Tag Archive | anxiety

I’m Fine, You dont have to help me

I have given up. on him, not me.

After over 20 years together, I find it unbelievable and inexcusable that Hubby is still so clueless about me. I have never felt more misunderstood

I need to stop giving him the power to emotionally torture me. I don’t think he does it intentionally. I don’t think he is cruel. I actually think he has been trying to help and understand but he is so far wrong each and every time even though I spend literally hours explaining with examples until I am exhausted.

He has no empathy. He just can’t see something from someone else’s point of view.

He’s never had depression, or panic or phobias. he doesn’t get it, how hard this, how hard I’m trying to recover from the suicide attempts in April. That life is really fragile for me right now, and nothing is easy that may seem easy to him.

I asked for his help, no I begged him. I said I am stuck inside my head. I am stuck inside this house. I haven’t walked my dogs in nearly a year. I haven’t had fun in …. years. Its been so long that I’ve been declining I really don’t know when I lost the ability to feel joy. I asked him to try to encourage and include me in outings instead of assuming I don’t want to go. I tried explaining that although I do avoid everything, I actually long to be included and feel like I belong and like I matter to people.

I have this binder from my group that I keep asking him to go through with me, so he can learn what I learned, for himself, and to help me, to help us. I keep waiting for the ‘right time’ to do this activity. He’s always tired from work, or resting its a weekend, or playing with the kids, or doing all the household chores and tasks that I havent been doing. I get it, he’s a busy guy trying to fill in for me. And I’m asking for more. I’m asking for emotional support as I learn to rewire my brain, do the hard dbt steps, rejoin the living. I’m asking him not to yell at me when I tell him I’m scared or worried or upset.

I’m asking him to be the strong one. And I’ve never asked this before. I’ve never admitted my weakness before. I’ve never said I am scared when you touch me. I’ve never said I cry all alone. I’ve never said I stand there paralyzed with fear. I’ve never said how many times a day I wish for death to find me.

I know this is hard. This really f*cking hard. But I can’t mess around anymore. I need to do this NOW. I can’t wait for you to help me. I can’t wait for you to see and understand me, and figure out how to help. Maybe one day you’ll be that person, but for now you aren’t.

So my emotional safety will not be placed in your hands. When you ask how I am, my answer will be “Fine” back to how you’re used to it being for the past 20 years. I will self soothe and go to others for support. My emotions are not for you.

I waited for the right time to be convenient for you to help me.

You chose to help your friend, who lives an hour away, to fix his lawn mower, instead of working with me.

Your abrupt change in plans devastated me and left me at home crying, feeling like a failure, and as important as a piece of sh*t. And then I got angry. I’m usually afraid to confront you with thoughts like those, but I did. I texted that to you, and didn’t hear acknowledgement until nearly 12 hours later, right before bedtime when its too late to talk about it. Thank you for the “I’m Sorry”. But you need to know what a dreadful day I had waiting for it. This type of distress sends me to the ghost land, where I disassociate and can barely stay present no matter what I do. The fury boils underneath my skin but I can barely move it makes me sick. Especially when you try to sit next to me, I say yes, waiting for you to say something, but can only take for so long before I have to run out of the room. I’m afraid of you, I resent you, and I need you all at once. This is too confusing and familiar for my brain thats trying to get healthy.

You’re not a bad man, but you’re not always a good one. Not for me. I swear my hair could be on fire and you would have no idea what was bothering me. So good news, you’re officially off the hook. Stop trying. Leave me alone. I’m Fine. I’ll ask someone else to help me.

Maybe your bad behavior is a blessing, the final push I need to reach out of my isolation….

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PTSD – I do matter

past present future
all the same

lines blurred or no lines at all

superimposed

or worse

reality replaced

————————————–

(triggering)

I’m not psychotic or delusional but it feels that way at times as I’m a prisoner of my brain’s emotional and memory system and nervous system. I feel attacked in my own body. I feel like everyday places are dangerous to me because I feel like a vulnerable 3 year old child. No one held my hand then when the world was scary, no one encouraged or soothed me, no one taught me how to make friends or talk to people. Instead I was beaten down for trying, humiliated, shamed, emotionally tortured as I was isolated from mom, brothers, friends, only allowed to love AF. My brothers and pets were punished for my wrongdoings, causing me to strive for perfection and to further isolate me. AF’s plans were cruel and calculated each step of the way, much further than a little girl could ever know. I was always confused and trying harder to make him happy. The sexual abuse started the same way. At first it was warm and comforting to be held by him. And then his touch was confusing, but I wanted to make him happy. And it escalated over the period of years. I belonged to him – he didn’t have to rush. By the time it was clearly sexual and no  longer affection, I had no idea any boundary had been crossed. I had no boundaries. I wasn’t allowed to have boundaries. I wasn’t allowed to think or feel things – every thought or feeling was for AF and how to make him happy and protect my pets and get perfect grades and have a perfect body. I was already dieting and exercising per his plans in 4th grade and yet he daily called me fat, and daily bought me candy. And always laughed at me.

Some days I’m doing better to get his harsh words out of my head and replace it with compassionate self talk. But I still hear the laughter, his evil, gut wrenching laughter that makes me want to kill myself all over again.

Then I do some grounding exercises, deep breathing, remind myself he is gone, I’m a grown up, and I can keep going and keep making healthier choices for myself even though it is hard and scary and every time I try I hear him laughing at me.

Maybe one day I won’t. And that is why I keep trying. No matter how many days and how many times I crumple to the floor in fear and tears from the memory of what he did to me, I will eventually get back up, try again, because maybe, just maybe, tomorrow will be the day that I WON’T hear him laugh at me. And I’ll never know that if I give up today.

And he can’t win this. he just can’t.

I do matter.

Feeling Unsafe vs Being Unsafe

Fear rules my life. There I said it. I am not ashamed.

I realized I base all of my decisions to minimize fear and stress factors.  I don’t live in a warzone, there are no spies or missiles outside my door, only bunnies and flowers.

When did fear become my captor? The answer is not a warm and fuzzy one.

I remember being afraid in 4th and 5th grade:

  • to go on school field trips and getting sick to avoid going
  •  to go on overnight trips with girl scouts – I never went on any and quit scouts so I wouldn’t be asked again
  •  to talk to people and wrote them notes instead. I would invite friends over to play in notes. I created clubs to join with me in notes. I created big skating parties for the weekends in notes. No one ever responded, in the notes or by calling

I was never afraid of AF himself – he never hurt me (or I didn’t know he was hurting me, I trusted he wouldn’t hurt me like the boys or pets, I was special), I was only afraid of letting him down, of not being good enough for him, of not making him happy.

After the divorce and it was only the two of us, I was afraid of losing him. He was all I had. I used to beg him to stop smoking. I was not afraid of AF himself until I had children of my own and fully realized what he had done to me. I was too abused and part of his warped world to be afraid of him. I loved him. More than anything. And so instead, I was afraid of everything else, including being away from him.

Sooo – I’m still fearful and avoiding most social situations. I still prefer to hide behind notes, emails, texts. If I must or I really want to attend, I hide in my car and do breathing exercises in the parking lots until I can join the party or group or whatever people are waiting on me.

I’m starting to break down this feeling I get, when I feel unsafe. It drives me batty because I am actually safe. No one has a gun to my head, my life is not in danger, no one wants to hurt me, everyone will smile when I arrive. This social anxiety started at such a young age for me now that I think about it, I can recall it for age 8, so was it even earlier? Was I simply afraid to leave AF and I’m still carrying that insecurity around with me? Like the toddler clinging to mom’s legs, since my parents never reassured or kicked me out to fly on my own? In fact AF crafted me to be insecure so I would belong to him, emotionally torturing me, brainwashing me.

I know the biggest reason I was afraid to leave home too long was I was afraid he would kill my pets, directly or indirectly. I was always rushing home immediately after school to check on my animals and make sure they were ok. I had lost so many through the years to his wicked hands, all my fault, for being ‘less than …’ for breaking some obscure rule, or my favorite, for loving the pet more than him. I know that now, I didn’t then. I’d watch them die, hold them as their hearts stopped, or search the neighborhood night after night for the ones he already got rid of and didn’t tell us and AF would laugh, a laugh I can still hear in my soul like an evil wind-chime, and he’d tell me I was stupid for loving a stupid beast and that it was my love that killed it. That must be what he meant, but I’d always be crying and hurting and confused. And then AF would wait a bit, stop laughing, and come back to comfort me. He’d hold me until I stop crying and fall asleep, and I would feel safe. I remember feeling safe there. And then he’d bring home a new pet and start all over. I didn’t know cats and dogs lived longer than a year until I had my own. So many, so many poor animals.

Is that it? Is that enough? Is that enough of a sick, twisted, sadistic reason to make your sweet, big-hearted daughter forever afraid to leave her home and talk to people 30 years later?

What I’m trying to say here, is that abuse is made up of lies. Abusers lie to children to get what they want, and children lie to themselves to survive.

  • When young, I felt safest in AF’s arms. That was a lie.
  • I felt unsafe away from home. That was a lie.
  • I had to lie to protect myself. That was the truth.

So what really happened when I felt unsafe in this group therapy last week? I felt safe walking in the room Friday morning. No person there actually wishes to do me any harm. No one has tried to touch me or even come in my personal space. No one has forced me to say or do anything. It was only my own thoughts causing me to feel unsafe. And this mind-body-emotions integration thing that is causing me distress.

I spoke to the counselor individually and she apologized for the stress and gave me some canned phrases for any time in the future something feels too much, I can simply ‘pass’ and no one expects me to be able to do everything every day. Being the newest member I didn’t know these rules. Also, just not knowing my own healthy boundaries of when to say ‘no’, I had pushed myself too far without knowing it. Also, I discovered a neato parlor trick. I burst into tears and panic whenever you ask me to associate an emotion with a body part. (Are you feeling sad? Where in your body do you feel sad?) As soon as I attempt this feat, my system fails. I didn’t know this, and I wouldn’t have known this if I hadn’t of been in this group. I THINK it means I’m in pretty bad shape, that I’ve been operating in a detached state for longer than I can actually remember to protect myself from the emotions of the abuse. Like I have the memories here, the feelings there, and then the body feelings over there – all separate. I didn’t know I had done this. And I don’t know if I think it is worth integrating at this point. I’m so tired. I’d rather continue not feeling than have to reconnect with 16 years of detached feelings. Ugh this is hard.

So all of you that piped up and wanted to protect me, thank you. I was hurting and scared and upset when I wrote that post on Friday.

This group I am attending is a nationally recognized program for recovery of trauma like mine. It is through an accredited hospital and my insurance is paying for it. This is not a free support group of peers. This is run by ‘experts’ of social workers and clinical counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. If I’m supposed to trust anyone, these are the people to trust. It is going to be hard. I am going to hate it. But they have promised to get me further on the path of removing AF’s roots and footprints from my trampled brain and soul.

So even though I may not FEEL safe every second there, I know that I am. I am sitting in a room with 12 women and a counselor. 12 other women who have been to hell and are trying to get back. So I will count and breathe and continue to go and see what else I can learn about myself. I can wade through the bullshit and pull out what I need. I will continue to be honest with myself and the counselor.

because the honest truth is, feeling safe has kept me home, safe yes, but wanting to die most days of my life. What if they can show me how to live a life I actually want to live

The counselor said she actually isn’t sure if the group is the right placement for me, but we’ve both decided to try a few more times before pulling me out to individual only. I’ve waited so long to get into this group, and I’d hate to give up at my first failure, if you can call a panic attack a failure, which I don’t any more. The counselor wants me to come early tomorrow to do safety work before group starts…no idea what that means, so curiosity wins again.

I’m not well. If they throw 100 new skills at me and even 1 of them helps me, well then I think it is still worth going. I can’t go back to who I used to be, that woman is gone – poof. Something is broken, or something is healing and I don’t even know which, I just know I am completely confused, can barely think, can barely function, and feel more fragile than a soufflé, like I can be deflated so simply and have to start from scratch.

But I am safe. I really am. Maybe I should add this and ‘my pets are safe’ ‘my kids are safe’ to my breathing mantras. I’ve been in protective mode for 30 years that I can remember. AF is gone now. I can stop protecting, at least stop neurotically protecting from him.

So I am going to push myself to do things that makes me feel unsafe, because I truly am safe. Hubby, MIL, SIL, counselor in group, and my counselor I’ve had for over a decade are all supporting me. I need to stop running and hiding.

I am safe. We are safe. My dogs are safe. My family is safe. My kids are safe.
I am safe. We are safe. My dogs are safe. My family is safe. My kids are safe.
I am safe. We are safe. My dogs are safe. My family is safe. My kids are safe.
I am safe. We are safe. My dogs are safe. My family is safe. My kids are safe.
I am safe. We are safe. My dogs are safe. My family is safe. My kids are safe.

What color is Panic

IOP-T

Intensive Outpatient – Trauma

This program I am attending now is specifically designed for someone like me – supposedly. Someone who has been traumatized and needs to learn skills to feel safe, calm, connected, and make healthier choices. The counselor said it would be a safe place to learn the skills I need to feel safe and connect to others who understand.

After 2 days I’m ready to call Penn and Teller to yell Bullshit!

I don’t feel safe here! In a room of 12 strangers, are you freaking kidding me? I’m supposed to close my eyes and relax into the breathing exercises? I can barely relax at home alone with these exercises. Ok, I’ll play along and go through the motions, keeping my eyes open and promising to practice for real at home. I try not to be angry they are wasting so much time on breathing and mindfulness. I get it. I drove an hour to get here. I don’t want to deep breathe and listen to birdy fluty music for 1 out of the 3 hours. As much as I don’t want to talk to anyone, I do want to learn, and I feel this is wasting my time. I try not to get angry and at least can practice regulating that emotion by picturing shooting the annoying flute player in the CD with my laser eyes and add awesome ‘pew pewww’ sound effects that make my time much more soothing. The flute player looked kinda goaty, like Pan, with a long beard and he was dodging my lasers. Really quite soothing.

Then we have a 10 minute break in between each hour. The others fill it with easy chitchat, and I instantly know that they are not damaged like me. I refill my water, walk around the room silently stretching, listening to their chatter about kids and dogs and all the usual crap and I am stunned that it is the same crap I hear anywhere else. I thought this group, the trauma group would have people like me that wanted to have meaningful discussions, people that are quiet, introverts, private, careful about sharing information. Seriously, why would I go up to a stranger and show them pictures of my house, kids, dogs, etc? I don’t understand. I also don’t want to see their pictures, at all.

So far we have covered topics from DBT, Marsha Linehan’s Dialectical Behavioral Therapy workbook from Phase 1. Mindfulness, Progressive relaxation, dysfunctional family roles, social skills on how to approach a group of people, wise mind vs emotional/rational mind. If this seems like too many topics for a few hours, I agree. All we do is get a handout, do a skimming overview and move on. I hate it. I want to process, analyze, figure out how it applies to me, how to use it, what it means, get some examples, and while I am thinking, she hands out something new and asks us to fill it out. I start to read it and start thinking, and she hands out something else before I even get a chance to start writing. I am aware everyone else was already writing, so I don’t think her pacing is that off, just that I need that much processing time. It was a goals sheet, write 3 goals for fun things to accomplish over the weekend, 3 things for responsibilities to accomplish over the weekend, and then it says how did you feel as you wrote each goal? Then the bottom of the page has another 3 blanks and says weekly goals…

I was starting to lose it. I felt my temperature rising, the familiar choking sensation, my head was spinning and swirling. I didn’t have the answers. I didn’t know. I heard everyone else writing and felt so stupid. And angry. There wasn’t supposed to be pressure like this. I started deep breathing and counting and got myself calmer. Maybe I could ask for help since I am new.

But she kept talking and talking and I couldn’t think, just shut up and let me think! She says now to look at this other paper, a diary card to update daily with our DBT skills we are practicing. This was the biggest rubric I’ve ever seen and so many lines and boxes, I couldn’t barely focus on which day was today. And then she hands out ANOTHER paper and is STILL talking. I have not yet absorbed any of this. But the final handout was like a punch in the face.

It says “Emotional Check-in” and she explains that she will be going around the room and asking each of us to share our answers out loud to the 3 questions. I quickly scan the page and I see these questions and I nearly pass out. For real, literally, not figuratively. The room went black, I nearly vomited, I was ice cold, and then had an urge to RUN. Count, breathe, in, out, count, breathe, in, out. Panic hit me full force.

1 – What emotion are you feeling right now?

2 – Where in your body are you feeling this emotion?

3 – What color is this emotion?

So why the panic? These are easy questions right? What’s the big deal? Some of you already know, but I’ll try to explain for those that don’t.

I’m not in touch with my emotions. As an abuse victim, my emotions are usually somewhere quite far away from me and not something I can access easily. When I first saw #1, I thought “I don’t know!” and to someone like me, a perfect over-achiever straight A student having to say I don’t know in front of the class is not something I’ve actually ever done before. So I thought about it and figured that panic might be an emotion and the correct answer at that point, so ok, I did have the answer. I was scared. I felt unsafe. So unsafe it turned into panic. Why?

Because I’m not supposed to feel. And good god I am not supposed to tell how I feel. I can’t tell. Anyone. Ever. It’s one thing to share a feeling one on one with someone, but being asked to share like this, I felt naked, and felt bad, naughty, like it was against every cell in my body to tell these people anything about me. And then I felt ashamed. But not until after the panic quieted down a bit.

But I could not even look at #2 without feeling nausea. connecting my body to an emotion?? Are you kidding? My body does not exist in these moments. I was on the ceiling, not in my body. I was trying to be invisible, hoping she wouldn’t call on me, listening to everyone else easily answer the questions, and wondering for each #3 (what the fuck? how can you feel green? I don’t understand, this makes no sense, where’s the color code chart, I need a map, I need a legend, I need a life preserver, I need out of here, I here that stupid clock ticking-ticking so loud, everything is so loud now, I can’t look up, doesn;t matter I can’t see anymore, so much adrenalin is in my poor body now, I am shaking so much I can’t hold the papers and can barely stay in my seat. I half stand several times, nearly run out of the room, but I think, then what? I know it felt like someone had a gun to my head, but no one did. No one did.

She called my name. Did she call my name? She asks me #1, I say “I don’t know, panic, overwhelmed, this is too much” She asks me #2, I say ” I don’t know” She says ‘you’re holding your head, are you feeling it in your head?’ I say, “I don’t know, Yes, maybe” (I’m holding my head so it doesn’t explode, giving pressure to my forehead to keep my brain inside my skull. Is that where I feel an emotion? I’m hoping this doesn’t turn into a migraine and trap me an hour away from home unable to drive myself, that’s why I’m holding my head) She asks me #3, and I let every bit of anger and disgust into my voice as I say, “I have no idea what that means” (I’m thinking panic is a system failure, I have too many emotions right now. This is not an angry red, a numb gray, a sad dull blue, an electric purple. This is every color – so is it white? But white seems so cold compared to this, cold like snow and ice, But maybe it explains the paralysis, I was frozen and struck dumb, and so completely traumatized in this so-called safe place that are experts on dealing with trauma victims. Shame on them)

I was the last to be called, so class was dismissed, and the counselor asked if I wanted to stay and talk to her. I looked up long enough to shoot her with my eye lasers that I chased around the Pan goaty flute player with earlier. I didn’t answer, the look was enough. I got out of that room, and with each step started to be able to breathe and see again. I could feel the adrenalin pumps stopping as I reached the elevator, and was ok, just really really shaky by the time I reached the parking lot. I had to wait about 20-30 minutes before I could drive safely, and then made it to a park to decompress further before going home.

I don’t want to go back. I’m not sure they should be doing this to me. I’m not sure I need DBT. I’m not sure Marsha Linehan isn’t possibly full of shit.

This isn’t making me stronger

And I’m not so sure it isn’t killing me.

This is making me angry. Fed up. Scared even. Definitely not stronger.

My mini-vacation saved my mind and restored my will to keep fighting. 3 days soaking in a hot tub and practicing mindfulness showed me how much pain I am in. So much pain. I’m not even sure how much is mental, how much is physical as they seem to be causing the other in a vicious snake head biting its tail circle.

I’m somehow still working, but half time and doing a crappy job. I’m forgetting things and just not getting to everything else. Mistakes are everywhere. I sit down to work and my brain freezes, not able to handle the chaos and abuse. not yet. so I go draw picture, watch tv, take a nap, anything but tune into my world I can’t accept.

I make it through last week, start engaging back in work, and feel almost ok on friday. Ask Hubby to go out to breakfast, feeling pretty good. We get home from breakfast, the sun is shining, the snow has all melted except for the very shady spots. We decide to clean up the yard. We work together and I’m feeling good. We spend about an hour out there and I go inside ready to work.

I sit at my computer and attempt to type – my hand is a claw. My fingers aren’t listening to me. My arm starts to twitch and spasm. Hmmmm I think. ok don’t panic. I mindfully take stock. Nothing hurts. My left arm is fine, I slowly move each finger on my left hand, ignoring my twitching uncontrollable right side. And then I try to move my fingers on right hand, as i do, my entire arm convulses with the effort. Eyebrows up now, but no panic. I slowly stretch – no no – that made it worse. I lay down on my back and let it relax – except it is still twitching. It is behaving like my right leg. Do I have nerve damage in my neck now? no no, cant think like that. I deep breathe and stretch a while and realize it is not getting better. I ask Hubby to take me to doctor, who immediately sends me to ER. Do they think I had a stroke? What if these aren’t migraines?

ER gives me CT scan of head and neck, see nothing wrong. They start IV of valium, it settles down a bit but does not stop twitching. They send me home with rx for muscle relaxers and a very twitchy arm, and a very worried me. I spent all weekend in bed, only waking up for the next dose. The twitching finally stops, but a deep pain sets in. Off to general practice dr for followup, she says I have torn the tendon in my forearm. Gives me a week of steroids and ice, followed by rx for physical therapy. But I didn’t injure it I said. It didnt hurt until the twitching stopped. She gave that look that drs always give me, like the crazy is talking, and I must be mistaken. I do understand cause/effect and I’m telling you the twitching came before the pain. I think I twitched myself into a torn tendon. But what started the twitching? Soonest neurologist appt is 2 weeks away. I see my counselor tomorrow and I decided to see a psychiatrist too, also in a few weeks.

Just in case the crazy is talking. Just in case the crazy is trying to kill me by shaking me apart. In all of my suicidal fantasies I have never pictured death by shaking myself until my tendons rip. Because I hate pain. I hate weakness. I hate physical therapy. So of course my crazy mind has done this.

Just in case dr took 6 vials of blood to check ANA, thyroid, electrolytes, sed rate, allergies, hormones, vitamins, everything we could think of. Autoimmune? RA or lupus? Neurological? Parkinsons? My scoliosis rods busted? pinched nerve? Fibro? Sleep apnea?

Do I hate my job this much? first I hurl headaches and aura to make looking at the monitor painful and nauseating. Now my arm hurts to type. Can’t barely write at all, can’t grasp a pen without a crampy electrical jolt of pain shooting up my arm. I have a cold sore from this stress and my hour in the sunlight, making it hurt to talk. My ears already have constant ringing. so what’s next? What else do I need to battle to manage to keep this terrible job?

I am so edgy right now, any normal noise sounds like a bass drum or jet plane and sends me jumping and screaming and heart racing. I am that girl in the horror movie, alone, turning down the dark alleyway while the audience screams – Don’t Go! But if the crazy is trying to kill me, then I must go. There is no other way. And so I am swallowing my fears of doctors and being a human pin cushion and will get every test possible to determine the other way. I can’t keep going this way, this hasn’t killed me – yet – but isn’t making me stronger.

I keep thinking, whatever caused the scoliosis and asthma is still in me. And its hungry.

Meet the Therapist

I’m thinking this will not be as fun as Ben Stiller meeting Robert DeNeiro. But I also don’t think my therapist will be a former CIA operative. But I am going to try to let her into my circle of trust, so it works.

I’ve trusted my therapist more than anyone else in my life. She was the one I trusted first. She was my constant. And now she is gone and I feel so abandoned. I understand she needed time away, and I don’t fault her for that, not really, not my adult side. But my inner child feels so scared. She has recommended this new therapist, so it feels like she has hired a babysitter and is saying

“don’t worry, you two will have fun and mommy will be back before you know it.”

Stupid? no, not really. I have placed maternal value on my therapist and even wondered if it was truly healthy, as I was trying to earn her praise.

I don’t want to do this. But I don’t want to wait until I am in crisis and in full winter blues to speak to someone new either. But I don’t want to do this.

So it is time for auto-pilot. shower, dress, drive, smile. and see what happens.

Oh and I am armed with my powerful imagination, so if she turns out to be an idiot, I will imagine her doing the bunny hop. And if she talks on and on I will imagine her with a fruit laden hat being swarmed by monkeys and she invents the fruit-lady dance that will become a craze in night clubs everywhere.

And then I’ll do my research, Sherlock holmes style. I’ll check her diplomas, scan her bookshelf titles, check personal photos on her desk, check for props. Then I’ll check her intelligence by throwing out some big words and concepts, see if she understands the melatonin/serotonin/tryptophan interactions, see if she knows Prozac has many name brands but only 1 chemical. See if she can look me in the eye when I tell her my terrible truths.

I’ve decided I will give her 3 hours to prove herself not an idiot and not a personality clash – and worthy of my time and money.

urrrm, my tummy hurts. can’t I just stay home today? shut up brain. shower, dress, drive. now go.

My Heart is Healing, in so many ways

I was told 15 years ago that I had a problem with my heart valve, causing it to beat too quickly. They tried me on so many meds back then, beta blockers and others with terrible results. I felt so sick and unable to function. Doctors told me I had a degenerative condition and that no amount of exercise would ever give me a healthy heart and that my valve would wear itself out slowly and require a surgery, likely in my 50’s.

I have never been a physically active person. I have never had the chance –  due to various physical limitations. I basically had uncontrolled asthma until about age 10. Then just as that eased up and I started learning to run and had hopes of track and basketball teams – my scoliosis and back surgery at age 12 left me paralyzed. I shake my head at this summary now, seems impossibly pathetic, but there it is.

And thus a bookworm and homebody was created.

Since my back surgery and spinal cord injury, I have not been able to move quickly enough, to actually get my heart rate up, because my weak legs kept me at a snail’s pace. (if that snail had a limp that is) Never able to break a sweat.

Anyways, my new heart doctor has informed me that I do not have heart disease, and that my valve is strong and healthy and not degenerative and not causing the elevated heart rates I commonly experience now that I am stronger and dancing and exercising.

(Say what?! Can this be true? I hope so!!)

He said they have changed the guidelines for diagnosing this valve issue and that mine is now within a normal variation. Nothing has changed, he still hears the murmur and sees the stretched out valve – it just no longer qualifies as a problem according to the new chart he uses.

This doctor also saw my anxiety and elevated resting heart rate. He says my anxiety is causing the fast rate, not the fast rate causing the anxiety. This is the best news I have had in many years.

I like this new lack of diagnosis. I’m willing to explore this, and tackle this too now. I always thought this was something physically wrong with my heart that I could not control or improve. Hearing my heart is fine, although drastically out of shape from years of inactivity, makes me beyond happy. It means I can get better and that I’m in control now. Knowing that my mind and nerves cause anxiety, not my heart, makes my approach completely different.

So how do I take control of this? I asked the doctor how to make my heart stronger and not beat so fast during exercise. He said I need to exercise more often at slower paces, and eventually my heart muscle will get stronger and will not have to beat so fast. I need to pay attention to my heart rate and keep the activity at the correct pace for me to stay between 150-170 bpm.

I was pushing myself at curves and most of my workouts I was over 200 bpm. Dr says this is not helpful, and stressful to body and nerves.

So, if my heart goes up so quickly, before I am sweating or out of breath, how will I know? Easy – I bought a heart monitor. It looks like a wristwatch. I am now checking my pulse all throughout the day, and especially when exercising or feeling stressed. The Dr did not tell me to do this – I did this on my own so I can feel in control and monitor my progress as I relearn to reconnect my body signals to my brain.

This has been another area of mind-body disconnect for me, and I’m learning to take control of this too. If I feel stressed after a 4- letter- word- filled meeting at work, I check my pulse, and do deep breathing, visualization, and mini-meditation to bring my pulse back down. I never knew I was going to 120 bpm during the day, sitting in my chair, doing nothing physical. I never knew I could control this – but I can! My resting pulse never goes below 95, I am hoping this will also improve one day.

Apparently my heart is my first responder to stress. It speeds up before I even know I feel anxious. I checked my pulse while driving, when someone passed me unexpectedly laying on the horn – was instantly raised to 135 bpm! Same thing for a PTSD trigger, pulse goes quickly up and then stays up around 120 for hours if I don’t actively intervene to reduce it. Paying attention to this has helped me tune in to myself and reduce the anxiety before it builds to symptoms of shaking and feeling restless, and start the cycle towards shame and self-hate that always used to come next. I am creating bodily peace to manifest mindful peace. And it is working!

I have to exercise MUCH more slowly than I was before. I was advised to walk in place or simply sway in place to reduce the pulse a little without actually stopping the exercise entirely. I can’t pay attention to the goals and lights on the machine or the people around me going so much more quickly, I have to pay attention to only my own body. This slow pace is not enough to make my muscles hurt afterward and my face never turns red so without watching my heart rate, it seems I’m not doing much at all. I do get a bit sweaty though. Dr says it could take years for my heart to gain strength and endurance and that my goal here is steady improvement and not to go running any marathons any time soon.

I can do this. I will do this. And in 20-30 years I will be the healthiest old lady on the planet, with a healthy heart, body, mind and soul. Watch out world, I’m going to kick your butt – eventually!