PTSD tends to hate it when we do anything positive with other people or when we do anything that is either productive or creative. Any of those items promotes love and life … and, as we know by now, PTSD hates love and life.
I keep a small daily notebook with symbols that indicate if I did anything in any of those categories which help vaccinate me against my PTSD.
- Did I do any writing?
- Did I do any drawing?
- Did I play any music?
- Did I continue my flounders in Japanese?
- Did I pray?
Does This Have to Be Difficult?
It is important that we don’t program ourselves for failure. I make sure that I set the bar pretty low to be able to “qualify” to say that I did some art or studied any Japanese. Even on the days I am at my physical worst and/or my PTSD-worst, there is usually at least one single thing that I can manage to do that qualifies for the notebook. For me, my standard is at least 15 good minutes of activity.
If I put in 15 honest minutes with Japanese, then I place a “J” in the notebook for that day. If I spent a few hours with Japanese that day, then I still put a single “J” in the notebook for that day. Interestingly, I feel the same satisfaction, accomplishment, and sense of self-worth when I jot that “J” into my notebook regardless of whether I studied for fifteen minutes or over an hour (There’s a lesson in there somewhere, thinks me).
Why is it important to keep the bar low enough to be able to write something down in the notebook each day? “”Because it means that I will have been successful at something that day and that the PTSD did not totally control my day.
And, importantly, it means PTSD did not convince me that I have no self-worth, meaningful relationships, future, or hope.
Is This Childish?
On the one hand I can feel a bit childish by doing this. My intellect tells me I should not have to keep score and that I have self-worth no matter what I do on any given day. The intellect is correct, that is all true. Yet, I feel a real sense of accomplishment if I can put something down into that daily notebook which indicates that I managed to do more than just breathe air and dress myself on any given day.
What If I Can’t Do It One Day?
What about if I am too physically unwell, or PTSD-devastated, to qualify for even a single entry into my daily notebook?
Then I jot down something like “too sick, too depressed,” or “migraines,” for that day and leave it otherwise blank. It really annoys me to have to do that. Sometimes, just to avoid that I will somehow manage 15 minutes of a creative, meaningful, act if only to defy my illnesses.
Lately, I don’t have many consecutive “blank” days, no long term “Losing Streaks.” The sense of accomplishment and meaning are so strong to me now, that I am compelled more towards creativity and life, than towards PTSD’s alienation and self-harm.
But, I have not always been as well-off as I am these days: There have been times where if I had only two “good days” in a week, I felt like a winner.
Creating a “Winning Streak” is always nice, but breaking a “Losing Streak” is even better!
As time has gone on, I find I take a real satisfaction in being able to make some positive entries, or even just a single entry, in my notebook. It helps to stir me towards life and not be pulled down into the PTSD tar pits.
First 10 Minutes on the Runway
I usually find that the first ten minutes of any activity are the most difficult to engage in. If I do it for ten minutes, then I am just as likely to do it for 30, 40, 60 minutes or more.
It seems as if that first five or ten minutes are like a heavily loaded airplane on the runway, trying to gain momentum from a stand-still.
It’s as if I am trying to break free of the heavy, clingy, PTSD-gravity which wants to hold me down and keep me from soaring.
And then, to my constant surprise, even though by now I should know to expect it, I am off the ground, soaring, being creative, discovering meaning and self-worth.
There are always vampires who’ll say I’ll never break any sound barriers by just trying to fly for fifteen minutes, so why bother? Yeah, I probably won’t break the sound barrier, but my goal is to just get on the runway and hopefully fly. I am quite content to try and fly … that counts!
And, You Count Too! Never let PTSD or its vampires convince you otherwise.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z
P.S., If you are interested in learning Japanese and can’t go the academic route, take a look at Yes Japan’s, Japanese from Zero. You can try it all online or can match online material with their books.