PTSD Regression

It’s less than a week since last week’s snowstorm and we are slated for another foot or so today. March is certainly living up to her saying of coming in like a lion! I’m really hoping they’ve overestimated the projected snow totals for today’s storm like they did last week. Ben has the entire day off, so it’s more likely that the blizzard will indeed be bad because the university he works for tends to be more conservative on doling out snow day closures compared to surrounding institutions.

I felt so terribly sick yesterday; thankfully, I slept somewhat better last night than the previous one, so although I don’t feel well this morning yet either, I’m hoping I’ll I won’t be quite so utterly exhausted. As tough as I like to be about the chronic illness and pain I face daily, I just admit, yesterday was brutal. Somehow, I pushed through and worked hard all day and also did my self-directed therapy. If yesterday was graded on terms of productivity, I would have earned an A, though if it was evaluated based on how I felt and how much I enjoyed the day, an F would be ascribed simply because there aren’t worse grades to choose from!

One thing I miss about NYC is how snow was basically never an issue. Even when a blizzard struck, the subways and busses usually continued to operate normally. There are so many people and vehicles on the roads and sidewalks at all times anyway so accumulation was often somewhat impeded anyway. It’s like it would fall on people and be carried in and out of buildings upon their shoulders and heads as much as it would land on the ground. Moreover, Central Park and the major sidewalks were usually plowed, so something like running was hardly affected even in big storms. The only part that would be noticeably annoying was the buildup of slushy puddles at the ends of each sidewalk where the snowblowing would stop and people would tramp down the remaining snow. We lived up in Harlem where manicured sidewalks were the exception rather than the norm. That said, it was still easy to walk to the subway and take a ride to a neighborhood that was better cleared and walk or run with ease. Plus, shoveling was never necessary in the city because we rented. Our super and public works employees were always hard at work to clear the snow and regular tenants like us had the luxury of their services. When you are a homeowner, shoveling is a chore for every storm!

The past few days, my PTSD flashbacks have been much more frequent and vivid than they had been. It’s very distressing because it feels like it’s the reversal of progress. I hate slipping back into previously worse states; it feels defeating. I’m not sure why exactly this is happening. I can’t pinpoint an obvious cause, which is actually frustrating because without knowing the impetus, I can’t easily rectify the situation. I hope it’s just a temporary regression and not indicative of an undesirable trend. Last night, I had such a realistic nightmare that I actually got out of bed and lay under my bed with my blanket. This used to be common practice; I’d regularly retreat to my “bunker” (under my bed) to hide out after upsetting nightmares because they seemed to rattle me so much that I feared my safety on the moment, unable to assure myself it was just a bad dream. The bed bunker hideaway felt like a safe retreat.

This morning, the flashbacks while awake were equally upsetting and realistic. Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten better at recognizing the start of a flashback and implementing strategies to extricate my mind’s focus on that traumatizing memory and redirect my attention to the here-and-now in front of me. I can’t seem to prevent the flashbacks from creeping in and taking over my brain, but I’ve gained some amount of control over limiting their duration and dominance over my thoughts and awareness. Unfortunately, both yesterday and today this hard-earned skill seems elusive and the disgustingly vivid flashbacks are all-consuming. I feel powerless over their invasion of my thoughts and feelings. In the moment, I recognize their mirage, yet I’m unable to withdraw my attention from their evil grasp. Then, not only am I sickened and my mood poisoned by their awfully realistic replay of my trauma, but I’m also additionally upset that I’m “failing” and unsuccessful at pulling out of them, a skill I thought I’d become fairly adept at. I equate it to learning a sports skill, like when a parent pitches balls to a child and they finally develop the hand-eye coordination and timing to reliably whack the ball each time a viable strike is thrown. Then suddenly, they start whiffing with every perfect pitch, unable to even get a piece of previously-easy hits. It’s infuriating!

I’m wondering if my intolerable nausea over the past 36 hours is related to the grossness of the frequent flashbacks. Nearly three times an hour, I’m being drawn under the icy spell. That doesn’t lend itself to feeling well. After writing this out though, the only reasonable goal I can think of striving for is to try not to feel like a complete failure when I can’t direct myself out of it. Hopefully, relaxing the strict expectations of myself will help me be more patient with myself and compassionate for the anguish I’m going through.

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