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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ and so does being so focused on hope! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 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. โค

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 ๐Ÿ˜› 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

(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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 โค

Plea and please

The picture below is a photograph of my son and I, taken four years ago, on the evening of his final school dance. Many people have commented that he ‘looks a lot like me’. (I softly curled my hair for the occasion ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

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Although there is a resemblance in our appearance, it stops when it comes to height and body shape. He’s slouching a little in the picture, for Mom’s benefit ๐Ÿ˜› He’s just over six foot tall, and slender. I am a shorty, and rounder ๐Ÿ˜›

The similarities with us are not just physical – he seems to be very similar to me in a lot of other ways too. He has a kind and tender heart, a gentle spirit, and like his momma he can be quite sensitive. He and I are the ones who will sit and cry in a movie, or an episode of a series – not always out of sadness though. In fact, most times, if it’s heartwarming, it gets our tears ๐Ÿ˜‰ When we try to retell stories of acts of kindness, our voices wobble a little – and if it’s one of those ‘overwhelming type stories’, we’ll have to stop to try and ‘get a grip’ and prevent ourselves from crying.

We’re just too soft ๐Ÿ˜›

But I am proud of my young man, and who he has become. He may fail in some ways, and may be a bit of a slow starter in others – and yes, he still has his moments where he frustrates and irritates me, ha ha ha! BUT his good qualities FAR outweigh any bad, and I am very grateful for that!

One of the ways that he is VERY different to me though is when it comes to the social side of his personality. He’s great with the friends he has known since he was 13 – there is no struggle for him there. But he is, for the most part, shy and introverted. It takes him a while to come out of his shell around other people. (He partially struggles with self esteem.) And yet, like his mother ๐Ÿ˜‰ , heย doesn’t struggle to connect with his online friends. He met them through the world of online gaming, and soon they were social media friends, which means chatting and voice noting and connecting. And through all that, he has made good friends – friends he has never met in person. And I even ‘know’ a few of them – sometimes it feels like they are part of our ‘real world’ and have been to visit ๐Ÿ˜‰

SO…. why am I telling you all this?

Last night, my very precious ‘boy’ came to me, still in shock and unsure of how he felt. He had just received a message from one of his other friends to say that their ‘mutual friend’ had committed suicide on Saturday. She was only 18 – we had all ‘celebrated online’ on her 18th birthday this year.
We knew she was struggling with depression. We knew that she had started new medication earlier this year. We knew that a couple of weeks ago, things were bad for her and she was withdrawn.
But it still came as a shock.ย 
Because we also knew that we had all offered help, that she had reassured us that ‘it was okay’, that she had her meds. She never once told anyone that she wished for death.

I didn’t hug my son. He’s not one for physical affection, and I respect that.
But we talked. Briefly. And I made it clear that I am always available if he needs to chat – he can even wake me if I am sleeping.
Then I watched my young man as he left my room, shoulders stooped, heart hurting.
And I cried a little bit.

Preteens, Teens, Young Adults, Grown Ups – please hear the cry from my heart today :

Depression sometimes has a way of ‘creeping up on us’. In society today, it’s ‘common’ – and yet in some cases, there still seems to be a stigma attached to it.
If you think you may be suffering from it, or know that you are, please DO NOT BE ASHAMEDno matter who has tried to shame you for it.ย 
Please reach out and try to ask for help.
I know that sometimes we get to a place where we just can’t ask.
Please force yourself. And if you need to, then please force yourself to accept help.
Your life IS worth something.
YOU ARE WORTH SOMETHING!

Are you okay?

I suppose this can be considered my comeback post.
It contains no great literary excellence and would not be attractive to any magazine looking for new article writers, because this post has not been well researched.

What itย does contain, however, is some truth.

Personal experience gathered through another series of painful episodes, and I have chosen to spew some of that experience here….because you just never know who needs to hear/read this truth today.
So if you’re reading, welcome to ‘my world’, as it is at the moment.

The last few months have been a mixture of negative emotions : fear, anger, hurt, worry, a sense of hopelessness fueled by unnecessary anxiety. And yet somewhere deep inside me there is this determination that refuses to just let me rest.
Because there have been moments in all of the above where I look in the mirror and think, “I just want to close my eyes and sleep forever”. I think I may have even said the words aloud on a few occasions. Whoops!ย 

Because, ladies and gentlemen, truth be told : Life sucks, for everyone. It never goes according to plan, no matter how successful you are – the merit of that success being whatever you base success on. We all have a vision for the way we want / wanted our lives to be. And nothing has gone according to plan. And guess what :

IT’S OKAY!!!!

I don’t remember who said it, or where I read it, but I remember in my early twenties that I came across the following statement ~ย 

If life was meant to be easy, it wouldn’t have started with something called labor.

All the negative emotions of the last few months have deprived me of so much, mostly restful nights of deep, uninterrupted sleep. I’m exhausted. Because, truth be told, I am, for the most part, a positive and happy person. I have my moments, but they never last very long. Of late, they’ve lasted longer than usual. I don’t know how to handle the experience of such awfully draining emotions for more than a day. And it has scared me.

Anyone who has any influence over my life – and media in general – have forced the words ”suck it up”, ”it is what it is”, ”stop being negative” into my brain.

acbba77346e27d716bc6c9b535ee75ac54948e9712e3981ebfb5f29b23e95ef2_1ย Photo credit : ifunny.co

 

(I don’t have a baseball bat, which I suppose is a good thing, all things considered)

Again, I repeat, if you find yourself in a negative space consumed by crippling emotions, IT’S OKAY. YOU’RE OKAY!ย 
People (the world over) want to force the beauty of life on us.ย 
Reality is that some days (sometimes for a few consecutive days) life simplyย isn’t beautiful.ย 

I mentioned earlier a determination that won’t let me rest. Guess what? You have it too. Somewhere deep inside you, it’s simmering. Because you’re still here. (And hopefully still reading this.)
We’ve all heard that life is a journey. Well…what journey is perfect? Your boarding pass gets lost, or your luggage goes to a different destination, or the weather doesn’t co-operate, or the hotel isn’t exactly what it made out to be online, or the food/travel made you ill, or……
There’s a multitude of ”’or’s” in life. Embrace them. Feel them. Experience them. Even if you’re there for a few days.ย 

My epiphany of truth yesterday was simple : I’ve had months of more than one bad/negative day. I’ve been in valleys of despair. But I haven’t pitched my tent and stayed there. Each time, I’ve reached a point (after a few days) where I’ve continued on….carrying a heavy load….but continued on, nevertheless. Slow, heavy, burdened progress is STILL progress!

And THAT’S why it’s okay, and you’re okay. If you’re still here, you’re winning.ย ย 

I’ve suddenly realised that it’s okay to say I am NOT okay, because that makes me okay. (That sentence makes sense in my head – here’s hoping yours can find the sense in it too!) There’s no shame in admitting that things are not great. And it’s probably my greatest achievement yet.
Life sucks. It doesn’t mean thatย I have to.
My life is going on…. and I am going to live it. Bad days and all.
And there’s no promise that the good will eventually supersede the bad.
But I’m sure as hell sticking around to find out…I’m a sucker for travel ๐Ÿ˜‰ย