A while back, I was spending some time reading the blogs here on Band Back Together. Usually I travel over to Mommy, Alcoholism, or other topics….this time I fell upon some PTSD posts, and thought I should share my story.
Back in February 2010, I was in a car accident that changed my life. I have a multitude of physical injuries with muscles and nerves and emotional/brain issues. At first the doctors were hopeful that time would resolve these with physical therapies but it’s a really slow process. I’m now under the care of a neurologist, undergoing testing. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is something I was diagnosed with when I visited a therapist who sat me down and did a simple checklist with me. Imagine, that one Big Black Thing can be determined… with a checklist.
What it’s like in my head is so difficult to describe, because words get mixed up in my brain. It’s been almost impossible to describe because it is unclear to me. I lose words. As I write blog entries, I have volumes of words in my head and cannot seem to get them out; they elude me. I tend to type paragraphs or sentences while chapters are locked in the prison of my mind. It is a very dark place I rarely explore these issues outside of therapy offices anymore. There, at least, they have the right questions, the ones that can open the cell door a bit.
Life hasn’t changed on a day-to-day basis. If I had a new ball of yarn, tightly and neatly rolled, I could easily begin to knit a scarf. If I took that new ball of yarn and allowed a puppy to play with it for an hour, it would still be a ball of yarn with the same length, color, and overall properties, but it would have imperfections. I can still use this yarn to knit a scarf that will keep me warm but the imperfections can be apparent if you look closely. The strength, however, will not be the same.
For example, I have a phone where all my appointments are stored, as are daily tasks such as picking up my kids from school, eating, sending paperwork, and calling friends to help with paperwork. I lose time. For example, last week I had a form to fill out to send away to the car insurance company. It was a very straightforward form but I would have to access other forms in my file folder to access my policy numbers and other information. I sat down to do this with the file folder beside me – everything I do has to be organized and focused. I got up to get a pen and ended up in a different room of the house doing something entirely different with no idea how I got sidetracked. I didn’t even realize until I walked past the table with the file folder on it.
I was immediately angry at this lost time.
I sat down again to complete the task. A while later my heart rate was up, my right leg was bouncing, I was becoming frantic because I just couldn’t understand it. I had rifled through my file folder countless times to find my policy number, which I knew was on many of the pages. Yet I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t remember how many times I’d looked through it. Did I look through it? I think I did. Try again.
My phone beeped to let me know I had to pick up my daughter from school in an hour.
What? I’d lost 2.5 hours! The pressure was too much. A huge breath exploded from inside me. I pushed up from the kitchen table knocking over my chair. I was furious! My head was pounding. I felt a stabbing pain at the base of my as my back spasmed and my hands were tingly.
The black doom was closing in upon me.
I ran to the bathroom, ran the cold water over my inner wrists, breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, crying silent dry heaving sobs.
Then I was numb.
Breathing normally, I washed my splotchy red face and reapplied my makeup. I went to the kitchen for some Extra Strength Tylenol. It does almost nothing but I don’t take the anti-spasmodic medication for my back because it makes me a zombie. I tried to relax in my numbness and lost time until the alarm rang telling me I had 15 minutes to pick up my daughter.
I had 15 minutes until I had to be Mom, the mom I want to be – the smiling, patient mom. Not the numb, auto-pilot mom. So I put on the happy mask and prepared to give my daughters the memories they deserve, knowing that God provides me the strength. Until I can truly experience it, I will mimic it for them.
Just typing this makes me uneasy; it’s the tip of the iceberg for me. I don’t want to address the iceberg.
I implement controls for my daily activities, remaining hopeful that one day the PTSD will give up this lock on me.
Our apartment is not Hoarders level bad, but it could get there easily if I allowed it to. I don’t allow it to because clutter triggers my anxiety.
This pandemic has been hell on my hoarding-related anxiety and on my depression.
I know, on an academic level, why people hoard things. I even have a very good guess as to the reasons behind my husband’s hoarding. But knowing the why doesn’t help; it doesn’t ease my anxiety, it doesn’t make me more empathetic… I think it actually makes me even more frustrated and depressed.
This is one way that having a psychology degree can be a double-edged sword. The knowledge is helpful when you’re looking at the behavior of someone you don’t know. But when it’s someone you live with and you have emotional ties to, it feels like it makes things worse.
The hoarding is a major anxiety trigger for me. It’s limited to his “office”, but sometimes, it seeps out into the rest of the apartment. My husband has this nasty habit of setting things down “for now”, but never picking them back up. I refuse to pick it up. In my mind, my justification is that I didn’t put it there, he did. I shouldn’t have to be picking up after a grown man. So then it sits.
As I type this, I’m looking at a pile of cardboard that needs to go out of the recycling. I look at it and I am seething, both at him and at myself. I’m seething at him for just piling it up and not taking some of it down with him to the dumpster when he took out the trash. I seethe at myself for being so overwhelmed by a pile of cardboard that I freeze when I think about having to haul it out by myself.
I’m resentful. I resent being the one who has to clean. I resent having to tiptoe around his anxiety because if I don’t, then he becomes passive-aggressive and tries to emotionally manipulate me and make me out to be the bad guy because I expect him to help me keep a clean house. Then I start keeping score.
I shouldn’t be keeping score, but I can’t help it. I feel like I carry more of the weight around here and do 90% of the emotional labor in this relationship. This comes from my past; I grew up in an abusive household where I was both scapegoat and maid. I had to clean the whole house while my father sat on his ass and ordered me around. I feel a lot like this now. Except I’m an adult and I don’t live in fear of my husband if I refuse to do it.
I try to clean, but I feel like it’s a losing battle. It’s also becoming very difficult for me to keep pushing on and on. I clean up, but he brings in more crap and sets it down, never to pick it up again.
I think I might be at the end of my rope. Actually, I think I’m hanging on to a thread as far as the hoarding is concerned. I’ve contemplated going into that room and just getting rid of everything that I think is garbage. I’ve even considered ratting out my husband to the landlord as a wake-up call. I’m mortified at the thought of maintenance or the landlord coming in and seeing that room.
Again, not a picture of the author’s actual garage…
I’m not even going to get into how our rented garage looks. That does look like an episode of Hoarders. I’m angry that we pay extra a month to rent a garage to house all the crap he brought home and never used. We need to clean it out, but I’m both overwhelmed at the idea of how much stuff is in there. I’m also mortified at having to open the garage door and having everyone see how bad it is.
I could go to therapy, but the issue here is that I don’t want to tolerate this hoard anymore. I’ve lived with it too long and I feel like I’m enabling him by not saying anything. I’m hanging onto that last frayed strand of rope. I’ve lived with it long enough. I don’t have the time nor the patience to live with all the physical crap. I don’t have the luxury of waiting until he admits that he has a problem and gets help for it. If this makes me sound cold, then so be it. I have to think of myself. This is wreaking havoc on my anxiety and my depression. I don’t want to end up having another nervous breakdown and spending a week in a behavioral health facility because my anxiety and depression have reached the levels of suicidal ideation again.
Don’t laugh. The last time this happened, it was because the idea of going to work triggered panic attacks and I felt like such a failure that I began thinking about suicide.
I have few ways to escape since the pandemic started. I feel trapped, both by a virus and by someone else’s physical crap and emotional issues he refuses to deal with. I’m exhausted, too. I feel like a failure because I can’t keep my house clean. Short of staging an intervention, I don’t know what else to do.
Please share this around – we are none of us alone; we are all connected. You never know who’s lives you’ll change with your words.
Last week (or was it 2 weeks ago – I’m not being coy – I honestly don’t remember) my dad called me, which is about as rare as me saying “I heart mayo” because I loathe mayo with the energy of a thousand suns. It’s not that we’re “not okay” or something, we just don’t have much to say to each other – he’s in California, I’m not. But, being alive in the Great Pandemic means you’re generally reaching out to people who you don’t normally talk to.
I’d expected him to say that either he or my mom had gotten The ‘VID because they’re old and they have multiple comorbidities.
I didn’t expect the words that spilled out of his mouth next: “we think Ben either has The Flu or CoVID-19.” I got the details, sparse as they were from them and tried, again, to reach my kid, but because he is a teenager, his phone is often off, which actually makes zero sense now that I’m typing it out, but that’s just the way it is.
That made his phone being off all the more concerning. But, I’m a good (wo)man in a storm and I’m all about fact-gathering rather than fear mongering or falling prostrate at someone’s… feet? Prostate? I’m not sure where I was going with that.
He’s in the same state, but not the same county, so I called that county’s health department and after I got through about 46 minute message telling me all the shit I already knew about The ‘VID (and pathogens in general), I was asked to leave a message. My guess is that that recorded seminar makes most people hang up, but I was in the car and had literally nothing else whatsoever to do.
I left my message and expected a return call about… let’s say NEVER? I figured they’d be hammered by everyone in the county to dispel some of the more outlandish things that Trump has said, so imagine my surprise when I got a callback.
Without having spoken with The Kid, I couldn’t really speak to what the symptoms he was facing were. His fever. His cough. But I did explain that he was safe and self-quarantined, and being a hermit and a teenager, had no thermometer OR desire to leave his hidey-hole. She sounded relieved.
When she was asked when he should get tested (this was when we all believed that we’d be able to get tested), she informed me – not unkindly – that “they’re not doing tests for “normal” people.”
Which is, I guess how another – WAY WAY WAY QUEEN OF BLOGS – blogger got herself tested twice (because two is better than one!!) and every asymptomatic celebrity who wants one can be tested in multiples. Me? I’m an OG blogger who’s been radio silent for years now – and my spawn aren’t special enough for a test.
But whatever. Only mildly bitter.
The other nurse confirmed what I’d thought: stay in quarantine for 3 days after the fever broke (he doesn’t have a thermometer, I was thinking, but okay). Don’t go out until the cough is gone. All the other infection control protocols were in place, so yay. Oh, and the county hadn’t had a SINGLE confirmed case yet.
I wanted to yell “BECAUSE THERE ARE NO CELEBS AROUND THERE, ASSHOLE,” but it’s not her fault so I kept my grousing to myself. And, I guess, now to you.
Because I was unable to access The Kid for a couple of more days, my dad and I spoke daily – The Kid was on an upswing, then downswing, then up, then down. Finally, The Kid, Himself, called me. I told him what I’d learned from the health department (nothing I didn’t know EXCEPT that you have to have a platinum vagina to get tested). He said he’d called the hospital at one point a couple of days before, because he was coughing so hard he’d pass out.
The gist of it was “suck it up buttercup, you can’t come to the hospital with a cough,” which threw me through a loop.
I’ve been texting with The Kid and he’s still got the cough and is doing a sleep-eat-play (video games before he passes out again) – cycle, which I’d been doing the week before. Whelp, without the video games.
He has his piano keyboard so he’s keeping busy, but he’s now, like the rest of us, falling pretty depressed. Like him (and I’d be guessing a good number of you as well), I’ve been struggling to even get off the couch. Today marks my first day back on the computer doing something other than watching the dwindling amount of traffic on the road and all of the incantations of My 90 Day Fiance – FOR THE SECOND TIME – which is just absurd enough to keep me from becoming a total slug.
My kid sounds like he had CoVID-19 but was to normal, per the health department (who also stated that there were no confirmed cases in that county) he was too normal to be tested.
The hospital told him that if he had a cough – one of the dangerous-this-may-kill-you hallmarks of CoVID-19 – he couldn’t come into the hospital.
So my kid likely had CoVID-19, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever know,
He’s depressed now, I’m depressed, hell, everyone I know is depressed.
But, I dragged my ass to the computer to give you a taste of what it’s like in my world.
Now we need to hear yours: we are none of us alone; we are all connected.
Please share this around – we are none of us alone; we are all connected. You never know who’s lives you’ll change with your words.
I’m stressed. There is a lot going on out there, it feels like the information changes every day. My kids are home all day, every day. They don’t get to run around with their friends, even if we do see them while we are out for a walk. The news coming out of Italy gets more bleak by the minute, and I wonder if we are doing enough to stop this before it hits us like a runaway truck.
I worry about being able to feed my family long term, assuming this continues, which doesn’t feel like a stretch. I worry about my family, all of whom live at least 175 miles away. I worry the grocery stores will have to close because all their employees get sick. I worry that all medical personnel are burning themselves out and will suffer tremendously for it. I worry about the scientists working day and night to give us concrete answers.
This novel coronavirus has kicked my anxiety into full gear. I spend my days and nights imagining all the worst case scenarios. Sleep is not relief from this. The tension in my shoulders, jaw, whole body never releases. Taking a complete, deep breath seems impossible. My brain is a squirrel on meth stuck on a hamster wheel.
I talk to others online about their concerns, and I find all of them relatable. Maybe not in a specific detail kind of way, but in a general kind of way. I’m not a single mom struggling to care for her special needs child with no extra cash to even start to stock up on basics I may need. I’m not a new mom feeling isolated after building my routine around meeting up with friendly faces three times a week. I’m not the mom of a medically fragile child, panicked because people just can’t take this seriously.
I’m not these specific people. But I understand their struggles. Yesterday, I wrote a little post full of sass about how to survive. The sass hid the truth. This is not normal. It is not sustainable for our mental health. I need my friends and support system as much as anyone. And I need to support people just as much.
If you read this far, thank you. If you find that you just need to vent your fears, write them out here. You can post it anonymously, even we won’t be able to identify you. If you have some kind of resource I can link to that would help some of the people I listed above, shout them out. We will link anything that will help.
High school was… not good to me. I dealt with bullying and loneliness.
I was the girl people didn’t want to be around. I was too “weird” for the goth crew, but too “goth” for everyone else. I had the dyed black hair and dark clothing, but I stuck to mostly satin, lace, and velvet skirts and long dresses. I was “Romanti-Goth” where the rest of the goth crew was “Manson-Goth,” and the rest of the school wasn’t either.
The Columbine Massacre had just happened and was fresh on everyone’s mind. Your average goth kid in my school was popular enough to get through, and they had each other.
I vividly remember the day someone spit at my feet while I was walking through the halls.
Yeah, it was like that.
It didn’t help that I didn’t have the high school mentality. I wouldn’t say I was above it, I just wasn’t into it. I was a mentally-ill loner who enjoyed role-play games and people older than me. I wasn’t into dating around, parties, or the latest group of girly giggles.
Even my boyfriend was eight years older. My husband, who was my next boyfriend, is six years older. Your average teenager repulsed me, so high school was hell. It wasn’t something I enjoyed; it was something I struggled to survive.
My mental health issues became obvious in high school. Most of that time is a blur, but I do remember going and seeing my guidance counselor looking for a push in the right direction.
Luckily, a licensed therapist was in the school every Thursday for cases like mine. I only saw her seven times at school before I had to start therapy at her office, but that was enough to know she was the one. She was the one I could spill my guts to, the one who would be there for me. She gave me her cell phone number in case of emergencies.
She saw in me what no one else at the time saw – I was special and in need of help.
At the time, diagnoses like “bipolar” were thrown around, but they never fit. The only thing she knew for sure was that I was getting lost inside my head, and our sessions were my only chance to get help.
There was one other key figure in my high school survival. We’ll call her Mrs. M.
She was my 9th grade English teacher (and then later 10th grade Journalism 1 and 12th grade Brit. Lit.). Right away, we clicked.
She was the type of teacher to give me a passing grade when I accidentally answered the quiz question with the key event in Chapter 4 and not Chapter 3, when the whole point of the quiz was to determine whether I’d read up to Chapter 3 or not. I had, in fact, finished the book. Yeah, I was one of those English students. And she was one of those teachers. She spent the four years of my high school life doing her damnedest to make sure I made it through and survived. She was always there for me, no matter the problem.
When I was in 9th grade, I made my first website – it was filled with my dark, depressive poetry and even darker thoughts. My mom somehow came across it and had a cow.
She immediately sent the link to Mrs. M for her thoughts on it. In true Mrs. M fashion, she informed me and my mom that it was very well-written. The fact that it showed how much I needed help was obvious without the site.
Why did it surprise my mom?
I’ll always wonder.
Shortly after starting my blog, I went back to the school to visit with Mrs. M I wanted to fill her in on my life and my family.
I was also excited to say the words that burst out of me. “I’m writing!” I knew she, of all people, would be proud of me.
I knew she, of all people, would look past the darker times and see the beauty of my written word.
My therapist has asked me to write down a list of my emotional traumas.
A list of all the emotionally and physically traumatic experiences that have happened to me in my life, that have contributed to my Bipolar Disorder and PTSD.
Right now, my therapist doesn’t feel as though I’m ready for the therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). As far as I understand, I have to relive physical and emotional traumatic experiences, have the proper emotional response, get over it, then have Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) so I can develop some sort of coping mechanism for the future.
But until my medications are adjusted and I’m in a better place, I have to wait.
As a “gifted child,” I was bullied a lot in primary school and high school. I still carry some of those emotional scars with me.
Funnily enough, my brain is currently trying to stop me from accessing more memories. Suck it, brain; stop being a whiny bitch and let me write this shit out.
When I was 16, my mother – being severely depressed – attempted suicide several times. The last time she tried, she had an argument with my father (now a better man, nothing like his days in my earlier life), and downed a ton of pills. I found her and her suicide note. I actively suppress the things written on that note thanks to the emotional trauma but I know how it began.
That sentence haunts me in my dreams. She is fine now, thankfully, but I refused to talk about it with anyone and pretended it never happened.
I was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder when I had a panic attack at high school so bad my heart rate was 180, and I had to be rushed to hospital for fear of doing damage to my heart.
Since that day, I regularly have heart palpitations.
I had a psychotic episode at 17, when voices told me to stab my mother. I became paralyzed in my own bed while lights shone down from the ceiling, and I was convinced aliens were coming for me, despite my logical brain telling me I was being stupid.
I was diagnosed with endometriosis and told I should probably have children before 25. I’m currently a week away from my 24th birthday. Talk about another emotional trauma.
I dated a Muslim man for eight months. Toward the end of the relationship, I was emotionally abused, when he called me a dog. I went running into the arms of a male friend.
I decided I was the worst person in the world and went off screwing any guy who looked my way, drinking myself into oblivion, and eating pills like candy, just to numb the pain. I wanted to be used. I asked my male friend – now my fuck buddy – if he was using me for sex. He replied yes. I cried and said, “good.
” Turned out he wasn’t using me: he was in love with me; as a result of my promiscuity, and his inability to tell me how he felt, he quit university, broken-hearted.
I started dating my current partner, whom I have been with for five years now. We lived with his sister, her fiancé, and their daughter. His sister is a lazy bully who cannot look after herself, let alone children (currently a total of three). Her fiancé is a violent, alcoholic gambler. After being made a prisoner in my own bedroom, we got our own place.
My diagnosis of fibromyalgia explained my constant pain and tiredness. Yay for inheriting every single shitty illness my parents have.
Recently, I have started to have feelings for a close friend, who also has a partner. While drunk, we have made twice. I have feelings for him, but he is just attracted to me. I have immense guilt over betraying my partner, who is emotionally stunted. I think I’m just attracted to my friend because he has the social and emotional skills my partner lacks.
I was severely bullied at my last job until I began having daily panic attacks and getting into a screaming matches with a higher-up and former friend.
I decided to self-harm and contemplated suicide when the medication I was taking for five years stopped working. Unfortunately, while the medication stopped working, my now non-existant libido did not return.
Have also suffered dermatillomania (chronic skin-picking) for most of my life, particularly my feet. It is disgusting.
Currently, I am plagued by insomnia, headaches, anxiety, shame, severe depression, guilt, and every other horrible feeling imaginable. According to my therapist, I have feelings of low self-worth. According to my friends, I have a much lower opinion of myself than everyone else does of me.
I am both numb and emotionally unstable. I can’t cry, even though I really want to let it out. I think of myself as selfish and horrible, a terrible person who doesn’t deserve what I have. I theorize that I have some subconscious need to sabotage myself. Every time something is going well, just to add some drama in my life. Why I do this, I don’t know. And as I have written this list in such a cold, emotionless manner, I find it odd that I can be so numb and feel so many negative emotions at the same time. I feel like a robot.
I don’t want sympathy. At least, I don’t think I do. I am just tired. Tired of struggling through every day with these issues. I want the problems to just magically disappear because I’m tired of fighting.
I know it’s a long road ahead to my recovery. And as much as I don’t want to relive the aforementioned memories, I am also excited for the first time in ages because maybe, finally, with proper therapy…