Once a week I take my shoes off, sit on a couch with my legs criss-crossed and hug a pillow as I bare my soul to my therapist. I do a combination of talk therapy, EMDR, and breath therapy. Some days it’s really hard and I get so stressed out making the drive to my therapist’s office. But I go. And I keep going, because even taking baby steps makes me better.
I have PTSD caused by childhood abuse and trauma. The crazy thing about this type of trauma is that you often don’t know you have it. Your brain has gotten crazy good over the years at protecting you from memories and certain thoughts that you just figure out how to cope with things. At least you think your coping, but you’re really hiding from the thing that traumatized you.
Right now I take four different medications to manage my anxiety, six pills in the morning and two at night. I have to have a system set up on my bathroom counter so I remember to take the right meds at the right time.
Without my medication, my skin feels like there are a million ants crawling all over it. This makes me emotionally sensitive to just about everything. Everything gets on my nerves because they are already hyper stimulated. My thoughts echo in my head or they loop around like crazy. For example, my thought process might be on any given day: remember to tell Steve about the thing. You need to tell Steve about the thing. Don’t forget to tell Steve about the thing. And on and on until I tell Steve about the thing. It’s exhausting.
I first discovered that I had anxiety five years ago when I had to have a psychiatric exam as part of the ordination process. My anxiety scaled off the chart and I needed to get help. That was five years ago and I’ve been on a healing journey ever since.
Living with anxiety has cost me. I was discontinued from the ordination process because it triggered my PTSD and re-traumatized me. I lost the idyllic childhood that I thought I had. My relationships with my extended family and my friends have gotten strained as I tried to fit these newly surfaced traumatic memories in with the existing ones. I’ve also had to cope with serious trust issues, in that I barely trust anyone these days. I can’t exercise because I have an overwhelming feeling that someone is watching me – even if I’m in the house alone. It’s very difficult to talk to strangers because I’m overly concerned with what I’m going to say. It’s difficult to make new friends because I’m so guarded about my personal life.
Some days in therapy I think I’m never going to get better.
But there are other days now, days where I don’t feel hopeless. I make progress. Maybe not every week, but definitely every month.
I’ve felt that part of my ministry calling is to get healthy emotionally. I also feel that God is with me every step of my journey, and that no one wants me to get better more than God does. And so I put one foot in front of the other and continue along this path toward healing.
There is power in this process. I have a voice and I’m recovering it. I know how to say no, and yes and so many other words in between to express how I’m feeling. I don’t take things so personally. I can love my kids and my husband better because I don’t have to live up to a crazy false standard of a mythic “perfect” individual. I am making peace with my flaws.
Kym Whiteside, blog about crafts and life at Blabberjackblue.com