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. 🙂

A new start?

I’m sitting at my desk, in my new study, relishing some time to catch up on the blogosphere. I moved house, with Mum, just over ten days ago. While physically it’s still chaos (we are drowning in a sea of boxes, from her house and mine!), I am enjoying having made the move. I now have a bedroom AND a study to call my very own. Somewhere I can escape and have some ‘me time’ – and (with a bit of luck) blog time 🙂 I’ve been putting quite a bit of effort into setting up my study – I’ve painted the walls, put up a whole wall of bookcases, and ordered my new ‘reading on a Sunday afternoon’ armchair. It’s my retreat; my escape from the world – and from Mum and her foul comments when needed. I can see a little bit of the garden – the hydrangeas are battling winter, but the tulip tree is flowering beautifully, and today the sky is bright blue – a reminder that winter can sometimes be beautiful. 🙂

Life has been completely hectic for the last couple of months, but mostly I’ve coped well. The PNT is helping me get back in touch with myself; helping me become more mindful (not always successfully), and helping me learn some better ‘self-care’. Say what? I hear you utter. Crazy, I know…

I also consulted a natural therapist last week – she reminded me of a lot of the good things I’d somehow forgotten. The importance of nutrition, the importance of whole food, the evils of gluten… things I’d somehow let get lost in the hurly burly of caring for Mum. Actually, if I’m honest, much of this got lost before Mum got sick. Somehow, in looking after my mental health, I’ve almost completely forgotten about my physical health! I’ve been eating much better since seeing the natural therapist – I can’t tell you how good that feels! Not that my diet was overly bad beforehand, but I’d got trapped into eating food that Mum likes to eat and which I don’t like. Or do like but aren’t at all good for me. It feels so good to be eating ‘me’ food again. And by that I mean it feels good physically, not just emotionally; in fact not even emotionally really, as I’m not even gloating in some faux feeling of virtuosity. It just feels good physically to put good food in my stomach. Nurturing and grounding in a whole other way. 🙂

I have plans to get back to yoga, and may be start meditation, but for now they are stuck in the procrastinating box. I’m not sure why, they just are. I’m trying not to beat myself up about that. It will come; when I’m ready it will come.

I’m a little puzzled at how much of myself I’d forgotten, or left behind, during the last couple of years of therapy. More fodder for the PNT, I suspect. I’ve been reminded over the last couple of weeks that when you do things that align with your ‘inner self’, it feels good. Not just good or even great, but life-giving and energising as well. (Though clearly I’m still struggling a bit with ‘feeling words’ LOL)

Manning up

I started to write this post about how I’d stepped up (or “manned up”) this week in coming clean with my therapist. And then I realised that I’d actually “manned up” in a few situations, so thought I’d give myself a big bloggy pat on the back. 🙂

  1. I finally came clean with my therapist. Funny, I had avoided this in the session after my post, and by the time the next session (or the one after) rolled around, I felt much more able to tackle it. So much so that I barely squirmed or cried or anything – just had a “normal” (at least “semi-normal”) discussion with her about it. I’ve waxed lyrical on the benefits of talking to one’s therapist so many times in the blogosphere. Seems that sometimes there’s benefit in waiting, and not blurting.
  2. I reported a guy at work for giving me a work nerd stick that contained p0rn0graphic material. It was gross and freaked me out … It came on the back of the bad trigger at work, so possibly I was more sensitive than I ordinarily would have been, but seriously people, pornography at work? Just. Not. Appropriate… EVER.
  3. I’ve been feeling lazy and lardy and awful lately. For months actually. And then my BFF online pointed out that I used to go to the gym regularly, and it seemed to help with all the body tension. She’s right. What she said triggered a massive “a-ha!” moment in my brain, so I went to check out a new gym after work yesterday. Spur of the moment appointment to check out the gym, and a spur of the moment decision to sign up. I felt really motivated while I was there, so I went again this morning. It really brought my focus back to my body, and made me aware of all the places I’m carrying a ridiculous amount of tension. Of course it also made me aware of how much condition I’ve lost, but I’m hoping this will ease as I get back into a fitness regime, and (hopefully) gain some of my fitness back. Thanks BFF! 🙂

I also bombed my therapist today (as in ‘last minute bomb’ or LMB – kinda love it when we get to throw them occasionally) – “Why do you always ask the hard questions at the very end?” she asked. Ha ha! I asked her about my intense fear of abandonment and can she talk to me more in “intellectual terms” about it. I’m desperate to understand it, though I do fear it’s a bit like therapy in this regard – that if I stop intellectualising and just go with it, I’ll start to get better. Of course, I’m not sure what the “it” is in this situation. I guess that will be top of the agenda for next week…

Once living in fear

It seems like ages since I was able to blog regularly. I feel bad about that, though I know I shouldn’t. Like has gone into crazy mode, and mostly I’m going day to day dealing with things. On one hand it feels like I’m completely unstable; on the other, I know I’m not, and I’m actually coping well with what are incredibly difficult life events, if almost crippled with exhaustion. I know I’m also continuing to heal, as I was reminded last night.

Just as I crawled into bed, shortly after midnight, I heard my door bell ring. Of course, being so late, I panicked. Heart thumping, palm sweating, brain frying panic. I lay in bed, totally frozen. I was scared almost to death about who was at the door, and the bad things they had come to do. I watched the clock tick over* and waited, everything on high alert, convinced someone would break in. I literally couldn’t move.

At some stage I must have fallen asleep, because when I woke up this morning, well, I actually woke and no evil had taken me in the night. Of course, the first thing I did was check the front door – no one there, no one sleeping on my porch, nothing. Strange.

And then I remembered how many nights I’ve felt that panic before. How often, over the years, I slept with knives under my pillow, or scissors under the blankets. How often I sat under the window or by the front door, waiting for the bad men to come.

They never did.

And so, while I panicked (who wouldn’t panic that when their doorbell rings so late?), I also remembered that I’ve come a long way. It’s been a loooong time since I slept with knives or stayed awake all night to make sure nothing bad happened.

And that, my friends, as they say, is progress. 🙂

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* It’s a digital clock. It doesn’t tick. But what do we say now about digital clocks? Do they flip? Swoosh? What is it we say now that analogue barely exists? What will little kids say in years to come?  

Taking care

We got news yesterday that my mother’s cancer is more advanced than originally thought. It’s not good news, and it’s thrown both Mum and I a little bit. Actually it’s been a week of bad news on one front or another. I’m blaming some weird planetary activity. 😉

On top of the cancer and the myriad appointments I’ve attended with Mum, I’ve had my own health issues to deal with, as well as work, and putting my father in a nursing home, and a job interview (that’s another story) and and and …

Understandably, this has all taken its toll and I’ve been feeling overwhelmed.

I finally made the decision today that something has to give. I chose work. I’m taking a few days off to deal with things. I’m also withdrawing from the job I interviewed for. I’m just not in the space to take on anything new. It’s also likely I’ll need a bit of time off for Mum, and I don’t want to muck them around.

It feels a bit weird this taking control and taking care, but I know it’s a good thing. I hope you’re all sitting down because I’m also planning to get back into my exercise routine, and get healthy foods going for Mum while she stays with me and endures her treatment. Crazy stuff, I know, but that’s what’s happening. 😉

I also had a nap this afternoon, something I do sometimes. I was at a friend’s place and looked at her bed, and realised I just wanted to crawl into it and fall asleep. So I did (in my own bed). Almost unbelievably I slept for three hours. They say stress does funny things, and sleep is a way for the mind and body to regenerate. I’ll be heading back to bed again very soon.

Needless to say the Wonder Therapist was impressed at my care taking. It’s quite nice, really. I think I might even like it. 😉

Updates, bravery and naughtiness

I’m home. My trip was amazing, but I’m glad to be home. I’ll admit that I didn’t want to come home; didn’t want to come back to my life, but now that I’m here, I’m glad. It’s nice to be around trees and gardens again and nice to have rain, having spent time in rainless countries. It’s especially nice to be able to eat and drink without thinking too much about hygiene or nasty diseases. 😉

The other reason I’m glad to be home is that I’m not around my mother any more. I’ve spent three weeks with her and it’s just about done me in. Enough to bring back the darkness and thoughts of doing myself in. (To all you Captain Obviouses out there, yes that was probably predictable and thanks, I’ll know that in future.)

A contributing factor to the darkness is that I reduced my meds a few weeks ago, just before I went away. Yea, I know, not smart. I know that now. I was feeling good and taking two pills a day was annoying me so I thought I’d reduce the dose. Silly me. Actually “naughty” me, as the Wonder Therapist said, with a smirk on her face – “you naughty, naughty girl.” (She’s a member of the Captain Obvious club, too.)

I could spend this post on tales of woe about my mother’s behaviour, or how ordinary I feel, but I won’t. I’m feeling down enough as it is. Instead I thought I’d share a few marks of progress I experienced while away. I even surprised myself!

  • Almost no pre-flight anxiety on the day of my departure, not even at the airport or on the plane. Once on board, a couple of drinks and some magic pills and I slept nearly the whole way
  • I rode a camel AND on the spur of the moment, without “preparation” (whatever that might have entailed)
  • I rode a donkey, also on the spur of the moment, and even if I was scared to death the whole time it was prancing up the side of a cliff knocking pedestrians out of its way, I still did it
  • I talked to strangers (tourists and locals) interestedly and comfortably, without being embarrassed
  • I went out looking for supermarkets in strange towns – WITHOUT A MAP! and without consulting the hotel concierge about where to go or what I might find
  • I took taxis in countries where I don’t speak (or read) the language, without having a panic attack about where I might end up or what might happen
  • I realised that my body is just my body, it’s not disgusting as I once thought, it’s just as “normal” as everyone else’s. Ok, I still don’t like it, but I don’t feel as disgusting about it as I once did
  • I ate foreign food, without getting paranoid about what it might do to me
  • I generally got through the days rolling with whatever happened, not worrying about what might happen next or getting paranoid that something bad would happen.
  • And even when I was anxious, I was generally able to talk myself through it, without descending into a total panic-merchant

Even though my fortitude didn’t last the whole trip, I did well with these things. So a double smiley face to me 🙂 🙂

The Great Leap Forward

I am a political junkie. Or at least I used to be. But that’s not what this is about.

Not-so-Nice Guy came back on the scene a few weeks ago. He contacted me to say he was sorry for being such a “b*st*rd” (to use his word). Yes, he was.

Don’t get excited: he still is (and I can think of a few other expletives to add to his list, too).

This time around NSNG didn’t wait too long before pressuring me to do some Things I was entirely uncomfortable with. We discussed these Things. At length. Repeatedly. Ad nauseum. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. (The Things he wanted were s*xual, sordid and deviantly s*xual, but I’m not going into the details because I don’t want to trigger anyone – let alone me.)

I even said to him that it was the Things, or me. I didn’t say that to blackmail him, but because I realised this was a deal breaker for me. All I got from him in recent times was trigger after trigger after trigger. Looking back, I should have seen the signs earlier.

He knew a little of my past in this area, but still wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Then he accused me of trying to “control” him because I wouldn’t do the Things (and because I wanted him to make a time to catch up this week, before I go away for three weeks).

Finally I said to him:

“Well, if standing up for myself makes me ‘controlling’, then GO ME, I say!”

It’s only taken me a few decades, but I finally managed to stand up for myself. Can I just say that it feels GREAT! Better than great… just, well, GREAT! 🙂 I’m soooo proud of myself, and the Wonder Therapist is delighted, too. 🙂

I’m still upset about tossing him to the kerb, mostly because it’s bringing up all sorts of old messages about me being useless, a failure, blah blah blah. But rationally I know this is for the best. I know (and almost believe) that I deserve better.

I deserve someone who thinks I’m amazing… like this schmaltzy clip … I have no idea where to find it, but I’m starting to believe that I deserve it. 🙂

So that, my friends, is The Great Leap Forward of 2010. 🙂