There is something going on with me and I’m not sure what it is, but my mental health isn’t feeling very, well, healthy. I feel like hiding and isolating and not doing anything except binge-watching the new season of Orange is the New Black. Then, last night I had a drinking dream. Ugh. Not one of the “freebies” people talk about at meetings, there was no actual drinking in it that I remember. Instead, it was totally about dealing with the aftermath…the mess, both physical (my house was trashed) and the emotional (guilt, shame and anxiety). It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was really fucking awful and upsetting. I have never been so happy to have the alarm go off!
All day I have been asking myself why I would dream that, when I feel so grounded in my recovery. Do I have underlying stress that I am not consciously aware of? Is my medication not working anymore? Are my crazy peri-menopausal hormones taking over? Or maybe it’s the beginning of my slow descent into madness…
The truth is, though, I don’t feel like I have any more stress than usual, my medication is most likely still effective, and my hormones are all in check (a blood test at the Doctor’s said so), and I know that I am not going mad. I have PTSD. And PTSD sucks. And for whatever reason, the last week or so, I feel like my PTSD has been triggered. I’m cranky, and jumpy, and my fight or flight response has kicked in a few times. I’m having crazy dreams and sleeping fitfully. Thoughts about the past that I don’t want to think about pop into my head, and I have to work to get them out. I feel like I don’t want to leave the safety of my home, preferably my bedroom…with the door shut….and the curtains closed. But I do…leave my home, that is. I’ve been forcing myself to do the things I have to do, like going to work, and to the grocery store and running errands, and so far that’s working.
The thing about PTSD is you don’t always know when something is going to trigger a negative response. Obviously, I have collected a long list of things that I know may cause me to react. I know that if I am watching something on TV where a woman is being sexually assaulted or beaten, I may be triggered. I know being yelled at, or touched unexpectedly, or hearing loud noises, may cause me to go into hyper-arousal or fight or flight mode. Some phrases, or sounds can trigger me. Those things I have learned to deal with. The PTSD symptoms come, I deal with it, and then they go. But none of those things have happened lately. This is one of the times when the timing just doesn’t make sense. It’s just happened, for no reason that I can deduce.
There’s a quote from the movie When a Man Loves a Woman that I love, and although Meg Ryan’s character is saying it to describe early sobriety, I think it works for PTSD too:
Nothing has to happen for me to have a bad day.
That’s the thrilling part of all this.
It just comes and hits and runs me over like a goddam freight train.
Alice Green (Meg Ryan) – When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)
That’s what it feels like. It isn’t fun, at all. However, it is survivable. I just have to remember to do the things that work for me to get through it. Things like telling myself the truth, that this is a temporary feeling that will pass; taking it easy, not over-scheduling myself; continuing to do the things I need to, not allowing myself to stay in bed all day and shirk responsibilities; and ratting myself out when I feel like this, which is what I am doing with this post. When I remember to do those things, I almost immediately feel some relief, and I can feel the madness start to dissipate. It loses its power over me and I feel mentally healthy again. It doesn’t leave as quickly as it comes, but it does leave.
As a matter of fact, I think I feel it going now…. :)