When trying really hard doesn't seem to be enough - I'm not sure what went wrong
For the last while Iíve been feeling like Iím running on empty. I manage to go to work and do essential things but that's all. When Iím alone, all I seem to do is cry and Iím barely sleeping. It feels like life continues to happen all around me but Iím no longer an active participant. Iíve also gone from being a very active participant on Pandys to someone who can barely read or string a sentence of support together. I havenít even been able to reply to threads Iíve started myself previously or reply to all my PMís. I donít know what has happened to me. I feel weak and pathetic and useless, like any strength or resilience that I had, or pretended to have, has just evaporated.
What went wrong? I donít know. I was facing some difficult memories and flashbacks and pushing myself to share more in therapy but Iíd been doing that for a while and managing okay. I was finally connecting with my emotions and tears and dealing with PTSD flares and triggers that arose as a result Ė was that it Ė combined with the trauma anniversary? I donít know. It was exhausting trying to stay functional amidst the craziness but I was tolerating it and putting one foot on front of the other or so I kept telling myself. Then it seemed like I just began to lose my footing and everything just got too much.
What if determination and stubbornness only get you so far? What if trying really hard isnít enough? Have I burned myself out in my desire to move forward and heal? Did I push myself too hard until there was nothing left? Iíve ignored the pain,the sadness and the fear, pushed myself through a lot of my life. Now itís like Iíve lost my ability to do that or something.
My work can be stressful sometimes but Iíve always loved it. Maybe all my energy is going into not messing up at work while things are so rocky outside of work. I work with people who have head and neck cancer. It's heartbreaking witnessing what they go through after surgery and through further treatment and sometimes it makes me wonder what I really have to complain about or worry about given what my patients are going through.
I feel guilty for struggling when others are going through much worse. I also wonder if Iíve been managing to cope well with other peopleís distress and pain and support them by dissociating from my own emotions. Maybe itís the ability to dissociate from distress, both my own and other peopleís, that Iíve lost. I realise too that my own sense of identity is so tied up with being seen as useful and of worth to others that if Iím not able to do that, Iím not sure whatís left.
I went into my most recent therapy session and put on the act of my life to let her think I was turning a corner with this. She was due to go on holidays for 3 weeks and I wanted to end the session without her being worried about me. She saw through my act though. She knows me too well now not to see through it. Iím not sure if anyone has ever really understood why I act the way I do sometimes before now.
T says I need to stop trying to mind her. She says she can mind herself and I don't need to protect her by holding back the uglier memories or pretending I'm okay when I'm not. She says Iíve been minding people my whole life, even before what happened. Is she right? I do realise I tend to put a positive spin on whatever is going on for me even in T. I keep the really bad stuff to myself while sharing other stuff. I think I just want to be seen as someone who is always able to cope, someone who is strong and competent and good, and I prefer to support rather than be supported. But why do I do this? Am I so used to hiding how bad things really get sometimes that I automatically try to protect others in whatever way I can from the mess and chaos that is me.
In a way, I think my ways of coping are acceptable to most people around me. The ways I punish myself and push myself seem to often be mistaken as drive/determination/resilience. They are not obviously damaging ways of coping I suppose and have made life easier for my family.
T says itís time to mind myself now, do whatever I need to get through this process, go easier on myself, comfort the hurt 14-year-old and 30-year-old within me. She asked me why am I always trying to prove that Iím good enough. She says I have unrealistic expectations of myself and if I donít find a way to be easier on myself, I will always feel disappointed in myself.
With the recent collapse of sorts and my struggle to keep functioning the way I have before, Iím beginning to open up to the possibility that my way of thinking may be severely misguided. My ways of coping or appearing to cope are strongly linked with my desire to be seen as someone who is strong and can cope Ė at whatever cost. When I tried to go easier on myself as T and people here often suggest, the result was not coping the way I'm seeing it. T says I push myself to do everything and I seem to constantly try to ignore my limitations/tolerance for distress in my desire to heal and be seen as strong. When I tried to recognise my limitations though, my resilience seemed to evaporate. Am I trying to live up to other peopleís expectations or is it my own unrealistic expectations as she says? - Iím really not sure anymore. I think pushing beyond my limits was a vital part of what kept me quite functional at least at surface level for a very long time.
I think back on what led me to stop running away from the past and make a real attempt to heal Ė I wanted to become a normal person who doesnít carry unnecessary baggage into every relationship and hurt those who care by pushing them away. I realise now that Iíve spent my whole life since 14 years old pretending to be someone Iím not, pretending that I can cope with anything, that I can pick myself up, dust myself off and pretend to go on as normal. Who was I fooling? Only myself perhaps Iím beginning to realise. The truth is I am a mess who has done everything possible to pretend Iím not.
In Jan 2010, with my fianceís encouragement, I began therapy. We were due to get married that May despite the affect my past trauma had had on our relationship. I never thought I could become pregnant due to the damage sustained during the trauma but against all odds, the unexpected happened. We decided to postpone our wedding until after our child was born. I was so happy. As the pregnancy progressed, I felt like I had a purpose in therapy so that I could be a better parent. I learned coping and grounding skills and began to talk about some trauma memories but the main focus was on PTSD symptom management. By the time I was due to give birth I was managing to cope with PTSD well. I never dreamed my life could be so good and that the future could seem so bright.
for infant loss
I realise now that after we lost her, I acted almost exactly like I did after what happened when I was 14. I realise that something is very wrong with the way I relate to other people during times when I'm trying to deal with my own grief and distress. I try to keep everything to myself and pretend Iím okay and coping. After he left, I felt like I had lost everything and started to unravel. That eventually lead me back to therapy. Iíve fought hard to get my life back together but I think somewhere in all that fighting, I lost sight of the fact that I canít simply avoid grieving. I think thatís whatís been happening this last while, Iíve been sad and Iíve been grieving and Iíve been facing up to my emotions, probably for the first time as an adult.
Itís two more weeks until T is back. I think Iíve realised whatís actually been going on for me this past while in writing this. Iím glad that I could be more honest with myself here - Iíve become far too good at hiding things from myself that seem too hard to deal with.