Holding the Fort

Rose is rough, I am rough. I’m holding the fort, for myself and with her too. Just holding on.

We’re swimming in trauma reactions and broken bits of our hearts. Deep wounds and deep grief. PTSD is incredibly hard, very unfair. It exposes when we most need protecting, makes us tremble with fear when we most need comforting, turns the world dark when we most need the light.

I’m trying to find a way through the stories – that this is real but also that the fear it brings with it – that this is permanent, is not real. There’s such a tangled web of truths and lies and fears it’s hard to find a way through. I find myself falling with relief back into the stories where mental illness is compared with physical – for all the problems with those analogies they also fit and give some shape to the pain we’re in, some way to make room for the suffering and argue for understanding. My poor love is devastated with flashbacks and I find myself debating whether I’d say ptsd or epileptic fit if I needed to explain why we needed help in public to a stranger… It’s debilitating and I can’t navigate the complexities of what has happened to us any more, I’m back to needing the basics of something I can fit in a sentence, something I can scrape clear of the rot and find a place to stand on. Illness. Injury. Whatever. A real thing, a powerful thing, that wishing or trying hard does not make go away. We are dealing with a thing that is bigger than us, and unfair, and very hard, and we are doing it the best we can and each day hoping tomorrow may be better.

And yet, as I drove up the freeway today, looking for a way to pass an hour without the darkness obliterating us both, I felt that knot of pain in me, the thing in my throat I can’t breath around, the indefinable thing that is and is not pain or fear or grief or any thing I can put a word to… just some kind of deep hurt that I can only recoil from – something unbearable. Which is bizarre to me, because I’ve been through so much that was unbearable. So much worse than this! And alone, and in agony, without hope – I’ve been here before and yet this is a new hell, unfamiliar, and I’m without assurance that I’ll come through it. I can’t feel that.

I wondered for a moment what it would feel like if I stopped doing all this to try and ‘get better’ or feel better, if I stopped the self care, the patience, the determination, all the ways I was approaching this pain, and let it be instead. Instead, in fact, made it welcome. And the knot came undone, in my throat. I could breathe for a moment, I was in pain but it wasn’t beyond bearing any more. It just hurt. I didn’t have to run from it or bind it up or try to heal it. I could just be with it. Recovery never looks the way people talk about it. Tonight, I’m feeling the black rain falling under my skin. I’m patient and mostly I’m holding the fort. Some moments, I slip into the slime and under the water I can hear the sound of my dreams dying.

Some moments I read blog posts like Celebrating my blog from earlier this year, and come across lines like “I’m actually starting to take some positive feedback on board for the first time since I was a child. I can see clearly what I’ve been doing all these years with this work.” and the contrast is so great it’s almost unbearable. How did I lose this? How completely I have lost it. Only the memories haunt me.

I have spoken with a few close friends lately about all the losses I’ve faced in the past few months, particularly around my business. So many wonderful things have been cancelled or rescheduled or not come to pass, none of which I can really talk about. I thought I was ready, and to the sound of enthusiasm and support and a sense of community, I’ve jumped. I tried to fly and instead I’ve fallen. Each loss or dead end or deferred hope alone was manageable, but my world has been full of them lately, and I simply can’t buffer them, not in my situation. Everything has an impact in my world, financially, and on hope and energy. I rolled with the punches for the first few, but somewhere back 10 losses ago, I lost key things I need to keep going and didn’t realise yet until there was no more world beneath my feet and I was falling into a dark place.

I am trying to send cards or letters to anyone who has supported me and I have managed one so far, which I nearly threw up with stress to do. So vulnerable, nerves scraped raw and heart broken. I simply do not understand why anyone would support me in any way, let alone a stranger or near stranger send me money. I want to understand it but right now I simply can’t process that what I’ve done has helped anyone or that people might wish to be as madly generous to me as at times I’ve been to others. It’s a simple equation I know, but I can’t make it come out right in my mind. I hope it will again.

I was talking to someone kind the other day and when I listed all the losses, one beside the other, of the past few months, they were shocked. “Deep grief” they said to me. “Of course you are worn out, that’s such a lot to deal with, and such a shock when things seemed to be going so well!” Shock. Could that be the reason the sun seems dark? The reason that people telling me, over and over, that I’m okay, that I count, that I’m enough, and that I’ve done some good in the world simply doesn’t make sense to me? Is this how shock feels on the inside?

“Stop asking what’s wrong with you!” one friend has said to me – “of course you’re struggling, it’s been such a hard year! You can’t take hits like that and not need a break.” And I think of life cycles and cycles of energy and of day and night and life and death and needing to stop and retreat and weep sometimes to find that joy in life again. I think of going on without stopping through one loss and then the next and the one after, still smiling and still hoping and still wringing hope from my heart while the politeness became and mask that slipped and gouged into me and my heart choked.

“Deep grief” I’ve written on my wrist in permanent marker, to remind me – this is why it hurts so much. There’s a real reason, even if it doesn’t make sense in my head. I’m not just broken or crazy or doomed. It will heal. I will see the light again. And this thing that feels unbearable, I’ll find a way to live with, like I have all the others, right. Right?

For now, holding the fort.

3 thoughts on “Holding the Fort

  1. Sarah, I’ve been reading your recent blogs and it seems to me that there is something missing. I’m afraid I’m going to have to resort to DID language here as it is easiest for me to explain how I got through such time even though I think Complex PTSD is a better explanation for trauma survivors. I’m not hearing of any communication with your parts. In my experience feeling so bad is because a part or parts of you has been really triggered and need for you to hear them. Perhaps a young part is hurting or angry or feeling in great need of comfort and protector parts are letting you know in the outdated way they do, by hurting you. It is very difficult to work with your parts without having an excellent therapist to journey with you. I feel I haven’t explained things very well but please let me know if you have someone.like this to facilitate your internal work. I care about you and and wish to help but if you think none of this is right for you, that’s OK and I’ll still be here for you. Millie

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    • Hi Millie, thanks for your thoughts – we have been doing that – we talk a lot internally and don’t often share that on here. Sometimes issues can turn out to be remarkably simple like insomnia being caused by a different part being cold when the rest of us are fine. It’s not so clear at the moment, there’s too much distress and internal noise for us to make sense of so we’re just moving very gently and waiting for things to settle. Kindness from others is helping as is short bursts of time alone. Thanks again 🙂

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  2. .. it sounds like you are slowly slowly getting a bit more light shining into the bleakness.. sitting with the pain, even welcoming it, not fighting it – how brave.
    If my experience is anything to go by then the Big Awakening takes a life time of integrating… and some of it happens in bleakness. I like the comment you quote from a friend, there is nothing wrong with you – you are hurting.
    I don’t give out prescriptions, and try not to be prescriptive :-), but I have views and sometimes the best I can do is step back and hand over when I have suggested something – so here goes: I think it may be worth trying homeopathy for healing, both of you. May the sun come out soon whatever you do though.

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