I had a wonderful moment this morning, kind of, where a medical professional told me that Sarah is a completely healthy coping strategy that has kept me sane.
I think it was a complement, and it explains quite a bit. Turns out I have something excitingly called Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, not to be confused with the PTSD I have from being too close to things that went bang with no warning early in my career. This CPTSD is a more insidious beast that comes from, ta-dah, undisclosed and constant mental trauma as a child.
Pictured – you know what, this blogpost is going to be a bit of a tough one so I’m just going to seed pictures of Sarah to brighten the tone. This dress? Utterly gorgeous to look at and utterly gorgeous to wear. And a permanent addition to my wardrobe.
See, the thinking that mental professionals have nowadays, which I agree with because, well, bugger me it describes my entire life, is that there are three little monsters that vie for control of your brain at all times.
One is sweet, called ‘Soothing’, and the job of that monster is to reduce stress by externalising good things, such as pets, yoga, breathing exercises, all the stuff that makes your brain go aww and relax.
One is regimental, called ‘Drive’, and makes the brain do single tasks to excess to distract the brain from other, pressing, stresses. This is the bit that makes you, say, do a 33 mile cycle trip to take our mind off of a stomach ache caused almost certainly by stress. Or become a workaholic so you don’t have to address your lack of a home-life. It’s singular, it’s distraction and it’s not really a good coping mechanism for the last of the damn monsters.
Pictured – Victory Rolls, a headscarf gifted to me by the wonderful Cindy Conti, dangly earrings, a gorgeous floral Kitty dress and the aroma of Chanel No.5. That smile is genuine.
And finally, the Elephant serial-killer sociopath in the corner of the room, ‘Threat’. Threat is hard coded fear responses that are instilled when you grow up and, as you get older, become unconscious instantaneous reactions to stimuli in your day to day behaviours.
In English, whenever your brain is presented with something to respond to, a normal person has a little switch that decides whether to stare curiously at the aforementioned something with little or no emotion before the upper brain goes ‘ooo, a kitten!’, or Fight Or Flight it. With CPTSD you don’t get to stare curiously. Everything kicks the fight-or-flight mechanism. And when I say everything it’s stuff like ‘how am I going to get toothpaste now I have run out of it’ or, and if you’re a constant reader you’d have spotted this, ‘how do I get my bag full of lovely frocks from point A to point B in London’.
When you have CPTSD it appears that ‘Soothing’, in some cases, completely disappears. Your life ends up being driven by ‘Threat’ – everything is dread inducing and scary and needs obsessive planning to survive. And you use ‘Drive’ to fill your time and distract yourself from obsessing about every bloody thing because Threat tells you the worst outcome of every decision.
Err, that’s pretty much been my life for as long as I remember.
Pictured – body dysmorphia at it’s finest. I think I’m a size 22+, that peplum minidress is a size 14 and the jacket is a size 12. I kid you not.
And Sarah? Well, when your brain is locked into the Threat response model there’s nothing you can do to derail it. Aside from being someone else. In my case, because let’s be honest there are some doobies of some fetishes rattling around in the noggin, specifically around the feminisation and domestication of being a housewife, or wearing the fashions of women from a different era when there was a much more defined, and possibly brutal division between the behaviours of the sexes, Sarah is ‘Soothing’. She smiles. She has nary a care in the world. She’s the ideal person I would be if I wasn’t a damaged fifty year old basket case.
And interestingly enough, the combination of Sarah and a smart little cookie of a mind appear to be the only reason I’m not wearing a special kind of tailored jacket, one that does up at the back with some gorgeous buckles and stops you, well, doing anything.
And that was actually something the medical professional said. Not in so many ironic flowery words, but simply that Sarah and the high functioning analytic part of my brain are the only bits that let me function as a ‘normal’ human being.
And you know what, that’s the loveliest thing I’ve heard this week.
Pictured – that and getting a text back from Cindy after I sent her a kinda desperate message saying ‘I need to get another session in my calendar or I’m going to go a little loopy’ giving me a date so I could relax. Turns out there was actually a medical reason behind that panic…..
Like a huge amount of other butterflies in my situation, and I use that term rather than something more medical or unnecessarily offensive, I get a tonne of guilt for letting Sarah be Sarah. I claim that it’s different now, that I’ve acquainted my inner 1970’s child with my 21st century gender fluid incarnation, but that’s just rubbish I’m saying to prove I’m not a wreck half the time when thinking of my need, nay, urge, nay, non-refuseable drive to dress as a woman. There’s still a part of me deep inside that feels it is wrong, and, as I found out this morning, that bit is a callous, shitty behaviour instilled in me by bigots in the 1970’s that has become part of my instantaneous reaction mechanism. And that sucks.
Because dressing the way that makes me feel *me* isn’t bad. I should feel absolutely no guilt about it – Sarah is more of a highly functioning social animal than drab me will ever be. And the fact that I still think of her as her and me as him is yet another not-so-subtle symptom of the bleedin CPTSD.
Sarah is not the reason or the symptom. She’s the bloody cure.
There’s a little bit of a downside – the medical professional says it takes *years* to work at the ‘Threat’ responses, not months, not weeks. But at the least, knowing that I’m not mad due to the ditzy and adorable pink-loving, retro-obsessed woman that shares my head is actually lovely to know.
Anyway, I’ll post something else to lighten the mood, but Sarah? I love you…
Stay beautiful you wonderful people, and remember that that guilty pleasure may not deserve the guilt your brain gives it…..
Pictured – turns out she’s an anti-depressant as well as a little minx in leather.