I hope you are all well :)
Sometimes I wonder whether I am oversharing in this newsletter, sometimes I worry my words are too terribly vulnerable. And then there are times like today, in which I am writing in real-time -- where I am possibly both oversharing and being too vulnerable but the writing was the catharsis I needed at this moment and what gave me a vista in which I could slip out of my own turmoil.
Content warning: PTSD
In September I completed my allocated 2.5hrs of free NHS CBT. Which, for one, is an absolute joke of an allowance — how anyone is supposed to achieve anything notable in the time it takes me to wash, blow-dry and straighten my hair I’ll never know. But I digress.
The goal I was aiming to achieve by the end of the sessions was to ‘be happy’ — a goal I chose because the therapist insisted on sticking by the book, in moulding my case to fit within the confines of a prescribed set of responses she had already rehearsed. Because there had to be a goal, it seemed, not because I believe happiness to be a utopia one can actually arrive at. But because ‘to be happy’ seemed the most abstract prerogative I could give and therefore get away with less accountability. Such was the morose thought-process of a depressed person, anyway.
But I’m going along with it all because I believe in giving things a go — I believe in trying when you’re all out of other choices. And I’m not trying to knock CBT, I know it helps so many people — it’s just when you’ve had a lot of therapy like I have, it isn’t going to scrape the sides.
Miraculously though, after the 4th session I am feeling much better. I am now moderately depressed and moderately anxious rather than severely depressed and severely anxious. (I promise I'm being caustic in jest.) She tells me I deserve a gold star for my efforts and my temples throb as I recall there be nothing more oppressive than infantilisation. And yet the thought lodges in my throat and I find myself laughing and lapping up the praise like a good little girl.
It’s all going well. I’m near the end. And then in a near final breath, the therapist decides to give me a diagnosis of PTSD and then waves me off, poof! Gone! Have a nice life! Discharged!
PTSD. I cup it in my hands — pass it from one palm to the another. I don’t dare feel its full weight, least not without anyone else’s supervision. To make sure it doesn’t leap out from my fingers and colour me whole.
Because what am I supposed to do with that information. PTSD.
I wish I could tell you how it started. How one thing led to another. If one thing in particular came to define how I would feel 12 months later. But I can only tell you how it has ended: me, afraid of the month of December.
I think that is what I tried but failed to say a few newsletters ago.
I have spent the better part of the last week, in bed, with the great Bad cold of 2021 and well, it’s easy to lose your mind when you don’t feel within your body to begin with. I have been rendered surprised at how much a snotty nose and gruff voice can make a person so foggy in the head. My body — with its surprises and fragility will never not seem to shock me — to trigger a response so obviously entwined with the years I suffered a disease which preyed upon control. And so here I am: so in-extraordinarily out of control. A breeding ground for another great spiral.
Because that’s what last December was. A big old washing machine of chaos and demons and rejections. Amidst it all, I met a man, who, passed through my life at such lightening speed, I questioned whether he was a dream. Only, the destruction left behind is what told me he was real. I feel that way about last December as a whole. The destruction left a whole clean up job behind.
Approaching the season this time around, I vowed to do it all differently. To not walk the same paths and stir psycho-geographical tremors.
The difference between two people experiencing the same event but only one of them experiencing symptoms of PTSD afterward comes in the way of how our memories are stored. We have episodic memories *“which are linked to a subject’s first-person, emotional, embodied point of view” and non-episodic memories “which are more factual and detached from one’s subjective experience”. The goal in treating trauma and PTSD is for episodic memories to become non-episodic.
(*From a really great related article about 'How to Remember a Disaster Without Being Shattered by It.')
It makes sense. And I for one, do not want to put myself back in the places (physically or mentally) of last year — whether they are episodic or not.
But it turns out, a month that is built upon traditions and rituals and reunions will make that a harder quest than one could plan for. By chance I seem to have found myself reading the same authors, sobbing in the same hospital departments and harbouring a fear that it will all end in tears again. It largely already has.
I wrote a new moon list this last weekend. On it, I stated old patterns do not have to die hard.
But today I received some bad news and it’s hard not to feel as if I am going round in circles, that patterns are not merely dying hard but living and breathing ferociously. That looking after myself to the extent I try to is a big fat waste of time when there’s a betrayal around every corner.
But there is one thing I’m taking from this — one thing I’ve found progress within. And that is my courage to rip the band aid off sooner rather than later. To bolt shut the gates of the breeding ground for another great spiral. To just DEAL.WITH.MY.SHIT. To ask for help. To not bury, bury bury. To stare at what is scary in the face and walk in the direction of recovery. I have worked too hard on myself this year to fall at this hurdle now — and that is what will guide me through this month -- and the following months of clean up.
If you too, for your own reasons, are going to find the holiday season hard this year or you find them hard every year, I am sending you a giant hug and the reminder that you have overcome before and you will do it again. X
As always, I love to hear from you. If you liked today’s newsletter, want to carry on the conversation or have any thoughts or feedback at all, do hit reply. Thanks for reading x