Updating My Emotional Rating System Among Other Things

After riding the roller coaster of depression, anxiety and feeling ok for a few weeks, I decided I need an updated system. There’s been many challenges and an episode where I’ve made a big decision and rode out the emotional ramifications. 

The big news is that I quit my gym. I loved that place for almost a year, and then coaches left, people left, the program changed. I hung in there for several months willing them to turn around, but after they hired the wrong people to be coaches and morale didn’t improve, I started to wonder. I also witnessed Stretch Guy trying to come back to the gym after several months gone and it didn’t stick. He was one of the longtime clients who left and it was weird to me because he initially built his clientele from the gym. And, when I asked him about why he left, he seemed to be dancing around the real reason. I didn’t ask more because I was still going and trying to figure out if I should stay or not, but wanted to make my own decision. So, I had a couple incidents and finally pulled the plug when I realized I was being triggered because I felt I was being ignored by the gym owners. They pledge it’s a community and they want to help make you the best athlete you can be, but when I reached out, I wasn’t met with that kind of support. I also had a confrontation with one of the owners and realized he has no clue how to treat someone who’s paying him a significant chunk of money. So, that was it.  I forfeited 2 weeks and quit in the middle of the month.  I used my body as the excuse as I haven’t been able to use the program fully for months because I didn’t want to get into other stuff.

I had been triggered by them while in a state of depression, was feelng a lot anger at the same time, and felt like my decision was knee-jerk until this happened: Therapist’s reaction to the decision was to help me realize I felt like they treated me like my mom does, and to point out it was a huge step to recognize my worthiness and leave. And she told me she was proud of me for being able to recognize what I need. Stretch Guy’s reaction was to tell me he’s proud of me, and then to share why he really left. It was almost comical how similar their reactions were, on the one hand I’ve got the experienced professional and on the other I’ve got the not-professional but similar life story person. Quite validating, I must say!

Anyway, to capture what I went through during and after that, I’ve tweaked some of my ratings. I realized I need an anxiety rating because I definitely vacillate between depression and anxiety.  

  1. Awful 😭
  2. really really bad 😩
  3. can’t get out of bed ☹️
  4. flooded - angry and/or crying, non-functional 🤬😭
  5. numb, emotions shut down but functioning 😶
  6. Meh. Going thru motions  😐
  7. Anxious, jittery 😬
  8. pretty good 🙂
  9. feeling well and meaning it. 😊
  10. Ah-mazing 😁

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Events over the past few weeks have led me to search back in time on my blog and there is a  familiar theme, like (here, here and here)

I can’t keep putting myself through this.

It’s been 3 years, give or take since I first identified that I suffered narcissistic abuse in my childhood that has stunted and depressed me from adolescence into adulthood. The 4th of July week was rather awful. I hung out around 3.5-6 on my emotional rating scale, intermittent crying and grieving were the norm for several days. I was numb and disconnected from my family, struggling to have some fun while simultaneously comforting my anxious 7 year old during fireworks. I still felt disconnected by the weekend, and the sadness gave way to anger. I realized I needed to reach out for support as I was spinning in my head, not getting anywhere and feeling hopeless. Sunday night I sent an e-mail that took so damn long to write, it was ridiculous. I felt raw and scared despite knowing the type of response I would get, and I broke down again. Stretch Guy called me at lunch Monday and while the conversation wasn’t necessarily different than the last one, diving into the sadness and anger, and the nudging for me to realize what I need, after I hung up I felt a little lighter.

Today, I’m shockingly feeling calm and centered, (8/10) a state of being that I’m not sure I’ve ever felt, at least not in this way. After describing it to Stretch Guy, he pointed out that I’m integrating. The lows will come again and I’ll have to ride them out, but this is progress.

I so desperately want to progress and not circle back around again. To do that, I need to remove roadblocks and respect what I need vs. what I think I should do. I’ve been here before, more than once, and both options don't feel good. When I asked S, his response was that it was going to be difficult either way, but he has been here before with me witnessing the effect they have on me, how they treat me and the fact that it’s gotten worse lately. I’ve been hanging onto the idea that I need to learn to accept them for what they are out of obligation to “family” and for my kids’ relationship with them.

Fuck it.

I’m done communicating with my parents.

Shifts

I put up a boundary with Stretch Guy and now it seems that has allowed me to soften into a comfortable sharing state with him. Funny how boundaries do that isn't it? Today, my emotional scale is more like a 5 than bouncing between want to go back to bed and sitting in a fog. I'm functional, feeling sadness and some release. I saw him this morning, partly because my right leg is seriously bothering me, and partly because yesterday morning I realized I need some support after the weekend I had interacting with my parents and all the shit that has surfaced because of that.

Walking into his office, the old nervousness was back. The clenching of my stomach and shaking. Once I was in his office and talking to him though, I felt safe to let it go. I felt sad and started crying as we were talking practically as soon as I got on the table. I've been so shut down for several weeks that a breakdown was inevitable I guess, and the trigger was interacting with my parents. I can't even get through a drop-off and pick up without being triggered in a bad way. It's like I still can't accept the way they are and I'm so sad and angry that it's this way. My dad barely said hello to me or S and my mom pulled the usual prattling on about nothing and acted offended when I didn't want something she offered. They were both passive aggressive at pick up, the usual "Thank you so much for letting us have them". I fucking hate that, partially because it's true and partially because it's this way because of the way they are. 

We talked, I cried for the first 1/2 hour and slowly started feeling better. There was a lot of sharing on both sides and it's funny to me now how I used snap-judgement on him so many months ago when he started probing. There are so many similarities in our experience and how both of us reacted to it that every time he says something that resonates with me, I'm - shocked isn't the word anymore, more like comforted. I know there's lots of people out there with similar stories and experiences, but again, I've been so shut down to expressing any of it to anyone except S that I've missed opportunities to connect. I'm slowly (snails pace) learning to express myself and ask for what I need and set boundaries. It was such an emotional appointment, the tears started flowing again at the end and he gave me a tight hug telling me not to give up.

The shifts are coming fast and furious now. The tears feel cleansing instead of a dam burst (had to :p). My back isn't as tight as it used to be. Stretch Guy made it a point to say he's noticed a shift in the last several weeks in me, that I'm talking more and flowing more and expressing myself and my needs more. 

It's exhausting and I need to move through it to get to the other side. Working when this happens is rough. Thankfully it's a slow week and I can focus on some tasks that have needed to get done that don't require interaction with others.

#Microblog Mondays - Emotional Rating System

I found a resource in an unlikely place, bando.com. I went to the website first, if I remember right because it was mentioned in a Girlboss newsletter. Turns out, it's a pretty fun place to buy gifts and it's founder, Jen Gotch is a fixture on Instagram promoting her business along with sharing her struggles with bipolar. She recently launched a podcast, and one of the episodes focused on her emotional rating system. The basic gist is to check in with yourself about how you feel for tracking depression.

I've started using it to help me realize when depression hits me hard. This is my scale:

  1. awful, like scary
  2. very very bad
  3. can't get out of bed
  4. foggy, slow, exhausted
  5. meh
  6. a little better than meh
  7. pretty darn good
  8. feeling well and meaning it.
  9. feeling great
  10. Ah-mazing, the world is my oyster

I don't think I've ever hit 3. I get to 3.2, where I only function by sheer force of will. Those days I can barely hold a conversation or work. Part of that is that I don't allow myself to feel "weak". There have definitely been days when I should have stayed in bed and called in sick, but I don't. I go through the motions, generally berating myself throughout the day for not being able to shake the funk.

Today, I've been vacillating between 3.5 and 4.5. The past few weeks, I've been disconnected and shut down which led to being more like a 6 to 7 (which is where I think I exist most of the time). I haven't felt much emotion and have been productive. This past weekend was a whirlwind of a long bike ride (46.5 miles), partying w/ S for our 16th wedding anniversary (fun!! 8), and enduring interactions with my family as well as a family reunion with S's family (5). Sunday I was tired, but luckily not too cranky.

Today, I woke up, dragged my exhausted butt to the gym and promptly started feeling like shit. I got through the workout, but couldn't get my heart rate up very high and really struggled. I had an appointment with Dr. M and I hung out at a coffee shop working until then. In that time, I started to recognize how everything felt flat, how frustrated I was. The appointment brought up some crap and I ended up crying the entire drive home. Since then, I've barely been able to move through my day, faking a good mood at the dentist's office (awesome way to spend a lunch hour) and trying to get some tasks checked off my list at work when all I want to do is take a damn nap. Or stare at the wall. Anything but think.

 

 Don't know what #microblogmondays is? Check it out  here

Don't know what #microblogmondays is? Check it out here

I Met Them

I just want to mark here that I did in fact, meet my Uncle J, Aunt L and Uncle B. I met Uncle J and Aunt L's son and his family. It was a strange weekend of seriously hopped up anxiety, but they are all lovely people, and it was nice to connect.

Both my brother and I flew into Boston and then stayed at the same hotel near their house. It was nice to connect with him after the huge fight we had the last time I stayed at his house. I think that the work I've been doing since then has allowed me to really start being vulnerable in general and I was able to talk to him about my experiences with Stretch Guy, my mom, and all the other stuff I'm currently doing without inciting another fight. This time, I was able to come at it from the perspective, of "this is how I feel when this happens" vs. "She does this, this and this and I can't stand it". So yeah, I have made progress. I talked about how going to our half-brother's graduation triggered me in a huge way and sent me seriously spiraling out of control, and I think for the first time, he understood. 

I haven't wanted/felt the desire to write about the experience because I'm still processing. It was a quick 4 day trip, 2 of which are travel, and I shut down after I got back. I was lethargic, didn't feel like getting back into my usual routine of morning gym-time and only managed one yoga class and one short bike ride in the week following. Instead of forcing myself to get back into the routine, I rode the wave, and focused a little bit more on my infant-stage meditation practice (I randomly think, hey I should try to meditate and then I do it for 10 minutes then forget about it for the next few days to weeks....). The other reason why I didn't feel like writing is because I'm so deep into emotional work, that all I want to do is throw up on the page about those experiences to help me work through them.

So, I met them. They are nice. I'll plan on sending Christmas cards. I don't know where to go from here...

I now have an understanding of what it's like to meet family of origin 40 years later. I wanted to, I was curious, but what does the relationship look like from here?  I have no idea.

EMDR

Stretch, Network Chiropractic and EMDR. 

It's a wonder I can function right now.

I chose Therapist #3 based on a recommendation from my best therapist ever, who happily responds to my emails and updates even 3 years after I stopped seeing her. (for reference, she moved to another country). Therapist #3 is also awesome. I definitely made the right move, and after several sessions, I dived into EMDR. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. 

It SUCKS. I've done 2 sessions and it's been really rough both times. She uses tactile tappers that I hold in my hands while processing memories and feelings. I process for about 2 minutes and then tell her what is coming up. I chose a negative memory and feeling to start from in a previous appointment and went through an exercise to choose the "vessel" to put all the bad feelings into and a safe place to go through a visualization to close out the session. In the first session, memories came up that I often cycle through, it wasn't like anything really deep in my subconscious suddenly popped up.  It was hard to process and I completely broke down crying. After the session, I was drained and even the next day, didn't feel like I had a lot of energy. The second session was even worse. This time, I seemed to be fighting to even begin to move into memories and the first 2 rounds of the processing there wasn't much coming up. When I finally started talking about what was going on, I felt robotic and shut down. Moving into the subsequent rounds of processing, all these feelings came flooding through me and I started to break down. By the end, I was so raw and shaken that she commented she was a little bit worried about me. I struggled to really close out the session and walked out of the office feeling dazed. The next day I had scheduled a stretch session. That turned out to be for the best, because Stretch Guy opened up to me more and it felt so comforting to hear someone else articulate what I've been feeling and thinking. I still felt a little raw by what came up, and really needed support from someone who can relate. 

The insight from the first couple of EMDR sessions has brought to light that while I can logically and rationally understand that my childhood was less than ideal and certain actions by my parents kept me from really experiencing childhood, I have not been feeling the feelings. EMDR forced me to feel pain and sadness and shame and grief over how I protected myself. How I put on the blinders, tried to be the perfect daughter and student in order to win their love. I never rebelled. I never even thought to transfer universities to find out what it was I like or want to do. I just kept my head down and barreled through years of my life checking off the boxes and wondering why I wasn't happy like I perceive everyone else to be. 

I'm grieving the loss of my childhood and the exploration of who I wanted to become. I never had either one of those. 

Yet Another Modality - Network Chiropractic

One of the things Stretch Guy strongly encouraged me to do was go to a network chiropractor. I rejected his suggestion, especially when I found out I’d have to go 3x a week for a few months. Ugh. Then, the left side of my body completely rejected the stretch and I was in pain for a solid week. That gave Stretch Guy an opening to plead with me to try his chiropractor because as he put it, “I’m keeping you functional. We aren’t making progress.” That kind of argument, the one that appeals to my sense of logic, is one that I can’t resist. I caved. If it didn’t work, it’s just money, right? (a pile of money, but just money). I talked with my therapist about it, and it turns out she knows who Dr. M is and also encouraged me to go see him. There you have it, two professionals who don’t know each other encouraging me to see the same person. Well, ok then.

My first appointment with Dr. M was a typical patient intake. I filled out medical history forms, he sat down with me to talk about my answers and then he examined my back. He asked what my upbringing was like and after I told him about my mom he kind of laughed and said yep, that’s it. His conclusion is that my body is stuck in fright-flight meaning my sympathetic nervous system is constantly on and my parasympathetic nervous system (the one that calms you down) doesn’t work. I got x-rays on my neck and went in a couple days later for a follow-up and to start treatment. My neck x-rays show my neck is extended and my head pushed forward and he talked about all the subluxations in my cervical spine (mis-alignment of the vertebrae), which I can’t find any reference to except in the chiropractic world so I take that with a boulder of salt. Anyway, then he did an adjustment on my back and talked me through it so that I could get used to how it works. It is WEIRD. He barely touches my back, and does none of the traditional chiropractic adjustments. The adjustments feel like brushing, or a slight push on muscles along the spine.  Then he walks away for a couple minutes, comes back, checks the back again and does it again in the same areas or different areas depending on what he observes. This goes on for about a half hour. The idea is to encourage my back muscles to learn how to relax.  I am fully aware that this could be quackery, but after all the weird things that have been happening with my body, I’m on-board with the idea of the mind-body connection profoundly affecting my life and causing health issues.

When I went back to Stretch Guy after a month of doing the network, he was practically giddy about the fact that my back no longer felt like a brick wall to him. It’s not even that much better and I still keep having problems with my neck and shoulders. I’ve felt like depression is worse too. I haven’t really recovered from the downward spiral I had over vacation and over the past week I’ve made the decision to go back up to a full dose of cel.exa. It wasn’t the time to try to stop as it turns out.

I’ve been seeing Dr. M for about two months now and I can attest that something is happening. I’ve been crying at random times, and now that I’ve started back up with yoga tearing up during savasana is a regular thing. I seem to be having weird dreams, although they aren’t vivid so I’m not remembering them. Lately, on the chiropractic table, sensations are getting stronger. A couple of times I flat out fell asleep. That would be fine except for the part that lying on my stomach in a face cradle, I totally snore myself awake, and with other patients in the room, I’m super self-conscious. Now I’m actively trying NOT to fall asleep. A couple of times I felt waves moving through my body, which was one of the oddest sensations I’ve ever felt during any kind of work. Most of the time, I get bored and worry about face cradle creases.

I've had a follow-up discussion with Dr. M and he says my back is looser, but I'm still having trouble working out. I haven't been able to lift weights for months and my hands go numb when I bike. It's so frustrating and I just want to be better. Patience is not one of my strong points.

#Microblog Mondays - Now For Something More Fun - Gray Hair Update 2

Let's take a break from my brain and trauma... 

So, here I am, 18 weeks since I stopped coloring my hair, and today when I go in, hopefully most of the color gets cut off! I highly recommend going super short if you're considering this transition, especially if you've been coloring dark hair. It's scary (even for me, someone who has had varying levels of a short 'do since cutting off mid-back length hair 17'ish years ago), but it has made the transition so much easier! I only had a few weeks where I had to try to cover up obvious roots and a demarcation on the crown of my head where the most white hair exists. Once I got past that part and another cut, the gray is more blended in with the colored hair, and while I can tell where the line is, it's not glaringly obvious, at least that's what I keep telling myself.

 Don't know what #microblogmondays is? Check it out by clicking on the image!

Don't know what #microblogmondays is? Check it out by clicking on the image!

 

 

There's So Far to Go

Things have been kind of ok'ish with my mom, well, not really, but I've been trying mightily to be ok with interactions. Protect myself by not ever telling her anything important, and let my kids see her and my dad. I keep telling myself that they are good grandparents, I haven't noticed them doing anything to my kids that is off-side and it is helpful to get them to watch the kids now and again. 

But...my birthday and Mother's Day was the WORST. My youngest brother graduated as a Pharmacist and if I didn't go to his graduation, I would have been the only one who didn't.  Ever dutiful, I told myself, no big deal, I'll just drag myself and my kids out to lovely Nebraska for a one night trip. First, an early morning flight, then getting there only to find out my mom was dictating the schedule and there was no downtime in it. We had lunch at 1pm then had less than an hour to get ready to go to the hooding ceremony, and the most I managed to do was lay down for 10 min. My kids didn't rest mind you, just me, desperately trying to regroup. Z fell asleep for most of the hooding ceremony on the bleachers. X and my niece played in the hallway, typical right? Kids can't sit through these things. After the ceremony I tried to figure out how to handle dinner. I wanted to hit up a supermarket, but my kids were DONE, and so, I discovered how valuable overpriced hotel food is. Especially when you can get it delivered to your room! My mom was surprised to see that I wasn't dragging my kids out to an 8:15pm dinner reservation, despite the fact that I told her multiple times we probably wouldn't be able to make it. What did she do? She volunteered me to watch my 5 year old niece while everyone else went out to dinner. By the time this exchange came around, I had given up. Even though I should have told my brother that I couldn't watch his kid, I didn't. I caved and it made everything worse, because of course he didn't get back until 10pm to pick her up. The next day dawned with me waking up exhausted, wondering what the fuck was I thinking and trying to figure out how to kill time before going to the airport in the afternoon. Naturally, the weather sucked so I couldn't even go to the zoo for the day, which had been my plan, and I started to break down. There was yelling, there was obstinance, there was threatening to drive around all damn day unless X got dressed. We were actually in the car with him in his pajamas and I was at the end of my rope when it finally dawned on me to give him a choice. He could choose to get dressed and we could meet everyone for lunch, or he could choose not to get dressed and we could drive around until it was time to go to the airport. Amazing how a little Love and Logic (which I hadn't been using all morning) worked. In hindsight, he probably needed to know the plan instead of me demanding he get his damn clothes on and brush his teeth. Yep, probably could have de-escalated the situation and made my morning easier. Ultimately, we met for lunch, then I and my kids went to the Children's Museum while my parents went to the Art Museum. 

We got home that night and after a couple glasses of wine, S dealing with the kids and putting them to bed, I completely broke. So much crying. So much ugly crying. So much shame. 

I woke up on Mother's Day still feeling like shit, puffy eyed and pounding headache. X wanted to bring me breakfast in bed and sweetly orchestrated the whole deal. So, I got breakfast in bed, but I was still so upset that I couldn't enjoy it. S gave me a pass to do whatever I wanted (although he practically ordered me to get on my bike). I rode 33 miles with a splitting headache, but I made it!  When they came home from visiting S's parents, I still wasn't in a good frame of mind. S left the house for 20 minutes to get food and in that 20 minutes I managed to have a throwdown with an almost 7 year old. I couldn't keep my head straight, I said things I knew were damaging. I yelled. I cried. I hid in my room. I said things that could have come straight out of my mother's mouth. Things I never thought I would ever say to my child. More crying. More shame. Apologies. Explanations. 

Stretch Guy helped show me I have more work to do. He recognized the stress in my body long before I was ready to admit what it was. He pushed me to consider different ways of dealing with it, and here I am, beginning to deal with it, but in the meantime, I feel like I'm damaging my kid in the process. Network chiropractic work is flat out weird, but something is happening. The way it's done, it's like nothing - I barely feel Dr. M touching different areas on my back. Six weeks into the work and I've gone from skeptic to, well...maybe this is working? I'm also starting EMDR with therapist #3. I was supposed to do it last week, but was riding the high from fighting against my avoidant attachment tendencies and getting to the space where I actually connected with Stretch Guy so we talked about that. I didn't think I had to talk about my mom in all of that because it was supposed to be an annoying, but doable trip, not the emotional breakdown that it was.

There's so far to go. Therapist told me I'll probably be on an emotional roller coaster as we move through all these different avenues of healing, but she's all for it. EMDR and the network should compliment each other in healing trauma. Stretch Guy is there to be a source of support. I do a decent job of telling X what I'm doing and when I lose my shit I do my best to own it as my problem, not his. But I'm still losing my shit. And he's still having the occasional scary tantrum as he tries to keep control of situations. We are in a shitty place.

I have a stupid amount of work travel in the next several weeks, and juggling my projects while traveling is a source of stress. Trying to see Dr. M 3x a week for 3 months is stressful. Seeing Therapist every other week is stressful. Squeezing in a stretch session once a month is stressful. I need all three of those things right now and there aren't enough hours in the day. I wish I had one of those totally mundane and boring jobs so that I can focus on my mental health and healing. Too bad I can't get that for a few months. 

 

I Was Vulnerable and it was Glorious

Recently, Stretch Guy crossed a line and triggered me in a bad way. The boundaries between me and him have been fuzzy ever since I broke down and have been a source of stress as I tried to figure out the line between being vulnerable and protecting myself. He would suggest different avenues for me to check out and I would dutifully say ok then go home, dive down professor Google and decide x, y, z are not for me. Then I wouldn't bring it up again. Well, maybe once I resisted, but mostly I'd just think, naw, that's for him, not me. The latest episode came when I was at a conference and we had been exchanging some e-mails around the network chiropractic care I agreed to try at his (strong) suggestion. In a reply, he invited me to a graduation of sorts from a workshop/retreat thing he did. He used all the words that make me squirm, "transformational, powerful, incredible" and I felt like I was punched in the gut. When he suggested Wo.man.Ki.nd to me, I looked into it, decided hard pass and laughed about how he is totally not picking up on my personality. When I got this latest suggestion, I fell down a black hole of wondering why I ever started trusting him and thinking it may be time to fire him. Poor S had to listen to me cry about how Stretch Guy says he wants to help but what. the. actual. fuck. I actually felt heartbroken and sad that I was facing a decision that I had been trying really hard to avoid. He had helped me. He had been consistent. And now, it was like he was trying to recruit me.

I started a draft e-mail that was scathing and full of hurt. I deleted it. I breathed. I gave myself time to process and then drafted another response that simply said I appreciated he thought of me, but it was not my thing. Then, I asked if he could meet me outside of his office. 

When we met at the coffee shop several days later, I had time to process my reaction to his invitation, I wrote out things that helped me identify where the trigger was (feeling like someone was telling me they know better what I need than I do), and how it tied to shame in some areas. I had contemplated starting out by pulling out my newly acquired Color Energies wheel and pointing out where I fall then asking him why the hell he'd think I'd be even remotely interested in sitting around with a bunch of people talking about feelings of all things. Eventually I decided against that opening, but had the printout in case I had to browbeat him into acknowledging that no I would not be open to beating a goddamn drum in the woods or sitting around waiting to be transformed as someone talks at me about awareness. (I'm judging, I know). With my mind still focused on what. the. actual. fuck. I decided to go with a different tack.

I told him how I feel.

I told him he's pushing my boundaries and I don't like it. 

He APOLOGIZED.

And then we had a really good and open conversation. And I felt lighter the whole rest of the day. And I have an appointment with him today. I don't feel anxious. I don't feel nervous. This will be the first time I've walked into his office without anxiety following me. 

You guys. 

I think I trust him.

Who knew?