderate my intake of alcohol? I am not ready to give up what it does for me right now. (Note: On September 9, 2012 I finally did put down the wine and have been sober ever sense.)
I am married; therefore I give up ultimate control of my world. This I find triggers my feelings of being unsafe. Do I just observe and not judge the thought that my significant other triggers a hypervigilant response at times and makes me feel unsafe? Will this always be part of having PTSD and having a relationship with a significant other? Intimacy is what I long for but it is also what terrifies me. I am always wondering if he will reject me when he finds out my secret of having mental illness.
PTSD brings a lot of anxiety. Anxiety puts a lot of strain on you and your spouse. It feels like the anxiety can be contagious. How do you control the anxiety so it doesn’t control your relationship and the world that you share?
To cope with the distress I have needed to choose a quiet and contemplative lifestyle. Is this a gift of the distress? What other gifts does the distress give me?
In Maui I was asked the question, what is the kindest and gentlest life Janet can lead? I need to live with PTSD, it is part of me. How do I live the kindest and gentlest life for myself with PTSD?
Can you have soundness of mind and have PTSD? Is soundness of mind a moment to moment thing like serenity? Do I just learn to be thankful for the moments I am not distressed? Does soundness of mind come from accepting whatever is happening in the moment and not judge it as good or bad?
How do you live with the energy triggered by both positive and negative emotions without the energy causing you to become hypervigilant and physically distressed or uncomfortable?
Can you have PTSD and live with aspirations and plans for the future despite the unending distress you are under? Can you have future plans if you feel so threatened by life’s every day processes?
When I was in Maui the women hoped that someday I would learn to do several things. First, I could learn to stop trying to control outcomes and let life unfold. Secondly, I would be able to trust that the universe will lead me in the right direction and find me what I need. They also hoped I could simply trust that I will be supported and remember that life will unfold differently than I planned. Finally, they hoped that I would see life as my partner not a thing to control or be controlled by because I feel so unsafe and fearful. Can you get to this point and have chronic, severe, complex PTSD?
These are the questions and issues I have right now. I find it difficult to feel warmth and joy – a physical response to warmth and joy. My body is tight and tired. I do not have a zest for life. This is how I feel right now but I am learning that I can be more than my feelings. I can just accept that this is where my life is right now and not to judge the place I am in.
Conclusion of 2010-2011 Writings
The human journey is a difficult one at best. We all have to live with shifting internal landscape, uncertainty and the missing piece. In addition, we all must completely make choices and decisions on a daily basis. We must experience the powerlessness over other people, places and things. These parts of the human journey trigger the arousal response in all people but if you have PTSD this arousal response quickly turns into a hypervigilant response and we become distressed by the energy of this hypervigilancy. This makes life unbearable at times. I do think it becomes this way because of the type of thinking (Traumatic Thinking) we develop when living with unresolved traumatic experiences and energy. There are some strategies I have learned over the last 3 years that I have found helpful – recovery meetings, journaling with decaffeinated tea, walking, mindfulness, daily success, self talk and routines. My sharing is not meant to say I have the answers to living with PTSD because I don’t. I just know I am able to negotiate my mental illness much better than when I walked through the doors of Sierra Tuscon in Arizona over 3 years ago.
Living with PTSD is a day to day challenge and sometimes an hour to hour, minute to minute thing. Some days it is more difficult to negotiate than others. However, I am learning to accept both kinds of days and not see myself as a failure when I am not able to negotiate my illness the way I would like. This is making all the difference.
I am also lucky to share my life with a special partner who doesn’t judge my days as good or bad but accepts that I am doing my best to negotiate my illness. PTSD does impact your partner. They have to learn not to be overwhelmed by anxiety that life’s processes brings into your life, or by your traumatic thinking. They have to develop healthy self regard and boundaries so they will not take on the strain of your anxiety disorder.
Finally, I could not make sense of the strategies I was learning at Sierra Tuscon, Maui Intensive, Trauma Center and therapy until I felt safe in my external environment. Obviously, I did hear things as I was going through these programs that I must have held on to. Actually, I did write about my experiences in my journal each day. Doing a study of these journals for this piece of writing has reinforced the lessons I was learning all along. It has given me the strength to know that I have the ability to negotiate my illess on a day to day basis. I still face the physical challenges that my hypervigilancy, muscle constriction and dissociation bring about on a constant basis but I am managing the pain to the best of my ability. This is what makes a successful life.