Tuesday, May 26, 2009

2 steps forward, 1 (BIG) step back

Yesterday i spent a good portion of my day mired in anxiety. on the one hand, this is really hard. on the other hand, this is how i spent most of my days from august to march, so it is good to have a reminder of the contrast. and good to have a reminder to keep up with my workbook from my treatment group~to stay on top of how I'm feeling.
Yech. All this death and tragedy obsession, it is not fun! For years though, I have felt like many other people around me live in denial of the possibility that tragedy and death may affect their lives, and felt it was positive that I had a more realistic awareness that life includes suffering, trials, and unwelcome events. I don't quite know, now, if that assessment is still true, or if it is possible to maintain this awareness without feeling a certain fatalistic dread? I hope it is, because I don't really know that I CAN live in denial. Undoing knowledge is kind of like trying to stop yourself from thinking about elephants. When you want to stop, you can't. My textbook from my PPD/A treatment group says this fatalistic dread is a core belief, and that

"Negative beliefs about the world are more common for people who have witnessed or experienced trauma...powerful negative experiences can help create negative core beliefs at any age."

What I realized when I read that was that I have witnessed an incredible amount of trauma in my 6 years as a paramedic, and it has changed the way I view the world. [which begs me to wonder; am I more sensitive? or are all paramedics changed in this way? are we all existing with a negative belief about the world, or are others better able to balance what they see in their work with what they experience in their individual lives? i dunno] I have a sense that tragedy and death are inevitable. Which, actually, they are. But I have MORE than a sense of inevitability: I have a sense of imminence about them. I have a great sense that most of the things I have seen WILL happen to me or my family, it is simply a matter of time. Which is not a statistical likelihood, at all! I also had a very deep sense of responsibility for the continued safety of my family. Like a giant kharmic bargaining scale: if I remember to correctly fasten my children into their car seats every time, they will not die. If I forget or a belt is loose or Riley's infant seat isn't snapped in all the way, that is when we will crash and one of them will surely die. If I keep vigilant watch over Riley when he sleeps, and never let him sleep with a blanket or a toy or on his tummy, he will stay alive. If I forget and leave a toy in his playpen, or if he turns onto his tummy and I don't notice or I leave him there, he will surely die. If I don't remember to pray for my husband's safety at work, he will surely be shot.

I don't think this line of thinking is actually any closer to reality than a fog of denial that tragedy or death could ever touch my life. The more I read, write, and think about it, the more I see that this is true. Death is not imminent. And in the end, it is not my responsibility to keep everyone alive by balancing a great spreadsheet of actions I must take to balance the universe and keep God happy enough to convince him to allow me to keep my children...
So there are two major battles for me here. (1) Realizing that death and tragedy are not imminent, and (2) relinquishing responsibility for the health and safety of my family to God. Which is hard, and kind of like disordered eating, in that one has to learn to live in a balanced state with the very thing that tosses you into disorder! Because I AM responsible for the safety of my kids, and it is good and healthy for me to pray for my husband. But in a qualitatively different way than I have been functioning for years. Because I have realized I've been struggling with anxiety for years, without knowing what was wrong. Deep anxiety regarding how I could logistically function with two children and an inappropriate sense of responsibility for Matthew's transitional process and future happiness is what tossed me so deep in dysfuntion when we adopted Matthew, and guilt over that dysfunction mired me for years afterwards. By Riley, the anxiety was at a low level. Once Riley was born this preexisting, lower level anxiety was highlighted and worsened by post pregnancy hormones. It is all jumbled together; work, past experiences, a predisposition, and post partum hormones. Grown up life is so much more jumbled and messy than I thought it was going to be!
At any rate I am thankful that a day like yesterday is no longer the norm. And I'm hoping to find a balance between denial of and obsession with traumatic events.


Deb said...

Melissa, I can't say I fully understand at ALL what you're going through, but I DO understand living in a reality where death exists. My mom's gone, and I regularly have times where I have to deal with both missing mom, and knowing that some day Aria's going to go through that with me (or me with her). It's hard to deal with, and I just take it when it hits and be sad at the time, but it feels like few people our age live in that reality. They're lucky, but I know I CAN deal with it at the same time.
Just know you're not alone, even if everyone's not on the SAME journey, most people have something they're dealing with. All we can do is support and pray for each other, and being honest about the hard times allows us to do that.

Rachel Clear said...

Hugs, Melissa.

So good that you actually THINK about this stuff... you've got the smarts, that's for sure. Now I just wish you could think about it less, for your own good.

I understand all too well how you feel, and it's sad, but I do believe that some really positive outcomes can come from this keen sense of awareness you have. When I figure out what those positive outcomes might be, I will get back to you.

In the meantime... hugs.

Roboseyo said...

aw, Mel. I'm praying for you, and sending you big ol' hugs.

Roboseyo said...

aw, Mel. I'm praying for you, and sending you big ol' hugs.

tamie said...

I wanted to share this prayer with you, written by Henri Nouwen...

Dear Lord, today I thought of the words of Vincent van Gogh:"It is true there is an ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea." You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, you remain the same. Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the samenes of a faithful lover. Out of your love I came to life; by your love I am sustained; and to your love I am always called back. There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by your unwavering love.

My only real temptation is to doubt in your love, to think of myself as beyond the reach of your love, to remove myself from the healing radiance of your love. To do these things is to move into the darkness of despair.

O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life, and let me know that there is ebb and flow but that the sea remains the sea. Amen

Henry Nouwen A Cry for Mercy

tamie said...

And also, I wanted to say that I think witnessing traumatic events, even as a paramedic, does affect everyone. Ie., all your fellow paramedics are also affected. But, different people are affected in different ways. Which is obvious and even maybe cliche to point out, but it's a basic thing that I forget really often, and maybe you do too.

One of the things I have appreciated so much about the Enneagram is getting an in-depth perspective on just *how* different people are affected by the same events. For some people, if they witnessed something tragic, they would pretend that the pain wasn't there, and they'd go out looking for something entertaining, to distract themselves from the pain. Others (I am like this) would tend to dwell endlessly, forever and ever, on the pain and sorrow that the event evoked. Others would experience tremendous anxiety, wondering when such an event might happen again, trying to strategize ways to stay safe and prevent such a thing from happening again. Others would search out more traumatic events, because they liked the feeling of being able to help people.


I guess maybe my point is that just because you happen to deal with what you've experienced by having a ton of anxiety doesn't make you crazy or abnormal. Just because other people aren't responding to life with a lot of anxiety doesn't mean they don't have their own brand of issues! (Like, people who avoid conflict at all costs, or who pretend they haven't experienced pain, may look saner or more pleasant from the outside, but that doesn't mean they don't have just as big of issues! As anyone knows who has tried to be in relationship with such folk!)

I hope what I write makes sense. It's meant to be *comforting*!!! I hope it comes across that way!!

Love you babe.