I’ve been reading some stuff about PTSD and the actual brain changes that occur. It’s sobering stuff but it also makes so much sense to me. The brain changes thing just tells me what I’ve known for a long time; I am not the same person I once was. I’ve had people suggest this is a lifestyle choice – because, obviously, what better fun could you have? – or that I should have moved on by now. Or the insightful and deeply profound ‘the past is the past’!
Except sometimes the past is very present and that’s not a choice. Anything and nothing can ‘trigger’ me, sending me back to places I’d rather not ever revisit, so that I physically feel like I am there. I feel things as if they are happening right now. My heart pounds, my thoughts race, panic and terror build, an overwhelming desire to flee – the fight or flight reflex at full force. Once this happens I don’t have much control. I can talk myself down but depending on how big the response that takes time. The Love of My Life helps. He can make me laugh through tears. Touching him centres me and brings me back to the here and now. He can reach always me when I get lost in the fog.
Some things are logical triggers; a white cross by a roadside, a charred accident site marked with tape, the news that bodies have been found in the search for a missing father and daughter, the screech of tyres, the crunch of metal – and these just in the last week. Do you know how many car crashes there are in films? Lots. In almost every movie it seems. And scenes when a doctor or a police officer is informing someone that their loved one has died. Missing children. Murdered children. Children. Mother’s Day. Phones that repeatedly ring out unanswered or go to voicemail time after time. But all of these are logical triggers and so, to a certain extent predictable and expected, easier to avoid and/or manage if they occur. Others are not so clear cut and sneak up on you. An expression on someone’s face, a song playing on the supermarket sound system, a street name mentioned in passing.
I’m on high alert all the time. They call it ‘hypervigilance’. From Wikipedia (so it must be true 🙂 but hey, any further information required you guys have Google too):
“Hypervigilance is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviours whose purpose is to detect threats. Hypervigilance is also accompanied by a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion. Other symptoms include: abnormally increased arousal, a high responsiveness to stimuli, and a constant scanning of the environment for threats.
In hypervigilance, there is a perpetual scanning of the environment to search for sights, sounds, people, behaviours, smells, or anything else that is reminiscent of threat or trauma. The individual is placed on high alert in order to be certain danger is not near. Hypervigilance can lead to a variety of obsessive behaviour patterns, as well as producing difficulties with social interaction and relationships.”
I’ve spoken here about constantly assessing my own reactions, my own thoughts, other peoples words, actions and motivations. ALL THE TIME. Every waking minute of each and every single day. I’ve told you that trusting is so hard. Trusting my own instincts. Trusting other people. Because fool me once shame on you but fool me twice, shame on me. And oh I’ve been fooled before. The next punch that puts me down I want to at least see coming. But it is so fucking EXHAUSTING! Getting through the day still takes so much effort. That’s not even counting the nights, when it’s either sleeplessness caused by racing thoughts or sleeping which brings nightmares. Why would anyone think I’d CHOOSE it?
Some days are better than others and I have more acceptance now that it is what it is. I cannot go back or change anything that happened. What is done is done and I will never be who I once was. I am ok with that. I’m ok with who I am, with all my flaws. I walk the road less travelled but I’ve met some really interesting people along the way and I’ve truly seen the best of human nature. Those connections, they are what sustain me.
I’ve always been good at connections. Making them, keeping them. It’s just harder now. It takes so much more effort and that effort is so much harder to sustain. But I try, because to me that is the difference between living and existing. Today I had an email that someone had responded to a comment I’d left on their blog. My words had touched them and their appreciation touched me. Like I said last post, to feel heard, that is really something. I heard her and she heard me. I love the internet for that reason. I’ve spoken here about the gifts the internet has brought me. For me it is another avenue for connecting but it is on such a very grand scale. It still involves putting yourself out there though. Taking a risk. Being vulnerable.
I was talking to a new friend’s new girlfriend online the other day and she said “It’s so nice to finally meet a real man!”. I’m not going to get into a discussion about what constitutes a ‘real’ man, or a ‘real’ woman for that matter, but the guy in question wears his heart on his sleeve and I think that is what she meant. How he feels, what he thinks; he says so. He takes risks and leaves himself open. He seems happy at the moment with his new love and I’m very happy to be able to share in his happiness because he puts it out there. And so it multiplies. Another friend is proposing to their love tonight. Theirs is an awesome love story which I’ve been privileged to watch unfold and I’m beyond excited about this proposal. My lovely friend, who has always been generous of spirit, shared the secret with me so I’ve had the excitement and anticipation building and I’m looking forward to the expected facebook proposal photographs sometime soon. It makes me do an internal happy dance each time I think about it. Proposals are just so damn hopeful. When you think about the proposer and the proposee, their daughter, their families, their friends; that’s many, many people who are going to gain happiness from one person’s choice to remain open to life’s possibilities and to share themselves with others.
So the moral for today is this:
Tell people how you feel, dare to risk looking stupid, say what you think, dare to dream, make new friends, leave yourself open, try new things, explore – yourself, others, places, ideas. Because it’s hard this life, but these are the bits that make it worth it. Connect with others and find yourself. Go ahead, reach out and touch someone.
Life is short. Travel safe x