For the past 2 weeks, I went swimming almost every day and in a different near-by lake from one time to the next. Every time I do, I am confronted with this fear of deep waters, the fear of a sudden anxiety attack as they happened before and simply my deeply rooted anxiety that seems to be one of the many outcomes of (C-) PTSD, which I have never been treated for in 48 years. I have only had a clear diagnosis for about 3 months.
Every time I stand on the bank of one of those small lakes, I feel this undefined fear of going in. I’m a decent swimmer and it’s not about being afraid of actually drowning. It’s something on the subconscious level, the lack of basic trust or something like that. When I think about it, fear and anxiety have been ruling me forever. But over the past 25+ years, I seem to have found a way of tackling that fear: Whenever I was confronted with a new situation, I did my best to gather as much information about it prior to any action taking place. Of course, this didn’t always work. Sometimes you’re just presented with a situation very quickly. But for the majority of situations, I’d get by like this. Naturally, I became a control freak, because a traumatic experience so overwhelming in its traumatic content that it blows your young mind, leaves you behind with the feeling that there isn’t a safe place anywhere in the world. This was my experience at the core of my physical existence so far: LIving in constant survival mode. Be it in my former home with parents and one sister, be it at kindergarten or school later on – they were all battlefields, none of those environments ever felt comfortable or safe.
So, contrary to what I had been thinking for the past few months or so, beating fear one time doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a lasting effect from it. It’s rather an ongoing exercise. One that takes courage and willpower every time. It’s how I’ve operated for all my life so far: By mustering courage and willpower out of thin air. Or rather: From a background so devastating it knocked almost any other feeling out of the ballpark. However, I’ve never allowed myself to falter much or to surrender. Until 2007, when my body wouldn’t let me go about life in this way any longer. After that, I’ve done my best to build a living situation that’s better taylored to my genuine needs – but not to all that much avail. It rather looks as if my perseverance has taken such fatal blows that I have arrived at emotional numbness again, a surrender of another nature. And triggering situations sadly haven’t lost any of their edge. On the contrary. They seem to have gained more momentum and hit all that much harder than ever before.
I have been noticing this in the most brutal ways for the past two weeks. It all started out on the afternoon of July 25th, when my landlady’s family of four – with two infants ages 3 and 5 – arrived at my landlady’s house. Now, the embedded appartment that I occupy is on one hand seperate from the rest of the building. However, the bedroom is one floor down and connected to the main hall and stairwell. In other words: When I need to get to my bedroom with the closet containing most of my clothing, I have a chance of running into my landlady and now into her visitors, including her grandchildren. In other words: Very little privacy. When I moved in, I was aware that this might be a problem, but wanted to give myself the opportunity to possibly desensitize myself in this regard. Not to all that much avail, either. And when this family arrived, I got involuntarily included in their family life. Not formally, but you know – inevitably. And while those two infants are adorable and very energetic young beings, sadly this is totally head-on with my progressed need for reclusion and quietude, brought about by the condition/disability. What is more, their daily schedules were different from mine, so that I got pretty brutally woken up by the kids at 6 am. When I don’t sleep, I become very cranky, not to mention I stay fatigued for pretty much the entire day and don’t get anything productive or simply useful done. And then the self-loathing starts for not having made anything better of this day. So I was looking at two weeks of being in foul mood or doing something about it. I tried to better adjust my routines to theirs. Didn’t work. While I went to bed before or at the very least at midnight, six hours of poor sleep didn’t prove to be sufficient (let’s not forget I haven’t had good sleep ever since I’ve been on the planet…). So I was miserable the next day. And of course, they were around for most of the time and the noise kept me from doing stuff that needs my undivided attention.
So I pondered, whom I’d be comfortable with to ask for temporary accommodation and came up with – zero names. The only friend I could think of is currently very busy himself and I didn’t want to burden him with my presence, either. Which left me with the very difficult decision to ask my bio family, knowing that they had been on their toes to see me visit in ages. When I say “very difficult” I actually mean to say “betraying myself” – and again. Plus, I knew they’d take it for an invitation into my affairs and my life again. So, on one hand I’m grateful that I got to escape my abode, on the other I feel guilty and the latter from already knowing that there won’t be a replay. Worse: Despite all the freedoms I actually get to have, despite all the (material) support that’s been there and is there again and has been there forever, the very foundation of a healthy family is missing. I don’t think, I’ve ever experienced a healthy relationship so far myself. I thought I had seen so in others, I became aware of what healthy families look, feel, sound like as early as elementary school. But I never – never – entirely felt at home growing up. In fact, on most days, I wished myself away and I think it is largely due to this experience that I developed a relationship with music and reading later on. They offered a temporary escape from it all, an invisible retreat that I wasn’t sanctioned for. In different words: I seem to have used music and books to compensate for the missing emotional bond. They both gave me a world of my liking – and one I was able to control entirely. For music, this is evident and if a particular book didn’t please me or if it made me feel uncomfortable in any way, I could always put it down! (Which I have, b.t.w., as in the case of Stanislaw Lem‘s books, particularly his science fiction work, which started to give me panic attacks at some point for the sheer vastness of his briliant, infinite mind and his mindblowing imagination!)
After tomorrow, I get to have the house to myself for a few days until I return to my flat (which much anticipated dread, as I’m totally over the isolation and reclusion…). And I feel bad about myself, because I’m aware that a good, human, mature response would be to be grateful that I got to come here in the first place. (In writing this, I’m trying to imagine what it would have been like for me for the past two weeks, but I can’t think of anything else than “horrible” with the triggers wearing me thin beyond compare and in addition to having gotten worn thin over the many bureaucratic battles I had to fight in recent years).
Staying here has brutally reminded me of a number of things I have been finding out for myself earlier in life and especially over the past few years when embarking on this journey of trying to retrieve – and possibly restore – my genuine self. To come back to the headline that spawned this post: I am unlikely to ever totally rid myself of those deeply rooted fears. But I’m going to keep at it. What else was there to do anyway? However, with all the devastating experiences that I went through in my adult life and in addition to my unguided, intuitive efforts of managing the condition, I often can’t help but think that I’m totally broken for good. I seem incapable of restoring the passion I once had for music. Or passion for anything. I do enjoy things, though. Small things. Like the heat wave and staying outdoors much. Riding the bike through this beautiful and all familiar scenery. Seeing the quaint rural parts, the villages with their tidy farmhouses, where time seems to have stood still since I moved away in my early twens. I enjoy all that. I love it. I just didn’t love and don’t love the people I grew up with. And I think alienation as well as their incapability to truly see me for any of my genuine qualities will inevitably lead to separation. I have been trying very hard to avert this for 48 years. I don’t think I can any longer. And I don’t think, I should. I have done my very best in this regard, too. It was about time, I lived me and the life I should have been living all along. Does that make me selfish? Probably. So what. Everybody is selfish to an extent. Everybody.