About Purpose, Assessing Inventory – and A Word about Stigma

A lot of things are coming back from memory to my consciousness. Yesterday’s posting seems to have sparked this. For one: I guess, I have been noticing all along that I’m somehow emotionally challenged – and have been so from the outcomes of C-PTSD for all my life. That’s why practically every previous relationship fell apart due to my difficulty in experiencing proximity as anything else but potentially harmful or dangerous (this thought got reaffirmed or I became aware of it last night while watching a TV documentary on German soldiers returning from their tours to Afghanistan – those poor fellas are finished, their previous selves ratted out, their marriages and family life hanging in the balance and looking pretty much doomed…). I found ways to appear normal and cool and settled and all when socializing in the typical settings including the workplace and I trained myself in that way for one simple and vital reason: I needed to function in order to lead a self-sustaining life. After all, you can’t go around the workplace scaring other people with erratic behaviour, the reasons of which you can’t possibly expect them to identify, let alone understand. I’ve been putting up with all of this for all my life. I’ve made myself understand that I needed to be o.k. with that. I’m not complaining, it IS o.k. Or was, rather.

After my divorce in 2003 I’ve also understood that there is no point in ever trying to be in a romantic relationship again – I simply can’t deliver on the little things that make or break the atmosphere of loving proximity, trust, the little reassuring rituals lovers establish for themselves. I have come as close as I possibly could with that prior to and during my marriage. It was great when it lasted and friends at the time described me as blooming into myself of sorts. And now it’s over and I’m not going to try another time. I had my heart broken on account of the condition enough times to know that I could never recuperate from it should that happen one single more time. Because this last time not only broke my heart, but apparently my spirit. Can’t risk anything like this another time. I’m o.k. with that, too. I will consciously sacrifice all things romantic love as there are enough other realms in life worth exploring and growing into.

Which brings me to the main point that motivates this blog entry: Purpose. For better or worse, the only other realm I can think of that gives my heart some room to breathe and live is along the lines of all things art. Music, photography, writing – things of that nature. I’ve been a musician for as long as I can think and it was the first art form I was exposed to from as early on as age 2. My parents afforded me a little bit of formal training with the local music school and then private piano lessons when attending high school. I started to perform with local bands at the age of 13 going forward and had an opportunity to work as a professional musician for a while in my early twens. I’ve been writing lyrics and songs since my teenage years, although only a few select tunes passed the unforgiving scrutinity of my internal jury. Music has been a major part of my life forever, even when I deviated from the music career and embarked on a more conventional career path after graduating from university in 1998 and at 32 years of age. I never entirely gave up practicing at home and performing on occasion while entertaining the idea that music was my soul’s purpose – if there was such a thing as purpose in the first place…

Now, there is a number of things I could say about triggers that come with the program, the most important one being: I have been putting up with those triggers for as long as I have been actively performing and in ways that I thought would have the least possible impact on other people. In other words: I never expected anyone to treat me extra along the lines of a “special needs card” or anything like that . I think I am safe to say that I’ve always been doing my best to blend in as much as possible or vice versa: To stand out as little as possible. I don’t think or remember that I’ve been excessively eccentric or demanding. I guess, I’ve also understood from early on that the safest and quickest way to drive people away is so much as to only indicate that you’re dealing with “problems”. The stigma attached to that is so thick you can cut it with a knife. So I worked hard to appear in ways that wouldn’t even give anyone an idea what I had been dealing with for all my life – and alone so for the larger part. Only fellow victims of (C-) PTSD or a similar condition will probably know the solitude that comes from having to deal with a debilitating condition you can’t even let on. It’s a gargantuan task. But I’ve been accepting and willing to make the most with what I got for the larger part of my adult life. Until around 2008, when some of that strength of constantly pushing back against chaos seemed to have left me. Little did I know that chaos would very quickly ensue with the slightest letting up in my efforts to oppress a disability.

Nonetheless I got bullied time and time and time again, despite my careful hiding of any “condition”. And I’m pretty sure that it is from these experiences that have produced this major roadblock of anxiety in recent years. I’ve been worrying myself half to death about the many what ifs. What if they ridicule you for your food allergies? What if they make fun of your suffering from panic attacks? What if they shun and toss you out? Don’t be mistaken: I can stand up for myself, I’ve learnt that along the way as well. But when you do – there is a rift in the aftermath, friction at the very least and things are unlikely to take a peaceful course. And I guess I’m saying that this would sooner or later amount to yet another triggering situation of some kind. Ugh. Incredibly difficult terrain to navigate.

The real predicament though is this: I want – no wait – I need to get back into some kind of “game” for myself. Become a part of something again, feel like I belong somewhere. This idea of removing all triggers and finding and settling in a less painful, less taxing niche of some kind hasn’t really worked out all that well for me. I’m going insane, I mean even more so. Like any – or most – other human beings, I need to feel a part of something bigger than me. Spirituality, faith and all these nice things don’t entirely do the job. They are more like nice treats along the way, but don’t give me that sense of connection I need to have access to again. And I don’t really expect any improvement as far as managing triggers and behaviour from the medical community. I think, I’ve thoroughly lost all trust in them. They come across like experimenting in a live scenario with real people as far as I’m concerned. And with severe emotional injuries like PTSD and the likes, I really don’t think that staying in a safe, neutral place and at a distance from the patient is going to do any good at all. I mean, isn’t it part of the problem that you’re already removed from the emotional sphere most other people are operating from? How are you ever going to learn to trust again, if it doesn’t happen in a safe environment with a trusted person like e.g. a therapist? I think, the entire concept of going about such things is wrong. So I’m not going to put any more hope into the idea of finding help in that area. What help I can find will have to come from myself and some inclined people I hopefully meet along the way. And that is o.k., too.

But: As far as becoming some part of society again – that isn’t all up to me. And the fear of getting rejected over and over again will linger. I guess, I’ll better start preparing for situations when it actually does occur – for it will! – and how I’m going to deal with that. In a very funny, strange way I’ll probably have to disregard my authentic feelings and take a 3rd eye’s view position or something like that. And as I’m writing this, I think even that is something I’ve been incorporating into my behaviour all along.

So, basically, what I’m saying is: After almost six years of thorough investigation, exploring, scouting of more options both within and outside a  medical setting, I seem to close in on the realization that… there was nothing else I could and can do than I have been doing all along, which is: Accept my injuries, stay away from triggers when and where possible, draw the line earlier where needed and overall deny myself spontaneous and authentic expression of feelings in the situation. It’s all dangerously close to putting on an act of some kind. But I’m afraid that is exactly what it is going to boil down to. This is my life, this is the deck of cards I got dealt. I must own it.

P.S. As far as a “safe place” as advocated for in standard PTSD therapy: Nature does the trick, some secluded areas in my vicinity to be exact. There are some “power spots”, which I regularly go to in order to settle myself and recharge the batteries. Being by myself in a lovely spot somewhere outdoors were the only times I really get to breathe freely and manage to enjoy myself and life in general. Visiting nature will have to remain a part of my routine and as often as possible.

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