Routines are built to get things done. Most people don’t write down basics like shower, get dressed, eat. They don’t need to. They simply do them every day without fail. Not so with an abuse survivor. CPTSD disables a person from believing that they should be taken care of by themselves or anyone else.
4. I struggle with basics. I forget to shower, eat, drink, and do things like buy myself clothes. I feel my needs get in the way of others.
Ten years before counseling, I sunk deeper and deeper into severe depression. My body simply didn’t function. It was not a matter of forgetting to care for myself. I couldn’t. I took a bath because I couldn’t stand long enough to take a shower. I would wake up, move, feel pain, know I wasn’t dead, so I got up. The cereal and bread were in the bottom cupboard in case I couldn’t get up to feed the kids before they went to school. I could stand for 20 minutes a day. I propped myself against the couch in the living room window so the high schoolers wouldn’t bother the elementary kids at the bus stop. What they didn’t know was I couldn’t have moved out to where they were if they decided to cause problems. A friend asked me what a good day was. I answered, “I got up.” They waited. I finally reassured them, “No, that was it, a good day I got up. A spectacular day, I got up and got dressed.” I made dinner by sitting at the table while the kids brought me ingredients to mix together, then the older kids did the cooking. There are all good cooks as a matter of survival. I wanted to be different. I read books like S.H.E. Pig Pen to Paradise, https://www.amazon.com/Sidetracked-Home-Executives-TM-Paradise/dp/0446677671 and I would fail to do the easiest 15 minute routine. During this time I learned two things. I could do anything for 5 minutes was one of them. I would make dinner 5 minutes at a time. I would clean a bathroom 5 minutes at a time. I broke everything down to 5 minute increments. It was amazing what I could accomplish 5 minutes at a time.
During this time, a woman I talked to had just survived cancer. She listened to me talk about my struggles. She was disgusted with me that I couldn’t pull myself together, she scoffed, “It is just mind over matter.” I felt humiliated and more depressed. I decided to try her ‘mind-over-matter.’ After she left, I marched into my kitchen and attempted to put the dishes away. I wasn’t washing them, I was taking them out of the dishwasher to put them away. I finished about half the dishes. I slid down the cabinets exhausted onto the floor. I sat there for 2 hours until my kids came home and our oldest son sent me to bed. I crawled back to bed. That was when I learned, “If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
Self-care was too much for me to do. I couldn’t care for my children either. All of them are very self-sufficient because I wasn’t physically or emotionally there for them. At that time, I had no idea what was wrong with me. I gave up on doctors, myself, on living. It took too much energy that I simply didn’t have. In prayers, I begged to die. Heavenly Father answered my prayers with, “No.” I then crawled through life for 3 years and worked at baby-steps for another 7 years to get a half life. I connected with Harry Potter script when they described living a cursed life, a half life. Not living but not dead either. Ten years imprisoned by I knew not what. I figured that was my life. I didn’t think it could get worse. Then I had cancer. I was stunned. I knew in my heart that I would live through that too. I did. I am a 16 year cancer survivor. A year after cancer I started counseling. You know, cancer is a piece of cake compared to counseling. My world was ripped apart. Self-care was not on my list of things to worry about. Staying alive for one more day was my total focus. If I actually showered, great. Dentist, doctor visits, work were struggles that seemed insurmountable. Being up 20 minutes a day, doesn’t leave much time for self care.