After a long break in writing this blog I began to wonder why am I writing this or who am I writing it for. I started writing this to tell some of my stories and to just feel like maybe there was someone out there that this could help. Maybe there was someone who just needed to know that they were not alone in their suffering and healing. I never intended this to be a forum on my trauma. What I really wanted was to tell my story in small chunks and talk about how I was moving through the process so that maybe someone else would not feel alone. I hope that in some small measure I have done that. Thanks for reading.
Since the last time I went to the hospital my anxiety level has increased. I was very blessed with caretakers who tried to make sure that through all of the procedures I felt safe. I knew that I was safe. Feeling safe when many of the practices in the hospital trigger traumatic memories of the torture that I endured is different.
For one of the procedures they needed to anesthetize me and put very deep under. I was terrified at the thought of not having any conscious control of my body. The doctors let me hold the mask over my face and I was in control for as much as I was able to be. As I was coming out of the anesthesia I could hear myself talking. Some of the things I said were trauma stories that I have told no one. That was very disconcerting.
Through the hospital stay I did my meditation everyday. It was sometimes for only five minutes. There were a few times that I was able to meditate for longer periods of time. It is very hard to focus on the breathing when you are in the middle of panic and anxiety so I often used guided meditation. When the meditation did not work I tried to listen to a piece of classical music that seems to work as though it is magic for my anxiety. I have this particular piece in three or four variations. I put them all onto a playlist and hit repeat. With ear buds in I was able to fall a sleep and rest for a few hours.
Flashbacks and dissociation happen very seldom these days. I have been working for a long time to process through a lot of the trauma. Years and Years of working through the trauma. And yet there still seems so much still to work through. I have found that the old adage that for every bad person there are hundreds of good people you can turn toward to help and to heal.
The anxiety seems to be harder to face and to work through. And it always scares me because my first thought is that my heart is misbehaving again. I do a body check of where is the pain. When I slow down long enough to actually put my hands over the painful spots it is never my heart. I can then stop and breathe and slow things down and put them into perspective. This means slowly reviewing what just happened in the last half hour. Sometimes there is a delay on the anxiety and the cause could have been anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour before. Finding the trigger and working forward to a better place helps.
The meditation seems to be the best course for me at this time. Though I now have to augment the meditation with medication to get me to a point that the meditation helps. Primarily I use the Calm.com app for meditation. It has soothing sounds as well as a timer or a peaceful voice that leads the meditation for a set length of time. Lately I have been taking advantage of the gratefulness.org resources. What ever format the meditation comes in I hope that it helps.
I attended a self-care workshop last summer. One of the books that the presenter suggested was The Power of Kindness by Piero Ferrucci. I dutifully found the book and purchased it. I put it on my shelf and thought about reading it. This is the way it goes with a lot of books with me. I buy it and put it on my shelf, fully intending to read it. I have an entire shelf of books I fully intend to read.
I started a book challenge for myself this year. 100 books to be read this year. Of that 100 books 60 of those are fiction, 25 are non fiction, and 15 are spiritually inspiring. The Power of Kindness got put onto the shelf of books I could read for the challenge. Which is how I finally started to read it.
I have struggled with a huge burden for many years. I may not be very judgemental but I do seem to hold on to resentment and anger. There are a number of instances in my life where I have withheld forgiveness. As I sat reading the section on forgiveness I realized how very much I have held on to. The hardest thing for me to forgive has been betrayal. Betrayal can take many forms. But the hardest one is when I give friendship and have that person turn on me or betray my confidence. As well as the feelings of betrayal that come from the abuse.
Ferrucci points out that forgiveness can make us feel very vulnerable because we are letting go of the anger or resentment that has become part of our identity. As I move through and heal so much of the trauma damage I noticed that I had a bag hidden in the corner. Something that I carry around with me everyday. This very heavy bag I noticed was filled with all the hurt, anger, resentment and withheld forgiveness. In some cases it was anger over something that I should have let go of a long time ago.
I will say that having a life changing experience with an illness helps to put things into perspective much more quickly than I had previously been able. I began to open the bag and take things out and examine them one at a time. Some of the things I took out of the bag made me wonder what I had thought putting them in there in the first place. Others I had to put to one side because they needed a little more effort and work to release.
As I lightened the bag I felt lighter. The less things that I had to worry about maintaining. I also realized that letting them go did not mean that I in any way opened myself up to have a repeat occurrence. I am very mindful of what and who I trust or let into my life. But the events of the past don’t need to weigh me down in the present. Forgiveness can be a slow process or it can happen quickly.
The thing that I learned from reading and then applying it to my own life is that forgiving and letting go empowers me. And ultimately it does not have any effect on the person I am forgiving but has huge life altering changes for me.
Sometimes I wonder about whether I should talk about the fact that I have difficulty with some situations. There have definitely been some negative moments arising from talking about my issues. There have also been some very amazing growth experiences.
I just spent four days in the hospital while the doctors tried to figure out and understand why my heart has been acting this way. The paramedic performed a cardioversion in the ambulance, whether it really scrambled things up in my brain for a little while or not I was having trouble getting my thoughts to stay clear long enough to use my skills for coping with panic. It was a struggle to find a calm place. I tried meditation, guided and meta. I also tried to distract myself with other things. But it did not work. Nothing seemed to work.
During this time I had to have a stress test which also involved a CAT scan. I am very claustrophobic. The thought of going into the donut shaped machine was causing me no end of terror. I told the technician and the doctor that were working that day about some of my issues and how it was such a struggle for me to reset my panic into a calm even at the best of times since arriving at the hospital. These amazing people worked with me and together we had a rock and roll sing along while I went through the CAT scan process. They never left me until I had to actually go into the donut and even then they kept talking to me. They helped me to feel safe at a time when I had nothing to cling to ground me in my panic.
The night before my brain cleared up enough for me to get my skills to kick in I had a very bad anxiety attack. This time I took anti-anxiety medication. While I was waiting for it to take hold and help calm me so that I could sleep the nurse sat and held my hand. She talked with me about her own fears and struggles with an encounter with a CAT scan. She talked about the things that sometimes made her uneasy. By doing so she helped to bring things back into the world of normalcy.
I am home now. I try very hard to decided whether to tell people about my struggles or to keep quiet. When I do talk about them I find that I am able to get the level of assistance I need. I don’t actually need much assistance. But sometimes, like in the hospital, it helped the doctors to understand and gauge what was happening with my heart. It also helped two very wonderful people to rise to the challenge of how to help me feel safe enough to go through with a necessary test.
It comes down to where the individual feels about whether to share their experiences. Sometimes I need extra help to get through things. And if I say who I am and what I have endured, it gives people a chance to help me. Something they not be able to do without that knowledge. It is a very individual decision.
For the last few months I have been struggling. Struggling to write this blog. Struggling to find a peaceful place in my mind. Just struggling with everything.
Then something began to change in my house. My daughter, who has been struggling with depression for a while started to do something different. She started to exercise. And to do things that she wasn’t doing before. It all started with a small yoga practice. Then moved on to jumping rope and running. She started small. Doing them for a short time and then increasing a little then staying at that level.
She has begun to feel stronger inside herself and less depressed. There is a very strong glow about her now. She has begun to inspire me.
I look at myself and I say there is no way I can do that. I can’t do those yoga positions. I can’t walk very far. I can’t… See a pattern? But then I started to really watch her. She is not doing more than her body can do, only challenging it to do more. She has made it past the wall of inertia that keeps me back.
Yesterday I started to do my very small yoga practice. It felt really hard to start. It was really hard to get my body to move at first. There was so much stiffness in all of my muscles. Each movement was loosening muscles that I had let become almost rock like. With each movement my mind was starting to loosen up as well. All this was followed by meditation. I have built up to fifteen minutes now. Which is pretty good for someone who gets distracted by dust particles floating past.
My daughter is rapidly becoming my hero without her knowing it. And my inspiration to change. The struggles are all there still. The challenges have not decreased. My mind and my body however are starting to grow a little bit stronger each day. As I watch my daughter overcoming her own challenges I am inspired to try to move past my own.
Breathing in and breathing out. Opening myself to each day. There are times that I come to a point of complete exhaustion. When I become so tired and feel ready to be done. Days where I would welcome an end to the pain. Because to be honest there really are no pain free days. There are no days when the scars on my body do not hurt me deeply. I spent twelve years being systematically tortured, sexually, and physically abused and the remainder of my childhood dodging psychological and physical abuse. Those years have left many scars on my body.
For years I could go through the day without letting on to the pain I experienced. During the years of the abuse I learned that you kept going and swallowed down the pain that you experienced walking, sitting, or just moving. After repetitive times of having the soles of my feet beaten I struggle to walk with the support of shoes. Too much nerve and tendon damage. I dream of a day that I wake up in the morning and am not in pain. Those days of being able to hide the pain have left me.
Why am I writing about all of this? I would guess it is because I so very seldom talk about what happened. I do tell people the quick abbreviated version in which I say that I had a very traumatic childhood. How I walked out the other end in as good of shape as I have is sometimes a mystery to me. What I do know is that my childhood taught me how to fight back. I did more fighting back in those early years than I want to remember. Nor do I want to remeber the consequences that the fight brought me.
I have reached a time now when I am so tired. When I have given so very much to be alive and functioning. At one time in my life I had a great passion. I was filled with immense light that was generated from the bonfire that passion ignited. Now that fire has dwindled to a mere pile of ash.
I know that at the bottom of that pile of ash is a spark. Perhaps so small that it is barely there. But it is there. I can feel it. Somewhere in that pile it is waiting for me to find it. And though I feel so tired, almost to the point of exhaustion I know I need to find it. When I find that small spark I will blow on it and give it the nurturing that it needs to create a bonfire in my heart that none of the exhaustion of just breathing will be able to exist in its presence.
Even though I am moving through a very hard place I am still moving. Sometimes it feels like trying to walk through a wind that wants to rip and tear at you. The only thing to do is pull the hood tighter and keep my head down and move forward against the wind. Because if I stop that wind will blow me backwards. I do not want to go backwards. Even though it is hard to move through the wind there is the added bonus that perhaps that wind is blowing away the ash that covers my spark. And with a little kindling that wind could blow my tiny spark into a roaring inferno.
Now that I have finished with school it is time to figure out how I will pay back my student loans. I have been offered a job where I have been doing my internship. However, I am uncertain as to whether this will be a good fit. I have spent the last 11 1/2 months working somewhere while trying very hard to work within my limitations and not look like i have limitations. This has involved hiding in the bathroom and doing deep intentional breathing and simply smiling through the day regardless. It also involves trying to come down from a days worth of anxiety attacks that I have hidden deep down.
I finally lost it a few weeks ago and made some of my unhappiness known. There had been several ongoing things that simply made me feel not very valued. And they had never been addressed regardless of my hints. Apparently I needed to have a meltdown and spend my lunch hour crying in my car for anything to happen. And now with just 3 weeks of my internship left things are finally being addressed.
As I listened to people’s apologies I tried to follow my wise sister’s advice and look for sincerity. There was sincerity with many of those that have tried to make things right. I have yet to meet with one of those people who have inadvertently made it a hard internship. But I don’t think there will be a problem. They really want me to work there.
The real problem is that I have struggled for nearly a year and it gets harder and harder to get out of bed and go to the internship site and I am not sure this is where I can work. It is not because, or at least not only because, of the difficult time I have had. I have made it through because I have seen an end. There is a definitive time when this internship will end. I do not know if I can work somewhere full time where I cannot shave the corners to make my oddly shaped peg fit.
Making things fit my needs so that I can function in the world is something that I have become very good at. I have a safety list for things that I need to do that I struggle with. And protocols that make it possible for me to feel safe. Since feeling safe is something I did not have until as an adult I found ways to make it happen I am very aware of when I do not feel safe. For example: My tire went flat. I changed it and we got it fixed. However now I feel unsafe driving. I check my tires every time I get in the car or get out. At some point I will regain that safe feeling. It takes time.
Generally I learn from things that happen. I overreact to things and I see by the expression of those around me or from my own processing that what I did was an overreaction. I then learn how to react appropriately. It is always a learning experience. New experiences throw me for a loop. I know that this is normal. But I do not think it is normal to break out in a rash and not breathe as well as having your ulcer flair up when you have to fill out new forms. Once I do it however I know how to do it and the reaction is not the same.
What I am faced with now is how do I get my needs met, shave the hole to fit my peg and fit the needs of an employer? I am still looking for opportunities and also looking for ways to create opportunities. I just hope that through all this I can find a way to not hide my limitations but to make my experience something of value. Because I know that I have a lot to offer that is of value. I simply need to find a way to make a square peg fit in a round hole.
Lately I have been overwhelmed by stress and changes in the things around me. By the end of the day I am filled with extreme sensory overload. It sometimes reaches a point that the only thing that I can do is go to bed and hide under my covers for half an hour.
After one particularly hard day at my internship site I called home and told my family I would be home a few hours later than usual. I needed to decompress from everything that had happened that day. I went to a restaurant that my husband and I go to regularly. I sat at the table where we usually sit. I ordered something that I have had many times in the past. And I pulled out my kindle and started to read a book that I have read before. There was no new input. Everything was familiar. After about an hour I felt calm and a lot more peaceful. I was able to process the stimulus of the day.
I had gone to a place that was constant. There was nothing new to interfere with the processing of the day. Later I thought about how I was feeling and how I had decompressed in such a short time. And how it had been such a thoroughly relaxing thing. The thought that came to me was that I was processing in a place where there was continuity. A place where nothing new existed and nothing was competing for my attention. There was no new input.
It felt like a moment where a light bulb is turned on and you realize that the switch for the light had been there the whole time. And I was just noticing it. Having a space that is continuously the same and never changing or at least only subtly changing can be extremely healing for an over stimulated mind. I had heard of people having a meditation space where they would always go and thought that it was a very cool. I never felt that it was something that would benefit me.
Creating and having a space of continuity has now become very important in my self-care plan. It is part of the “what pleasant activity did you do?” section of my plan. Doing this helps me to work with my difficulty in dealing with change in general. I am finding a place in the storm of my life that is always calm. A place that is not overstimulating and whispers to me to come in and find peace.
I hope everyone can find that place and visit it often when things in life become overwhelming.