My spouse, my kids, most of my friends and acquaintances go off to work each day. I don’t go off to work. I’m unable to work more than a couple of hours a day (most days) because of my PTSD.
One of the ways this disorder manifested, is that it has taken away my ability to concentrate without becoming overwhelmed and my brain shutting down. Certain times of year are worse than others, but I’ve had to come to terms that vocationally this is where I’m at right now.
Lack of concentration is one of my most frustrating symptoms of living with my PTSD. I want to feel relevant and that I’m contributing to society. I have an intense work ethic and gained a lot of my self-esteem from working. I didn’t care about job titles, I cared that I worked. I went to college, chose a career path and contributed to our household income. I chose that lifestyle and It was important to me.
I kept thinking that after I was finished processing my trauma and graduated from therapy that my illness would vanish and I would step back into the world of work. The fluidity of acceptance has me revisiting, once again that some wounds are extremely slow to heal, but they will heal.
I’m fortunate to have a very flexible, part time job doing some marketing for two wellness centers. It’s very part-time and I find myself craving more. I crave more because I don’t feel relevant. I don’t feel like a contributing member of society. That feeling can start me down the dark spiral and press the very-old low self-esteem tapes telling myself that I’m lazy.
My husband, kids, and close friends keep reassuring that I’m doing the best I can, and I have noticed that each time I’ve pushed the parameters of my capabilities it has affected me for days afterward. I imagine this is all part of accepting and re-accepting the severity of my PTSD.
So how do I change feeling like Im okay and doing the best I can? That even though Im not going to work 8 hours a day, I’m still a contributing member of society?
I try to focus on what I can do.
I can continue to market my book. I still swell with excitement and gratitude each time someone buys a copy of Untangled. I can continue to pitch the screenplay I just spent a year collaborating on. I can continue to submit articles I write about living with PTSD to publications and take pride and satisfaction when I receive an email that I have been published. And I can continue to feel immense gratitude that I’m given the opportunity to work even a couple of hours a week for amazing people.
I would like to expand the reach of my voice and do more interviews, but I’m not sure how to do that yet. I believe I have another book inside of me that wants to be published, and I want to continue to give presentations to groups.
So is it the paycheck that makes me feel like I’m not contributing? Yes, mostly, I believe it is! When I see my husband leaving for work at 4 am each morning, and see my kids and friends working hard in their chosen fields, I bristle at my inability to do the same. But then I try to listen to my wise-self that says, as long I’m doing the best I can within my abilities than I, too, am my definition of relevant.
A battle with identity, a constant re-acceptance of an illness, a defining of how I want to show up in the world, a trust that living mindfully with gratitude, love, and respect is what matters, is living my version of a well-lived life and helping me feel relevant even though I live with a disability.