Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What is Relaxed?

The current blog carnival theme is 'how do you relax, unwind'. I kept putting off writing my entry, because I wasn't in the right mood to think about relaxation. But I just realized I could talk about why it's so hard for me to relax.
Firstly, I have PTSD, and by definition, PTSD impairs relaxation. Having had something terrible happen to you makes you on guard for anything else like that. So relaxing is difficult, because I just don't feel safe easily.
In addition, society is constantly bombarding me, as a target of discrimination. When I'm reading, listening to the radio, talking with someone, or basically anything that involves receiving communication from others, discrimination can come up and hit me out of nowhere. And it does feel out of nowhere. If someone means to hurt your feelings or be cruel, usually you can see it coming. You're having an argument, they're angry at you, whatever. But if they assume everyone agrees, and rather than being deliberately offensive they are stating the truth as they see it, or even trying to be nice, then it comes in a friendly context, when you're starting to feel safe around them. And they might not even know I'm autistic, in addition to not knowing they're discriminatory.
So relaxing isn't easy. The few times I've felt what I think is called relaxed, it sneaks up on me. I suddenly realize that I feel safe. I often feel safe home alone with only my cats for company, but even so my triggers lie there lurking, able to shatter that calm. Sometimes I feel safe with my parents, but if they say or do the wrong thing I get triggered. Occasionally, I feel safe with my brother, but if he pesters me a bit too much that suddenly disappears. Once, I felt safe with people I'd only just met - a youth group of developmentally disabled people, among whom I no longer felt different. Feeling safe creeps up on me slowly, yet disappears suddenly.
When I realize I'm getting too upset and need to relax (usually late in the build-up of my stress), I don't know how to relax. What do I do? What is relaxation anyway? I honestly don't know what relaxation means or how to achieve it when I'm upset. Instead, I continue quietly teetering on the edge of meltdown until either something sets me off or (less often) I accidentally calm down somehow. I can't keep going on this way, I need to learn how to relax so I'm not constantly having meltdowns anymore.

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Blogger cripchick said...

i was just telling my friend about a tv commercial i saw advertising hearing aids... it pictured a little girl signing and saying that she didn't understand why some deaf people didn't use hearing aids or implants because she'd "do anything to hear."
basic point is like you said---disabilty and discrimination is EVERYWHERE. you almost HAVE to keep your guard up or you get hurt. i think this is why safe spaces are so important to me.

glad that you posted to the carnival---awesome blog entry!

3:21 PM  
Blogger Penny L. Richards said...

Hi Ettina--just to explain, this got submitted to the *next* Disability Blog Carnival because it came in after the Monday night cut-off (blogcarnival.com) just does that automatically. Sometimes I catch late entries and forward them by email to the host, but I missed this one. But putting your link in the comments should do the trick too; so thanks for that!

9:55 AM  

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