Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Constant refutation with myself I'm a victim of a catch 22

I had such a difficult therapy session today I don't know how to begin.

But first, Monday was the hottest day ever in Los Angeles. EVER. 113 degrees. When I can home, my rats were all flat. That's what they do when they're hot- they flatten out. They also lie on their side and close their eyes so they look dead. I don't like that. My thermometer only goes up to 90, so I only know it was hotter than that. I don't have air conditioning, so I opened all the windows and the sliding door to my balcony. By 11 pm, it was still hotter than 90 degrees. I knew I had to leave the sliding door open because it was the only significant source of fresh air (the fans were having practically no effect) and the little rats cage is near the door and they were still lethargic.

So I left the door open and tried to sleep in my room, but I kept coming out to the living room to check for prowlers on my balcony. I live on the second floor and there's really no way to get on the balcony without a ladder, but my fear of rapists coming into my apartment is exceedingly strong. Finally, because of that and because my bedroom was still so hot, I ended up sleeping on my couch clinging to a pair of scissors. I figured I could stab someone in the eyes with them, but I wouldn't cut myself in my sleep. Welcome to my world.

Actually, one of the reason I write in this blog is to try to let some of this out and try to explain to someone, anyone, what it's like to have PTSD. This is what we talked about in therapy today. Not the balcony door, rather, my therapist gave me a questionnaire that was designed by one of her mentors who works with Vietnam vets. It does three things- gives you a global distress score, a PTSD score, and scores you on the three categories of PTSD symptoms- re-experiencing trauma (nightmares and flashbacks), avoidance/numbing (emotional numbness, avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma, difficulty trusting people and expressing feelings, memory problems), and increased arousal (panic attacks, difficulty falling asleep and with concentration, anxiety, irritability). They also developed a scale for comparison, so my score could be compared to the averages for battered wives, children who have to go through surgery, people in car accidents, etc.

I've been working with my therapist for a year, and I feel like a trust her and try really hard to be totally honest with her and tell her what's going on with me, and explain how I feel, and she was still completely shocked by the scores I got. I wasn't. My global distress score was 90, and my PTSD score was 50. That doesn't really mean anything on it's own, but the group I have the closest scores with were Vietnam vets. Think about that. My therapist explained it by saying that most people with the severity of PTSD that I have are acting out in very serious ways- getting arrested, addicted to drugs, coming into the VA looking completely psychotic, beating their spouse and/or children, etc. This is what my therapist said. She was stunned. She expressed that she was and I could see it, and I, having filled out the questionnaire, was not surprised at all. I knew my score was going to be very high. I live with these side affects every day. My scores were high for all three categories-re-experiencing, avoidance/numbing, and increased arousal. Again, not surprised although I thought I was doing less numbing now than I realized.

As far as the categories go, if I could get rid of the symptoms in any one category right now, I would go with increased arousal. If I could get through my days (and nights) without panic attacks, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, heart palpitations, and insomnia, if I was calm and well-rested, the numbness and re-experiencing would be a lot easier to handle. Not easy, but easier. Potential the most complicated symptom is the numbness though. I go numb when I get emotionally overwhelmed. It's like my internal version of taking emotional painkillers. It happens involuntarily, which is both a testament to my subconscious ability to take care of myself, and the most frustrating side affect to try to use willpower to change. It really does happen involuntarily, without the participation of my conscious mind. My conscious mind likes to think it is in control, so this can be a little disconcerting. It can also make me feel disconnected from my life and passively depressed. It can cause real problems too, like when I should be acting or reacting and I've just checked out. The more stressful the situation, the more I can block it out. The can cause me to feel trapped in something that I could walk away from. It can also do the opposite, keep me from really experiencing my life or connecting with someone because I'm just not emotionally there.

It is a disability of sorts. I am limited in how much I can handle other people's emotions because of the difficulty I have managing my own. My best friend in Seattle has been going through a really trying time, I was there for her whenever she needed me until she told me she was feeling suicidal. Then I just couldn't go there with her. I feel like a world-class heel. This is when she needs support and understanding the most, and I have experience with depressed and suicidal people, including myself. But the idea of losing her to suicide is so terrifying to me that I had to distance myself. Of course I'm questioning myself and thinking I'm the worst friend in the world, but I just can handle the grief I feel even considering her death. I broke down weeping when I tried to tell my therapist about it. It feels like an endless chasm of pain that I can't look down for fear I'll lose myself in it. When Jeff took his life, the life that I knew ended and it took me 10 years to feel like I was starting to get my legs back under me again. I can't go through that again. I just don't have the capacity. I really just can't. I love her so much, but I am limited. I can be a superhero when it comes to surviving and coping and getting through really bad things, but I've taken a lot of damage along the way. I am not healed yet. My emotional stores are scrapping the bottom. I hate to feel impaired like this. I want to kick ass all the time, be the best person I can be, move mountains, laugh in the face of danger. I want to be larger than life. In some ways I am. But the reason I learned to fly was that my legs were crushed. It's taking time for me to learn to walk, having never done it before.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thrown under the bus!

Not to repeat myself, but I am still really tired. I was actually feeling so bad that it was affecting hockey. I felt so burned out that I quit one of my teams. Don't worry, I still have two teams. I'm a baby blue smurf and a dirty martini monkey girl. My smurfs are in between seasons, but I'm a new co-team rep with my good friends Lori and Jamie. I think being team rep has actually invigorated my passion for hockey, although my passion for the team never waned. We are underdogs and I love underdogs.

The Dirty Martinis are still playing our summer season, and we have our second double header this Saturday. I am excited. Doubleheaders are fun even though I feel like I could collapse any second. The only thing I really have going for me is that I try really hard, so it can be hard to balance my energy level for that long. I feel like I'm either giving it everything I've got or about to keel over, and that doesn't work very well when I have to keep it up over two back-to-back games. But I love it. One of the reasons I quit one of my teams is so I'd have more time to practice. I find that I play kind of crappy when I don't practice, and I haven't been practicing. I haven't been to Monday night pick-up in ages, and I love Monday night pick-up. It is one of the funnest things ever.

I'm still belly dancing (cross-training). It's a lot of fun too, although I'm not very impressed with myself. I'd have to give myself a "C" for both hockey and belly dancing. It's a good thing I don't mind sucking at something if it's fun. I'd have to give myself a "C" grade at being a girlfriend too. It's fun even though I feel like a disaster a lot of the time. I really don't know how to be a girlfriend with a guy who is not a jerk. My boyfriend is very patient and kind and sweet. He is truly a good guy, and super-sexy. The poor guy seems to like bitchy women, though. His ex-girlfriend won't even look at me, which gets a little humorous since they are still on a hockey team together and just the other day I was at their draft. I was impressed that she managed to go more than an hour without looking at me, even when her and my boyfriend were talking to each other and I was standing next to him. I don't think I would have that kind of control. Myself, I spent a good portion of the time looking right at her, staring-contest style only opposite, trying to get her to look at me. She won. It kind of floors me since she wants to be friends with him, and I never did anything to her besides date her ex, and they have join-custody of the dogs, and she has a boyfriend (who's on the team too) so you'd think she'd get over herself and quit it, but I guess not.

I have to admit, though, that when I'm watching their games and she gets knocked down, I snicker a little. I really don't like her. I don't like how she treats me. I don't like how she treated my boyfriend. I think she's crazy for breaking up with him, although that's definitely to my benefit. I don't like that she acts like she still has some kind of hold on him, and I really don't like how jealous that's made me. That's one of the reasons I'm giving myself a "C" as a girlfriend. I have jealousy issues. I'm so afraid of being left/abandoned that I get all emotional and irrational and I'm embarrassed that I need so much reassurance. I am trusting him a lot more now, so the jealousy has calmed down. It only took me 9 months. My trust is like a baby.

My mom keeps calling me because she wants to talk about, get this, how my crazy, stalker ex that I broke up with almost 8 years ago contacted her on Facebook. He contacted me a while ago (at least a year) on Facebook and I blocked him. I also, somewhat regrettably, kind of flipped out on a friend who ran into him and kind of indicated I was on Facebook or something. I was a little pissed. This guy is a nightmare, and the message he sent me let me know he hadn't changed at all. It's embarrassing that I dated such losers. No wonder I had such a hard time believing my current boyfriend was as wonderful and trustworthy as he seemed to be. Now I'm pissed at my mom. She's doing my ex's dirty work for him. He just loves terrorizing me and she just can't say, "Obviously, my daughter doesn't want to talk to you, so leave her and me alone." As if she would ever stick up for me, or do anything to protect me. No, it is always up to me to protect myself. No, she never feels any responsibility to shield me or defend me or think about how her actions, or lack thereof, affect me. Oh no, I'm her daughter but I'm supposed to be caring for her. Yes, I'm bitter.

At work, one of the most popular phrases is "throwing someone under the bus". It happens in meetings a lot, where someone told you one thing, but says something completely different in a meeting in front of superiors. Or, something gets put on you in a meeting, like you get blamed for something or called out for something or someone tries to deflect blame from themselves by pointing out something you did or didn't do. One of the things I love about my boss, and about my whole team, is that we do not throw each other under the bus. Yesterday, I was thrown under the bus by someone in another department, to her superior who has no authority over me but seems to think he does. Actually, you could argue that she tried to throw one of my staff under the bus, but I was not about to let that happen. I told my therapist about it yesterday, and about my mom calling me, and the session came full circle when I reflected on how much I hate being thrown under the bus because my entire childhood was about getting run over repeatedly by that bus. So I'm mainly pissed at my dad for being the bus, but of course I'm more than a little resentful that it was my own mom throwing me under. Just to clarify in case you didn't catch this in the many pages of ranting in my blog so far, my dad was abusive to my mom before I was born, and then she was perfectly content to let it transfer to me when I became the target, and then the second me and my brother were out of the house, she left to protect herself. But not us. No, not to protect us.

Yes, I'm bitter. I really want to cut these throwing people under the bus, and buses, out of my life for good. This is how I'm starting to see people- there's buses, and people who throw you under, and people who are indifferent to your screams, and those wonderful people who come pick you up, or prevent it from happening in the first place, or, amazingly, will throw themselves under to protect you. I love those people.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Monkey girl don't pole dance

It been exciting here lately. I went to a Dodgers baseball game with my co-workers. JW got his season tickets for the L.A. Kings, which kind of makes me a new season ticket holder since I'm going in with him for my own seat. My bottom feeding for Kings tickets days are over. No longer will I be sucking up freebies and counting on the generosity of others to see NHL hockey. I feel a little weird about my status as an NHL fan. Do I still get to call myself a Vancouver Canucks fan since I cheered for the Kings against them in the playoffs? Will I still wear my Canucks jersey when they come to town even though I'm (sort of) a Kings season ticket holder? I tell you what, I'm not making one of those hideous frankenjerseys so I can wear both. No.

So for me, a true blue Canucks fan for almost 20 years, I feel a little strange. Even stranger, I went to Monday Night Football at Sharkeez. Sharkeez is a sports bar/restaurant with 4 or 5 locations in Southern California. My boyfriend and his friends are regulars there for Monday Night Football, and it is quite a production. My previous experiences with Sharkeez was going there with co-workers for lunch, drinks, parties, and once to dinner with my boyfriend. It usually ranged from pretty mellow to moderately hopping, but mostly I was focused on the fish tacos (extremely good, actually, especially with this crazy good rice they have) and watching hockey on TV. Probably my most memorable experience was successfully talking a waiter into turning all the TVs to different NHL games, and then finding out he had never heard of Wayne Gretzky. Seriously, he had NEVER heard of Wayne Gretzky. I could hardly believe it.

But Monday Night Football, oh boy crazy. They have trivia, and prizes, beads, free shots, all the staff are wearing football jerseys, the women's customized in various ways to go with their extremely short skirts and stripey socks, and it is LOUD. And a meat market, something I usually avoid. I've never in my life met someone in a bar, and I don't really get that scene. Of course I was there with my boyfriend, so mostly I just enjoyed watching his friends try to play hard to get with women they were interested in. I tried to watch the game, too. I don't really get football. I definitely get hockey, and soccer, and I can watch just about any Olympic sport and get into it. I used to follow NBA basketball. I'll even watch cheerleading competitions, although I agree with the recent court ruling that cheerleading is not a sport for the purposes of Title 9.

Football though, eh. But I tried. The funnest part was watching my boyfriend, who is from New York and is a NY Jets fan. In an effort to encourage an interest in football, he suggested I become a Baltimore Ravens fan, because they're, like, all Edgar Allen Poe and goth. So even though I've never been to Baltimore and know nothing about the team, I was like, sure, I'll be a Ravens fan. So guess what? The Jets were playing the Ravens. JW didn't even mind me rooting against his team (even when the Ravens won). He was totally in his element, answering Jets trivia questions and collecting swag. It was fun to watch him having so much fun. I love that I found someone who is even more enthusiastic than I am. He is really the free spirit in this relationship.

My extra fun lately has been taking belly dancing lessons. I am taking them from Aisha Ali, who is a very impressive woman all around. She is a wonderful dancer, and taking lessons from her is truly a cultural experience since she tells us stories about when she spent 20 years studying dance from the Fellahin gypsy tribe in Egypt. This is one of the amazing things about L.A. Where else could I study dance with an internationally known dancer and scholar, for $15 a lesson. In every class, I'm remind that really great dancers make it look so easy, but when you try to imitate what she does, it's so hard. For her, though, it looks like no big deal. It is anything but.

So while I continue selling my unwanted stuff on eBay, I've found zills (finger cymbals) and jingly coin scarves to buy there. Zills are pretty hard to do well, but the cool thing about wearing the jingly coin scarves around your hips is that it makes it seem like you know what you're doing. At least it sounds that way. It all leads back to hockey, though, because I was hoping the body control and being able to do isolated movements in different parts of my body would help with hockey. My hockey teacher is always telling me to separate what I do with my upper body from what my legs are doing. In belly dancing, you do a lot of separate things with your hips, legs, hips, shoulders, arms, and head. Like an type of dance, it's crazy hard to do well.

In other adjustments to different cultures, the rats have really jumped to the forefront. First, Miroslav managed to infiltrate Jason's cage and attempted to evict him. The littles (Miroslav, Zeus, and Keith) share a cage (mind you, a rat mansion!). Jason has his own cage. I used to have them right next to each other on a table. Before I got the littles, I used to keep Jason's cage door open so he could hang out on top of his cage and, I hoped, feel a little more free. The new cages, the Bel-Air Rat Mansions, have a door on the top and the side. So one night, I left Jason's cage open and he got off the table and had an excellent adventure cruising around the apartment while I was asleep. I spotted him when I woke up, and he ran away initially but then came when I called. Then Miroslav tried his hostile takeover, which involved a very traumatizing amount of squealing and blood and mayhem. So, after dipping Jason in soapy water with hydrogen peroxide, scrubbing his cage clean of Miroslav smells, and attempting to comfort the poor freaked-out older rat, I moved Jason into my room. So the littles now have the table in the living room to themselves.

I naively thought that Jason getting off the table (which is 2-1/2 feet off the ground) was just a fluke, so when I left the little's cage door open so they could cruise around the table while I slept, I was a little surprised when Keith showed up on my living room floor the next morning. Keith does not come when I call. Keith is fast and wants nothing to do with being picked up by me. It was an all day ordeal. I chased him around the living room for almost an hour in the morning until I had to go to work. Then I came home and chased him around the living room for another hour, finally lost him, fell asleep on the couch, stumbled into my bedroom and found him in the corner under my dressing table. Then I chased him around the bedroom for another hour, finally luring him into a plastic tube using a juggling stick that belonged to my brother.

So now I have two escape artists, one rat who is living up to his name (Miroslav Satan), and sweet Zeus, who still licks my fingers and loves me. Jason still loves me too, and seems a lot calmer now that he's hanging in my room. Keith sort of tolerates me but is still trying to jump off the table any chance he gets. Miroslav, well, I still love that fearless rat even though he attacked my beloved gentle spirit Jason. I don't trust him though. His morals are questionable.

Finally, I got rear-ended on the 405 freeway yesterday. My car seems undamaged. I don't know if I got whiplash yet, but it was loud and shocking and I was pretty rattled. I did get to completely stop my car, turn off the engine, and not care in the middle of rush hour traffic, so that was fun. Mostly, I'm just glad it wasn't worse. I've seem some unpleasant accidents on the 405. So I feel lucky. Very, very lucky. My L.A. experience is evolving. I wonder how long you have to live here to be a real Angelino? Does it count if you just really love it here, despite the traffic and questionable air quality? If you realize that this place is full of so many cultures and subcultures that you could walk into a mind-altering cultural experience at any time? That you don't think that Hollywood and celebrities is all L.A. has to offer the world? As my boyfriend says, if you don't like L.A. get off the freeway and see what L.A. is really all about.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Box-shaped Heart

"There are times when we should put our hearts in a box, so that we are not immobilized by it's desires." -Anatomology

I have been attempting to sell some of my clutter problem on eBay, and had some success, i.e. I've sold 3 pairs of shoes. I also sold 12 books on Amazon, which unfortunately I can no longer recommend as a book selling tool. They have increased their rates and decreased their shipping credit. I'm not sure exactly how much I've made after subtracting shipping costs, but I know it's not much. (I am behind on my personal number crunching.) So I've listed some books on eBay to see if I have any success on non-shoe sales. So far, my selling percentage on eBay has been less than stellar- 50%. It is kind of fun though, sort of in a trying to figure out which lane on the freeway, and combination of lanes, will get me home faster during rush hour in L.A. There's a lot of people popping on and off, and you're trying to predict the human behavior of a diverse group with a lot of different aims. I've speculated with my co-workers that L.A. freeways are a giant experiment on human behavior, and I could make the same argument for eBay. It's a fascinating and somewhat unpredictable place.

I'm sure the current economic climate is not the best for selling unnecessary stuff. The real struggle is with myself though. It's hard to let go, both of stuff and behavior. For example, I tried to sell the shoes pictured above, going so far as to take lovely pictures in natural settings and start a posting on eBay. While describing how great they are, I waffled. The picture doesn't do them justice. They are British punk rock boots made into heels. Now, I'm not a fan of heels. I think it's kind of a crazy concept to wear shoes you can't walk significant distances in and that cause poor posture and mess up your feet. That's why I quit ballet at the end of 8th grade. But my job pretty much requires me to wear heels, and these shoes are beautiful. I just can't quit them.

After going through my books, filling two packing boxes of ones to sell and filling an entire bookcase with unread books that I still intend to read, I resolved to stop buying books (at least until I read all the ones in the bookcase). I have a book addiction. I am perfectly capable of whipping through books at lightning speed too, although the PTSD and abuse books are definitely more slow going. The siren call of Borders was too much for me though, because I found myself casually perusing through the discount books before my therapy session last week, and walked away with "feeling fat, fuzzy, or frazzled?" by Richard Shames, M.D. and Karilee Shames, Ph.D., R.N. Not particularly obvious from the title, the book is about addressing too low or too high thyroid, adrenal, and/or reproductive functioning. Ah, self-help. You have ensnared me again!

To explain my draw to this book, in the late 90's I had a lump in my thyroid. Nothing unusual came out in my blood tests, and the lump was non-cancerous, but it was quite large. You could see it, and definitely feel it, so I was put on thyroid medication. The medication did nothing. I asked what the point was, but I was told to keep taking it and it would work. I went to a homeopathic doctor about my migraines. (This was about a year after my brother's death and I was having debilitating migraines.) He gave me something to take, and a week later, the lump in my thyroid went away completely, never to return. The migraines didn't go away, and the homeopathic doctor was stumped. The doctor prescribing the thyroid medication didn't believe me. I stopped taking it. About a year later, I was suffering from even worse migraines, exhaustion, panic attacks, uncontrollable vomiting and searing stomach pain almost every time I tried to eat anything. I was taking about 6 different medications for anxiety and depression, and none of them seemed to be working. I was at the end of my rope, completely miserable, when I talked to a friend who was in acupuncture school. She recommend "Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions with Modern Nutrition" by Paul Pitchford. This book changed my life. I learned that I could feel better by eating better. This is when I verified that I had issues with dairy. I quit taking all the drugs and focused on improving my health. Later I discovered my problems with gluten, and I've always done better with very limited meat eating (although I get iron deficient very easily if I go off meat entirely).

Flash forward to present day, dealing with the abuse memories straight on, taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication for PTSD, feeling exhausted a lot of the time, stressed, migraines, not sleeping well, nightmares, feeling nauseous, using coffee and sugar to try to regulate my energy levels with limited success, etc. It feels very familiar. So a couple weeks ago I started trying to get health again. I pick up this book 5 days later, and I'm thinking I've had thyroid problems in the past, and the adrenals are what regulate the stress hormones that are involved in fight-or-flight and PTSD. If those aren't worn out after the life I've had, I'd be completely shocked. So I power through the book, take the quizzes, come out with low thyroid and low adrenal functioning (no shocker), and note these recommendations:

-Get enough sleep and rest
-High fiber, low calorie diet
-No meat or dairy
-Do eat fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts, sprouts, avocados, and olives
-Avoid fluorine and chlorine

-Reduce stress
-Avoid sugar, simple carbs, food additives, chemicals, preservatives, caffeine, alcohol
-Eat complex carbs in small meals
-Don't avoid salt

Besides that these are very similar to the things I did before to get health and feel better, there's a lot of random things that I had no idea was connected to my thyroid or adrenals, like migraines, low blood pressure (mine is so low nurses think I'm the walking dead), noise and temperature sensitivity, trouble waking up in the morning and going to sleep at night. Plus, the vitamins they recommend are a lot of vitamins (and amino acids) recommended by other books I read and have had some success with in the past. It all comes together.

I discussed this development with my therapist, and my personal observation that it takes a lot of effort, time, research, luck, and various types of doctors and other professionals (who need to be open-minded and sympathetic) to try to figure out how to holistically recover from child abuse trauma. Most of the PTSD literature out there mentions child abuse but doesn't really get into how repeated, long-term trauma from primary caregivers during one's formative years and not knowing any other reality presents additional or different challenges to recovery than trauma that happens to you as an adult and is not a condition of your childhood. I have never seen any mention of the adrenals, but it stands to reason that chronic trauma and the stress of child abuse would be expected to burn the crap out of anyone's body relating to stress response. Long-term trauma during childhood causes emotional damage, but what about the damage to one's thinking and physical responses. I have had serious sleep problems for as long as I can remember. This is a physical problems. I have a multitude of physical problems that are generally tied to stress- migraines, digestive issues, panic attacks. (I even wake up with them. I did this morning.)

Not to whine, but it is a pain in the ass to try to compile information on recovering from all the things child abuse does to you. Hell, I was WIRED differently because I grew up this way. I still don't know if it is really possible to rewire myself to be a post-trauma being. I don't know how much of this I can change and how much I will just need to adapt to in a more healthy way. Thinking is probably the most changeable, although it is persistent. What about the way my body developed? What about the stress responses that are baked into me by now. Why the hell isn't there a book about that? A book with the current science, and also other options that go beyond conventional medicine and take a holistic mind, body, and soul approach. If I wrote a book, that's the book I'd want to write.