PTSD

Here I go again…I’m doing it different this time

Commit
Start Gung Ho
Fabulous success
Overdo it
Injury
Lose momentum
Forget your “why”
Stop moving
Start binge eating
Striking regress
Health issue rises…
Rinse and repeat

Anyone familiar with this cycle for weight loss/improving health style?

Yes?

I thought so.

Back on September 12th I was diagnosed with Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome…like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, just in the ankle. I’d been dealing with pretty excruciating nerve pain in my foot.

So, I joined Weight Watchers, committed to 90 meetings in 90 days (today is Day 55, meeting 57), changed my eating, and started walking.

I’m not exactly sure when I started walking, but, I haven’t missed a day since then. I worked my way up from just under a mile at a time to over two miles at a time.

Throughout that time, the nerve pain never went away, but it diminished and walking got much easier…until day before yesterday. I logged a cumulative six miles in one day. I pushed again yesterday and logged 2.6 miles.

The pain came back with a vengeance…and I’m feeling frustrated by my self-sabotage and discouraged by my continued overeating.

In the past, this would have been the point at which I gave up. Not this time.

Why? What’s different now?

Community.

This time I have the WW community. Yesterday, I walked in the door of the studio and I was greeted by name by one of the “Wellness Guides” (formerly, receptionist). One of the Guides is also a coach in other workshops (meetings) I’ve attended. She always asks what number I’m on and tells me what an inspiration I am. She “brags” to other members about what I’m doing as a way to motivate and encourage them. The Coach for that meeting is very focused on the members giving ourselves credit and props for showing up and engaging.

There’s also the online community who has been following along on Instagram and FB, where I share more of the day to day details of this journey I’m on. Plus, my fellow bloggers who are also encouraging me.

There’s my faith community where we go broader and deeper into all our lives and journeys. Several of them are also following my journey on FB & IG.

These three communities are encouraging and supporting me. I’m holding myself accountable to them. And, if I’m being honest, the praise and approval is motivating me, as well. Is that shallow and less “evolved” than one should be at 49? Probably. But, it is what it is…another thing for me and my therapist to discuss.

Another thing that’s different is that I’m one of my “whys.” I finally feel like I deserve to take the time I need and give myself the attention and consideration I should to make taking care of me one of my priorities.

Walking is part of my daily self-care routine. It helps my mental health. However, I don’t have to walk six miles in a day. I need activity every day, but one mile, approximately 20 minutes is sufficient. When I walk, I need to walk enough to raise my heart rate but, I don’t have to push myself like I’m in a race. I need to reframe why I’m walking. It’s helping me lose weight, but, it’s purpose is to improve and maintain mental and physical health through daily activity.

I need to remember that the ultimate goal isn’t the weight loss. It’s mental and physical health and wellness so I can sustain and maintain consistent functionality in taking care of my responsibilities, my relationships, and become self-sufficient.

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C’mon Get Happy

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This week’s WW topic is “Happiness.”

Today was the first of seven of these workshops I’ll be attending this week on my “90 meetings in 90 Days” journey. (I owe you a post to explain that. Tomorrow. Maybe.) Today’s discussion was interesting. I’m looking forward to see how it gets addressed in the other workshops.

The weekly handout suggested that being happy makes the healthy activities we do in our lives more possible and increases the experience of those things. It also acknowledged that partaking of those activities increases happiness.

The workshop’s Coach listed a formula that determines one’s happiness level:

50% Genetics
+10% Life Circumstances
+40% Attitude, Thoughts, & Actions

My immediate reaction was to scoff at the Life Circumstances percentage. I mean, although it hasn’t been as painful and difficult as other people’s, it’s been generously peppered with a lot of trauma. Consequently, I have PTSD. Plus, I experience Depression, Bipolar 2 Disorder, fibromyalgia, and am parenting a child with regularly tells me things like she wishes I would kill myself or that I had been born dead.

Yeah. Happiness is HARD. That’s a LOT of genetics and life circumstances.

I spend a lot of time fighting tears, dealing with bureaucracy, and managing conflict. I’m skeptical that Happiness is a state of being that’s more than occasionally possible for me.

I think Acceptance and Contentedness are much more doable. I think there can be moments of happiness. I think we have to be emotionally and mentally healthy and functional to be able to experience even those moments of happiness. I simply don’t believe that Happiness is achievable as a permanent state.

All that being said, I have my own formula:

Psych meds
+Therapy
+A supportive community
+Activity
+Self-Care
+Choosing to be in positive environments


The ability to experience happiness.

What say you?

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Sleep…or lack thereof

Back in September, immediately prior to the rebranding, I joined Weight Watchers (more about that later. Or you can head over to IG @humaninrecovery and see what’s been happening.)

Every week is a new topic of discussion about mindset, behavior changes, and achieving goals. I call it DBT Lite. This week’s topic is sleep.

Sleep doesn’t love me as much as I love it. It seems as if it never has…at least not since adolescence. I mean, I’m writing this at 2:45 A.M. because sleep abandoned me.

Correction: my lovely, not so little, daughter chased it away and it’s eluded me ever since, four+ hours now. Now, she’s sound asleep and I’m wide awake. *sigh*

Supposedly, not having my phone in the bedroom with me would help with getting back to sleep. I’ve tried. Can’t do it. It’s my alarm. It’s my fidget. It’s where I do the brain dump. It’s how I run my brain down until sleep is possible again.

I have horrible sleep hygiene…always have. My room is a cluttered mess. My bedroom & bed are multipurpose locations. My bed is shared with a growing, nearly 10 year old child with sensory issues and needs. So, she’s either burrowing into me, flailing arms in my face, and/or hogging the covers. Occasionally, she snores and breathes through her mouth…Her dad sent me an article yesterday which suggested an exam with an ENT could turn up some medical condition causing sleep disruption which can present like ADHD. More on that later.

In addition to clinging to me like a baby gorilla, she insists on listening to “girl music” when she’s ready to go to sleep. Read: female pop artists. She goes to sleep fairly easy once the music is going. Not me. For someone who has words constantly flowing through her brain, pop music is especially unhelpful when trying to go to sleep. Any music with words is, including what she calls “God music,” my CCM Pandora channel, heavily salted with music by MercyMe.

Then there’s temperature.

I can’t sleep if it’s warm…she freezes and turns into a heat seeking baby gorilla. I like it cool enough to want my feet under the comforter…yeah, I know, weird. The problem with that is the baby gorilla blanket thief.

Let’s see, what else?

Oh, yeah. My body & brain. I’m a premenopausal spoonie with Bipolar 2 Disorder & PTSD. If the nighttime neuropathy doesn’t get me or the busy brain, the night sweats and apparently shrinking bladder will.

And, so, I guess it isn’t that sleep doesn’t love me. It just doesn’t feel welcomed or wanted. *sigh*

The kicker is that I don’t even drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages to get and stay functional. Apparently, I’m a deceptively alive and youthful looking zombie vampire.

Yes. I’m 49.

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April 2018: A mindful month

Happy Easter for those who celebrate it…Happy April Fool’s Day to the rest.

Last week, I met with the therapist I’ve seen for the past two years for the last time. No, it wasn’t a milestone for my healing and recovery from PTSD & Depression or a sign I’ve got this Bipolar thing under control. I wish. She’s moving away. 😔

The good news is she helped me get back in with my original therapist – I’d transitioned when she had to take a leave of absence. Since I saw her the two years prior to moving over to my other therapist, it’s really good to go back to her. I don’t have to start over with a brand new person. YAY! 😃

Unfortunately, I can’t get in to see her until April 20th.

Considering all the life issues I’m dealing with, in addition to the mental health issues, this isn’t a good thing.

One positive thing is that I got the parent-child therapy started for me and my youngest – she’s on the high end of the Autism Spectrum and was recently identified with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). We get to see that therapist weekly. We’re going to work on attachment issues and the signs of depression the therapist saw in my daughter during our initial visit.

Now, I have 2/3 of the month of April without access to a therapist of my own. Considering I just came out of a two and a half month period of mania because I mismanaged my meds, I need something to keep me grounded and my newly stabilized sanity intact.

My therapist and I recognize that avoidance is a MAJOR issue of mine. Specifically avoidance of facing and processing emotions triggered by and/or triggering to the past trauma.

My primary tool of avoidance is self distraction and self-harm with food.

During the first two months of the manic episode the distraction was sex and risk-taking. The past two weeks, it’s been food and obsessive focus on a certain guy.

I’ve gotten my meds under control again…mostly. So, sanity is returning as I stabilize.

Typically, after a manic or hypomanic episode I’ll experience a short period of stability on my way down into a depressive episode. I can already hear that particular demon knocking on the door.

My therapist suggested mindfulness as a way to stay present to my emotions…allow all the big, scary, overwhelming feels to flow through me. To acknowledge them, without judging them. I need to give myself permission to experience my feeling and to stop running from them.

So, this month, I’m going to be accountable here to actually putting mindfulness into action. Anyone reading is invited to participate in the accountability…just be gentle, please.

In tonight’s mindful moment, I notice tension in my body, my breathing feels shallow, but isn’t, and I am experiencing achiness and pain in my legs and feet. As I lie (lay? – I always confuse those two) here I notice my thoughts wandering all over the place: frustration, exhaustion, thinking about the guy.

Anyway, it seems motherhood is calling and disrupting this moment of mindfulness.

I’ll check in tomorrow.

Ten Day Check-in

Yesterday I decided I would take pics every ten days to document my journey. It’s not really evident in the pictures yet, but changes are happening. I can feel them. Others are seeing them.

My stomach is slightly less round…a smaller “apple” than it was. 😉 My clothes are a little looser. As a matter of fact I pulled down a pair of jeans I got about ten years ago, before I got pregnant with my third, youngest, and LAST child. I was between 225-240. I can’t remember exactly. What I do know is that I squeezed into them and got them buttoned while standing upright.

WINNING!

More importantly, I’ve exercised 8/10 of the days a minimum of 30 minutes. I kind of overdid it the first few days – my intensity was good, but the amount of time each session was a bit much.

During my walk on Sunday, I had a burst of pain in the front of my right hip. Turns out I now have bursitis in that hip. I’ve shortened the time per session to 30 minutes and taken it to the water.

The doctor I saw (who appeared younger than my 31 year old son) was very encouraging and gung ho about me exercising. He said exercising in the water was good and referred me to physical therapy. My first appointment is the 30th.

The biggest challenge, for me, is the fibro-fatigue. I’m really tired, not I worked hard and pushed my limits tired, but, my get up and go, got up and went. Some of that is parenting stress.

My nine year old experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum. I also suspect she’s got some preadolescent hormone changes happening. She struggles with emotional self-regulation and is easily frustrated and angered. She’s been having increasingly violent responses and I’ve borne the brunt of it.

I’m also tired from lack of sleep. Some of which is also attributable to the issues between me and my daughter. However, I’ve had poor sleep my entire adult life. It’s a trauma thing, apparently.

So, I’m tired and pretty much the exercise and, maybe, the dishes, are the only things I’m accomplishing on a regular basis.

I’m trusting this will not last and that my energy levels will improve by the end of the month.

Overall, it’s been a great start to 2018.<<<<<<<<
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In the beginning: Accepting what is

Accepting good enough is way better than living bitter. ~ Human In Recovery

As I have gotten older, I’ve become more worn, more jaded, more resigned, and more fatalistic. It’s really not fun living inside this brain, most of the time.

I’ve battled various forms and levels of depression since adolescence. Four years ago, I finally got the accurate diagnoses of Bipolar Disorder and PTSD. Depression isn’t and never has been a choice and the negative mindset is a symptom, not a cause.

That being said, being successful in regaining my physical health requires that I do everything in my power to combat the depression and the default mindset.

I’m coming to understand that the beginning of doing that is acceptance. I have to accept that what is, is. I have to let go of the fatalism which is rooted in my past failures. I have to accept that I am where I’m at. I have to let go of the self-flagellation of self-recrimination because of all the things I did which led to this state of poor health I’m in.

I have to accept where I’m at in the here and now. I have to let go of the judgment which is tied to having my identity wrapped up in all that is “wrong with me.”

My body is fat. I am not my body. It is one aspect of my being, but, it is not the definition of me.

My brain has been affected and altered by trauma. It contains the neurochemistry and has the structure which is the foundation of Bipolar Disorder. I am not my brain. I am not defined by it’s structure, it’s neurochemistry, or how it has been affected by past trauma. Again, it is part of me, but, it is not who I am.

I have defined myself by these things for far too long. Consequently, I have criticized and judged myself harshly. The reality is that the behaviors rooted in the Bipolar Disorder and the PTSD created the condition my physical body is in. Despite conventional wisdom, for the most part, those behaviors were not choices that I made…especially prior to diagnosis and treatment.

Now, it is time to accept that who I am is good enough. Because who I am is a loving, caring, intuitive, empathic human being, created and loved by the King of the Universe. I am a mother. I am a grandmother. I am a friend. I am a writer. I am a thinker.

I make mistakes, but I am not a mistake.

I am me.

I am good enough.

The rising tide of panic inside me

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything here. So long since I’ve really felt able to write anything of any import with any level of coherence. However, tonight, my friend, Rara, challenged me, us, to “do the thing.” So, here I am, doing the thing . . . or trying to anyway.

When I started writing Human In Recovery, nearly five years ago, I was a total, shut-down, big ball of numbed out fear and self-loathing. Since then, I’ve worked hard and come a very long way. I’ve grown up, a lot. I’ve lost and left relationships that I thought I had to be in and thought I couldn’t quit. I’ve fought to rebuild, restore, and reconcile others where I was the one left and lost. I’m a better person. Even though I know I’m stronger than ever before, in some ways, and have traveled farther than I ever thought I could, the tangible evidence doesn’t exist. It’s all thought, feeling, air, and mist. Tonight, I feel as weak and tired and broken and loathsome as I did then. I feel myself becoming that ball of numbed out fear again.

Healing and recovery from a lifetime of trauma and abuse is a very tricky thing. When I didn’t know what was wrong with me, exactly, and just knew that something WAS wrong, I felt out of control, overwhelmed, and lost . . . hopeless, even. I started researching and paying attention to myself and my reactions and realized it was possible that I was on the bipolar spectrum. It never really occurred to me in any serious kind of way that I was also experiencing PTSD. So, I had all these ideas and thoughts about what might be happening with me, but, without insurance and not being able to work for a number of reasons, I didn’t really know what to do with what I thought might be wrong with me.

Then, just before the ACA, aka “Obamacare,” went into effect, my life crashed like a six car pile up at a four way stop. I suddenly had to choose to change my life and who I was or I was going to disappear, fade away, and abandon my child who needed me, in ways I’d abandoned her older siblings and had been abandoned myself. That was nearly three years ago. I’ve gone through a lot in these past three years, much of it is listed in prior posts, so I won’t rehash it here. I’ve survived a lot and I’ve learned a lot. I started regaining hope and letting go of the internal fear I didn’t dare let myself be aware of.

Space opened up in my life where it’s been becoming safe to start looking at working through and processing the trauma from my past. But, then, and now, Trump.

When you were a lost, confused, throwaway, afterthought of a teenage girl in your f****d up family of origin; when you’d survived being seduced and molested as an 8-10 year old girl by your step-father only to have your mother not be able to fight for you enough to hold onto you through your wounded, angry, and confused pre-pubescent tantrums, that she signs you over to her brother, goes back to where you came from, and kills herself; when you lost hope for your future after cleaning up the mess left by the adults responsible for you; when you run away at 16 with a 30 year old man who convinces you that he sees you, loves you, respects you; when you spend three years hitchhiking, living out of cars, manipulating people for your survival and his money, while you’re pregnant and parenting his child; when you are a woman who has lived through all of these things, Donald Trump is a major trigger.

Let me count the ways:

  1. I’m a woman
  2. I’m half-Mexican
  3. I’m a single-mom
  4. I’m obese
  5. I have chronic physical illnesses
  6. I have chronic mental health diagnoses
  7. I have a child with a developmental disorder
  8. I have half-Mexican grandchildren
  9. I can’t hold down a job because of my anxiety issues
  10. I don’t have the capacity to become work ready because I’m fighting to parent my special needs child
  11. I’m dependent on public housing
  12. I’m dependent on SNAP benefits, aka “food stamps”
  13. I’m dependent on “Obamacare”

Therefore, in Donald Trump’s purported worldview, I’m a fat, lazy, crazy, free-loading, useless piece of brown trash, who has created more of the same and can’t be trusted to do anything of any import because of my genetic heritage.

Oh, and it was perfectly acceptable that I was sexually used and manipulated as a teen, because I’d been sexually initiated as a child, and, since I’m female, I’m only good for what I can take and put out between my legs . . . and since I’m closer to 50 than I am 40, and the give and take are distant memories, what use am I to anyone anyway?

Of course I don’t think or feel these things and these ways about myself, right? Well, uhm, actually, I really kind of do. I mean, that’s kind of what PTSD looks like for me, right now.

I’ve spent the last two and a half years, working hard on relationship building and trusting some people in my son’s adoptive and extended family, some of who are also extended family members of mine, all of who are part of his faith community. I’ve spent the same time, opening myself up to and building relationships with people in the faith community I call home. Essentially, for the past two and a half years, I’ve attended worship and teaching services with two different church communities, at two different times on Saturdays.

Just when I was starting to be able to relax, breathe, and trust myself to be safe around these people, the men, in these spaces, I start finding out which of them supported and voted for Trump, the same as my ex. I’m wracked with shock and disbelief, and the cacophony of the internal dissonance is disorienting and deafening. I feel myself freezing up inside when I see their names on Facebook. My chest grows tighter and my breathing more rapid at the thought of seeing them face to face this weekend.

Except, I’m going to go watch my grandbabies this weekend. Now, I can breathe a little.