I caught myself casually ignoring calories last night. I had severe anxiety and just leaving my room was hard. I went from high to severe while I made dinner and felt myself tipping over the edge to xanax level.
That weight loss trigger? Haha, yeah. So I was unconsciously disregarding that I was coping by packing on the calories.
But I noticed.
It’s so hard to reprogram triggers in the middle of severe anxiety. It’s so hard to do anything other than what reads as necessary to survival. I can work. I can feed myself. I can usually shower and brush my teeth. That’s about it.
Which is highlighting an urgent need to pause and make space to dig into this and face it.
After I go get my hair cut.
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.
My boyfriend and I continue to have difficult conversations. I keep doubting I have the energy to keep going, but I keep pushing through.
We don’t have anything to hide behind. We don’t have money and job security, we don’t have a lot of time together, we don’t have a long history of trust and connection, we don’t even have a certain belief that we belong together. It’s fucking hard.
Because we don’t have anything to hide behind, and because we’re both sticking with the difficult conversations long enough to get past the darts and jabs, we’re starting to get honest. The kind of honest where you face shame and admit you’ve been hiding things because you’re not sure they’ll like you anymore if they know. The kind of honest where you say what isn’t ok. The kind of honest where you admit you might be the problem but this little bit is all you know and you haven’t learned enough to figure out the rest yet.
I’m not sure how many people ever get this honest in a relationship, but I don’t think many do it within the first nine months. It takes more courage than I knew I had. And I do it because I believe I matter enough to speak and hear the truth. To not walk away because I’m scared and this is really hard, but because walking away is the right thing for me. And I don’t know that yet because I don’t have enough information.
And there’s no backing down now, because we’re here, rumbling with the truth no matter how scary or how hard. AND IT’S HARD. I’m still not in neutral, and I’m not comfortable with some of the surprises I’m getting. I’m constantly in high threat mode and no one else is bringing me back down to my version of calm. While I’m rumbling with a really painful series of realizations about who I am and how I got here.
But worth it, because I’m worth it. And so is he.
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!