Swimming to the other side. A brief update on surviving PTSD and an invitation to hear me ramble.

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Friends! I promised the “I’m not suicidal anymore” update quite some time ago. In fact I promised it by days end of that very day in September. And I dutifully and feverishly wrote it that very day in September. And then I presented it to my husband with a flourish, and he got that expression he gets when he desperately wants to be supportive but he has reservations. His expression and his carefully weighed words basically said to me, “honey you may feel better but you are coming across as pretty whack right now and your tome is confusing as hell”.

So I decided to sleep on it…for like a month. I reread it today and I still think there’s some good stuff but it’s just so jolly LONG. I need to edit. Edit I must. But that takes time and I’m chronically short of that stuff!

However! HOWEVER. Here’s something! This Thursday I will be talking about it online for anyone who wants to listen. One of my oldest and dearest friends, the famous and esteemed Heather Madder has invited me to chat a bit about my story, about how I got from there to here. (Here is really good. I’m liking here.  Life is definitely worth living at this juncture.)  Heather reached out to me in a big way during the very depths of my darkness. She understood it from first hand experience and shared such wise and tender advice. She helped me more than she will ever know.

When I was emerging from the darkness I commented on how much I had learned from this experience to which she responded:

“You learn a lot about life from the dark underbelly of it, pain is the price but it’s high-quality learning.”

Aint that the truth baby, ‘aint that the truth.

Anyway this Thursday at 2pm EST we will be chatting about my journey and the vast arsenal of tools I have been using to get through it.  I want to chat a bit about my experience with how trauma was affecting my day to day life for decades (without me having a clue), those insidious emotional triggers which mess everything up until you figure out what they are, and how I’m learning to leave the past behind and live my happy life now. (Hooray!)


As well as being one of the wisest and kindest and bravest survivors ever, Heather is the queen of essential oils, (like she’s a bona fide oil celeb) and since using essential oils has been a large (and psychiatrist encouraged) part of my recovery, she is going to be throwing in some freebies to listeners. She’s incredibly generous and genuine this friend of mine, so if listening to my dulcet tones (with more South African accent than usual thanks to my sister’s recent visit) and Heather’s infectious laugh (it’s like aural prozac) isn’t enough of an incentive, I invite you to join us for the freebies, she’ll even tailor them for your particular issues.  

Please note though: This chat won’t be an informational session re: essential oils but if you are interested in them she can give you all the info and help you with all you could possibly need afterwards.

Click on the link below to register to join us. I have a feeling it’s going to be fairly hilarious despite the heavy subject matter.


* The title of this post alludes to a song I heard this Spring which is very meaningful to me.

** The pictures refer to the song and were taken in Cape Town, South Africa, my all time happy place and they feature some of my all time fav people swimming to the other side, and helping each other along the way.  I was just looking through my files for a pretty uplifting pic and came upon these almost immediately. Could it be more perfect?! I think not.

***Now I’ve ruined it by being all obvious about it and explaining stuff. I just can’t help myself.

See (hear?) you soon I hope! Kisses..

The Post I am Now Posting

A while ago I posted About the Post I was not yet Posting. I decided to not to hit publish then, because as I explained, I was still far too close to those feelings for comfort, and I wanted to protect my kids from reading about them on some rando mom blog (that would be mine, by the way, not some grandiose idea of this going viral haha- but I’m pretty sure that’s how they view what I do here, which is totally ok by me).
I was also taking into account the wisdom of my therapist who knew I had the coping resources of a freshly skinned newborn kitten and would not necessarily be up for the wisdom of the internet when it came as it so often does, in the guise of passive aggressive or even openly aggressive, bullshit.
However today is not that day. Today is Sept 30th, the last day of September which is also the last day of Suicide Prevention  Awareness Month (as if that month shouldn’t be every month but let’s pretend that focusing on saving people’s lives should be relegated into months as we do, and move along here).  Some people whom I hold to be my most wise and trusted friends, those who have lived through the feelings I have described either themselves or as a partner to someone who has, read my unsanitized version of my blog (or what I am about to post) and felt strongly that it should see the light of day. They felt that someone would be helped by it.  I sent it out to a few folk who personally asked and their feedback indicated the same.
In the last month I have been seen to by a highly skilled psychiatrist who did a slew of bloodwork and genetic testing and came up with a suitable medication for my brain and body chemistry. I have continued to see my excellent therapist twice a week. I have had the energy (thanks to the medication) to practice self care through exercise of various kinds and meditation of various kids and I am in a completely different place.  I have been bursting to write about that part of my journey and today is the day. It hasn’t all been wine and roses by any means but it’s been good and it’s a ****must read sequel to this part***. Especially if you’re in the dark place right now, friend.  I’ll have that part up by the end of the day.  Please be sure to read it.
And here's the Post I'm Now Posting.
Originally titled: My Sucky Summer. Or Living with PTSD Part 1 or Why I wish I Had Cancer. By Kirsty, aged 39 and a bunch of months. * who forewarned, now swears like a sailor on the blog too, not just in front of everyone in real life.
Oh hey, how are you? Me? Oh pretty much suicidal most days. No I’m not exaggerating. Almost every day I feel like ending it all.  I consider it in detail most days. Do a little research regarding methods on the internet. Then I realize that I have 5 kids who are working their asses off to have awesome futures, and a husband and I’m really freaked out by the idea of giving them PTSD, or being a vegetable in a hospital for them to take care of and that I’m basically a chicken.  I tell you what, a good clean suicide is a lot harder to pull of than you’d think. Especially without a gun in the house.
So yeah. Turns out I’ve been living with PTSD for oh probably about 30 years. It got really bad about 20 years ago when I was forced to come to terms with the significant trauma I had experienced at the worst possible time to do so.  That in itself was really traumatic and things really snowballed. But all things considered I’ve done pretty well of playing the part of a semi functional person.  From time to time it flares up so that it’s super obvious that I’m dealing with something serious and the symptoms are clear to anyone with any type of psych background. The rest of the time I’m just uptight, neurotic, cranky or just “crazy” enough to make other people feel better about themselves and roll their eyes and say “oh good god here she goes again” on their group texts.  At those times I seem really thin-skinned or I freak out when I perceive that my kids are being left out of stuff or slighted in any way.  I seem to be easily offended and hyper-sensitive when in fact I’m just revisiting (totally out of context which is the confusing part) the traumas that left me with major abandonment issues. Funnily, I have never recognized any of my “sensitivity” as abandonment issues at all until recently. Thanks therapy.) Until recently I just thought I was a fuck up. Now I know that I am indeed a fuck up but that I have good reason to be. It’s not entirely comforting actually. Read: in no way is it comforting. ( It is comforting IN NO WAY).
So!  I have so much to tell you about what it’s like to live with this shit and realize that your whole life has pretty much been limited and compromised because of the “bad choices” of other people, but the part that inspired me to fire up the old Lenova with the broken hinges (thanks kids) today is this. A conversation with my friend about Why I Wish I had Cancer. Said friend’s dad recently died of cancer and she was like, “yeah I’m pretty sure you don’t” and so then I explained why she was wrong, and how oh indeed I did.
Before I go any further I’ll mention that I’m closing comments on this one because honestly I have no emotional reserves for haters and morons, so if  you or your loved one  has/had cancer let me just say, I’m so sorry. I think that sucks rocks. Worse than rocks. Boulders. Fuck that. I hate it for you. Also while I spent some a brief but devastating time nursing my dear mother in law when she had terminal cancer,  I’ve never had cancer myself,  so yes I’m talking out of my ass here but in the never-ending suicidal fantasy that is my life this is why I currently wish I had cancer.
1. When you have cancer you can talk about it openly. When people you don’t know particularly well but well enough say, “how are you?” you can say, “oh didn’t you hear, I have cancer! So basically I’m shitty! The fact that I’m here at work shows that I’m a real little hero actually. Yes, I know, thanks.
When you have mental illness you don’t get to be that candid. You need to take into account whether or not the person you are talking to will judge you for such a disclosure. Are they from a generation that discounts mental illness as being a whiny little pansy, are they freaked out to let you care for their kids if they find out you’d rather be dead…if your kids knew you were telling this particular person about your struggles would they be embarrassed or ashamed.
2. You generally get prompt care. I’ve been suicidal pretty much every day since May. I finally get to see a psychiatrist this Thursday.  I’m lucky that my insurance covers a psychiatrist.
3. When you have cancer and you lie in bed all day and you can’t do stuff like talk to other people or even have the TV on or even have your bedroom door open, you can tell your kids the sad news and they know the fact that you lie in bed all day and can’t do stuff like you used to (like be in the same room as them),  is not because you don’t love them but because you are super sick.
4. When you have cancer I imagine your community rallies around you. If you are a mom with many kids and stuff there’s a good chance you have meal trains going and such. When you have mental illness the few friends you confide in assume you want to keep that shit  in the inner circle (because often you do) so they are left running ragged trying to support you all by their lonesomes. In time most of them will stop checking in with you very often because listening to your endless flow of negativity is depressing/draining/scary/boring as hell.  Also because they can see that you have the coping skills of a maimed bunny, your friends stop telling you about their lives and problems, which makes you acutely aware of how useless and ridiculous you are, and since the whole point of friendship is  the reciprocal sharing of lives and problems they find new friends who aren’t you.
Ok so yeah. I imagine that there is a good chance that most of your friendships deteriorate or end when you have cancer too. Like I say, I’ve never had it but I’d imagine that it happens for the same reasons listed above. However since there is not shame/stigma/people calling what you are going through your own fault (that’s a whole other post)  or just plain bullshit, involved, the community part keeps the logistical wheels on so that your spouse and one or two remaining friends aren’t drowning in trying to keep you from killing yourself as well as getting your millions of kids to soccer practice on time.
5. When you have cancer, I’m pretty sure nobody tells you that you’d be a lot better off  if you’d just learn to let the anger go, if you stopped wasting your energy on feeling betrayed by your body. Ok wait, I bet there are plenty of assholes who tell people with cancer that shit. Screw ‘em. 
When you’re dealing with my shit though most (not all) but most people, even the most kind and enlightened of them, even those who have dealt with depression but just a different kind or aren’t currently dealing with depression..think that what you are dealing with is somehow a tiny bit within your control and that your attitude has a part to play in the whole thing. I mean they are all for counseling and meds and stuff but they also think you should be fighting harder or differently.
To which I say, bull fucking shit.
Every single day of the last 4 months I have meant to contact a friend I had who was going through an epic depressive event a couple of years ago to tell her how sorry I am for what I did to her.  During her hideous battle I was really “there” for her. I spent hours texting with her, often neglecting meals or family in order to “help” her.  I gave her all kinds of advice and pep talks. I was totally in her corner. If I could go back in time I would punch my lights out and once I was down, I’d kick myself in the boobs.  I was a stupid bitch.
I have no doubt that I made her feel worse about herself more than I made her feel better. Instead of just saying, “I am so sorry, what can I do?” or just showing up with a treat or to hold her hand,  I gave her pious little pep talks. I made her go for walks with me even though she didn’t want to. I constantly chronicled her blessings, explained how much worse off she could be. I impatiently exhorted her to get therapy even though she had no insurance and she’d had a terrible experience with therapy. When she went off her drugs I got mad at her and made no bones about it.  Eventually our relationship grew distant.  I think we were mutually burned out by each other. I bet she felt 1000 Percent better without me in her life. Me, the chronically depressed person who was also getting her masters in mental health counseling. Me who of anybody SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER. In the words of Sarah Bareilles, I was “so busy making maps with (her) name on it in all caps, (I) had the talking down, just not the listening”.  I’m sorry friend. I sucked. I hope you are much better.
6. I imagine that when you have cancer it’s easier to accept help.  This one is linked to the community support thing listed above but it’s coming from the other angle. When you are drained from  chemo you know that  you have just had deadly chemicals pumped into your body until you are mostly dead and  that you can’t deal with your preschooler without some help and there’s no shame in taking friends up on their offers to help.
When you have mental illness and your nerves literally feel like they are on the outside of your skin and the sound of your preschooler or anybody else really is like being tazered,  you don’t feel as entitled to relief. So you turn down offers of help from sensitive friends, your kid watches a lot of TV. Your family eats a lot of take out.
My therapist asked me if I found it easier to accept help when I was physically ill and I looked at her like, “er YEAH”. She prescribed solitude and rest several times a day and it was such a relief to have a professional say that’s what I needed but it still didn’t empower me to call friends and say, “so yeah, I need to take to my bed for my “nerves” several times a day like some fucking Jane Austen character, do you think you could take on my kid for the next month or so on top of your own stressful life?”
6. Cancer often ends in death and when it does, nobody talks about how selfish and cowardly you were and your family doesn’t have to go around feeling angry, ashamed, defensive, abandoned and betrayed as well as grief stricken. I’ll probably end up being the most dysfunctional 100 year old who ever lived.

Goodbye Bummer Summer or Living with PTSD Part 2 (The Rage Stage)

Thank you so much for the really kind feedback re: part 1.  To those who asked for the the “raw and unedited” version, I’m pretty sure I got it to you all but if you asked and I didn’t send please let me know.
It’s hurt my heart to learn how many of us are suffering in so many different but very real ways,  but your stories and your courage have made me feel so much less alone and that’s a gift I can’t even begin to express adequate thanks for. Thank you for your trust and your honesty. I’m rooting for you more than you know.
Labour day has come and gone and as everyone starts contemplating the change of season and all the excitement that it brings, I can’t help but be transported in very surreal way to last year this time when we were preparing to leave Ohio, “for good” (in both senses of that phrase).  It seems like yesterday and a hundred years ago.  Holy smokes, what a year it has been.  I remember driving around town last year as the trees changed and the light changed, as November 1st approached.. being in a constant state of panic and excitement and dread and thrill.  But at the foundation of it  all was a resolute sense that I was doing what needed to be done.
It’s impossible to explain the emotional intensity and enormity of this past year and the cataclysmic impact it has made on every facet of my life.  It would take days to even begin to describe the harrowing that has been going on, the depth of the toxic soil that has been turned over and  the healing that has begun, the perspectives that have changed, the bridges that have been built.. and burned. 
I have wondered time and again whether the whole South Africa thing was the most epic mistake I’ve ever made (since I drove the bus on this decision for our family) or the most vital and wise thing I have ever done for myself and my family.   I wonder if it’s going too far to imagine that I knew somewhere deep in my sub-conscious what would result in my personal life from that adventure? I don’t know. The more I learn about our brilliant brains the more I’m struck by how little we give them credit for.
Honestly? The person I was a year ago would have recoiled in absolute horror at the outcome, at the suffering that has resulted for me personally, my family and my closest friends.  What I pictured happening has become in reality the polar opposite. The person I was then would have aborted mission for sure.
But if I had to do it all again as the person I am now,  I’d still flinch but I’d like to believe that I’d set my teeth and go through with it.  The person I am now is  Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, sitting in his car, realizing that resistance is futile, punching the seat saying, “I’ll go…I’ll go, I’ll go….SHIT!” 

As shitty and angry and  incredibly painful and messed up as life has been for the last many months, I’ve been promised (and I’m getting closer to believing)  that it’s like when you have to make a huge mess of your bedroom to clean out your cupboards.  It sucks for a while and you can’t find your bed and you wish you’d never even opened the closet doors at all but deep down you know that it will be a lot nicer once the dust settles and all the clothes have been weeded through, some discarded, the others properly folded. Or something like that. As a disciple of KonMari this is the analogy I’m working with right now.
Speaking of cleaning up the mess. I got to see a psychiatrist last week. Finally. That was enlightening to say the least. I’ve always understood the role of the psychiatrist and how much it differs from the psychologist but I was unprepared for how much clinical information I would glean and gosh, I found it fascinating.  Oh if only I were (much, much, much) smarter I would be a psychiatrist.  He explained to me how my brain  has been rewired by trauma, how the neurotransmitters have been jacked up, how this affects my core endocrine system. How my body is programmed to stay awake and alert. How random little things are perceived as an “attack” how this affects me on every level, biologically, emotionally, socially even mentally. How the myriad of disorders, symptoms and problems I have dealt with most of my life are not as they would seem,  and how all of them can quite directly be linked back to and covered by the umbrella of PTSD. This of course was in many ways, a relief.  And in other ways it caused me blinding rage. Let’s just say I entered the “anger” phase of my grief cycle this week. My sweet husband barely remembers a time when I didn’t express myself almost solely in expletives.  In the last week my heart has shrunk three sizes and I’ve become cold and ruthless. For sure the anger has been a nice change from the depression, it will get a girl out of bed but it’s not without its drawbacks. It’s not like the girl is particularly happy to be out of bed, or much fun to be around, ya know?
Dr. Psych also prescribed a med. My situation is complicated because the one med I could really use for my emotions is not going to play nicely with my jacked up body which my emotions probably messed up in the first place. Gah. Is that irony? I never know.  In lieu of such a med he prescribed yoga twice a day. For the rest of my life. He’s pretty adamant that we will see appreciable changes in my blood work from a strict yoga protocol.  He was also hugely supportive of using essential oils.   So we’ve got all our bases covered. I liked that.
The one med he did give me though is no joke. It makes me sick and spacey,  but most importantly people…..it’s also making me even FATTER THAN I ALREADY AM from the ineffective meds I’ve been taking! That’s a big disappointment because these meds aren’t supposed to cause weight gain. But it’s like when I’m pregnant and I can’t stop puking ,but I also can’t stop eating because it sort of helps with the pukiness.  And again…cue…..RAGE.  I AM SICK OF BEING FAT.  I don’t want to be on drugs! But I’m even more sick of being depressed and completely useless so I guess fat it is. #alltheswearwords.   PS: All this fussing over weight may sound shallow to you but the weight gain over the course of this last year has been a real blow to my sense of identity and disassociation with life right now.  This is not about vanity it’s about the fact that I don’t feel like me.
Here’s a few links for stuff that I am finding helpful through this journey.
A very easy to read article explaining Complex PTSD and Emotional Flashbacks shared with me by a dear friend who is also psychologist. I can’t begin to explain how helpful this has been in identifying my triggers and working through them.
Said friend also highly recommends this book which I have bought but not yet read so I can’t vouch for the book but I can vouch for the wisdom of the friend.
I only did this yoga for PTSD routine once but it was good.  Very intense but good. I feel like I need the discipline of a time and a place to go and do yoga but maybe as my motivation and willpower grows I will be able to force myself to do this in between those times.
I use this app to help me to sleep and wake up. I notice a big difference in my ability to fall and stay asleep when I use it versus when I don’t.  It also has beats for mood lifting, relaxation, meditation, learning, energy etc. I don’t know how legit it is but it helps me to sleep for sure. I used to see getting enough sleep as a luxury and did not place much of a priority on it at all but now I take sleep extremely seriously. I will do/cancel/take whatever I need to do to get enough of it or I’m sunk.  When I think about it, that’s some major progress in self-care and I’m going to give myself props for it. Friends, if nothing else, make sleep a priority. Life is just too hard to do sleep deprived.
I want to end this with a rallying cry or a word of hope and optimism but that just seems disingenuous right now. I will say that I’m feeling better. There’s definite progress. I can almost feel little frissons of excitement for stuff. Not quite but almost. I’m cautiously and curiously optimistic. I am hanging in to see how things progress. Love to you all.