PTSD Flashbacks

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Today I had a PTSD flashback.  It was the worst PTSD flashback probably since the instance in the hotel lobby.

I smelled cinnamon and nutmeg.  It’s Christmas time, so someone was probably feeling particularly festive.  Or maybe the cafe downstairs was making a lot of things involving cinnamon and nutmeg.  I love cinnamon and nutmeg, I love the smell, I love how festive it feels.

It’s also the smell of chai lattes, as a colleague commented.  And that was the trigger.

My gut dropped and I went numb, my mind had a few seconds of racing then just disconnected.  I kept my breathing even and my face blank – I was at work, no one could know what was going on (this is part of my self preservation mechanism).  I messaged a friend to get it out and then kept on working while everything inside of me screamed.

Fortunately an urgent piece of work came up which allowed me to scoot my wheely chair across the room and then back to my desk, and with (very forced) cheerfulness, I continued with my day.

I’m still shaken.  All through the rest of the afternoon I was shaken and very very carefully maintaining my facade of general competence and cheeriness.  I probably will be for a while.  I had a few things to do this evening and I made the executive decision to ask someone else to cover me (as I cover for her when she needs it) so now I can spend some time properly relaxing.

When a big shock like this happens, it’s very important to implement greater than normal self care measures.  So that’s what I’m doing.

PTSD – Re-experiencing The Trauma

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Yesterday, when I got back from my evening rounds, I saw a video still on my amazing human’s PC screen.  It was a paused youtube video, perfectly innocuous.  It was of two men.

One of them looked like It.

My stomach clenched and my mind went numb.  I avoided my gaze.  But it was like a trainwreck, my eyes were drawn back to It over and over again – the image was so horrifically like It that I went into full shut down (which looks like nothing more than I’m a bit more dazed than usual).  My mind blanked it.

I distracted myself and eventually fell asleep on the couch.  Later on, when my amazing human was ready to go to bed, he woke me and we went.  All was well.  We tucked in  and fell asleep.

Then the nightmares started.  It was there, in them, in my old home.  I was dealing with Its old cars.  The exacts of the dream are hazy now, I just remember keeping my amazing human hidden from It, It must never know, never meet my amazing human.  Play nice, play polite, simper, do all the things I used to do.  Scrape and bow, scrape and bow, do everything he asks, do everything he says, everything is okay, hide it all, hide my new life, don’t let him know…

It’s a mixture of reliving the abuse he visited on me and the fear of him … not ‘coming back’ but being near me, encroaching on my life that I have struggled and worked so fucking hard to build, and the positive and deep relationships I’ve built with my friends and family, and my amazing human being.

I’ve been feeling … not quite right all day.  The nightmare has been on my mind a lot.  I’ve been running it around my head, trying to make sense of it all, but all it seems to be doing is making me more out of sorts.  I’m hoping this is enough to get it out, and I can now rest, relax, and sleep a bit better tonight.  Ideally without It and the nightmares.

Narcissistic Abuse And Money

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Budgets inspire a meltdown.  Unexpected expenses have me panicking and shaking for days.

This is the result of nearly a decade of abuse around money and budgeting.  I would budget.  He would blow it.  I would budget around that, He would blow it.  He wouldn’t allow any surplus in the budget, He had to get the next thing, He had to get another big expense, He had to buy more things.  I distinctly remember a discussion where he wanted a new car and I said if we got the large purchase he wanted on finance, we would have no wriggle room in the budget at all, and he replied with “that’s fine, we don’t need it anyway!”.

I’m talking no savings, no ability to go anywhere or do anything other than survive.  Literally living paycheck to paycheck.  In the end, when it had gotten really bad, we were on a combined income of nearly $200,000.  He spent every cent and more.  He would bully me to get a credit card, and put things on it.  I had to, to make ends meet, and then, despite budgeting to put it back on the card, he would spend it.

He would spend it.  He would spend it.  He would spend it.  He spent it all.  Because he wanted to Keep Up With The Joneses.  He was obsessed with the idea of wealth, of having it, and the approval he would receive from it.

It has taken me years to get a healthier relationship with money – I can actually put money aside and not compulsively spend it.  But I still want to vomit every time I work on my budget.  Unexpected expenses may always send me into a panic.  But the most difficult thing?

He is still doing it.  Through a series of decisions and a complex situation on both our parts, I am still somewhat reliant upon him to provide a small amount of money to pay off the debts I incurred at his behest.  And he’s not.  He was great for a while.  Now he’s not.  He’s spent it all, and I am once again scrabbling to make it work.  Except I no longer have any sway, I no longer have a way to cover for it.  So I become somewhat catatonic.

Which basically just involves me lying on the couch staring blankly at the TV while I’m at home, and spending minutes at a time staring blankly at the paper in front of me when I’m at work, and just generally wanting to not exist.

The day I no longer rely on him to pay off that debt will be the happiest day of my life.

PTSD Awareness Day

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I didn’t even realise it was today, yesterday, the 27th of June.  PTSD awareness day.  We should all be aware of it, and realise that it is occasionally a sequellae of trauma, a bit like how reduced kidney function or renal disease is occasionally a sequellae of an acute kidney event.  Some people only need a bit of an acute event for their kidneys to be severely impacted.  Others need more.  It can be managed, but it often cannot be cured.

Well, that’s the same with PTSD.  People are individuals, and it is not your perceived level of the trauma the person went through that indicates the impact it has on the person, or the validity of the impact it has on that person.  Rather, it is the level of severity of the impact on the person as they experience it.

I have PTSD.  I was with a narcissist for many years in a romantic relationship.  I’m talking narcissistic personality disorder here, complete with impacting every area of his life, not just your regular old arsehole.

I have a moment I can remember and identify as a PTSD flash back.  This happened while I was on holiday.  I’m sure there were many before this, lost in the haze of ‘dealing with it’ (before I even vaguely understood what was going on inside my own brain), but this is the one memory I can pluck from my brain and say “see this, this is a PTSD flash back”.

He was, as many narcissists are, obsessed with the perception of power and wealth.  “Keeping up with the Joneses” style.  One of the things he loved to do was go to fancy hotels, have a luxurious full meal, spend a bit of time in the casino, and stay the night.  It was like a “stay-cation”.  It was all very posh.  Sometimes he would dress me up.  Later, he would insist I wear things that would make me appear unappealing and unattractive, or awkward in such a setting.

While on holiday earlier this year, my travelling partner and I briefly checked into … okay, it wasn’t that fancy of a hotel, but it was on par with what he used to like to go to, decor wise.  I was waiting in like for the desk to check in.  My travelling buddy was waiting with our bags.  I was tired, a bit over stressed because of wanting to get checked in and get some sleep before the next leg of our journey.

It hit me like a brick to the face.  I would turn around and it would be him standing next to the suitcases.  My stomach dropped, I wanted to vomit, and I’m pretty sure if I had opened my mouth it would have been my heart that came up.  I was shaking.  I forced myself to turn around, knowing that as soon as those suitcases were in sight … it wasn’t him I saw.  Instead it was the amazing, loving, equally tired human being I was on this mad journey with and I welled up with tears of relief.  It took a bit to stop myself from crying then and there, and even longer for the shakes to subside.  I was back to crisis control – everything is fine, nothing is wrong, it’s all okay, everything is fine.

It wasn’t okay, and it’s not okay, and it will probably never be okay, because every time I see someone who looks like him I want to vomit.  I have nightmares that this new life I have built for myself is just a figment of my imagination.  I will not enter certain places to eat because they are affiliated with him in my mind.  I will not act in certain ways because those ways were associated with him and the abuse.

Words cannot express how much this trauma has impacted me, how PTSD affects my life even now, almost half a decade since it all ended.  There are many more years of slow healing in my future, assisted by amazing human beings, animals, good music, medication, and a whole load of therapy.  Even then, I suspect there will be some things that I will just never be able to do, or experience.  And that is totally okay.  Because there are other things that I can do, thanks to being free of him.