An analogy for you: in the same way a person whose been in a car accident might end up with a limp or some other kind of disability for the rest of their life, there are some side-effects of PTSD that remain no matter how much work I’ve done.
Or perhaps it’s that the work is still there to be done, and one day I WILL be 100% symptom-free. Or maybe I won’t. I’m not particularly attached, either way.
I seem to have three lingering PTSD-related “things” that happen from time to time. My disability*, if you will.
1. Really crappy/patchy memory: remembering names (i.e. of yoga students) is almost futile, it can take months. Remembering that I went out for dinner with friends and had a super-fun time – just days later – isn’t easy. I write everything down. EVERYTHING. Or it doesn’t happen. I have to work exceptionally hard to remember the yoga sequences I’m teaching – which requires a lot of intention and presence.
Sure, there are memory exercises a person can do. I eat and imbibe all the foods/vitamins etc that I’m supposed to. Don’t worry, I’m on it.
But I also get really confused sometimes, in a little fog of weirdness that only time can resolve.
2. Occasional sensory overwhelm: it happened again last Friday night, but the time before that was over a year ago. It seems that even in situations unrelated to my own traumatic experience, if I don’t feel comfortable in a given environment things start to get a little whacky in Svasti-land.
Last Friday, I went with my workmates to some dive of a bar for some farewell drinks. It was below street level, deep and dark… walking in there just felt wrong in the pit of my stomach. I kept asking to leave, but I couldn’t make myself explain to my friends WHY I needed to go. So they stayed, and I spouted a bunch of semi-related reasons why I didn’t want to be there. Eventually I realised they weren’t leaving and I still wasn’t happy, so I left. And woke up the next morning feeling bloody awful: the full fight-or-flight adrenal aftermath, thank you very much.
It happens so rarely that even if the people I’m with know my history, they won’t always pick up what’s going on for me.
In fact, one of my co-workers’ impression of me that night is that I was being a complete bitch. He’s all – how can you be a yoga teacher, and behave like that?
Which is when I tried to explain that no one is perfect, not even yoga teachers. But he was asking me that question from his own intense self-loathing, so he didn’t really hear me.
Anyway… here’s hoping with this one, there’s a way to reduce this reaction even more. Although the main issue is that the trigger’s so random and hard to set off that… well how do you treat such triggers, eh?
3. Under duress, I’m not always a nice person: I’m not entirely convinced this is just a PTSD-thing. I come from a family of harsh and mean people. LOTS of in-fighting on both sides. Then there’s that whole thing where I grew up as the target of an exceptionally abusive older brother. I learned to fight back. Had to.
I’m 100% certain that having experienced PTSD made this personality flaw worse. Because trauma causes the traumatised to be harsh towards themselves, and then towards others by extension.
So, when I’m really stressed out, I can be a Grade A Bitch. Harsh. Mean. Unkind words.
It’s not what I practice or teach as a yogi, but for now that’s how it is. I’m not living my practice 100% off the mat, all the time. And I don’t like it at all. Not one little bit. In fact, I feel very shitty approximately thirty seconds after I’ve unleashed a torrent of evilness. I judge myself harshly for such infractions.
But unlike both sides of my family – who all have a talent for selective ignorance around their own issues – I’m not content to remain like this.
The solution to this one is obvious, I think: more yoga. Deeper immersion in studies and practice. Plus, a change of career, out of a toxic working environment that is always rush-rush-rush and so much pressure, to something more suitable for someone like me with my autoimmune condition and my PTSD disabilities…
Luckily, these are all things I’m working towards anyway. Transitioning out of the 9-5 office world. Reinventing my career to be self-employed (not that I think working for yourself is stress-free!). Going to India.
All of these things are on the cards, and actually not too far away, either.
My intention is the same as it’s been for years: continual personal evolution. This is all we can do, really. The only true change we can invoke in the world. And I’m on it. Might take a while though…
*As a side note, if you’ve ever read the Sookie Stackhouse novels, you’ll know Sookie refers to her telepathy as her “disability”. I use the term very much in the same way – these things are both a blessing and a curse. The curse part is especially because it aint always convenient to be all special needs. But it does make life interesting…