Flashbacks in the Rain

I almost died in a car wreck that happened in the rain. For the most part (and thanks to EMDR and a lot of therapy) I don’t really have problems anymore when I drive. When I do, I have coping skills that work well. So today was a pretty big surprise when I was driving in the rain on my way to a meeting and started having flashbacks, not about my car wreck, but about the day of my brother’s accident. Clear as anything were the memories of getting the call from my mom, picking up his truck, sitting in the ICU waiting room unable to pray and barely able to hold it together, leaning on the prayers and shoulders of friends.

I’ve rarely had flashbacks of my own trauma, much less that of someone else. And while that day was traumatic for me, it hasn’t had nearly the impact that my own trauma has.

As I began to write this post, I also began to ask why and to process what happened this afternoon. I’m dreaming again… I’m processing again… I’m resolving trauma again.

I am done being afraid of the hold the past has on me. I’ve survived this much this long, and I can deal with whatever else boils up. But this was interesting, because as much as the flashback experience while driving on slick roads was not pleasant, it didn’t shake me. I’m now more curious about it, about where it came from and why that day?

I dream when I’m relaxed or when I am processing. Emotions, events – they all get run through my dream cycles in full color and epic drama. I don’t dream the exact thing, I dream versions of it, or nothing at all related. I started dreaming again this week after a long time off. My resting heart rate is slowly dropping, I’m a little more calm during the day and now memories are emerging that probably haven’t been dealt with. The human brain is fascinating.

Am I excited by this? Nope. Am I afraid of it? Also nope. Gonna deal with it and move on…

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Dates = 2, Me = 0

This guy is going to think I have no elegance, and that couldn’t be further from reality.

Surprisingly (my dating history inspires no confidence in the activity), dating Client’s Brother is still going well. I might even give him a real name next week.

Dates, however, have resulted in a 50% injury rate for me.

On our first date I scalded the hell outta my throat eating pizza that was way too hot. I almost only ever get it takeout or delivery, and in that case I can eat it straight away with no problem. I somehow missed that it would not be so eating pizza right out of the oven. I also did not want to spit out my food. It took 5 days to recover.

Yesterday we went for an afternoon hike along a creek on a moderate trail. There’s a bit of climbing around and walking on rocks to cross the creek in places, and while it was warm enough that the water wouldn’t freeze us, no one wants to hike in wet shoes. We were on the last creek crossing on the way back to the cars and I had carefully made it across. He was ahead of me and kept going when he got to the bank, I stepped on the bank, my left foot slipped and I crashed into a bush, cutting my ankle on the rock I slipped on in the process. Yeah, that’s an attractive quality in a hiking partner.

When I realized I was neither injured (hadn’t seen the cut yet) nor impaled on the bush branches, I started laughing at myself. Whatever, spills happen. I did have a branch of the bush stabbed through the band of my Fitbit next to my wrist, and how that happened without even scratching me I have no idea. By this time Client’s Brother realized I wasn’t behind him, and he and the dog came back to see what was up. I was still laughing at myself and getting off the ground, and the dog kindly removed the stick from my arm. Good puppy.

None of this kept us from kissing in the car before we headed off to separate obligations, and I found the cut when I got home. I almost never have this kind of thing happen to me, but ya know, ya fall down, ya get up, and I’m thankful that I could laugh at this spill.

Lightbulb! Intentional About Reducing Cortisol Production

After reading some articles and helpful blogs, I realized that maybe it was something else – lack of sleep, and too much cortisol production.

Because this whole “self-care” thing is still a fairly new concept to me (I was raised on the absolute opposite approach, to just work harder when things get hard), I am still – kid you not – learning about how to give my body a break so that I am not constantly producing cortisol, which I have been doing for…maybe the last 14 years or so? Now that I’m past 30 and not as fit as I was before my car wreck, I have wrinkles, silver hair starting to shimmer its way through my medium brown and stomach fat that has never previously existed. Laugh at me all you want, my tummy is a new and not exciting part of my body.

I wanted to blame it on being out of shape and my eating habits and getting a little older and just the natural course of life. After reading some articles and helpful blogs, I realized that maybe it was something else – lack of sleep, and too much cortisol production.

Right before my brother’s accident, I had come to a really good place in my recovery, was starting to sleep, balance life and lose weight rapidly. After his accident I was on high alert 24/7 for months, constantly under a lot of stress and did not sleep much. My weight gain was more than noticeable, it was opposite the trend I had started just prior to his accident.

It’s taken me nearly 5 months to realize that while a lot of other things in my life have not been conducive to excellent health and fitness, my lack of focus on the real culprits was what was causing the most damage. It’s not uncommon for my whole body to hurt for reasons I can’t explain. I haven’t been able to get my weight back down. And I couldn’t work my way to achieving my goals.

This is much more than a glass of wine, a pedicure and a bubble bath (and anyway I’ve had to quit drinking because my anxiety levels are currently bringing out alcoholism tendencies that I don’t want to tempt), this is a condition that has to be addressed for what it is.

So, I am very intentional about sleep, and lots of it. I went to sleep before 9pm last night to make sure I got a very good rest before going out with my girlfriends later (my body is so long-term sleep deprived that I can get 10 hours without trying). I am also working to be aware of stress and try to address it immediately by asking myself, “Does this need to cause me stress?” “Can I approach this more calmly?” “If this is causing me stress, can I choose to not participate?”

I am having to work at these new coping skills, but the work is worth it if I can beat back my two biggest harms and have a better quality of life (and a slightly flatter tummy 😉