acceptance without affect

This is the first paragraph… but I’ve written it last. Weird, right?
It’s taken me a week to put this together – not because there is anything in here that is amazingly informative or stunningly interesting. It’s because it has been hard to put into words. I never thought I would find it so difficult to ‘speak my mind’. But here I am.

There may be triggers in here… so please tread carefully if you are a sufferer. I’ve tried to do this ‘clinically’.. without too much extra. That’s difficult in itself for someone like me who is an empath and tends to be rather emotional. Here goes the explanation of absence… although I am determined to do better…. to at least try…. and there’s a lot to be said for that.

PTSD. C-PTSD. CFS.

A lovely bunch of acronyms. Not. I’ll break them down for you…..

PTSD : POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
A disorder characterised by failure to recover after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.
The condition may last months or years, with triggers that can bring back memories of the trauma accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions.Symptoms may include nightmares or flashbacks, avoidance of situations that bring back the trauma, heightened reactivity to stimuli, anxiety or depressed mood.

C-PTSD : COMPLEX POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD, sometimes abbreviated to c-PTSD or CPTSD) is a condition where you experience some symptoms of PTSD along with some additional symptoms, such as:
difficulty controlling your emotions
feeling very hostile or distrustful towards the world
constant feelings of emptiness or hopelessness
feeling as if you are permanently damaged or worthless
feeling as if you are completely different to other people
feeling like nobody can understand what happened to you
avoiding friendships and relationships, or finding them very difficult
often experiencing dissociative symptoms such as depersonalisation or derealisation
regular suicidal feelings.

CFS : CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that lasts for at least six months and that can’t be fully explained by an underlying medical condition. The fatigue worsens with physical or mental activity, but doesn’t improve with rest.
Other characteristic symptoms include:
Sleep that isn’t refreshing
Difficulties with memory, focus and concentration
Dizziness that worsens with moving from lying down or sitting to standing

In the past month, I have had my fair share of medical professionals : Vet, Dentist, Doctor, Psychologist. And I even bumped into the Pfizer rep that I knew from my days of working for a doctor, so there was her too 😉

I knew I had PTSD – related to trauma from 2012. What no one told me is that it can last years… and that when you think you’re ‘over it’, it can come back. The focus was on the 2012 trauma – I have recently discovered that the situation and numerous occasions of abuse when I was married had me already living with PTSD, just not knowing.

This past month, after two years of undergoing blood tests and x-rays, the conclusion that has been drawn is that I have all three of the above. Wait, what? (The only thing missing has been an MRI – so the conclusion is based on evidence and investigation sans that.) This is all just ‘diagnosis’ though. I accept that they’re all educated and know better than me. I accept their diagnosis. This doesn’t mean that I won’t question though… or fight against it… or try and determine otherwise. Stubbornness has it’s advantages 😉 and so does being so focused on hope! 😉

I have never fully understood when people have said to me, ”I just can’t explain it.” I do now.

But we are all different. And respond differently. And as I have researched and read up, and begun ‘unpacking my mind/debriefing’, I have been made even more aware of how different we all are, and how differently we respond.

I can’t walk you through it all… I am only just starting this journey, as such, and am still walking through childhood. Sigh.

And it’s hard. And I am so tired.
(Although the psychologist says I need to stop saying the word tired. Tired can be solved through sleep and rest. Fatigue cannot.)

What I can say for now is this : I am an empathetic and compassionate individual. But this has taken me into a whole new level of understanding and compassion. I hurt for people who are suffering from these things and are doing it alone because people don’t know or comprehend what it is and how much damage it actually does. I hurt for people who have been, and are being judged, because of what is seemingly their actions, and supposed bad choices.
I hurt because I am one of those people. And I wish my arms were wide enough and big enough to stretch over the entire world of those people, so that I could just hold them. Because I know that there is a part of me that just wishes to be held for a while.

I will also say this : my response to all of this has been a little strange. There is an acceptance without affect. My brain is saying,
”Okay fine. They say you have this. It sure explains a lot, and you need to now stop being so hard on yourself. It’s happened. ”Stuff” has happened. You can’t change it, and you can’t change the people who inflicted the hurt and put their issues on you. You can’t take back the reactions and choices you made as a result. So let’s do what we need to, even when it hurts and when it’s hard…. but let’s also figure out how NOT to let it affect every part of your life in a negative way.”

I think it’s that ‘prisoner of hope’ attitude of mine that I now think was developed many years ago to protect my peace in some way. I’m not entirely sure. But I feel like it might have been. And as much as I want to wake up in the morning, and pull the blankets back over my head and just stay like that all day, until the next day… I can’t. And that in itself causes me confusion.

Something else that has me confused….
I can understand why people who suffer feel the way they do. 😦 I am confused as to why I don’t feel the same way.
According to the psychologist, and almost every support group forum I have visited, a vast majority express the ‘suicidal feelings’ symptom. Not always in the way that they would actually DO something… but in a way where they say : ”I just want to die. I pray for God to take me. I just want it to be over.”
Yes, I want the ‘bad feelings’ and the days I struggle to be over and gone. I don’t want to wake up after a good nights rest ‘tired’. BUT I don’t want to die. My strongest desire is to still LIVE, despite this. To find ways for life to go on, and have meaning, and be fruitful, even when I am fatigued and struggling. See? That prisoner of hope thing again, I guess.

I am not medicated. I have opted instead for vitamins, and a herbal supplement aimed at anxiety and stress. This is NOT to say that the variety of medications to treat these acronyms are useless. In fact there is a strong possibility that some form of ‘chemical help’ would benefit me. But this is part of MY issue – a mental block of sorts when it comes to ‘medication’. A part of the past from childhood that is being unpacked.

I share all of the above for two reasons.
The first is to create an awareness of sorts. Because I know this from personal experience : sometimes when something doesn’t directly affect me, I don’t really take the time to learn about it. For example : MS (multiple sclerosis) is not something that has affected anyone I know personally. And so although I know what it is, I have never really delved into it. So I am aware of what it is, but clueless as to the way it impacts someone’s life… and the lives of those around them.
The second reason is this : I value each and every one of my regular readers and followers. (And even those who just pop by for a specific post have meaning to me.) By having my personal blog – and making it so very personal because of the way I am – I have invited and allowed each of you to become ‘part of my world’. And although many of you don’t require an explanation, I needed to tell you – for me. I love connecting with people (another symptom I seem to defy) and part of that connection is honesty and baring a part of my soul, I guess.

So there’s my mind, and soul… slowly unpacking. Apologies for the lengthy post. If you’ve read it all, thank you. ❤

Just a dog

I was thrown into a ‘state of anxiety’ for about a week, because of my dog. Let me explain – or try to, at least. I don’t know how eloquent I will be… or how much sense any of it will make…. but please bear with me…. or dog with me, rather 😛 This is Toffolux – Toffee for short :

The top two pictures are from the last couple of years – the bottom two are from when my daughter was 10/11 – they would watch movies together. 😉

I have touched on, in previous posts, a severe traumatic incident in 2012… that was followed with a lot more trauma till 2013. But added to that, I have childhood trauma too… that was more ongoing. Anyway….

At the end of 2013, I was helped with my 2012 incident… adequate trauma counselling etc. Things started looking up. However, I was still having nightmares and I was still afraid.
In 2014, it was suggested to me that I get a dog – to help me.

I have ALWAYS been a dog person… I find myself incredibly attached to them though… whether it’s mine or not. Ha ha! I have a feeling dogs sense this. In my complex, anytime a dog escapes their yard, they show up on MY doorstep. In fact, there are two dogs living outside my complex at the end of the road, who come here too. It’s rather amusing, really.
The lady at the end of the road asked if I was a vet – no ways! My dog passion can never be followed that way… my heart would literally break.
In fact, a few weeks back, there was a doggy run over on the highway (the opposite direction we were driving) and traffic had come to a standstill… and I had to pull over a little later because my tears were blurring my vision. Moving on….

The children were excited at the announcement that we would go to one of the local animal sanctuary’s in search of a dog. They love dogs as much as I do… and had been waiting two years for a ‘replacement’ for our last one. My instructions were clear – not a puppy! I wanted a ‘grown up’, about the size of a maltese poodle.

We came home with a puppy. Sigh.

Toffee had arrived at the sanctuary at three weeks old, after being thrown out of a car window in a plastic packet. ‘One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure’. This was most certainly the case when he came into our lives.
We went searching the day he was six weeks old. He had just finished fighting off Biliary too! This pup was a survivor!

And he chose us. By attaching himself to the fur at the top of my daughter’s boots and hanging on. I still laugh out loud when I think of that moment!
And Toffee became this girl’s best friend – yes! I would choose him over a diamond ANY day!

Most of my free time has been spent with Toffee by my side. We have engaged in long conversations – I haven’t really had anyone else to spend time with… so he is my movie companion, my sounding board, my friend.
My children often joke that he is also the ‘husband in the household for mom’, and that they don’t know how a guy would fit into the equation – and since they are okay with that, I am too. Ha ha!
Because Toffee sleeps on the pillow next to me at night. He snores in my ear. And sometimes he even steals the blankets.
When I talk to him, he gazes at me, listening intently. And sometimes even offers up appropriate ‘noises’ in response. My son is still convinced he KNOWS what we are saying and is talking back.
The funniest is when you ask him a question, and he responds with shaking his head as if to say no.

And in all honesty? He is definitely the most ‘human’ dog I have ever had. I’ve had eight dogs in total in my lifetime – I got my first puppy at age 2. And so when I compare? He’s definitely a ‘person’ more than an animal 😉

But there is this too : when the nightmares came, Toffee would wake me… and cuddle against me, sometimes licking my cheek in reassurance that it was okay. When the ‘unexplained fear’ overcame me, it was like he knew. When I was feeling anxious, he knew. And he always offered reassurance. A paw on my leg if we were sitting together. A look he would give me, followed by a big sigh, and then an approach where he would bump against me for love…. and giving him love always gave me a strange form of comfort.

My children have been growing – they have their friends, their recreational activities, their social lives. In my down time? I have Toffee, and whatever it is I choose to do – read, watch series or a movie, or just sit and think about life. He’s always at my side.

Since March, Toffee has (after six years of perfect health) been unwell. Recurring bouts of prostatitis, and a need to be neutered. And so his neutering was booked for the 2nd October. And the day I booked it, my anxiety was what some considered ‘stupid and abnormal’. Because of him being an older dog, there was the niggle of ‘what if something goes wrong’? My kids weren’t around, and when I got home from the booking, I’ll admit it… I cried. Toffee, with his 26 kilogram body, jumped up on me to hug me (he does that too! Stands with his paws stretched up on your shoulders and actually curls them into you as if pulling you in for a hug!)
Then he disappeared to my room… and when I followed a few minutes later and entered the room, he let out a loud sigh and I saw this :

The pillow says RELAX on it. He stayed like that for me to take a photo… but then I couldn’t contain my laughter any longer and he lifted his head, wagging his tail, and ‘smiled’ at me.

He came through surgery that day like the champ that he is. But the following week there were minor complications that caused me some sadness and stress…. and again, some people commented that I was being ‘ridiculous’, ‘he’s just a dog’, ‘this is quite pathetic of you’.

WHEN YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND IT, WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW THE BACKGROUND, WHEN YOU WEREN’T THERE TO COMFORT SOMEONE THROUGH THE TRAUMA… PLEASE DON’T JUDGE THEM! THIS IS WHERE KINDNESS SHOULD KICK IN.

I have said that in CAPS because it is SO important.

In the end, Toffee needed an extra large cone… but as you can see, he wasn’t too unhappy about it 😉

Unfortunately he’s not quite back to being healthy yet. He now has an ear infection. Sigh.

Why all of this? About my dog?

I had seven days of struggling with sleep, and anxiety. How silly, right? But here’s the thing :

When you’re unfamiliar with trauma – whether it be long lasting or a particular incident – and if you do not understand the complications that can follow years later, then you too are nodding your head in agreement at how ‘ridiculous I have been, allowing a dog to make me almost not able to function for a week’.

But if you ARE familiar… and if you’re not please try and understand :

Although it IS about me loving my dog ‘too much’, there was a whole other thing taking place.
It’s called a trigger.
After a few years of being ‘almost completely free’? This ‘event’ triggered something in me. And I don’t know how this really works or why it happens…. I just know it does.

And so… when I slept? The nightmares came back – not as severe, and yet I still woke up terrified. I looked over my shoulder a little more than usual…. even in my own home. I found excuses to communicate with my daughter when she wasn’t home – sending her a meme or something, just to get her to respond, so that I would know she was okay.

You may not fully understand. Because you don’t know what I went through.
And the reactions from others made me think about it quite a lot.

And I had to add another thing to my ‘to do list’ in my character….

I know I should not have an opinion about anyone unless I fully know their why.
But at the same time – what is it in me that always seems to want to know the WHY? Yes, it helps explain… and it makes understanding easier….
And yet….
There are times where people will not be able to find the words to explain their why to me; they may not trust me enough or they may just not want to talk about that part of the past; or they may have ten million other reasons NOT to tell me their why.
I still have just ONE reason to at least TRY and understand without the necessity of every detail….
And it surpasses those ten million….

It’s doing everything I can to show REAL love to others – an ‘unnatural’ kindness and compassion, that just is, and doesn’t need explanations.

It’s not easy. I won’t always get it right. But I have made a decision to be ‘more aware’, and at least TRY to get it right!

So this was one part of the ‘all will be revealed in time’ that I mentioned in my last post 😉

(And just as a side note : someone told me that I can’t help anyone with their life purpose if I am still reliving things from my past – my response was this : if it wasn’t for the past, and the understanding that triggers exist, THEN I would be ineffective. If I wasn’t experiencing the things that I am, and learning from them and growing, then I wouldn’t be in a place to identify with anyone, would I? I don’t relive my past – and I don’t live in it either… but sometimes it just appears out of nowhere. This is reality for so many! Getting through something, dealing with it, moving forward in life? Unfortunately it doesn’t mean it never happened. Our response to the reminder is what changes… and we are better equipped to ‘fight’.
This trigger was an unknown – I didn’t expect to react like this at all…. or for it to have been as bad as it what it was. I probably should have identified it sooner, and not lost a week, as such! BUT I have learnt from this… and I am prepared for next time 😉 I won’t be completely unaffected by it next time, but the impact WILL be a little less.
I guess my honesty ISN’T always a good thing – and makes people question my abilities and character.
BUT…. connection comes from honesty – I want to be REAL!
So my apologies to everyone – I am not perfect. But I share tidbits for this reason : guys and girls! Life is still worth living! Sometimes we get slowed down… but keep putting one foot in front of the other! Sometimes it will take a little longer than we feel it should….
But always remember that slow progress is still progress, and you’re still a lot further than anyone who isn’t even trying ❤

Empathy

It’s been a very long while, hasn’t it?
In case you are wondering, I have thought about you all every day… and missed you. Time away from WordPress is surprisingly a little distressing for me. In time, all will be revealed and my absence explained a little bit. 😉

But for now…..

I wanted to share a Facebook memory with you. For those who don’t have Facebook, they like to remind us of posts from the past. In case we like them and cherish the reminder. Sometimes it’s bitter sweet, sometimes it’s just plain sweet, and yes… sometimes I think we have to swallow the little bit of bitterness that may threaten to well up at a particular memory.

THIS memory, for me, was a sweet one. It’s from four years ago. It’s sweet because I LOVE the reminder contained within.
The image I had shared is as follows :

Someone had commented on this picture and said that they ‘struggled with empathy because they just weren’t an empath at heart’.

I understand that… and still do. Not everyone is an empath ‘to the bone’. As I often point out, we are all different and it takes ‘all kinds to make the world go round’. How boring it would be if we were all the same.

However, UNDERSTANDING that is coupled with LOVE covers a whole lot of other things – it opens doors to kindness and gentleness and compassion etc. And it’s important! VERY important.

In fact, I feel like it is SO important that even if you are not an empath, and you recognise this, that it is something you should then at least TRY! You won’t get it right all the time. And sometimes it is really difficult. But trying takes you one step closer… and may make a big difference to the person in question.

I have an empathetic soul. There are still times where I struggle with understanding. I have learnt that sometimes I need to keep my ‘lack of understanding’ to myself, and still just be kind. Not because of the other person, but because of me. It develops good character. So I just keep trying 😉

I am hoping you are all well. Please know you have all been missed! Happy Sunday, everyone ❤