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…

!!20170401_165514

 

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. 

Managed Chaos

The first day off meds turned out to be the day I’ve been dreading, by horrible coincidence.

I might need to move my weekly therapy sessions to Tuesdays. Monday afternoons, for whatever reason, tend to hit me with a bat and keep whacking.

I was on my way to a meeting with a new client when my grandma called. She never calls during the workday because she is afraid she’ll interrupt something important. She doesn’t believe I silence my phone if I don’t want to be interrupted. Thankfully I  hadn’t done that yet because she called to tell me she had fallen and needed help getting up again. I found out when I got to her that she had been on the floor for three hours before she called. It took me 45 minutes to get through 30 miles of traffic and get to her. I literally picked her up off the floor and set her in her chair, then stayed to make sure she could use her walker again. I’ve been dreading this day. She has severe arthritis (which she refuses to have treated) and her left ankle has almost no cartilage left from years of dancing. She didn’t have the strength or flexibility to get herself up off the floor. She called me her Jesus for saving her.

I’m not even close, and that strength to lift her? That was Jesus, not me.

Yes, she or I could have called for help, but she was very embarrassed and she didn’t want anyone to know, because they might try to push her into a managed care facility and she deeply values her independence. I support her autonomy, so I got the call. I changed my meeting for later in the week (who gets mad at someone who has to go help their grandma?), calmly walked her through the process of getting her up again and didn’t make a fuss, as she says. I’ll be checking on her the next couple of days. That was the condition of my secret keeping.

My Mom is ill again. Not nearly as bad as before, but she slept really late this morning, which is concerning, and puts running the house back on me.

One of my brothers recently broke up with his girlfriend, whose alcoholism pushed him to a breaking point. Today he found out who she was cheating on him with. I supported him while I made dinner, since I was home much earlier than expected and Mom wasn’t up to it.

Did I mention I started weaning off my meds today? Thank goodness synthetic chemicals are hard to get out of your system and I won’t feel the effects for a while…

I’m gonna go stress eat now, because even after making dinner I didn’t get enough to make up for all the calories I burned today remaining calm…

How Not To Be A Dick

Just kidding, I have no idea.

The level of social nonsense in my life has appeared to reach a fever pitch. I only have fight response, not flight response, and no, I can’t just “ignore it” or “leave it alone” because anxiety doesn’t do that.

From Facebook: “I don’t celebrate Halloween and literally can’t make eye contact with anyone in costume at work today. I am, however, grateful for treats from Rhonda” (complete with pic of Halloween treats).

If you eat the treats, you’re celebrating, you hypocrite.

I play a pickup game at public tennis courts on Wednesday nights. One of the girls brought her brother’s Rotweiler for the second week in a row. Dogs aren’t allowed on the courts, and this dog bites. She makes excuses for the dog rather than acknowledging that the behavior is not acceptable. Leave the dog – and yourself – at home.

Actually, that resulted in me reminding everyone via group chat to close gates behind them, announce scores, and leave pets and children at home. This is an adult competitive sport, not daycare/petcare. And if a dog bites me I will likely go into full fight mode and you will be horrified.

Plans to head out to a massive corn maze tomorrow and get pie at a well-known restaurant after with a group of friends. Restaurant doesn’t do gluten-free pie, some in the group are gluten-free. The friend who I suspect has undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder (and am trying to figure out how gently suggest she might think about being evaluated) just texted me a pic of a frozen dairy-free, gluten-free cheesecake-ish dessert and said we could take it to the restaurant for the people who can’t eat pie.

NO. YOU DO NOT BRING OUTSIDE FOOD INTO RESTAURANTS. WHO RAISED YOU??? THEY AGREED TO GO KNOWING THEY COULDN’T EAT THE PIE, LEAVE IT ALONE. ARE YOU GOING TO LEAVE IT IN A HOT CAR ALL DAY??? YAY THAT IS DELICIOUS.

My family says I overreact. Yep, I have PTSD. This is my reality. No flight, only fight. It’s exhausting.

 

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.