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What am I Worth..to an Employer?

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Finding a job is pretty darn high up there on the life stressors chart for anyone. So many decisions, so much time, effort. Penetrating questions. Potential adjustments. Fears. Hopes. Disappointments. The waiting. The unknown. What am I worth?

My heart rate is up just typing that.

So think about my situation for a moment. I had a certain skill set, loads of high tech and higher math knowledge, computer software, great vocabulary, fast typing, persuasive speaking and writing, super confident.

And now…I look at my resume and it feels like someone else. I have so many holes in my memory, no one would believe I used to code webpages or teach calculus or write poetry. My typing has gone from about 80 wpm to 35 wpm with so many errors, the screen is all red underlines. Words that used to flow freely get stuck and I sit and stare, waiting for a thought to form. I am relearning math, but I doubt I will have time to get back to a calculus level in my lifetime as I’m relearning basic facts. Here and there I remember things, like how a tangent works, or what an exponent does, but then I start to work it out and it goes blank again. My daughter is in  high school algebra right now, I had been looking forward to coaching her, and it all looks so familiar, but I have no idea how to solve any of it. I tell her, you have to do something with regrouping….and I get excited thinking I might recall, but no, I can’t get any further.

So. How do you get back to work, when you can’t do what you used to do? How do you explain that you can’t do what you used to do and not sound incompetent or insane?

This process has not been going well. I’ve been applying for low level part time jobs that have nothing to do with my work history. I either don’t get called at all, or when they talk to me, they say I am overqualified, they are afraid I will get bored, or just give me that certain doubtful look, or have that tone in their voice and I know it is over.

My doctor recommended I contact my state workers with disabilities board. I guess I knew there was one, because they helped my brother, but I never considered myself disabled…just never thought of it. So after the shock wore off, I looked online, and saw they had exactly the services I need. I applied online, they called me the next day, set up an intake appointment that same week. Wow!

So I met with them last week. I was so incredibly nervous. I had to gather up my medical records to prove my eligibility, that is phase one. I worked through shame, fear, felt like I was whining, complaining, oh poor me-ing. Until I got there. It was literally a life changing day.

I’m sitting in the waiting room and my assigned case worker calls my name – she is completely blind. She has a service dog leading her, and me, to a small conference room. We sit down, and I’m instantly much more fascinated by her than I care about me anymore. She is confident and professional. She has a stack of folders labeled with braille, and braille typewriter thingy I’ve never seen before to take notes as I talk. She hands me papers that she can’t see but describes them to me in detail. It blows my mind as she helps me to fill them out.

She asks about the forms and records I brought, and asked if I would give her a summary, since she could not scan through them. As I start describing my lengthy and complicated neurological issues, I could sense compassion in her, as I have for her. Mutual respect was huge in this room – like we were both thinking “Damn, I don’t want to be her…” I could tell she wanted to see me when I talked about my scoliosis, because you might think I am visibly deformed, but luckily my curves are balanced and my surgeons are talented so no one would ever know by simply looking at me. You can see my limp when I walk though. So I’m thinking she was not always blind, the way she looked directly towards things and me.

We had a few of these surreal shared moments. I liked her very much. She explained the program and seemed excited to have me there, that she can actually help me. She said so many come through and disappear, don’t show up again, aren’t willing to work hard, don’t answer phone calls. She said she can tell that I work hard from my past jobs, and that I keep my doctor appointments in the city. I never thought of that as a major accomplishment…but I see her point. That takes planning and commitment, shows responsibility to drive 2 hours away for my neurologists and surgeons.

So, the next step is I wait for them to confirm my medical eligibility, then they will set up vocational skill assessment. I’m guessing typing, reading, math, but I’m not sure what all is involved there. Then they use that to see if I nee training, find some job leads, help me re-write a resume, practice mock interviews so I don’t stumble with those tough questions. They can advocate for me, or work entirely behind the scenes, meaning my employer can know I’m using disabled services or not, we will decide which way is best in the career plan we develop. They will stay with me once I’m hired, make sure the transition is smooth. Then I get to use them again, say if I want progress in my career or my health improves, I’m not stuck. They want me to be challenged and working meaningfully. Wow.

So my nerves are gone and I’m only excited now. Someone on my side to help me navigate these tricky steps to getting back on my feet. I am so grateful.

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Internal Conflicts

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I am not at peace. Nothing in me is at peace. I sense the battle, I feel like I am fighting, and its because I am. Even within myself, my own systems, my own body parts are at odds, creating pain and conflict.

I could give so many examples, literal and more abstract. The point I’m trying to make is a concrete one today though, as I discover yet another physical issue, a malfunction, a deformity of my bones. I can poke fun a bit today, because yesterday I cried. I’m done crying so I am dealing with this the only way I know how.

So my big toe has been hurting. Not a major concern to me, it has hurt most of my life, but much more so recently. It aches after I walk. I assumed it was due to a few factors: a horse stepped on it when I was about 7 and I received no medical care, it is on my weaker leg with drop foot, I stomp and stub and don’t walk properly on that foot for most of my life. I figured it was hurting more now perhaps because I am walking better? Using my toe more? hmm. Or do I have more feeling in that foot now since the recent back surgery? Was it always hurting this much? Not sure.

What I do know is that it never used to look like a zombie toe. Yep. Now after I walk, especially on uneven ground like gravel or hills, my toes fills with blood, like internal bruises. Black plague? Despite appearances I don’t think so…so I went for an xray and my doctor says nothing is broken, maybe I sprained it, and I should get new shoes. Umm okay.

6 weeks and a new pair of shoes later, I still have zombie toe. I saw a podiatrist yesterday. After more xrays, he is confused, and comes in the room with my favorite phrase. Wait for it, you know what’s coming, right?

“I’ve never seen this before”

Sigh

Okay what special lottery did I win this time? Apparently my toe joint did not grow correctly.  It has been this way for most of my life. Oh! The joint is too small, missing the cup, bulbous portion to support and lock, to provide balance. It is up too high and needs to travel too far to reach the ground, my foot needs to twist and flex to support me. My toe is hyperflexing at that joint, busting blood vessels. Not a birth defect but a growth defect, possibly related to scoliosis, or possibly that horse injured the growth plate, but it doesn’t look like it was ever injured or broken, just never grew properly. Apparently, limping on it for 28 years has concealed this issue, actually done me a favor but now that I’m putting all of my weight and attempting to correct my gait to use a proper heel toe roll step instead of the drag slap I was using, it is stressing my malformed toe.

Seriously

So I still can’t walk correctly or get up to jogging without breaking my toe off. Okay. Sure.

What the FUCK?? OKay, I am trying to keep my cool, but why does the universe not want me to walk or run?? Why is this so damn hard? I want to kick this stupid life in the face but it would hurt my stupid deformed toes so I won’t.

So now what? Well they sent me home with a make shift support brace made out of tape, spray glued onto my foot, that’s supposed to last several days if I keep it dry. I can retape it then myself maybe. Then they made molds of my feet and are making me custom orthotics to support my freaky feet. I’ll get those in a few weeks.

They said it will be very painful, because we need to move the bones, like braces on teeth, it will be a slow process. Part support and part correction from years of walking incorrectly. Tight ligaments, weak muscles, loose joints, a real mess. He added a new rx to my PT regimen for my foot for stretching and strengthening to help with gait. I may never walk without a limp. Yeah okay, just what I wanted to hear.

This tape already affects how I walk, since I can’t flex my foot, it is hurting my knee and hip to compensate. I feel all off balance, and its just some tape. Not looking forward to stiff orthotics in my shoes. That’s just me complaining, sorry. I’ll do it, and I’ll be okay. But I guess I was using my foot to make up for the lack of flexibility, now that my spine is fused to my pelvis, I am walking totally different than prior to this surgery. I feel like an android with new programming, just working out the kinks to walking 4.2, please wait.

I may have always been destined to have a limp, even without the neurological issues that arose from the back surgery. The shape of my foot is so strange. My mind is blown.

I struggled to find shoes that fit me comfortably as a kid, even before the surgery, and I was delayed in many motor skills, like I was 10 before I could ride a bike without training wheels. I was ridiculed for this, never taken to a doctor to see why.

I want to hate my body each time I get more news of my freakiness. I hold back tears until I reach my car in the parking lot each time a doctor says, woah that’s odd, and gets all confused about how to proceed. I want to start over with healthy bones and nerves. I imagine for moments what life must be like for people that just get up and walk with no effort, but that isn’t helpful. I can’t fight this. I can’t hate it, that would be hating me, and I know that gets me nowhere and I’m tired of being nowhere.

No, I need to accept this too, work on compassionately comforting my pain, coming up with a treatment plan to correct or at least slow the progress from getting worse. I need to protect myself. Those quick thoughts that yes, my parents should have done this for me 30 years ago pass over me, overwhelm me with anger and sadness, but then I let it out and let it go. That’s over. Its up to me now. I’m here and ready to do what needs to be done.

I have a feeling all of my bones are formed wrong if they xrayed everything and I don’t just have scoliosis but some other bone/nerve disease. I know my shoulders have similar issues like my toes. I’d bet you anything my hip, knee and finger pain would find anomalies if we investigated. I mean I use a weirdo mouse for my thumb pain and have braces periodically for my ankle, knee, elbow….hmmm. I’m trying to find the connection, asthma, migraines, scoliosis, joint problems, balance issues, muscle cramps, weakness and twitches, leg movement during sleep, sensory issues, feeling cold, fatigue, sleep issues. I found CMT which has some similarities but my feet don’t look like that, not yet anyway. I read some people did not get diagnosed until age 60-70 because it progressed slowly their whole lives. I think I may mention it to my neurologist anyway, get them thinking more holistically if I can. I know this is all connected somehow. I feel so certain my mom did not have fibromyalgia but whatever this mystery condition is, and that I have it, and so do my kids. Maybe genetic testing can be done? I’ll have to ask. I feel so certain that if I didn’t have the trauma component I would already be diagnosed. But I can’t stay on that thought either. Just keep pushing onward.

Trauma is in the eye of the beholder

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What do people really think about you? What are you showing them? Well what they think depends on how they frame it in their minds anyway. So much subjectivity, so much interpretation and assumption.

I’ve become increasingly interested in my doctors varying opinions of my mood lately and how it applies to my future. As most of you know, as soon as you have “Psych” history on your record, it can be difficult to get medical attention without doctors telling you how you feel and that somehow trauma and depression are actually causing the issues, not anything they can solve, and you end up with another referral for therapy.

If you have an “extensive Psych” history like mine, it is almost impossible.

I started comparing notes.

My back surgeon notes that I am pleasant and upbeat, cheerful, even 3 weeks post surgery when my pain level was still quite high.

But the neuropsych team inote, flat affect, appears to be severely depressed, speaking noticeably slowly, moved to tears.

Let’s see what is the difference here? It’s not just that the psych team is looking for it, I’m not saying that, I am behaving differently in these appointments. Hmmm, I wonder why? Seriously. That was snarky if you couldn’t tell. OK let me spell it out by giving you a glimpse of the conversations.

When I am talking with my back surgeon, I am grateful, he has changed my life, reduced my pain, restored strength and balance to my weak leg. He see me as strong, able, resilient, and able to do whatever I want to do. He knows nothing about my traumatic past and never has asked about it. He expects me to heal, because nerves, bones and muscles heal at an expected rate.

When I am talking with the psych team, they continually poke and prod about the relationship with my parents and brothers and husband. They force me to relive and retell some of the worst moments of my life. Usually I am meeting someone new, forced to tell my story to someone I do not fully trust for them to make another assessment of my condition. My flat affect is me trying to remain calm and choose my words carefully, knowing I am being judged. My tears are me, reacting to pain in the moment, recalling my sorrow.

But I don’t live there in that sorrow. Each doctor is only seeing a snapshot of me, a moment of me, not all of me, not how I function each day all day, not my life. I wonder how many people can retell their worst fears and memories without appearing traumatized. Even if you weren’t abused, I bet if you spent 3 hours describing every pet that died, how you miss your grandparents, maybe you were bullied, your boyfriend broke your heart in high school, your friend died in a car crash or overdose, your parents split up – whatever – life is full of heartache and tragic moments that we don’t call abuse. I bet if you made a list of them and described them out loud, that any “normal” person would appear depressed and traumatized and dysfunctional.

I don’t think its me that needs realistic expectations, I think it is the medical community. I almost want to prove my theory by starting over with a new doctor, stating I have a brain injury from purely physical means, caught in a shockwave perhaps and see I still have the same sad “Sorry but we can’t help you, you’ve been through too much to get better at this point in your life” story. I bet I would get sent to rehab and expected to heal if I didn’t have a psych history.

Well I expect more of myself, always have. Yeah, I got knocked down. But I’ve been down before, so what. I am out there jogging you guys. It isn’t beautiful, I mean I won’t win any medals, but I am not using a cane and both feet leave the ground at a pace faster than walking. I know I am healing. I know what I can do. I can do more.

I don’t care about my history, its irrelevant at this point. My brain doesn’t care. I am no longer being traumatized. I am sleeping, eating well, exercising, going to therapy, doing brain training games, pushing towards creative thought – why can’t I expect healing to happen? I don’t have a bunch of faith, but I’ve always believed in resiliency, set a goal, make a path, and eventually you get there.

My therapist thinks my lack of creativity is tied more to grief than brain damage. I’m starting to think she is right. My mom was my constant cheerleader, so supportive of my artwork and writing. I always shared my ideas and progress with her, always created for her, and she poured on the constant praise, sometimes annoyingly so, and almost over the top. I think I depended on that more than I ever knew though. Without her daily comments on my blogs, her multiple emails, I have no one else cheering me on, encouraging me to draw something today, asking what my next project will be, asking me to make something for her. She kept me going. I see this now. So at some point I will have to draw through the tears, and just keep going, until I am drawing for myself and the world, and show her that her years of support were enough to keep me going even after she is gone. I need to feel this pain of missing her and draw anyway. Somehow with my teary eyes and shaky hands I know this is the next step I need to take. An empty page has never been so frightening.

Accept or Fight

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When another doctor tells you that what you want is not possible and you need to accept that and set more realistic goals for yourself, do you do it or do you keep fighting for what you want?

I have seen a team of neurologists and neuropsychologists now.  They are all singing a similar tune. That I am different. That I have to accept that I cannot return to the previous version of me that I recall before the brain injuries. (I’m not sure if I have discussed the extent of my brain injuries here, I haven’t wanted to talk much about it and writing was so difficult before. But I have some serious cognitive dysfunction, memory gaps, processing delays, visual lags and disturbances, sensory overload….it goes on.) That skills like creativity, and certain personality changes, once altered, do not heal and come back, at least not identical to what they once were. I may be able to enhance what I have, but I will never be who I used to be.

I may never be able to do what I used to do.

Every time I think of this as a fleeting thought, the tears return.

Another esteemed doctor told me this again yesterday. They are well educated, at a great hospital, known for their expertise, and my gut trusts them. However, there is also something in me that is screaming they are wrong. Doctors once told me I may never walk again, that my weakened leg would never regain muscle tone. Well look who is out there attempting to jog. So I don’t accept “never” as a final diagnosis. I feel like I’m still in here, just slowed down.

He recommended I either apply for disability or try to work with a vocational counselor, but he doesn’t think I can keep up with the pace and demands of a job. That was harsh, but possibly true. I may be overestimating my stamina at this point because I want to be better.

He said that I am still traumatized, understandably, and that for me, the trauma never stopped. 40 years of trauma. He said that would be enough to break anyone. But add all my medical issues and it was like adding gasoline to a fire. And then on top of that, a stressful marital relationship, he says it was a cascade of events and none of them were good for brain health.

We talked about my social support network, and I said I’m all alone, completely. I have a few online friends and my counselor. We talked about how I isolate myself and why. I told him about how I have low tolerance for people, no matter how much I try, I can’t enjoy being with them, or think they aren’t good people when they make fun of others, are greedy, I catch them lying or cheating, etc. I said I try to turn down my moral standards but I can’t. He said something I never heard before. He said of course you can’t. You have never felt safe in your life. As soon as someone says or does something that makes them have any possibility of being a bad person, you go into self protection mode and either stop talking, leave the room, or hide or whichever other skills you have learned to avoid conflict and being noticed. This is to keep yourself safe. It makes perfect sense and is your core belief stronger than all others. Safety comes first.

My jaw dropped, and I felt angry a bit, kind of embarrassed, and I wanted to say he was wrong, to fight that, but as it sunk in, and so many social interactions spanning 40 years flashed across my mind. Holy crap. He is right.

Here I was thinking I was over my trauma and it didn’t matter any more. That I was an introvert and yeah maybe I was wired differently, or maybe on the aspberger spectrum, or maybe just get annoyed with small talk and petty people. But no. Every social decision ever has come down to safety.

He said the right trauma based psychologist may be able to assist me with that component and he would help me to locate one near me to work with. He said I can’t live the rest of my life alone, or I will continue to deterioriate.

I don’t know. I feel like I’ve tried. I feel like the people that accepted me never accepted the real me and when I do reveal the real me people run for the hills, unable to handle me. So maybe someone can help me find this tightrope skill of balance of how to build a relationship that I feel safe in, connected to the other person in a real way, without overwhelming the other person with my intensity.

I think figuring that out will help me in any job I may come to have in the future, whether I go through the disabled workers board or get one on my own.

I do know that I want to be a part of the world and connected to people, to good genuine people, and I just don’t know how.

I do know I’m not ready to give up and get on disability and never work again. I think I still have something to offer. I’m still smart in some ways, just really slow, and get tired out quickly. I’m hopeful the new migraine meds will start helping with some of that too. I’m hopeful that my family is done adding trauma to my life and I can finally move ahead on my own. My parents are gone, my brothers aren’t speaking to me. The hole hurts, but an empty hole is a dull ache, not like the tortuous pain of constant flaming daggers tossed at you.

What do you want to do today?

What if there was no tomorrow? What if you couldn’t rely on tomorrow and another tomorrow and another to delay your dreams, goals and desires? What do you want to do today?

This video is from one of our favorite shows, Phineas and Ferb. Everyday these boys fight summer boredom by coming up with something outrageous to do. So many catch phrases and twisted plots, nerdy humor, and awesome musical numbers. Everyday they say I know what I want to do today. And then they do it. Whether it is building a roller coaster, a time machine, a winter wonderland, robot clones…And of course their pet platypus is actually a secret agent fighting against an evil scientist and no one knows… We just love this show.

I’m guessing most of you spend most of your time doing things you don’t want to do. You trudge through life, running endless errands, doing tedious chores. Maybe you don’t hate your job, but most people seem awful happy to get a day off. But then how do you spend your day off? Escaping life in front of the TV? Are you bored? Tired? Do you even know it?

When is the last time you truly felt alive?

Hmmm.

I’m not sure most of us are actually living. If you are, please ignore this. I do know some people that skydive and run with the bulls or climb Mt Everest or whatever. Or I know some people that are going back to school to pursue the career they actually wanted. Living can take very different forms but I do think some key ideas are central.

How to feel alive:

  1. Do something you want to do everyday, not only out of obligation
  2. Tackle your fears – you decide which ones need tackling
  3. Have multiple goals, little ones and big ones, and not all of them related to self-improvement, some are just for fun because you want to do them
  4. Practice mindfulness, live in the moment, experience everything NOW

I think that’s how to get started. I say I think, because I am not truly living. I can’t tell you the last time I felt alive. It has been years, many years. I am idling through life right now, going through the motions of what needs to get done. I enjoy moments, not saying that I don’t. This is different. I might enjoy leveling up in my video game, or that snuggly feeling watching a movie with my kids on my lap. Those are nice. But they don’t fuel me, keep me going, or make me feel alive, move me towards a greater goal, define me, fill me with awe or rock my world if you will.

I want to be amazed. I want to be overjoyed. I want to be excited. I want to feel.

I want to learn. I want to create. I want to grow. I want to experience. I want to share.

I want to feel alive.

So I’m going to start a list full of things I want to do, fears I want to tackle, and goals I want to accomplish. I would list it now for you, but I can’t. My list is sadly empty. White space and crickets. I don’t know what I want. Hmm. So I guess then

Goal #1 – figure out what I want and make a list

There I started it!!

Get Motivated. Right Now.

How do you reach that motivational state of mind?

Motivation is tricky and not well understood. It is not linear or one sided. No motivation is complex and loopy and involves multiple factors, some within us, some external to us. Each move we make is a choice. How do we choose?

Our motivation is a combination of our beliefs, our goals, our dreams, our environment, and our mood. Currently I’m in a safe environment that is a bit lax on housekeeping standards. No one here cares if I leave some dishes in the sink or dust on the shelves. No one cares if the papers pile up on the counter. The clutter is overlooked.

I would prefer if everything was perfect and tidy at all times. Somehow I allow myself to overlook the clutter as well, feeling overwhelmed and defeated by it, by the repetition, by the fact that even if I clean it all up perfectly now it will be destroyed later the same day. I can’t keep up so I stop trying. I lost my motivation long ago in this losing battle.

But when someone is coming over to visit, I dig in deep and take care of it. I talk to myself encouragingly to get the job done. I break it down into small steps and lists. This may sound silly. If it does, then I am happy for you that brain functions without you having to kick its ass. If I don’t jumpstart mine, I will remain motionless, thoughtless, an empty shell trapped inside itself. I have tried being my own drill sergeant. That makes me angry and stubborn. No, I like to be my own nurturing mom, holding my hand, gently reminding and encouraging myself that I can do it and what I need to do next. I speak to myself firmly but gently, just like I do to my own kids when I give them instructions. They listen to me because I’m supportive and authoritative. They know there will be consequences if they don’t

Make yourself some coffee
Load the dishwasher
Wipe down the counters
Sort the papers from the hutch

Go on, get up, get started, you can do this. (give possible consequence: You don’t want so-and-so to see this mess, right?) back to supporting. It won’t take long. You’re strong now. Just get started and it will be done before you know it.
Coffee, dishes, counters, hutch

Coffee, dishes, counters, hutch

I turn into a Dora the Explorer episode, repeating to myself what I am going to do. I usually do about 3-4 things in my list. Then I start a new list if more needs done, so nothing gets overwhelming. Often I turn on music once I have my list going in my head.

But something always happens, I can feel the change in my brain and mood once I make the decision and start this motivation process. I go from feeling empty, spaced out, exhausted, to having a bit of energy and focus. Although I don’t exactly enjoy the tasks I am doing, I feel good about doing them. I battled depression and won again.

I found an interesting article here http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/03/03/469033034/could-you-hack-your-brain-to-get-more-motivated explaining how people could use feedback to access the motivation centers in their brains. With practice and fmri they could see this area of the brain lighting up. Super cool.

Excerpt from the article:

Two of the researchers, Kathryn Dickerson and Jeff MacInnes, tried the system out on themselves. Not everything worked. Dickerson said she tried thinking about different memories that left the feedback meter cold. “Zip lining was super fun, but [thinking about that] was just terrible and not effective at all.”

So she switched strategies and tried giving herself a pep talk in the scanner. “I was like, ‘Come on Katie. Move the thermometer. Just do it and move it.’ And I just pumped myself up. That was very effective,” she says. “It was exhilarating.”

It was also exhausting, MacInnes says. “The experience of the task was very difficult. You’re being asked to generate these intense motivational states for 20 seconds over multiple periods. It was very fatiguing for people.”

Study participants had a similar experience, Adcock says. Some people sang Queen songs to themselves or imagined having an angry coach yell at them. “My personal favorite was running down a line with everyone giving you high-fives,” Adcock says. When she took the feedback meter away, the participants were still able to light up their ventral tegmental area by thinking about the same things.

People really are changing their mood when they’re doing this, Adcock thinks. They’re really becoming more focused and eager. And it seems the effect begins reaching out to parts of the brain involved with learning and memory,

“We think that’s exciting because it shows after this training, something changed, Dickerson says. “The brain isn’t quite the same.” She thinks people might be achieving a state of mind that’s more conducive to learning and motivation.

I believe I have learned how to do this myself with the self talk I mentioned above. I know how to get myself moving. My problem is, I don’t often find a reason to these days. Most things sadly seem pointless. I’m struggling with staying motivated or setting goals that I care about. I used to be an overachiever. I know how to get things done. I simply don’t want to anymore. I’m not even sure I’m depressed exactly. I’m struggling with my purpose and identity, which I suppose is depressing and exhausting. But I’m able to motivate myself when I need to, when I see a reason to. And so I am desperately searching, seeking a goal, a dream, something to cling to, to attach motivation to, to stop floundering and wasting all this time.

What I’m good at:

  • I go to the gym and workout at home because I want to be stronger and have a healthy body. I hate being weak. I hate relying on others to lift and carry things. I hate feeling vulnerable. So I am motivated, this one is easy, I exercise daily to meet this goal and my progress is easy to see.
  • I eat whole foods from my safe list because I do not want to have a migraine attack. I do not want days of pain and suffering. I do not want to let my family down and be a burden. I want to take care of them. I am motivated to avoid pain and be a good mom.
  • I continue to blog and fill out cpt worksheets even though my therapy program has ended because I want to continue to heal, to process, to grow. I am motivated to be self aware of ptsd, to manage it as best I can, and work towards minimizing the symptoms.

What I’m not good at:

  • I am not working yet. Although money is tight, we are managing with one income. I am not motivated to return to work. I feel I am a better mom and wife without trying to work. I’m already exhausted and stressed daily. I do feel guilty, but this guilt is not a strong enough motivator to overcome the rest. I am grateful Hubby supports this decision.
  • I am not doing much with my free time. This should change. Eek there’s a dreaded should, but I’m leaving it because it came out. I do have considerable guilt about how I spend my days. I don’t feel like I am doing enough, or like I am enough. No one complains, I put this on myself. I’m so used to achieving and I feel so lost. I want to feel motivated again. I’m hopeful this whiny stage is the first step to finding an action item. As odd as it seems, this is better than not caring. This is an improvement.

So. I know how to put my mind to something I care about. I know how to make a change. I know how to set goals and achieve them. I just need something to care about. I need something to do. Right now. (Yes of course it’s Van Halen time)

 

Learning to Trust…Myself

Trust is Hard. But that’s okay because hard is a marvelous improvement on impossible.

At some point I stopped listening to myself and what I need or want. Did I ever listen? Actually maybe not. I was never permitted to create my own identity as a child. I never went through the finding myself stage as an adolescent. I believe I am doing that now. Teenage angst at age 40, yeah, that’s exactly what I need. Yay.

I am noticing that in the midst of this angst, once in a while I notice little sparks of wonderfulness. These sparks are so startling and so powerful they stop me in my tracks and fuel me for days. What was that? Why did it happen? How can I make it happen again? Is it possible I can feel good one day? Is it okay to hope? Is it safe to dream yet?

After some of these sparks, I noticed a difference in myself. It’s tough to put this in words because it is only a hazy sort of feeling. But I noticed something more solid inside of me. Less dead? Less empty? Something instead of nothing. When you have perpetual nothing, believe me a spark of something almost knocks you over.

I recall caring about stuff, having dreams and motivation, being driven towards goals and achieving, hell overachieving – but I don’t think those were my goals or dreams. Not entirely anyway. I’m still unraveling. It’s not such a painful process at the moment, only a slow one. Like walking through deep water with my eyes closed. Slow going and once in a while I feel something new. Mostly I just keep trudging along because I don’t know what else to do.

But when I feel this new something, I have less doubts in myself. I used to feel confident in my choices and decisions. I used to walk around with a fierce internal driving force, yes a quietly burning one, but still there it was driving me towards my future that I planned. This new confidence, although fleeting, is making small ripples of change. I’ve been stuck for years now, without a plan, unemployed, waiting, healing, recovering. I’m hopeful these glimpses, these sparks of strength and confidence will keep coming, and will help me to learn to trust myself, my judgment and my decisions. Feeling like every decision you ever made has been wrong tends to undermine your own trust, a major component in PTSD. So I’ve been working quite hard to go back and look at those decisions with compassion, understand I did the best I could with the tools I had available at the time, and that truthfully, there is no way of knowing if past decisions were bad, maybe they would have had different outcomes but not necessarily better outcomes.

 

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I was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of one of these handsome fellows perched in a tree the other morning after I dropped the kids off at school. I was unable to capture my own photo sadly, so I’ve borrowed one here to show you. We have a decent population of peregrine falcons and their bright white chests always catch my attention if their size didn’t. These birds are huge, majestic, strong, fast, and beautiful. They tend to sit just like this with their wings out a bit, I imagine ready for flight in an instant.

Why am I telling about this bird? Because of how I feel when I see one. I feel alive. Instant tingles of joy spread through my body. I feel lucky. I feel stronger, like his strength is on loan to me. I feel like we did something right, well, after we screwed up and nearly killed them all unintentionally with that whole DDT nightmare. These birds almost disappeared, due to humans, but humans saved them and now they choose to live in my trees and grace me with their presence.

I guess these birds remind me that we can change the world, or at least make an impact. Our actions do matter. We can wipe out species or bring them back. We can lift up and support people or cut them down and trample them. We can choose to ignore our problems or we can work on improving the situation. Change takes time, but when it works, it works beautifully.

I’m applying this to my own recovery and trying to be more patient with myself, and to celebrate improvements no matter how small. This helps to build trust in myself that I can care for me, and that I’ll stop hurting me. When you self-harm, self-sabotage, and self-punish you see yourself as an enemy too. I hope this makes sense because I rewrote three times and I still think it may be out of sequence somewhat, but its the best I can do with it. I’m trying to show how my thinking is changing, that I’m starting feel alive in fleeting moments, which leads to new self care behaviors (like establishing and protecting my boundaries, eating healthier, getting social support, making friends, better hygiene, etc), which builds trust in myself and stops the self loathing cycle.