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…

!!20170401_165514

 

Late Nights & Lots of Crafts

I’m in my natural state – overextended.

I stay in a constant state of overcommitment. I still haven’t learned that I can’t do as much most days, so I do what I want to do, rather than what would be a better balance. I really love to give my time away. ALL OF IT.

I have zero space for dating, because I hadn’t planned on it. Now I’m dating, and it’s making for some late nights on the phone because that’s when we can catch up and focus on each other.

I am working with my lovely if occasionally annoying group of kids to make crafts to sell at my city’s massive Christmas Stroll this coming weekend in support of an orphanage near Monterrey, Mexico. It’s beyond giving to the less fortunate, it’s about providing for the most vulnerable people – impoverished and abused children. We heard about the booth and promptly offered up all of our creativity and spare nights, and we have been busy. It’s a great bonding time, but sitting on a tile floor painting for 3 hours last night is not without its consequences for me this morning as I creak around. My grouchy old bones are not as willing of participants.

This is on top of work, caring for my grandma, running the house, my brother starting to open up to me, various other holiday commitments for care packages and gatherings, my pro bono work, my volunteer work, and at some point starting to make Christmas happen.

Can I not adult today?

But it’s so worth it. Sacrificial giving is such a fulfilling thing. Not the giving from excess, but giving from having little. It’s part of my practice of gratitude, and I have rest planned as soon as I finish my whirlwind of commitments. I will be grateful for that too!

 

Thankful

Practicing gratitude does a lot for mental health.

I woke up in the middle of the night with searing pain in my tension spot. I have a place near my right shoulder in my trapezoid muscle that seizes up when I am really tense. It feels like the muscle is being ripped out. Fun times, right? I had just finished a REM cycle and had had a nap yesterday, so I ended up being awake for about an hour, which was plenty long enough to slap a Tiger Balm patch on it and consider just getting up already.

I went back to sleep.

I previously wrote about living with near constant physical and emotional pain. It can be hard to be thankful, but gratitude is so necessary to a good life. A friend asked me yesterday how I deal with it all. I do exactly what I was doing yesterday – serve other people and meet their needs. I mixed dressing (not stuffing cause it was in pans, not in birds), filled to-go boxes, made friends and delivered meals to elderly members of the community. I sat with a woman who cried because she is lonely, having lost her husband about this time last year. They were married for 74 years. I offered to come back to see her and bring some friends, and she accepted.

I got so much more out of that than I gave.

I met a woman who also has PTSD, who works with veterans because it helps her to be around people who get it. She, too, is a survivor of sexual assault, and she, too, knows the incredibly stupid things people say when you open up about an experience others don’t understand. That connection was such a blessing, and we plan to get to know each other better. She is surprised I am still here. I’m thankful someone recognizes the hell.

Client’s Brother (I really love ridiculous nicknames so that will be hard to change if this goes forward) asked me out, and we’ve been talking in the meantime. He invited me to lunch and a brewery on Sunday, and I countered with my commitment to make wall art to sell to support an orphanage. He offered to help with that instead and said the brewery could wait. I’ve been clear about having PTSD, that crafting is with some bonkers 20-ish church kids, he knows I have a stalker because stalker emailed me yesterday to wish me and my family a Happy Thanksgiving (ugh) and so far the date is still on. I’m not used to people just rolling with me. I’m also not used to standing on a position of join me or don’t, this is what I’m doing regardless, because this is what I want.

So many reasons to be thankful, not in spite of, but in the midst of.

Bone Deep and Mind Breaking

‘Tis the season for joint pain.

Pain, you make me a believer.

I’m a summer girl, if for no other reason than hot weather doesn’t cause me joint pain. I inherited the family curse of old bones in a young body, and I can sit around with mature members of society and chat aches and pains with the best of them. They never believe someone my age can know how they feel, but since I can predict weather changes based on my elbows and hands and predict the overnight temps based on my knees, they eventually come around to accepting me as one of the wise. Or at least one of the chronically inflamed.

Add the prospect of months of constant deep joint pain to my neurological disorders and you get someone who hates winter. Me.

I finally broke again yesterday. I hit my limit of stress and went over the edge into nausea, dizziness and headache. Am I getting sick? No. I have PTSD, and the stress overload I’ve experienced in the last two weeks sent me over the edge again. The nausea is not completely new, the dizziness was. Thankfully I was able to hold it together to work with a couple of clients, and my mom and my brother kindly drove me where I needed to go. I was not about to drive in that state. Could I? Yes. Was that the best thing for me and everyone else on the road? No.

It would have been better if, when I got off work and got my hair cut, then grabbed some crafting supplies for a project I’m working on for a charitable organization, I had popped a Xanax and gone to bed. Just be done with the day and the stress and sleep it off. But I am so determined to not let the negative part of my brain control my life. So I texted a friend to see if I could catch a ride with her to Bible study and she gracefully didn’t hesitate. That support network? It’s everything on the days I can’t.

I took my knitting because it helps me stay present in group discussions, and knitted my way through tackling Jonathan Edwards’ writings on Charity. It was challenging, and it was good. The woman who hosts us in her home had made a spiced tea and cookies, and she has such a calm, loving presence. Toward the end we shared prayer requests, and I opened up about my struggles, about trying to come to terms with my new normal, that there are always barriers to living the life I want to live, that I have realized I will never be healed and I will live with this for the rest of my time on earth.

I live in pain. Every waking moment is hell because I have no hope that this life will ever be what I want, that what has happened to my brain will subside and I can live free from the demons in my head. I expressed that, and was received with love. One of the women in our group said that what I was saying was exactly her daughter’s experience. I found so much comfort in that, that someone understood. Those that didn’t understand met me with love and compassion.

That moment of vulnerability? It opened up so much love for me. It added women to my circle and to my team in struggling against and with what I’ve been dealt. I have gotten really ignorant responses from church people about my condition and what I do to try to heal. Last night was not that, and I was so comforted.

It is so fucking hard to be vulnerable when the person you were is ripped out of your hands and you’re trying to find your way again. But damn is it sometimes worth it.

And Client’s Brother messaged me all evening, showing a lot more interest than I expected.

When you live with chronic pain it can be hard to be thankful. But today I am so, so thankful.

Aaaaannnnnddd…the Client has a Brother

I don’t think I was imagining our chemistry.

I met with a potential new client today. We had spoken over the phone, and I suggested meeting in person, partly so I could see if I really did think he is capable of pulling off the project he wants to do, partly because I find face to face interaction to be worth the time when I am trying to draw people’s ideas out of their heads. He was as nice and authentic as I had thought he might be, and if we can agree on a price he’ll be my newest client with a long-term partnership. I’m really excited. I frequently meet the most amazing people in my job, and it makes the risk and frustration of owning a business worth it.

Turns out client has a brother, who I also met because he will be closely involved in the project. And he was at the meeting. And…hello.

It has been a long time since I met a guy and we had instant chemistry. I thought I might be imagining the connection, but since we talked most of the time and a lot about personal stuff rather than business (business partner was monopolizing the client anyway and I let that go because business partner is working on adapting to my way of doing things and he needs practice), and he eventually touched my arm…fist pump.

It was unusual and nice. I wasn’t getting hit on at the gas pump or asked out by a creepy younger guy without a stable job (or emotional state…), wasn’t being targeted as an easy one night stand (am I actually putting off that vibe?!?) and wasn’t viewed as a potential trophy. We just connected. And now I am really distracted and trying to remind myself to KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL.

I don’t operate formally unless I am making public presentations or working with clients who like to do business formally. I meet people where they are, listen to them tell their stories, tell a few of mine, poke fun at myself and try to find out what they really want that they aren’t telling me if they haven’t yet figured it out for themselves. A lot of my clients become friends, and I get invested in their lives and their projects. I like doing things that way. It’s fulfilling and, a lot of times, great fun.

I’ve just never wanted a client to ask me out before…

A Man Brought Kumquats From His Garden

It was a snackluck – snack + potluck.

I was at a house concert last night, a gig my friends play twice a year. They play a bluesy, country folk vibe, and brought in some hymns to their set last night. I like that kind of church.

I’ve been looking forward to this for a couple of months, and no-shows on the part of my friends, (former) crush and brother (to be fair, brother had to work and couldn’t get away long enough so he’s excused) weren’t about to deter me from having fun. I was at least half the age of most of the people there, and I made a lovely friend named Eloise. I was also very admired – jewelry, boots and looks – by a man who brought as his contribution to the table a cup of kumquats from his garden. I had never eaten one before, and it was a delightful experience. You can eat the whole fruit in a bite or two, and while I really dislike biting into a whole grape or cherry tomato, I do like biting into a kumquat. I really want a tree for my garden now, because those sound like fun to grow.

In addition to two hours of soulful music, there is a snackluck. People bring snacks, treats, wine, beer, and this time hibiscus flowers in syrup. The offerings were a little slim compared to the last time I went, so I was glad I brought pumpkin pie bites and a bottle of Prosecco. If you make pumpkin pie filling from the recipe on the can and use little filo dough cups instead of a traditional crust, you can have crispy little pumpkin pies that are lovely for holiday potlucks. Top with a touch of whipped cream and you’re in business. It’s the only way I’ll eat pumpkin pie.

I like the kind of funk that happens in the cozy places, the snug moments, the meeting of strangers over food and wine. I may look a little bonkers (Real question to my Mom as I was leaving, “Ok, do I look adequately bonkers?” “Yep. You look cool though.”) but it’s a conversation starter. I wear interesting clothes and jewelry because people comment on them and ask about them and it serves as an ice breaker. I always take an opportunity to pet the arm of someone wearing an interesting and soft-looking textile, because it’s a connection based on appreciation for a comforting fabric. As much as you can try to not stand out because you don’t want to draw attention, standing out can open doors to conversation and make things less awkward and uncomfortable.

How am I still single? Yeah, haha, that’s a very different conversation for another day.

Making Friends From Total Strangers

A few tips from an anxiety pro.

I’m at a conference, making friends and connections and finding people who can send work my way. It’s finally time for a break before dinner, and do I need it! I was up late last night knitting my contribution to the silent auction (you won’t see me procrastinating on a craft project again!), up early to finish knitting and get to breakfast, and it is not the easiest thing for a person with anxiety to sit through a lot of sessions…which is why I mostly skipped them this afternoon. I’m here as a professional service provider, not as a learner (yup, may sound over confident but I am really good at this business and I come for clients), and it’s a challenge for me to not be completely exhausted a few hours in. Plus it’s cold and wet and dreary and I’ve had no coffee, only a cuppa Earl Grey early. I’ll sleep well tonight!

One of the things that helps me in these situations now is that I remember while there are a lot of friends and a few cliques here, there are also a lot of people who are here by themselves, who would be glad to not sit by themselves and who are here because what we do is also important to them. In a room full of strangers, I have a lot of potential friends, they just need to see me be friendly. So I am, and it works really well. As much as society has been seduced by the Modernist Utopia of efficiency, speed and mechanization, what we really want is connection and relationship. So I do that.

I’ll sleep even harder when I get home.