Nope

I didn’t get a chance to publish my blog on Monday, which is my usual day. This is because I literally couldn’t use my right hand, and this is kind of a miserable situation because I tend to be right hand dominant. It makes fine motor skills, like touch-typing, very difficult.

On Friday night, I went over to a friend’s house to watch TV and have dinner. on the way out of my door I grabbed a sweater that I haven’t worn probably since the last time it was cold, so sometime last spring. this particular sweater has been hanging on a hook by my front door for somewhere between 4 and 6 months.

We’re in that time of year in southern California that we call “fall” and the rest of the country laughs their asses off at us for it. Our version of fall means that it’s hot during the day and cold at night. No changing leaves spilling from tree branches. Sometimes it rains. Anyway, I knew I would be cold later so I grabbed the sweater and I brought it with me.

Shortly after dinner, I was cold as I had expected and I decided to put the sweater on. I put it on and went back to the table where I was sitting. A few minutes later, I felt a sting on my right wrist. It radiated right up my arm all the way to my shoulder. I immediately pushed my sleeve up to see what had got me, but I didn’t see anything. I was afraid to stick my hand back into the sweater, so I pulled the sleeve inside-out. Never saw a thing. There was a tiny red mark on my wrist right about where the pain was centered. It didn’t look or anything like a bug bite, really.

Shortly after that, I started to feel really strange. My arm started burning, and then it was hurting and painful like all my bones were bruised, and then I started having chest pains. Now I was pretty sure that this was a panic attack, but what if it was actually a heart attack? My arm was hurting so bad, and I was really starting to feel scared. I asked my friend to take me to the ER. She was amazing, reminding me to control my breathing on the ride there.

I walked in the lobby holding my wrist to my chest, and kind of crying. The security officer asked me if I was here to visit or if I needed to check in. I kind of looked at him blankly, and he said you must need to check in. Then he asked me if I was having any chest pains or trouble breathing, which I was. I nodded my head, and the next thing I know I’m in a wheelchair and being swept back into the triage room.

I was immediately administered and EKG, and shortly after that, a chest x-ray. They came and took an obscene amount of blood out of my body, and did their due diligence to find out what was wrong with me.

By the end of the four hours I was there, I was pretty ready to go home when they were ready to discharge me. I was still concerned about the bug bite, but at that point, it didn’t look so bad. It looked like a tiny read spot and it was barely swollen. It felt like all of the bones in my hand were bruised, a sore feeling, but not really painful. It didn’t start to get excruciating until after I left the hospital. my friend dropped me off at home, made sure that I had everything I needed at hand, and then went home to her family. All I wanted to do was sleep.

Narrator: She did not sleep. As soon as I laid down, all I could concentrate on was the pain coming out of my right hand. I tried icing it, because a few years ago when I had a scorpion sting, ice seemed to help the pain a little bit, but this time, it only dulled it slightly. It felt like all of the bones in my hand were broken, all the tendons were hard as rocks, and every muscle from my fingertips to my shoulder and chest muscles, were completely tense. I had almost no hand strength in my right hand, I couldn’t even hold a pen long enough to sign my name.

I went back to the ER the next evening, because the pain hadn’t gone away after 24 hours, like it had with the scorpion sting. The pain was my constant bed fellow for 45 hours. That first night, I managed to get approximately 30-minute naps, in between moving from my bed to the couch, and back again. The cat finally got tired of following me and parked herself on the couch I wasn’t sleeping on, ostensibly to watch the show.

Now, it’s Tuesday evening. I still don’t have full use of my hand. I can use it, it’s not paralyzed, but the more I use it the more it hurts. I’m terrified of that pain coming back full force, so I’m really keeping it out of the way. Keeping your dominant hand out of the way, I am finding, is a very difficult thing to do.

I never got to meet the thing that bit me, so I have no idea what variety it might be. It was a tiny red spot surrounded by a red ring; it was a little bit swollen but very painful. in the meantime, I’m going to baby this hand, and practice writing with my left. I’ll get through this just like I get through everything else. One day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time, whatever it takes.

#happinessinavacuum #wordpress #wordpressblog #ptsd #abusiverelationship #emotionalviolence #selfcare #recovery #minimize #symptoms #anxiety #depression #mask #gaslighting #mentalhealth #manipulation #nope #spider #mysteryspider #sting #bite #ouch

Agra

Due to the recent fire danger, I spent three days, housebound by anxiety. Now there was a legitimate reason; although fire was not directly threatening my area, it was close enough to have a bag packed and ready. I was reluctant to leave the house because I was afraid I would be evacuated and not be able to get home for my cat. So I stayed home and watched the news.

I also listened to an audiobook.

The book I’m reading is about a woman who is suffering from the symptoms of agoraphobia following a trauma incident where she developed PTSD. The book is The Woman in the Window.

I know that agrophobia is a very real side effect of the anxiety that is associated with PTSD, and with the myriad of anxiety disorders that I’ve developed over the past 5 years, I am a little bit concerned that I could head in this direction, especially now that I’ve just had an entire 3 days of being housebound because I was literally afraid to leave my house.

I am not afraid of having a panic attack in a public place. My panic attacks are quiet. they happen so internally that nobody on the outside can see what’s going on. I might just look like I’m doing some controlled breathing, but I don’t externally show my panic attacks. What I’m afraid of is that I will gradually increase in my anxious behaviors until I am house-bound.

These fears have been in the background of my mind for a long time. I’ve always known I was capable of anxiety that would confine me to my home forever, and now that I’ve had a taste of what it feels like, I am even stronger in my belief that I am capable of it.

So I’ve decided I’ve lived in fear for long enough. I’ve allowed anxiety to control me for long enough. I know that I had to go through a period of avoiding triggers, and allowing the anxiety to take the front seat, or the control. I’m healthy enough now, in my 4th year of freedom, that I can start to introduce small discomforts back into my routine. It’s a necessary part of my healing, and ultimate survival.

I was laying in yoga class and the collar of my shirt was touching my throat, which usually is a humongous problem for me. I did reach up to relieve the pressure, but then I decided I was going to just try and tolerate it and see how long I could stand the sensation. It happened to be during shavasana, so I had nothing to do but lay there and think about the shirt that is currently resting on my throat, and the reason why I don’t like that feeling. Also, I tolerated it. I didn’t panic and I didn’t even die.

Afterward, I could still feel uncomfortable pressure on my throat. Still, I was so proud of myself. There is a certain amount of time (different for every individual) in which one must avoid triggers. It’s about survival and healing at that point. Then, one must start to face the triggers, slowly allowing increased exposure (in a safe environment). Otherwise, the anxiety gets worse and takes over.

I never want to be that scared again.
Especially when the threat is not immediate.

#happinessinavacuum #wordpress #wordpressblog #ptsd #abusiverelationship #emotionalviolence #selfcare #recovery #minimize #symptoms #anxiety #depression #mask #gaslighting #mentalhealth #manipulation #agoraphobia #agra #psychology #anxietyisaliar

Brain

I want to discuss a little bit about how my brain works and how I consider myself a very organized person, however my thinking is very disorganized. I do not think in a linear way. One example of this is once when I was trimming some plants in my front yard. I started at one end and got about three quarters of the way down the line, went to the other end, and then came back into the middle.

I’ll get started on one project, get distracted by an email or something and then move on to something else. At work, I have several different things going at the same time that I pick up and put down. I guess this kind of thinking works in what I do, I’m a special ed teacher and I’m constantly having to switch directions to do something different because that’s the nature of my job. I do have the ability to pick up something that I’ve been working on and understand where I was and what still needs to be done. I use a ton of post-it notes. I make lists and re-write them, changing he order to show priority. I have clipboards with notes attached so I check them every day.

It seems very disjointed, but it’s the way it works for me. I don’t think that I would be able to function if I had to stick on one task until it was completed. I wonder if this way of working has evolved out of my career, or if my career has evolved out of my way of thinking. I also wonder if this just organized and distracted way of getting things done has anything to do with my PTSD.

Because I teach elementary age children, I often make an effort to think back on what kind of a learner I was when I was a kid. School was super easy for me, I knew how to read before kindergarten, I always had a good number sense, I didn’t have to try too hard. This makes it really difficult for me to remember how I learned things, because it was rarely ever a struggle so it’s not entirely memorable. For instance, I don’t remember learning how to read. I remember picking up chapter books. now that I teach little kids how to read, I’m pretty sure that’s not what happened.

I claim to be a procrastinator, but the truth is that I do start projects early, because if I lose my ability to focus on that particular project, I will put it away and do something else. I believe the way that I consider myself to be organized is in my ability to manage time well. I’m able to prioritize different projects and pick out the ones that need to be done first, based on the time that I’m expecting them to take and the time In which they need to be completed.

In order to prevent overloading my brain, I will often make a list of things that I need to put on the back burner, and literally not think about them until it’s time to think about them.

#happinessinavacuum #wordpress #wordpressblog #ptsd #abusiverelationship #emotionalviolence #selfcare #recovery #minimize #symptoms #anxiety #depression #mask #gaslighting #mentalhealth #manipulation #brain #procrastinate #list #prioritize #organize

Connected

I had a little panic today when I realized my phone battery is less than 20%. I walked into my bedroom, flipped on the switch and thought about how much I take electricity for granted. I live in Southern California. If you haven’t heard, we’re on fire (again). Each year, a combination of weather conditions, vegetation, and human intervention coalesce to engulf my little world on fire. There were four distinct fires this week, one coming rather close to the Getty.

Now, if you read the article, you notice the fire may have been ignited by a power line in the Sepulveda (SEH-pul-va-da) pass (excuse the spoiler if you haven’t read it). That means that high power lines and/or giant transformers in mountain pass ground on vegetation that comes into contact with it during high wind situations. The next two days are forecasted to be somewhere around 80 mph winds. They’re calling this extreme “Santa Ana” conditions.

I live in a valley, close to the foothills in the northeast. That means most of the grid that I am attached to includes canyon environments. for the next two days, I will most likely not have power. I was already off 2 days this week, because there was no electricity in my building. It’s likely that the electricity will be turned off in our area, for the next two days.

I’m a whole day late with this post. The power has been turned off for days at a time. Even when there is electricity, my internet service is spotty. I just happened to change ISPs this week. I’m sure it’s just a bug they have to work out with the new service, or maybe the modem is malfunctioning. This would be so much easier to work out if I had not had so many power outages recently. Oh well, it’s time to do some actual reading of actual books, it seems.

#happinessinavacuum #wordpress #wordpressblog #ptsd #abusiverelationship #emotionalviolence #selfcare #recovery #minimize #symptoms #anxiety #depression #mask #gaslighting #mentalhealth #manipulation #connected #internet #isps #attsucks

Hair

I don’t know why so many controlling people in my life have always had an opinion about my hair. When I was a kid, I got my long hair caught in a skateboard and that was the end of long hair for a while. As an adult, I’ve had very long hair twice in my life.

I always cut it at the end of a relationship (in my case, the two big ones were abusive). It was a direct rebellion, I was ending a relationship with a person whom had always encouraged my long tresses. Telling me over and over how beautiful it was. How great it looked on me. Then encouraging me to wear it tied back all the time at work, out with friends. Mi pelo was an attraction for his eyes only. What was this need to restrict my crowning glory to the bedroom?

Insecurity is usually the answer. Those that need to control others to feel (whatever it is they need to feel) are most often insecure themselves.

When I cut my hair, I’m not doing it to punish them. I’m not trying to punish anyone. I never really thought much about this pattern, but perhaps it’s my own need to have some control over my life. Here is something that was a point of contention between us, and I took the problem away. Neither you, myself, nor anyone else will have the pleasure of my mane feature for the years it will take me to decide to grow it back.

Decide, I have. I have reached the short bob stage of my progress. It took me the last four years to get from a pixie to here (Of course, I gave up and cut it all off again two or three times already). I’ve not color-treated my hair and have had regular trims. My grey streaks are showing, all over. It’s beautiful, all these silvery strands of white spider-thread that sparkle when I stand in the sunshine. I don’t know why anyone would ever want to cover this up. He didn’t like it, my ex. He didn’t like anything that hinted at ageing. That’s why he was married to someone 13 years younger; he imagined he could drink from the fountain of youth.

The bob is my favourite style on me. I like the way it frames my face. It’s a shame it won’t last. Once I get to this stage, I usually just allow it to keep growing longer. Before I know it, I’ll be able to tie it into a big knot on the top of my head. I’ll be the grey lady with the topknot as big as her head. I’ll hide in the voluminous white waves, foaming across my shoulders.

#happinessinavacuum #wordpress #wordpressblog #ptsd #abusiverelationship #emotionalviolence #selfcare #recovery #minimize #symptoms #anxiety #depression #mask #gaslighting #mentalhealth #manipulation #hair #control #bob

Fire!

Anxiety isn’t any less of a liar when the threat is real. This area burns every fall. It sometimes comes pretty close to and sometimes surrounds the place where I live. Last year, we were surrounded. It smelled like smoke everywhere. People in neighborhoods all around ours lost their homes. My reptilian brain kicks in. It’s fight or flight. I pack a bag and put the cat carrier out. I put my smoke mask by the door. I close the windows and turn on the aircon. I wait.

There was a threat of the fire coming this way. It headed north. My area was protected by some mountains, people just “over the hill,” as we say, lost their homes.

The air quality is bad. I went for a walk to the store. The parking lot was full of Ventura County Sherriff’s vehicles #thankyouvcso for being right here, right now. I live next door to this parking lot, which is across the street from the fire station. This station is usually a staging area for #firstresponders #thankyou for protecting us. Thank you, for making it possible that I can stay in my home and sleep in my bed tonight. I weep for those who could not this night.

I spent all day Friday (work had been cancelled, due to the fire, all the schools closed due to poor air quality) alternating between binging my favorite shows and being glued to the news. I woke up on Saturday morning and immediately engaged with a device. The news stories were following people who were returning to their homes after the evacuation.

The news is still reporting on the fire, but it’s not all they are talking about. I saw this story about an 8th-grade football game. It warmed my cold, little black heart to see those boys dive at him and never take the ball.

So logic is telling me that the threat is passing. That I’m in the clear. I can feel safe. I can move on. I can put my bag away.

Well, anxiety is watching the weather reports. Looking at the fire line maps and the direction of the wind only to jump to the conclusion that it might possibly jump right over these huge mountains and come here.

It’s possible.

All this means is I can’t really leave the house, I can’t abandon the cat. If I was really scared, I would take her somewhere else. But I’m just scared enough to not want to be away from the house if my area gets evacuated. I live next door to a grocery store. At least I can walk there and get something to make.

After watching the news for a bit and talking to my mom, I fell asleep on the couch. The nap was so good, I took it upstairs. I slept for four hours, right through the middle of Saturday. I often find that the shadow of anxiety is depression, and often follows. I was binge-eating and finding it difficult to stay awake.

I know I’ll be OK now. The danger has passed. I get myself dressed and walk to the local boba cafe for a snack and a trip to the grocery store. I got ingredients for a meal and some red pears. I had an ice cream. I watched something I’ve seen multiple times so I could concentrate on coloring. I’m doing the self care things. Tomorrow, I might be able  to reach out and people. I won’t be overly sad if I don’t. I have a few things to get prepared, I’m traveling Monday night.

The point is that anxiety isn’t any easier when the threat is real. It’s like my Amygdala gets reminded that sometimes the threat is real and this hyperalert activity in my brain is warranted some of the time. Having a real threat reinforces all my triggers. Sometimes, a real event will cause my triggers to increase for a while. That’s OK. I expect it, so when it happens, I’m ready. Just like depression following anxiety, I know what’s coming because I’ve been down this road before. Recovery is two steps forward and one step back.

#happinessinavacuum #wordpress #wordpressblog #ptsd #abusiverelationship #emotionalviolence #selfcare #recovery #minimize #symptoms #anxiety #depression #mask #gaslighting #mentalhealth #manipulation #fire #vcfd #vcse #hyperalert #triggers

Six

It’s been six months now since my surgery. My second elective surgery. The first was to install the implants and the most recent one was to have them removed. It was also the last physical reminder of my ex-husband I was finally able to shed. I was incredibly happy I’d finally been able to get my own body back. Sure, I have a few more scars now, but I generally have what I started with and I’m happy with that.

What I didn’t expect was the depression.

I hadn’t realized the surgery was going to be a trigger for depression. I didn’t even really know I was depressed. If you’ve never been depressed, I can best explain it by the old saying “I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.” I recognized typical symptoms: changes in appetite, sleep, fatigue, lack of interest in things, but I failed to connect them together and call it “Depression.” Perhaps recognition could have moved me along a little quicker in my recovery, but hey, I can’t have it all.

I only know I’ve been depressed because the world has that sparkly glow back. Everything just seems brighter and shinier somehow. This makes me reflect on my recovery. That I just had a bout of depression so mild I almost missed it. I feel like celebrating. I didn’t fall into a hole wherein I could only commit to the next episode on my watch list. I didn’t miss work. I pulled my head back into my turtle shell for a bit, but I didn’t get stuck in there.

Looking back, I can see the triggers. I assumed I was further on in my recovery, and took on more than I needed to. I was triggered and I got through it. Maybe not in the best or healthiest way possible, but I got through. I’ll keep doing that, making progress and being triggered, because that is what recovery is like. It’s two steps forward and one step back. The backsliding is more and more infrequent, but it’s still going to happen. I have a long way to go yet.

#happinessinavacuum #wordpress #wordpressblog #ptsd #abusiverelationship #emotionalviolence #selfcare #recovery #minimize #symptoms #anxiety #depression #mask #gaslighting #mentalhealth #manipulation #six #backsliding #twostepsforwardandonestepback