Being Flexible: PTSD Edition

the-eleventh-hour-2202815_1920Everyone has days that don’t go as planned. It’s part of life, and whether or not an individual struggles with mental health issues, disruptions in routine can be upsetting.

For me, disruptions in plans of any kind often feel cataclysmic. When I was young, my mother often reprimanded, saying how much more flexible and cheerful my little sister was in the face of necessary changes of schedule. I never improved. Something as small as an empty cookie jar at snack time would set me to tears. An unexpected scheduling conflict that caused me to miss out on a field trip or other special occasion resulted in crying jags or deep, locked down depression (extreme flattened affect, in clinical terms).

To say that this characteristic of mine causes interpersonal problems would be an understatement. People around me seldom understand why a cancelled lunch date sends me reeling. In my marriage, when housework is delayed due to rush hour traffic or other unavoidable situations, my patience stretches more thinly than it ought.

That said, today, I am proud. This morning, an appointment ran long. My wife had planned to take me back home before heading to work, but there wasn’t time. I had to accompany her the 20+ miles to her office and then drive back home. Yes, this was uncomfortable. Even more uncomfortable is my realization that I will have to spend over an hour on the road this evening to pick her up. But I have managed to turn this inconvenience into an opportunity. In fact, I’ve enjoyed my day so far.

After depositing my wife at work, I realized I was ravenouslh hungry (my breakfast was thawing on the table at home). Since I needed to pick up cat food (another errand that got value-engineered out of the original plan), I decided to stop at a nearby coffee shop. My usual latte and an everything bagel gave me energy and helped to ground me in the present. (This was not a day to find myself reacting to the past while grappling with present challenges.)

The trip to the pet store provided an opportunity for me to snap some photos for a couple ongoing projects. Then, after completing the errand, I drove home and took a long walk (and several more photos) before returning to my apartment and feeding the cats.

Parakeets

Sure, I’m a little frustrated that my day did turn out as planned. I don’t want to sit in traffic this evening instead of on my sofa watching television. But today is a success because I realize that this unexpected turn of events doesn’t endanger me. For people with PTSD, that’s the heart of the issue–circumstances beyond our control frighten us. At one time (or, as in my case, at many times) in the past, uncontrollable circumstances did spell danger. Today is not that day. Today, I can keep breathing. Today, I can still get things done. Today, even something pleasant may come from an unexpected turn of events.

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