Bringing Peace to Anxiety

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.

https://www.calm.com/

http://gratefulness.org/resource/great-bell-chant/

Pain Box

Pain Box: a place where you put pain when you are not in a place or position to be able to allow others know that you are experiencing pain.

When I was younger and having to go from day to day with varying amounts of pain depending on the level of abuse, I developed a pain box. It was a place in my mind that I could put the pain so that I could get through the day. It made it possible to walk on feet that had been battered and dealing with bruises that were developing in places people could not see.

That was a long time ago and I don’t often have a need to use my pain box the way I sis before. Since I got sick I have rediscovered it. While I was in the hospital I was offered various medication for the pain I was in. Sometimes I would take it and sometimes I wouldn’t. I am not a martyr I just don’t like taking pills. I also had begun to use my pain box again.

Now that I am home and recovering for what seems like an eternity, apparently you cannot hurry your heart to heal, I sometimes need to use the box. Mostly because I don’t have anything that I can take for the pain I am feeling. The box also makes it easier for me to navigate the world right now and get things done.

While I spend so much time hiding pain, whether it is psychological, emotional, or physical I forget that I don’t always have to hide. I am out of practice showing when things hurt. Because of this I don’t know if I am showing too much or not enough. I have always envied people who can show how they are feeling. When I do it seems as though all the pain I have dammed up behind my box comes out at the same time. It is either feast or famine.

I have always been grateful to my friends who have seen me flood with pain and stayed with me till the flood had past. These same friends are still with me, still stalwart and still brave enough to ask how I am doing and expect a real answer.

Through mindfulness meditation practice, which I am still trying to get in the habit of, I have been able to try to move beyond my box. There are a lot of things that I am learning to not put in the box, but to actually allow myself to feel and allow others to see. The box has gotten me through many painful moments and helped to keep me safe. Now, though, I think it is time to let the box work when I really need it and to otherwise let myself experience life.

The box helps in a crisis but not all life is a crisis. Sometimes life just wants to be felt, acknowledged, and lived.

Being Alive and Living

A few weeks ago I was faced with a serious health issue. One that required me to go to the hospital and receive emergency assistance. But before I made the decision to go to the hospital I had to make a choice.

For the last several months I have been weighted down with deep exhaustion. It was not just my body that was tired but my mind and my soul. I had decided that I would never take my own life. However I had also decided that I would not fight nature if my body became seriously ill. That time had come. I spent a week in this condition.My body was seriously struggling to do what it needed to do. My resting heart rate was 184 and I was becoming more tired each day.

It was at this time that I decided that I needed to fight and stay alive. For my family and my young children. So I went to the hospital and spent several days in ICU while they brought my heart back to a more stable pace. It is not healed and I have a struggle still ahead of me to get better. I chose to live.

There is a difference however between being alive and living. I am alive when I breathe and my heart beats. But what does it mean to live to be truly living? To want to be here and to experience all that I can. To do that I have to change things. I have to work toward living. Taking care of myself physically, spiritually, and psychologically. Not just getting through each day but finding and enjoying something about each day. Not just stuffing all the hard things into a closet so that it bulges while I ignore that those things exist. But working out ways to make peace with the hard things.

Each day is still filled with pain. But this pain reminds me to fight and to live. It reminds me that to be alive is just not enough anymore. I need to find joy in being alive and also bring living back into my world.

 

Relearning Self-Care

One should never underestimate the importance of self care. Those words make a very important statement. It is something that I have been failing to do for some months now. I have not taken time to do things that are healing or nurturing for myself in a very long time. As result I have slowly stopped being there for people.

In my internship I show up and I am actually the most present with people that I am anywhere. But home life and personal life have been in a fog. I have dreaded getting up in the morning. And I have struggled to try to find some joy in the world. Things have been bleak. The funny thing is that I have also been thinking that it was not very obvious to others. My family however have been very much aware of how I have been unavailable.
Letting my self get into this state has also opened up old trauma wounds and anxiety. The anxiety attacks seem to get stronger and more frequent the less self-care I do.

Things are doing better. I have started to remind myself to stop and enjoy small things. Starting the process of self care with small things is important. Otherwise the act of caring for yourself becomes almost a herculean task. Little steps do the most. Recently I was told that I needed to take small things that give me joy and do them until they are large parts of my life.

I have been taking more time to spend with my children. I have been giving and receiving longer and more meaningful hugs. I have been petting and talking to my dog ( who has also felt my distance from others). Listening to music that makes me dance. I have been coloring in an amazingly detailed coloring book. And eating with more meaning and not just trying to fill some unattainable need. I have also begun to realize that I have a deep need to keep doing this. I am feeling the stirrings of peacefulness again.

So, today’s goal is to enjoy the day, the people I am with, and the time I can spend with my family.

Dealing With Emotional Vampires

During this past week I had a really bad day. I dealt with emotional vampires and people just trying to make trouble. At the end of that day I just wanted to grab a bag of Oreos and just hide under my blankets. The day triggered a lot of depression issues for me and left me struggling to find a safe place.

As I look back I can see that there really were a lot of other things at play that day. There were a lot of signals pointing toward a depression meltdown. I just was not paying attention. The days leading up to that fateful day were filled with signs like my wanting to sleep and not get up, not caring about certain activities that usually fill me with happy thoughts, and either wanting to eat too much or not at all. I was not paying attention and let my guard down.

I think everyone has those signs. The ones that alert us to danger. It would be nice if I had a soundtrack that played threatening music right before I had to encounter troublesome people or when I am not paying attention to my depression. But, alas, I do not have a soundtrack. I will have to play closer attention to the warning signs of impending depression events and try to guard myself more closely.

I have tried to create a ritual that will help me stay focused. I have a very small yoga practice in the morning and in the evening before bed. I do deep cleansing breaths (When I am not struggling to breathe from my asthma). And I have considered giving up chocolate. Although giving up chocolate is still very much being debated. The trick with having what feels like chronic depression is finding a way to feel as good as possible and take care of myself.

I am feeling trepidation about this upcoming week. Will I have to deal with the same people? Will there be more situations that set me off? Is there a way for me to “duck and cover” and still get the things done that I need to? My daughter gave me great advice this morning. She said, “Don’t over think it.”

This week’s goal is to breathe, stay present, and be courageous.

A story of Panic

Once upon a time there was a dark cloud. He had no discernible from. He simply was. He could wrap himself around a person and fill them with fear so powerful that everything would quiet in their mind except the need to escape. This was his nature.

One day he saw a girl. She was a little afraid, a little bruised and a little sad. And he fell in love. He followed her everywhere. Sometimes wrapping her in his cloud until she could not think for the fear and then slowly he would release her and she would breathe. When she was in a situation that was unknown or around too many people he would embrace her and she would leave that area as best she could. He loved her but he was slowly taking away her life.

After many years the girl, now a woman, met a friend. This friend loved her and walked beside her. He could see the dark cloud and he could see how afraid she would become at times. But there was nothing that he could do. He could only walk through life with her, hold her hand and love her. While she became more and more afraid of the world outside her door. Though he shared her with the friend Panic, for that was who he was, liked that she stayed close to him always.

Time passed and the woman found that she did not like having to stay at home. She resented Panic. She resented the loss of her life. So she made a plan. If she brought someone out with her to where she needed to go they could help her find her way out of Panic’s embrace. They could see her begin to be afraid and help her to be somewhere safe. The woman had found a way to be free. She began to learn how to gain control of the fear and how to quiet her mind.

The cloud became sad when he realized that when he embraced her she would slow her breathing and quiet her mind. He found that if she were still for a moment she could say things to her mind that helped her find a peaceful place. A place where she could be calm and not be afraid.

Over the years she learned how to keep herself safe. She learned to know where the cloud liked to be. And to prepare herself for meeting him. Slowly she reclaimed her life. Though Panic still embraces her she has learned how to stay safe. Most importantly she has learned to trust herself to know the difference between real danger and Panic.

Deciding not to hide

Usually what happens when I am severely stressed is that I go to ground. I block out the world and go into preservation mode. This means that I do only what is necessary to sustain my life and those around me. I cook meals, make sure everyone is fed and cared for. That is it. I do some escaping into books and try to keep as low of a profile as possible. I stop doing anything. Even though I know it helps or is good for me.

However, that type of reaction is no longer possible. Now I have other things that need to be taken care of. I have school work. I have responsibilities at church. I have other things that need my attention and can not hide in my cave. In all fairness it has been five years since I have experienced this kind of stress. And changing my reactions to it has been hard. 

I was just starting to begin a type of yoga practice that was helping. I will just say for the record that yoga and I have been circling each other like cautious adversaries for years now. And we had just recently begun to have conversation. And even though I know that yoga helps in times of stress for me. It is very hard to stop the preservation mode once it starts. I have however stopped it though not before it began to establish itself. I am still doing things, going out, went on a double date with my son’s in laws (who also happen to be good friends), and gone on interviews for internships. It is that last one that has sent me into this new stress mode.

The one thing that I did not back away from was the mindfulness and meditation. Well, my form of meditation. Sitting in the sun and watching the birds at the bird feeder. This did not stop my body from reacting to the stress with the usual self defense mechanisms but it kept me functioning and going forward with the interviews. ( I could live with out the clenched jaw and the lack of solid food that the jaw pain brings.) I am even writing today, which totally flies in the face of hiding.

And like all things there is a cost. I am willing to pay that price. Because being out in the world and living. Not hiding away and waiting for it to be over so I can finally rest. Is so much better. It is so much better to be breathing in the warmth of the sun with friends than to hide at home. I am going out into the world and experiencing the stress and the pain and the confusion. I am hoping that each day is better. And it usually is. There is always something good. Even with the bad things that happen. There is always good things.I think about those good things while I watch the birds, play with my daughter, read to her and with her, bake, and just breathe.

So even though I am getting tired of just drinking my meals or eating soft food. The tension is lessening as I move forward and keep going. I am letting go of the defense mechanisms that I do not need and trying to find peaceful ones to take there place. Because I have a lot more to offer the world if I am in it (evenly painfully) than if I am hiding away in my cave. Yoga and I will have that conversation again today, and I will watch the birds, do my reading, and live in the world.