Nightmares – A Small Setback

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I’ve been having dreams, nightmares, whatever you want to call it, I’ve been having it.  It invariably involves one or the other of my past abusers.

My usual nightmare involves It, the narcissist I was with for the longest, the one who caused the most damage, and my PTSD.  It typically involves him returning, and just assuming that the relationship is back on, and I fake it.  I fake it to hide my relationship with my amazing human being – which is basically what I’m doing now, minus the being in a relationship with him part, and more with him being on the other side of the world (THANK FUCK).

My first abuser was in my dream last night.  Then, later on in the dream, I did what I have always dreaded doing.  I said Its name instead of my amazing human being’s name.

Sometimes, in the awake world, It’s name will be on the tip of my tongue instead of my amazing human’s name.  I don’t speak when that happens.  I have almost been away from him for the same length of time as I was with him, but some scars take longer to heal than others.

All of this has … done something to me.  I feel flat and anxious at the same time.  I don’t want to do anything.  I want to bundle up in a blanket and drink tea and watch Forensic Files.

And unfortunately I can’t today.  Or at least not all day.  I have adulting I must do before I can be an amorphous blob.

A Big “Fuck You” Kind Of Day

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It’s a beautiful day.

The sun is shining, the breeze keeps it cool enough to wear pants, all the animals are curled up and snoozing, and I have a large break from university.

I just want to scream at the world and hit inanimate objects and swear at the sky and flip off the butterflies.

They’ve done nothing to offend me, I’m just having a big “fuck you” kind of day.

It’s one of those days where I feel itchy inside my own skin, as though it’s wrong.  It’s one of those days where my elbow aches and my stomach won’t unclench and I have a permanent unimpressed bitchface going on.

I’ve done some woosah.  I’ve listened to my relaxing music and done my best to let it sweep me away.  I’ve done some stretches to ease my sore muscles.  I’ve stretched my back.  My last port of call is going to be a few minutes out in the sun.

Even though I’m doing all of these things, and they’re not quite working enough, I’m not fighting the feeling of almost manic anxiety and frustration.  Not fighting it takes conscious thought and effort, because we naturally want to push away the bad feelings and not feel them.  Unfortunately, that makes the bad feelings worse, because fighting them is also a negative feeling.

So when I’m having one of these days and I notice myself getting pent up trying to fight off the bad feelings, I take a big deep breath and relax my stomach as I exhale.  I take another deep breath and relax my stomach further, then work on my shoulders, my neck, and lastly my face.  I make ridiculous faces as I stretch out my muscles from their scrowl and reset my eyebrows, the muscles around my eyes (which always pinch when I’m stressed), my mouth and my chin.

And I just do this every time I notice I get pent up, which is every few minutes.

It’s interesting how much of an impact your facial features have on your mentality.  Or the way your body is, how clenched your stomach is, how tight your hips are.

Mental state is tied intrinsically with body state.  They influence one another, and a change in one produces a change in the other.  So it stands to reason that in order to relax the mind, one must also relax the body.

There are many methods of relaxing the body.  I find using music helps, as it gives me an external thing to focus on while I work my way through my muscle groups.  I also find lying in the sun helps, as the sun warms tight muscles and helps them relax.

It’s difficult to not go boneless like a cat in the sun!

 

Photo by W A T A R I on Unsplash

Being Open

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I have slowly but surely begun to come out of my shell of …  some of it was self pity, most of it was self care.  Regardless, I have been unclenching myself and allowing myself to be more open and honest with everyone around me about my difficulties.

Some days it’s harder than others.

Some people say “I can cure you, I promise!” and I ignore them, because there is no cure for fibromyalgia, generalised anxiety, and PTSD.  There is only management.

Some of them look at me strangely.  I am sharing too much of myself, and the honesty has made them uncomfortable.  Even the superficial information makes them uncomfortable – I’d never want to see their faces if I were to describe anything in any detail or depth.

And then others say “I am walking the same path you are, and it sucks, and I am here for you”.  They say “this is what I have found useful for me, it may be useful for you”.  They say “I know what you feel”.

It is worth the other reactions to find the ones who understand, the ones who are going through something similar to what you are going through.  Because you need people who understand you, and you need people you understand.  Who speak your language and intimately know the trials you are going through.  There is such compassion in those people.

But there’s another benefit to being open – you’re not bottling it all up.  By letting it out, you’re owning your trauma and releasing it in some way.  I’ve felt lighter since being more open about everything.  It’s a relief.

Growing up with Chronic Pain

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As I have gained more information about fibromyalgia, I have come to the conclusion that I have most likely had this condition for well over half of my life.  Looking back on my memories, particularly of my early twenties, brings a lot of things into focus.

I was 13 when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released.  It was released during school holidays.  The family was having a rare shopping day at the local mall – we hadn’t pre-ordered the book (which I was kicking myself for, because I wanted it now), but we bumped into a friend who said the book shop around the corner still had a couple hundred copies, so we ran around the corner and bought one.

When we got home, I began to devour it.  I can’t remember how long it took me to read it, but I do remember lying in bed to read the last bit.  When I had finished the last page, I shut the book, set it to one side, and closed my eyes.  I was woken later to dinner, but didn’t want any – I was feeling quite unwell.  It was maybe a few hours later when I heard Mum talking about calling the neighbour to come over and look at me, as she was a nurse.  Said nurse came over and did a quick once over.  I was then rushed to hospital with suspected meningitis.

I remember the spinal tap.  The nurses were amazing, one of them asked me to tell him about my favourite thing in the world, so I rambled incoherently about Dragon Ball Z.  I don’t remember much else, just bits of being at home, Dad carefully sponging my face down with cold water, and everything hurting.  Especially my head – no pillow was soft enough.  I lost a week in this state.

When I finally came to, I had a two week recovery ahead of me before I began school again, part time.  It was around this time Mum said I began to lie in bed complaining of sore legs.  I remember them aching, throbbing, as I walked myself to and from school (uphill both ways – literally!) with my backpack that ranged between 4 to 15kg.  We went to a podiatrist and bought special inserts for my shoes.  It helped a bit, but still my hips burned.

I took up a part time cleaning job at 15 and regularly wondered why my knees and hips were on fire.  I had heart palpitations to the point where I had a mobile ECG put on for a monitoring period – they didn’t catch any and the doctor condescendingly said we can put you in touch with the psychiatrist.  I said I’d call them later to book a time and never did.

I took horse riding lessons for a few months.  Mum picked me up one day and I said I was sore and didn’t feel well enough to ride.  She drove me all the way out there and told me to get out and ride.  It was only after twenty minutes of crying in the car park that she took me home.

My time through my early twenties, which coincided with my time with It and Thing, was characterised by severe stress and so much pain.  My knees became so painful walking was excruciating.  My lower back was always throbbing, and random parts of my body would just start hurting for no reason.  My right thumb hurt so badly I wouldn’t move it for about three months straight – I went to the doctor and he said “well of course it hurts, you’re always poking it” and that was that.  I’d have to strap fingers together when the knuckles would flare up.

I just started wearing running sneakers with proper support to work, and that enabled me to get around better, although my knees were still incredibly painful.

Then my abdomen began hurting very badly.  It went on for months before I decided I needed to get this looked into, so I went to a doctor who sent me off for ultrasounds.  The ultrasounds came back clear and nothing else was done about it.  Everything still hurt.

I’m lucky, in a way.  I grew up with this pain.  I wasn’t allowed to do anything to alleviate it.  If I was lying in bed complaining about my legs hurting, it was just growing pains, or it was because I wasn’t active enough.  Later, when I raised problems with medical professionals under my own steam, I was told it’s all in my head, or there’s nothing wrong with me so it can’t hurt.  I was never allowed to not do something because of the pain.

So now, in my early thirties, I still do things despite the pain.  I’m not as afraid of triggering it as other people are, because I have had it most of my life.  I barely remember a time when I was not in pain.  I mean, I remember being a very active child – I excelled in martial arts and climbing trees and running and jumping and doing all the things, but it’s too abstract for me to be able to apply it to myself, for me to be able to look at it and go ‘damn I miss those days’, because I don’t remember them well enough.

I’m also really glad to have a diagnosis and to finally be medicated for it, because holy shit does it make a huge difference now.

Farewell 2018, Hello 2019

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It’s the last day of 2018 and I’m awake early, traumatised from my PTSD flashback last night and the subsequent nighmares.  My amazing human being had innocently put on a different show (because it was light and fun) after I had said what show I wanted, and I had spiraled into a panic attack and minor meltdown.  It was one of the first instances where I’ve spoken up and asked for the input to stop, and explained that I’m having a panic attack.

My amazing human being immediately stopped the show, grabbed my hand, and guided my other hand to my cat and stood with me until I was more settled, then provided chocolate.  Unquestioning support.

For me, 2018 has been a year of self discovery, self expression, and healing.  It has been hard, it has been upsetting, in some instances it has been straight up traumatising, but I come out the other end of 2018 a calmer, more balanced, and possibly even more confident person than I began 2018.

I must absolutely credit this back to my phenomenal friends, the closest of which have also (sadly) gone through narcissistic abuse, and who have been open and loving and who have shown me how to be open and compassionate with regards to my own mental health issues.  In one of my oldest friends I have found a role model for how to live with chronic illness, how to go through life unapologetic and dignified with disability, and how to allow yourself to be how and who you are.

In my amazing human being I have unquestioning support and consideration, and unending laughter.  He enables me in all things and throws his enthusiasm behind me, regardless of what direction I take.  He is constantly thinking of ways to make life easier and better, and reminds me that yes, I can do things the easier way, I don’t have to just suck it up and do it the hard way.

Yes, this year has been a hard one, but it has been a good one.  I am still glad to see it go, and look forward to what 2019 brings.