Snowballing into Shame

So often, I feel like I’m doing fine and then- BAM- something happens and everything snowballs. It brings up things that I’ve already dealt with throughout the day, stuff that I felt I had conquered. But when they snowball, they just all seem to pile on and they get so big that I’m left huddled in a ball crying at what a failure I am.

Seriously.

Take today, for instance. There had been some bumps- the cat peed on the floor, I locked myself out of the house and didn’t get as much done as I had wanted because of that, but nothing catastrophic. There was the normal body image struggles, as well as a bit of a headache that I had in the morning. Again, nothing major. But getting locked out put me on edge, because I was locked out for over an hour since my husband was sleeping and had his phone on vibrate. And I was frustrated, but I was still doing okay. I had a back-up plan for the side dish for dinner, since (thankfully) the pulled pork was already in the crock pot. So I was a little stressed, but still good, until the final straw. The big, giant event that pushed me over the edge and eventually led to me huddled in a ball and crying.

Dinner wasn’t ready on time.

Completely serious. The pork was cooked, but it wasn’t cooked enough to fall apart and shred. And so I gave it another hour, but it still wasn’t ready. At this point, I was ready to come out of my skin, I was so anxious. Every detail throughout the day kept coming back to me, reminding me how much I had failed.

I hadn’t cleaned the litter box on time, so the cat peed on the floor: failure.

I left my keys in the house and got locked out: failure.

I got locked out and didn’t get to make the original side dish: failure.

I wasted time being locked out and didn’t get all the laundry and dishes done: failure.

I am overweight: failure.

I got upset at my hubby for not waking up RIGHT THEN to let me in the house, even though it was my fault for getting locked out: failure.

I was busy trying to fix my failures and didn’t eat a real dinner: failure.

And it just kept going. On and on and on, until I was reduced to an anxious ball of self-shame huddled on the bed with my arms wrapped around the comforter with tears leaking from my eyes. And I hate that I do this. That one event–a comment taken the wrong way, a plan that falls through, any little thing–can send me over the edge into pit of self-shame. Of being so trapped in the belief that I am a failure that I can’t see anything else. It colors everything I see about myself and about the world around me. It makes me believe that other people must see me this way too, and that everything I do must reflect failure.

After all, how could I possibly do something good?

And I hate feeling this way about myself. I don’t want to spend my Sunday night writing and crying while questioning every single interaction, decision, and action, trying to discern if they add up to failure.

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How I Want To Feel About Myself

This afternoon was a pretty typical day at work. I helped some kids with homework, had a few kids act up, the usual. A little bit of frustration, but nothing that I couldn’t shake off. In fact, I was contemplating the idea of bringing Rob home a cupcake that one of the other teachers had leftover, just as a little treat to brighten both of our days, when I noticed that the trash bag I had just dragged down the hall was leaking chocolate milk.

Ugh.

The kids know they aren’t supposed to put milk in the trash. They know this. We tell them this every day when they (inevitably) try and sneak the half-empty milk carton or cereal bowl into the trash can simply to avoid having to deal with the mess. But it was too late, and now I had a mess to clean up. And I was frustrated.

Super frustrated.

It didn’t take all that long to clean up, maybe an extra 5-10 minutes, but for some reason it put me over the edge (probably because it meant I was now leaving work late, sweaty, and annoyed that the kids couldn’t throw the freaking milk away (!) ), and instead of processing it and just taking it in stride, I stress ate a cupcake to make myself feel better.

Then I had this moment where I realized what I had done. And I immediately felt worse.

I just ate a cupcake because there was some milk on the floor.

How immature of an attitude towards food is that? I know what a body needs to survive. I know how different types of food are broken down by our body and processed, and how each type is beneficial in its own way. I know how to count calories, fat, fiber, and anything else that can be counted (except carbs, never got that one down). I can explain the difference between white and wheat, wheat and whole grain. But when it comes to relating to food, I am like a four year old who wants ice cream because her balloon floated away.

I don’t think I ever truly learned how to relate to food. To me, food was a safe haven. It was a distraction from the awful reality I was facing. A comfort. A band-aid. Over the years it has grown into something that neighbors, or even mirrors my feelings.  There have been times in my life when things were so awful that I just couldn’t eat. I would go days, or even weeks with eating maybe the equivalent of 1 meal a day. And even then I would have to force myself to eat. Or Rob would check to make sure that I ate. More commonly, there are times when I have to constantly remind myself that I’m not actually hungry, I just want to eat. That my anxiety or nerves are so bad that all I want is one more mouthful of comfort. And even though I know that my body doesn’t need the food, I can’t convince my emotions that that is true.

I’ve always known that I’ve had a problem with food. That my habits weren’t quite ‘right’. Maybe they will be, someday.

Maybe someday I won’t want to eat because I’m depressed about how overweight I am.

Losing Myself

I hate feeling like I’m losing myself.

I used to be able to process things and work through them, now I have to shove them aside so that I don’t burst into tears. Then I come home and burst into tears. I’m not able to remain in control like I used to. I don’t have the confidence or the surety that I once had, and I hate that I’ve lost that. I know that it’s temporary, but in a way, it’s worse to know that I had it and now it’s (temporarily) gone. I feel as though I’ve become helpless. I know I used to be worse, but I never had a ‘better’ to compare it to. I never knew what I was missing.

And now I do, so while I’m trying to hold it together and make myself work through the situation, I also feel as if the former, stronger, part of me is trying to hold on but is slipping and can’t figure out why. It’s like losing the ability to do something you could always do. I’m losing that part of me that made me feel free. And that scares me more than I can put words to. And I hate that after all the work I have put in, it’s already slipping away. That I’m already slipping away. I’m so heartbroken.

I know this can be fixed, and that in time it will be fixed, but it’s just so hard. And I’m so tired of it being hard. I knew there would be some regression, but I didn’t think it would be this drastic, that it would hurt this much.

Adjusting

Well, Robby made the switch to 3rd. He goes in for his first shift in just a few hours. Other than being tired from staying up all night Friday in order to switch his sleep schedule and being nervous for his first 3rd shift, he seems to be doing really well, which is great.

I, on the other hand, am very anxious.

I actually have been since Friday night when I went to bed by myself. I was lying there, trying to be calm while telling myself that I didn’t need Robby to sleep, and that I could take care of myself, when it hit me: The last time I told myself those things while trying to sleep alone was when I had left.

I know that this isn’t then. We aren’t sleeping apart because we are broken. We are sleeping apart because our schedules require it.

But it’s still hard.

It’s only been a few days and we are still adjusting, but it is hard. I know our relationship is in a good place. I know that I’m not running from him because the PTSD is twisting my reality. But when I was filling the bed with stuffed animals, trying to forget that he should be lying next to me, some of the old wires started to cross and I started to feel alone. I have never felt more alone than those 3 days in that hotel.

And I never want to feel that way again.

I want our relationship to stay good. I don’t want us to become roommates who never see each other. I know we are going to have to work harder than we have the last few months, but I also know that we have been through much harder things.

But I’m still scared. I know how easy it is to still into bad patterns. I know how easy it is to drift apart. To become lonely. But I have to keep telling myself that we are prepared for this. We know what to watch out for and we know how to invest in and build up our relationship. We just have to do those things, and I have to have faith that we can do this. And as long as we both stay alert and proactive, I know we can.

But maybe that’s the other thing that worries me. Robby has a very hard time with follow through. He’s much better about follow through when it comes to our relationship than when it comes to taking care of himself, but it’s still something he struggles with. So I guess that I worry that we will say that we will be diligent, but when things start to strain, his struggles with follow through will make things harder. So I guess that’s where we start. Talking about my worries.

Blake and Tessa

I started working at a childcare facility, and there is a little girl there named Tessa. The other kids have told me that Tessa has Autism, but to me she presents more like someone with severe Down’s Syndrome. She is not very aware of what is going on around her. She is maybe 9 years old, but has the mental faculties of (what I would estimate to be) a 3 year old. Tessa is a very sweet little girl, but she isn’t truly aware of what is going on in the world around her.

The other day at lunch, Tessa was sitting next to a little boy and he started shaking her by the shoulders. He had wrapped his arms around her, and was just shaking her. He was smiling, maybe even laughing, and Tessa didn’t seem too upset, but I made him stop anyways. When I tried to get him to explain why he was shaking her and apologize, he avoided my eyes and acted as though he didn’t hear me. He stopped shaking her, but he never acknowledged that he had done something wrong.

Once the kids finish lunch, they sit against the wall. When I looked over, the same little boy was sitting next to Tessa and laughing. I couldn’t tell what was going on, but I didn’t trust that boy, so I kept watching. Tessa kept leaning over to him, blocking my view of them, and I wasn’t sure if it was her not understanding personal space (which happens with Tessa) or if (I think I went cold at this thought) she was kissing him. Then Tessa leaned back and the boy laughed and pointed to another girl sitting next to Tessa, and Tessa kissed her on the cheek. I hoped that was a one time occurrence, that he wasn’t telling Tessa to kiss the girl because he’s just gotten Tessa to kiss him. But then he laughed again and tapped his cheek, at the same time gesturing toward Tessa in a ‘come here’ manner. And she kissed him on the cheek.

And he laughed.

Part of me was livid, and part of me was in complete control and knew I was going to protect that girl. I got the attention of another teacher and explained that the boy was getting Tessa to kiss him and then he was laughing about it, and she sighed (almost as if it was just another annoying thing) and went over to them. She actually told Tessa to stop. That ‘we don’t do that at school, sit over there’. To the boy, who I found out was named Blake, she said ‘if she tries to do that again, tell her no’. As if Tessa was to blame.

I told the Director not long after, and she spoke to Blake, but the situation has bothered me since it happened. At first, I thought it was simply because a boy was taking advantage of a vulnerable little girl, and it hit too close to home. After all, I was taken advantage of. Thankfully, I think we stopped everything before it escalated, but that is still not something I want to be around.

Then, I realized it was also because Tessa reminds me of my little sister Emma. Emma has some developmental brain disorders and will never be an ‘average’ adult. Right now, my parents are working with the doctors to see what mental age she will be able to reach. Right now, she is physically 6 1/2 but mentally 4 years old, and she has already started to plateau. It’s possible she will always mentally be a four year old. What if someone did that to Emma? She loves giving hugs. She loves people. To her, everyone is just a friend she hasn’t met yet. But what if someone hurt her? What if someone took advantage of her? I don’t think I ever realized before how vulnerable she is, how much protection she needs. Rob and I have said that if/when my parents pass away, we will be Emma’s advocates to make sure she gets the care she needs, and it had never felt hard before. I want to be there for Emma. We will be there for Emma, but I never truly realized how vulnerable she will always be. She won’t be able to protect herself from the evil in the world, she won’t be able to know what people should or shouldn’t be allowed to do to her. I just don’t ever want her to get hurt.

And now, and I write this, it dawned on me that the other teacher’s reaction bothers me, too. She scolded Tessa. That’s like scolding an abuse victim. It’s unfair. Tessa was being manipulated, and she got the blame. It’s way too similar to the kids blaming me when I tried to get help. I hope the teacher didn’t mean to take the side of the ‘bully’ or ‘abuser’, but that’s how it came off. It makes me very wary of that teacher.

This was one of those hard things to face, and I’m still figuring out how I feel about my third realization. It was a really hard thing to face on my second day, but I think (hope) I did the right thing. I’m still going to keep an eye on Blake, and I’m definitely going to look out for Tessa. The other teacher I will hold my judgement on until I get to know her more.

Like I said, it was a really hard thing to face.

Facing the Fears

I need to stop avoiding. I’ve been super busy lately, and I think I’ve been using it as an excuse to avoid facing my feelings. I know facing them makes life so much better (not always easier, but better), but it is just so hard.

Sometimes I am afraid of what I will see. What I will learn about myself. Because what I learn could completely throw me. To be honest, there are still some questions I have written down that I’m  not ready to ask myself, because I’m just not ready for what I might see in the answer.

But I can’t avoid everything I’m feeling. I know that not every answer is going to be so hard to face. I know that some answers will bring relief. But I have seen so many things on my journey that have torn at my soul and ripped at my heart, that it is so hard to face the questions, even if they might be easy.

But I know that if I ignore the questions and the feelings and just let them fester that they will become a void that threatens to swallow my life. And I don’t want to go through that again.

I don’t want that.

It’s strange to realize (and I didn’t realize until right now) that I am more scared of having my life taken over by the PTSD than I am of fighting it. Of facing those fears.

And for some reason that makes me feel strong.

I’ve been fighting tears all day, but now I don’t feel weak letting them fall. Because now it’s not the PTSD scaring me into crying. It’s me choosing to stand and  face the feelings that I’m afraid of instead of the PTSD chasing me down and making me Its victim.

It’s me calling the shots. It’s me taking the control.

Yes, it’s going to be hard to face these emotions, but I’m not letting them make me a victim.

Lots of Changes

Boy do we have a lot of changes coming up. And I’m just trying to figure out how I feel about them all. They’re all good changes, they’re just a lot of changes.

Rob got offered a job (yay) with a little bit of a raise (double yay), and he is really looking forward to it. I am so happy for him, but it’s 3rd shift and that’s going to take some getting used to.

So we got that news around the 23rd and then on the 29th T*** called, and they decided not to fill the position I had 2 interviews for. I called and spoke to the Director, and she was really nice about it. Basically, the board decided to do away with the position over the objections of the Director (Melissa), but Melissa hopes that they will reinstate the position in January, and she will keep me in mind.

And then yesterday, Melissa (T***) called and asked if I could fill in for one of her teachers this summer, so now I have a job too (yay). But now I’m very overwhelmed with the thought that all these changes are happening in the next few weeks (although technically Rob will be training on 1st shift, but the hours will be different than what he works now) and I’m trying to sort my head out and keep myself calm.

So I guess that I will just have to Lawyer myself, so here goes.

Fear: I’m afraid of starting a new job.

Lawyer: I know how to do this job. It’s basically what I’ve been doing all along at church (childcare and enrichment) but this time I’m going to get paid. It will be different kids and different hours, but I get to spend my time hanging around with kids. I even get to go on fieldtrips! That’s freaking awesome!!!

Fear: Adjusting to new hours

Lawyer: This isn’t the first time my schedule has changed. In college it changed all the time. Yes, it has been a while since we have gone through a big shift like this. But our relationship is stronger than it has ever been, and I know we can do this. It will take some adjusting and we will have to figure things out as we go, but having a strong relationship can only help.

Fear: Our relationship weakening due to lack of time together

Lawyer: Well, at first we will be working roughly the same hours. Laura: 6am-noon, Robby:7am-3pm so we won’t really be losing any time. Then, once Robby goes to 3rd shift, we will lose the morning hours, but we will still have the evening and weekends. Plus, with 2 incomes we should be able to actually afford to have Date Nights. Also, Melissa wants to keep me on once the lady I’m replacing comes back, and she said she would put me on slightly later hours, so maybe we could get our mornings back.

Other than that, the only things I’m slightly worried about are within my control. I can buy clothes so that I stay cool and ask for help when I have questions. We are already going shopping on Friday for new work clothes for Robby, so I can get some things for me as well so I feel prepared for my new job.

Lawyering myself really does help. I would highly suggest it to anyone who is struggling with anxiety.

But At Least

The idea for the post It Must Be Nice had been bouncing around in my head for a while now.  Rob and I have so many student loans, and with me having been unable to work because of my PTSD, we have really been struggling financially. Now my insurance is changing because I am turning 26 and we have to pay for it out-of-pocket.  between all of that, we are starting to drown under bills. Today we got the ER bill for when Rob was going through his migraines (I can’t remember if I wrote about that or not) and it is $913.92 and that really shook me up. So I wrote It Must Be Nice.

But I have so much. So I am writing this post as a celebration of the good things in my life.

 

It must be nice to not always have to worry about money.

But at least we are lucky enough to have work that pays

To not have to budget every single penny.

and we have enough pennies, even if it’s a struggle.

To not have to put back items in your grocery cart because you can’t afford them.

But at least we never go hungry

To not have to put off buying things you really need, or replacing things that really need replaced, simply because you can’t afford it.

and if we are really in need, we have family we can turn to for help.

To not have to underplay how desperate your money situation has gotten.

But at least we have enough.

To be able to be the one who pays when you go out to lunch with your friend.

But at least I have loving friends who understand and are willing to treat

To  be able to give the gifts you want to give to the people you love the most.

and appreciate the creative handmade gifts we give, and know that we love them with all our hearts.

To have the funds to donate to the causes that pull at your heart.

And at least we can donate our time to those causes

To have the money to help others.

and money will never stop us from helping others.

 

It Must Be Nice

It must be nice to not always have to worry about money.

To not have to budget every single penny.

To not have to put back items in your grocery cart because you can’t afford them.

To not have to put off buying things you really need, or replacing things that really need replaced, simply because you can’t afford it.

To not have to underplay how desperate your money situation has gotten.

 

 

To be able to be the one who pays when you go out to lunch with your friend.

To  be able to give the gifts you want to give to the people you love the most.

To have the funds to donate to the causes that pull at your heart.

To have the money to help others.

 

Thinking about Work

One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is work. I left my last job in October of 2011 because my PTSD had gotten so severe (now that I think of it, I think I was in a ‘self-neglect’ phase) that I was almost suicidal.

My job had started off really well. I was a bookseller at Half-Price Books and I was really loving it for the first few months. For the first time I had a full time job that I was enjoying and I was even making friends. My boss really seemed to like me and she and the other managers had been giving me good reviews. I was highly optimistic about my future there.

I’m not exactly sure what went wrong or when. We were dealing with a ton during that time. Rob had just been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and we were adjusting to the new life that comes with that diagnosis. In addition to having to learn to manage the bi-polar, Rob was also taking full-time classes AND working full time. I was trying to help Rob as best as I could adjust and was helping him with his classes to lighten his load. With both of us working full time we hardly ever saw each other, especially because we often ended up working opposite shifts or having different days off. Also, we moved in July and in August my parents said they couldn’t take care of my dog anymore so he needed to come live with us, but a few days after him getting here the apartment people told us he wasn’t allowed so I had to make hurried arrangements to move him back to my parents house and pay for them to care for him. Oh, and also sometime during all that we had to battle fleas.

So I slowly started slipping into my ‘self-neglect’ phase, but I was trying so hard to fight it. I started seeing Sheila every week and that seemed to help for a while, but I guess not enough. My boss-Ginny- started treating me oddly. She switched my schedule, along with a few other workers, around to shifts that she knew we didn’t want. She stopped talking to me in the break room. Anytime I spoke to her she was curt and seemed irritated with me. I had no idea what was going on. I tried to give her space and just do my work. Then she started criticizing everything I did. When a customer was rude she scolded me for not being a better employee, even when the same customer had given several other employees problems just moments before. Things like that just kept happening. And I had no idea why.

I asked some of my co-workers who I was (am) friends with, and they said that Ginny just did that sometimes. She just seemed to go through stages where she tried to get rid of people and to just hang in there, she would stop eventually. That it had happened to them.

But it hurt, I felt like I was being singled out for no reason. I felt bullied. One day she called me into her office and said that my attendance had been poor and if I called in again I would be put on probation (oh, I forgot to mention that during this time my migraines were changing and I was being heavily monitored by my doctor, and my grandmother had been suddenly admitted to the hospital for heart failure and was not expected to make it through the night so I rushed to see her. Surprisingly she is still alive today.) I really think that conversation was the final straw for me. I went on my lunch break and cried hysterically in my car for the entire hour. I felt awful. I knew that my attendance wasn’t exemplary and I needed to do better, but the PTSD immediately made me feel trapped. I just wanted to do my job, but every second was a struggle.

I fought through the next week, minute to minute, crying most of the day even while working. Trying desperately to hide it from my co-workers and the customers. Trying desperately to shove my feelings down. But they just got worse. Every day I walked into the store I felt more like a caged animal, starting to go insane, wanting to scream and tear at the bars. One night I talked to Rob and told him how bad it had gotten. I had been keeping a lot from him, especially about Ginny’s treatment of me, because I didn’t want to say it out loud. I didn’t want to admit how bad it was. But I couldn’t handle it anymore. So I told him I needed to quit. I didn’t want to, but I needed to. I finally got my courage up to tell Rob how broken I was and that I had let it get too bad. So bad that I needed to leave my job. That I was sorry, that I wanted to fix it, but I felt the only course of action was to quit and regroup.

He listened to me. He asked if he could do anything to help. He was supportive but I could tell he was antsy about me quitting. Later that night I came downstairs to see him crying. It felt like I had been stabbed. I felt like I had let him down. I knew that I had made a mistake. I knew I shouldn’t have let things get as bad as they had, that I should have said something sooner, but it was too late and I had to deal with things as they were. And I knew he was worried about money. But I couldn’t go back. But I couldn’t hurt him either.

I hugged him and told him I was sorry. That I would make it work. To forget what I had said. And I tried to bury it. To push it down.

And the next day I went to work.

I cried most of the day in the back room while working with the stock. I had to take a Lorazepam just to walk into the store, then another one at lunch. I think I took another 1 or maybe 2 during the day too. I know it was a ridiculous amount of medicine. And I was still on the verge of a panic attack the entire day.

After work I dropped something off to Rob at his work and I mentioned to him again that I needed to quit my job. I told him my day was awful and I couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t remember what he said but the gist was that we couldn’t swing it. I nodded and as I started to drive away I burst into tears. When I got home I took off my work clothes and threw them on the floor by the door. I wanted to be as far from my job as possible. In my underwear, I went upstairs and crawled into bed where I sobbed, literally sobbed, until I got a text. And then another.

They were from Sheila and my mom. I guess Rob had seen my face as I drove away, because he immediately got in touch with them, letting them know he was worried about me and that they should contact me. It was good he did. I wasn’t planning anything, but I felt so trapped. I didn’t feel as if I had a way out of my life. I texted with Sheila and talked to my mom, and when Rob got home we decided that quitting Half-Price was the right thing. I called the next morning and quit. My mom came up and returned my name badge so I didn’t have to go to the store, and I spent the day crying and trying to pull myself together.

That was my last job. I had thought that it would be impossible to keep a job with the PTSD, that eventually they would all make me feel trapped. But now I have the possibility of a future without PTSD. I could have a job. But I’m still scared. I know that some (most?) of that is residual from Half-Price.

Sheila and Lori have suggested taking the job thing in little steps. One step that I thought of is to make a list of things that I want from a job. Here is what I have so far.

My Job Should

  1. have a greater purpose than money
  2. not fill more time than my time with Robby
  3. still allow me to go to church

Basically, I want a job that means something. I don’t want a job just to have a job. I’ve worked at Kroger and Walmart just to earn money and it didn’t work out. I want to go to work each day and feel that what I do is important and makes a positive impact on the world. I would love to teach somewhere.

The second requirement is harder to explain. I don’t mind working. Rob already works 40hrs a week, so I don’t see him then anyways. I just don’t want to work opposite hours of him all the time because then we would never see each other and our relationship would suffer. Ideally, I would only work 1-2 shifts opposite him.

Finally, I want to be able to attend church. If not every week, then at least most weeks. Church is very important to me and I love not only going, but teaching there as well. I don’t want to lose that from my life. I think it is something I really need.

I don’t think my list should be too hard to fulfil, and I hope that it helps me find the right job. Because I do want to work. I just want to find the right work.