My PTSD And Motivation

This is part of a series where I talk about my complex posttraumatic stress disorder. The first post outlines my C-PTSD/PTSD.

The majority of motivation lies in the thought, “I am able and want to achieve this.” We’re motivated to do something because we think we can get there, and ultimately we want to get there. There is an inherent desire spurring us to do whatever goal we’ve set for ourselves. We want to go to college, so we’re motivated to do what it takes to get there. We want to have a published book. We want to get the job. We want something and we see the means to the end goal, or we at least discover them on our way to the goal.

Having PTSD makes this a little difficult. I struggle with desire and capability.

I find it hard to set a goal and reach it, shown by my track record and trail of unfinished projects, because my PTSD fills me with fear and insecurity. My PTSD developed over a time of instability, and this affected my ability to set goals and maintain progress toward them. I grew up without knowing when something will get upended. I became highly alert of the possibility that things would change. In short, I was always on the lookout for the next interruption and disruption.

This pattern of seeking disruption stalks me. I’m a mile ahead of my goals and their means. I’m a mile ahead of doing Step 1. I process to a hypothetical Step 100 and essentially create disruptions for myself by looking at setbacks and obstacles between 1 and 100.

This is why I cried when I finished a complete rewrite of my novel.

Now, I’m there again, processing from Step 1 to 100 for the revision of that same novel. I’m trying to stay motivated to see Step 1 through to completion. I write to-do lists. I make checklists. I break my goals down into specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely, small goals. “Revise THE PILGRIMAGE” becomes multiple steps of revision, with a checkbox beside them and an end point. I’m still on Step 1, which is a read-through and note-taking. I’m struggling to stay motivated. I’m jumping past Step 1, trying to rationalise and strategise how to make my way through the next steps… when I’m not there yet.

My motivation turns into tactics for the big picture journey, rather than the small goals I set up. The “traumatic” and “stress” aspects show in motivation and goal setting. The trauma comes back, and the past occurrences and similarities show themselves. The stress comes back and soaks through all the rational efforts.

Dissociation and low self-esteem are also factors that inhibit my ability to stay motivated, even with end goals and actionable steps to reach them. My PTSD also features manic episodes, and they’re a form of elated dissociation. I’m untouchable in mania, just like I’m untouchable in dissociation; but with mania I have power on the world, whereas with dissociation I have invisibility and disconnect from it.

How can I stay motivated when I’m not here, or when I am but I’m filled with wishful thinking? How can I stay motivated when my brain is wired to find every possible setback? How can I stay motivated when I’m too occupied with navigating fears? How can I stay motivated when there are 99 steps between my current state and the end goal, and I have zero idea what I might need to face with each step? How can I stay motivated when my brain and body have only been used to strategise my mortality?

It’s hard to rewire myself. All the motivational quotes, lists of achievements, goal setting, and reassurance in the world won’t help me if my mind can’t believe them; or if my mind is unable to use those to its advantage; or if I have a counterpoint to each one. There’s nothing my brain wants to do aside from continue its current patterns. After all, it’s spent most of my formative years and life doing that, and it’s seen the results: I’m still alive.

At this point, I think the only way I can really be motivated to do anything is remind myself that I’m hard to destroy. Is that the key? Do I need to rewire my brain to one of confidence in order to be motivated? Do I need to be confident in my existence before I can be motivated in my projects? We’ll see. For the time being, I’m… well, as I write this, I’m stuck in dissociation and can’t even feel my fingers as I type. But for the time being, until I’m managing my PTSD better, I’m going to focus on completing my checklists and ignoring the future.

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