Being in your body

The PNT wants me to get back in my body. Some days I’m not even sure I understand what she means. Truth be told, I’ve lived an almost entirely ‘cerebral existence’ as another blogger called it* for just about as long as I can remember.

I think I looked like a deer in the headlights the day she first asked me how it felt to feel sad.

PNT: “Tell me, how does it feel when you feel sad?”

Me: “What do you mean?”

PNT: “You know, how does it feel? In your body?”

Me: *speechless*

She’s been getting me to try a mindfulness technique called “body scanning”. Occasionally I can do it, but most times I run out of energy around my ankles… or even earlier, like my feet, because I can’t get a good ‘reading’ on them. I don’t know how they should feel; let alone how they do feel. And this despite several years of yoga practice *eye rolling* (although admittedly I haven’t done any real yoga since before this blog was born; since things fell apart; or even before… which is possibly another reason they fell apart in the first place, but I’m sure that’s another topic for another day).

This has all come to the fore in recent weeks because I’ve been suffering an unknown abdominal complaint that has kept me away from work, and from life. So far I’ve had numerous tests, and the usual gynecological and gastrointestinal suspects investigated and have come up with nothing. Nothing. That’s n-o-t-h-i-n-g. Except for a bowel disease that I’ll need to pay some attention to at some point, but that apparently isn’t related to my current pain.

So I’m left feeling like I must be making it all up; like it was all in my head to begin with. Not a good feeling, I can tell you. It triggers all that old stuff about being hopeless and a failure and a malingerer who will never be good at anything and … you get the drift. Now, here’s where I get confused, because the PNT says pain is real. REAL, she says. It’s our bodies telling us something isn’t right. So, umm, there’s pain, and my body saying something’s wrong but medical tests saying there’s nothing wrong with me.

Say what? You’re confused? Yea, me too. :S

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In other news I’ve been reading far more than I’ve been writing lately. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but if you want to see what I’m reading, you can follow me on Twitter here, or a round-up of my tweets/twusings (?) on Kerro’s Kronicles here.

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* Sorry, I can’t remember who you are, but I remember thinking it was a great phrase, and a great blog post.

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Stress Sensitivity and PTSD

Hi peeps, it’s a rare and special time when I get to blog these days, though I think of it (and you) often. Things are going quite well over here. Life continues to be almost completely mad, but somehow I’m mostly holding it together. I’m continuing to juggle the WT and the PNT, and I’m learning heaps, especially from the PNT who’s approach is completely different.

One thing I’ve noticed, particularly in the last week, is that my stress tolerance is much lower than it used to be. Apparently stress sensitivity is relatively common among those of us with PTSD. That’s kind of a no brainer, but isn’t something I’d really thought about or consciously (mindfully) experienced before.

My workload and the never ending pressure at work has been increasing exponentially over the last few weeks. Last week it hit the point where I couldn’t even tackle anything. I was completely paralysed. My to do list is so long all I could do was just stare at it. I’m not sure what caused this. I guess it was fear. Of what, exactly, I’m not sure. Not getting things done? Not getting them done on time? Getting into trouble? Oh, and then there was the presentation I had to give at a client training day last Friday. Ugh. Have I mentioned I have a pathological fear of public speaking? Well, I have a pathological fear of public speaking. 😉

Seriously, that alone was enough to tip my stress from ‘just about managing’ to completely paralysed… and, along came all my old “friends” – my PTSD symptoms. I was a triggery mess, flash backing all over the place, having nightmares and dissociating like crazy. 😦 I haven’t been like that for a while, so it was a bit of a shock to the system, yet strangely familiar.

It made me realise a couple of things I thought might be important (the PNT said they’re really important). One: my baseline isn’t as highly strung as it used to be. I used to be stressed like that all the time. And I mean: All. The. Time. I didn’t even know I was like that, but I was. I was a jittery, heart pounding crazy woman; literally running on cortisol and quickly spiralling out of control. Apparently I’m more relaxed now than I used to be. 🙂

The second thing I realised was that not only am I not like that anymore, but I also don’t want to be like that any more. I much prefer it when I’m NOT feeling so stressed. Who would have thought? 🙂

So what do I do with this information? I’m not sure. It’s obviously important. In a few ways, actually. First, it’s important that I’ve realised these things. And (possibly more) important that I even noticed them. Probably shows I’m not as out of it as I used to be a degree of mindfulness. Or something. Second, it seems important in a ‘how I want to live my life’ kinda way, although it’s really all too new for me to understand what that means, or what that looks like in practice, and how I keep it that way. Definite progress on both fronts, I’d say. 🙂

When you’re not looking for it

There’s a saying or something about finding things when you’re not looking for them. Like the car keys. Or things you put away in that “special” hiding spot so you’ll remember where they are, but can’t never remember it. I had a day like that today.

I went to the beach this afternoon, despite the cold wind and the threat of yet MORE rain. Instead of walking, I sat in a corner near some rocks (to shelter from the wind) and just watched the world go by. As I sat there, I started to feel some of that characteristic special rejuvenation settle over me. I can’t tell you how good that felt! 🙂

After a while I realised that what I find here may not be some magic peace or healing afterall, but mindfulness. (Ok, I still think there’s some magic in the place, too 😉 ) I’m able to stop long enough to see the world around me. Today, for example, I saw the teeny weeny crab dancing up the sand to his home. And the six inches of blue sky trying to peek out from behind the clouds. I love it when I can slow things down enough for this. Especially with (or perhaps because of) beautiful mother nature! 🙂   

I also realised why my blog has been annoying me a bit of late. Not so much the blog itself, but my use of it. The way I get great ideas for posts that once would have been well thought out and well written, but now are dashed off in ten minutes flat because it’s all I can seem to find the time for. Or all I allow myself the time for. It’s not enough. I want to get back to a more mindful blogging, and more regularly. It’s much more meaningful to me, and more helpful. The trick, of course, will be to make that happen when I get home!

Fingers crossed for some more mindful rejuvenation tomorrow! 😉

So, how does that make you feeeeeeel?

Haven’t we all dreaded hearing this from our therapists? And haven’t we all heard this at least once? She’s on to me, my PNT (less P these days than she is NT or T#2).

I was mildly hysterical when I saw her yesterday (over a triggering issue I’m not going into, sorry). She asked me to think about/take note of how I feel (physically, emotionally) when I’m having a “good” day, and how I feel when I’m not. She’s doing a lot of work with me on my emotions (ugh.) and on being “in my body” (double ugh. Though good for me, I know that.) So, here goes.

On a “good” day…

  • On a good day I’m fully conscious. Mindful of things around me.
  • I’m aware of my emotions. I can see, name and even feel their impact on me. I can even feel some of them come (and go).
  • I can do that “self-talk” thing – you know, keeping myself upbeat, talking myself around any irrational thoughts that might come my way.
  • I can see my progress over the last three years in therapy.

I know that’s a teeny weeny list for the “good” days. There haven’t been many of those lately, so I’ll keep this as a work in progress.

On a not-good day…

  • I’m emotional. Tears spring forth at the drop of a hat. Sometimes I get really pissy, able to tear apart tall building with a single rrrrrip. Or tear someone a new orifice, if you use that expression where you live.
  • I get a great lump in my throat before the tears leak out. Apparently this is common, but not everyone get’s this, which I didn’t realize.
  • Sometimes I hold my breath… or, rather, I find it physically difficult to breathe out. I think because of the lump in my throat, but I’m not really sure.
  • Often I bite the inside of my cheek to try to stop the tears, which generally hurts, but not as much as the tears themselves (which is kind of the whole point). Sometimes my cheek bleeds, but I’m not usually aware of that until afterwards.
  • I get tense around my neck and the tops of my shoulders. My jaw is often clenched, too.
  • I want to lie in the foetal position on the floor, or crawl under the doona and stay there all day. Alone.
  • That’s another thing – I don’t want to be around other people, and sometimes I struggle to get out of the house and do the things I need to do (like go to work).
  • I can’t bear noise. It feels like a physical assault. When I was little I used to vomit whenever there was unexpected loud noise. (I’m sure my mother was delighted by this – NOT!)
  • Sometimes I think about hurting myself – putting my hand through the window, cutting myself, or stabbing my leg with the screwdriver. (Yea, not pretty, I know.)
  • Afterwards, I’m completely and utterly shattered. Exhausted. My head hurts from crying (or from dehydration, or both). I get a tension headache around the top of my head, too. My neck and shoulders hurt. And the inside of my cheek generally hurts, too (not surprisingly). And if I’ve really been going for it, my eyes are puffy and feel like p*ss holes in the snow.

Wow, this has been difficult. I never realized how out of touch with my body I was (though I suspect T#2 knows!). No doubt this will be a work in progress, so stay tuned 😉