I need to recharge. Somebody hand me some battery cables, I need to be rebooted. I’m tired, exhausted y’all. If you have read my last two blogs then you know this has been a terrible month, horrible, in a word…Blech. *Now this is the time that you go back and read my last two blogs. Then read the blogs before that so that you know every day is not a bad day.* I have been struggling with my energy levels and with motivation. I have termed it “battle fatigue.” All of these recent emotions have brought up the dangerous cocktail that comes with PTSD…anger, depression, anxiety, and hypervigilance. While my brain is trying to sort through it all, the end result is exhaustion. Enter stage left, self-care.
I think at times we confuse self-care with self-indulgence. Self-indulgence isn’t always bad as long as it doesn’t lead to overindulgence and self-absorption. But self-care is different, it is about refilling and revitalizing yourself. How can you be of any good to others if everything in you is depleted? How can you be any good to yourself? I’ll just give you the answer; you can’t. Society, culture, today’s standards, whatever you want to call it, has told us that we have to be everything to everybody all the time. A sacrificial lamb to all those who need us whether it be a business, coworkers, friends, family, kids, spouse, significant other, you just give till it hurts and you, YES you, will earn a gold star. It’s an impossible goal. Someone is going to get slighted, and the one who pays the biggest price is you. We have to listen to our bodies. We have to listen to that still small voice that is whispering in our ear, “Relax for a moment,” or “Don’t grab a burger in the drive-thru, you need a salad,” or “How about some time to yourself.” We often ignore those voices because there just isn’t enough time or who has time to chew a salad, I mean really, I have to actually stop and eat that…with a FORK!! Give me this burger, I’ll sleep when I’m dead. But are you really living?
What I have described above could apply to just about anyone. We could all use some self-care. But when you are dealing with PTSD, or any other mental condition or injury, you are much more vulnerable to the effects of stress. As I am dealing with the current chaos in my life, I am more likely to fall into depression and isolation. I am more likely to wear anger like a favorite shirt. I am at a point that I need to make sure I am “filling my cup.” For me, I have to allow myself to rest, as well as, set daily goals. I am tempted to lie down all day. That’s not healthy. I set goals for myself that keep me active without exhausting me. Today, my goal is to write this blog. I also made sure that I worked at the kitchen table facing my window so that I could listen to the birds and watch the squirrels. It makes me feel better. Yesterday my goal was to clean my refrigerator; I did it. The goals can vary but I set them, every day. I do not have the energy right now to do any form of high impact exercise like running or aerobics. I can still walk though. Even a leisurely stroll is better than being sedentary. I have inspirational books and fun fiction to read or maybe I can grab my camera and look for some photo opportunities. I want to rest my body and feed my soul. I need to heal.
If you are still skeptical, how about some science? Michele Rosenthal, author of “Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices to Reclaim Your Identity” shared with Healthyplace.com, an easy to understand explanation of how our PTSD bodies react to stress,
Cortisol is the stress hormone you most need to understand. Useful during a trauma, cortisol helps desensitize us so we feel less pain, increases short-term memory function, and acts as a quick energy boost. All good things, right? But here’s the kicker: When present in higher levels for a prolonged period of time cortisol can be responsible for memory loss, fatigue, and reduced serotonin levels. Typically high during and immediately after trauma, some studies have shown that cortisol levels actually decrease later in the presence of PTSD. (We’re all unique and different so the only way to know how cortisol might be affecting you is through the results of a quick blood test done at any lab as prescribed by your doctor)
The adrenal system processes stress hormones, including cortisol. When there’s an overload on the adrenal system a survivor might experience a variety of symptoms such as fatigue, exhaustion and an overload of stress.
You don’t have to take my word for it. That’s science people. Science I say! It is NOT in our heads, it is real and yes, it can be debilitating. But the good news is, it is manageable. Setting goals, allowing a time of rest, releasing guilt (that’s a big one), and communicating with your therapist or a trusted friend who understands (that’s big too). Make a plan and replenish your soul. Please, please, please…take care of you! And I will take of me as well. Much love and healing to you all.