Another blog entry? So soon? Even for me, this is odd...
Though it's a bit untraditional of me to post two days in a row, I'm hearing my brain say, 'just run with it, Cappy. Just write.'
So, I guess, I will. Maybe this is the way to make peace with what I've been feeling and what's needed for me to altogether snap out of it. Perhaps in order to put this year's 'traumaversary period' to rest, I am needing to understand what exactly happened this year. I can't deny that it felt DIFFERENT this year. I don't even have the words readily available to thoroughly explain it, but I'm going to try. Maybe it will help me, maybe it will help you - either way, it's needing to be written out.
All right, so, I did some thinking last night. It occurred in waves, actually. I was reflecting on past traumaversaries and trying to figure out why this year's was so hard for me. I talked about feeling as if I was here but not mentally present, I discussed feelings of extreme disconnect from EVERYTHING that is (or even isn't) important to me. Things that would normally excite me? Nothing. Things that would piss me off? I didn't give a shit. Everything I did was on autopilot and my shields were up. If it was going to upset me, I didn't want to hear it. If it was going to cause my mind to go into a direction I wanted to avoid, I'd do just that - I'd avoid it and it'd deflect off the imaginary shields.
I was, to put it simply - just existing.
I know I haven't been my normal self and have been trying to figure out why. None of this was making sense. My last trauma was 24 years ago. While I know that trauma doesn't disappear and it stays with you for life, this was an inconsistent traumaversary and felt 'out of order.' See, I remember my FIRST traumaversary following the rape in 1996. The same feelings of disconnect and overall 'off-ness' was there, but those were also accompanied by nightmares, flashbacks, memories that would reduce me into a panicky mess. My ten-year traumaversary wasn't as extreme. The flashbacks were significantly lessened by then. Even the feelings of disconnect were there, but they were not this strong. And this one I just had? It felt as if the feelings of disconnect and isolation were dominant over any and everything else, and were I daresay, worse than I felt ten years ago. I honestly don't remember having this much trouble in a LONG time.
I guess to explain - it isn't the memories, really, that I'm struggling with right now. I have not had a flashback (not an extreme one, rather...there are occasional moments where I'll have to pause for a second to regain control of my thoughts, but there have not been flashbacks that have overwhelmed me) in a long time. By no means am I 'over it,' let me make that clear - I'm not. The memories still exist, and I live with them every day. I live a life that I have no choice to live, for where I am today, I would NOT be if not for that event. It is a permanent part of me, now, and while it doesn't define me, it's still a stain in the fabric that is me. A stain that I'll spend the rest of my life trying to scrub until it's less noticeable, lighter, 'blended in.' At this point, I've been walking around with this stain for twenty-four years, and have done pretty well in keeping it hidden and less noticeable by others. There are some I am comfortable showing this part of me to, and others I am not. I have somehow managed to maintain control over who I share my true self with and whom I'm better off keeping in the dark.
But anyway - I seem to have gone off on a tangent. What was I saying...oh, yes. It's not the memories. While they still exist, they are, for the most part, manageable with a reminder to myself that I am safe now.
So, what's different this year? Why is it taking me this much time to 'bounce back?'
That's what I have been trying to figure out for days, now. Why do I feel like this, now? Do I have to look beyond the traumaversary period? What's going on BEFORE the beginning of the fall?
It hit me then. It's the fucking pandemic. It's the clusterfuck that is 2020.
I had the virus, you know? I didn't share with too many people when I had it. I carried on with whatever was going on in my life then. School, home, family. It was in the beginning of April and my fiancee was hospitalized the morning she received a positive test. I didn't have a test administered, but the symptoms were there and I'd been in close contact with my fiancee - which made me guilty by association. My senses of taste and smell went away for nearly a week. I did not run any fevers, but I had the chills, I had the fatigue, I had the chest tightness and I had the god-awful COVID headache that is damned-near impossible to put into words. It felt as if my head were replaced by a boulder and the headache radiated from the temples all the way down to the back of my neck.
There was no motivation to do anything. I would wake up in the morning and it would be HARD to get up out of bed. Still, I pushed myself and I forced myself to get up, take a shower, eat a small meal and to complete whatever schoolwork needing to be done - we were still in the middle of our Spring semester, and although I probably could have gotten an extension on a few things, I didn't want to give myself any reason to slack off. As is, my J spent six days in the hospital, on oxygen, and while running high fevers, too. She got hit far worse than I did, and it didn't feel right to complain. I took care of myself, for the most part, and of my son who was quarantined with me and had even fewer symptoms than I did.
I guess this is a combination of my own thinking of having to deal with my problems, myself - but also because there was nothing anyone could do for any of us beyond making store runs for us or bringing us meals.
The virus went away, J and I and the Son made a full recovery. Our symptoms passed. But the pandemic did not. Things got worse. Numbers went up. Businesses were shut down. Schools were closed for the remainder of the year. League bowling was cancelled. MLB was postponed several months. We couldn't go out without seeing people walking around with surgical masks covering their faces. This was before all the hand-made masks and scarves were out - really early on when we all thought it'd be over within a few weeks. It was nothing short of what you'd see in a Twilight Zone episode. Those who were saying 'this will pass and be over soon,' were now saying, 'oh, shit, this is serious!'
This affected me in a different way, though, than I imagine it affected most. Many of you know already about my hearing impairment and that I rely on reading lips. I do know some signing on an intermediate level, but that doesn't really help when it comes to going to grocery stores or to order food. Usually, the person taking care of me or who helps me is not somoene who is 'in the know' on how to communicate with a deaf person. Since not being allowed into stores without a face covering is now a 'new normal,' it is safe to deduce that these feelings of isolation started way back in April.
And they've not gotten better. We have been forced, all over the world, to adapt to these social changes and to accept them as 'new rules.' The masks are understandably for protection - mine and others' - I get that. But I am now having to deal with a HUGE communication barrier whenever I go out. This has resulted in my not even wanting to leave the house anymore. If it's necessary for me to go out, I will - but for the most part....I want nothing to do with what's 'out there.' I've felt myself retreating back into the self-isolation patterns I'd gotten used to, and then had to force myself to emerge from.
Aha!!!!! Aha!!! Ding, ding, ding!!! 💡
It makes sense. I've been feeling this isolation and disconnection for MONTHS before my early October traumaversary. This was not a sudden onset, but a gradual one, and to have my traumaversary roll up at a time when I was already feeling so off-put by the world around me seems to have magnified it all. This has to be it!
See, I've never really been a social person. Y'all know that already. I do not like crowded settings, I don't like being around too many people. I purposely kept myself distanced from large groups and continue to do so. It's just my nature at this point. And last Fall, I certainly agonized (as many of you likely remember from previous blog entries) about having to step into situations involving large groups of people when I made the decision to go back to school. There was anxiety for many reasons, really, but this stepping out of my comfort zone was one of them. Point is, it took me several weeks to become used to this. To get past that mental hurdle of putting myself back out there.
I was actually starting to like it. I will not say that I leapt into it enthusiastically - because I didn't. I took baby steps. I got into the car every morning, drove to campus, went to my classes and went home. If I had a break in between classes, I sat myself at a little table in the student center - and I sat alone. I opened up my laptop and caught up on some work, all while I watched the students around me interact. Never did I feel as if I 'belonged' in the past, and I certainly didn't now, being 20 years older than the majority of them. I was out there, but I still kept to myself and did what was normal and comfortable. I guess just being out there is all that really mattered and counted.
I also had a choice of how much of myself I put out there, of who I wanted to communicate with, who I could see myself becoming friendly with. And while I made out well with a new friend by the end of the fall semester, the arrival of the pandemic this past spring has definitely, without a doubt, set me back to where I started - further back, if that's possible. Now, there are restrictions and very little choice. I have to resort to a lot of guesswork and nodding when needing to ask for help at a store, pick up a prescription, order through drive-thru windows...(that last one isn't new but it still sucks) and medical appointments. I hate to ask anyone to lower their masks when they speak to me - because then I'm asking them to put themselves at risk. And so, this is hard. Very hard. It's depleted desire to be 'out there' down to none. I think this all became a reality when I walked into a Dunkin' Donuts with the intention of buying an iced coffee and I'd forgotten my mask in the car. The girl behind the counter pointed to a sign that said, 'no mask, no service.'
My mask was in the car...hanging from the rearview. I could have just gone to get it and returned to the counter, but instead, I just left. Fuck it.
I have absolutely no motivation to even TRY to go out there and perform normal activities and duties. Simple things. Go shopping. Pick up curbside food. Visit family. (And that last one, I don't know how to explain...maybe the hesitation has to do with my delightful mother being her usual lovely self?) None of it interests me, and it's taking everything in me to not come down with a cold and cancel my trip to New Jersey this weekend to see my niece for her birthday and meet my brand-new niece born a month ago. I know it sounds like an overall nice trip - and there's a teeny-tiny baby involved - I just feel that the traumaversary as well as the months of being in isolation has done a significant amount of messing with my head, my mood and my overall emotional state.
I am realizing at this point that I don't like how I'm sounding right now and am trying to refrain from deleting this whole entry that I've been working on for pretty much all day. I know that I'm not the only one dealing with this. That's impossible. Others are struggling, too. In different ways than I am, yes, but still struggling to cope with the changes they've had to get used to in the last several months. People have died. People have lost loved ones to the virus. My fiancee almost died. I battled it for two weeks and made a full, uncomplicated recovery. And here I am - complaining. This just doesn't feel right....
I apologize in advance if all of the above is taken in an offensive manner - please know that none of it is intentional. I'm clearly having difficulty finding the right words to effectively explain what's been swimming around in my brain waves lately. It is not meant for me to appear as if I'm making this about me because I'm well aware that this is about all of us. It truly is my hope to explain why all of this has caused existing feelings to snowball when the season shifted from Summer to Fall....I'm just hoping that's how it's taken by those of you who have read up to this point. I know I could have posted all of this in the Pandemic Discussion board but this space felt to be a more appropriate home for all of this.
I guess just don't like myself very much these days. I think that's what it boils down to. I want the old me back. I want the me who laughed more often, who celebrated the little victories, who actually enjoyed spending time with my family (especially my nieces and nephew). The cautious me who had a choice as to how much or how little of myself I chose to share. The me who looked forward to finishing school and achieving goals, the me who embraced order and consistency and the me who had a plan for everything. The me who was able to more easily break away from the activities done in isolation. Lately, I've only wanted to burrow myself deeper into this darkness, but I know that's not a healthy nor a preferred move. I just don't like not knowing how this is going to affect me (and, of course, others) next week. Next month. Next year. How fucking long is this going to last???
I want...no, I NEED to snap out of this state and to reconnect. And I know that a huge part of this world's returning to normalcy is for people to exercise caution and to....continue to wear masks and to practice social distancing. I know I need to be patient and to suck it up, because for the greater good, this is a necessary evil that is far larger than me. I just hope there IS an upcoming end to all of this insanity and ugliness and uncertainty. I know we all do.
The good news is - I already do feel a little bit of the trauma-related heaviness beginning to lift. The traumaversary day is long gone, and I'm thinking this is why I'm able to come up with all of this tonight. There were just too many variables in front of me and this was not allowing for me to do the mental troubleshooting that I normally do.
I thank you all for reading if you've made it this far. I know this blog entry was longer than yesterday's. I guess I got rid of a lot of brain traffic but there's still some leftover congestion that perhaps sleep and a good cry will help to clear up.
My love to you all.