formal

Year 10 Formal, Meet Anxiety and PTSD

formalYear 10 Formal. What was hoped to be a special night for Jessie, ended up being memorable for all the wrong reasons sadly. She looked absolutely gorgeous and had been so excited. My heart sank when I got the first text an hour in, and I knew where it was going. I hadn’t been home an hour after already doing the 2 hour round trip to drop them off before I was doing it over again…

For $90 per head to attend formal, we knew there was a three course sit down dinner, DJ, photographer and photo booth. What we didn’t know was that the girls hadn’t put their table request in so wouldn’t all be seated together. Or that the DJ would be playing so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think, from the start of the night. I felt for the teachers, but that’s how I loved my music many years ago, and all the girls had fantastic night. But for Jessie, her anxiety and PTSD were triggered, she lost her confidence and it was all over red rover.

I was angry. Screw you universe for allowing this to happen to Jessie. Fuck you for giving her this shitty plot in life that stops her from being a normal teen. I was angry that I had all the driving, when I’d been SO needing time out. I was angry that neither of our nights were what we’d hoped for. Jessie had been looking forward to the formal for so long. She’d paid off her own dress with weekly payments. It was a big deal for her, I wanted it to be a night with her friends she’d always remember. For me – I wanted to feel like I assume most parents feel thinking of their teen out having an awesome time. I don’t know what that’s like, Jessie’s been unwell since age 8.

formalJessie’s aware her mental illness isn’t taken seriously, and formal night really cemented that for her. She’d obviously gotten the feeling from friends on the night that she needed to say sorry, and did so the next day. I think she needed reassurance, but instead was thanked by her best friend for apologising. For what I don’t know. She didn’t create a big scene, she managed herself really well, just sat and waited for me. But as we talked about with Jessie’s counsellor, mental illness is invisible, and people don’t understand. If she’d had a physical illness, no doubt her friends would have instead looked after her. And certainly wouldn’t have expected an apology.

Sadly people don’t understand mental illness. The notion is thoughtlessly thrown out there that sufferers should be able to control their symptoms. Yet you’d be a real a-hole to expect someone to control their asthma symptoms, or to walk on a broken leg. But the reality is that I think many mental illnesses are seen as a choice, and can therefore be controlled. If not controlled, the mind must be weak. Weak is definitely not a word I’d use to describe my Jessie, in any way, shape or form!

But that’s life. And as disappointing as it can be, if Jessie can learn how to get on regardless now, she’ll have strong foundations for life.

She loves her friends. And her need for friends is the same as everyone else’s.

They’re all learning – they’re teenagers, all trying to work out how and where they fit in this world.

formal

 
 

fears

Facing Fears and Moving Forward

fearFacing my fears can seem really daunting sometimes. That cautious inner voice, the sweaty palms and the flood of adrenaline once had a role in keeping me safe. However these reactions have now become a hindrance to a smooth transition forward. The inner voice is the most annoying culprit these days. I’m hoping if I keep burning its soapbox and cutting off its audience, it’ll go back to where ever it came from.

Fears are the creation of our thoughts. So surely if we are strong of mind, we can live without fear? Logically that sounds more than reasonable, does it not? I think so, and I consider myself a pretty logical kinda person. Thoughts can be pretty powerful though. They seem to permeate the body, setting adrenaline flowing and the heart to beat faster. Shaking hands, nausea, cold sweats, and a dry mouth quickly follow. Now the body’s freaking out, the fearful thoughts amp up, in absolute drama heaven! At this point one of two things will happen:

• my Virgo side will come out and I’ll retreat, crying, or

• my Leo side will come out and I’ll get this shit sorted.

Naturally the second course of action feels so much more proactive, but they both have purpose.

Raising Jessie over the last seven years has spiked my interest in psychology and what makes us tick. I’ve found I have a much greater capacity for acceptance and tolerance of myself when I understand why I work the way I do. It doesn’t ever justify anything, but I can only change what I comprehend. I was first diagnosed with depression and PTSD in 1995. I didn’t take prescribed medication until I was diagnosed again in early 2003, and then again in fear2015. I’d written the words on forms and things, said the words many times no doubt, and seen various counsellors over the years, but didn’t ever actually look into depression or PTSD in regards to myself.

I don’t recover well from hurtful or unjust words or situations. Buddha’s story about the angry man is in my mind now, but its theory isn’t always easy to practise! That saying “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, hasn’t applied to me as yet. I interpret that line to mean that we gain resilience after going through tough or traumatic situations. Am I wrong in my interpretation? Instead fear can set in, disguised by various emotions and reactions. When the stressors feel to be dominating or numerous, my resilience drops dramatically. If the situation involves broken trust, my brain becomes the most frantic as secure boundaries are demolished in an instant.

Some days I’m better off keeping to myself, but the time always comes when we all must make a choice – succumb to fear which gives it more and more power, or push through and empower ourselves. I think moving forward requires permission to self to forgive our shortcomings and be kind to our multi-faceted selves. I need to work on these things! Labelling ourselves as one thing is so short sighted, especially when that label isn’t flattering.

As a beautiful friend said to me yesterday, “even while depressed or negative we are 100 other things – most of them fucking wonderful.”

fear

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