Tag Archive | hope

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!!

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Running, running

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Running, running to catch a star
She needs to go, go so far
away
from there and here
she is
Blindly leaping, crazed, and dazed
Idiots they are amazed
by her
They are running, running to catch a lie
stick a needle in your eye
promises broken, again she cries
screaming silently, can’t you hear
from there and here
she is
Running, running to catch a thief
A stolen life, eternal grief
lost
before being found
Her shooting star, was shot down
nearly lifeless to the ground
Running, running, to catch release
She needs to find that life can cease
to chase her
from there and here
She is
Blindly leaping, abused and bruised
lost and confused
seeking
only
peace

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

emotional overload, again

I started outpatient physical therapy to help strengthen and balance my back and legs after my surgery. I knew this was likely to trigger flashbacks from teenage PT, me learning to walk again after my first surgery. And it did. It was hard, but I think I managed well. I made sure I had a female therapist when I made the appointment to decrease my anxiety about someone touching me. I kept myself grounded by telling myself the year, that I am a mom, listing things I could make for lunch.
Session went well, whenever I was triggered, I just brought myself back and instead of telling myself I am a stupid freak, I told myself it was understandable this situation was triggering.

Big trigger when she videotaped me walking. Teen PT did that with me in a swimsuit. Teen lawyers did that to prove my freakyness for AF’s malpractice suit against my surgeon. Both were horrible, humiliating times I was not in control and no one could help me. But some breathing and grounding got me through it. I know she noticed something wrong, but I think she thought I was embarrassed, tired from our workout, but not triggered. She assured me my face would not be in the video, only legs for gait analysis, and that it will help her design my care plan.

She was completely awesome. This PT lady was smart, had empathy, had no trouble with my questions or my special requests.

Near the end of the hour, we started discussing how my leg previously never had any muscle retention. That I worked furiously each day to keep it from sliding backwards, yet I woke up each morning weaker again, no growth, no tone, because of improper nerve signals.

She tested my spatial recognition, my proprioreceptors by forcing me to look away and keep my hands off my leg during the motions. It feels wrong, and a bit dizzying, but if I concentrate, I can do this. This is new from the recent surgery decompressing the spinal nerves. 

PT lady said with this, it is possible that new muscle can now be rebuilt, actual progress and forward potential after being stuck for 27 years. I am still too afraid to hope for this, even though I am already seeing small gains since the surgery. Seeing should be believing, but I know too much that seeing can be deceptive also.

Hope for someone like me, does not come easily, and has a huge cost when things don’t work out. So I remain safely curious. Curiosity keeps me moving and trying – without fear of devastation.

Except I felt a little hope with her words. No matter how much I tried not to.

Then I felt foolish and afraid for feeling hope.

Then I wanted to share my hope with my mom.

That’s when I brokedown. Too much. I made it to my car and cried. Oh mom, how much I wanted to share GOOD news with you….no matter how troubled our past, I do know the pain you felt when I was paralyzed. I somehow thought this news might heal some of that pain, bring us closer. Perhaps not, but I will never know. Just know I forgive your mistreatment of me when I could not walk, I think you did your best to cope and only had denial. 

So I started PT, had several flashbacks, remained grounded while being touched, let myself feel some hope by accident, and I missed my mom.

A full day…all in an hour.

Surgery success

I’m home from the hospital and mending nicely already from back surgery. I’m in less pain than I was pre-surgery, generally, unless I’m walking up stairs or doing extensive physical therapy.

Here’s the news, something I’m afraid to type, for fear of believing in it or making it not true. But this surgeon was able to correct the problems caused during my childhood surgery. He says to me, “I decompressed the nerve completely. You now have fully restored communication.”

And then he left and I was so groggy, but as the next few days I started waking up from anesthesia and getting stronger, and the neural assessments on my legs were equal. I could lift my right toes and hold them there. I could lift my right knee off the bed. I could stand and walk and feel my legs beneath me.

I still think I’m dreaming.

27 years I’ve had a weak leg. And he fixed it? I went in for a fusion at L4 to Ilium. But I gave him permission to inspect and revise original fusion as needed. He found the compressed area up around T12. And he fixed it. He FIXED it!!!!! I’ll detail the surgery itself in another post.

I have sensations in my belly, bladder, and my legs that are foreign to me but I think are supposed to be there, things I haven’t been able to feel all these years. And even better, the horrible blinding, crushing pain I’ve had in my legs..is gone. Just like that. The pain that no meds, no position, no exercise, nothing helped. It was a constant. No more twitches and electrical zaps making me yelp.

So I can’t let myself believe this is true, because good things don’t happen to me. I don’t get fixed. Something is going to happen, like the swelling will go down and something will shift and it will all return. I’m so afraid to be happy. I keep almost crying with joy, but then hold it back when I fill my head with fears and doubts.

But the truth is…I’m better. I’ve still got a weaker leg, but it responds to me now and is already stronger than last week. Like it’s been sleeping and it’s ready to work now. I have a long road ahead, but physical therapists said I might walk without a limp one day. She said I might even run. OK typing that started the tears. I want it so badly, to run free. To feel strong. To look ahead and not at the ground. Can it be true? Please?

Be curious if not hopeful

Hope is not something that comes easily to me. I’ve also discovered it exists on a spectrum, from sliver to boundless rays. I used to think it was all or nothing, like most things in my world of extreme unbalanced thoughts.

Hope is something I used to have, I remember how it felt, how it kept me going. I hoped for a better future and started working towards it. When I got my scholarship and started college I was ready, full of life, full of hope.

But then that year wasn’t exactly as I had hoped. The world I had run away to wasn’t much better than the one I was running away from. I encountered cheaters, liars, manipulators, abusers, and people out to hurt me. I was crushed. Everything I worked so hard for…seemingly for nothing. I lost hope for a while then, at age 18 I recall getting lost in depression and listening to the soothing sirens call of suicidal ideation.

But I didn’t lose all hope, I bounced back and made a new plan, transferred schools, started over ready again. But i t never was the same, and I had to talk myself into this new plan daily. No more enthusiasm to save the world. I didn’t have enough hope for that anymore.

Then when I lost my first real job, the one I didn’t actually want but had convinced myself would be OK, and my new marriage was so difficult, and life was not good…I lost all hope it could ever be good.

At age 25 I sunk into a much deeper and more dangerous depression, obsessed by suicidal thoughts constantly. I made a plan an attempt.

At age 26 I had my first baby. I never had treatment, the suicidal thoughts were still there but I ignored them. I was both comforted and ashamed by them.

Babies and work have kept me busy these past 12 years and I became an expert at ignoring myself.

Until I couldn’t. One day I just couldn’t do it any more. The dam broke, the wall cracked. I was too tired. I didn’t care enough to hide it. All those things and more.

But this time I asked for help. No attempts on my life, I know how much I mean to my kids. So after a nice lengthy stay in a psych ward and months of group therapy, I’m in a bit of an odd place.

I am aware.

I can feel all of the terrible crap I’ve been ignoring, but I’m not yet able to fully cope or function with it. We are tackling these pesky suicidal thoughts first in therapy.

After a session today, all I can say is sometimes being curious is more important than having hope. I don’t have hope right now. I feel beaten and kicked to the curb. I feel it cant improve. And yet I continue to attend therapy, continue to get out of bed and exercise, and continue going through what feels like pointless motions. Why?

Because I don’t know everything. I can’t predict the future. It might be worse, it might be the same, it might be better.

I’ll never know if I don’t try, and I’m curious what could happen.

Empty

Ever look deep inside and realize there is nothing there? A vast hollow vessel full of only echoes but nothing of substance?

I’ve graduated from my cpt group. So now I’ve completed two intensive group therapies, one with a dbt focus and this recent one was cognitive processing. I’ll think about sharing some of the exercises we completed but not today.

Cpt has taught me to feel the pain. It taught me exactly how much is excruciatingly wrong with me and allows me to feel it, and name it. The counselor calls this progress, and I suppose I’d see her point if it wasn’t me having to feel it. Honestly I’d rather return to the nice even numbness I had going for nearly four decades. It was more tolerable than this awareness. Of knowing what’s wrong with me so clearly now. Seeing the path ahead, I’m not afraid, but I’m not motivated. I see no point. I feel like a car totaled in a crash…best to junk it and get a new one. Or a condemned house needing demolished. I no longer think its possible to grow roots in this emptiness. I don’t dare dream any longer. I continue through this treatment program asking them to do the impossible. I’m asking them to help me to want to live, for me, for my own sake, not only clinging to a thread for my kids.

I’ve realized I have no sense of self. This is worse than no self esteem. I actually think I’m talented, smart, pretty, good at many things. But I have no value because I have no existence. You’ll either understand or you won’t so I won’t try to explain much more. Just to say it is apparently a parents job to instill a sense of self in a child. Mine wasn’t stolen by abuse, it was never instilled at all. I was never a separate, valuable human.

Like a slave, outcast, an untouchable, an invisible ghost only used and abused.

I’m starting the individual portion of my trauma recovery program now that the group work is completed. My counselor seems to actually understand a traumatized brain and has a structured program, saying I’m not a lifer, therapy will end one day, and one day I’ll have less PTSD symptoms and more living. I want to believe her.

We established some goals and metrics to get us started so our sessions stay on track. I feel like I wasted so much time and money on past counselors not trained in this traumatic stress program. But I didn’t know, no one knew. I’ve absorbed so much knowledge its going to be difficult to relay it all here.

I’m not who I was a few months ago, my brain is changing.