Tag Archive | invisible illness

The Dance of Acceptance

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.

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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    

Parenting with PTSD

The Waves

Surfing the waves…

I feel thankful, I feel happy, I feel stunned.

I feel tired, I feel confused, I feel scared and sometimes terrified.

I feel sick.

I feel a sense of peace and connectedness to the world around me.

I feel hope, I feel calm.

I feel numb.

I’m full of anxiety, fear, doubt, distrust, restlessness.

I am up, I am down, I am happy and I am sad.

I feel fear, I feel safe. 

I feel content.

Emotions; We all have them, and they come and go like waves. Some of them are little sets of gentle ripples and some are as intense as a tsunami. Waves come, and waves go, each breaking on the shore of our mind and bodies, each is time-limited. 

I have learned to sit with the emotion, to understand that even the most intense feelings will soon ebb. Even though it sometimes feels like they take up all the space, I know that if I remember to breathe and sit for a moment that it will pass.

When I feel the intense emotions begin to rise, there are times I try for control. I want to balance perfectly and ride them to the shore with ease. But the reality of life is that even the most eloquent and prophetic surfer wipes out. It’s okay. Another set of emotional waves will come soon enough.  Sometimes gentle, sometimes stormy, sometimes so small they are barely noticeable. That’s normal, natural, human nature. 

I feel grateful.

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image source: Pixabay

Thank you for reading my books:  If I Could Tell You How It Feels,  and  Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

Wait, What? I still have PTSD

I wrote a post by the same name last spring. Amazingly, I asked this question to my therapist again the other day, nearly a year later and my reaction was exactly the same when he answered, “Yes, you still have PTSD.”

The past year has been a whirlwind of powerful and positive changes in my life.  My son got engaged and we were over the moon excited for the wedding. Until she broke his heart, thankfully before the wedding. After nursing his broken heart, he is again happy and thriving. My daughter, who has struggled so fiercely, is happy, in a good relationship, excelling at the University, and is realizing that she is the intelligent, insightful woman that we all see. I have come to a place where I have processed and accepted my past (most of the time). I have a huge toolbox of distress tolerance tools and have gotten the answers to the big questions that were hanging out there in my mind. I’m also very fortunate to do some marketing for two wonderful small business owners who understand my limitations and often require only 1/2 hour of work per week. These are wonderful, exciting, sometimes painful strides, and I make sure and acknowledge how the past few months have propelled my trajectory of healing.

So, why do I still have symptoms of PTSD? Why do I still have flashbacks, why am I still triggered by certain sounds, why can’t I make my brain concentrate for more than two hours at a time, without it shutting down and becoming so overwhelmed that I begin to decompensate? I mistakenly thought that just like when I had cancer, and five years later was declared cured and a survivor, that when I got to a certain point in therapy, I would be pronounced cured of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s how I approached therapy from the beginning. My therapist, nor anyone else put that thought in my mind, and I never really talked about it, I just thought, Oh, I’m sick, I will do this thing called therapy, incorporate all the tools I’m learning, and then I will be cured.

For me, however, that is not going to be the case. I have some long-lasting effects from the trauma I endured. From the reading that I’ve done the past few months, and the understanding I have about the extent of my trauma, I’m still going to have PTSD. I’m not intimating that this is a forever illness, I don’t know what the future will hold. But I have accepted that even when therapy stops (or if I need the occasional tune-up) I’m still going to suffer from symptoms. When I was talking to my son about this yesterday, he looked at me and said, “you wouldn’t expect someone in a wheelchair to stand up and walk just because they are done with physical therapy, would you?” I replied, “of course not!” I wonder, is it the invisibility of my illness that makes me so uncomfortable, or is it that I have an illness that makes me so uncomfortable. Maybe both.

When my therapist and I had a talk last Friday, and he answered my question with, “Yep, you will still have PTSD when we are finished working together.” I was disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed that I was nearing the end of intensive therapy, I was disappointed because I wanted to hear you’re cured. The same words my oncologist said to me just a last year ago.  My therapist took a lot of time and patiently, once again tried to help me accept that some wounds are extremely slow to heal, but will heal

I have to keep reminding myself that I am working hard to heal and it’s not anything I did or am doing to cause these symptoms. I’m not perpetuating them, I am living with them. When I lose sight of this I find myself getting very angry at my PTSD. Well, to be honest, I’m often angry at it, which detracts from the reasons I have it and can interrupt my healing process. 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. I can acknowledge my progress, watch my children fly from the nest and make adult lives for themselves, and feel good about my ability to contribute to a life I want to have, and still, understand that I have this invisible illness of PTSD.

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Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

http://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph/dp/1514213222

https://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph-ebook/dp/B013XA4856