As I near 100 days of being intentional about healing, the thing that is most evident is that I still have a long way to go. Nothing has become easy, none of my challenges have miraculously disappeared, I’m not some enlightened being, I don’t have my shit together, I still have trouble setting and maintaining boundaries, I didn’t achieve my fitness or weight loss goals, I don’t have better friendships or the relationship of my dreams, I don’t have a flush bank account or a wildly successful business or anything spectacular.
I have the ability acknowledge the small things that quickly build to big things when live with severe anxiety. I have the belief that I can change and grow, that my spiritually holds a critical place in all of this, that I can hold two opposing things to be true at once, that discipline and hard work are available to me, that I’m not trapped by my circumstances or by what life hands me, that I can have a life I deeply enjoy and that the magic is not in achieving the things on the horizon but in appreciating today for what it is and what it teaches. I can be and have been present, and I can be increasingly present in my life, which is what I have not been able to be for years. And that alone is worth the effort.
Two-thirds of the way through a focused effort to heal a lot of the damage wrought on me by PTSD, I’m astounded by how far I’ve progressed in two months. My sleeping and eating habits have improved, my relationships have improved or been released, I’m spending less time trying to control what I can’t, I’m much more aware of when I need to pause and get to a place of calm, I’m more focused, I’m much better at managing triggers and I am getting to the root of a problem more quickly and with less time spinning in anxiety. I have more creativity, more critical thinking, more problem-solving and more willingness to try new things.
Using anxiety management tools is hard. I went a bit too long without eating yesterday, which can be an issue for me as my blood sugar will drop and that by itself will send anxiety skyrocketing and potentially trigger me. I had to get food, I was about a ten minute drive from food, as as I noticed my irritability increasing and my decision-making abilities decreasing, I was also trying not to lash out, cry, leave and just go home, eat something that might make me feel ill (and therefore worse) or do or say something regrettable. I was also trying to communicate the urgency of the situation to someone who neither understood nor made any effort to help me solve the problem – I was left on my own to leave on my own, get food on my own (make decisions that were, in that state, nearly impossible for me to make) and make a decision about whether to return or go home.
That was a lot of drama for a sandwich.
But I got in my car, headed to town, picked a place with relatively healthy (but quick) food options, ordered and interacted with people as if nothing was wrong, chugged a lemonade for the sugar then ate a high-protein sandwich right after.
I still had to wait about half an hour till I calmed down, and I stayed a bit fuzzy, but I noticed, I responded and I took care of myself instead of going to pieces and being helpless. And my brain got a message that yes, I can handle it.
I’ve leaned into healing this week. I’m still listening to Healing From Trauma: A Survivor’s Guide, and I’ve had to face up to my post-experience and the symptoms that are and aren’t going away. I’ve found that I have a lot of tension in my shoulders and neck – enough to limit my range of motion. I’ve had a couple of mild headaches. I hurt everywhere at times. I have muscle spasms at times. I have intense and lengthy dreams every night, and yesterday woke up with only survival brain functioning and not much else.
I went for walks anyway. I listened to the book anyway. I did yoga anyway. I slowly stepped forward with work anyway. I ate nutritious food anyway. I ignored all social obligations that were just obligations and not things I truly wanted to do. I handled some banking and finance transactions that needed to happen, I made the beginnings of a plan to run my company solo (my business partner has abandoned me but still has to be officially terminated from the business and we have yet to discuss any of it because he bailed out and has not bothered to communicate). I also made a backup plan for work in case that doesn’t work out.
I’m going to heal anyway.
I haven’t been intentional about it until now. I’m waking up to how often I disassociate, how much memory I don’t have because I wasn’t present, how numb I am, how overwhelmed I am, how often I am in survival mode. I’m still surviving, not living, and I am now starting to understand why.
THIS IS HARD. I’m going to do it anyway.
The next 100 days will end sometime near the end of September, close to the 5-year mark of the week of trauma that nearly took me down. And for the next 100 days, I’m going to be intentional about healing and see where I get.
Getting out of bed was too much of an effort this morning, so I didn’t. I alternately slept and meditated, trying to put the things that got misfiled where they belong. I had a dream based on very recent and real experiences, which is unusual for me, and when I finally got up it took me about an hour to make an eat a salad.
I gardened, I wrote a note to a friend with post-partum depression, I did a ten minute yoga video, I returned a work call and I coordinated partnering with another firm for a project proposal.
That was way more productivity than I intended.
I have rushed everything so much for so long that making myself wait to tackle my mountain of to-dos is both challenging and gratifying. Being slow, laying around and thinking and making no intentional moves toward accomplishing anything is…kind of great. I’ve told myself for so long that I couldn’t do this, but it turns out I can. And I am.