06 February 2016 @ 10:34 am
Diary of a Leave, extra  
I got a lot of good advice this week, especially in the form of mantras to use to keep my energies focused in positive ways, and my mind anticipating things in a good way. So I thought I would write them down to both easily find myself, and so that others could take them if they wanted to.

Jan told me yesterday that she wanted me to use mantras differently than I have in meditation in the past. Instead of repeating them in my mind to give myself focus, she wants me to say them out loud, since articulating a thing involves more mental processes than just thinking a thing. She suggested I put little cards around the house with my mantras on them, and every time I saw one I would say it out loud. So a more active mantra-ing than a meditative one.

The mantras I agree upon with Jan:

I am capable
I can handle this

The mantras I got from S's mom:

I am real
I matter
My needs matter
My desires matter

S's mom also gave me what she called "panic mantras," but which are perhaps more accurately called 'reconnecting after dissociating mantras":

I can handle this
It is what it is

And some that were focused on when I'm feeling less than myself:

I will recover
I am recovering
I can recover

S's mom also told me to keep beauty in front of me at every manageable opportunity, and to enjoy lots of "active repose": massage, baths, meditation, sitting under my sun lamp, music, art, writing, and tea. Which is a lot like my self-care list from Jan, which I've pinned to my noticeboard. I am so grateful for these two wonderful women.
05 February 2016 @ 04:39 pm
Diary of a Leave, Day Seven  
I went to the gym this morning (hurray for four days of moving!) and then I went to therapy. It was a revelation.

We talked about my going back to work next week, and all the anxieties I have about it. Jan asked me what was the most daunting, and I said that it wasn't going back to the place, or to my office, or even doing things I could do on my own - it was when I contemplated being responsible for other people that I felt overwhelmed and incapable. Give me an example, she said. I started with "Well, I'm responsible for . . . . " and then stopped. The example I'd been about to give was when I'm in charge of people who are still learning things, but it occurred to me that I'm not responsible for their learning. They are. So I expressed that. Jan smiled and said, okay, where else are you responsible for other people? And I ran through my list, and in every instance I'm not actually responsible for other people's progress, learning, ability to handle things etc. They are. It's like discovering the other side of the "you do you" coin - I'll do me. I'm responsible for myself, for making sure I'm doing what I should, for taking care of this body and mind, and everyone else is also responsible for that in themselves. That doesn't mean we don't support and encourage each other, it just means that it's not my job to fix things for people, or take on the responsibility they have to shoulder for moving forward in some way.

This lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. I could immediately think of half a dozen situations where if I'm responsible for me, I'll say no to someone's ask. I am not responsible for making a whole project sink or swim. And if I say no to something, what's the worst that can happen? We spent a lot of time today talking about realistic worst case scenarios - not catastrophizing everything, but saying, what will really happen if I don't do X or Y? Again, this was all news to me. My mind tends to run to catastrophe, and I hadn't thought to reason with myself and examine that train of thought more clearly.

Jan said I seemed a lot calmer and peaceful today, and I told her that was true. I feel like I've had several shifts of thought that are going to make things easier for me. And I've learned a whole new set of ways to take good care of myself and prioritize myself, and that's invaluable.

I came home and found myself locked out (I live in a town where you can leave the doors open, but my cleaning lady had come and locked up as she left). After running all over town to find a friend with a key, I finally got inside and discovered a BEAUTIFUL OASIS OF CLEANNESS. There are some odd things, like four of six chairs in the dining room being pushed up against the wall, and my cleaning lady doesn't have a good eye for where photos in frames or decorative items were before she dusted them, but eh, that is a very quick and easy fix. And it is so liberating to have the whole house clean, top to bottom, at the same time, and before a weekend no less - a weekend where usually I'd be trying to chase down dust bunnies, and get in time to myself, and work.

Tonight it's my friend B's birthday, so we're going to dinner and then to see Hail Caesar, in which my friend C has a small but important part. So fun! And then I will likely duck out while the rest of them go get beer, so that I can fall into my floofy bed and sleep soundly until tomorrow. Yay.
03 February 2016 @ 03:33 pm
Diary of a Leave, Day Five  
I had therapy this morning, and after telling Jan how I felt yesterday she had two things to say: 1) your friends (i.e. all of you) are very smart, and 2) let's just do talk therapy today, no EMDR. The latter came as a complete surprise to me, because my previous therapist's approach was to Do The Thing no matter what had come up, and no matter how I felt about it. Jan simply said, how about we give you a little time to bounce back? Jan wins.

We spent today talking about self-care and positive anticipation. She gave me a list of over a hundred self-care choices, and had me mark those I'd done in the past, as well as those I was willing to try right now. The first thing that surprised me was how many things on the list are already things I do. The second thing that surprised me was that there were things on the list that I've done in the past - splurge; buy clothes - that I don't want to do anymore. Fascinating peek at growth and change, there.

She observed, from my answers, that creativity is central to my definition of who I am, but I'm not creating at the moment. She suggested I pick one of my creative outlets and try something in that arena, because as well as being good self-care, she thinks it might be a breakthrough for me if I can do that. So I picked knitting, after working out for myself that I don't have to do the project a friend gave me first. (Said friend noticed I was knitting a lot for others, so she gave me yarn and a pattern to knit a cowl for myself. But I don't enjoy knitting for myself as much as I like knitting for others, so it's been a mental obstacle to me knitting at all. But of course there is no reason I must make that cowl first. Brains.)

We then talked about positive anticipation - the act of writing scripts about things you're going to do where the outcome is warm, positive, functional etc. As Jan put it, if you only anticipate negatively (which is where I'm at with going back to work next week) you help bring that about by your attitude, body language, and selectively latching onto whatever confirms your bias. So my homework is to write some scripts for myself about going back, and we'll affirm those through EMDR on Friday.

Then this afternoon my friend S's mom came over to do reiki and Akashic Records with me. Now, if you google Akashic Records, you'll come across a host of websites that will likely convince you that the whole practice is a bit bonkers. Adherents believe that there are records of all that we do, feel and experience 'out there' (within an energy source) and that it's possible for people with training to access those records (and the guidance of the record keepers). And S's mom definitely believes in all of that, and it's at the core of her practice. I'm not sure I share her beliefs, but my experience of it was not bonkers - it was a lot like a guided meditation, and whether she was getting messages from the record keepers or was merely incredibly intuitive, she was a big help to me.

Of particular note - she asked me to imagine that I had a core of light, and that that light was my strength, and no one could ever touch that, harm that, or take it away from me. She suggested that when I get triggered, I physically and emotionally recoil, and I lose my balance - I'm off kilter from that core of strength, and what I need to do is return to it. She gave me a series of mantras to repeat to help me do that, and they're very similar to what I already do when I'm dissociating. She assured me that I matter and that I am loved, and there was something about her saying that during the meditation that just made me weep. It was very moving. And she cautioned me against too much empathy - that I needed to learn how to empathize without needing to fix everything, or take on the pain of others as my own. She said this was particularly true at work (and she's right). Also fascinating was the fact that I had told her I had PTSD, but had never told her why. Yet she honed right in on abuse as a problem, and told me that I had done nothing to deserve it, and it was not my job to heal the person who had abused me, so no guilt.

The whole thing was very peaceful, very gentle, and very kind. Whether it was just two people coming together in a spirit of possibility and allowing themselves to be open to those things, or whether it really was the record keepers providing insight, it was important.

I ate a bunch of chocolate afterwards. It seemed appropriate.
02 February 2016 @ 07:39 pm
Diary of a Leave, Day Four  
Today has been a struggle. There are lots of potential reasons: EMDR hangover, disturbed sleep, a mix up that had me without birth control pills for two days. All I can tell you is that I've felt really low, and I been at my wits' end trying to think of some way to respond to it.

(Perhaps I'm not supposed to respond to it? Maybe I'm supposed to sit with it? But I keep thinking, I have so few days left. I'm supposed to be healing.)

I went to my hair appointment, and it was nice to be pampered. After lunch I roused myself to go to the gym and I walked 1.5 miles, which did raise my spirits some. I texted my friend T and asked her if she'd like to come over for tea, and she did. And yet I still feel low.

I'm hoping a good night's sleep will help, and if it doesn't, there's therapy tomorrow morning where I can share it all with Jan. But I wish, so much, I felt better than this.
10 August 2013 @ 03:00 pm
I just got back from a two-week business trip, and it was an excellent couple of weeks away. I got an enormous amount of work done, which had me reflecting on other trips I've been on that weren't nearly so successful. And the difference between then and now is medication. Also therapy.

On a basic chemical level I'm in a place, for however long it lasts, where everything is balanced and I can be myself. There's a poem about depression somewhere, in which the poet talks about taking medication and falling back into her life again (eta: Jane Kenyon's [Back] - thank you to [ profile] kassrachel for remembering it!) That's exactly how it feels – that I've fallen into the life I was meant to have; that the medication is making up for my chemical shortfall and I have, for the first time in a long time, (perhaps ever), a full range of options before me from which I can pick and choose without worrying about whether I have the spoons.

Therapy's also part of it, because without the therapy I'd still be plagued by the very worst parts of PTSD. I still have flashbacks – they're the most persistent symptom that will not budge – but I no longer freak out about them; I just recognize them for what they are and keep going. That's all down to therapy, too – to be able to separate what's happening from fear of what's happening. It feels nothing short of miraculous.

All of this has me doing even more reflection on this past ten years and what it's been like to struggle with MDD and PTSD for so long. I can see, with an awful lot of empathy for my younger self, all the coping strategies I employed to try and get through, from eating Ben and Jerry's to cutting myself off from social contact; from sleeping for hours to taking all the alcohol in my house over to a friend's place so that I couldn't self-medicate through drink anymore. I can name all the moments where someone with greater mental stability would have reacted to a given situation very differently to the way I did – itemize the moments that I reacted with deep anger and confusion, the times I lashed out, the conclusions I drew that weren't smart or fair.

And I've been reflecting on the people who surrounded me, the people who supported me and the people who didn't. And what surprises me – and perhaps it shouldn't – is how many people never took the time to understand. It seems an obvious thing, that if someone I know tells me they have X illness, my next step is to learn about that – to learn what means, and to learn what will and will not help. But most people don't take that step; most people still expect that you'll perform and act and react like a neurotypical person, even when they have information that says no, there are specific challenges here. And there lies the split between the people who are my friends and my respected co-workers and the people I've cut off or have as little to do with as possible. There lies the gap between those I trust and those I do not.

I'm so grateful to be feeling so much better. And I guess I'm also grateful to have learned who in my life has empathy and who doesn't; who has compassion and who doesn't; who can think expansively and who can't.
15 August 2012 @ 08:08 pm
knowing more  
It's time to work on your mother issues, says my therapist. You're grieving your friend's mom, but you're grieving your own as well – she left you to face your abuse alone, abandoned you in body and purpose. There's a loss there that we have to face.

I don't want to.

I have consoled myself for years with the fact that I have a mother who loves me – but I ministered to my hurts for years before that by valorizing the fact that I had parents who were still together, and that turned out to be a hollow prize to claim. I know my therapist's right – I've had nights of late where I've cried over my friend's mom and felt the grief bleed into anger at my own mother, into dejection, into wishing things had been fair. I've asked empty rooms, the universe, my own self why things weren't different. I hate the questions; what's done is done; you're stronger than this; why cry over what can't be?

But it isn't done, not while I turn away from it. There exists inside of me an emptiness that I've tried not to get to know, and looking away from it makes it impossible to fill.

On Monday, my therapist had me float back to the first time I could remember feeling the anger and frustration I so often feel today when I talk to my mother on the phone. I swept back to being seven; I felt the solidity of that emotion like a weight on my chest. "What's the worst part of the memory?" my therapist asked.

"There's nothing happening," I said. "Just feeling."

"Your mother isn't there?" she asked.

And oh, the ache of that washed through me like acid. I fell to pieces. No, my mother wasn't there – I could find no memory of her when I was seven at all. I was standing in a void, bewildered and lost, and I wanted her, but she wasn't there.

It was the first time I'd let myself feel that loss. I fought it before I could surrender to it, to the jagged, staggering, painful pull of it through my bones. I saw what I'd been avoiding. It was all I could do to breathe.

There's a story behind that feeling, even though I don't yet know what it is. My therapist – kindly, gently – told me that we'll find it, that she'll guide that seven year old to vocalize what she couldn't back then, to articulate the specific moment that's lodged in my memory this way. I know it's possible; I even know it's necessary. What I know most of all is that it hurts.

I've struggled to write this. I feel ashamed – an old echo of other thoughts, the sense that I must have done something to earn such lack of care. Don't make waves, that same voice tells me. Don't talk about your mother like this, don't make her part of this process – what if you lose what relationship you have? What if you make yourself alone? Don't be so self-absorbed. Stay safe, stay quiet. After all, you've lived with worse.

So I write, because it's what I know how to do in the face of voices that urge me toward silence. I write, and I grieve, and I try to figure out what might look like peace.
26 April 2012 @ 07:25 pm
Letter from therapy  
"Feelings are not the enemy. Feelings are the goal."

So says my therapist. I know she's right, but goddamn, feelings are inconvenient. (Rational self points out that not feeling things hasn't been terribly convenient either. I may be sticking out my tongue at rational self.)

Read more... )
13 April 2012 @ 09:29 am
therapy thinks (and fanfic)  
I said in the header of my last story that it was a fic that existed [somewhere between wish fulfillment and the chance to figure something out.] I started writing it early in the week, but it wasn't until yesterday, with it almost ready to go to beta, that I recognized what had been going on.

Which was . . .  )
17 June 2011 @ 03:32 pm
Ends up "complex PTSD" is actually a medical condition  
Where to begin?

Discussion of therapy, and the after effects of sexual abuse and assault under the cut )
18 April 2011 @ 09:12 am
the next thing, and the next thing  
My therapist consistently reminds me that I don't have to do everything at once, heal myself in a heartbeat, process all there is to process, even deal with next week until next week gets here. Just do the very next thing, she tells me. And after that, do the next thing. The next thing and the next thing - that's how we get through.

contains discussion of recovery from sexual assault - may be triggering )
29 March 2011 @ 04:41 pm
EMDR, part 147  
Today we picked up the memory that we worked on last week, and that we first began in December. The processing's been postponed a lot because of the med switch, and I'm beginning to think this memory may have been contributing to *gestures expansively* oh, everything.

Discussion of EMDR, no graphic details about the memory itself )
13 December 2010 @ 09:39 am
The PTSD chronicles, continued.  
I'm right in the middle of processing memory #4 in EMDR discussion of child abuse and PTSD of all kinds under the cut )
12 November 2010 @ 10:59 am
My mind, truly, is stuck in a limitless boggle  
My brain is full of so much stuff today that I feel like a dog intent on chasing its tail, while getting distracted time and again by all the new smells in all the world. Imperfect metaphor, I grant you, but that's a symptom of my brain boggle. So I'm putting it down on paper (for some value of thereof, involving typing and screens) to free up just a little space inside my head.

includes some discussion of sexual abuse )
14 October 2010 @ 06:59 pm
Memory and Body  
Had I needed further proof that the body carries memory, I got it today.

Discussion of sexual abuse beneath the cut: may be triggering )
15 September 2010 @ 09:51 am
sitting with emotion  
I mentioned, yesterday, that I've been trying to learn to sit with my emotions – to exist with them without judgment or reaction – as a way of strengthening both my sense of the here and now and my own sense of strength and capability. This morning as I meditated I thought . . . why not share this? And so, for those interested, here's what the process feels like to me.

hello anxiety, hello ego, hello ribs )
14 September 2010 @ 02:54 pm
The Favorite Child  
The last few weeks of summer have been difficult ones, full of so much experience and emotion that I haven't been able to do much but pass from one moment to the next. But today I had a chance to slow down, to think about things more deliberately . . . and found that the rollercoaster continues.

Discussion of therapy, PTSD, depression, and sexual abuse under the cut: may be triggering )
02 September 2010 @ 07:25 pm
thank you!  
Thank you to everyone who offered excellent advice (and support!) on my last post about therapy. Much has happened since then - I'll write a post about it some day, as much because I think the more we talk about mental health the better; down with stigma! - but in the meantime let me say:

1) I told my therapist (as per the advice of many people!) that I was overwhelmed, and we've paused in processing my memories to work on bolstering my sense of being capable of handling all of this.

2) I have been taking Xanax more often, following this conversation:

therapist: "Do you have an anti-anxiety medication?"
me: "I have Xanax, but I worry about dependency and stuff . . . "
therapist: *eyebrow raised* "You have PTSD."
me: ". . . point."

3) I have an appointment with a psychiatrist on October 6 to figure out if the anti-depressant I'm on is the right one for me / if the dose is working / if I need additional drugs / etc etc etc. The wait is long because I live in the middle of nowhere and she's the only female psychiatrist for miles (quite literally - it'll be a one hour drive in each direction to see her) but I'm excited to go. I have no reservations about exploring more meds - the ones I'm on have already saved my life, and talking to someone who specializes in brains? Awesome. I only wish I'd thought of this myself, before now.

Thank you, again, everyone who offered kind words and advice and everything in between. ♥
24 August 2010 @ 11:09 am
Below the cut - thinking aloud about therapy again. Feel free to pass by if that's not your cup of tea!

And so . . . )