Friday, September 10, 2010

The Diagnosis is in...

Disclaimer: I cannot organize my thoughts to save my life right now. And I don't give a crud. So if you're reading, you're getting it raw and real. I'm not apologizing for nothin. Dig in!

Over the past few months I've been blogging very minimally, at best. I have no excuses. I was here, I had internet connection, I had some time. But nothing ever got through to "PUBLISH". On the flip side, I've been thinking a lot of blogs. In a way, I wished I'd actually written some of them so I could look back someday and see how far I've come. Sort of like a bookmark placed in the reference section of my mental library.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before how much I do not like to whine about myself. Oh, I'll do it all day if it's funny, or to poke fun at myself, but lately it hasn't been too funny. Also, I do not like to feel needy or vulnerable or weak. But the truth is, I am. I have gone from the extremes of feeling like I'm literally hanging on to life by a thread, to feeling so completely overwhelmed with joy that I can barely contain it. It's a strange, strange place to be.

I thank God for my family and friends. I thank Him for the blessing of fellowship with others, which has quite honestly been one of the few things to keep my feet on the ground this year. It's like medicine for the hurting heart. Only recently have I realized just how badly my heart has been injured, and it's not going to be easy to fix it, but it's the season to get 'er done. God has provided me a blank spot in my life schedule for a reason, I believe and I'm not gonna blow it.

I mentioned in a previous post that Mr Nice Guy and I are in counseling. I still say it's one of the best gifts we've ever given each other. During the "discovery" phase of our sessions, it came to light just how much trouble I've been having with anxiety. I know it's been an ongoing problem, it's just not been quite as bad before, for as long of a period of time. I guess you could say it's escalated to the point of being downright scary.

Our counselor asked me to come in for some sessions that were just the two of us, to talk through some of those things that I may not have been able to verbalize with my husband present. It's not that I've ever outright hid anything from my spouse, but I guess in a way we all keep some things to ourselves in order to protect others from feeling the same pain we went through. Is that right to do? Is it wrong? I'm not sure, but I'm not here to say it's ok or not, it's just a fact that people do it as a method of self-preservation, or to shelter those around them from similar pain. I also typically choose to keep it off my blog pages. I don't want to hurt anyone else or make anyone else feel responsible or sorry for me, but just for today (and maybe tomorrow or the next day too) I'm grabbing this page because it's MINE, and I'm just gonna write. And publish.

Needless to say, that first session on my own with our counselor was a really difficult one. As he helped me peel back the layers of my pain to help me see where it was really coming from, it felt as if he was literally tearing away pieces of me. We dug so far back that we both learned (pretty much at the same time) that not only had I been traumatized once, but twice. And these traumas weren't the type that lasted for a brief second, but they went on for periods of weeks, months and years. It was quite a moment of awakening. It really helped me to see that my current circumstances weren't what was causing my pain, or our marital disagreements, or the discord in my home, it was the past that still lingered. Unresolved. Unacknowledged. And unforgiven. I felt so child-like, so little and so very, very vulnerable. I wanted to curl up in a fetal position and suck my thumb. I needed someone to stroke my hair and tell me everything would be alright. In a way, my counselor did that - only he kept his hands to himself. :)

The one thing he said that made me literally melt into a pile of puddles was, "You're not defective."

I can't really verbalize how much that hit me square in my soul, but let's just say it did. When you go through life feeling like you can't measure up, and like everything you've ever done really doesn't mean anything unless it's just right, or trying to do things in a certain way to keep people from leaving your life or rejecting you, then words like that mean more than winning a kazillion bucks. To the little girl sitting in my counselor's office that day, it meant that I was good enough. Hallelujah and Amen.

I went through counseling in High School for some related issues - but I have to say that at that point when I was asked to find my "inner child", I really couldn't possibly do that, because in reality, I still was a child. Today, I get it. I can say I know that feeling now, and it's just bizarre! It's also exhausting. I hope I don't have to do it much longer. I want to grow up soon.

I'm so insanely grateful that this is happening right in the middle of marriage counseling, because I really feel like I have someone on my side to hold me through this stuff... and a best friend to encourage me and to keep me upright to get through to the other side. That other side: The joyful side of me, the side that I miss.

I believe that my inability to discuss some of my past with the people of my present, has kept those emotions and feelings buried so deep, that when they bubble to the surface, it makes a big mess. Right now, we're mopping up tears, sweeping away hard feelings, and dusting the cobwebs off of my memories that have such a stranglehold on my life. I'm looking for the positive, seeking encouragement, and holding on to the Word to show me my next steps.

I guess this is the part where I actually mention that our counselor revealed to us yesterday at our couple's session that he firmly believes I am suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress. He said he'd been thinking about what I'd told him all week, and he kept going back to the neatly typed list of only 20 "eye-brow raising" symptoms that I'd been really suffering with, and he couldn't see it as anything but obvious. Obvious to anyone but me, I guess.

Insert big, long pause... because that's what I did when he told me.

Is it really that big of a deal? It feels like I got diagnosed with cancer when all I had was an itchy, little mole. "Are you SURE? It's that big of a deal?", my brains said. And actually, they keep saying that. But, I guess so. And, aside from all my feelings of needing to downplay things, I really do have to trust that our counselor, who himself lived through his own horrors in Vietnam and dealt with his own PTSD afterwards, might actually know a thing or two about what he's saying. It's very humbling, to know that I've been trying to tough this out for so long, but now here I am, laying flat on my face trying to put the pieces of my life in order and all it's taken, is someone else to glance over my "big picture" and state in plain english what I've been trying for years to pretend didn't exist.

In a way, it all makes sense. And I have to admit it's embarrassing. I can't help but feel that sensation of my cheeks warming up whenever I think about allowing anyone to view that "List of 20". Just knowing someone might even read this post to the end makes my heart rate go up, but it's all about keeping it real. And I want to do that. Even if it's not funny.

So for now, my sweet husband and I are focusing on staying far away from those things that are my "triggers", the stuff that sends me inexplicably "over the edge" and has, for years, caused him to think I'm some sort of wacko. Now, he would never actually SAY that (for fear of his own safety) but I can read his mind you know, and I'm pretty sure that's what I heard. We're also teaming up to eliminate anger, emotional outbursts and painful words from the vocabulary of members of our household - which could take a while, considering the sheer number of hormones that we are up against. But the good news is that we're already seeing the benefits of intentionally living a more Christ-like life, which is what it all boils down to. It's where we want to be. I have faith that God will heal me and I look forward to this chapter of my life no matter how painful it might be to wade through it all. It surely can't be more painful than the past. Only this time I have hands to hold on to.


CaraDD said...

No words. Just big hugs.

Beth E. said...

I'm glad you have found out a diagnosis. Trusting God to move lovingly and mightily in your life!

Love and prayers for you, Alexis! :-)

Toni said...

What a blessing to have a diagnosis and a gameplan. You are a daughter of God and when you feel His peace, you know His arms are wrapped around you to give you strength to pull from when it gets hard again.

purplemoose said...

Ahhh, dear Alexis!!! I tried to read this yesterday, got about 4 paragraphs in, not sure why I couldn't finish. (But I could come up with some really good reasons!!) This morning I was thinking that after the past few years, if we have any more yuck, I will need to find me a counselor. Today I've finished reading and I'm thinking, maybe I need to find one now. Thanks for your real-ness. Wishing you all the best!