The other day I got the renewal notice for my website and I realized that I have only published two posts in 2019. Both of those posts were done in the first week of January. My 19 for 2019 – Which I’ve accomplished 3 ½ of the 19 things on the list (go me!) and Just Keep Eating – which I figured out I have some type of chemical allergies (that isn’t interesting enough to make a post about) and I quit that awful diet 2 weeks into it! I had full intentions of continuing to write after the blog changed, but life has definitely gotten in the way. I got an amazing promotion at work, allowing me to not only make more money, but also work in merchandising which is the heart of corporate retail. From there, the possibilities are endless. As much as I enjoy my job, the stress level that comes along with it is intense. Not to mention, Justin and I are still doing the long distance thing (hopefully not for too much longer) so I’m still basically a single mom. My parents moved half the country away, and the girl’s dad went through some life changes and now works on the road. All of which leaves me very much alone. Alone to do all of the things so many of us take for granted when we have a significant other or family to help us. Alone to do all the cooking, cleaning, errands, working, parenting, etc. etc. etc. I do have one close friend who helps me with my girls as much as she is able, and without her I honestly don’t know what I’d do. However, she too is a single parent which makes her ability to help limited. So, all of that, combined with pure exhaustion, have left me little to no time and/or energy to write (even though I’ve had some pretty good ideas that have come and gone darn it.)
Thankfully, we were fortunate enough to be able to go on a big family vacation last week to Turks & Caicos. Yes, I just came back from vacation and I’m still complaining about my stress level. If you’ve ever worked in retail pre-Black Friday (or been a single parent for that matter,) you will understand when I say that 1 week was not nearly enough time to empty my overflowing buckets of stress and responsibility. Plus, the clusterfuck that awaited my return to the office was massive to say the least. Life is good though, despite the stress level. Vacation was incredible, girls are healthy, and although it’s spread out all over the continental US, we are surrounded by love. However, one thing that has become blatantly clear to me is how much I still suffer from PTSD from my previous relationship.
If you’re thinking that took a sharp left turn, stay with me here.
I lead with all of that because yes, my life is good, great, grand, and I just went on a pretty kick ass vacation. But vacation is the place where my PTSD hit a point that lead me to write about it.
When you leave a toxic relationship, there’s some obvious clean-up that needs to be done. You work on yourself: change your hair, go shopping for a new wardrobe, join a yoga class, go for a hike, get a new job, and buy yourself some new boobs. You know, the usual. You post selfies, share inspirational quotes, hell…you may even start blogging! You grow, you change, you heal. Then one day, because you feel like a completely new and stronger person who’s learned a lot, you jump back into the dating pool. Shortly after, if you’re lucky, you find a cool human to share life’s moments with and you enter a relationship. In the beginning, all is rainbows and butterflies and pure bliss. You love everything about each other, you never ever argue, and you even hold your farts in. Then, slowly but surely, the honeymoon phase wears off, you get braver about where you pass your gas, and the stress of real-life sinks in. Enter PTSD.
To be honest, I really, truly struggle with calling it that. When I think of PTSD I think of soldiers who have gone through hell, and are forever changed by what they’ve been through. I think of children who have seen some of the most traumatic scenes unfold before their eyes. I think of people who have survived accidents, I don’t think of someone who has gone through a toxic relationship. So, any time I ever bring this up to anyone (besides my friend because she can fully relate) I always shyly mention PTSD, or say it’s “like” PTSD. But the fact of the matter is, it’s a real thing, it’s not fair to compare traumas, and it’s OKAY to talk about.
Any who, I’ve definitely had some moments here or there that have poked at my PTSD, but nothing that I couldn’t just brush off. While we were on vacation though it hit me, and it started in the most bizarre way. The girls and I have been on this vacation before, twice actually, so we have a lot of memories there. My parents, Justin, my brother, sister-in-law, and their kids were with us as well. The resort we stay at has a waterpark for the kids, and on the second day we took the kids there after lunch. To be fair, I did have a Pina Colada or two (this was an all-inclusive resort thank you very much) so it enhanced my emotions. But as I’m standing there watching the girls play, I just start sobbing. In that moment, the vacations of the past that happened in the very same place started playing in my mind. I see my girls as the younger versions of their selves sliding down the same waterslides, and I couldn’t help but feel sad. But why? This was paradise! I mean I already explained the Pina Coladas, but standing right there next to the lazy river…I wept. I honestly just think that I felt bad. I felt bad because lately I’ve been an impatient mom. I felt bad because lately I’ve been grumpy from all the stress and quick to say no. I felt bad because lately I’ve felt like I’m slipping back into the person I used to be. A mom who is desperate for help, a mom who is stretched too thin, a mom who is doing it all on her own, and that’s heavy. Initially I felt bad about crying, and felt like I needed to hide it or stop. Then I decided that if I didn’t just let it out, it was going to build up even more, and what better place than vacation (with sunglasses on and surrounded by splashing water) to let it go.
I think between stress at work and in life, and feeling a little too much like the old me again, has brought some of my insecurities and worries to the surface. One night while in Turks, I slept so poorly because I had nightmares all night long. I dreamt that Justin was cheating on me right in front of my face. I had another dream where Justin slowly transformed into my ex over the course of the dream. At the end of it, I walked up to the pool where he was swimming and he turned around and he had completely transformed. Now if that’s not your brain playing out your fears, I don’t know what is! I also haven’t been as thoughtful to others, and I haven’t been as fair when it comes to disagreements and pettiness in my relationship. Up until this point, I’ve been able to have grace when Justin and I don’t see eye to eye. I’ve been able to take a breath and see his perspective. But for whatever reason, after opening the floodgates of emotions that day at the waterpark, my PTSD took hold of me. Now I won’t bore you with the details because it’s one of those, “why did you knock so loud?” “Because no one was answering!” “Didn’t you know we were busy and couldn’t hear you!” super petty, super unnecessary arguments that we all tend to have occasionally. What’s important to note about this minor disagreement is that inside I was losing it. Inside my fight or flight kicked in and I felt like I was about to have an anxiety attack. That’s the thing about PTSD, it’s overwhelming and irrational and it sucks. When your last relationship was full of nothing but arguments and yelling, even the slightest irritation makes you want to run for the hills. It makes you want to throw the whole man out and start all over again just because he knocked too loud, and it’s really, really, frustrating.
I knew there would be moments like this, hell I even wrote it in my blog before:
“Entering into a relationship after surviving a toxic one is going to be tough. It’s going to take all kinds of effort on my part to not let past trauma poison the new relationship. I’m going to have to be purposeful with my actions and allow my heart to accept new love.”
“I want you to know that although I’ve done so much growing and healing, there will still be days every now and then where I’m reminded where I came from. Please be patient with me in these moments, because it will hurt me to get a glimpse of her again.”
I knew there would be times where I’d look in the mirror and see the frazzled mama again. I knew there’d be moments where I’d be scared and want to retreat to the comfort of me, myself, and I. I knew there would be moments where past trauma would blind my rational thoughts. I knew all of this would come to light at some point, and that point is now. Real relationships take work, they take grace. They are kisses goodnight when you just want to huff and puff and sleep on the couch (it probably smells better out there) and those real relationships have two people in them who have traumas they need to face whether it is easy or not. The only way to get past those traumas is to do just that, face them, acknowledge them. Think about what those moments are trying to teach you and grow from them. Be patient with yourself, and don’t be afraid to talk about it (even if your way of talking about it is writing it down.)
I sure hope I sleep better tonight now that I’ve emptied my brain a little bit! Also, take a peek at some of our awesome vacation photos 😊 (I promise everyone else was there, but I just don’t post photos of them here!)