Depression and PTSD: an invisible cage

Hi everyone,

Yesterday I didn’t write a post. I didn’t make a video. I didn’t really do a lot to help Robert with his assignments for me though we e-mailed back and forth and he reassured me that “Sammy never gets fired!” from my assistant job.

I woke up and just felt empty. Really down. I had a conversation with my mom which didn’t help. Well it brought more questions than answers. The short version is that I came to Chicago in june 2012. Having lived all my life in MA. In a town near concord. You know Concord, revolutionary war and all that! Anyway so I spent my first twenty years there. Then went to school in Cambridge at Lesley university. So I spent all my life in MA and then moved to Chicago to live at Friedman Place.

I haven’t seen my mom Dad sister or pets since June 2012. Everytime I’ve thought of visiting it’s brought such a mix of longing and excitement for reconnecting with the really good things about being back home. Mostly my sister, Dad, cat (and I guess my sister’s cat and dog maybe LOL) and mom when she’s in a good mood. And her cooking! And then it’s brought up the other stuff. The stuff that made me not want to be home for much of my college years and what’s stopped me from visiting first chance I got. In 2013 all these conflicting emotions built up in me and lead to my breakdown, well one of the factors anyway.

Since coming to Albany in therapy I’ve been working to untangle my life in the past with my family and my life now. And trying to unlearn the automatic responses to feelings and situations that remind me of things that happened in the past that were overwhelming. We’ve talked about visiting off and on. Were planning a visit for may tentatively but then my mom had neck surgery. So we held it off. Since then I’ve only been thinking of the good aspects of visiting. That’s all that’s come to mind. Particularly bringing my friend Jess along and us having a good time. Over the past months through phone conversations and hearing about her my family has really taken a liking to Jess which is very sweet. Anyway yesterday after this conversation it brought up all the hard things about being there. Mostly a feeling of being emotionally totally overwhelmed by a situation where there’s a lack of healthy communication and expression of emotions that colors everything even if it’s not obvious to an outsider.

As I sat there throughout the day, particularly when writing this all out in an e-mail to my therapist I re-experienced the emotions I’ve had in the past around this situation. Feeling like I’m just taking up space in a chaotic situation at home, like there’s nothing I can do to help when my mom is overwhelmed/ asking my Dad and sister to help with household chores that I can’t do independently. And generally just wanting to disappear and hide away, knowing that if Ieven look like I’m gonna cry I’m gonna get the tirade about why am I crying for no reason? How people in the world won’t want to be friends with me because I get upset so much on and on. I haven’t felt these feelings in awhile. They’re usually brought on by an external trigger that reminds me of these past situations. But that’s gotten a bit better since being here. It was a sobering experience, that if I can’t even feel safe emotionally picturing myself there how can I go in person. My therapist and other staff here believe I’m so much stronger than I was and can handle basically anything. But I have my doubts. Rationally knowing why I react as I do emotionally doesn’t equal emotionally being able to handle things better when push comes to shove. Yes I’ve been able to improve on this here, but here is very controlled. Staff don’t take it personally when you have a meltdown. They help you work through things and are endlessly patient. It can be said that some very good friends or family members could posses some of this patience and understanding especially with education on mental illness. But not my mom. My Dad doesn’t believe I have mental illness which doesn’t help. He’s also not the emotional type. Stuff happens like arguments meltdowns whatever and he shuts down.

So anyway all that to say I wouldn’t get much empathy at home when situations come up. This leaves me feeling trapped and lost. Anyway I think about it I can’t win. If I decide to just not visit I’ll be emotionally safe from further new experiences of emotional overwhelm plus being triggered all over again with old PTSD symptoms. If I don’t visit I miss the opportunity to reconnect with the good parts of my family. Most importantly my pets. I really wish pets lived as long as people. I know they don’t live forever and I’ve missed out on so much of my cat’s life between being at college when I would come home for visits, but still, and being out here. The thing that weighs most heavily on me is a fear that he’ll die before I can see him again. The others too. Even my sister’s brat cat Simon who pees all over the place. He’s been there a lot of my life too and was the first cat I could really interact with that was at home. My first cat Smokey I think had social anxiety because only my mom could hold him so I could pet him. Except for when he went senile and became Mr. Sociable and ate steak out of people’s hands and let you pet his skin and bones little body. Anyway all this weighs so hard on me. Feeling like I’m trapped in a cage with no way out. I slept most of the day. Jess sets a limit on one nap a day for me. Because when we first met I would sleep mostly all day long off and on. Yesterday I took a nap in the morning. Was very out of it at lunch still half asleep. And took a nap in the afternoon til three.

Then I did get somewhat productive. Started to read Robert’s book which I’ll be promoting which took my mind off stuff. Listened to a Cathy Glass audio book. Then after dinner as I was more alert I started thinking about all this and that’s when the old PTSD feelings of being in that environment came flooding in and my doubts about being able to handle any of it. Later I ended up crying over the loss of my cat. As if it had already happened. It’s a really neat (yeah right) trick my anxiety pulls. I can be really worried about something so as a way to prepare for it actually happening, I guess my mind acts like it’s already happened. It’s like at home youknew bad emotional stuff was around the corner so you might as well count on it happening. Then when it does it’s not so much of a shock because you’re hyperalert way ahead of time. And like ninetypercent of the time this was actually true. Jess tried to comfort me but I was beyond that. She said to listen to my ipod and zone out but I didn’t. I checked e-mail and crawled into bed. And fell asleep with no good thoughts in my head.

Today’s a new day and I’m not as depressed. But I’m not you know energized either. The idea of a possible visit still weighs on me with no happy ending to think of. And the old feelings of being emotionally lost that came with being in such a toxic environment still linger.

You could be walking along not knowing there’s a trapdoor in the ground. All of a sudden the ground opens up and t you’re thrown down a dark tunnel and into a cage. No one on the outside sees the cage but it’s all around you. You can’t move or see beyond the bars. Meanwhile people are wondering what the hell is wrong with you. They don’t see the weight of depression pushing on your shoulders. The overwhelming sensations, thoughts and emotions of past trauma so real to you in the moment that you’re surprised no one sees the horrific events that are playing in your mind. You don’t know why you ended up here when just a few days, hours, or minutes ago you were just like everyone else feeling relatively stable and calm. You don’t know if you’ll escape or when without warning you’ll be pushed back out into the world again and have to pick up the pieces.


4 thoughts on “Depression and PTSD: an invisible cage

  1. Hey Sam – I am Alexandria’s Mom and Alexandria (Alex) has been talking about you for a long time. You both look so much alike and yet your life experiences are so different. What I can say is that sometimes, no matter how much we want things to be right with our family members, they can be the most toxic people in our lives. Know that it is OK to distance yourself to be healthy and know that you are not alone in that feeling. I wish the best for you and hope that you stay mentally healthy and know that you have big fans out here in myself and Alexandria. You are a very bright girl and I have faith in you as does Alexandria. Take care! Leslie, Alex’s Mom.

    • Hi Leslie,
      Thanks so much for writing! Yes I know that about toxic family mamebers and situations out of your hands. It’s been a real struggle. I know I’ll make the right decission for me even though it might be hard and sad and not what I’d want for me or my family. I’ll keep everyone posted. Again thank you so much!

  2. Hugs hugs and more hugs! So sorry all this is building up now. I hope between you and Jonathon you can figure out a happy medium about what to do that works.

    • Hey Carol Anne. Aww thanks! Yeah we’re working on it. For now just addressing the raw feelings coming up around old trauma stuff that haven’t been there in awhile. I’m sure we’ll figure out something. Right now family has enough to deal with with mom still recovering from arm surgery and now her mom in the hospital. Doing well this weekend.

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