May 7 2023

When Rest Looks Like Failure

Spent the day fighting my brain, just trying to unwind a complex script that suddenly became so much more complex once adding in the other stories to the database. And I knew it was as simple as tagging what needed to be tagged and following those strings and just, you know, holding it in my head long enough to get the thing done. But it wasn’t working. My brain couldn’t focus, couldn’t focus, couldn’t focus, until suddenly, dawn chirping through the window, my brain just clicked, and it was tick, tick, done.

And this is my frustration with my current situation. I know the ability is there, but it’s always out of reach until it’s not. And a part of me sees the waste of time and energy trying to reach something that isn’t going to be attainable without 1) battle or 2) when my brain is working. And I don’t get to choose that second one; it’s completely out of my control. But battle… battle feels like control when shit is going down. It feels like doing something when I can’t do anything about this situation. I want to battle because I want the lie that I am participating in my ability to function.

But it’s still just a lie.

There are factors to this, layers of justification and rationalization and what needs to be done when living in the world, and they’re not unimportant. But it boils down to this: What does giving up truly look like when you know you could be putting all your time and energy into something, but you are only ever going to get the same results?

Insanity is doing the same thing again and again expecting different results. But proving to yourself — proving to the image you hold in your head of what is required as a sacrifice to prove you’re giving your all? The last ten years have been a level of exhaustion and pain that has set my level of what “proves” I’m trying. And that was with untreated adrenal insufficiency.

I hold myself to these standards that demand something that I can’t reach, and that I can’t ever give up on, and even if I do get there, it’s never going to be enough, because when you’re forged in trauma, you expect it. You end up being the one who inflicts it. That’s what PTSD is; it’s self inflicted abuse at the subconscious level cascading through the psyche, nervous system, and body to rationalize terrible shit that happened that you couldn’t control. That my immune system over reacts to everything is more likely a side effect of the PTSD than of any exposure to allergens. To PTSD, everything is survival, and the body becomes wired, locked in and only able to know and feed off of that. It is the ultimate pattern driving everything, and it’s so difficult to upgrade ones software after living in the PTSD state since being a toddler.

When my adoptive father’s remaining kidney was failing, his brain started going. The dementia was so life altering at every level. And I remember thinking at the time as I was watching him suffer with losing his mind, how much easier it would be if he wasn’t fighting what he couldn’t change. So what if he couldn’t remember the date or what he was doing, etc? It didn’t matter as long as he was feeling okay, enjoying himself in the moment. We pretend we know where we are based on what’s around us, but where’s that on the continent, the globe, the solar system or galaxy? We don’t really know a lot of shit, but just fill in the blanks and in those little lies, we find confidence in who we are. Aka, brain functionality isn’t that important as long as you’re happy.

And that had seemed a great way to look at the world, to just let go of needing so much damn control over what you can’t even control anyways. I fostered that mindset in me when the illness was raging. Grew it when going through trauma therapy for the shit I had been running from my entire life, because I refused to die an unformed reaction to what trauma had done to me. That mindset has helped me so much… but I have still been lying to myself, and kicking my ass as a result for believing that lie.

The reality is, it doesn’t matter if the mindset is damn helpful; we don’t get to choose if we’re capable of having that mindset when our brain break.

I hate that. I hate that so much that I have refused to acknowledge it. Because when my life is flipped end over end at the direction of a breeze, I’m already forced to accept so much I can’t change, can’t control in that moment. I want to believe there’s something. Sure, I can’t control the illness, or my executive functions, or energy levels, but I can control *me*. I can have some fucking grace in illness. I can be the right version of me to see things through, and shit will be fine as a result. The silent magic spell I tell myself as I try to control one little thing so that I can control the fear and frustration and pain and all the other shit that I’m stuck feeling from this illness.

In that lie is so much expectation and pressure I place on myself during the most difficult points of my existence. I just need to exist and be okay with my inability to get a say in what’s happening, and that’s it… but I can’t. It’s giving up. It’s giving in to sickness. It’s being lazy. It’s not the adult thing to do. Being disabled is hard enough — I am so far behind at life — so I have to work harder at everything, including not being sick when I’m sick. Because otherwise I’m giving up on me, and letting it win.

I am trapped here, making shit harder on myself because rest looks like giving up. It’s the inability to enjoy the moment because I’m stuck trying to be in a different moment. And it sucks. It’s so damaging, and I don’t know how to let it go. Because every time I try to relax, try to allow myself to just let go… it’s guilt. It’s shame for not fighting harder to be the person I know I’m supposed to be if all these things weren’t limiting me. You know, things like my body that for some reason I can’t even accept is a part of me, because if I accepted this body, I have to accept its limits as my limits, and I can’t. I am a defiance to all that is crushing me down, and now, dear fuck, I get to add on age to it as well, just natural aging. Where the fuck is my grace in any of this?

I need a reminder of the pattern of mindfulness. It doesn’t change anything in my life except my ability to accept what I define as unacceptable. And that is apparently everything. But I’m fighting that too, because I don’t want to be okay in this situation. I just want the situation to be better. But I’m the damn problem in all this. I want things I can’t have, and I stubbornly refuse to let those wants go, because as long as I’m looking at a goal, I don’t have to face, truly, how difficult this existence has been for so long.

I am still living the trauma pattern, doing everything to avoid acceptance of the now. Building up things that don’t exist outside the head to wall off that one little task. Letting go is both the easiest and hardest thing to do, and maybe that’s why, when it feels like the world is shaking, our hands automatically clutch, grasping for support. This instinct to hold on is written into our nervous systems, to define our safety by the act of clutching to something, anything.

Does it make us feel solid, larger and safer, grounded in another? It adds weight, strain, tight focus. Immobility. It becomes identity, location, purpose when it feels like everything is slipping away. And how we clutch the harder we are pulled from the thing we’re grasping, responding with fight, becoming more and more the goal instead of adapting to the situation.

I need to be vapor. Something that can’t grasp, can’t be thrown when the world shakes, can’t drown when it all crashes in. Empty of all those needless, heavy thoughts designed to weigh me down and form me in only one way. Every breath a spreading of self, breath of all those around, not lost, nothing to lose. Atoms commingling with the objects and life all around, sharing space and energy and emptiness.

The beauty of being nothing is that there’s nothing to fear losing.

The difficulty of this condition is in what it does to my brain. The chemical chaos, the extremes of everything. One feels a ragdoll being torn, thrown out of living. Over nothing. The wrong chemical or protein in the air. No intent. No one or thing to truly blame beyond my own fucked up immune system. And in those moments, lost to reaction, unable to control the instinct to clutch or to what I’m clutching to, is small, fragile fear and frailty, trying so hard to not be known as such.

Why do we know that fear is more dangerous? This instinct to hide what is so rational and natural in the moment? Accept, accept, accept. Why is the exposure of fear wrought with vulnerability more so than the act of feeling fear?

The rejection of help for a being that is part of a social species that is in desperate need of help. How many times as a baby did I cry until I learned that no one was coming? Because it happened that early, and it is so deeply wired in, who is to say if one can ever be more after that…?

I’m getting closer to me. I can feel it. It’s just this pile in the way that needs stripping down, unbelieving until I’m light and free of everything my nervous system is clutching to right now. It’s work, letting go, when your entire system has been forged to hold on from such an early age. And I keep thinking it only has to be done once, but no. This is the process. Coping with a system that has trauma set to default every time the world is perceived to shake. Eventually, hopefully, I’ll be able to remember that. But for now, it’s just doing the work and showing up.

I honestly don’t know why I’m sharing this part of my journey, beyond it needs to be shared. Because if I can’t find a place for me in my writing because of the desire to form a strong brand, I’m not going to be here to write. I can’t fit whatever neurosis my brain is trying to claim branding is — whatever neurosis the world insists it is — and if I value something conceptual over myself, it’s going to erase me. It always does. I have to stop participating in my erasure.