I hate PTSD

This past week, I had a horrific episode of PTSD symptoms. Here’s what happened.

One morning, I had a major problem at work. My self-confidence and feelings of self worth were really put through a meat grinder.

My husband went to a doctor’s appointment that same day, right across the street from where I work. Afterward, he stopped by to see me in the lobby (there’s a little deli there), because I told him I was having a terrible morning and could use some support. He was kind enough to listen to my story about my horrible morning at work and offer some much-needed support.

After we finished that conversation, he said the doctor had given him a prescription. He had a full afternoon ahead of him and a commitment in the evening, so I offered to take his prescription in and get it filled. I was going to the drugstore anyway to pick up one of my own prescriptions, so it was no trouble at all.

We said good bye, and I went back up to my office.

I lost the prescription somewhere in between. No idea where. I only realized it when it was 5 pm and I was getting ready to leave. Couldn’t find that slip of paper anywhere. Searched my desk, dug through the trash, searched my bag. Asked the lost and found, looked in the hallways, stairwell, bathroom. Nothing.

I had a complete meltdown. Coupled with the stress I was dealing with at work, plus some other financial stressors, I lost it. I even knew it at the time, that my reaction was totally related to PTSD. But I couldn’t seem to stop it.

I felt like I let my husband down, I felt like I couldn’t be trusted with even the smallest bit of paper (I wrote about the “why” of that particular problem in my book). I felt like my boss had no faith in me (even though he had undermined me). I felt like I couldn’t trust myself and had no reason to believe anyone else could, either.

It was horrible.

It’s a few days later, and I’m still trying to recover from this episode. It’s exhausting to live this way. And no, it isn’t something we can just “let go” of. As I also wrote about in my book, trauma lives within us, is part of us, is indelible. It’s basically like saying we need to let go of our DNA. I’m still learning to live with this irrevocable damage that was done to my self, my person, my DNA. Some days, it’s pretty damn tough.

 

Someone saw through me

It’s taken me a few days to process something that happened Friday (it’s Sunday now).

I’ve written here about my recent struggles in my workplace, and on Friday I spoke with an executive coach about what’s going on. Calling her an “executive coach” seems wrong, though: she’s very accomplished and has worked in conflict mediation around the globe, even for the U.N.

Not knowing my domestic violence history, she pressed me on this point: How is it that someone as competent, skilled and professional as I am has “allowed” myself to get into a work situation where my talents and capabilities are so sorely underutilized? How did I get into a work environment that is so paternalistic and patronizing?

My heart fell. So I just told her the truth: that I’m a domestic violence survivor, and many of my decisions weren’t really my decisions. They were based on the after-effects of trauma, not on what was really good for me or right for me. I explained that over the past 18 months I have addressed the core problems through intensive trauma therapy, and in the past 12 months have come to recognize that my work situation is not ideal for me.

She understood and said that it made complete sense.

It crushed me.

Someone saw through me.

Someone saw the blatant effects of what Mark did to me. And it made it angry that so much of my life has been crowded by what he did to me: to the point where I haven’t been able to fit myself — my true SELF — into the picture.

I told the coach that I am taking charge of my decisions now, as much as I can, anyway. It’s why I made the decision to talk to her in the first place.

But I feel defeated, too. I don’t know if any of this will make sense to someone reading it. Inside me, though, the searing pain of my life’s experiences has risen to the surface and showed me, in no uncertain terms, that my life still is not mine.

It hurts. A lot.

Flashbacks in the belly

That knot. Right in the middle of my stomach. Like it’s twisting around my insides and not going to let go.

That’s one of the strongest physical sensations I have when something triggers a reaction in me related to the trauma I suffered. It’s happening a lot at work for me right now, so much so that I know I need to find a new job or figure out a way to make my own way in this world.

It happens because where I work, the two people in charge are male. That, in and of itself, isn’t a problem. But it’s a very paternalist/patriarchal setup. Neither of them wants to let go of control; hence, they are very controlling and dole out information and responsibilities in the tiniest pieces possible. They wouldn’t see themselves that way, but I do — and so do other people in the office.

That whole “man in charge” thing has really played with my mind in recent months, bringing up all sorts of painful emotions.

I need to leave. That feeling was validated today by someone completely outside of our workplace who sees things totally objectively. She asked me outright if I felt I could be happy staying there, and I told her I didn’t think I could make it work. She said I was a “smart cookie who could do better.”

So let’s see what this smart cookie can really do, shall we? I have to start by untying the knot in my stomach.

Pulling the trigger

There’s a feeling that happens when I’m facing a trauma-related flashback. My head starts to feel numb. My ears go silent. My body clenches from my teeth down to my feet.

I can’t move. I can’t think.

All I can do is feel this blankness and tension.

That’s what’s happening to me right now, in my daily life, as I face some challenges in my workplace. Triggers for the trauma and the PTSD.

I need to get out of there. Find a better work environment, or better yet, work for myself.

The flashbacks that happen when I’m treated with such a lack of respect are very real to me.

All too real.