Like most who work from home during this pandemic, but are used to the bustle of an office and the social life that comes with it, I’ve spent much of the last year inside my own head. Of course, I’m always a bit in my own head, but I’m pretty sure that’s the nature of PTSD related anxiety + depression. Anyway, I grew up in a loud family full of demanding and highly emotionally volatile young people, and there wasn’t a lot of room for me to think my own thoughts unless I truly carved out the time to do it. Even then they didn’t feel like my thoughts.
There was a self I couldn’t access yet, a dissonance of identity between what I was allowed to be and who I am.
I won’t get into the web of internal chaos that goes with being raised to believe an omnipotent, omniscient all-powerful being knows every single thought you have. Suffice it to say I never really felt “alone” as a young person, though I did feel lonely. There was a self I couldn’t access yet, a dissonance of identity between what I was allowed to be and who I am. Looking back with a better understanding of PTSD, this feeling makes a lot of sense given that I grew up in an environment full of imposed thought-control. Juxtapose that against being alone much of the time nowadays, while my spouse, an essential worker, is out in the world at least fifty hours per week. It’s certainly a cognitivitely dissonant contrast.
That’s just the backdrop for the thought I’m trying to get down. It is and has been difficult for me to learn how to listen to myself. I was taught as a child that my “self” was Bad, and Sinful, and I should shove my feelings away and think like a theologian for God’s sake (literally). Naturally as a young adult this swung the other way when I “got out” (as I call it) - for a time I threw away most reason and did whatever I felt like doing in the moment. I’ve clung to that for a long time, trying to make my feelings the priority in decision making. But I’m not sure that’s functional, either. I can’t completely ignore my feelings (they spill out anyway) and totally relying on them like an instinct doesn’t work. So I’m looking for that middle ground.
In any new mental, physical, or emotional discipline, practice is required for us to create new patterns, especially as adults.
As thrilling as living by feelings in the right moment can be, lately I’ve been practicing putting away useless feelings. It doesn’t always work, and I’m still learning how to do it. In any new mental, physical, or emotional discipline, practice is required for us to create new patterns, especially as adults. I say this because I need to know it, because I need to remember that I am working to dismantle the old patterns in my life that are toxic to my health and my recovery with PTSD. And that’s the thought: I’m learning to practice, a little at a time, throwing away emotions and obssessive thoughts that are linked to my trauma, and face today as it is, and not through the lens of the trauma. It’s not easy, some days are worse than others, but ultimately I feel as if I’m beginning to shed an old, toxic habit. And that feels capital G Good.