Getting Me Back

Sex and dating have been the last big issues I haven’t really dealt with post-PTSD. I didn’t have to, so I didn’t, and figured I’d deal with it when I had to. Well, now I have to if I want this relationship to continue. Which I do, because Client’s Brother is an incredible surprise, and I’d like to see where we go. He knows I still have a lot of shit to work through, and he’s kind and compassionate about it. Since I have a giant question mark about my reactions to everything (post-assault I am pretty skittish about, well, everything), I have no idea what I’m comfortable with and what I’m not. I have so many negative emotions about sex and dating, and changing that is going to take time and energy that I don’t yet have available for this. He’s walking through this with me, and I couldn’t really ask for more. It’s quite wonderful.

As I’m rolling into the end of the work year and things slow down for about a month, I have some space to step away from the office and focus on myself. It’s time I really need to do this, to get ME back. I need to form different coping habits, need to resolve some background noise and pursue some things that bring me joy, things that I haven’t had the energy to pursue. As much as the recovery process is central to my life, I’m ready to move beyond recovery and be more than the anxiety and scars. I think that identity was ok for a while, and I think it gave me a bit of shelter, but I’m more than the scars and want to be more than the anxiety. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, I don’t start things on Mondays and I try to avoid high-expectation change scenarios. I’d rather start something on a Tuesday in April. So no end-of-year or new year plans, just seems like the right time to push myself forward a bit and regain some of what I like about myself.

Lightbulb! Intentional About Reducing Cortisol Production

After reading some articles and helpful blogs, I realized that maybe it was something else – lack of sleep, and too much cortisol production.

Because this whole “self-care” thing is still a fairly new concept to me (I was raised on the absolute opposite approach, to just work harder when things get hard), I am still – kid you not – learning about how to give my body a break so that I am not constantly producing cortisol, which I have been doing for…maybe the last 14 years or so? Now that I’m past 30 and not as fit as I was before my car wreck, I have wrinkles, silver hair starting to shimmer its way through my medium brown and stomach fat that has never previously existed. Laugh at me all you want, my tummy is a new and not exciting part of my body.

I wanted to blame it on being out of shape and my eating habits and getting a little older and just the natural course of life. After reading some articles and helpful blogs, I realized that maybe it was something else – lack of sleep, and too much cortisol production.

Right before my brother’s accident, I had come to a really good place in my recovery, was starting to sleep, balance life and lose weight rapidly. After his accident I was on high alert 24/7 for months, constantly under a lot of stress and did not sleep much. My weight gain was more than noticeable, it was opposite the trend I had started just prior to his accident.

It’s taken me nearly 5 months to realize that while a lot of other things in my life have not been conducive to excellent health and fitness, my lack of focus on the real culprits was what was causing the most damage. It’s not uncommon for my whole body to hurt for reasons I can’t explain. I haven’t been able to get my weight back down. And I couldn’t work my way to achieving my goals.

This is much more than a glass of wine, a pedicure and a bubble bath (and anyway I’ve had to quit drinking because my anxiety levels are currently bringing out alcoholism tendencies that I don’t want to tempt), this is a condition that has to be addressed for what it is.

So, I am very intentional about sleep, and lots of it. I went to sleep before 9pm last night to make sure I got a very good rest before going out with my girlfriends later (my body is so long-term sleep deprived that I can get 10 hours without trying). I am also working to be aware of stress and try to address it immediately by asking myself, “Does this need to cause me stress?” “Can I approach this more calmly?” “If this is causing me stress, can I choose to not participate?”

I am having to work at these new coping skills, but the work is worth it if I can beat back my two biggest harms and have a better quality of life (and a slightly flatter tummy 😉

Paintballin’

I HAVE A SOURCE OF PAIN PEOPLE CAN SEE.

I got the shit shot outta me this morning by my brother and our friends. I liked it way more than I thought I would. There is something really fun about running around in the woods and trying not to get splattered by a high-speed ball of pink paint.

I had the first and last kill shots of the day. I also have a welt the size of a softball on my shin. I can’t comfortably set my right arm down. I find all of this funny.

I am a pansy when it comes to physical pain. I have endured soul-rending emotional and mental pain and gone on about my day, but getting shot with a paintball from 20 feet away at 320 feet per second? Ouch. Except it was a brief ouch before it passed and the memory quickly faded.

I got shot and went on without complaining or dwelling on it. Four of the shots hurt like hell and I took them like a champ. I shook it off and went back to shooting. That was a major step forward for me. And it’s cathartic to have visible bruises.

I HAVE A SOURCE OF PAIN PEOPLE CAN SEE.

It is incredibly liberating in a way, right when I have been struggling so much with the invisible injury of PTSD.

To be clear, this is not about self-harm or some of the other coping mechanisms that some people who struggle adopt. I am so, so thankful that I do not have that challenge on my journey. But I do have a couple of playfully-attained battle scars from running around in the woods with compressed air rifles and some pink paint, and I am taking a moment to appreciate what that has revealed about me.