I love to learn. All kinds of things- about programming languages (Python, lately), and about video games, and new languages (Spanish and Hawaiian right now), and anthropology and history and the names of trees (most recently learned about monkeypod and rainbow shower trees)… And everything in between.
I want to learn yoga and surfing and scuba diving. I want to learn how to dance and sing and I want to conquer mountains.
And right now, I’m embarking on the adventure of learning the violin. Really learning the violin. I love music. I love, love, love music. And I want to learn how to play music!
This video shows a little bit of the things that go through my head when I’m playing. Especially if other people can hear me.
This isn’t even the worst of it. I struggle. I have PTSD (although I always say “I’m fantastical! whenever anyone asks how I am, no matter how I actually am). And I struggle with a lot of things. Anxiety and panic and flashbacks and nightmares and… I hate it. I don’t want to be that person that’s so haunted by all this negativity.
And low self-esteem, feeling worthless, hating myself. That’s something I am fighting to overcome.
It isn’t just with violin, but with anything I do or try, or when I’m around other people. I’m always struggling. In my mind I’m thinking:
I’m worthless. Why am I playing? I sound awful. Why would I post a picture or a video of myself? I’m ugly. I’m fat. I’m disgusting.
I look awful, and I sound terrible. I should give up. I should just quit. I’m worthless.
I can’t play the violin.
And I can’t yet. That’s what learning is all about. No one begins as an expert. Make mistakes, play horribly, sound terrible, and have fun!
And I have to fight that every day. When people ask me, “How are you?” I give them a bright happy smile and exclaim, “I’m fantastical!!!”
I try to fight the bad things with positive energy. I want to be fantastical. And I am a happy person most of the time. And instead of focusing on what other people think of me, I can focus on being a positive force in the world.
So whenever my brain is like:
I’m worthless. Everyone hates me. I don’t deserve to even breathe the same air as these people. I don’t deserve to be alive.
I just try to chase those thoughts away. And it’s hard for me to think positively about myself, so instead I think:
How can I treat everyone with compassion? How can I bring joy to the people around me?
Because it doesn’t matter if I’m worthless. If I’m letting that negative thought have power over me, and letting the bad things from my past define me, then I’m channeling that negativity into the world. And I refuse to let the bad things win.
So instead, I focus on positivity! And being fantastical! And having compassion. And trying my best to bring joy and happiness and cheer to everyone around me.
Everyone has scars. And you can let those scars define you, or you can fight the sadness or fear with positivity and compassion. Be a positive force in this world! And if you can’t be positive for yourself, be positive to help other people. Making the world a happier and more compassionate place is all of our responsibility. (Or, our kuleana, the Hawaiian word for responsibility.)
Have a fantastical day!
I live in a beautiful island, a place they call paradise, a place people go for vacations. And my life is enchanted. Always. I know. I am so lucky. And I have no right to ever feel sad or afraid. I should always be happy.
And I am a very happy person, really. I have a naturally cheerful disposition. I also have PTSD. And I hope one day I’m free of it. I will be. One day.
For the most part, my struggle with PTSD isn’t very obvious to anyone. Sometimes, it’s far more apparent.
Mostly, I’m good. On bad days, I am dissociating all day. I’m getting flashbacks, gasping like I can’t catch my breath, freaked out. I don’t think I say, “No!” anymore, when I get them. (I used to. Sometimes I probably still do). I just gasp, like I just saw a bee or something. It’s obvious that something’s going on, and I’m not ok, but I could probably get away with saying “I have anxiety.”
I do have anxiety. PTSD is an anxiety disorder. Well, actually technically in the new DSM it’s a trauma disorder. I think the best way to describe it, is that it’s part anxiety, part memory disorder. My memory is broken. I have bad memories that my brain keeps tricking me into thinking are happening RIGHT NOW.
When I get a flashback, I’m gone. I’m not in the current moment, standing next to you. I’m back in a bad place, and I’m terrified, and bad things are happening. I’m reliving a memory. It’s like I’m a time traveler. Except, I can only go back to the worst memories from my own timeline. And it’s all in my mind, I’m not actually, -physically- present in the past. It just feels like I am.
Flashbacks and nightmares are the worst parts of PTSD. But I struggle with all the symptoms. Low self-esteem, avoidance of reminders of trauma, self-hatred, feelings of worthlessness, suicidal thoughts, self-destructive behavior.
I don’t want to travel through time anymore. I don’t want to feel like the terrible trauma is happening to me again, and relive it, and feel like it -just- happened. It’s hard to explain to someone that, yes, even though I’m here with you, and we’re looking at this beautiful ocean, and nothing bad is happening to me right now, and I’m safe, to my brain, it’s as if it -just- happened. It’s as if, while you were standing here, I was being hurt. I jumped back in time, and it’s happening right now.
So when I’m jumpy or shaking, when I gasp like that, when I reach out and touch your arm, or when my hand flies to my chest/throat area, I’m trying to pull myself back into the present moment. Or sometimes even reminding myself who you are, where we are. I’m with you, I’m with someone safe. I know you.
Grounding techniques help sometimes. Grounding myself in the present moment, using my five senses. Like, literally saying, out loud, “I can hear the waves of the ocean, I can see the blue sky. I can see the mountain in the distance. I am standing on sand, and I can feel the soft sand on my feet. I am in Hawaii, in Honolulu, and I am safe. I can hear a dog barking, and a guitar playing…” And literally trying to use my five senses to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch what’s around me in my physical environment.
It helps sometimes. It’s hard to stay in the present moment though, when I’m feeling triggered and frightened. Singing helps sometimes too. I’m thinking about the music, the song, the lyrics, what part comes next. It gives me something to focus on. Writing helps. Being with other people helps a LOT.
I wish a scientist could explain to me why flashbacks, dissociating, and nightmares due to PTSD make sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Hating myself, feeling worthless, having flashbacks, panic attacks… how is that helping me survive?
I don’t want time traveling to be a part of my life anymore, unless I’m physically traveling through time, and jumping forward into the future thousands of years from now when the world is a better place.
I think the worst part about PTSD is that it isn’t my fault. I have all these anxiety issues and sleep issues, panic attacks, flashbacks, feeling worthless… all these things… and it’s because of something terrible that happened to me. I am so angry that the men who hurt me get to have that part of me, get to damage part of me. They’re gone from my life, they shouldn’t be allowed to hurt me anymore. They should never have been allowed to hurt me in the first place.
And now they haunt me in my sleep, or they come back, pull me back in time to those horrible moments.
I am determined to be free of this awful disorder one day. Hopefully soon.