Monday, February 20, 2017

PTSD and the swings

I'm up and down quite a bit.

Some days I feel great.  By great, I mean normal.  You wake up, handle the normal disappointments and joys of everyday life, eat your vegetables, tickle your kids, say your prayers and hug those you love.  I feel balanced.

Other days not so much.  I wake up off-kilter.  Showering pisses me off, breakfast annoys me, brushing teeth takes a toll on me, and putting clothes on feels like a chore, and don't even ask how I feel about prayer and reading the Bible -- and all of that is before 8am.  The day just feels lost.  I'm often tempted to just pack it in, cancel everything, lay in bed, and try to relax.  Sometimes that's exactly what I do.  Other times I fight through the malaise.

I'm finding that all of this is ok.  I feel what I feel and that is just fine.  Feelings are not good or bad, they just are.  They are reactions to some sort of stimuli, and they are the very things that help give our lives beauty and majesty and grief and suspense.

I mean, imagine watching a movie with literally zero emotion.  Talk about a bore-fest.

These ups and downs are pretty common to anyone with PTSD.  They are just a part of the process.  You can fight it, and twist yourself into flinging better.  You can tough it out, rub some dirt on it, get up and get on with your day if you like.  I've tried it, believe me.  It led me to explosions of rage at ridiculously random moments.  It led me to irritability, loneliness, and perpetual anxiety and hyper-vigilence.  I was never able to react because I was always ready to fight -- both my disorder and anyone who would mess with me.

This morning I feel great.  I know tomorrow I may not.  That is just fine.  Life will come, and I will process.  I will trust, and I will hope.  Fighting it will help no-one.

But putting down my boxing gloves to my PTSD, and opening my arms for an embrace will help.  I'm learning to feel safe in my wife's arms.  I'm learning to open myself up and be vulnerable again.  I'm learning to calm down, open my eyes to the safety around me, and laying down the sword I use to slash up my insides when things feel off-kilter.  Embrace must be my first step.  Both an inner embrace of myself -- "I'm ok, I'm safe, I'm loved, I'm a good man, I am capable of love and hope and..." -- and an outer embrace of others.

God's tender pursuit of me has led me to both of those places.  His embrace gives shape to my inner embrace, and his presence gives shape to my openness to embrace the world.

This moved me tears this morning.  I wonder if, even thought you may not have PTSD, if you could relate to this?  I wonder if you can relate to the brokenness within?  To pain and hurt?

Lightning struck,
Hit, destroyed,
Blackened, to nothingness,
Nerves, receptors, neurons,
The cells, the transmitters, the receptors
Of feelings, of life,
So that a part of me, parts
Died, were left
Blackened, ashes.

And now, quietly, softly, gently,
Persisting, steady, continuous,
Quietly, I perceive you working,
Sometimes, quietly I come upon you, working
Slowly, steady, steadily
At the things inside,
At the darkness, death, black
Destruction wrought inside
When the fire coursed, through my innards,
When the darkness passed through my veins.
So there he is, quietly, persistently, inside
Fixing the tendrils, receptors, neurons,
Nerve endings, connecting life, cells, again,
Tending and attaching receptors,
Countering gentling tending
Remaking the path of life coursing
That had once been destroyed.
Sometimes, rounding a corner, I come upon him
Quietly working,
And he is always, steadily, there.
Quietly, reconnecting.

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