Ooooo, That Looks Good!

I have wrecked myself before trying to shop and eat my way through my feelings.

We’re days into cloudy, dreary, wet weather, and it’s somewhat reminiscent of the last year I lived in California. The sun didn’t appear for three months, and I thought I was going to lose my mind. I didn’t know then about seasonal depression, but I got to find out later! I also got to find out about PTSD, anxiety, depression and many of the other mental health concerns that y’all have bravely shared here in the bloggosphere. Look how much I know now!

I also know that I can acknowledge what I am struggling with, and while it doesn’t always make things go away, and sometimes doesn’t even make them feel better, it does let me quit worrying what might be going on and accept how I feel as the experience of this moment or this day or this week. So, I acknowledge that I am experiencing depression, and I don’t need to cope in unhealthy ways, I can recognize it and accept that I may need some self-care, but I do not need to self-indulge.

Because when I experience depression, I want to shop and eat my way through life. It’s like my brain sends out a glittery billboard that says, “TIME TO SHOP FOR ALL THE THINGS AND EAT ALL THE THINGS!!!”

I want everything I see – new makeup, workout gear, shoes, a new purse, cute things generally, my nails done, a stack of books, cooking equipment that I don’t yet own… Haha, I need to stay home and stay off the internet! I also want to eat everything I see, and Instagram is not helping, because so much amazing looking food, and QUESO, and CHOCOLATE, and…

I have wrecked myself before trying to shop and eat my way through my feelings. To throw out my favorite Star Wars quote, “IT’S A TRAP!” It’s a distraction, not a solution, and while I am actually hungry and I have not eaten indulgently today, I don’t need to eat myself sick or buy things to make myself feel temporarily better. I’m sure there’s a good alternative available to me if I put some thought to it, but right now just acknowledging what’s going on is enough.

Restoring Through Yoga

I am rarely present these days, but I don’t often catch myself.

You know those really cool, sexy yogi photos of very attractive women in awe-inspiring yoga poses in spectacular locations?

That’s not me.

I started early this year on the recommendation of my therapist. I haven’t done yoga in two months or so until this week, and I can tell. I think I’m less connected to myself and my emotions, I’ve had a little more physical pain than I was when I was practicing yoga for a couple of hours a week, and definitely more tension. I find yoga really helps, and it’s a great time for me to practice focusing.

As I was moving through a half hour video yesterday, I began thinking about what I was going to make for dinner later. I caught myself. I wasn’t present, I wasn’t focused, I wasn’t working on what the yoga session was for, I was thinking about squeezing lemons and what kind of cheese was in my fridge.

I am rarely present these days, but I don’t often catch myself. Yoga is the tool for me to do that, to understand how to observe my mind and my body and begin to make changes based on those observations. If I can be more present, be more observant and make more time for myself (like yoga practice), I can start correcting the thoughts that are contributing to anxiety and sending me in the wrong direction. It’s another way to restore, and another tool I’m more committed to making use of as I go through the next stage of my recovery.

Restoring Through Sleep

I can also have physical manifestations of anxiety that make it hard to sleep.

“I slept in” is my every day this week. I wear a Fitbit (the Tiny Tyrant) for the primary purpose of tracking my sleep, because it says a lot about where I am in the anxiety spectrum..or where I will be soon if I don’t sleep more. I may have said this before, I do well on about 9 hours a night. And if your knee-jerk response to that was to negate the time I find optimal for sleep length, you probably don’t have my brain, so stuff it.

As I am getting into practicing the things that will make be better, as I begin to engage in a lifestyle that helps me heal rather than continues the damage, I have to remember to sleep. It is the only way I reset from anxiety – drugs don’t even do it. And when I am paying enough attention to myself, I need to sleep more after a severe trigger episode like the one I just had. Sleep brings back some balance, some calm and some self-awareness that I can’t get any other way. So right now I’m sleeping as much as my body wants, and scheduling my day once I wake up. I’m calling this a good use of Christmas break.

Sleep doesn’t come easily though when I’m practicing restoration. Once I’m asleep I’m good, but getting there can be a challenge. Bedtime is when I can have anxiety spikes. There’s nothing left to distract me, nothing left to figure out or do…it’s like a gasping chasm between me and rest that has no bridge and no way across. Anxiety loves to simmer as I’m trying to go to sleep, keeping me awake with the lies and uncertainty.

I can also have physical manifestations of anxiety that make it hard to sleep. Last night (and this has happened before), anxiety was cold. I had been comfortably warm watching a football game in just my pajamas. As soon as I lay in bed wanting to sleep, in those same cozy pajamas, in warm fuzzy socks, under a thick blanket, same room temperature, I was shivering with cold and could not get warm. Our experience with temperature is relative, sometimes 60 degrees can feel good and sometimes it can feel chilly. I had no reason to be so cold before sleep other than anxiety. My fingers were like ice and I shivered until at some point I fell asleep, anxious about so many things that are out of my control until I did.

But I slept, I got the reset, I woke up in a warm bed on my own time (I have no end of gratitude for this luxury), and today is a day that is starting off with restoration rather than anxiety.

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.

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. 

I Had To Go Be Public Me

It’s exhausting though. Because this has been a hard couple of weeks for me, and I have very little spare energy at the moment, and I just poured it into a bunch of strangers. 

Anxiety makes things harder, amirite?

I had to go be public me all day yesterday – the charming, attentive, engaged, contributing, smiling, listen to your whole life story and make you feel good for telling it me. It’s not an act, it’s authentic. I enjoy being out and about and meeting people and making things happen. I also like to be rewarded with yummy food for showing up, not gonna lie.

It’s exhausting though. Because this has been a hard couple of weeks for me, and I have very little spare energy at the moment, and I just poured it into a bunch of strangers.

Before I would not have thought about it in those terms. I would have done my job, fulfilled my obligations and gone on the next day with no break in the schedule. It was a pace that kept me from having to deal with myself. A year and a half later, I able to say, “Oh hey that was a lot yesterday given where I am right now so today would be good for taking it easy.” And I do.

And I’m doing it without stress eating. I cannot tell you what a big thing that is for me.

I didn’t binge eat when I got home last night. I had some toast with butter because I was a little hungry but not really. I had toast with a scrambled egg this morning because, again, I was a little hungry but not starving. I had my tea with half and half as usual.

I did not melt down into a binge-eating, guilt-inducing mess. That is worth celebrating. The painful process of scraping out what’s left in the deep recesses of my trauma experience was so worth it, because of how I was able to handle yesterday and today with a calm and gentleness that I have rarely afforded myself in the last several years. Yes.

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.