Tag Archive | healing

Reality is Sugar Free

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Some of my doctors are better than others at providing a clear view of reality, while others offer the sugar coated version. Some are extremely confident while others provide wiggle and waffle room. I would, sociologically speaking, find it fascinating if it wasn’t my future we were discussing.

I visited one of the top spine rehab neurologists in the country yesterday. I’m glad I didn’t get my hopes up before the visit, but I am also glad I went so this can be settled once and for all.

His phrasing refreshingly sugar free, so I am going to provide a  summary of our discussion here.

Dr: What is it that you think I can help you with today? What brings you here?
Me: Well, I haven’t seen a neurologist for my spine since I was a child, after the initial injury occurred, and based on a recommendation from my physical therapist I wanted an evaluation of current status and what I might expect for healing, and if you could do anything for the other bothersome symptoms I have like stomach issues, bowel/bladder, leg twitches while sleeping, balance trouble, leg weakness, things like that. And I wanted to see if you had any information on how this might effect vestibular function or migraines. (I think I rambled on a bit actually but that was basically what I tried to say)

He gave me a good long stare.

Dr: I have reviewed your charts. I see your xray here (points to screen) and this is not a healthy spine, I would be amazed if you didn’t have balance issues and leg twitches. I saw your vestibular testing, some of that was rediculous to give to you, you have impartial messages going through half your body, of course your brain is confused by that, that doesn’t indicate malfunction, that indicates adaptation to so many years of your central nervous system doing its best.

He then did a standard neuro exam – watched me walk up and down a very long hallway, hit reflex points in knees, feet, ankles, arms with his rubber hammer, had me try to push against his hands in various positions to check strength. He noted the weakness, abnormal reflexes, difference in size and temperature of my legs.

He made that face they always do when they confirm spinal nerve damage. Even when they know, they don’t like to see it. I don’t like it either.

He seems like he wants to dismiss me, and I almost panic, this can’t be it, I waited 4 months to see him, drove 2 hours, and walked 20 min, waited an hour past my time. I was getting my questions answered.

Me: Would it be worthwhile at this point to do any testing to evaluate the nerve health, like EMG or anything else to see how the nerves are functioning now? Either to help with physical therapy or provide information as to the extent of the damage? Give me realistic expectations?

Dr: No. It would not be useful. We use those tests as pass/fail, the numbers are irrelevant for treatment. You have already failed without further testing, you have signs of severe nerve damage. If we tested you, your numbers may come out high or low, but they will come out as abnormal, which we already know, so its a waste of time and money.

Me: Oh. I see. So I was once told that I might expect some healing every 10 years or so, the rate of nerve growth. Is that still true based on recent medicine?

Dr: Only the Good God knows if you may expect some healing, but some doctors do say some stupid things, don’t they? This type of damage is not known to be reversible and at some point it may be time to stop seeing doctors and get on and live your life as you can.

I had to blink that back, totally was not expecting that response.

Me: Okay… but what about some of the other secondary symptoms. I’d really like to sleep better. Anything to help my legs stop moving and twitching? Or to keep my stomach moving along to prevent the heartburn and constipation? Or to give me better sensation to know when it is time to use the bathroom instead of watching the clock?

Dr: We don’t have any magic pills for you. Again, with the damage and curve still left in in your spine I would expect some considerable irritation and twitching. You should ask a GI about those other issues. What I will do for you is contact your vestibular therapist and add some exercises to your plan that will help with balance, make you more confident, and reduce falls. I’m also referring you to a vestibular neurologist. There’s nothing more we can do for your spine. You should know it is very strong now, between the fusion and the hardware, your spine itself is quite safe and protected within its armor. You could still pull a muscle, but there is nothing you could do to hurt your spine, even drive a truck over it. hehehe

He recommended Otago and Tinetti exercises. I looked them up and found that they are mostly for older adults fall prevention. Hmm. Seems like my CNS has aged prematurely. Here is info on Otago and here is some on Tinetti exercises, each has a pdf to download and youtube of course has many videos too.

So I guess I appreciated his attempt to give me confidence and lighten the mood. I believed him, every word. My spine is solid. The damage has not changed much since I was 12, I don’t really expect it to change much, better or worse, so I guess I can accept that. It isn’t something that needs monitored. OK. I am fine with one less doctor, really I am.

And I agree that I don’t need any more painful, expensive tests to prove what we already know. Fine. Move on.

Somewhere I was maybe hoping for some radical new treatment, something cool with stem cells, or a brand new medicine that speeds up nerve transmission, or something that filters out these random twitches, an implant, an electrode…but no such luck. Its ok. I’m ok. I’m glad I asked.

 

The cost of healing part 1

Healing costs more than money, and I have been paying the price for years. But somehow this year seems to be costing me the most.

Let’s talk about money first, because it is easier.

I had a full ride scholarship for biomedical engineering to an elite college, $50,000 a year. I worked so hard to get myself there and had big dreams. That was the time PTSD first hit me, when I left home. The migraines became daily, I became suicidal, unable to sleep or think, nightmares, social anxiety, startling easily. My confidence vanished. Every skill I used to get myself there – poof – gone. By the end of the first year I was forced to withdraw, lost my scholarship, lost my dreams, my hopes, forced to change to a less expensive school and a major I did not want. I was forced to take out student loans for the entire amount, well I thought I was forced, I did not clearly understand what I signing with Sallie Mae at the time. They said sign here and you can go to school, so I did.

I did not care much any more, I felt empty, but I kept going.

The migraines and depression were a constant battle but I graduated with honors, easily got hired. But the stress was building. My new marriage was sad and distant and lonely. I had no friends. I was not challenged in my job, only by the social anxiety and panic attacks. I became suicidal again and was forced to resign.

At that point we had bought a house based on my income. Losing it suddenly was devastating. We could no longer afford two cars, cable, eating out. We also lost my insurance. The psych visits and meds were staggering. We kept adding to our credit cards for groceries, meds, doctors, even getting advances for the mortgage. Until we couldn’t.

Hubby convinced me to cash out my 401K that I had been paying into since I was 16. All my hard work, all that planning working in government jobs and we had to flush it away at age 25. I still regret that, especially since the following year we declared bankruptcy anyway.

That’s when we decided to start a family. No job, me sick, no money. Such idiots. It is amazing we are all still here really. But I had my reasons.

I healed enough to work part time and hubby got a new job, where he is now finally making a decent average income. When we both worked it was okay. On only his income we struggle and cannot pay every bill each month, we have to pick which ones to delay, slow pay, or skip a month.

I tried working full time. I am not sure if that was my mistake, or that I worked with a horrible CEO, or that it was bad timing too with AF’s death. For a year or so we had more money than we needed. It was amazing. We paid off every credit card and started making repairs around the house with new windows and such. But I crashed. The migraines returned, but with an evil twist, hemiplegic this time. I became suicidal again due to the anti seizure meds given to me to control the migraines. I was hospitalized, in a psych ward for two weeks. I was given ECT treatments and more meds than I can recall. It was horrible. I still haven’t written much about it here, might be ready to do that soon.

My hospital and medical bills are staggering, even with insurance I owe about $500 a month to various locations. My pharmacy bill is about $200 a month.

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Today is pay day. Before his pay came in, we had $48 left. Nothing in savings. A credit card maxxed out. No wiggle room. The stress of this hurts my stomach. And it all feels like my fault.

I need to work. I want to work. But I can’t yet. I am not well. Most of the time I sit and stare at the wall, or I turn on the tv and stare at that so it feels better to stare at something that makes sense to be staring at, but I don’t absorb what is happening. I have tried taking tests for jobs and I can’t pass them. I get confused, I can’t remember, I make mistakes. I am not well.

Money may not buy happiness but it does provide security and options and lower stress levels. I hate that creditors call me a dozen times a day. I would love to pay them. I am an honorable person. But I cannot pay them all, I have to choose. So I choose water, electricity, food, meds, school fees, lunch money…please be patient I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

Part of the reason for this post is venting as usual, but part of this is to raise awareness. People don’t know how hard we work and what daily life is like. I hate money. I hate that we need money and that we need things. But we do.

We have never gone on a real vacation. We have saved up and gone to amusement parks for a day. We do not have nice new clothes, we shop at goodwill and walmart for the kids and most of my clothes are at least 10 years old, some even older. We all have 1 pair of shoes for each season. I have 1 purse. We eats lots of plain rice and potatoes and noodles. We do not go out to restaurants or movies or skating or skiing or golfing or whatever else might be fun because it costs money. We do free things at the library, parks, museums.

We do not qualify for welfare or free lunches for kids or food stamps or food cupboards. Our income is too high. But they do not look at our bills, that there is nothing left.

So kiddo says his knee hurts, he can barely walk. I take him in for an xray, they say not broken, likely a sprain, keep it iced and wrapped and gave him a note for no gym or recess. Dr calls me back and says they reviewed the xray report and kiddo needs an ortho specialist, there is some sort of bony growth abnormality.

I thanked her, made the call, and hung up and cried. I freaked out. Then I cried some more.

I don’t want to think about what might be wrong with his knee, does he need surgery? my poor baby is only 8. I have to be strong for him and I am so not feeling strong. Trying not to pre-worry but that isn’t going well today.

And then the money. I have not yet paid for that xray and I had to make more appointments that I know I can’t pay for. What choice do I have? He needs this. I’ll pay them eventually, or I won’t and the debt collector will call me for this too. I will do my best.

This life is effing expensive, and really effing hard.

Discarded

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I’ve been thinking all day yesterday, all last night, and I finally figured out the word I need to describe how I felt  when I was 16. Discarded. Like trash.

Here is my attempt to process this event using ABC format – Event – My thoughts – My feelings.

I’ve been thinking for years I made a horrible decision in telling my mom about the abuse and asking to move in with her.(column A) I have thoughts like – I should have kept my mouth shut, my life would be better if I stayed quiet, I was stupid for thinking people would help me, my reality is too terrible for other people to handle… (column B)

I feel angry at myself still for this decision to speak up, to get myself out of AF’s home. I am thinking I only had one more year of high school, it would have been better if no one knew and I finished with my friends instead of losing everyone. (column C)

I feel angry at all of the adults in my 16 year old world that mishandled the situation. I should have been protected. They should have known what would happen socially and emotionally, but they were doing their job to protect me physically, that’s it.(column C)

I feel ashamed when I remember the looks of everyone who suddenly knew my secrets.(column C)

I feel guilt for keeping the secret, and also for not keeping it, for betraying AF. (column C)

I feel overwhelming sadness for that girl and what she endured, how alone she truly was. (column C)

There is no part of me that believes my mom did not know about AF’s abuse, that he was touching me all day, leaving her bed to come to mine at night. But denial is strong and she chose not to believe it or act on it until the day I said to her “He touches me”. That’s all I said, she did not ask for details. Because I am sure in heart she already knew.

My boyfriend had encouraged me and said I had to do it – He is the reason I spoke up at all, not for myself, but for him. He couldn’t stand the thought of me living with him any more. I was so confused and conflicted. I was trying to build a relationship with this boyfriend but it was impossible, all these barriers that I didn’t understand then but I do now. I fell for this boy, deeply, painfully, and so I wanted to do the right thing  – for him. Of course he broke up with me after all this happened, after he pressured me to sleep with him. He was a year older and said he wanted to be “free” at college. Lucky him. Getting to be free.

Here is the part that may be difficult for anyone other than an abuse survivor to understand. I didn’t want to leave AF. I didn’t want him touching me, but he didn’t do that much any more – I was hardly ever home and I think he preferred younger girls (gross, vomit, but I think true). I also think I was more difficult to control now, as I grew older and gained independence he lost some of his power over me and tried less often to exert it. But listen closely – I loved AF. I needed him. (I feel the worst guilt, the worst torment over this, how will I ever forgive myself for needing what this foul creature offered me??)

He was the only human connection in my life – he designed it that way, remember? We were actually very close and talked about everything with no boundaries. I understand this now, the enmeshment, but back then it felt like he truly cared about every detail of my life. He needed to know everything to control me…but it felt good to tell him everything because there was no one else. Above all I wanted to make him happy, to please him, to make him proud of me. My overachieving was an effort to escape his punishments but also to gain his approval because sometimes he did show me warmth and those moments were amazing. People will do anything for a few moments of warmth, to feel connected to another human, to feel accepted – we are wired this way – and AF  took full advantage of this my entire childhood. Anyway, I am trying to explain that I did not want to move out of AF’s home and into my mom’s, I did not want to leave the only person that accepted me, that talked to me. I feared my mom, I feared that she did truly hate me, and only met me out of obligation from the court order. Our conversations were always surface level, like strangers discussing the weather, we were not a part of each other’s lives. Until I said those words, “He touches me”, then suddenly she was to be my mom, my actual mom, and life was never the same. Sadly I cannot say it got better, and in many ways it got worse.

Child Protective Services came to my school and pulled me out of class, in front of everyone, to interview me, no, to interrogate me in the principal’s office, where he looked at me with such pity. They asked me to tell them exactly what AF had done to me. I froze, unable to speak. So they asked me a series of disturbing questions to which I could say yes or no. “Did he ever kiss you?” “Did he ever put his tongue in your mouth?” “Did he ever take your clothes off?” “Did he ever take pictures of you?” ….you get the idea. It was horrible, humiliating, traumatic, terrifying. I think I answered honestly but I don’t recall, I think I dissociated at some point to avoid passing out.

Sent back to class, kids asking me what that was about, I think I told them it was a custody battle, that my mom wanted me to move in with her. At some point that week, everyone knew. I don’t know how. I don’t know who told my secret. My mom? My best friend? My best friend’s mom? A teacher? Did someone overhear a conversation in the office? I just don’t know. All I know is that at some point, the hallways became easier for me to walk down, because the other kids stepped aside as if I had the plague. They stared, they made nasty comments, they laughed, they stopped sitting with me in class or lunch. Some of my friends’ parents actually yelled at me for not speaking up sooner, angrily scolding me, publicly shaming me, for endangering their kids, for allowing their kids to come to my house. No one was allowed to come see me or talk to me any more even though I was now at my mom’s. This sent me the message that it wasn’t AF, but me that was bad, disgusting, damaged and might somehow hurt their kids. I absorbed that deeply on top of the message AF had already planted there. None of those other adults reached out to me and said AF was horrible, not me. Some actually said they knew AF for years and I must be lying, he wouldn’t do that. Others said nothing, but looked at me from a distance with such pity that I wanted to melt and disappear.

So I did. I disappeared. I withdrew from everything. I stopped trying to talk to anyone. I brought headphones so it seemed my choice to not talk when I sat alone. I worked in the art room during lunch to avoid no one wanting me. Then I found the program to attend classes at a local college. I had completed my high school credits already, I was in all AP classes anyway, so this was perfect. I left. I disappeared and no one noticed.

I have never had a friend, other than my husband, since then. 24 years of isolation to both protect myself and punish myself – simultaneously. Again, a duality that only a survivor understands.

Great ABC sheet handouts with explanations

What am I worth

pandys.org – low self esteem, reclaim yourself

Rape and sexual abuse are violations of our mind, body, and spirit. Because of these violations, it is extremely difficult to reclaim our personal worth. Without this self-driven empowerment, we can feel less than those around us. This feeling then causes issues in our personal, professional, and academic lives.

We often find it challenging to:

• feel secure in our emotions, reactions, and expectations
• stand up for ourselves

www.anxieties.com – I am not ashamed

Accepting Who I Am

  • I’m OK just the way I am.
  • I am lovable and capable.
  • I am an important person.
  • I’m already a worthy person; I don’t have to prove myself.
  • My feelings and needs are important.
  • I deserve to be supported by those who care about me.
  • I deserve to be respected, nurtured and cared for.
  • I deserve to feel free and safe.
  • I’m strong enough to handle whatever comes along.

No one expects you to change a long-standing attitude overnight. But if you can continue to reflect on these attitudes until you begin to believe them, you will be on your way to overcoming panic. Building up our sense of self-worth increases our ability to confront the obstacles to our freedom.

The second kind of affirmation has to do with our expectations about how we must act around others. It reminds us that we don’t have to please everyone else and ignore our own wants and needs, that we all get to make mistakes as we are learning, and that we don’t need to view every task as a test of our competence or worth.

Supporting What I Do

  • It’s OK to say no to others.
  • It’s good for me to take time for myself.
  • It’s OK to think about what I need.
  • The more I get what I need, the more I’ll have to give others.
  • I don’t have to take care of everyone else.
  • I don’t have to be perfect to be loved.
  • I can make mistakes and still be OK.
  • Everything is practice; I don’t have to test myself.
  • I am not ashamed.

 

But I am ashamed. It is still there, an aching, gnawing presence, something in me telling me I’m not the same as the other humans on the planet. That I don’t belong. That I can’t let them know about me or my struggles. That I am worthless.

I’m working on my stuck points but I have not had much movement in this area yet. I can intellectualize and know the bullet points above are true, but my heart and soul do not believe them. I was raised to be nothing, less than nothing. I was raised to be a playtoy, my only purpose AF’s sick enjoyment, one way or the other as he controlled me. His control was 100% complete. I was not a separate being with separate feelings. I served him. That was my normal.

My love and fear for AF were one in the same, and consumed me. I was driven to please him. I was so starved for attachment, connection, admiration, affection. My slightest mistake would be ridiculed and punished by removal of love. I was never good enough but it didn’t stop me from trying harder, because I had to try something.

  • I learned to never say no, becoming whatever anyone else needed, whenever they needed me, I could morph into their ideal person and serve
  • I learned to serve others selflessly, volunteer, help, cheer up, give gifts, boost, tutor
  • I never needed anything for myself because there is no me inside
  • I can keep on giving endlessly, it is the only thing that makes me feel ok, I will do it until I drop from exhaustion
  • I have to care for everyone else and keep everyone safe and happy, everyone else is my responsibility, my fault
  • I must be perfect to be loved, I understand I am unlovable
  • mistakes are not OK, ever, I will punish myself
  • I will test myself and set myself up for failure to prove my worthlessness
  • I am ashamed of me, my thoughts, my feelings, my appearance, my past, my choices, my failures, my existence

 

So I have some more work to do. I can stop those thoughts now, as I am aware of them, but they are still automatic and triggering. The biggest problem I am still having is that I feel empty. And when I compare myself with the rest of humanity, I don’t feel like I am a part of everyone else, like I will always be a faker, because there is no me in me.

I am concerned with this now. Because knowing that I was raised by such a gifted psychopath, I am concerned that this state of being is irreversible. That my social damage is so completely devastating that I may never recover a sense of self that my parents were supposed to instill in me, not rob from me. AF knew exactly what he was doing.

He prevented my bonding with my mother. He told me she hated me. My youngest preschool memories are him telling me how much she hated me and never wanted me, telling me to stay away from, that he was the only safe person for me. I can remember that at age 3, so I can only assume he started it even younger. I can’t remember ever getting a hug from my mom, I was always afraid of her when I was little, and it wasn’t because she yelled or hit me, it was because AF taught me to be afraid with his whispering. Then as I grew older and he actually told me he loved me more than my mom and wanted to divorce her. My own mom was jealous of me. Hello, calling Dr Freud, come on, this is sick stuff.

He prevented me being close to my brothers. We were all isolated from one another and wedges of jealousy put in place. At age 5 I was overly affectionate with my older brothers and their friends, desperate for belonging, and thinking what AF did with me was normal. At some point one brother molested me too. At age 8 I was asked to tutor my 12 yr old brother who was struggling in school. It was humiliating for us to be forced to sit at the dining room table for hours. His work was easy for me…but that wasn’t the point, it made him hate me. I was put in direct competition with my oldest brother for grades and scores, but even if I surpassed him, I would get laughed at for trying because I just a girl and it didn’t matter, I would never amount to anything. I have a zillion examples, but this is enough for now.

He prevented my emotional expression. It simply was not allowed. I had to be calm and pleasant at all times. I had to deny my own pain and reality. Doctors were only permitted if his plaything was near death. Which I was, too many times. And it was mom that took me to the emergency room while he laughed and called me weak. I tried not to love the pets he brought home, but I became protector each time, and each time he tortured, took away, or killed one, he would laugh again, it was my fault for loving the filthy stupid beast. It was my love that killed it.

He prevented normal socialization. He did not permit going to friends houses, had all these rules for dinner time, phone calls, who could come over, invitations had to come before 6pm, you had be back before dusk, you could not attend other family events, we did not attend funerals or sporting events, we did not join teams or clubs. We only saw our Grandma once a year at Christmas. We did not have birthday parties. We did not go on vacation. He had total control over me in some ways, and complete neglect in others.

All of these lessons were repeated for me as I grew up. They were my normal. I believed the world he created for me, it was flawless and complete. I was alone.

I grew up with books and stories. My friends were the characters in the books and my imagination. I taught myself to read and write before preschool, language always made sense to me. I had trouble holding a pencil, but we had this clickety typewriter and I started writing stories in kindergarten. AF made fun of me for wasting my time reading and writing fiction, but I needed that escape. He tore up my little stories, along with the illustrations. I actually recall one about an invisible train. I’m sure they weren’t Shakespeare or anything, but I’m also sure I was pretty damn gifted and should have been encouraged not ridiculed. I stopped writing but I didn’t stop reading, knowing he wouldn’t destroy a book he would have to pay for. I did try to hide it from him though. By third grade I had read every book in my elementary school library. I started riding my bike to the public library, I still recall the day I got my own card! As long as I got back before dusk, got perfect grades, did all my chores, no one cared where I rode to by myself.

I didn’t start writing again until I had my first kiddo. I don’t know why, but something about becoming a mom brought out my creativity that I had stuffed away a lifetime earlier. I started writing a novel while my newborn napped. And I was happy.

Until I wasn’t. Postpartum depression took over. PTSD triggers took over. My novel sits in a folder, abandoned. I no longer have the energy or interest to jump back into it. I have no more creativity. I have nothing inside me. I have no ambitions that are for me. Everything is…meh. Pointless.

I have been off work over a year now. April 2015, PTSD became unbearable and I entered a suicidal crisis. A nervous breakdown I suppose. I am still not recovered from this, and although I can imagine getting some job and making money to provide for my family, I can’t imagine getting any job I might ever care about. And that makes me sad. But I will serve, because it is what I do. But not yet. I’m not ready yet. My mind and body need more time to heal before taking on more. My goal is when the kids go back to school, it is hard enough just being mom all summer without another job too.

 

Turtles can’t do yoga

Such an odd feeling to be trapped in your own body. Since my back surgery in April I keep having these odd moments of panic, nearly like claustrophobia, but the small, tight space I am confined within is my own body.

My initial back surgery as a child fused most of my spine but left a few vertebrae at the base in the lumbar L4-S1 and up in my neck free to turn and twist. My recent surgery extended the fusion and internal hardware to give me more stability against my scoliosis and kyphosis. My lumbar discs had deterioriated and disappeared. I had air gaps in my spinal column from so much slipping motion between my vertebrae. This has been corrected. I am no longer in pain. The nerve has been decompressed. I am getting stronger every day. However I had to sacrifice even more of my precious little flexibility.

This may not sound like much to those of you with a bendy, twisty spine. You can’t imagine what it is like to have a solid, rigid backbone. You can’t imagine having perfect posture and never being able to stretch your side muscles, do a sit up, arch or curl your back. I also can’t jump, as your spine is a natural shock absorber, being solid puts all that force onto one spot like a sledge hammer. Not that I was very jumpy, but jostly things like hay rides or roller coasters are quite painful. I have moments when tears come to my eyes now, out of frustration, not pain. I feel like I’m trapped in a shell.

The extra hardware alongside the original hardware have completely eliminated all the twisting. Good for pain. But it feels so odd. Like I am in a full body cast. I simply can’t move.

I can no longer rest my head on Hubby’s shoulder when snuggling in bed. I can barely reach the floor, if I drop or spill something. I have to do a combination of a sumo wrestler squat/ballerina lunge since I can only bend within my hip joint itself, nothing in my back at all. I started driving again this week, and I can barely see for backing up, only having motion in my neck, no longer able to twist at all. I can’t see or get items from the back of the fridge or cupboards. I can’t tuck in my kids, I have to hug them before they get in bed. I can’t reach my dogs’ tummy when they lay on the floor, only with my feet. I can tie my own shoes now, but I have to hold my breath and stretch first. I can’t do even the little bit of yoga I used to do.

I will get used to my new body given more time. I’ll keep working on my leg flexibility too. And I am so happy to walk around without the pain, truly I am. I only wanted to document how odd this experience has been as well, to reach for something that should be within reach, but it may as well be a million miles away because your unbendable body will not let you get there. Kind of like trying to stick your elbow in your ear.

And the toughest part perhaps has been Hubby thinking I am pushing him away, rejecting him. I just can’t get there from here. I can’t get comfortable. I can’t bend and lean into him. All I have is my arms.

tortoise1_cepolina

I feel like a turtle with a hard awkward shell. Turtles can’t do yoga either, and they always seem quite peaceful. I know I’ll be alright eventually.

 

Take time to heal

I received those words from my brother today and it meant the world to me.

Take time to heal.

Simple words with a powerful message. He was saying he loved me. That he understands I am hurting and struggling. That he does not want to add to my stress but he does want me to know he wants me in his life.

I want him in mine too.

I don’t think I have ever heard more beautiful words.

Take time to heal

Managing Anxiety from PTSD

So it has come to my awareness that my anxiety and fears have reached epic proportions. I was actually unaware of some of my fears because of how isolated I keep myself, and how much I keep to the same routines, and dare I say rituals. I’m going to ask my counselor if this is a form of agoraphobia, but whatever we want to call it, this is what she has asked me to do for homework to start working on the fears. She wants me to break down the fears into categories as follows: What I can do with little fear or distress, what gives me some level of fear, and what is so much fear I avoid doing the item completely. I’ve started my list below. Interestly enough, compiling this list was quite distressing, as I imagined all of these situations, and also as I realized how many I do in fact fear. How did I let this happen? I didn’t let it. PTSD just did it to me, slowly, day by day, changing my life into what it is now. I’m ready to slowly change it back.

 

Situations with no or very little distress:

Situations where I feel in control, the duration is limited, I have a plan, a shopping list, know what to say or do.

  • Shopping at known stores: It is a super short list: my grocery store (0) in town, my pharmacy in town(10), Dollar Store in town(10), 2 walmarts(25) and 1 kmart just outside of town(25). I’ll go to Sears(35) at the mall if Hubby goes too and we enter through Sears, not the mall entrance.
  • Ordering takeout on phone or drive thru, picking up order if called ahead(10)
  • Teaching(10)
  • Public speaking(10)
  • Public performance(10)
  • Texting sister in law(10)
  • blogging or writing to online friends(10)
  • Anything alone with my kids(10)
  • Sitting/standing on my back porch while dogs are out(10)
  • Going to most dr appts(40)
  • Driving or sitting in my car(20)

 

Situations with some distress, might avoid or need pep talk, rehearsal, recover time:

Situations where the time limit is not predetermined, I may feel trapped, one or more elements are unpredictable, I do not know the ‘correct’ behavior or what to say, I’m unable to physically do the correct behavior due to my health or physical limitations, there are too many variables at once, people may surround me or need to touch me, I may disappoint people.

  • Family or friends gatherings(70): I like to be invited but I nearly instantly think of ways to back out of it, or I do back out of it last minute sometimes making up schedule, health or issues or problems with kids. Except for major holidays with in-laws, I feel obligated and force myself to go.
  • Ordering food at noisy counters(80) (chipotle), but quiet restaurants are fine
  • Calling to make dr appts: I hate committing to the date(50)
  • Telling concerns to Hubby(80): afraid of his reaction, either angry or aloof. Tough to tell him I’m not feeling well especially. Other tough topics include things that need fixed in the house, money issues, schedule updates,
  • Dentist appts(60) I put off until I have many cavities that need filled
  • School functions(60), sports practices, recitals, concerts. I go to most, but avoid if I can, sending Hubby whenever it is ok for me to miss meetings. Concerts I get anxious for days before.
  • If given email or phone, I will always use the email to contact teachers or coaches(70), and only then if absolutely necessary.
  • Texting real friends, even if they text me first(70)
  • Calling sister in law or mother in law(80)
  • Parking in unknown lots for first time, especially in the city, out of town(90)

 

Situations with high distress, avoid if possible

Situations where I feel I have basically no control and everything is unpredictable, I will be triggered and likely experience flashbacks, a high level of conflict, I might be wrong, sensory overload, I could bother people, I will be confused, I won’t agree or like what others do, people know I don’t belong, I could get hurt, my kids could get hurt.

  • A formal complaint (90)(to pharmacy, boss, teacher, neighbor)
  • Ob/gyn:(90) I have not been there in about 7 years now…
  • Lines like post office(80): I have not been to post office in about 15 years
  • Walking around my neighborhood(80), alone, with hubby, with my dogs or kids, it doesn’t matter: I stopped this about 2 years ago
  • PTO/volunteer at school(90): I have never done this even though I’m a teacher and I have time
  • Talking to other parents(90): I avoid this completely, asking Hubby to be our social planner if phone calls are needed. I have actually hidden in my own house when parents knocked on my door if home alone. Kids’ events (other than the final concert) I wait in my car to avoid other parents at dropoff and pickup. I pace around, use my phone, read a book, take a notebook to write in, or work on my laptop so I am busy and unapproachable when forced to be around others.
  • The school bus stop(90): After some ugly incidents with some neighbor girls and their mom last spring, I decided not to have my boys wait at the bus stop in the mornings. I drove them to school this year. I have not seen that mom in 2 years even though she lives a few houses away. After I drop off my kids, I even drive a block over to avoid seeing the crowd gathered at the bus stop on my back home.
  • Attend small town events(80) like the carnival, football games, tailgate parties, christmas celebration, artfest, etc….
  • Spend the day at mother in law’s(80) house, spending the night(100) is even worse
  • Taking kids to a busy playground(80)
  • Calling a friend:I have not done this unless asked to do so at a certain time for a certain reason since my high school friends(90)
  • Having kids’ friends over in my house(80), sleepovers(90) really bad (two friends have made it to the not so bad list, boys(100) have never been allowed to sleepover)
  • Feeling exposed outside(90): too much sun, wind, bugs, heat, cold, bird sounds, dogs barking, cars vrooming, will cause panic and send me back inside quickly.
  • Phone calls or visits with my brothers(90)
  • Working outside of the home(80): I’ve been working from home for 12 years to avoid daily face to face
  • Certain roads(90), buildings are off limits to avoid people or memories