Therapy: An ongoing series
The speediest way to recover from PTSD is on the exhaustion superhighway. It is, in fact, the loneliest highway in the world. Apologies to Nevada state highway 50. I keep talking about chronic fatigue because it permeates and affects everything I attempt to do.
Here’s the thing: If you’re as driven and bullheaded as I am, exhaustion isn’t merely a speed bump. It’s a sinkhole that began as a pothole. Water (tears) morphs potholes into energy-sucking sinkholes.
In the superhighway fast lane I run into a sinkhole. It takes a while to get out because I’m exhausted. I continue ignoring speed limits and hit an even deeper sinkhole.
I go to Google Maps and Waze apps seeking alternate routes. I hit the road but there’s fresh, new, unreported sinkholes. They’re growing. I can’t plot a way around them. Holes keep getting wider, deeper, more unpredictable. They either follow or go ahead of me. Am I ever going to get around any of these stupid sinkholes? Not yet.
How exhausted am I
This is no ordinary exhaustion. This is far worse than “I’m pregnant” tired or “I just drove cross country nonstop” tired or “I just flew back from Europe” jet lag. This is Madeline Khan tired. It reduces me to a puddle of tears. It loosens my house cleaning standards to, “It’s okay if there is a massive pile of clean clothes on my bedroom and closet floor.” It’s “I’m so tired I can’t get help because the phone weighs two tons.”
This brand of tired is riddled with bed sores and joint pain from being in bed too long.
Tales from the crib
I go to bed at 11 p.m. My alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m. I hit the snooze button at 6:30, 6:40, 6:50, 7:00, 7:10 a.m., etc. I don’t understand why I feel as if I never slept. I feel like there’s a tank on top of me. From the moment I awake, I can’t wait to go back to sleep. It’s miraculous I get through my day.
Crap. I have to make dinner too? Ugh. I eat then pass out. Thank you Rachel Ray for 30-minute meals.
Here’s the rub: I’m easily awakened. I don’t fall asleep until 2-3 a.m. I wake up exhausted despite psych meds. It’s as if I haven’t slept in two days because … I haven’t slept in two days. This nightly cycle means I exponentially accumulate exhaustion. Something inside me has awoken, and is desperate for sleep, peace and quiet.
But wait, there’s more!
Exhaustion has a ravenous appetite. Exhaustion didn’t get sleep it needed years ago. Thanks to my Boy Scout for a therapist, my body finally feels safe enough to sleep deeply.
My body has a mind of its own. It decides profoundly painful emotions buried deep must surface. They emerge as energy-sucking abreactions or body memories. I have no control over my body’s need to purge painful memories. I’m trapped inside. Escape is my body venting more body memories followed by more sleep.
“I don’t put my best foot forward as often as I’d like.
People get offended because I’m too direct. I’m direct
because I’m trying to be efficient.”
Exhaustion makes it impossible to think straight. The dominant thought: When can I go to bed? I wake up only to figure out ways to hurry up and do what I must so I can crawl back into bed. Clothes I purchase are like pajamas so I can hop back in bed.
Bills, volunteer obligations, kid responsibilities, legal challenges, med checks are much more difficult, daunting and overwhelming before taking a single step out of bed.
Even worse is the sleep stigma. Tell people a little about my PTSD struggle and get labeled/judged as “lazy” for sleeping all day. Nobody understands I can’t do anything else. Getting anything done is a major accomplishment.
Why I’m so direct, succint
The imagination is a funny beast because it makes things harder than they really are. I’m frequently frustrated. I don’t put my best foot forward as often as I’d like. People get offended because I’m too direct. I’m direct because I’m trying to be efficient. Those who don’t understand PTSD only see their own hurt or offense. Compassion is nowhere to be found.
Consequently, I beg forgiveness and explain what I meant. No one gets that sometimes my decisions are stupid because I’m tired. If I had as much sleep as they did, I might not have made that stupid decision or said that stupid thing.
I have to choose my words carefully so as not to offend with my direct language. It feels like another hassle to be so thoughtful. It takes more energy I don’t have so I continue running at an extreme exhaustion deficit.
I’m so sick and tired of being judged, emphasis on TIRED: tired of being misunderstood, tired of being sick and tired of being tired.
Yet I press on toward the prize marked for me. Zzzzzzzzzz …