Tag Archives: PTSD

Mental illness should not be a moral failing

28 Jul

11:24 am

So, because I’m either a cynic/pessimist, or because I’ve been around the sobriety block and tend to see deeper into things or events than the average “normie” and apply my perceptions differently as they relate to my long-term sobriety–YES, my presentation went off successfully, but I did learn a few things.  I learned that PTSD is real, the brain connections made to enable such a state are powerful, and using drugs to help yourself recover is not only not a bad thing, but a professional method toward recovery.  I learned that my real voice needed to be “let out of prison,” that some/maybe a lot of people relate success to willfulness only and not to a variety of factors (some of which, like mental illness, you are not always in control of), and of my own strong desire for approval from others.

In short, I mentioned the other day that I had been alerted about a month ago by my direct boss that I had to participate in giving a team presentation to our larger group/team at our group meeting that happened just this past week.  Upon hearing the news, and for the next month, I worried and obsessed–and prepared.  I have had a major fear of public speaking and stage fright surrounding this for about 13 years (since an incident in graduate school), and I simply HAD to deliver this time around.  I knew that if I didn’t get help, I would not be able to get up there, I would disappoint my big boss (my boss’s boss) and team yet again (I’ve had, as it goes with stage fright, major issues even introducing myself to the team at past events), and I might even jeopardize my job!

So, I freaking made it happen.  I booked an appointment with a psychiatrist, got a prescription, then used said drug at various public speaking “test” events around my ‘hood all throughout the month of July to see if it worked, and how much of it I needed to take for it to work.  Fast forward to the day of my talk–effing FINALLY–on Thursday of this past week, and WOW/HOLY EFF, I rocked it!  I got up in front of the crowd, and all of the sudden, this deep sense of calm came over me; I just stood there, folded my hands in front of my legs, and began speaking, interacting, and generally, performing at a level I never thought possible for me.  On the flight home, I came up with this as to how it made me feel:  the real me was released from my jail cell, and not only that, set free into the grass, where I danced, literally, to celebrate being free.  It was like, the real me was finally able to come out and perform–I was finally able to show my team who I was, how prepared I usually am, how committed and invested I am in this job, and how well I am doing the job, or at the very least, trying to do it.

It didn’t go unnoticed:  everyone, including my big boss, complimented me; she even took me aside and told me that not only did I do a great job, but that I had improved very much over the past three months (we last saw each other in April at another conference).  Which brings me to my first point:  how come I was now considered competent and successful, just because I was somehow (um, thanks pharmacology) able to “overcome” my stage fright and perform like a “normal” human being?  I mean, I am always competent, whether I have mental illness or not; it’s not my fault I have this type of stage fright/mental illness; and, it’s not something I can control.  BUT, having it does not preclude me from also being competent and succeeding at my job.

Another thing I realized was how much I was simply craving not just her approval, but the entire team’s.  I mean, I was SO wanting her to say, I approve of you–and she did, more or less, for the first time since I started this job. I felt SO relieved and reassured when, after complimenting me, she actually talked to me as a person (we had never had a real conversation before); and, later throughout the day, I felt somehow more or less included in the upper tier/managerial team (I am not really part of that team, but at my age and with my title and experience, I SHOULD embrace that type of role, if offered).  UGH–I mean, I cannot deny that that was exactly what I was craving, but it sort of startles me that I need approval that badly.

In any case, I am not only flying high, I am super-relieved.  Of course, there will be other conferences and meetings, and of course, I’ll have to decide if and how I will use the medication (there aren’t many side effects, but there are some; also, if I was a masochist, which I kind of am, I might want to keep attending my public speaking group events here at home to practice speaking without the medication–I don’t foresee myself EVER being able to be as calm and “competent-sounding” as I was on Thursday without that medication, but, you never know/stranger things have happened).  For now, though, I am flying high, grateful, and SO ready to put that behind me and move on.

Moving on, indeed!  In other news, we’ve decided to move back to our island!  I won’t say too much about that–it’s been a long 1.5 years here, struggling to learn, evolve, grow, and rediscover ourselves; and, we’ve both sort of found what we were looking for (for him, he doesn’t want what the mainland has to offer, and for me, I can take the parts of it that I know I want–I can work this nonprofit job remotely from there–and leave the rest, which I discovered in the past 18 months I actually don’t miss, want, or need).

Anyway, I just wanted to share the happy news that while I did succeed at my speaking event, it wasn’t without a few major personally-vexing revelations–welcome to long-term sobriety.  (oh, and of course, there was one night where I was SO burnt on the interacting with other people that I craved a glass of wine–but, no can do, folks/le effing sigh)

Not PAWS, but maybe PTSD?

16 Jan

3:16 pm

Well, you guys have got me thinking again–so, of course, I have to follow up on my last post.

Lately, I’ve been feeling burnt out by the littlest of things, the slightest pressures, the shortest to-do lists. Or, maybe the to-do lists aren’t that short, but my energy definitely does not match my ambition. I no longer seem to have the get-up-and-go that I used to when I was drinking. Or, rather, the go-go-go, and chase-chase-chase.

I think I was simply running on fumes when I was on The Wine. Like, my adrenaline was constantly up, and my immune system was running on overdrive–no wonder I could do and go and stay up and drink, and it seemed like I felt much more alive than I do now. Or, was I just wired? Actually, I was probably a nervous wreck, and my body was about to go from saying “Hello, we can’t keep you amped up like you’re escaping from a pack of hyenas much longer!” to “We quit, bitch!”.

The more I think about it, the more I don’t really buy PAWS, or, post-acute-withdrawal syndrome. The main issue I have, after having quit drinkin’, is getting used to not being fueled by the anticipation of getting drunk. I have to say, it is still a struggle for me to not feel anxious, sometimes panicky, and often sad whenever I realize (daily, still sometimes more than once a day) that I can’t get buzzed. I used wine as a motivating factor for so long (i.e., If I can get through this day, then I can have wine), as a way to combat the stress and fatiguing aspects of my life. Now that it’s not even an option, what is my go-to source of strength? What becomes my motivating factor? I mean, at this point, I don’t NEED to work full-time and/or compete and achieve in the “real world;” I sort of dread the day I have to go back to that shit. What I’ve come to understand is that while there are plenty of people who use substances to propel them on their career paths, I cannot–and don’t want–to be one of them anymore.

And, while I know about most of the physical damage I’ve caused to my body, I cringe–stricken, to an extent, as if I have a mild case of PTSD–at some of the things I’ve done and lived through while blacked out drunk. Waking up in bed with a stranger? Spending entire evenings out, with only fleeting glimpses of what I might have said or where I might have gone? Cursing out strangers (or friends, or bartenders) on every other street corner on the LES? Getting into a fight, being shoved, and breaking my arm as I crashed my shoulder onto the sidewalk? And then, passing out and having to deal with it the next day, so hung over (and in such excruciating pain) I could barely keep my eyes open as I stumbled from ER to ER, trying to find one where the line wasn’t hours long? Spending nights (on more than one occasion) in jail, alternately screaming belligerently at the cops through my blackout and curled up in the fetal position as I waited for my court papers to come through; communing for days with 20 other women over a non-working toilet, rotten cheese sandwiches and sour milk, and gymnastics mats that served as our “beds” in a 40-degree holding cell? YIKES. I could go on and on.

Moving back to [cold west coast city], pining for a romantic relationship, for friendships, for an old self–all of which had been thoroughly extinguished years earlier (and, if they hadn’t, DEFINITELY flitted out to a mass of dank coals during the ensuing 18 months that I continued living there)? Drinking entire weekends away, so that my first encounter with daylight was at 3 pm on a Sunday, when I would walk to the Safeway to get more wine? Drinking several times for entire weeks at a clip: commuting while drunk, working while drunk, passing out in my cube while drunk? Drinking to obliterate my nerves at having to go back to work the next day, not sure what my coworkers heard or saw, not sure how the shuttle driver deposited me at the train station because I had blacked out hours before leaving work and don’t remember anything of the commute home? I could go on. And on and on and on.

Post-traumatic stress disorder? Yup, I think I got it.

But you know what? I’m through it, on the other side, and I feel great! Stronger, calmer, and much more capable of taking care of myself. I obviously was taking my anger out on the wrong people, including me, but, that’s behind me now. I am onto a better–and very different–way.

And, all this is to simply illustrate that yes, these things can depress and/or overwhelm, but we get past them, forgive and forget for our own sakes, and deal with the memories of how they made us feel. Slowly, but surely. And in our own time and graces.

All in due time, I keep telling myself. All in due time…

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