I have come a long way in the past three years, just about, since I walked off the Terrible Job. At that time I was a shadow of myself. Clinical depression, anxiety, incredible work-related stress from a toxic job environment, PTSD, unresolved grief issues…. all that and more! left me in a very fragile condition. The moment I walked out that door was the first moment of real self-care that I had ever attempted in my life. And that is what I have been doing ever since.
Lately, I have been able to exercise a certain amount of detachment when it comes to what is going on with symptoms of my mental and emotional illnesses.
For example, this past week I learned that other people had been invited to events that I might have expected we would also be invited to. However, we were not invited. Both times it bothered me but for different reasons. And one of the “slights” hurt a whole lot more than the other one, even though that one was not actually personal in nature and was completely understandable.
That’s how triggers work. Crap from the past that was stuffed way, way down gets unexpectedly dredged up, and the emotions are just as painful now, even out of context, as they might have been back in the day. If only there had been a safe way to express them at the time of the original hurt. But there wasn’t a safe way or even a known way to express the emotions. So someone like me will place them into something like suspended animation forever and just carry them around for years and years without realizing that those emotions are just biding their time. In an unguarded moment, they come back to life and once again you have to decide what to do with them.
Decisions about emotions sounds strange. But that is what I did subconsciously in the past and that is what I must now do deliberately in the present. In the past I had to stuff things down because I was overwhelmed and because I was mainly on my own to figure out these things in the trenches. It was a way to go. I don’t have to stuff things down now. I have space to work in and I even have some skills. These skills are very new but they are there.
This detachment that I am able to feel these days is a very useful skill for now. It allowed me to sit with some very, very uncomfortable feelings for a couple of days. Then I felt able to look at the situation and see other possible scenarios to explain why we were left out. I acknowledged that maybe we were actually left out because nothing had actually been planned ahead of time. Other personalities were thrown into the mix and nothing could be done about it at the last minute.
Once I got that far, I was able to talk about what happened. That was not very satisfying but it was another chance to organize my ideas about being left out.
A day or two after that, I wrote out what happened and how it made me feel. That was hard because I still want to judge myself. There is still that voice which wants to tell me, you are not worthy of being included therefore you are foolish to be hurt when you’re not included. Not a good or accurate message at all but that voice is so persistant!!!
After I wrote it all out, I felt quite a bit better the next day. A couple days later we got an unexpected invitation from the same source and there it was: the physical, visible, undeniable proof that my voice is a liar. We are worthy, we are loved, we mean something, we matter.
What an awful lot of hard work it is to heal and grow in spite of the burden of mental and emotional illness. This is why it is a priority for me. It is very hard work and I do not have the stamina to do this while also working and being out there in the world at the level I used to be able to be.
As frustrating as it is to be working on the triggers, I am seeing progress. I used to just get lost in my stronger emotions. Now I am seeing a fairly clear way through them, which gives me reason to hope.