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Books, people, hormones, and why the world works.

April 29, 2013

Today was a good day despite the fact that Olaf is being a jerk.

i even posted stuff on my happiness project 3.0 for the first time in months. And i looked at some of the stuff i had posted there and it made me smile. That’s the whole purpose and i let that slip away.

Thankfully my tumblr, like my friends, is still there. It didn’t matter that i didn’t post for a long time it was there waiting when i needed it.

i’ve spoken before about my belief that the world works the way it is supposed to. i got my job when i needed it most. i was put with the supervisor i needed to be put with on the team that i needed to be with. Last week i was still having a really hard time processing some things that happened recently and i had lunch with one of the best people i know. She was able to help me process those in ways that i hadn’t been able to. Even though she used some of the same words i’ve heard before- they finally clicked. And she was able to tell me to walk away from the crazy drama at the same time that she helped me see the ridiculousness that had been put in my head for so long. This was not the reason we had met for lunch but that’s how it ended up and i walked away feeling almost cleansed. i needed that right then and didn’t know it.

Other times we find a book or a song or a movie that says something we need at that moment. We weren’t expecting it but it hits us at full force almost taking every bit of breath that you didn’t realize you had been holding. That’s one of the reasons Good Will Hunting runs through my veins. i go to the library almost every week. It is (and by it, i really mean any library) one of my favorite places in the world. i walk up and down rows of books grabbing anything that looks interesting or that i’ve been waiting to read until i can’t hold any more. When i get home is the worst part because i have to decide what order to read the books in. This is of the utmost importance to get right because starting with the wrong book can turn you off from the whole pile and ending with the wrong one doesn’t leave you ready to bolt out the door for more.

On my last trip i picked up a book and i put it toward the bottom of the pile because i was sort of scared of it. i read Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta a couple of years ago and my mind was so blown by it that i didn’t want to read another one of her books and be disappointed. So Saving Francesca sat there staring at me until it was time and i took a deep breath and opened it. Once again the world helped me out because i needed to read that book exactly then. If i would have read it a few weeks ago or even a few days ago it would not have spoken to me in the same way it did.

There were two parts in particular that i stopped and reread a few times just to let them soak into my brain because they were like a missing piece of something.

“I can’t believe I’ve said it out loud. The truth doesn’t set you free, you know. It makes you feel awkward and embarrassed and defenseless and red in the face and horrified and petrified and vulnerable. But free? I don’t feel free. I feel like shit.”

This blog and my attempts at talking more and being more open in the hopes that i can get the things in my head out is like this. It’s a first step, i know that, but that first step is sort of horrible sometimes. There have been so many times that i have talked to someone about something that makes me feel like this or i post something on here that makes me feel like this and i just want to hide. i don’t want to stand around and see people’s reactions. i don’t want to hear their responses. Of course, the world doesn’t work like that and i do see their reactions and hear their responses and a lot of times they are words i didn’t know i needed to hear. And that’s enough to try another step.

“Memory is a funny thing. It tricks you into believing that you’ve forgotten important moments, and then when you’re racking your brain for a bit of information that might make sense of something else, it taps you on the head and says, ‘Remember when you told me to put that memory in the green rubbish bin? Well, I didn’t, I put it in the black recycling tub, and it’s coming your way again.'”

Dealing with PTSD is hard. Depression is hard. Both have ways of making you think that you’ve learned how to deal with things only to be knocked on your ass when it comes back around. The littlest things can be triggers for me. Sometimes there are things that i saw or heard or smelled the day before and for whatever reason it triggers me that day. Those memories are so clear. They don’t feel like memories so much as being trapped in a past version of myself while re-living that moment over and over and over.

i just finished watching the second episode of This Emotional Life on Netflix and there was so much in there that helped me understand my brain a little more. There was a scientist who wanted to test the relationship between memory and stress hormones. They did an experiment where they showed people images of bad or scary stuff then some of the participants put their hand in ice water and others put their hand in lukewarm water. The next week the participants came back and were tested about the images they saw. They found that the people who put their hand in ice water- which triggered stress hormones were much more able to remember those images. Those hormones sort of etched them into their brain. They said that in the case of PTSD the switch gets stuck. While normally it’s a good thing to have those images etched in our brain (they remind us not to touch a stove or to be careful when driving in the rain) with PTSD the stress hormones etch that image and then don’t stop. They keep going making that image stronger and stronger and every time the image is recalled the stress hormones are released because that’s what happens when you re-experience a traumatic event and then those stress hormones strengthen the image even more and it just keeps cycling.

This doesn’t fix anything for me but it gives me something to wrap my head around and i need that. There is so much in the world that i don’t understand and that causes me unbridled anxiety. i need to be able to comprehend anything i can.

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