Today’s article is a guest post by frequent Poly.Land contributor, Fluffy (bio and links to their other work below, following this piece). Enjoy!
The Last Two Years Have Been Some of the Worst of My Life & I’m So Thankful
The title to this writing might confuse a few people. Before I get too in depth into the topic, I want to be compassionate in acknowledging that I’ll be writing about trauma, trauma recovery, and suicidal ideation. If this is content you don’t want to see, then, try this post from Poly.Land’s archive instead. I think these topics are important to write a share about, both to educate and destigmatize them, but I am also aware they can be triggering for those recovering from their own trauma. Consider this a free pass if you’re the latter, and a challenge if you’re not.
The last time I wrote for Poly.Land, I was in a fresh relationship, doing well at school, and in general living a life that felt charmed, safe, and overall happy. I blame the pandemic sometimes, but the truth is I started to have trouble coping with ambient mental health earlier than that, and with the onset of the pandemic, racial injustice and police brutality, a nasty presidential election, a literal coup attempt at the capital, and a resurgence of the virus that no longer discriminates so readily between adults and children I went from struggling to incapable of coping.
I stopped bathing. I stopped eating for a while (and lost 60lbs or so). I stopped sleeping regularly. I started to “check out” and be “elsewhere,” while physically I would be sitting staring at walls. I would cry if I was touched unexpectedly. I became incapable of truly functioning in my day to day life.
The big paradox here is that the only reason that could happen was because I was finally safe. Yes, all of these terrible things were happening outside and were terrifying, but I was in a bubble at home. I got to be a bubble with one of my best friends and my partner at the time. I was well-supported by a good network of friends and family and colleagues.
And my brain said “ah, now is the time I can finally stop holding on to all of this.”
The funny thing about trauma is that our minds are incredibly adept at coping with trauma, but will remain vigilant against it until the environment feels perfectly safe. Not just “ok we are out of imminent danger,” but “ok, this is the safest I’d ever been.” They’re incredibly high standards.
And I’m just so thankful to the people in my life who helped me build that level of safety that let my mind finally rest. Finally drop the load. Finally say “now, I can heal.”
At first I resented this. I was angry that for the first time in my life I felt safe beyond words and comparison and now, NOW was when I could not have a waking moment that was not agony? Now was when I would tremble and sob in fear, covering my head kneeling while the shower played a rhythmic beating on my back? Now was when I’d lash out, sounding less like myself and more like my estranged parent who I’m terrified of ever having to talk to again?
The most insidious part of this was that I was very able to fake “fine” for some people for a very long time. Sometimes trauma results in a learned “fawn” response to fear, where the individual resorts to appeasing the source of the fear. In my case, this meant I was able to go about social interactions with few people aware that I would be stuck in a flashback for an hour once the meetings ended.
I got help in December of 2020 because I realized the only voice I heard in my thoughts anymore was that estranged parent’s, urging me to end my life. I’d lost the compassionate voices of my grandmother and other parent. I’d lost the silly stoicism of E and methodical problem-solving of Pip. I’d lost the guidance of all of those near and dear to me and my experiences with them. I decided if I evicted that parent out of my life I sure as hell was going to evict them from my head, too.
Thank goodness for righteous anger and fear.
Getting help was the best thing I ever did. Through slow, steady therapeutic work I started to see my functioning return. I started showering again, and could make it through without crying. I started reading about trauma, first books oriented at people experiencing it, then books for clinicians treating it, then research studies on the treatment, implications, and symptoms of trauma. For me, recovery meant becoming an expert, first. Both to be more successful, and because I wanted to be prepared, if I ever had to leave therapy before I was ready.
Now, eight months later and a good year or so into this mental breakdown, I’m reflecting back on this time and while I still harbor a good deal of resentment, I’ve shifted it to resenting the people who treated me badly. To gratitude for the people who made my life not just bearable, but so good that my body recognized I was finally safe to heal.
I’m not going to lie; I’m not all better. Some days I still struggle to function.
And I’m pretty sure “better” is going to be something different from before.
But I’m thankful not only that I’m alive, but that I have the loving connections I do.
Now my best friend has moved out, on to better things. My relationship ended rocky, but has achieved a pleasant homeostasis as friends and roommates. I managed to pick up the work I couldn’t do anymore and even complete some of it. I’m thinking more than worrying about the future. I’m able to spend a moment with my dog and just feel grateful I get to watch him grow up.
And on the days I drop to my absolute lowest it’s hope that keeps me afloat and stubbornness that keeps it maintained. I see myself steadily getting better. I realize that my friends and family are there for me, and want to see me happy and whole.
I believe that a future where I’m content and pleased with my life is more likely than a future where I am in constant overwhelm.
This isn’t Pollyanna optimism, folks; it’s recognizing that even if times ahead are hard and likely to be harder than they are now, that I will find a way to move through them. Consistent with my values. Consistent with who and how I want to me.
And without the hypervigilance, restlessness, and turmoil caused by unresolved trauma.
I’m walking forward having to look back less.
And I am just so thankful.
About the Author
Fluffy, an academic in-training, who is studying organizational behavior in hopes of making the world a better place.
Fluffy is a frequent contributor to Poly Land. Their regular blog is Eclectic Discourse (where pith goes to die; in-depth looks at awkward topics).
Readers, if you liked this piece, feel free to check out the other articles Fluffy has written for us:
- Open Communication Doesn’t Magically Erase the Impact of Major Change
- The Tyranny of Value
- Sometimes Polyamory Means Sweet Goodbyes and Hurrying Back
- Love is a Fire, Baby; Six Metaphors for Relationships
- Sometimes Challenging the Relationship Escalator Means Starting at the Tenth Floor
- Love Is Basically Bias, So What Can You Do?
- I’m Too Anxious to Be Jealous
- Everything I’ve Ever Learned About Non-Monogamy My Puppy Taught Me All Over Again
- Is There a Right Time or Way to Break Up a Relationship?
- When “Problematic” Becomes Problematic
- I Was Treated as a Disease Vector: Why There Are So Few Gay Men in Pansexual Polyamory
- Being Single Sucks, But We Don’t Want to Hear About It
- Consent Culture Is Hard, Yo.
- When Sex Positivity Is Rape Culture With a Bow On It.
Poly Land is always on the lookout for different perspectives on relationships in general.
If you have an idea for a guest blog post that you’d like to run by us, here’s a link to a post with examples of work that we’ve published in the past as well as our Submission Guidelines.