Tag Archive | self care

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.

 

falcon-1570803_1920.jpg

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Operation: Feel Better

Last week something changed, another switch flipped and I decided I was tired of feeling like me. Tired. Drained. Empty.

I re-read my DBT binder from intensive outpatient therapy. Hmmm. I am not doing well with self care. In fact I was self hurting.

  • I was staying up until nearly 4am every night and staying in my room until noon.
  • I was not doing basic hygiene regularly, only when I needed to go somewhere outside the house, which is usually only once per week. (Actually two consecutive days, but my worn out brain figured yesterdays shower was good enough)
  • I was only going outside for counseling, dr appointments, running light errands. Not actually spending time outside, just walking from the house to the car.
  • I was not getting daily or even much weekly exercise.
  • I was eating poorly, even binged a few times.

So I did not suddenly see all of this in myself. No. What I saw was my children, turning into depressed couch potatoes. My children, who normally have so much energy we can’t contain it, barely able to move. My children saying, nah, don’t feel like a bike ride or going to the playground. My children lounging in yesterday’s filthy clothes, too tired to change. My children cranky, irritable, snapping at each other instead of playfully making jokes.

Wow. The transformation was incredible. What happened? They had no schedule or structure with school being out. We can’t afford any sports this summer with me not working, so they are all just home, with nothing to do. And with me in bed, partly recovering from surgery, partly my odd sleep schedule, they had transformed and were showing signs of depression.

My brain hurt at this realization.

My stupid binder was right. I was hurting myself. And my kids.

I tried telling hubby my concerns and he was quite unresponsive. He is working so much he was unable to comment on the changes I am seeing.

So I decided on my own to make a change. Because I am mom, I can do this. I can do for them what I can’t for myself.

I told the kids that starting tomorrow we would have one daily activity. It has some rules. They can help me choose the location, give input, but ultimately it is up to me. Here are the rules I created.

  • We will drive to this location, it is far enough from home to require this
  • We will spend at least 30 minutes outside (unless terrible weather)
  • We will be active during the 30 minutes, moving our bodies, walking, playing, etc
  • We will go to a new location every day

So we started this mandatory anti couch potato activity 4 days ago. We have gone to 2 playgrounds and 2 nature preserves. We have invented new games. We learned eggplants have purple flowers. We explored a lean-to someone built in the forest.

When we got home, they asked about setting up the badminton net instead of heading back to the couch. We all played badminton. That was a bonus, not forced or mandatory. The neighbor kids saw us playing and asked to join. Awesome! Yes!

So this is working. I started taking melatonin at night to get back on track. That plus daily sun and exercise is helping me sleep-at night.

I may not be making money, but I am a damn good mom, and I am finally seeing how important I am to them. I am giving them life long lessons, values, hopes, strength. All the things I need. Maybe, just a fleeting thought here, is it possible I do have these things, because if I see them in my children it is a reflection of me? Can I give what I don’t have? Maybe I am not as empty as I feel, it is all somehow hidden from me. Does any of this make sense?

Migraine and PTSD memory emotion connection

migraine and ptsd, seems to be like peanut butter and jelly.

Today my brain is like jelly, missing that peanut butter to make anything stick, but wanted to try to get some thoughts down.

Yesterday was watching ‘So you think you can dance’ with kiddos and a girl with a hurt leg from a car accident came on to audition and it triggered me big time, I guess, I didn’t know at the time.

I cried when she talked about rehab and saw her supportive family, and how brave she was to get on stage with her ugly leg. My family hid me, made me feel ashamed of my ugliness. I was overcome with happiness for this girl dancing again, but also knowing she’ll never be quite the same, so much damage, so much pain. And then I had a flood of memories of AF and his own physical therapy for my paralyzed leg, he refused to pay a dr, so he was the one to do it.

I only had a glimpse of a moment of that memory yesterday, and really wasn’t even aware of it at the time until much later last night. I didn’t hold the tears back, as it was appropriate to cry a bit during this scene, we all were affected by it. But I didn’t sob, just a few tears, moist eyes really, and that tight feeling in the throat. But then I felt overwhelmingly sleepy, and since the kiddos were all content watching tv, I lay down on the couch and fell into a deep, deep uncontrollable sleep for the next 3 hours.

I could not believe so much time had passed when I woke up and saw the time. I noticed my hands were tingly, but thought I must have been laying on them. Until I stood up, and saw how wobbly I was, and then the real problems were when I tried to talk the words were all scrambly and I saw sparkles everywhere, like rainbow fireflys.

I felt quite uneasy, a deep fear, a childish type of fear, like don’t turn out the light, and I noticed it was unbearable when Hubby simply left the room. I felt abandoned! I was doing anything to keep him in the room and I had no idea why. We ended up talking about all kind of things for the next several hours, until we uncovered a whole slew of fresh memories I had from childhood. They weren’t all bad or disturbing, they didn’t all involve AF, many were about the 4th of July, but all of them were so vivid I could taste, hear, smell, feel, or re-experience some part of them. Some of the memories were from early times with Hubby and he had trouble recalling what I described from 20 years ago. I think it helped Hubby to understand how intense this experience can be for me, and that I am not intentionally sitting and thinking about anything, not drudging up the past – the past came back and hit me unavoidably in the brain.

I think it overloaded my system and forced me to sleep and caused the migraine, all those memories reactivating.

The emotions attached to these memories were raw and wild, and I went through each one, like rapid fire, not knowing what to do. I kept asking Hubby if I am crazy, is this it, have I lost it, because I feel like my brain has been hijacked, these thoughts and feelings are not my own. I had all this shame and fear and confusion.

I’m still in pain, limping a bit, so much visual snow, distortions and sparkles, but my thoughts and emotions have slowed down a bit. Hubby stayed home from work to help me today, which both angered me that I need his help, and is a relief to me that he is helping. I have too many things to manage with the kids that I’m beyond struggling to do and the pressure to be the mom I want to be is too much. Constant worries and always something new to do and take care of, doctors and appointments with kids, it is too much. But I have to find a way to do it.

AND then – I don’t like ME right now. In fact I hate me right now. I discovered this last night. All this talk of acceptance and self-love and I’m back here at the loathing. I think I’m pathetic and I’ve lost patience with myself. I think its because those childhood emotions are so fresh right now, so trying to be gentle, but honestly I’m so confused. It’s like my brain is slippery and I can’t find anything solid to hold onto anymore. I need and hate Hubby in the exact same moment and with such intensity, it is truly frightening to me now. I used to make sense. I used to be logical. These migraines have turned me into nonsensical soup and I swear I did not go through the mirror or the rabbit hole drink from the ‘drink me’ bottle.

Reached my limit, migraines as indicators

My body let me know in not so subtle ways. I woke up last night with worst migraine in years maybe decades. Complete with vision loss, numb,tingly face, arms, hands, endless vomiting. The pain is agonizing. Like labor pains ripping through my skull.

I’m going to listen to my body. I’ve been fearing for months now that I can’t handle full time hours. I can’t. The stress is too much. I’m going to request going back to part time and give my body the rest it is crying out for. Got the message loud and clear. Please stop the pain.

Living in the unknown

The next stage of my journey is an unknown to me. I have spent so many years being afraid of AF. I no longer need that fear, and so far it is difficult to allow to slip away. That fear has been both friend and foe to me for 38 years now. That fear helped me to survive, to plan, to anticipate, to protect. Everything feels foreign now without that haze of fear to guide me.

Like I’ve been hiding in the storm shelter and I have stepped out into the blinding sunlight. I am relieved the storm has passed, but the dazzling sunlight is showing me the extent of the damage. I need to move out of survival and into rebuilding. This stirs up all kinds of new fears – what if there is nothing to rebuild? Can I start over? Is there a foundation here at all, is it worth digging through the rubble or is it better to walk away from it and start fresh?

I feel as if I have options that I have never seen before. And the sheer enormity of those options is taking my breath away and causing extra stress.

Christmas with the in-laws went wonderfully. For the first time in my life, I spoke freely to them about my life with AF. It was so easy now. The fear was gone AND the shame was gone. They were all angry for me, and it was good for all of us to talk about the things we have never talked about. I don’t think I’m explaining this very well. I’m trying to say that it was a relief for all of us, to not have to tiptoe around ‘my issues’ and discuss it like any other problem. It was validating for me and I felt like a part of the family for the first time. I allowed myself to feel like a part of it, because you see, it was always me that kept myself isolated.

They asked why I never spoke of any of this, and I said I couldn’t, that I was so ashamed. My amazing MIL got angry and said that was ridiculous and terrible I had to feel like that and good riddance to that terrible man. She said I should rip up the will and never look back. It is over – she said. I have never felt so accepted and understood.

Christmas in my own house was pure joy. My favorite day of the year, full of magic and surprises. No worries, no stress, just all of us in our own little bubble enjoying each other’s company. We played and laughed together from 7am to 11pm. My new job made Santa extra generous this year, and that felt good.

But under this joy, or along with it, I have this nagging stress. My body is in a permanent state of alarm that I don’t know how to reverse. I want to take time off work, I want the kids to stay at Grandma’s, I feel I need a break. NO – I feel I am breaking.

How can I feel so happy and yet so stressed too? How do I get this stress out of me? I gained another 2 pounds, my eating, sleeping, exercising is not yet balanced. My thoughts race and it takes me hours to refocus and do my job. I am highly emotional, and unable to shake off idiotic comments from coworkers. Nothing is helping me to relax and I don’t know what to do with myself.

So I just keep going, but I’ve been on this dangerous road to burnout before. The last time I had a full time job and this much daily stress I gained weight and nearly made it to 200 pounds on my tiny frame. I’m hoping to stop before getting there again. I look pregnant right now, all this weight in my bulging belly. I’m unable to exercise much, feeling too frantic or too tired. The thought of putting on shoes is too much right now.

I know I need to take care of myself, but I don’t know how, I don’t know what I need right now. Life is moving much faster than I can keep up. Each hour marches on and leaves me more behind. Like each hour I must choose:exercise, sleep, work, house chores, art, TV, shower, etc. The choices are overwhelming and I almost always choose work or TV, since the work is so behind, and TV offers me an escape. A nice walk would probably be better, but so hard to choose it right now.

Hubby is worn out too, I can’t keep leaning on him. Maybe there is no solution, except to carry on and do what I can, when I can, without hating myself for these unhealthy choices along the way. And each day brings spring and sunshine closer (why do I live in this dreary sunless state?), and maybe this is just a wait it out kind of thing and not a do-do-do change-change-change fix-fix-fix kind of thing.

Calming the self-hate storm

I have turned on myself. Again. I’m my own worst enemy. No one is abusing me anymore – except for me. I know I don’t deserve this, at least part of me knows this, and yet here I am again causing myself pain and denying myself health and comfort.

I found some helpful tips to try:

http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/how-to-turn-self-hatred-into-self-compassion-1112135

  • Talk to yourself the way you talk to someone you care about: In Compassion and Self Hate, Dr. Rubin advises readers to tell themselves, “I treat myself as I treat a child I love.” Cognitive behavioral therapists employ a similar technique, often invoking the question, “What would you say to good friend who was going through the same thing you are going through?” These are important questions. If you hate yourself, you likely say things to yourself that you would not dare say to another person. What would you say to somebody else who has the exact same traits as you? What could you say to yourself?
  • Recognize that beliefs do not equal truths: Often, people believe what they tell themselves. If you think you are a loser, you may believe it is absolute truth. Try this cognitive behavioral technique called “the three C’s”: catch, check, change. Catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself. Check whether your distressing thought is true. Change it, if not. You can talk back to your negative thoughts. Challenge them. Serve as a defense attorney to the prosecutor in your head.
  • Embrace the concept of “good enough”: Many people feel they should be perfect—never angry, always generous, never critical, always right, and so on. These expectations deny that imperfection is the human condition. If you are one of these people with too-high expectations for yourself, ask yourself what is good enough?

This next part also looks great. I’m struggling to get my body moving at all, so these yoga poses don’t look impossible. I know I feel better after yoga/pilates/stretching/exercise. I’m guessing that is why I don’t do it, I’m denying myself that good feeling. So maybe I can trick myself into thinking I’m just lying down, but actually doing some gentle restorative yoga. (Take that PTSD!) This post is actually for calming the nervous system after withdrawals from meds, but I’m going to take a leap and think maybe it could be helpful for calming anxiety from any cause.

http://beyondmeds.com/2013/11/14/yoga-for-calming/

Pose 1 – Lay down on your back on the floor and rest your legs upwards against the wall, or use a chair if you can’t straighten your legs. Arms can be on your belly/heart or over your head.

Pose 2 – While still laying down (see how great this is? Still laying down) bend knees and gently twist your legs to either side of your torso.

Pose 3 – Bend knees and pull in towards your chest. (Still laying down – I can do this!)

Love Yourself as you Love Others

Icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3.x.

Love (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has always been easy for me to love other people. I care deeply for anyone in my world. It has always been difficult to extend that same love and care to myself. I have always followed the Golden Rule, but recently realized I never expected that treatment in return, and most of all, not from myself. I need to treat myself as I treat others. Wow.

Before I had my own children, I went to extra lengths to care for my husband and students and basically everyone else was more important. I thought I was here to help and please others, my needs were either secondary or nonexistent. When Hubby’s cholesterol went up, we switched to healthier oils. I created fun and interesting projects for my students – even if it took all night. I might skip meals as I worked so hard for everyone else. And then comfort my stressed out body with junk food and endless computer games.

I realized yesterday, that I am in charge of myself, of taking care of myself, and that I’m doing a completely awful job of that most days. I’d fire myself if I were my Nanny.

I take great care of my children. I discipline them because I love them. I make them have healthy habits because I love them:

  • I would never let them eat too much ice cream, “No sweetie, one bowl is enough”.
  • I would never let them stay up until 2am watching TV, “Kiddos, it is 8pm and time to get ready for bed – your bodies need rest to grow and stay healthy, and your brain needs sleep to keep getting smarter and learn more at school”
  • I would never let them play video games for 6 hours straight, “Time to save your games and go outside for fresh air, sunshine and run around a bit. Why don’t you see if your friends can come over to ride bikes?”
  • I would never let them hate themselves, “Aww honey, I’m so sorry you had a bad day. I know it is tough when your friend fights with you. But we all love you and will always be here. You may or may not make up with your friend, only time will tell about that. But you are a great person, and we should go have fun, not sit in here moping all day, ok? If you need more time to cry, that’s fine too, but as soon as you’re up to it, you should come back and have a snack with us.”

So, why don’t I take better care of myself? Why don’t I put myself to bed early enough to get 8 hours sleep, get daily exercise, stop eating so much junk, stop negative self-talk, stop isolating myself, etc? Because I don’t love myself as much as I love my kids. They’re easy to love. I see them and feel love. I see myself and well, honestly, often feel disappointed and annoyed. I also feel like I’m in control of them, like it is my job and I take it seriously. Somehow, the responsibility has never transferred to self-care. Why don’t I take the job to care for myself seriously?

I’m hoping this is something else I can learn with practice. I know it also has to do with habits, but for me, I think it is much more about  loving myself. Deep down I think I don’t deserve to feel good. It is actually scary to me, to view myself as strong, healthy, thinner, and confident. What the heck is that about? Have I gotten so comfortable in the victim role? Or am I unsure I can succeed at being healthy, so it easier not to try? Or is it simply that I don’t care enough about myself to give me a chance. Hmmm. I need to take care of myself as well as I take care of my kids. I need to love myself too. Can I do it? I don’t know, but I’m sure going to try.

I realized all of this, because I had a great day yesterday. Really Super! Productive, cheerful, not too anxious, not so distracted. I realized that I had gone to sleep at 11pm rather than my usual 2am. And I actually slept. So then I made a good choice for eating protein at breakfast, being awake enough to remember this rule. If this sleeping thing keeps up, and the eating better keeps up, I may actually feel like exercising. I just may be unstoppable. Look out World! Here comes a healthy me!

We actually threaten a spanking if our children are out of bed at 9pm to discourage the multiple trips for drinks and potty that little ones will do to delay bedtime if permitted. (Before you get upset, to us, a spanking means they giggle while we chase them, and we deliver one not-painful swat on a clothed bum when we catch them before we put them back in bed) How do I put the same threat on myself? Well, I suppose I could ask Hubby to spank me if I stay up too late, to chase me while I giggle, and that would most likely lead to us going to bed, but probably would not directly lead to sleeping then.   ;-0