Feeling Overwhelmed: it’s a PTSD thing

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.


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.”

30 thoughts on “Feeling Overwhelmed: it’s a PTSD thing

  1. luckyotter February 19, 2016 / 4:57 am

    Reblogged this on Lucky Otter's Haven and commented:
    I think this is something a lot of us can relate to, especially those of us with PTSD and complex PTSD. I know I sure can, and there have been times where writing a new post seems like moving a mountain and I just can’t do it. Welcome back, Linda Lee!

    Liked by 3 people

      • luckyotter February 19, 2016 / 3:39 pm

        It’s a good post. Also, I thought it might help you get some hits for your new blog.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thumbup February 19, 2016 / 12:51 pm

    It’s been happening to me too lately!
    I don’t understand why?
    I don’t have PTSD.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee February 19, 2016 / 2:10 pm

      Maybe it’s stress from the things you’ve been going through where you live? I know you’ve had a lot going on.

      Stressful times always make me feel more overwhelmed. My husband and stepdaughter just got back from a 2,000 mile trip to rescue one of my husband’s granddaughters from a violent meth user. I was stressing big time while they were gone.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Thumbup February 19, 2016 / 5:28 pm

        OH! Never thought of that, yes, maybe it’s that!
        Glad your granddaughter’s outta there!

        Liked by 2 people

  3. donshelby February 19, 2016 / 2:35 pm

    I feel like this a lot too. It’s almost like a force greater than me is holding me hostage and I can’t get up and do anything I need to do.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee March 2, 2016 / 12:08 am

      Oh my goodness, DonShelby… for some unfathomable reason, your comment was sent to spam. I’m so sorry I didn’t see it until now.

      Yes, it does feel like a force sometimes that holds us back when we have PTSD. My husband, who has PTSD from combat in Vietnam, has been struggling really bad with this lately.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. bluebird of bitterness February 19, 2016 / 3:39 pm

    You describe the condition very well! No one who has not experienced it has any idea what it’s like and I’ve given up trying to explain it to people who don’t get it. Maybe from now on I’ll just refer them to this article. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee March 2, 2016 / 1:03 am

      Why on earth would WordPress send your lovely comment to SPAM?? I am so sorry that I didn’t see it until now. Good grief!!

      Thank you for the complement! Wow! I have tried and tried for years to explain the “PTSD Overwhelm” and never could find the words until now. I guess I had to get desperate enough.

      Now if I could just figure out WordPress…

      Liked by 2 people

      • bluebird of bitterness March 2, 2016 / 8:20 am

        I hear you. I’ve had legitimate comments end up in spam for no apparent reason too. Just one of the occupational hazards, I guess. 😉

        Liked by 2 people

  5. katiesdream2004 February 19, 2016 / 3:57 pm

    Oh Thank YOU. I was beating myself up this morning emotionally for being in my pjs and feeling exhausted and worn and sleeping in really late 3 days in a row. No it is not laziness but there is an absolute cement wall against attempting anything but breathing today. Sometimes the wall is purely physical sometimes emotional, sometimes spiritual and sometimes it is a combination of all 3. Today, after reading this, I thought “why don’t I receive this apparently prolonged period of rest with nothing solid to do as a special grace given to me?” Rather than condemn myself “you should do more, you should be more, look at other people they are more, they do more” accept that my Creator in all sorts of wisdom knows my spirit body and mind are exhausted from working too hard for too long. The work of surviving as a scapegoat in a narcissistic family would cause the able bodied strongest person to faint long before I did.

    So today, my gift to myself and my Creator is not to give way to the despair “I”m not enough, my writing is not enough, I should be and do more” and embrace instead “today I am exactly all I am supposed to be because heart and soul I am my Creators and my life is His responsibility I can NOT do more than He gives me energy to do And if i have no energy today than that is the gift of the day. This allows me to not be full of self-reproach for my apparent lack of accomplishment. There is a time for everything, apparently this season of life is recovery and lots and lots of rest. That is my Divine assignment for the day and I will at last accept this as “enough”

    Liked by 4 people

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee March 2, 2016 / 1:11 am

      Oh, dear, DEAR Katie! This wonderful, glorious, awesome, VERY TRUE comment of yours has been languishing for eleven days in my spam file and I did not see it until now. Spam?? WHY did this, and several other perfectly fine comments, go to SPAM?

      Anyway, I am very grateful that I saw your comment now and rescued it and… oh… OH!! What you said here is so wonderful, so true… I think that I must make a blog post out of it, if that is all right with you!?! Giving you full credit, of course!

      I love what you said here. I love everything you said here.

      “Rather than condemn myself “you should do more, you should be more, look at other people they are more, they do more” accept that my Creator in all sorts of wisdom knows my spirit body and mind are exhausted from working too hard for too long. The work of surviving as a scapegoat in a narcissistic family would cause the able bodied strongest person to faint long before I did.”

      AMEN and AMEN!!! XOXOXO

      Liked by 3 people

      • katiesdream2004 March 2, 2016 / 3:59 am

        You are welcome! This weakness is a time of being liberated from performance-based religion! I spent my life trying to earn the love of narcissists. It is a moving target and you have to work really hard and find you never do hit the target. My little god, was the same as the abusers in my life for years–trying to earn favor, love, acceptance mercy. It is only in finding myself so completely incapacitated to do anything that I understand, He loves me just because I am His. Just because love is His nature.

        I don’t say the word love easily because that word has been so terribly twisted in my life to be nothing but the term used when someone wants to exploit me. It is still a pretty meaningless word, but that is starting to change Particularly, as I struggle with the lack of productivity and hear “child you are loved while you sleep, and loved when you wake up, and loved when you are too tired to even pray because nothing is ever going to make my love for you go away you can’t earn it, you can’t make it go away”.

        This is a life lesson. So what I can’t do, what I can do, my apparent 1 penny life is all I have to give. But it is all His and I can rest knowing that 1 penny pleases Him. I think I needed to learn, that when I am at my weakest, I have to trust Him more. It is the trust that creates the closeness not the frantic work of trying to earn love. We are in fact invited to come and rest.

        Liked by 4 people

  6. S February 19, 2016 / 4:54 pm

    Linda I have seen you comment under Luckyottershaven but only now learned that you have a blog of your own. I think that is wonderful. When you described your experiences with PTSD, all of the effort needing to be put forth behind the simplest of things, not being able to generate ideas at times, all of the slowing in general while you are indeed a bright lady. I had experienced those things too, for decades. I only now realized that that is part of PTSD. I didn’t know that there was a name for it. I think my PTSD lifted once I remembered what had been repressed. My unconscious mind became conscious. And that only happened with my best therapist who I really felt re-parented me. The trust was there, and then I recalled everything and assembled the pieces that added up to not-nice things, but, it is always better to know. You know what’s odd? All of my shortcomings that I blamed myself for were not shortcomings after all. They were the presentation of PTSD. And to think I had been blaming myself for all of these years! What makes PTSD complex? The difference between the two?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee February 19, 2016 / 11:58 pm

      Thank you for your wonderful comment, S. How awesome that you were able to fully heal from your PTSD issues. I have no doubt that PTSD can fully heal, with the right therapy and in a safe, nurturing environment.

      I will have to answer your question about the difference between PTSD and Complex PTSD tomorrow. It is very late here and I’m too tired to think clearly. Also our little poodle is crying for me to come to bed, the poor baby. 😊

      Liked by 2 people

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee February 26, 2016 / 8:56 am

      I apologize for not answering your question yet about the difference between PTSD and Complex PTSD. I want to write a new post about it but haven’t had the time yet to do so. Now I need to pack so I can be out of here in a little over an hour for a weekend women’s retreat with my church.

      In the meantime, you can read a post I wrote last August on my other blog on the topic of Complex PTSD. I don’t know if you knew about my old blog? I recently started this new WordPress account and new blog, because when I was using the gravatar associated with my old blog, no one was getting notified when I would post a comment. WordPress support couldn’t help, googling the problem gave me no answers, and after nearly a month of other bloggers not seeing any of my comments I decided enough was enough, and so I started this new account. Eventually I intend to transfer most of my posts from the old blog to this one.

      Here is my post about Complex PTSD:

      Liked by 1 person

      • S February 27, 2016 / 5:35 pm

        Thank you Linda. I read it and I loved it. So that explains the deep, painful, unrelenting depression I used to experience. So painful I cannot describe in words. You know what I imagine happened to those of us who experienced maternal rejection? That as babies, we reached out excitedly for our mothers, and she didn’t reach back. Picture the injury and shame that would accompany such a scene.

        So cool the weekend women’s retreat you are on. I need to do that. I will have to ask at my church.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA February 21, 2016 / 6:22 pm

    Hmm. Yeah. Maybe that’s why everything is sitting in piles, and when I look at the piles I just dissociate more because the chaos makes more chaos…damn, if only money did that! But ever since I got too sick to even go to work (a long time ago), just chaos. If I didn’t have my dog I wouldn’t even get up and go outside or bother eating. I told my therapist that when hotel employees ask me what task my service dog does, I tell them “She keeps me from killing myself.” My therapist agreed.

    The de-motivation of PTSD is self perpetuating, we know that. But when it strikes, we are helpless to ward it off, because it already has us pinned down.

    My dog is a gift from Heaven. Unfortunately, even though tomorrow will be her second birthday, she was born with fetal kidneys and has only about 7% of normal kidney function. She initially was thought to have only a few months to live. But she has a whole prayer community behind her, and although she does get sick when we overdo our play times, for the most part she’s doing well.

    So….if you could put my K9 partner on your prayer list, it would be much appreciated…her name is Atina. Anyone else reading this is invited to pray for her also…and feel free to send me your prayer requests.

    Sending you healing energy from one warrior to another…And by the way, you’re invited to stop by my blog and pick up the Warrior Child Award widget, since I just gave you that award. You don’t have to “do” anything for this award. No rules. You can pass it on to anyone you feel deserves it. You can post the widget on your blog, or not, no pressure.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee February 22, 2016 / 2:25 am

      Thank you! I appreciate your stopping by and thanks so much for your comment. Dogs are the best people. I am praying for you and your precious fur baby.

      I would say more but it’s after 2 a.m. here and I just drove 300+ miles to meet my daughter.. my brain is a bit foggy. I didn’t kiss the ground when I got here safe and sound, but I blew it a miss. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA February 22, 2016 / 4:43 am

        Glad you arrived safely! Hope you have a wonderful visit. Have you been to the Taos Pueblo? Santa Fe? Ojo Caliente Hot Springs? All just a short drive from Albuquerque and so much more beautiful. Anyway, enjoy, safe journey home, and thanks so much for the prayers❤❤❤

        Liked by 1 person

        • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee February 22, 2016 / 10:57 pm

          Thanks, yes, I love New Mexico. Thirteen years ago I went on a post-divorce cross country road trip. I left eastern Pennsylvania during a February snow storm, intending to end up in California on the Pacific coast. But as I drove through New Mexico, I was so captivated by the stark beauty of this amazing state that I ended up moving here. I lived in the Albuquerque area until 2010.

          My daughter and I did some hiking in a lava field today. I will be posting pictures soon.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA February 22, 2016 / 11:10 pm

            Valley of Fires? I got stuck hitchhiking there near Carrizozo in 1970. I was 16. The story is bizarre. I might publish it on my blog. It’s a chapter of my memoir.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee February 23, 2016 / 2:29 am

              El Malpais near Grants. I like Carrizozo’s Valley of Fire better. I LOVE White Sands.

              You were 16 in 1970? So was I… until my 17th birthday in May. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  8. Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA February 23, 2016 / 1:46 pm

    Wow! Wouldn’t it be good to exchange stories!

    I have a work in progress, a memoir of seven months as a runaway from May 22, 1970 to the end of October, exact date unknown. I posted a few chapters on separate blog, then took it down because I wasn’t satisfied (the bane of the writer’s existence!). I just started rewriting that particular chapter, which is a totally unintentional sitcom. I’ll post it when it’s done, and since I know you’re expecting it, maybe I’ll procrastinate less 🙂 I’m five months into it, and already over 90k words…

    I haven’t been to White Sands, exactly. I’ll have to visit El Malpais via Google Earth!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee February 24, 2016 / 6:21 am

      I’m looking forward to your story.

      The art of writing is rewriting. I am also writing a memoir and it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I wrote and self published a novel 16 years ago, so I know it’s doable… reaching “The End,” I mean. But writing the true story of my life…. OMG.

      Liked by 2 people

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