Life

Venting about everything bad at the moment

Hello, I need to vent. You know how your life seems to be all okay for a bit, maybe it’s not great, but nothing too bad, and then suddenly it all just collapses around you?

My physical health is deteriorating.

  • (note: talking about weight) I was supposed to be gaining weight because I am fairly underweight, but instead I lost more weight. Gah! (I am not restricting / other ED behaviors, I just have trouble getting enough food in my body and cooking and stuff. It’s more of an “it’s too much effort” thing.)
  • I’ve had my period for 13 days now.
  • I went to the eye doctor for my annual eye exam and said that I’d been getting headaches above my eyes when I read or look at things up close for too long. He took my concerns seriously, which I really appreciate, but he also seemed to think something was really wrong and said “this will really affect your career” if it gets worse over time and I can’t read and stuff. I have to go back for a 2-3 hour appointment to see what happens when my eyes get fatigued.
  • My hip has been hurting off and on this summer, and yesterday it was hard to walk comfortably at times.
  • My armpit was hurting two times earlier in the summer, and now it’s hurting again. My primary care doctor thought it was just a pulled muscle or something, but now I’m worrying it’s something else since it has happened repeatedly. On the other hand, if it is a pulled muscle, why isn’t it healing? What am I doing wrong? I know that I’m physically pretty weak and don’t have strong muscles, but I don’t know how to get stronger if I don’t use them??

Other stuff

  • I’ve been home alone all week and it’s been lonely and hard. It also makes me worried for after college if I get an apartment on my own or something and have to live alone for much longer periods of time. I don’t think I could do it. I guess I could have roommates. Well, that’s a problem for future me.
  • Since I’m home alone, I have to take care of our family’s chickens. I’m supposed to put them away at night and feed them and let them out in the morning. I didn’t put them away last night because I was in an awful mood, and it was really late and I was scared of predators (coyotes, etc.). Luckily none of the chickens were eaten or killed during the night, but now this morning I have to feed them while they’re running around, not locked up in the coop. I’m scared of doing this because the roosters are big and want to attack me! And I have to move the coop too. And it looked like they were out of water. And then after all that I have to clean the house and pack in the next two hours because I’m going on vacation.
  • I’ve started disliking my friends and this freaks me out. Does this mean I just don’t like anyone? What is wrong with me? My friends are people that I’ve really liked and enjoyed spending time with in the past. What’s going on? I’m confused.
  • (note: talking about sex) I was talking to a friend yesterday about dating and stuff, and it just really upset me. But I figured out why it upset me at least! I really don’t want to have sex and am disgusted by it and afraid of it. I don’t know if this means I’m asexual or if it’s just one of the many things I’m afraid of or ashamed of. I kind of always thought that what makes a relationship different from a friendship is sex, but I kinda want a relationship, without the sex? I feel like no one else would want that though. Now I’m thinking maybe I am ace. Hmm. Gah. I’ll think about that later.
  • I’ve been wanting to quit therapy for a while for lots of reasons that I don’t feel like explaining, but now I’m realizing that I’m still struggling a lot and could use some therapy. I guess I’m sad that I still need it. And ashamed. And confused about what to do.

So those are the things I’m struggling with at the moment. Oh and also I did not get enough sleep last night. Okay. I’m going to try again to feed the chickens and move the coop… any support or encouragement is appreciated.

Life, Therapy

Finally talking about my trauma in detail

I experienced a traumatic event four years and nine months ago. I decided to do DBT PE (Dialectical Behavior Therapy with Prolonged Exposure) to treat my PTSD eight months ago. And today, I finally talked about the trauma in detail in therapy.

I’ve been building up to this for so long. I’ve gone over the traumatic event in my head so many times in varying levels of flashback-y-ness but always fairly anxious states. This has been a part of my life for so long.

But I had never said it out loud to another human being. I had never said it in order from start to finish. (well, the finish of one part, at least)

This feels like a watershed moment. Something small but fundamental has shifted inside of me, a change that will grow more pronounced as I continue this treatment.

I am still going about my same daily activities and interacting with the same people, but I feel a little different, as if I’m experiencing everything with freer eyes. It feels a little like what getting baptized felt like, or what traveling to another continent for the first time felt like. I knew logically what to expect, but now I’m experiencing it emotionally.

Of course, it was also really hard, and this is also only the beginning. But I finally said it!!!

Therapy

Making therapy sessions better

Sometimes I leave therapy feeling worse than how I felt before it. But sometimes, therapy is really helpful, and I leave feeling heard, validated, hopeful, and knowing what to do when things get bad again.

So, I’ve been trying to think of what makes some therapy sessions better than others.

I think a big part of it is making sure I actually say the things I want to in session. If I don’t, I leave feeling disappointed in myself, frustrated with my therapist, and invalidated. This can spiral and I can start to feel hopeless and think “no one can help me,” “no one likes me,” “I’ll never get better.” Those are all-or-nothing thoughts and aren’t true.

I’m not entirely sure what the solution to this is, because sometimes I don’t know that I really wanted to say something until after I’ve left and realized I haven’t said it. It sometimes just takes me a while to get my thoughts in order.

It also takes me a while to remember stuff. My therapist will ask what was going on on x day before y, and I have no clue. I think this is partially because I dissociate, which interferes with memory somehow (I don’t know the specifics), and partially because I avoid thinking about bad stuff because it upsets me. Dissociation is essentially avoidance, so these are kind of the same thing at their core.

I guess a solution to this could be for both me and my therapist to be patient with myself during session and wait for my thoughts to come and for me to be able to say them.

I could also spend time before session thinking about what I want to talk about. Sometimes I write things I want to talk about on sticky notes and bring them to therapy. That is helpful, but I have to make sure that I do actually say the things I have written down. To do that, I have to overcome any shame or embarrassment and not feel too afraid of saying them (if they’re about upsetting things or trauma reminders).

Sometimes it’s helpful when I say, “I wanted to say something, but now I don’t,” and my therapist helps me through what’s getting in the way of me saying it, whether those emotions are justified or not, whether I need to do some grounding before talking about something hard, etc. So I guess in general it’s good to be open in therapy as much as you can.

It’s also good when I journal before going to therapy because then I know what’s actually going on and have already given it some thought. Writing things down generally helps me. Plus, if I’m avoiding saying something, I could just hand it to my therapist to read instead of trying and failing to say it out loud, or I could email it.

I’m working on it. 🙂

Life, Therapy

Things I’ve learned about myself, part 2

  • I am capable of controlling my emotions.
  • I am a good listener and a good friend.
  • I spend a lot of time thinking.
  • I over-apologize, and it is very hard for me to resist the urge to apologize. Apologizing reinforces my guilt and the feeling that I have done something wrong. If I haven’t done something wrong, I don’t need to apologize!
  • I am very uncomfortable with most physical contact.
  • I like to be prepared for anything at all times.
  • Being sick is triggering for me.
  • My self harm serves multiple functions in different situations. It grounds me when I’m dissociating, it satisfies my anger at myself and guilt and shame, and it sometimes helps me dissociate.
  • Everyone doesn’t hate me.
  • Learning new skills and healing both take lots of time, and I need to radically accept that I won’t be better in an instant, or by the end of the summer.
  • My body posture is often closed off and protective. I am working on being more aware of my posture and lowering my shoulders, uncrossing my arms, and opening my hands up when there is no threat. This teaches my body that I am safe.
  • Sometimes my emotions are justified, and I need to deal with them and not push them away.
  • There might be a part 3 at some point. 🙂 (here is part 1)
Coping Skills

Using Coordinated Movement for Dissociation

This week I learned a new technique to use when I’m dissociating.

I started an intensive outpatient treatment program in DBT last Monday. I think DBT is awesome. 10/10 would recommend. I am learning a ton of new skills and getting answers to every question I ever had. I feel very lucky to be able to participate in this incredible program.

I have learned many new skills, but this is one that I had no idea existed beforehand and that has been really helping me. I’m not sure if this is a DBT skill or just a grounding skill, but it was my DBT therapist that explained it to me and helped me to practice it, so I am crediting the program with this.

Basically the thing is this: Our brains can’t dissociate and coordinate our movements properly at the same time. So, if someone is dissociating, or beginning to dissociate, doing some sort of coordinated movement can help to stop the dissociation and bring their mind back to the present and their surroundings.

What is a “coordinated movement“? It’s something you do that requires you to focus your body on moving. My DBT therapist suggested standing on a balance board, playing catch, and dancing.

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I have learned on my own over the past year that dancing can bring me out of a flashback surprisingly quickly. I have a playlist of specific songs that I dance to in order to ground myself. So, it was validating to hear that dancing requires coordination and that that’s probably why it was helping.

If I don’t have a balance board readily available (I can use one while I’m at the program, but not at home), or if it would be too hard to get access to one in the moment, I can just try to balance while standing on one leg for as long as I can. If that’s too easy, I can stand on my tippy toes, too.

Throwing something around is also great. If there’s someone else around, and they’re willing to do this with me, we can play catch. If I’m on my own, I can throw a ball against the wall or bounce it on the floor. If I’m in a group of people, I can simply toss anything from hand to hand without feeling like I’m being weird.

I am going to start carrying around a bouncy ball!

I am also learning that I dissociate a lot. I’ve known for a long time that dissociation is a symptom of PTSD, but I’ve always thought of it as “that one symptom I don’t have.” I don’t think I really understood what the word was describing.

Now I am beginning to pick up on the clues that I am starting to dissociate. I feel dizzy, all thoughts flee my mind, I zone out, I’m not really looking at anything in particular, it’s hard to remember what I was just saying, I ask “whaaat?” in my head or out loud, my muscles feel weak, my legs feel like they’re dropping out from under me and disappearing, I feel like I’m not here, I feel like things aren’t real, I have an urge to run away and hide.

Grabbing something and throwing it up and down or from one hand to the other is hard in the moment. It is hard to remember to do it, it is hard to be willing to do it and trust that it could probably help, and it is physically hard to do it because I am attempting to override the dissociation.

Standing up when I want to freeze and stay still forever because I think that if I don’t, something bad will happen, is hard. Moving any part of me, even just readjusting the position I’m sitting in, is hard because that is not what my body is wired to do.

But I am safe now. In this moment, I am safe. It is okay to move. It is okay to stay present and to experience this moment. I am having a reaction, that is all. I have gotten through this before, and I will get through it again. It’ll be okay.

Had you heard of this skill before? Have you tried it? If you dissociate, what helps you bring yourself out of that?