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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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.

Week One Off the Meds

When they all seem to conspire against you…

I’m not going to post about this every week, but I have made it through the first week of coming off my medications. It was hell. And I’m still full of synthetic chemicals. 

The situations and circumstances around me were the real issue, not my response to quitting my first prescription. I’m ok. Maybe a little more grumpy, a little more intense and a little more looking for connection. There’s also a slight internal shift I can’t put my finger on yet. I might have a little more ability to push through? I think I might also be slimming down a tad. Or it was the 6 hours of playing ball on Wednesday…

Between my family, my friends and my job, the week was bonkers. I’m not sure who called who to sabotage my sanity this week, but they did their damndest. I don’t hate people any more than usual though, and I successfully ran a meeting full of strangers, so… Maybe that was a test? I guess I passed? 

I reckon it’ll be January before I’m completely off everything. That’s a bit ambitious, but I’m nothing if not ambitious. And if this goes the way I’m planning for it to, I’ll be much better off by my birthday. 

Wreckiversary #4

A 5k, lobster rolls, popcorn for dinner and some stroke-inducing college football.

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Four years ago today I lived. Since then I have done little beyond survive. I think that was ok, because I did survive, and now I get to start living.

I ran (hahahaha I mainly walked) a 5k with a large group of friends. Three of them placed (they actually ran), and we had a great fun time, kids, strollers and all. I missed my usual bagels since they had sold out by the time I got there, and the bagel guy told me that if I message him next time and let him know I’ll be late, he’ll keep a couple back for me. This is why I like to know the people who make my food! What a kindness!

Bagels a no go, I grabbed a couple lobster rolls from a food truck and headed home for pajamas and college football. I knitted, I ate popcorn for dinner, I am almost having a stroke over this game.

While it sounds nice – and is nice – these times usually bring up unresolved issues for me. I still struggle to find a peaceful lack of churning thoughts. Even last night I was very concerned about a payment that hasn’t made it into our mailbox. This morning I had a note from the client letting me know the check had been misplaced, but was now found and in the mail. I spent a good half an hour trying to fall asleep last night but wide awake over an issue that had resolved itself. It’s not just sleep, it’s any time I’m not “busy”. And those churning, anxious thoughts drag me back to previous coping mechanisms and conjure back up previous issues.

I’ll write more about it later, but I have a bunch of boomerangs in my life. People who come, leave, then come back, always on their own terms. I never know when they’re in or out, never know if they’ll respond or not, and when they will or won’t pop back up with an unexpected text message. I had one pop up last week, he’s already gone again.

WHY???

I invest emotions, energy and time into other people, so every time this happens I don’t just drop it, it affects me and it takes a few days for me to let it go and move on. You would think that since I know that about myself and know this about them that I would “know better”. Sure, except that I often want people to be better than they are, and I want them to treat me better than they do, but I don’t demand it because for years I was told in so many ways that I don’t have value. That has stayed with my subconscious, and I am just now learning why this is such a challenge for me to just cut people off. One more thing for my brain to churn on. And 4 years later, I am so proud that I can say that and look forward to a day when that and many other things are not so damn hard.

Me Too

The women who have spoken about questioning their perception of their experience? Me too.

One day away from my second trauma anniversary of the week (both 4 years ago), my resting heart rate is back down to where I’d like it to be, I’m still losing weight a bit at a time, my hormones seem to be more balanced for the first time in about 5 months and I was able to say without hesitation yesterday, “We don’t blame victims.”

Praise God.

With the number of celebrities stepping forward to say that they have experienced sexual harassment and assault, including rape, with the national conversation opening up about longstanding acceptance, even expectation of this behavior, and the long silence of victims who were afraid to lose their jobs, their credibility or more…Me too.

My hope is that light will be shed on the issue as well as on the perpetrators of sexual violence. This is something that lives in darkness and secrecy, and dies in the light. I also hope that we support those who choose to speak about their experiences, and we support those who do not. I’m one that doesn’t care to talk about it, but I think it’s important to say “Me too”. I experienced years of harassment and assault – I was groped and grabbed and propositioned by men who acted like they had a right to me. Like so many other women I didn’t make a big deal out of it, smiled, stepped aside, and learned to avoid them. I’m thankful my experiences weren’t violent, but that’s another thing I hope people come to realize. Harassment and assault aren’t always violent. They aren’t always blatant or loud, they are very often manipulative, and they are designed to maximize blame and shame for the victim. The women who have spoken about questioning their perception of their experience? Me too. I get it. I’ve been there. I don’t have to be there any more, again, Praise God.

For those of us – women and men – who have felt like we had to stay in the shadows, not take the risk, not lose our jobs, not lose our credibility, not lose whatever else we have at stake…I hope the current conversations about non-consensual sexual interactions provide you the opportunity to heal, to feel recognized and heard whether you choose to speak or not. I hope you get to see that blame and shame are not for you, they are for the people who perpetrated this. And if you are ready to share, I hope you have a safe space to do it. For me, it’s enough to say “Me Too”.

 

12 Hours of Sleep Later

I let out so much trauma yesterday.

Yesterday having a therapy session coincide with a trauma anniversary was really a gift. After a few months of distraction by the happenings of life, I got back to what had been holding me back from living. Feeling at peace with something that had taken me three and a half years to even verbalize, forgiving myself, not placing any expectations for what the next few days would look like…thank God I’ve come so far.

I was exhausted yesterday. I felt like I worked all day but accomplished nothing (not true, got a lot done, but didn’t produce anything new and I like to produce work), and by the time 4pm rolled around I was ready to bounce out of the office and go for a walk to clear my head. I did, it was very hot, and I was ready for shower, dinner and bed when I got home. Shower, pizza and bed, more specifically, because I wasn’t about to cook and pizza sounded like the ticket, which it was.

Part of my recovery struggle has been with food, because I tend to stress eat (I think they call it eating your feelings) and my weight has, throughout my adult life, often been 30-40 pounds above where I would like it to be. Now is such a case, and I tend to experience guilt over eating foods that aren’t “healthy” because that’s how it works, right? You eat healthy food, you aren’t overweight. Except that’s not how it works for me. One of the things I said yesterday was “I have no shame about it.” There are more places in my life that I can speak those words with authenticity. Like eating pizza.

I’ve discovered that when I sleep and take time for myself, when I don’t focus on food, when I don’t have cortisol production going 24/7, I don’t have to worry about what I eat, even after 30. So it was never about the food, it was about the unresolved trauma that kept stacking up until it got to be too much. Now that I’m processing it all and learning better ways to think about my experiences, I can eat pizza guilt-free because it’s no longer about comforting myself, it’s about enjoying some pizza, and I don’t over-enjoy it. I can put it down. I did last night, then fell asleep early and woke up when I was ready. 12 hours later.

My body needed that. I let out so much trauma yesterday. Early on in therapy I used to come home exhausted, and this was similar to that. But this time I let myself rest and sleep and shout-out to my business partner who is so accepting and accommodating of my needs. I am still on slow-roll and that is FINE. I don’t have to hit it hard every day. Yesterday was about acknowledging how hard I’ve been hit and being proud of how hard I’ve worked to heal.

4th Anniversary of the Day I Started to Heal

Today has been hard for me to get to. Four years ago I got a phone call that left me numb and horrified and unable to breathe. I got tossed aside and betrayed by a person who blindsided me, then spent the next two years emotionally beating the life out of me over the guilt they felt. That was six days before I nearly died in a car wreck. Four years ago was not a good week for me.

This is a good week, because for the first time in years I am able to recognize that it was not the end I had believed it to be, it was the beginning of four years of healing and all the good that has come from that. It was the day I learned to open my eyes, be honest with myself, authentic with others, and declare to myself that I AM VALUABLE.

Saturday won’t be about remembering the day I almost died, I am running a 5k with a lot of friends to celebrate how far I have come in my recovery. A lot was taken from me four years ago, and four years later I have gotten back so much more.