Constipated Hanks and the Mini-Breakthrough

I’ve had a mild breakthrough in the last few days. Or maybe it’s a big breakthrough? I’ve been feeling the lows, don’t get me wrong. And the anxiety-induced highs that come with the acceptance of an uncertain future, too. But something in me has changed. I felt it shortly after an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) session with my psychologist. At the time I was watching Spielberg’s delightfully intriguing and naturally well-done Bridge of Spies – you know, the one where Tom Hanks looks constipated about 86% of the time? (I love you, Tom Hanks. Sorry for the dig).

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I came in to the movie late because I insisted on purchasing lunch beforehand. And so immediately prior to my mild awakening I sat in a darkened theatre room, munching on dim sims and a sausage roll simultaneously – much to the dismay of my fellow moviegoers. If they could have seen the apologetic look on my soy-and-tomato-sauce stained face, I’m sure they’d have been forgiving. Or disdainful. But alas, I digress.
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Something in me changed. I felt it. I couldn’t be sure what it was, but it was something. Something clicked over. Quick and subtle and barely perceivable, but it happened. Am I cured of my complex PTSD? Ha! The thought of a rookie in recovery. No, not cured. I know I’m not, because I continue to be triggered in to flashbacks, experiencing the same thoughts as before this mild awakening.
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But the feelings that accompany the distressing thoughts…they’ve changed. Or maybe it’s my evaluation of them. The feelings are still felt as an intense energy, a force. But they’re not life-threatening. “But they never were! Feelings can’t kill you! I hear you say with mild amusement. Well, no, feelings can’t kill you. But the traumatic circumstances that led to the intense feelings for the C-PTSD sufferer could have, perhaps. So the feelings were a memory of a more life-threatning chapter in a very old book.

But now, something has changed. I find myself waking up in the morning, my Fear Brain kicking wildly at the ghosts of trauma past. Though now, my rational, heaven-sent higher consciousness takes over shortly after, scanning the room calmly to remind me that I’m safe. “It’s Here and Now, and you’re free from the past,” it whispers to me as I fall back down to earth from the dizzying heights of anxiety.

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One of the many gifts of hard work in recovery, I suppose. My advice if you’re still struggling with mental illness? Keep going. Perhaps there’s no foreseeable cure, but it is a universal law that if you work hard, you’ll reap the rewards. Maybe not right away, but you will. Winston Churchill was right when he said, “If you’re going though hell, keep going.”

Onwards and upwards!

 

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Hope is a four-letter word.

Hope, they say, is a four-letter word. Or maybe they don’t say that, I’m not sure. It is a fact, though. H-O-P-E . 1, 2, 3… Yep. I spoke to a mate yesterday and he applauded me for the hard work I have been pouring in to my own recovery over the last year.

“I hope it pays off,” I said with some trepidation. Visits with a trauma specialist (that ain’t cheap), daily yoga in the morning along with a quick read from my meditation book, catching up with and calling friends regularly to check in with my emotions, running my own mental health support group, exercise, maintaining a part-time job.

This stuff isn’t easy for people who live with complex PTSD. And it requires a great deal of faith, too. Faith that you’re putting in enough time and hard work to see results that you want to see. But there’s a fine line between faith and expectation. I gotta keep a close eye on my expectations; they’re not always rooted in reality.

Doing something just because I want a result, you know? Not an uncommon phenomenon. The abovementioned routines I engage in are worthwhile simply because they’re good for me in the moment. Regardless of circumstance, I need to keep doing them. My old life can be characterised by inaction and self-destructive habits. But not my new life of recovery.

It may take time to reap the long-term benefits of these routines – such as maintaining a sense of calm when starting a new job rather than being flooded by flashbacks that result in my compulsion to quit. Or pursuing a job that genuinely taps in to my passion and feeds my curiosity and creativity – and that pays butt-loads.

But I know that I need to love myself, with all my faults and all my ailments, now. Not some magical time in the future when things are all better – that’s my fantasy rearing its head – but now. So my hope for today is that I can be gentle with myself in spite of the approaching uncertainty in my life (because life will be always be uncertain).

Here’s to hope and positive action in recovery!

Relapse Exhaustion and the Waiting Game

I hadn’t felt like doing too much last weekend. I had an interview – my third with the same company – last Friday. It was a practical interview, focusing on my ability to write within a timeframe. To be honest, I felt very triggered doing it. Something about deadlines gets my heart racing.

Some bad memories associated with it, I suppose. There’s nothing like a good trigger to make you question how far in your recovery you’ve actually come. Being severely triggered is like a huge fucking hangover after a drinking session, but without the drinking.

Honestly. The weekend that followed, I woke up and I just wanted to go back to bed. But I couldn’t. My fear brain was switched to ‘on’ on Friday at the interview, and I’ve been working to switch it off ever since. Remember my first post about complex PTSD? About seeing a lion in the bathroom? That’s what I’m working with at the moment.

So when I rolled around in bed on Saturday in a state of inebriated anxiety, all I could feel was my heart pumping, pumping, pumping blood in to my stomach and surrounds. And all I could think about was the future. But not some idealized location or place of heightened achievement or success.

Just doom. It wasn’t pleasant. So how did I get through it, I hear you ask? Well, I just sat with it. Or, if you want to get all literal on my ass, I just lay with it. I just lay there in bed and let it wash over me. All that horrible anxiety and fear and impending doom, I just let it be there.

When I found myself going in to fantasy – thinking about the past, or the future – or worrying about my apartment lease or my job or the prospect of actually getting this writing job (which terrifies the shit out of me), I just came back to my body.

I felt it a lot in my stomach. In my throat, and in my chest and lower back, too. And it’s important that I know where I feel it, because that’s where my trauma hides. The feelings are associated with things not getting better. They have a timeless quality to them, something that feels as though I will be stuck in it, and with it, forever. Like a nightmare, you know? This is complex PTSD.

Like a nightmare. But, like most nightmares that occur in bed, this one passed too. Which I’m really grateful for. One day at a time. One step at a time. Things do get better. But slowly. For me, recovery really is about learning to associate negative feelings and overwhelming thoughts with a pervasive sense that things will be OK. Maybe not right away, but eventually.

It can be a slow, slow process. But such a worthwhile one. Stick in there if you suffer from C-PTSD!