Renewed Spirit

It has been a rough week for me.  I have struggled with my anxiety and depression.  Both have won much of the time.  Today, however, the pattern seems to be broken — or at least blurred.  

It was difficult to get out of bed, but once I did things improved.  I showered and got ready to attend my granddaughter’s baby dedication.  After the church service, a large group of family and friends went out for lunch.  At the restaurant, I sat beside my granddaughter, who is always a great source of entertainment.  

After a leisurely lunch, my husband and I made a few stops to look for some bolts he needed for a truck repair he is doing.  Along the way, we stopped at a convenience store for a drink.  Now, I know this sounds as exciting as watching paint dry, but for me it was renewal.  My spirits have been so low, that simply being out with other people made me feel better.  

So I am heading into the week with this renewed spirit.  It is my intention to hold onto it as long as I possibly can.      

Lessons Learned

Last night I had a nightmare and woke up so scared that I thought my heart would pound right out of my chest.  Needless to say, I had a difficult time falling back to sleep.  When I did finally manage to nod off, it was time to get up.  Then I had one of those days where everything was a challenge.  Now I am not one to wish my life away.  But whatever lessons I was supposed to learn today, I hope I “got” them.  I am not interested in taking those tests again.

 

 

 

The Dark Side

When someone sees me and says, “You’re getting around so well!” I must confess that, although I know they are celebrating my progress, there is a part of me that gets angry.  I generally smile, and say “thanks,” but I am often thinking about the price that getting around costs me.  It is painful and exhausting.

I used to tell myself that I was selfish for feeling this way.  Then my counselor told me that part of why my anxiety has become so powerful is because I am not allowing myself to simply feel what I am feeling without judging myself, hence my decision to be more “transparent” here.

Every morning I wake up and struggle to get out of bed.  I attend physical therapy 3 days a week.  Some of those days I am in a lot of pain before I get there.  Other days, the pain is a result of the therapy.  If I feel good and my pain is minimal, more pain will come later as a result of doing too much (which might be as little as a trip to the grocery store).

As I read my writing, I realize it seems I am ungrateful for my ability to walk.  Then I feel guilty, and the cycle begins.  But my purpose for writing this is to be honest, so I have to admit that I am pissed.

I am pissed that the Color Run is this weekend, and I cannot participate.  I am pissed because I used to walk or run for an hour every morning and I cannot do that either.  I am pissed because I have a trampoline that I can’t use.  I am pissed because it hurts to walk for more than a few minutes.  I’m pissed because the people in my arthritis H20 class are 20 to 30 years older than I am and can kick my butt.  I’m pissed because I can’t ride my bicycle, much less my motorcycle.  And I’m pissed because I’m pissed.

I have always been able to see the bright side of things.  I certainly see the bright side here as well, but the dark side is impossible to ignore.  Yes, I can walk, but my hips won’t rotate correctly, so my hips, legs, and back hurt.  Yes, I can get around, but I can’t Zumba or do any of the other fun physical activities I love so much.  Yes, I survived, but there are constant reminders of the trauma and I wear many of them.

Blogging and Mental Health

I’ve tried to keep my blog posts as positive as I possibly can since my accident back in November.  Unfortunately, the denial of my own fears and anxieties has only allowed them to incubate.  So it is likely I will posting some more transparent posts, at least for the next week.  I have been tasked with recording what I am actually thinking and feeling.  While I won’t do all of that here, I will be processing those thoughts and feelings so they will likely come out in my writing.

Part of the reason I blog in the first place is because it is therapeutic.  I respect and admire other bloggers who bare their souls on the page.  I feel their brutal honesty is as helpful to others as it is for themselves.  So as I embark on my journey into the belly of the beast, I am reminded of a couple of bloggers whose writings have been helpful to me.

When I first came back to blogging, I stumbled across SchizoIncognito.com.  The tagline, “the incoherent ramblings of a mentally ill writer and blogger” is witty.  I assure you the blogger who refers to himself as “the Schizo” does anything but incoherently ramble.  He is open, honest, and gives voice to those, like himself, who struggle with mental illness.  He gives me the courage to say out loud that I am a person who struggles with anxiety and Acute Stress Disorder, and who is facing a possible Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis.

More recently, I happened upon teddylee’sblog.  Teddy talks openly about abuse and it’s effects.  He openly processes his childhood out in blogosphere, for the whole world to read.  He speaks plainly and truthfully.  I cannot help but admire his bravery.  In spite of his childhood experiences, and seemingly rough exterior, he has a sweet spirit that comes through in his writing.  He gives me hope that I can let go of past experiences that haunt me.  He also reminds me that those past experiences have helped shape who I have become… and I am okay with that (I actually like who I am now).

So this week, as I begin to record those thoughts and feelings that I would much prefer to avoid, please forgive me in advance if some of it oozes out onto my blog.  Better yet, I hope someone out there will find it beneficial, just as I have found the two blogs mentioned here to be.

If you’re going…

If you’re going through hell, keep going. ~Winston Churchill

I chose this quote earlier this week. Ironically, nobody needs it more than me on this Wisdom Wednesday. Traumatic stress can be a real rollercoaster. Today I will ride it out, knowing tomorrow will be better. I just have to keep moving forward.

Placid

Recovering from trauma is a process, with it ups and downs… three steps forward, two steps back… and can be unpredictable.

Yesterday was a pretty good day until, on my way home from a trip to the store, a bus pulled up right behind us at a red light.  I thought I had overcome all of my anxiety surrounding buses.  Evidently, I have more work to do.

After having been hit by a school bus while walking to my car in November, I worked with a cognitive behaviorist who recommended exposure therapy.  Right after my accident, the hair on my neck stood on end every time heard a school bus drive by my house.  This was particularly difficult as three buses pick up children in the morning and the same three drop off children in the afternoon.

My therapist suggested I overcome my fear of the bus by gradually getting closer to it until I could tolerate the fleeting feeling of anxiety that always came with hearing it.  After standing at the front door with my walker when the bus came by in the mornings, I eventually had my husband take me outside in my wheelchair when the bus dropped off my son in the afternoon.  This strategy enabled me to pass buses on the road with no physiological symptoms… until yesterday.

When I realized there was a bus behind our car, I felt a bit queasy.  Then I heard its brakes and almost immediately developed an excruciating headache.  By the time we got home, I felt physically sick and cried intermittently for the next 30 minutes.  I felt completely drained and remained on the couch for the next several hours.

Having participated in a trauma survivors’ class and individual therapy, I knew that I needed to talk about what I was experiencing.  I talked to my husband and gave myself permission to feel what I was feeling.  I forgave myself for having what I saw as a setback.  Although I was emotionally exhausted, I was feeling better before I went to bed.

I slept late this morning, and woke up feeling calm.  In fact, I had the thought that I felt unusually peaceful.  Like a still lake, I felt emotionally placid.  The day was peaceful and quiet, with no surprises.  Once again, I am grateful for a good day and the fact that there are increasingly more good ones than challenging ones.

It’s Easier to Do It, Than To Think About It

I had a dream last night.  It was what I call an anxiety dream.  It was like the dreams I have the week before school starts where I am late for school, not by a few minutes, but by hours.  In this dream, I was skinny dipping and I did not know that the owners of the pool were home.  (Not sure why I was crashing the pool, but I was mortified when I realized I might have been seen.)  I realized later today that the dream resulted from my anxiety about taking a shower.  

No, I am not afraid of taking a shower.  But I have intense body image issues and an arm in a splint that absolutely must not get wet… unless I  want to go back to the surgery center to have another one made.  I have managed to deal with my over-the-top modesty until now.  For the first time since I was a young child I would have to be bathed by someone else.  When I was in the trauma unit after my accident, there was so much pain and chaos to focus on that I was not very self-conscious.  It was the same with childbirth.

But I had been thinking about this shower since my surgery three days prior.  I didn’t talk about it, hoping not to feed my anxiety.  Obviously, my subconscious was going nuts.  As much as I was dreading it, I knew the sooner we started, the sooner I would have this humiliating experience over with.  So I told my husband I was ready. 

We went into the bathroom, me, my husband, the walker, the tub chair, and the dog.  (My husband shooed the dog out.)  I awkwardly began to undress, first taking off my shirt, then my bra.  Kelly began to wrap my splint in Press ‘n’ Seal.  Knowing I was about to finish disrobing, my anxiety level was rising.  I decided that talking openly about it might alleviate some of my physiological reaction.  

Just before I sat on my tub transfer chair,  I looked at my husband and told him how hard this was for me, to be so vulnerable.  He reminded me that it was just us, but that wasn’t much consolation for someone who is phobic about being naked.  My eyes immediately welled up with tears as I sat down on my tub transfer seat.  I unlocked the seat and slid over into the bathtub. 

I am fortunate to be married to a compassionate man who understands my fear, even though it is completely irrational.  He began washing me and I realized I wasn’t dying.  I do think it was easier for me because I had to focus on keeping my left arm out of the shower.  Nonetheless, I was conscious of the effects gravity, as well as expansion and contraction, have had on my body.  I was also very aware of all the scars from my accident and subsequent surgeries.  If my husband was, he never let me see it.  He gently and attentively did what needed to be done, including shaving my legs (they desperately needed it). 

He didn’t throw up.  He hasn’t filed for divorce.  In fact, he gave me an innocent kiss and told me he loved me.  The best thing of all is that I realized on an experiential level that I am okay just the way I am, and it is always easier to do it than it is to think about it.  This was an especially good thing for me to do, since I will not be able to shower on my own for another week or so.  (And I think to go without a shower for two weeks might prompt hubby to file.)