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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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. 

Triggered By a Microwave, and Other ???

I know I’ve been struggling the past two weeks with connecting to the idea that I have value…

I was at my parent’s house this morning and decided to make tea at the same time my youngest brother was making nachos (breakfast foods aren’t his thing, generally). I had my mug in the microwave for about 45 seconds when he stopped it, opened the door, took my mug out, put his chips and cheese in and declared that his would only take 30 seconds, therefore this made sense.

Sure it made sense. My brain, however, sometimes doesn’t accept “sense”, and I stood behind him, still and quiet, trying to control the sudden flood of emotion.

Y’all. I almost cried.

Then I threatened to beat the shit outta him.

Mom was watching me carefully the whole time. No, I wasn’t actually going to attack my still-recovering brother over a mug of hot water, but the incident brought up so much emotion for me. Emotion that had very little to do with him, and my trigger experiences often don’t have anything to do with the situation at hand and everything to do with the past or unresolved stuff.

I felt like I wasn’t important, that I didn’t matter. That I had no value in that moment. That my needs could be scraped aside and ignored.

All that from a microwave.

Mom tried to smooth it over with humor and I went along with it, but I still had to deal with the emotions. I almost cried a second time, then found some quiet so that I could sort this out. I know I’ve been struggling the past two weeks with connecting to the idea that I have value (for so many years I was treated by a lot of people in ways that said I DID NOT), so this was a punch in the gut when I have finally started to stand upright.

I don’t think my brother doesn’t value me, and again, I understand that to him this was a logical, time-based act. And he was in the kitchen first, so he thought first come first to the microwave. I don’t dispute that. My trigger was based on the pile of experiences that I have not yet acknowledged to have been damaging and that have created a twisted view of myself.

Well, time to acknowledge, time to change the narrative, time to be grateful for this opportunity and time to finish drinking my tea and go about my day.

So Many Things Are Good Now, Like Showers

It’s freeing to find comfort in something that was once a burden.

Now that my brain is back to processing trauma, some things are much better, and some are not. It’s why I’m in therapy still, to navigate what stability brings. I’m really glad I know this – that when things are stable for me, my brain feels that it can start releasing information for me to process.

Then I sit and wonder how I’ve forgotten so much. Eh.

For example, showers used to be horrible for me. I got to the point that I dreaded my daily rinse off because I had nothing to distract me and that’s when all of the trauma would hit me full force with anxiety brain. I would try to enjoy the hot water and time to myself, but that didn’t work. Now though? I don’t have the racing, anxious thoughts so often, I have learned to beat them back in still and quiet time, and showers ARE THE BEST. It’s freeing to find comfort in something that was once a burden.

I still kinda hate intense exercise, and I only recently realized why. I used to work out intensely between 7 and 11 hours a week. I was active all day most days with my job, and I was in great shape and really strong. Post wreck I stopped working out, then started to hate exercise. It took some gentle prodding from my therapist to start walking and practicing yoga, and it took another year to realize why I WOULD NOT do more. I once had a tough workout shortly after a traumatic experience, and post-PTSD-inducing trauma I couldn’t make myself do it. I still can’t sometimes, but at least now I know why, and I can work on it and up to it. Cooler temps will help (I do a lot of exercise outdoors because it’s happier for me), here’s hoping for an actual winter this year!

This week I realized why I’ve been limiting my time visiting my grandma. I went to see her the evening of the day of my wreck per our regular schedule, and I acted like nothing happened. I have been caring for my grandma for 4 years, and haven’t viewed it as a burden until now. Now I just can’t even, as the kids say, and it’s a chore to see to her needs when that hasn’t been a struggle for me until the last few months. Well, it’s associated with a trauma event, even if indirectly, so that’s something for me to address too before my brain builds some kind of negative web of neurons about my grandma!

I’ve put just shy of 40 miles on my feet this week and have done some deep stretching in yoga (pigeon pose tonight, which I highly recommend!), so I am sore and feeling a little beat. I was up and down a ladder and jumping off and back on a cabinet to measure a building and windows for work today, and so much of me just wants that elusive total day off. Working this weekend though to not let myself get behind, but not giving up staying active during the week and making time to push my body a little. I had forgotten how good it feels to be tired BECAUSE I DID IT, and it feels pretty good. So did that shower!

Good Practice Today (And This Week, Really)

…yes, I admired grass. Like I said, I’m laughing too.

I didn’t really come with a natural ability to chill out, and post-trauma I have had ZERO ability to chill out, so I have to practice.

Yep, I practice being calm and taking care of myself. I know, I laugh at it too.

This week has been one of my best since my brother’s accident about 4 months ago. He was badly injured at work and that put my recovery on pause until recently. I was so focused on him and my family that my brain stopped working through the trauma for a while. Now it’s back, now some emotions and realizations are starting to come back to the surface. It’s a good thing, it’s part of my healing process, part of my recovery. I’m so much better prepared to let my brain resolve things now, so much better at recognizing that after working 3 long and intense days, knocking off work early to go for a hike was a great thing for me to do.

I’m pounding out my stress and anxiety by the mile. I’m over 32 miles since Sunday, which is really good for me! 9 miles today since I walked with a friend and by myself (running is not my favorite, I never get the high), and as much as my feet are sore and my muscles are not happy, I feel really good about it. I am doing this while meeting intense deadlines for clients, spending time with friends, getting hit with the same disaster coverage everyone else is and looking after my “chickens”, the lovely group of young people that I have adopted and who view me as the favorite “Aunt”.

I pushed my practice a step further by pausing on my evening walk to admire the fading rays of the sun illuminating tufts of grass seeds. Sunsets sometimes make the most warm and comforting and happy glow, and I settled into it as I walked along the trail from my neighborhood and yes, I admired grass. Like I said, I’m laughing too. But it was such a good thing to be present and notice simple, pleasant things and not be burdened by things that didn’t exist in that space. It was also a tremendous accomplishment for my brain to do that. Sometimes I practice and fail. Today I practiced and nailed it.

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