Several years ago I started experiencing TMJ. My jaw popped every time I opened or closed my mouth. It was horribly annoying. I don’t chew gum, so it wasn’t that. It was probably stress. I was told there was nothing that could be done about it, and I would just have to live with it.
I realized on Saturday that my jaw no longer pops. I have no idea how long it hasn’t been popping, but it doesn’t no matter how much I move my jaw. I am thrilled and grateful and excited and pausing to appreciate this moment of healing.
On the plus side, I’m venturing out of my hole.
Most of my family was in town Saturday. A year ago during our annual get together my brother was barely out of the hospital following a work accident, and I was handling…a lot. I knew Friday that I still hadn’t processed that trauma. Saturday night I was sobbing after listening to my parents tell my aunt and uncle all of the details of what has happened since. I should have walked away, but I didn’t, and by the time I got a few minutes to myself that was it – I couldn’t stop crying.
What followed was my boyfriend abandoning me while I was grieving, movies with my family the next day and trying to recover a bit, a full day on the road for work on Monday, boyfriend basically ignoring me at dinner for a stranger next to us, me having enough and leaving, boyfriend later (and finally) owning up to what was going on with him (beginning to understand how traumatic experiences have impacted him, which…welcome to my hell) and me talking him through opening up about it, me working another full day today like a boss and still not a priority for him and the signs are all there this isn’t going to work, and I am going to have to tell my business partner this week that we need to go our separate ways.
Healing is HARD AF, and I was going to go for a walk in the heat but my stomach hates me today and I have a feeling I’m a bit dehydrated and walking in 102 degrees will likely just make me sick.
So I’m going to catch up on all of the personal business I didn’t get done in the last couple of weeks, give myself a break for not exercising today and be proud of myself for practicing discipline and organization.
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.
As I listened to Chapter 3 of Healing from Trauma: A Survivor’s Guide I noticed I was experiencing some of the trauma symptoms the narrator was describing. I was tensing up, getting a headache and tightening inward, as if to curl into a ball and protect myself. I was aware I was doing this (mindfulness practice seems to be showing some results!) and unclenched my jaw and rolled my shoulders a bit.
I’ve noticed also during yoga, which I’m practicing more regularly again, that I don’t have a lot of flexibility in my shoulders. There are positions that are really challenging for me, like making a bridge with my fingers pointed toward my feet or clasping my hands behind my back and straightening my arms. I didn’t remember that being the case previously, but a lot of times I blame weight gain for my yoga practice challenges.
Oh…wait…trauma response…tight shoulders…
I’m not sure if it’s more freeing or discouraging to realize that my lack of flexibility and range of motion is due more to trauma than my fat rolls, but it does provide a path forward, and a solution – more yoga!
My boyfriend triggered me the other day, and my brain is now reading him as a threat.
He didn’t mean to, but he did something that I’ve previously expressed can be triggering for me. It was a communication issue, and he dropped the ball, so to speak, without having a reason or explanation why. I was PISSED, not only because I had been triggered but now I was facing having to do the work to make him not be a threat. Work I really wasn’t sure I even wanted to do.
Avoiding is easier!
I am working hard to not avoid, to face my challenges and the reasons behind them and I am really trying to heal. It’s hard, it’s scary and it makes me sleep a lot. It makes me react a lot when I even think it should be a fairly calm scenario.
Throw on top of that a person I am close to and trust triggering me because he didn’t bother to do something that is, frankly, common courtesy at least and for me a necessity.
So I did what I have a really hard time doing. In my last decade I had a lot of people run roughshod over my boundaries – a lot of that at work, but trauma stacks up, and I had some traumatizing work experiences. I set a hard line boundary of what I will and will not tolerate, and made peace with whatever outcomes resulted from holding that line.
The result has been both of us working to calm the effects of the trigger, a good weekend, honesty and some teamwork.
I started listening to Healing from Trauma: A Survivor’s Guide while I walked yesterday. After I did yoga. So there I am doing yoga, exercising, not making excuses and working on my brain.
That shit was hard.
The book was good for me from the start. I’m only to the second chapter, but the first chapter started with “Shit happens.”, and I knew I had found a resource that would help me.
As much as it’s helping, as much as I am already learning and recognizing and feel grateful, it is really hard for me to listen to. Not because she recounts trauma stories, she’s careful not to do that because she understands getting triggered isn’t helpful. It’s hard for me to listen to because I am having to face my own experience head-on. I am having to process what happened as I hear the narrator talk about how our brains and bodies respond when we experience trauma. It’s so empowering to have this information. And so painful.
It was tempting several times to cut the book off and switch over to music for the rest of my walk. And I can certainly do that – she even talks about how to read or listen to the book if you are a trauma survivor in a way that is accessible for you. But for me it’s time to start leaning into it. Time to allow the pain to process, even if it’s hard. And it is.
I long ago discarded the narrative of a man providing for me, rescuing me or saving me from…whatever. I was raised to do those things for myself, and I do them. Including the saving from PTSD. No one has stepped in or stepped up for my recovery, I have done that myself without much support, except for the therapist I pay, and I sought her out myself too.
I didn’t mean to date anyone at this point in my life, because it’s hard enough to manage myself without also managing a relationship with someone else. I certainly didn’t mean to be in a serious relationship, but here we are. And I find myself having to dig into and rip out a lot of expectations that I didn’t know were there, expectations that, left unaddressed, would get in the way of my efforts to heal. Or maybe would if I hadn’t met just the right person.
Because of our current job/career positions, I’m the one with more financial bandwidth, so I pay for dates. I also give him gifts and buy him things. Because of our differences in personality, I do a lot of the planning and coordinating. Because I have anxiety, I ask a lot of the questions and do a lot of the checking in.
I can’t hide behind him. I can’t run for cover with someone who can provide for me and make a lot of my problems disappear so that I can ignore them. He’s working on a lot of changes right now too, and change is hard. I can’t hide behind his stability because it isn’t there. I can’t let up or slack off because he can’t catch me if I do.
And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Because it keeps me pushing forward, for me.