One thing the trio of anxiety, PTSD, and brain injuries have in common is this; they are all in constant motion. None are fixed realities. Managing them is a task rife with unwanted undulations. Managing them can also be exhausting not to mention, at times, heartbreaking.
My struggle with this trio stems from being shot in the head at point blank range in 1984, escaping from being held under gunpoint for several hours, a couple of years of homelessness, and the loss of five loved ones to suicide.
It would be lovely if willpower alone were enough to overpower this trio. It isn’t. Lord knows you need as much willpower as you can get too manage them. Don’t think for a minute I’m saying there is no place for willpower. There is. It’s a great ally. But it is not enough to win the day every day. The notion that we ought to be able to do so is flawed because no human being has total control over every aspect of their life. That is not how we are designed, and it sure as hell is not how life is designed.
From time to time when I have talked about my battle with this trio I’ll encounter some who seem to think I should just pull myself up by my bootstraps and get on with it. There is nothing unique about this experience. Many who face one or all members of this trio get the same response from time to time. Sometimes the response is genuinely well-intended. Sometimes the response comes from a kind of know-it-all arrogance (and ignorance), usually from people, who, upon closer examination, have some formidable challenges of their own in life and are deserving of compassion, though at the time they’re inflicting their judgment on you, compassion can be hard to come by.
Lately this trio has been all over me. Freezing me in place inside my home. Making the thought of leaving my home feel like I am walking into a blaze of gunfire without protection. It has been worse of late in large part, I think, because I know I have to leave the home I’m in and don’t know where I’ll be living next.
What I do know and am grateful for is the simple yet salient fact that I have accepted the presence of this trio as a reality. And because I’ve accepted their presence, I am better equipped to identify ways of managing them. Changes in meds, disappearing into a good book or a good movie, usually a foreign film, conversation with new and old friends, and my two dogs.
And then there is this, when I wake up each morning there is always a sense of joy at having made it to another day. That early morning hour with my first cup of coffee sitting by the fire in the woodstove is a gift that is never lost on me. It is also moment I hold fast too with deep appreciation when, in the worst of it, I am shaking like a leaf and waiting for the horrors to pass.