PTSD: Distractions – Change Your Focus
Three weeks ago, my therapist suggested I should go see a movie. During the first week, I thought it was silly to go to a movie by myself. What was the point? I brought up the suggestion to a few friends who all said that they can and have enjoyed going to the movies alone. That’s when I admitted that I didn’t feel I was worth the ticket and popcorn. Again, my therapist encouraged me to go the following week and even told me that she sometimes goes alone because of her movie preference. I thought about it. I even felt guilty about not going, but I still couldn’t bring myself to go alone.
For a long time, movies were something Tom and I did together. I’ve only seen one movie with a friend since breaking up with him. My company paid for the ticket (and my friend’s ticket), the popcorn, and the drinks. It was a movie we both wanted to see, and we did enjoy it. But…going alone means being alone with my thoughts. Of Tom not wanting to go anymore (he got bored with going out to movies). Of not feeling worth it.
Last week, I had an idea and told my therapist about it. I saw on Facebook that my old college wind ensemble was putting on a concert this past Sunday at 2pm. This was something I could do. I was in band from 6th grade through five years of college. And, I typically try to do the local community band for the summer and Christmas concerts. Tom never went to these unless I was on stage, so it feels different. In fact, being on stage for this last Christmas concert was the calmest I’ve felt without medication in a really long time.
So, waiting until the last hour before the concert and almost deciding not to go at all, I jumped in the shower, got dressed, and drove to the auditorium where I have so many college band memories. I listened to the director (my director) talk about recent times with this group of young musicians, which made me miss band. The concert started, and I sat and listened to the music. I actually attended the concert and tried the “change your focus” distraction. But, you know what? I couldn’t feel anything. Music moves people. It can make some people sing and dance. It can bring people together. It can make you feel so deeply that you get goosebumps or cry because it moves your soul.
I felt empty. I thought about going up to the stage to hug my old band director, but after a few minutes, I just couldn’t stay. I left feeling disappointed. I left with my heartbreaking all over again. Damn, I wished I could cry.
This pain and alternating numbness can be all-consuming. I hadn’t felt it to this degree in a while. It hit me last Wednesday and has come back to visit for a few hours each day. Why? I don’t know. Do I wake up with it? Sometimes. Are there triggers? Sometimes and not always the same. Does it get worse before going to sleep? Yes.
Distractions used to work. They did. Before Tom and I broke up…when I would wait for him to come home, I would watch television shows, play puzzle games on my phone, read a book, or clean the house. When waiting on him to come home from work changed into not knowing where he was, what he was getting into, when he would arrive or IF he would arrive…when fear took over, distractions slowly stopped working. The commercials during shows would be when I’d try to call him. At some point, I could no longer focus on reading, cleaning, or playing mindless games. Eventually, all I could do was pace between the bedroom and the living room, pausing to watch the security cameras and begging for his headlights to appear, so I would know he had made it home safely.
When we finally broke up, I was five months into my new job. Thankfully, it was new. It provided me with enough distraction to get me from May until about October of last year. Then, just like all of my other distractions, it slowly stopped working and I could just barely focus enough to get what was required done.
I am still stuck in this varying ability to focus even today. When I am working with someone, then it tends to be significantly easier to be present and provide feedback. But, if I’m working alone, it takes a lot more effort to stay focused…and sometimes, it’s just more than I can handle. I guess the good thing is I’m apparently the only one aware of how bad it is. That’s probably why it’s so hard for anyone to believe that there is something wrong, to believe me…and what’s worse? When I’m not feeling so bad, I still question myself – it really wasn’t that bad. If I can still laugh, how come I still feel so much pain?
I came across this article on Facebook. It is well worth a read especially if you are someone or you know someone who has survived trauma – this article is not trauma-specific, so you will not be inclined to try to compare your situation to someone else’s (been there, done that before). Please take a moment to read and pass it along.
I am pretty sure I’m still frozen in the stubbornly not processing phase. It doesn’t help that writing is my most open form of communication either. So, here I am.