I’ve noticed the last two nights my heart rate has been about 25 beats per minute higher than it should be. No wonder I’ve had a hard time going to sleep. I’m laying in bed, trying to get everything to slow down for sleep time, and my body is ready to flee in terror. I’ve tried breathing, but for me it’s a small and very temporary fix any time I try it. Thinking about something else is hard to do because I’m mentally responding to my body’s flight preparations. Maybe I don’t like the dreaming and processing on a subconscious level?
Last night’s dream seemed to be about setting boundaries, something I will need to do a lot of work to get better at doing. There were a bunch of animals in a setting with people and I finally had enough and started hauling them over to their pens to get them and their disruptive behavior out of the way of the people. Once they were through the gate, I didn’t care what happened so long as they stayed on their side. Other people noticed and expressed concern, but I had done my part and gotten them out of my way.
Curious to see if setting boundaries is any easier for me now or if it still presents the same challenge and I still just avoid it.
I slept hard and dreamt again. While I don’t remember much of the dream, I knew very shortly after I woke up what it was about. I was processing having a hidden illness.
I don’t know if it’s because I could realize it or because it was processed, but I don’t feel hung up on having an invisible illness anymore. It doesn’t feel like a burden or weight to have experiences that no one else can see. I don’t feel a need to run around shouting about being broken by trauma, but I also don’t feel my usual aversion to humans in the context of debating whether to hide or reveal my struggles. I simply feel neutral on the topic, and that whatever I choose to hide or reveal is exactly that – my choice.
I’ve made a few steps forward in being regulated – I brushed my teeth and went to bed on time last night. The next step for me is beginning to journal.
I had a post-trauma ritual of recording re-traumatizing experiences as a sort of recorded narrative that served to reinforce the trauma rather than release it. For that reason I have a negative association with journaling. When my therapist suggested I try it, I was not interested until she pointed out that may be something I take back – reclaim as a beneficial thing instead of a negative. I think it’ll help me to sort out the dreams, the slowness and the feeling that only my lowest level cognitive abilities are functioning.
And I am not going to go buy a new journal and go through some ritual of needing a new book and a new pen and nice writing and whatever. I am using the small, blank book the stalker gave me the day I met him in Paris. That day and what happened after made my experience of enjoying myself and attracting energy a liability, and I have not been that person – A PERSON I ENJOYED IMMENSELY – since. Maybe this will help reclaim that too.
Using anxiety management tools is hard. I went a bit too long without eating yesterday, which can be an issue for me as my blood sugar will drop and that by itself will send anxiety skyrocketing and potentially trigger me. I had to get food, I was about a ten minute drive from food, as as I noticed my irritability increasing and my decision-making abilities decreasing, I was also trying not to lash out, cry, leave and just go home, eat something that might make me feel ill (and therefore worse) or do or say something regrettable. I was also trying to communicate the urgency of the situation to someone who neither understood nor made any effort to help me solve the problem – I was left on my own to leave on my own, get food on my own (make decisions that were, in that state, nearly impossible for me to make) and make a decision about whether to return or go home.
That was a lot of drama for a sandwich.
But I got in my car, headed to town, picked a place with relatively healthy (but quick) food options, ordered and interacted with people as if nothing was wrong, chugged a lemonade for the sugar then ate a high-protein sandwich right after.
I still had to wait about half an hour till I calmed down, and I stayed a bit fuzzy, but I noticed, I responded and I took care of myself instead of going to pieces and being helpless. And my brain got a message that yes, I can handle it.
I have recently become aware of how often I disassociate – I am presently lacking memory of a lot of time. I hurt everywhere. My weight is at its highest ever at 216 lbs. Getting out of bed is unappealing. Vigorous exercise is less appealing. Healing trauma is appealing, but it’s hard and makes me tired. I kind of just want to quit, in a general sense.
I’ve been sleeping this week. I’ve been trying to let my body rest as much as possible. That has meant I am also dreaming vivid dreams every night. I’ve noticed that the last two nights my dreams have shifted from a seemingly random and meandering narrative and wandering around places then waking feeling disturbed to dreaming that I am taking control of and addressing situations I don’t like. Last night, for example, I was eating dinner outside under a large awning and someone was flying a drone right over our heads and up under the awning. It was disturbing and unpleasant, so I reached up and pulled it out of the air, knowing that I could do that with no injury to myself if I caught the part that rests on the ground during takeoff and landing. I shook it to break it out of radio control and tossed it on the ground, to everyone else’s shock.
I like to think it’s a sign that I’m ready to take charge of my life again.
I don’t like myself right now – I don’t like who I’ve become post-trauma. I realized this yesterday evening. Disregard the weight gain – I’m not comfortable in my own skin because I don’t like my skin. I don’t like my limitations, and I am not willing to make peace with something I don’t like. Changing myself will be hard, but this whole effort to heal (and therefore be a person I enjoy being) is hard anyway. I understand that self-judging and criticizing isn’t helpful to me right now, and I don’t think I’m doing that, I think I can just admit that I don’t honestly like ME and want to be someone I do like.
So here’s to the start of 100 Days of seeing where I can go with an intentional effort to heal, with a big curiosity about what I can learn and who I can be.
I’ve leaned into healing this week. I’m still listening to Healing From Trauma: A Survivor’s Guide, and I’ve had to face up to my post-experience and the symptoms that are and aren’t going away. I’ve found that I have a lot of tension in my shoulders and neck – enough to limit my range of motion. I’ve had a couple of mild headaches. I hurt everywhere at times. I have muscle spasms at times. I have intense and lengthy dreams every night, and yesterday woke up with only survival brain functioning and not much else.
I went for walks anyway. I listened to the book anyway. I did yoga anyway. I slowly stepped forward with work anyway. I ate nutritious food anyway. I ignored all social obligations that were just obligations and not things I truly wanted to do. I handled some banking and finance transactions that needed to happen, I made the beginnings of a plan to run my company solo (my business partner has abandoned me but still has to be officially terminated from the business and we have yet to discuss any of it because he bailed out and has not bothered to communicate). I also made a backup plan for work in case that doesn’t work out.
I’m going to heal anyway.
I haven’t been intentional about it until now. I’m waking up to how often I disassociate, how much memory I don’t have because I wasn’t present, how numb I am, how overwhelmed I am, how often I am in survival mode. I’m still surviving, not living, and I am now starting to understand why.
THIS IS HARD. I’m going to do it anyway.
The next 100 days will end sometime near the end of September, close to the 5-year mark of the week of trauma that nearly took me down. And for the next 100 days, I’m going to be intentional about healing and see where I get.
I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last week.
I use numbing to cope, and have for a long time. Now it makes sense why I don’t miss people, why I don’t feel deep affection for anyone and why a lot of personal affronts don’t upset me.
I live in a near-constant state of OVERWHELMED, and I often wake up already there, which is why mornings can be so challenging for me. Which is why a lot of things are so challenging for me. Why I can get really upset by being asked to do something that is otherwise simple and easily accomplished.
I’ve been dreaming every night lately, and I dream in full technicolor. I’m aware of it and know that my brain is doing a lot of processing while I sleep, but last night I couldn’t get away from a snake, and woke up feeling physically trapped, in pain and disoriented. It was horrible, and I went back to sleep so that I didn’t have to deal with whatever was going on. It’s the first time that has happened, and when I did start to wake up for the day, I was hesitant to do so because I woke up with so much anxiety, and I felt completely overwhelmed before my feet even hit the floor.
I’ve been handling a lot of things I’d been putting off this week, so I may have just adulted too hard. Or the processed trauma is building up in my body and needs to be released. Either way, or any way, one step at a time today until I feel more sturdy on my feet.
As I listened to Chapter 3 of Healing from Trauma: A Survivor’s Guide I noticed I was experiencing some of the trauma symptoms the narrator was describing. I was tensing up, getting a headache and tightening inward, as if to curl into a ball and protect myself. I was aware I was doing this (mindfulness practice seems to be showing some results!) and unclenched my jaw and rolled my shoulders a bit.
I’ve noticed also during yoga, which I’m practicing more regularly again, that I don’t have a lot of flexibility in my shoulders. There are positions that are really challenging for me, like making a bridge with my fingers pointed toward my feet or clasping my hands behind my back and straightening my arms. I didn’t remember that being the case previously, but a lot of times I blame weight gain for my yoga practice challenges.
Oh…wait…trauma response…tight shoulders…
I’m not sure if it’s more freeing or discouraging to realize that my lack of flexibility and range of motion is due more to trauma than my fat rolls, but it does provide a path forward, and a solution – more yoga!