Oofda. So much has happened in my world recently. I’ve been processing things internally, leaving me quiet and still much of the time. I watched Leaving Neverland and the Oprah interview that followed over two evenings. I had to take several breaks to walk around and think. I slept the night horribly between viewings. My spirit was unsettled, (and sleep is when we ignore our bodies and exist only in the spiritual plane.)
I’m not consciously aware of how but during that unrestful night, I worked out a significant understanding of how to cope with loving humans. In many ways, the universe has been providing repeated opportunities to address this issue. I’ve been shying away. It’s incredibly complex and often uncomfortable. Hearing Oprah share her wisdom in a repetitive, heavily stressed, and urgent manner finally got to me. (I can be pretty thick.) 😑
I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to process, absorb, sit with, over-analyze, adapt, and finally grow from it. It’s ugly. It hurts. It hurts in ways I can’t even articulate. It’s hard work, too. I have to train my brain to adapt, and it requires a fierce focus. I hate intensely focusing on lessons that frighten, disturb, and drain me. (Adulting sucks; this wasn’t in the brochure.) I wanted loving humans to be black and white; not a gazillion shades of gray I didn’t know existed.
I asked myself why. It turns out; it’s because I fear trauma. I’ve spent half my life healing from PTSD, thus avoiding it seemed an ideal strategy. I was wrong. Hiding from what I fear hasn’t worked out. Ever. (Wait. Except for horror movies.) I’m grateful for Oprah. I love her; she’s one of my favorite teachers. She taught me Michael Jackson was a human being all along. Two people told their story and showed us how pedophilia slithers in and devastates. I believe them. The cracked facade displaying a man as a god shattered into a million tiny pieces.
Now I will gather those pieces and build them into the real man. He looks, moves, and sounds the same. (Many positive attributes remain intact.) However, he also profoundly hurt some children. He broke a taboo that creates ripples of suffering known to wreak havoc in the lives of many for generations. He lied in our face. It will take time for me to sort out my feelings.
Loving people is hard because we’re each a universe of complexity and individuality. All good or all bad are imaginary concepts, no matter how much we want to believe in them. The child within us wants clear heroes; in whom we can invest our love and admiration without fear of pain. Reality won’t play along because humans don’t work that way. Loving is complicated and hurts like hell sometimes. Forgiving is a choice and process involving growth, new perceptions, and scars. It’s so gray, we all have to figure out for ourselves where to go from here. So much of being an adult is recognizing how childlike we are and consciously compensating (when necessary.) Thank goodness for candy. 💜✌🏽
I’m going to share a few things I’ve learned about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after living with it for nearly half my life. Your mileage may vary, so take what fits. In my mind, I see my ability to cope with stress as a balloon. Stress inflates it. Ordinarily, as the balloon inflates, it stretches to accommodate typical stressors. PTSD occurs when overwhelming stress causes the balloon to swell so far beyond its optimal range, it produces a pocket extrusion, reducing the overall tensile efficiency.
From that point on, to prevent a blowout, hypervigilance is required. The amount of stress you can cope with resets to zero (child-like stress tolerance level,) and you have to start over by stretching your stress balloon a little bit at a time, without popping it, repeatedly, until it regains a semblance of elasticity. This process is your new full-time (unpaid, nerve-wracking) job regardless of your present work status. Forget about getting nights and weekends off. Holidays? As if!
Trauma causes PTSD. Something awful happened, and you came up short on internal resources to deal with it in real time. The situation convinced you of your impending and untimely death. Your brain pulled the emergency lever causing you to check out emotionally (because it’s too hot in here.) Once the haze clears and you finally wrap your head around continued existence, PTSD shows up and says, “S’up, bitch?”
The first year or five is mostly training. Figuring out which random things trigger you from calmness to a sudden panic attack, (often for no apparent reason,) quickly becomes a priority. We also soon realize concealing (masking) how we feel is helpful when among others. That ever-present, barely containable, private hysteria shaking in the back of your mind alarms others if you let your guard down.
I believe it’s the tendency to stare off into the distance while visibly unraveling. Masking is exhausting, but you’ll master the ability. The motivation is irresistible: human contact. Isolation may seem like your new lifestyle, but it’s just a tool you can summon when you need to regroup, recover, unmask, and rest from socializing. Humans don’t thrive in permanent isolation, so don’t linger longer than necessary. Social skills entirely fall under the use-them-or-lose-them rule.
The sleep disturbances usually show up right off; such as, nightmares, insomnia, crashing and sleeping for several hours only to awaken feeling unrested, and the like. As does the super-uncool tendency to jump like the clown from It just showed up, over every loud noise, sudden motion detected in your peripheral vision or contact from outside of your view (especially from behind.) Good times.
The flashbacks are like jumping between two avatars without warning or a controller. (This game is rated S for sofa king no.) And there’s always a frenemy or two who will delight in provoking you to jump because it looks hilarious every time. Each time, without your consent, you react as if you’re suddenly about to die. Your reaction doesn’t diminish over time (in my experience.) The OMG-I’m-ending hormones release (like the Kraken) every time. Then you have to go somewhere quiet to recover — every time. Kick them to the curb sooner than later. (You’re welcome.)
The bad news is PTSD sucks so hard it can lead to thinking about suicide. The good news is you can live with it. It’s not easy, but it’s doable. The more you practice safely stretching your stress balloon, the more it becomes a habit and less a conscious chore. Only you can choose your pace. Your brain is physiologically different than it was before you acquired PTSD. Don’t lie to yourself about getting over it. You don’t. You build a scar over time and eventually relearn how to manage your stress efficiently enough to get back on your journey.
It’s part of who you are now. The healing process takes place within yourself, and only you can do the necessary work to regrow an efficient stress balloon. A good therapist can provide a map and support. If you have the means, do it. You deserve it. If not, you can still do it. (The internet.) Just remember to be kind to yourself. You have a wound, go easy.
Avoid binging on carbs. They’re prepackaged depression and anxiety outside of moderation. You’ve got enough on your plate without adding shit on purpose, eh?
Practice good sleep hygiene.
Stay well hydrated. Your fight-or-flight system is broken and is sending out false alarms all over the place. Flush out those toxins often.
Stretch when you first awaken, and before you go to sleep. You’re physically tense most of the time, so counter it twice a day deliberately. You’re the boss of you, dammit. 🙃
Choose (ideally) at least three people you trust to support you by connecting with you (unmasked) as you heal. Preferably people who understand PTSD or are willing to learn about it with you. (Pets help if you talk to them.)
Exercise daily within your (physician approved) range of ability. It’s an incredible built-in hormone regulator.
If you can hear, listen to music alone in the dark with headphones on. Hopefully, you’ll find a musician or several whose music can express intense emotions you can’t even classify on your behalf. It’s an incredible release. (For me, Evanescence, Bach, ABBA, NIN, Beyoncè, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks, and Fleetwood Mac have helped tremendously in this manner.)
Anytime you feel tempted or compelled to act on suicidal ideation, wait 72 hours first. You survived this long; you can hold out for another three days to allow your brain to self-correct. (This is more a rule than a tip.) 💜 [Suicide Hotline]
It’s okay to have moments when you’re convinced it’s not worth so much effort. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or broken. It signals it’s time to turn on some stand-up comedy or Key and Peele and laugh (like you’re getting paid) for a while.
Others with PTSD can be a source of information, tips, and support. Remember you’re not alone, even when it feels like you are.
Flex in the mirror once in a while. You’re a healing survivor who was once a victim. Life knocked you down, and you chose to get back up and continue your journey. You’re freakin’ fabulous. 💪🏾👍🏾 💜
Welp. I did something today I didn’t think I would. I reached out to the VA for care. Granted, M has strongly suggested I do so repeatedly. As a doctor, it seems it’s excruciating for him to watch my health decline for lack of care. I also reached out to the Patient Care Advocacy to assist in ensuring I’m not subjected to further abuse. (They’re but the first in the chain-of-command.)
It’s not the first time I’ve sought their aid. While the advocate I worked with was kind and recognized the abuse, her efforts, unfortunately, led to retaliatory mistreatment from other VA employees. It led to my retreating under the rock. The fact I don’t speak on the phone (and informed them several times) hasn’t helped matters since the online communication tool rarely works correctly.
Most times, I’m unable to respond to messages received. When I’ve sought technical assistance, I was met with questions about my status, as if I’m new to the VA system. The few times I’ve gotten through, I was offered phone appointments, much to my fury. It’s also rare that the same individual reads or responds to anything I’ve written. It’s a mountain of racism and bureaucratic bullshit I’m facing.
The number of hoops to jump through is astonishing. I’ve decided to break my silence about the abuse I’ve endured. I’m going to fight as if my life depends on it. (It does.) Fortunately, my education and military service taught me a great deal about how to get results from people who would prefer I crawl back under the rock and rot. I won’t.
While I anticipate I’m facing an epic battle, it shouldn’t be this way. There are no excuses for this treatment by the VA. I’ve done my research, acquired legal counsel, and am as ready as I’ll ever be to fight until my pigmentation level and lack of a penis cease to prevent me from being recognized as a human being at the VA. I’m so disgusted and traumatized by what I’ve endured. I can’t even drive past the VA hospital without having a panic attack.
While not everyone at the Sioux Falls VA is vile and dishonorable, those who are have made it a nightmare. I’m genuinely astonished by the lack of professionalism and decency I’ve witnessed in multiple areas of the hospital. I don’t want to be another veteran suicide statistic, of course. However, the mistreatment has repeatedly increased the likelihood immensely.
The irony is a bitter pill to swallow. Even the medication bottles have stickers to remind veterans to reach out to the VA instead of killing yourself. They’re proudly displayed all over the place, but none of them inform veterans it could be that very action that pushes them over the edge. None of them warn of the fact that the VA’s concept of treatment varies tremendously by skin color, gender, and whether or not your provider likes you.
I’ve endured while my PTSD symptoms have worsened and my life has become a shell of what it could be with proper care. I’ve cowered and raged over the unfairness. My mind replays each event whenever I attempt to sleep. Often I end up weeping and give up trying to sleep until so exhausted I can’t prevent it. Then I’m unable to awaken myself when the nightmares overwhelm. I’ve forgotten how well-rested feels.
I’ve kept extensive written accounts of each incident, and plan on being very public and open about everything. I have no qualms about naming people who’ve mistreated me. I’ve begun my thesis on racism in the VA and already have interested publishers. In the light, it will all come out. I disclosed my plan to Patient Care Advocacy to utilize recording apparatus whenever I enter the building. (I’ve done so in the past to keep accurate, provable records.) Beneath the trauma, I’m still a fierce warrior who understands war. It’s on like Donkey Kong.
A letter to future me: Please read this whenever you think perhaps you can get away with it just this one time. You cannot. You cannot get away with it. You’ve forgotten the consequences because it’s been so long since you last attempted this foolishness. Stop it right now. Read the whine-fest below, and remember where it leads. Dammit.
I’m a strong woman. Sometimes I make poor decisions and regret them later. Apparently, I’m also a bit of a sadist, because I’ve made this particular error repeatedly. I know better. I guess I forgot I’m autistic and have PTSD or something. Oops. Tut tut. There are rules. I can’t eat garbage without paying a hefty price. It’s due to consequences that usually take at least a week to resolve entirely, and sometimes far longer.
The universe is laughing at me. (Not the fun kind you can join.) I put the wrong fuel in my body, and now it’s acting up. I need a priorities intervention, stat. I get tempted by junk food every so often, and instead of analyzing why, I give in and indulge. I need that data because the results are once again kicking my ass. (Perhaps some mild public shaming will finally put an end to this folly.)
It hit me just before 7 AM. I awoke later than usual with no desire to get out of bed. Just the idea of rising made me whimper inside; a red flag because I’m not big on sleep. Unless I’m unwell, I’m ready to get up when I wake up. Then, The Depression Monster showed up. That bastard went straight to a commentary about politics designed to raise my blood pressure.
My mood did a backflip over the cliff, while simultaneously flipping both birds at half mast. It happened so quickly I was stunned. It probably worked in my favor by causing me to question what the hell just happened. I realized The Depression Monster was involved and slammed on the brakes. Then I figured out why and launched directly into beating myself about the head and neck for doing this to myself again. Sigh.
I didn’t manage to shower and dress until 4 PM. I didn’t spend that time in bed, though. I spent it pacing around my apartment while debating with myself silently. Some of that time was spent experiencing awe over how long I’d been doing it. I tried so hard to stop. I even wrote out the one step I was trying to take on my whiteboard, (then passed it over and over without it registering for a long, long time.) It said, Get in the shower.
These are hours of my life I can never get back, (and this is day one.) All because I had to eat some freaking garbage. It’s not worth it. Memorize this, Alison. You’re in training for menopause, and it could start anytime in the next decade. Get your shit together, or it’ll end you. Dammit.
I’m sad about the passing of author, Ursula LeGuin, yesterday. Today is Virginia Woolf’s 136th birthday. I decided to spend the day listening to Lorde. I’m not done yet, but it’s been a soothing day so far. She’s one of my healing sisters, along with Stevie Nicks, Beyoncè, Amy Lee, Sheryl Crow, Agnetha Faltskog, and Aretha Franklin.
They’re who caught me up through their music when I was (barely) enduring a period of devastation. Losing my parents and closest siblings, divorce, surviving rape, etc. All leveled me. I can’t really wrap my head around the concept of such powerful bonds with people I’ve never met. It’s too abstract. (Much easier to just cherish it and enjoy the music.)
I’ve come to an important decision. The next time Stevie Nicks or Fleetwood Mac tour, I’m going to go. I’ve imagined it and tallied up the known consequences as well as potential unfortunate situations. If they all happen, it’ll still be worth it. (If nobody shoots me,) it’ll be an incredible experience. (That’s the only thing I can think of at the moment that would utterly ruin it.)
I’m not going to let autism or PTSD rob me of this experience. (Because hell no.) I already know it’s not possible to die from being too happy. So it’s all good. Whatever I have to pay afterward (stapled to the floor) will be worth it. Depending on when, I’ll either be going with M. or his sister, S. Hopefully both.
I have noise canceling headphones to wear when the band isn’t playing. Also, dark tinted glasses if it’s an outdoor show, or they flash bright lights at the audience. I have lots of pocket-sized fidgets and anxiety focus figures. Mini Tina (From Bob’s Burgers) is my favorite.
She’s only 2″ tall. I also have a 24-Karat-Gold: Songs from the Vault keychain from the Stevie Nicks website. I love how it feels to hold, and it’s always cool. I used to have a tiny Garnet from Steven Universe, but I lost it. (I love cartoons.) Now I want to watch Hey Arnold!, or Rocket Power. Heh. I’m off to read.