A Moment of Thanks to Strong Lotus Yogi

I think one of the benefits of pausing to be grateful and reflect on positives is that it helps with perspective. I’ve struggled so much through the last few months, and living with PTSD can be a pretty hopeless situation. I’ve felt that¬†I just can’t so many times, and taking steps in recovery have at times seemed to difficult or overwhelming or inaccessible.

And that’s why I’m grateful for Amanda at Strong Lotus Yogi!

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Photo from Strong Lotus Yogi – Benefits of Side Plank https://stronglotusyogi.com/2018/05/29/benefits-of-side-plank-vasisthasana/

One of my biggest challenges has been exercise or really body movement of any kind. I have mostly just wanted to stay in bed and block the world out, and I am still working through the situation of my brain thinking an elevated heart rate means I’m going to die. Amanda’s blog and her yoga practice have been such a calming and accessible way for me to stay mentally engaged with what I’ve wanted to do even when it was too hard to make my body do it, and she has kept me motivated to stay with it until I could get back to yoga practice myself.

She has many videos in which she breaks down yoga poses so that it’s clear and understandable how to hold the pose in a way that’s most accessible to you, and I think she is a wonderful example of what conscientious yoga teachers do to make the world a better place. She is a truly beautiful person and her good energy is contagious, even in the blogosphere!

Thank you, Amanda! I appreciate you so much!

Living with PTSD: Tracking My HRV

I started tracking my HRV a few weeks ago, and it’s turned out to be a helpful tool. There isn’t really a target range that I could justifiably set for myself (especially since I’m not a medical professional), but I learned that the app I’m using has an average user number of 59 or so, and I was pretty sure that the research I’d listened to indicated mine would be lower.

It was.

For the first few weeks I was in the high 30s and low 40s most of the time. The app I use has a Morning Readiness reading that I do when I wake up, and it measures my HRV right after I finish sleep and there hasn’t been external stressors yet. I adopted and attitude of observing and learning, and watched my initial numbers steadily drop, and the readout pretty consistently tell me that I might need less stress, might need to do breathing exercises or otherwise manage my body’s sympathetic response. I noticed how I was feeling, noticed what the number was each day, and paid attention to whether I thought the two matched. Turns out, they often do.

This week my numbers have been in the 50s, which freaked out my app at first because that is suddenly much higher than normal. The readout cautioned me that I might be recovering and to maybe take it easy. I was! I’ve gotten consistently higher numbers this week, and have the energy and feel-good to match.

I don’t think tracking HRV is necessary, but I do think that having a way to check in with myself at a level that is available to me through technology is helpful, especially as I practice observing how I feel and responding by giving my body what it needs.

Making Room for New Things

My desk faces a wall. It’s slim, not very deep, but has worked well for me for over a decade. On the wall in front of me I’ve pinned up cards, artwork memories and various and sundry bits of detritus that people have sent me over the last few years. I don’t gaze upon it with adoration, it’s more background noise. But it’s fun, and I like it.

Since I’ve been feeling better this week, I’ve had a lot more creative energy (a lot more energy overall), and the ideas are starting to flow. I have a number of personal and professional projects I want to work on, many that I was working on when my family members started going down two years ago. I want a place to capture that, to make notes and jot down ideas and keep track of what I’m working on. Digital space is fine, but I like paper for this type of thing.

When I was sorting through boxes a couple of months ago in an attempt to organize and consolidate my belongings, and found a stash of Post-It note pads in varying sizes. In a previous life I was obsessed with Post-Its and bought tons of them in different sizes and colors to organize myself. I’m not obsessed now, but I do find them occasionally handy, and put the stash in my desk drawer for later.

I now have a use for those oversized notes.

I’m taking down most of my wall detritus to make space for an easy-to-reach note wall so that I can keep up with my projects, ideas and progress. I’m going to stick large pieces of brightly-colored paper in front of me. Not that the cards and artwork are less meaningful, it’s just time to do something different, and give myself some space for where I am and what I can do now.

The Long and Unlikely Road to Bettering Self

I have a constant urge to be better, whatever that means. I don’t have a clear idea of what “better” looks like, I just know that for a long time I haven’t been satisfied with where I am, and I want things to be different. I know that to great extent I can effect change within myself, and I can accept that I can do (functionally) nothing about anyone else, and that has put me in a place over the last few months that has gotten me really curious – about myself, my abilities, where I am with PTSD and where I want to be instead, what it looks like to love myself and care for myself and make myself a priority and what I can and cannot tolerate in my own behavior and that of others.

I don’t have that many “good” days, days that I feel energetic and interested in life and happy and motivated to leave the house. I push through most days, trying to not drop back down the hole while I try to do the things that research and a lot of smart, caring people think might have the best chance of getting me where I want to go. I’m starting to oscillate a bit, I think – I’m having noticeably more stints of positive and motivated than I’ve had in a few years. I’m definitely more awake and aware, and am staying less in the dark hole and am peeking out at the world more. I’m thinking more about doing things that I enjoy and have taken a few small steps that I don’t seem to have backtracked. I’m seeing some ripple effects from my changes and it’s cool. I like to think that building better energy around myself has the potential to positively radiate out, and I’ve lived with negativity for so long that it’s a nice change.

But, I still have the question of what better looks like and what I need to do to get there.

Waking Up Lonely

There are times that my introspection becomes overwhelming. I haven’t yet learned to moderate it – although I was so numbed out for years that there’s a lot built up.

I really miss having a lot of people over for meals. I used to entertain quite a bit, and had a large group of friends and acquaintances who were happy to appear at my command when I wanted to cook.

I love to feed people, and I love to cook. Which I no longer do.

My family has been through a lot in the past two years, and through part of that and prior to the start of a series of traumas I cooked for everyone. I liked it, and was good at it. Now that my mom isn’t working and has turned her energy to caring for my grandmother, she has pushed me out of the kitchen. It’s her domain, right down to washing the dishes.

My mom was not a good cook when I was a kid. I have zero good memories of her food, and a lot of bad ones. It’s different now, and she makes great food, but she also leaves no room for me to do what I love.

She gets really anxious about cooking for holidays. I mean weeks of freaking out and planning and more freaking out and lunch two hours late and panic about the turkey not thawing in time. Every. Holiday. So I started cooking holiday meals myself, because I like it, it’s not hard for me, I can do it to the nines in 5 hours, it’s perfectly cooked and timed, and mom doesn’t stress us all out. And I get to feed people, which I love.

But now that’s she’s back in charge of the kitchen, we’re back to the unnecessary anxiety of Thanksgiving. I say unnecessary, I don’t know what it is that bothers her so much, she’s not one to discuss feelings. I do think it’s unnecessary because she knows she can just let me handle it. But she doesn’t. I’ve been pretty much ignored, and this morning she was going on about making my brother her sous chef to get things prepped tonight so that she doesn’t have to do them tomorrow. She would also rather cook everything tonight and microwave it tomorrow.

No.

I feel pretty ignored by my mom, which is usual since I’m the only one with an (mental) illness that she has not stepped in to help, and she seems to have forgotten how smoothly things have gone the last five years when she just let me cook. And now she and my brother, who get really extra around each other, will be spreading their manic energy all over the kitchen, which was once my place of calm. And I’m going to…find something else to do, or else suck it up and join, because these are not two people who reflect much on their own issues and behavior.

Yeah, I know, get my own place, do something else (i.e. leave the country) for holidays, tell them how I feel, etc. But you also know that family isn’t that easy, and that doing the best thing for yourself often has consequences that you’d rather avoid. I would. So here we are.

My Typical Friday Night Thought Process

By the time Friday night rolls around, my brain is doing something like this:

(checking weather forecast) ok so I didn’t get around to my side projects for work this week and I could work on the mapping project tomorrow, or I could work on that paper I want to write…exercise would be good, but it’ll be pretty warm so maybe I’ll go for a walk if I get up early enough because I don’t want to sweat a lot…but I could work all afternoon and that would be fine, and it’ll help me get caught up so I’ll be ready to deal with whatever happens next week, and I’ve been wanting to get some forward progress on that mapping and haven’t done it…I really need to get my shit together…maybe Monday I’ll try to be better about eating and exercise, I just need to get caught up on these projects……………………

By the time Friday night rolls around, my body is doing something like this:

Wow, I still have a lot of tension in my shoulders, and the spot on my shoulder that sometimes has stabbing pain is flaring up…I really want to rest and take a break…are you noticing what is happening? I need you to take a time out and start writing about your trauma experiences, because you’re still stuck on a few things and you just learned that writing can be an effective way to integrate trauma…you’re also carrying a lot of tension in your hips and your breathing is still shallow a lot of the time, so take some time to practice yoga…you just learned that approaching yoga differently than you’ve done it so far could be really beneficial to your nervous system, so take some time to try that out and see what happens…………..

My weekends need some practice.

Get Back Up

The trauma freefall does seem to have finally come to an end. I don’t have the feeling that I’m still crashing through layers, and taking it easy for a few days seems to have helped get me upright. Yesterday wasn’t easy, it was a packed workday with a lot of forward motion (which was gratifying), and on stressful days I have a lot of anxiety when I go to bed, I’ve noticed. However, things are starting to feel a bit less impossible, and I am now aware of the need to take small steps toward a goal in order for my brain to begin to understand that I am capable of doing it.

My brain tells me I am not capable of SO MANY THINGS.

No matter how many Body Boss sponsored posts I see on social media, my brain tells me that I cannot be that fit. I don’t mean the abs and size 00 shorts, I mean just being able to complete the exercises. So rather than taking steps to be able to do all of that (which I know I can because I was in great shape 5 years ago and have no medical reason to prevent me from working back up to that level), my brain just says I can’t and that’s it.

I thought that meant that I either needed to hire a trainer and push myself through a sudden and intense workout regimen. Nope. Start meditating daily. Do yoga a few times a week. Go for walks.

Because even though those are not things that will get me to my fitness goals, those are the things that will get me to my fitness goals. Those very things. Because those are things I can do, and am not doing now, and making the little changes to start to do them and staying with the discomfort of doing them will teach my brain that yes, I am capable.