Sometimes each of us go through a week — or in my case recently, three weeks — of a personal hell. Maybe “hell” is a strong word for my past three weeks, as I have certainly been through worse. But these days of difficulties have been trying, to say the least.
Momentary Hell on the Heels of a Deeper Pain
In these 21 days, I have had my computer system hacked as I was working, right before my eyes as I tried frantically to gain control of the mouse and shut the systems down. I had a mandatory evacuation for a hurricane. That came only days after a drunk driver committed a hit-and-run on my newly refurbished car — in which I had just invested $7200 — and broke the front axle off of it.
About that time, I was getting news of my crime victimization trial’s new date, a scheduling that makes me anxious, at the least. Because of all of this, I have been having nightmares as a result of my residual crime stress. This worsens everything by causing a morning migraine I have to beat before I can progress into my day.
Then, someone who betrayed my safety once before, and as a result has been asked by law enforcement to not contact me, did what you likely expect at this point. They made their presence “known” in my personal realm.
That final straw of the personal contact from the person who makes me feel unsafe sent me over my stress edge. I do not fully understand my guttural fight or flight reaction to her. But it is borne from me trying to prevent some crimes against her or anyone else, after I had been victimized. Despite working hard to “save” her from the same fate, she did not believe me — through appearance of federal agents at her door — and was then eventually victimized, herself.
There is no “I told you so” moment in this. It is just sadness, darkness and this unending fear. For some reason, this scares me into an intense, life derailing stress reaction that I cannot explain, control or prevent. It feels horrific.
On a conscious level, I do not feel anger toward her. Not at all. I have to underscore that — I feel no real, conscious anger toward her at all. I only know that something in those past actions scares me to death. I knew we would one day be “here.” But the trauma is so unreachable and confusing to me, at this point in time.
Also, one must acknowledge that the criminal is the criminal. She is not. The criminal committed the crimes. My fear is not so much then about fearing her. It is fearing her connection to him. I need more degrees of separation from him, than just one other person I cannot let myself trust.
Many days I also wonder whether what I feel is anger at myself. Is it a deep guilt for not forcefully stopping what inevitably and very predictably happened? For several years, I told myself, “I will not let him keep doing this.” Then, it seems I “let” him. Despite trying so hard to stop him for years, I failed.
After the Last Straw of Difficulties, Reaching Into Your Clearing
When all of this unpredictable drama happened over the course of the past three weeks, I stayed really level-headed and focused on coming out of the little period of temporary darkness. I am resilient. I stay calm in difficulties. But the last straw, that contact, knocked my feet out from under me.
I find it sad. My reactions are sad, despite them being borne of trauma put upon me. I blame myself every single time this stress flares, although it flares so rarely now.
In this flaring, this time, I learned some lessons about what seems to pull me back into the clearing. Maybe these 10 steps can help you find your own clearing sometime, too.
My 10 steps out of post-traumatic stress and into the clearing are:
- Stand up for yourself and your right to feel the way you do.
Your journey got you “here.” You did not choose to be in this position, nor to experience the ugliness. If someone else triggers me, I have every right to demand distance from them. I take some power back.
- Accept others may not stand with you, possibly even standing against you.
I noted that other people react in ways that feel like barbs. They are not negatively reacting, in many cases. They just do not know what to say. Would you? Keep telling yourself not to worry about what others think.
- Embrace the people who stand with you in your difficulty.
These are real heroes. But do not wear them out, by leaning too hard.
- Look for silver linings in everything.
As you feel mired deeply in the muck of your momentary experience, try to change how you look at the difficulties. I kept telling myself, “This is one of the last things that sets off post-traumatic stress for me. I have healed in the other ways. Now I know where I need to heal, to fully get over my past.”
- Honor yourself by being kind to yourself.
I am so hard on myself, particularly when I suffer. I have learned I must respect my journey and that I have survived, despite the remaining scars sometimes looking like failures.
- Set reasonable, actionable goals.
In difficult times, sometimes we miss deadlines or neglect responsibilities. Instead of beating yourself up over this, simply change the deadlines and set smaller goals that you can achieve one at a time, as part of a bigger task. As you see small glimmers of progress, you can use these successes as momentum. Give yourself some wins.
- Live one step at a time.
Do not pressure yourself too much. For a moment, stop worrying about the rest of your life and just accept your difficult feelings. Accept that you need to let yourself work through this problem and other things may slip. When you feel better, you can catch up.
- Understand that things do get better.
Problems come in waves, so just ride the wave and stop obsessing over the bad moment. It is temporary.
- Have faith.
Remember that pain or complex emotions like those of PTSD or other trauma occur because you still need to heal. But you can heal. By knowing about the problem, you can fix it and you are feeling the worst of it because you are ready to start doing so. All things happen as they should.
- Rest and replenish for strength.
When I suffer a PTSD episode, I stop eating or even drinking water. But your brain needs nourishment and rest, just like the rest of your body. It cannot heal its wounds, unless you give it the energy and building blocks to do so. Staying rested, nourished and hydrated helps you feel better faster.
Progress Comes after Difficulties
Now, only about fifteen hours out of the worst PTSD episode I have suffered in well over a year, I am still licking my wounds. I feel it is so tragic that other people on this planet — primarily the criminal — can thoughtlessly affect others as they do. But knowing this is where I remain vulnerable today, I can fix this problem. It takes time and focus to do so, particularly because one person cannot control the actions of other people. But I know I can master my own reactions to others.
Whatever problems you experience, remember that we all have our “tipping point.” One big burden may not be the one that knocks us over. Two may not do so. But at problem three, five or 20, when your knees finally buckle, praise yourself for how much you can carry. Be good to yourself and remember that you are a survivor, whatever troubles have led you “here.”
I am working on remembering that about myself. One day at a time.