Here I go again; the dance of acceptance. I have a pattern of every so often “forgetting” that I live with PTSD. I’m not sure if it’s mental gymnastics that I perform with gold medal perfection, or that it’s normal when living with a chronic illness to experience fluidity of acceptance.
I deal with and know how to ride the waves of triggers, and day-to-day symptoms; that is part of my everyday life. I manage that as I manage my household chores. It isn’t until I come face-to-face in a serious way with something I would like to do, but I’m unable to do because of my current abilities, that I remember that it’s because I have PTSD.
Recently I had to revisit my vocational abilities. That was extremely disappointing. I was the only one surprised by the same results. My family and friends watched me go through the stress inducing exercise knowing what the result would be, but they understood why I felt I had to go through it once again. I would like to say that now I fully accept what my limitations are, but I can’t be sure.
Last night, I had a conversation with my friend who takes me deep-woods camping once a year over the 4th of July week. We go into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area where there are few people and no sounds of fireworks. I’m super motivated and excited each year and in my head, I’m a great remote camper. But, the reality is, that I am triggered a lot of the time because of what happened to me in my past. I can work through the triggers, and I absolutely love being in the outdoors, but the PTSD affects my experiences.
As we were talking last night, I asked if we could try a trip where we portage more than once and go deeper into the remote areas. He said, “there is no way we can do that!” He explained whenever we have tried going deeper into the woods I get really triggered. We went on to talk about the other ways my symptoms come out during the camping trips.
Last summer, on a camping trip to the mountains of Colorado, I developed altitude sickness and we had to get off the mountain. We were exhausted by the time we got down to a low enough altitude and we wound up throwing our sleeping bags next to a river and sleeping outside under the stars. Sounds beautiful, and it was. Except for all the flashbacks I was having. I didn’t know if it was because I was tired, crabby, and just wanted to be in a bed, or if it was because of my PTSD. My illness is not my automatic go-to for explanations on why I can’t do something. Part of the dance of acceptance!
I began to have an awareness that what I wanted to experience while taking these trips, was not happening in a positive way for me. I wasn’t saying anything out loud; instead, I was doing a lot of negative self-talk about bucking-up, figuring it out, and stop being such a baby.
It wasn’t until we were talking about it last night, that I really accepted that even with my limitations I can still have a wonderful experience camping. As long as I’m with someone who understands PTSD and how to react (or not react) when I get triggered I can still experience and recognize the fabulously healing reset of being in nature. I can also find meaningful ways to earn a bit of money (and I have) while being mindful and respectful of what is healthy for me.
I have some long-lasting effects from the trauma I endured. Because of the extent of my trauma, I have PTSD. Maybe this is not a forever illness, I don’t know what the future will hold. Most days, I’ve accepted that I’m still going to suffer from symptoms and live with some deficits.
When I lose sight of this, I find myself getting very angry at my PTSD. When the anger and frustration well up, and starts to boil over, I make myself stop, sit down, reflect, rest, and try to focus on the goal of what I want for my life.
And I’m sure, as it seems it has become a pattern, that there will be times that I am going to do the slow dance of acceptance.
photo: Alexis Rose
Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph