Feeling Overwhelmed: it’s a PTSD thing

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Image from This Charming Charlie on Tumblr.

TWO WEEKS AGO, when I started this new blog, I had big ideas for my first post. I was thrilled that the name I wanted — A Blog About Healing From PTSD — was available. I picked out the theme, loaded a header picture, wrote my description page, and got all the settings the way I like them.

But when I started to write my first post, I froze.

No, my problem isn’t writer’s block. I’m not depressed, not anxious, not sick, and I’m certainly not too busy to find the time to write. My reason for waiting two weeks before writing my first post is something that happens to me a lot, in all kinds of situations. It’s maddening, it’s debilitating, and most people don’t seem to understand it at all.

My problem: I AM OVERWHELMED.

When I’m overwhelmed, the simplest tasks are too hard for me to do. Making a phone call. Answering emails. Walking to the mailbox and getting the mail. Taking out the trash. Doing the laundry. Cleaning the house. Going grocery shopping. Going to church.

When my feeling of being overwhelmed is at its worst, just making a sandwich or brushing my teeth can be too hard. But thankfully, I haven’t been that bad in a long time. I have been doing laundry, washing dishes, taking out the trash, making sandwiches, walking the dog, brushing my teeth, and getting the mail, on a fairly regular basis for several years now.

I even went to church last Sunday, although I hurried home right afterward. But making phone calls, answering emails, and writing blog posts have been beyond my abilities lately.

Why this happens to me, I don’t know. I don’t even know how to explain it. It isn’t laziness. It isn’t a lack of caring. It absolutely isn’t for lack of trying. It’s just that something inside of me seems to freeze, like an old buggy computer with very little RAM. Getting up in the morning and getting dressed is like opening one program on the computer. Letting the dog out and fixing breakfast is opening two more programs. I put on a load of laundry and wash the breakfast dishes and now I have five programs open on my mental computer. And then… my RAM is full. Everything grinds to a halt. I can’t even think of what to do next, let alone do anything

It’s almost as if the colors in an ordinary room have suddenly grown too bright and jarring. The sounds, even in a quiet room, are too loud and discordant. I retreat to my bedroom, lie down on the bed, and pick up a novel. Or I play computer solitaire. Or I read other people’s blogs. Or I stare at the ceiling. Or I just sit and think and think and think and think and think. At other times, I sit and don’t think.

My therapist, who moved out of state last September, told me this is part of my PTSD. He told me that at times like this I need to take deep slow breaths, in and out, and go to my happy place in my imagination.

I’m sick of my happy place. And I’m sick of breathing exercises, too.

Yes, I have come a long way from the broken shell that I was when I was at my very worst. I am no longer shattered, but I am still partly broken. And yet, because I seem so capable and together and competent some of the time, the people in my life don’t understand why I am not ALWAYS capable and together and competent.

I don’t understand it, either. It’s like having two broken legs and two broken arms, but only intermittently. And I never know when my arms and legs are going to be broken.

Getting mad at myself does not help. Feeling ashamed of my brokenness only makes my brokenness worse.

It is what it is. This is me… so much better than I used to be, but still a long ways from “normal.”