It has happened again, for the fourth time now, in the last 2.5 years.
I’ve found myself in a precarious and highly stressful work situation involving my union and my corporate office. Based on textbook definitions of PTSD, the company created a situation that triggered me, causing weeks of behavior that I was unaware I was even exhibiting because my trauma response is avoidance. I was disengaged and disconnected. Then they came in and attempted to discipline me for behavior I did not willingly participate in.
Being punished for something I had no control over, that I didn’t even realize I was doing was very re-traumatizing and led to continued behavior that has escalated the situation, not resolved it.
Now my company will only accept documentation from my therapists as a valid explanation for my actions. I feel forced to label myself as ill, and I feel trapped and alert, anxious and extremely angry.
Thank goodness I have two therapists that are excellent at bringing me back to reality when I am in such heightened panic, and boy did they both have their work cut out for them this week.
So, how do I make this stop? The million dollar question.
I’ve been here before.
Different details, conceptually similar situations.
Always the same outcome.
I wonder, if it weren’t for therapy if I would even be aware enough to recognize the behavioral patterns. I’ll tell you what, I sure understand now how I am being triggered and why I am responding the way I am. I just can’t believe at my age and with my experience, that I can’t see this coming and correct my behavior beforehand.
To the outside world, I am sure most people would judge me, and that makes sense, they only understand my actions at face value. I think that is what causes some of my biggest and most uncontrollable emotions; I have an invisible illness, and so my symptoms are only familiar to those who understand through education and career, and those of us who live it daily. To the rest of the world, I look like I can’t control myself.
I really struggle with this.
There is a weight that I feel, a shame at my own behavior despite understanding my illness. It all taps into the core of my issues as a childhood sexual abuse survivor. I want to be valued, and I want to be able to trust the people I associate with.
When either of those two issues are challenged in the slightest – I am learning that I repeat a pattern of negative behavior and now as I realize this, I feel even more helpless than before.
I’m not learning – I am still repeating.
With nearly 2 years of therapy and what I believe is progress in my healing, I still revert to a trauma driven mental state in certain situations. If this isn’t a testament to how serious an illness PTSD is or how difficult and long-term the recovery process can be, I am not sure what is.
I take some solace in the facts, as I read The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma that there are actual physiological changes to my brain; a re-wiring of the alarms systems which directly affect my behavior. It is quite common among trauma survivors to repeat behaviors that cause negative outcomes due to our hyper vigilance to threats, and an inability to filter relevant from irrelevant information in a situation that is triggering trauma related emotions and sensations.
It is hard to look back on how I acted during a traumatic episode. I keep replaying it over and over in my head, wishing I had been able to control myself more. The shame is real. It sucks.
Add to that the realization that I keep doing it again and again, doesn’t help me with feelings of “I’ve got this” because clearly I don’t.
I wish I could move past my trauma; you know, face it, feel it, heal from it, put it behind me – but I guess it just isn’t that easy. I have to make adjustments to how I live my life. I have to incorporate a very heavy emotional weight into my daily living and learn how to maneuver around it because unfortunately it isn’t going anywhere.
I don’t want the most painful parts of my life to be the only thing I feel connected to, and I sure don’t want it to be the driving force behind the decisions I make or the actions I take in my life.
I want to be in control of it, not the other way around.
Right now though – I don’t feel like I am in the drivers seat.
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