Some while back, a friend, who also happens to do Holistic Counseling, asked me if I had PTSD. I laughed and said no, I hadn’t been in combat. But because she asked and has some knowledge regarding these things, I started to ponder.
WARNING! If you have been diagnosed with PTSD and are knowledgeable about your diagnosis – you may not want to read further. This is simply me working through the little bit I think I know and offering my perspective given my own experience – but I’m afraid my thoughts on the matter may be offensive to those who truly suffer from PTSD.
That I associate PTSD with combat duty only is a grand indicator of my ignorance. It is also an indicator of my time spent in law enforcement, usually in troops where the oldest, crustiest ole-fart-warhorses were the ones that deemed me “an okay gal” and quickly welcomed me into the fold.
I noticed that after any major incident, there were two camps formed during the debriefing. On one side of the room were those who were listening, nodding and choosing to talk to the support team brought in.
On the other side, was a group standing around, drinking coffee or standing outside smoking and poo-poohing all the ‘touchy-feely’ stuff going on, aching to be done and back to work.
I’m sure you’ll guess which group I was standing in…
I did mention I used to smoke, right?
It’s not that I don’t care or that I think I’m too tough for such nonsense. It’s primarily because my self-identity was forged by a long lineage of strong women who, as the family saying goes, “hate bawlin’ women.”
I also tend to have a caretaker personality and so, I often place myself in positions where others are depending on me not to lose it.
I like knowing that I’m the one who thinks clearly and knows what to do when disaster strikes. I like that when the horrible-awfuls show up and no one else wants to go to the hospital/funeral home etc., I can jump in and do these things without batting an eye.
But being this way has a price….
I was going strong during the months leading up to my Dad’s death from lung and brain cancer. I maintained and got things settled when I arrived back home to find finances in a mess and our home in foreclosure. I pulled up my big girl panties and waded through the To Do List when my son died, my mother became ill and Hubby started to withdraw. I did what was needed when my brother had his accident and Mom was 2,000 miles away and needing to get home.
But at some point, things started to slip.
I still did what needed to be done, but the little things started affecting me more – -mice getting in the house became a disaster. A scratched cornea on the child-unit from wrestling with an exuberant puppy became akin to Armageddon.
A truck that wouldn’t start had the emotional charge that should have occurred when a loved one died, but didn’t.
A request for baked goods for a school event that wasn’t received until the night before they were needed resulted in a 30 minute spiel about how inconsiderate these people are and really, can’t one, just one single other person plan ahead and do things in an efficient manner? CAN’T THEY?!?
Blood pressure rose, my nervous system was greatly confused on whether it was even necessary to fire up the parasympathetic system, as we were spending so much time in the Fight or Flight zone, why not just stay there?
And finally, I had a stroke.
Admist all this, I was silently talking to myself. I was laying my over-reaction at the door of ‘Limited Finances’ because if you have a good safety net/nest egg, who cares the truck needs repair?
But I also kept hearing a little voice inside, chanting, “You know what it is – you’re always on stand-by for disaster. You need to stop it.”
So I tried, over the years – – Positive thoughts, everything is fine….
But that just meant even more anguish and displacement by surprise curve balls from the Universe – somehow, it became more comforting to expect the worst and be surprised when it didn’t happen.
And so, I still know not if I would be diagnosed with PTSD should I deign to find out. But I do know anytime I get to a place where being on constant Alert becomes more comfortable than other ways of being, I need to act in ways that reverse it.
Because I’m not living in a war zone – or working in law enforcement – or as a first responder. I’m not doing full-time care taking, though I still pick up side projects frequently because I still haven’t learned to quit offering or saying ‘No’ when I should. I no longer have oodles of high priority things to care for and that all need attention, Now.
I no longer need to be on High Alert – I’m on the path of retraining my mind and body.
Yesterday was a reminder of how quickly I can jump into action and how long it takes to come down. Once those things I was responsible for had been handled, I realized I was not coming down as I should once there was no longer a need for immediate action.
And so, this post is courtesy of me working through my little foibles. A way to organize my thoughts given the recent knowledge of how far I’ve come and what part is left to go.
Thanks for listening!
P.S. Ole Warhorses will not turn down a listening ear or a hug, as long as there aren’t any witnesses who may think them soft. They also never, ever, accuse you of sexual harassment if you give them a quick hug…