The Both/And Experience of Feeling Good In My Skin

I’ve come to the realization that I can experience two things at once.

I’m open to non-exclusive.

Feelings, that is. I had a new experience yesterday that I don’t recall having had before.

For most of my life I’ve thought of myself and had the experience of being all or nothing. I was either all in or not interested/engaged. Which means that there has been no balance. I would work furiously to the detriment of my health, or I would get nothing done. I was either working out 11 hours a week or not at all. I was either eating healthy every meal or eating whatever I wanted. I either felt awesome or horrible, calm or anxious, exhausted or energetic. There has been no balance, no chill and no both/and. Until yesterday.

For the past couple of days I’ve been experiencing what I can only describe as physical anxiety. From what I remember I haven’t had that happen, the anxiety I experience has all been in my head. I haven’t been close to reminders of physical trauma in a few years though, and I do remember that driving after the car wreck was physically difficult. I would get headaches and a lot of tension in my shoulders. When I started getting the trauma worked out of my connective tissue through physical and massage therapy, it hurt like hell. That was a bit more than two years ago, so it’s possible I don’t remember. Sometimes I don’t, and I’m fine with that.

So to yesterday, reclaiming sex is looking like more of a trauma-clearing experience than I had realized. I was somewhat prepared for the mental anxiety, after all, that’s what I’ve been focused on healing for the last two and a half years. What I didn’t think about was that I have physical trauma that also probably needs to be addressed, and that’s now coming up too. My body hurts, I don’t feel well (feel like I have either a cold or allergies) and I would really just like to rest in bed for a few days in comfy pajamas and under my heavy blanket. I really don’t like not feeling well, I have other things to do. However, I don’t want to hold on to this, and releasing it would probably feel amazing. I’m thinking through that today as I handle business.

At the same time that I am experiencing physical anxiety without accompanying mental anxiety, I am feeling really good in my skin. And that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, since my face looks rough, my skin is a bit loose where I’m starting to lose weight from going off the drugs and the constant blast of the heater/winter air combo makes me feel…shriveled. I’m not rocking a summer glow, is what I’m saying.

And yet I feel really good about my body for the first time in…years? Ever? Maybe realizing how much I’ve survived and how well I’ve done to heal from it is showing me that my body is pretty amazing after all, even when I have a lot of anxiety swirling around it. It’s weird, but I like that this is the way I’ve come to the realization that I can experience two things at once. I’m not limited to either/or, it can be both/and. I like not being limited, I spent enough time with limits.

Whirling Through the Week – Until I Hit a Wall

The last thing you want to be when your brain is wrecking on past trauma is vulnerable.

I had a lot going on this week.

I had some kind of idea that work would slowly pick up over the month and I could adjust. Nope, things blew up this week and I’ve been scrambling to do it all. Plus I had to be “public me” a lot, and spent a lot of time managing conflicts, in conferences and meetings and taking on more work. Not surprisingly, I hit a wall this afternoon and started to slide into a panic attack.

I have been doing a lot to recognize and address past trauma, which I am increasingly aware was in great part due to abusive communication, and when I have already hit my stress limit I have a really hard time not taking everything the wrong way.

Basically, if I start saying I’m tired, there is a meltdown on the way.

I realized today that I have a tendency to recoil in preparation for a verbal beating when I start toward a panic attack. I start making plans to isolate, I use any and every excuse for why I must not bother someone and I make a really big deal out of something that hasn’t even happened. My brain, in the process of wrecking, ties communication to abuse and prepares me for it by telling me to shut down and shut out.

This is without there being any verbal beating or any communication abuse. Or any abuse. Or…anything.

Sometimes dealing with this shit is really weird.

It’s a little terrifying too. I was in the middle of talking to a client, changing a drawing and trying to tell David what was happening so that I could hopefully stop the process of making problems where there weren’t any. He reminded me to breathe, and that helped for a few hours, but now I’m back in a similar place, where I’m making a lot of assumptions and creating problems that aren’t there. I’m glad I’m starting to recognize what’s happening, but dealing with it while I’m also exhausted and have hit my stress limit for the week is challenging.

I did a couple of yoga classes when I finished work to try to continue the process of calming. They were more meditative than active, and I found the word vulnerable coming up repeatedly as I stilled my body and slowed my breathing. As in be vulnerable.

The last thing you want to be when your brain is wrecking on past trauma is vulnerable. I want to put up my defenses and not have to challenge myself and my thinking and repeat to myself that I am experiencing cognitive distortion and that things are not what I am making them out to be. I would way rather tuck in and take a Xanax than sit in pain and stop the negative, destructive thought patterns that I lived with for a few years.

I’m done waiting for a better time to deal with this. There isn’t a time that I will be less busy, will be in a better place, will have less on my plate, will have my shit together or will be more ready for a relationship. I can’t put my life on hold because this shit is hard, and I have so much opening up to me. I think that was the message in yoga. When the choice is before me, and the choice is hard, time to choose vulnerable.

Restoring Through A Slow Day

In thinking about my usual impatience, speed through life and refusal to pause and enjoy…anything…(I even eat fast), I’ve been thinking about what I could do to balance that a bit.

The chasm between anxiety and sleep was wide last night. Sometimes I can’t make it stop, hence the Xanax, which still took 20 minutes to kick in because I took the lowest dose I could. Breathing, body awareness, addressing my fears with rational answers…it all resulted in tears and increasing pain. Usually means I’ve been triggered, and mastering triggers without chemical intervention is likely to be a long road for me. It’s really disappointing to start doing restorative things for myself and three days or so in have another round of severe anxiety, but as I said yesterday, sleep acts as a reset and I am back at it today, determined to stay the course.

Which brings me to my intention for today – a Slow Day.

In thinking about my usual impatience, speed through life and refusal to pause and enjoy…anything…(I even eat fast), I’ve been thinking about what I could do to balance that a bit. Even on my “days off” I have a separate list of things to accomplish that I blow through so that I can get it all done. Days off aren’t for rest, they’re for getting done the things I didn’t have time to get done while running around at high speed the other days.

This can hardly be beneficial for me.

Slow Day is an intention to set aside one day a month to be in no hurry to do anything. There will be no pressure to perform, no to-do list, no doing anything that I find disagreeable, lots of laying around, lots of slow drinking and slow eating and slow reading (I read fast too, no surprise there) and maybe some slow hiking or walking or yoga. There will be sleeping in and early to bed and maybe some knitting or coloring or other calming activity. Maybe brunch out, because is there anything slower than brunch?

Slow Day seems a good foray into slowing down generally. Slowing my mind, slowing my body, resting, restoring and taking time to meditate (a practice which still escapes me because I don’t slow down long enough to do it.) I will hopefully learn a lot from Slow Day and gain some balance to my crazy. I’ve had a lot more creative energy and problem-solving ability the last few days, so something is working. My resting heart rate is still high, but that’s an indicator not necessarily a goal at the moment.

In the middle of this I am still transitioning off of meds. I am one week into a three week process to taper off the antidepressant I have been on for two years, and some of this may be my body adjusting to the lower dose of chemicals. I’ll just have to wait that one out. Overall I think it’s a really good choice for me, just having a few hiccups on the way. But it got me to Slow Day, so even the hard things give me a reason to be grateful.

Trying to Not Complain for a Week

What if I took all those frustrations and re-framed them into positive observations? Would it help?

I just about lost my shit this morning when I got home from the store. It rained all morning, and by the time I was hauling a loaded cart out to my car it was pouring. It rained so hard that some of the streets were flooded on my way home, and my street was partly flooded. I unloaded wet bags or groceries and jugs of water (our water tastes weird at the moment), nearly busted my ass slipping on the threshold, got it all put away in my mom’s chaotic kitchen and discovered that the box on the porch was the cane I had ordered from my grandma that we thought hadn’t arrived.

I was checking my Amazon orders last night to see if anything might not arrive this week, and saw that the new walking cane was supposed to have been delivered on Friday. No one had seen the box, so I reported it missing and requested another. From what I can guess, it was delivered to a neighbor and they brought it to my door this morning…4 days later. I couldn’t cancel the Amazon replacement in time to not have them send me one unnecessarily, but…thanks, neighbors. If I get a package by mistake I take it over immediately. I guess I have a spare cane now for someone who need it though.

I was in such a foul mood about all of this and the grocery crazy especially that I was about to lose it. The PTSD thing I live with? Stress can quickly light a short fuse. I stopped myself though and thought, “What if I didn’t complain?”

What if I didn’t complain about this? What if I found the positive, that we can afford all of these groceries and that we needed the rain and that it isn’t also cold and that I got things done early and have plenty of time to start baking for tonight and go to the store again later for my grandma’s stuff and the cake box I need to pick up? What if I didn’t complain for a week? What if I took all those frustrations and re-framed them into positive observations? Would it help? Would it not?

Here goes!

Setting Fire to the List

Those lists of mine? They exclude too.

I like lists. They’re my comfort zone. I like checking the box, marking through the words, finishing a task and clearly stating the thing. Whatever a list is for, I like it. They’re also a crutch for me and they get in my way.

I still use to-do lists. I find that if I don’t I’m not as motivated or I forget. Since I’m a performance-oriented human, I dearly love to cross an item off my to-do list. I knocked out my entire list today and you’d think I’d found buried treasure.┬áIf I make a list of the things I want to get done in a specific amount of time (I’ve finally accepted I only write lists for that day and only write what I can reasonably accomplish that day), there’s some measure of sense to it. Do I have a work deadline? Meet the deadline. Do I need to wash clothes? Do that. Oh, haven’t made Grandma’s Christmas stocking yet, I’ll get that done tonight. If I have trouble fitting in yoga I write it down too. I even wrote down to bring my trees in the house (potted citrus and avocados that do not like the cold) to make sure I didn’t forget to do that today.

But lists are by their nature limited and exclusive. What happens when it’s not on the list? My favorite tool becomes a trap of sorts. Let me illustrate.

How many times have you heard a girl say she has a list of things she’s looking for in a guy, and the first thing on the list is that he’s tall? What the hell does that have to do with anything? The average height for an American male is approximately 5′-10″, and they declined to provide me with the standard deviation, but I’m guessing there is a lot less above 6′-0″ and a lot more below 5′-10″. And I’m not sure why it matters, because that’s something most people can’t do anything about. What else is on your list?

More importantly, what isn’t on your list?

When I was in design school I was the last year before design tools turned over from manual to digital. The process of design, which is limited by one’s ability to manipulate the communication tool used, became very limited by the steep software learning curve. The class two years after us couldn’t design a roof to save their lives because the software didn’t automatically draw a roof for the buildings they designed, and they usually left roofs till last, meaning they put no time into them. Their designs were shit, not because they lacked ability but because they were relying on a tool that excluded so much. Those lists of mine? They exclude too. They almost always exclude me time, things that bring me joy, spending time with people I like, things that will improve my well being and things that will help me be much happier as I knock out all of the things on the list.

I don’t usually do New Year’s resolutions, but I might need to reconsider how I make lists and why I do it in the first place, and the timing is working out to make that change in the new year. And no, I’m not putting that on a list.

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.