I woke up instantly this morning after only two hours of sleep. I haven’t done this in months.
Over two years ago this happened almost daily. At night, I was so tired I’d climb into bed and just pass out. But, in two hours, exactly, I’d SNAP WIDE AWAKE, unable to fall back asleep fighting that tiger the rest of the morning. In the afternoon, exhausted, I’d try to take a nap, but it would only last ten to fifteen minutes until once again I’d be up like a hamster sprinting on his wheel. I’d run nonstop until I was so drained, I’d crash late at night, only to repeat the process over again.
This is how my body reacts to trauma. This was what I got used to when my former spouse asked for separation, later divorce, and, when I moved out of our home a year ago.
Many times, when I’d instantly wake up from these brief sleep episodes, I’d be in a dream like state, my mind processing stories that were too painful for me to look at when I was conscious.
This morning my dream was terrifying.
I dreamt that I was in the water on the beach. A wave crashed down upon me. The undertow trying to pull me out to sea, my body flipping in the strong current. I popped up with just enough time to gasp for air before the next wave plummeted down upon me. I couldn’t seem to get my bearings. Where’s up? Follow the bubbles. But there’s bubbles everywhere. I can’t tell which way is left or right, let alone which way is up.
Wave after wave keeps hammering upon me. I panic, arms flailing. I’m being tossed around like a rubber duck going over Niagara Falls. I can’t get out. I’m drowning and I’m now being sucked farther away from shore. I can’t breathe. I’m going to die…
I finally force myself out of the dream state.
As I wake, I notice I have the old traumatic bodily feelings I haven’t felt in months. My heart is racing, breathing is quick and shallow. My fingertips burn, like I’m touching a hot stove, but for some silly reason I refuse to let go. My stomach feels raw, like scraping metal from the inside. I feel the blood pumping, literally pumping through my veins. I’m bathed in a sense of hyper-vigilance becoming ever so sensitive to my surroundings.
“What stress hormones are there that causes the body to become so tense, so physically off?” I wonder. “I’m going to have to look that one up.”
How is it my mind wants to understand the biological chemistry going on in my body when I feel as if I’m in danger? I need to be ready to fight or flee at a moment’s notice, and yet, here I still lie in my bed.
I had always thought that my former spouse’s acknowledgment of her part in our marriage and divorce would bring me a sense of peace. That I would finally see that I wasn’t as crazy as she always pointed me out to be.
I thought her admittance would allow me not to shoulder all the blame any longer; that it would release a burden I’ve allowed myself to carry for years. The weight that our divorce was ALL my fault.
Instead, I am instantly transported back to the traumatic state I got stuck in during recovery; the traumatic state I got stuck in going through divorce.
Fucking trauma! Worse than back-talking, entitled teens!
Wait, that’s trauma too.
Crap, I’m getting it from all sides.
This physical pain at the cellular level was what I used to yell at Rafiki a year ago that I needed to get out of my body. It took me months of deep work to finally address the issues that allowed that pain to slowly seep away. And here it is again.
Nasty little demon. Back at full force.
Shouldn’t there be relief and joy when I found out that my ‘craziness’ was not really that crazy after all?
Shouldn’t there be a sense of calm because cognitively it all makes sense?
Why is the pain back?
Welcome to the wonderful world of trauma.
Trauma and PTSD
When I wrote Father’s Day 2017, Rafiki told me that I need to address my former spouse’s post-traumatic stress; to understand how my past actions caused her to become reactive to her surroundings.
Rafiki talked to me in Take the Beef off the Grill and explained that I need to stop waiting to receive forgiveness from my former spouse for my past actions. He challenged me to forgive her for her decision to divorce instead of work on our marriage. I knew I would have to dig deeper into learning about PTSD and how my actions made her world unsafe to help me with the forgiveness piece.
Yesterday, I started the research for a blog based on forgiveness and the post-traumatic stress disorder that partners of sex addicts experience due to betrayal from their spouse.
God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.
The universe works in strange ways.
Things happen for a reason.
What I didn’t expect from the research, was the realization that I do understand my spouse on a deeper level than I had originally believed.
Her physical reactions may be different. Her thoughts may be different. The stories she makes up and the fears she has may be different. But whatever they are, the trauma that sneaks up out of the blue and cripples her is similar to mine. It knocks us both on our asses and we’re picking up the pieces, the shrapnel embedded deep in our bodies. The tiger mauls us and puts our minds into that perpetual spinning hamster wheel.
Everything I’ve felt were trauma triggers. My trauma is like the waves of the ocean hurtling on top of me preventing me from catching my breath and threatening to drown me. My reactions were the learned survival reflexes as I gasped for air.
Today Was Different
In the past, all I could focus on was my pain and the need for it to stop. And focusing on the pain, only increased its power over me. I would go to all lengths to try to get it out of my body. I had no tools to care for myself. I didn’t know how.
So, unfortunately, instead of dancing with the tiger, I’d attack my former spouse, the person I blamed for my pain.
Today was different.
I embraced my pain. I looked at it and I examined it.
I was triggered; something that really had no cognitive reasoning for occurring and yet my body was getting ready.
I waltzed with my tiger.
What was my body trying to tell me? That I was in danger and needed to prepare to fight or flee.
Was I truly in danger? No.
What’s the best way to take care of myself and bring those sensations back to normal? Make phone calls, tap, meditate, breathe, don’t engage, allow time to process, force yourself to stay present, and…
My blog has been the relief valve to my pain; the culvert that drains my sewage away.
My blog has been the relief valve to my pain; the culvert that drains my sewage away. Click To Tweet
It’s been a way for me to process what I am experiencing so that I can stop flittering on the ceiling and come back to ground.
My blog has been a way for my adult to connect with Little Phoenix, to protect him and care for him.
This is the beginning of some heavy processing that needs to follow.
I need to continue to research and process the piece about PTSD.
I need to continue to look at my own PTSD reactions and how they’ve affected my former spouse.
I need to use what I learn to have empathy and compassion so I can resume my path of forgiveness towards my former spouse.
And the hardest part of all, is that I need to figure out what healthy boundaries I need to place around myself and my former spouse so I can heal from the trauma each of us continue to recreate in our friendship.
I’ve come leaps and bounds from where I was.
I know I’ve said good-bye numerous times in previous blogs, only to come back around again and hope.
Recently, other circumstances in my life have had me looking at the importance of maintaining boundaries and learning how to stand up and do things I don’t want to do to protect Little Phoenix. I am learning to stand up for myself.
I was getting closer to following the advice that my two therapists have given me for months; that I need to put up boundaries and maintain a co-parenting relationship only with my former spouse.
However, the vulnerability and openness that has happened between us these past couple of weeks has me lost and confused. There’s also another dream I had the week before we had our first deep discussion; before I showed her my blog. That dream has stifled putting this boundary up sooner.
I woke up abruptly after ten minutes into a nap. It was my former spouse looking at me, pleading, “Please give me some time. Have patience with me. I’m not going anywhere and I need to figure things out. Don’t give up on me just yet.”
“You can’t hope and grieve at the same time.”
I had an EMDR session canceled almost six months ago where we spent an hour and a half on that one comment alone. I was pushed and challenged that I need to finalize my divorce for my own sanity. That as long as the divorce wasn’t finalized, I was holding onto false hope.
Holding onto false hope was killing me.
I needed to grieve my divorce.
And, six months later, I may call her my former spouse on my blogs to make it easier to accept that her heart hardened for me so many years ago, however, in my heart, I’m still married, my wedding ring and Phoenix charm resting on chain next to my heart. It’s embarrassing to admit this, yet as the legal divorce still sits in limbo, I still sit in hope that she’ll change her mind.
When do I do the one thing I’ve been resisting for years?
When do I let go of my marriage, stop hoping, and start grieving?
“Careful with that thought,” Rafiki speaks up. “Spend too much time worrying about what to do and you end up forcing your path. When you try to control your destiny, you’ll get sucked back into the undertow once again. Let go and let God. Surrender. All will come in due time.”
Instead, Today I Will Pray.
I pray that my Father will continue to guide me. I trust He has the best interests of my family in mind. I know He will not give me more than I can handle and the challenges He continues to bring my way are those my recovery and healing have prepared me for.
I pray for Him to watch over our daughters as Mom and Dad struggle with the possibility of reopening old wounds.
Father, help my former spouse learn to parent her inner child, help her to heal, and guide her to learn to love herself.
And, Father, teach me how to continue to care for Little Phoenix, so that Together We Can Heal.
PS: Father, I am going to take a nap. Please keep me from waking up within 15 minutes.