So things have been going poorly as per the usual (though I didn’t have nightmares today… I mean, yesterday). As an example, every time I pick up a knife to chop fruit or something, I remember all the moments my father used them to threaten me. Some of those memories push harder at me than others, and sometimes I can hear his voice or feel as though he’s behind me (why hello there, PTSD, aren’t you subtle today?).
I was discussing with a couple friends of mine about how to avoid this from happening. For instance, maybe I can chop fruit somewhere that’s not the kitchen, because my kitchen is a serious trigger area for me, given that a good number of my father’s various abusive explosions happened in or near the kitchens of my childhood.
However, I had to put that idea down eventually, because it dawned on me, what my bartender was trying to tell me all along: that avoidance doesn’t help. Indeed, it breeds triggers.
I haven’t covered the last… what… four sessions?… I’ve had with him because my concentration is starting to break up. There was one spectacular session, then I melted, then there was an emergency session… well. Anyways.
The point is that whatever I use to distract from or avoid my triggers, results in those activities becoming triggers or otherwise getting neutralized in very traumatic ways (case in point: hanging onto thoughts of Crimnee eventually resulted in my PTSD using him in a nightmare that knocked me into terror for an entire day).
But whatever I use to get through an episode or bad memory or other such thing… those don’t become triggers. That’s why the cows haven’t become triggers even though it’s been months: I use them to soldier on through bad and worse and hairline-suicidal times. They’re for comfort, they aren’t for avoidance.
So basically. The train of the holidays… it’s going to run me over. The feelings and emotions and memories and even flashbacks, those will come. I can’t fight it by avoiding thinking about the train, and simply staring into the headlights of the train doesn’t work all that well either. All I can do is—and yes, this isn’t the greatest metaphor in the world, but we were trying to work from a train metaphor I introduced in the session—let the train go through me.
And at first I thought the metaphor was maybe all wrong—it implies that the train won’t hurt me, or that it would kill me anyways. I think it’s not quite so wrong after all. I mean. There’s no way around it: this is going to hurt. But it’s not going to be fatal.
I guess the closest, concrete analogy is: you’re up this really tall tree for some reason. There are no handholds to get down the tree without falling. You’re going to have to fall. But in this case, there is a path to fall and not die. Unfortunately, it’s not a path that’s going to be at all painless, and you’re going to have at least one broken limb. But you’re not going to die. And it’s better than starving to death in the tree. Possibly.
My parents are not actually here to kill me.
But nevertheless. These holidays are going to fucking hurt. And trying to employ avoidance tactics will only leave me up the tree, not get me down.
Anyways, so. Basically, need to focus on ways to help me bear exposure to triggers. Redecorating the kitchen so it doesn’t look like it’s from the @#$@ 80’s would help a hell of a lot, for instance.
My bartender is a patient, patient man. He’s only been trying to tell me all this for 1.5 years or so. I just haven’t been ready. Every session was him getting me ready for this, but not overtly so. All that time he spent convincing me to stop avoiding the living room and to use it more—it took a year, but I got there! I’m using the living room, even sometimes as a refuge from the nightmares in the bedroom. And it was a good thing.
And he’s right.
Damn, he’s good.
Damn him for being right….
This is going to hurt. A lot.