September 1995: What it’s like to suffer from PTSD, when you don’t know that’s what it is.

(Written in September 1995)
It’s grey and damp outside.  Yesterday when it was grey, I hoped that would stop the planes, but they flew anyway.  They weren’t loud but they were frequent, and I’m pretty much ground down by it at this point.

I’m feeling so sad. How can I process my own sadness?  I have to validate it first.  I guess there’s a voice in me that says things like “What do you have to be sad about?  You’re in a good marriage, you have plenty of money, you weren’t starved or beaten or tortured as a child…”  And I say yes, I’m married to a man that I dearly love, and he loves me, and we have no sex life — isn’t that something to be sad about?  I may have plenty of money, but I don’t have good health, isn’t that something to be sad about?  I have enormous creative energy and I can’t find any way to give it expression, isn’t that something to be sad about?  Yes, dammit, I do have things to be sad about, and they are real and they really happened.  Because the worst of it is that I make myself wrong for “complaining” instead of giving myself space to mourn.  The pain of loss is baffled and huge and tangled with rage, and those feelings are so difficult that I habitually turn away, they don’t “feel real” and so I trivialize them and then I’m left with the horrible dull dead ache that won’t go away and that tangles me into immobility.  Ah, but I remember worse times, I remember the cold fog and complete immobility and thinking out methods of suicide.  So this is better than that, and I know that I have healed some, if not all the way.  I was going to say that gives me hope for the future, but the problem with hope for the future is that it sets up expectation and comparison, and my work is to learn to be OK with what I have now, to accept my disabilities and inhibitions instead of making myself wrong for them.

I was typing up from July 22 where I wrote again “The acceptance of undeserved pain is the way to peace,” and I see how far I’ve gotten from that.  I’ve been fighting the pain and I need to practice accepting, need to remind myself “soften around it,” “create spaciousness.”  It’s easy to forget when the pain is so bad, I just want to get away from it.  And I’m angry at the way I can’t “just live my life.”  But who among us, at the end of the 20th century, is able to “just live their life” — we are all impinging on each other, we are finding out how “normal” actions on one side of the world have repercussions on the other.  So I remind myself that this is my life, and it is lived on a battlefield more desolate and terrifying than the one in Sarajevo because it’s invisible, and I’m the only one in it, fighting with ghosts.  It would be a relief to face a real bomb, real gunfire.

For more information about the airplane phobia

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