Big Change in my Life

I’ve been through some huge convulsion, or conversion, or transformation, or rearrangement of my psyche — I don’t have any words for it.  It’s even hard to talk about because its effects in my life don’t seem monumental.  It all seems very natural, and at the same time a wholly new experience.  The only thing I can compare it to is when I got on anti-depressant medication that worked, and normal brain chemistry was a completely different experience from depressed brain chemistry, an experience I’d never had before in my life.  I felt like I had lost 500 pounds.  I felt like I had dropped a big heavy chain attached to a big block of concrete.

In the present, I’m aware of two major changes.  I can see the beauty in Nature for the first time in a long time, but at the same time there is grief — I’m guessing it’s because I can see that nature is suffering under our onslaughts.  I see dying trees, and mourn.  I see living trees and rejoice.  The other huge change is that I don’t feel the old “push, push” any more.  It had to do with needing to prove that I deserve to live.  That push has disappeared many times in my life, but then reappeared fairly quickly.  Now it seems to be gone for good.  How do you notice something that’s not there?  Usually by being struck by what’s there instead.  In this case, I feel very solid, instead of vulnerable and anxious.  In the past when I seem to have got to a place of healing, I tend to think “O good, I’m OK now,” and imagine I’ll be OK forever.  Sometimes I even try to lower my medication, but that always turned out to be a disaster.  Or I think “O jeez, I feel good now and that’s not OK so something will go wrong pretty soon.”  Either way, something generally goes wrong pretty soon.  Now, I expect there will still come hard times, but I’m not scared that I will lose this solidity, this feeling of being planted solidly in my life.

Part of this transformation was certainly helped along when I went to California to do a Grief Workshop with Francis Weller.  My driver to Bolinas from the Airport, said, as we got close, “We’ve left America.”  We had crossed the San Andreas fault, where the Pacific Plate is moving underneath the North American Plate, creating periodic earthquakes.  We had left the North American Plate behind and are now on the Pacific Plate, a totally different kind of rock.  I like to think of the earth made up of all these sliding shells of rock, and sliding apart, or over each other, or colliding with each other as the Indian block hits Asia in a million year crash that raises the Himalaya Mountains.  All the pieces of me, sliding, riding over each other, breaking into volcanoes or mountain ranges.  It’s such a surprising image.  I always think, when I fall apart, of my pieces lying like a puzzle, scattered about.  I didn’t realize that I also saw them falling through space, until I started doing Somatic Experiencing and suddenly there was a floor where no floor had been before.  But this is new.  All these pieces are staying in contact and interacting instead of separating out.  I’ve seen beautiful pine cones — I don’t know if they are pine cones, but they look a little like the plates in a turtle’s shell.  I’ll find one and bring it home to remind me that my pieces are all here and interacting and alive.  They are not stuck in some rigid pattern, or completely separated.  They can have a relationship.  They can help each other change and grow.  I think this is called “integration.”

Two other things that helped this transition:
Kindred Spirits Camp
Writers for Recovery

Forgot one other thing.  When I first read about Francis Weller’s “Five Gates of Grief” it validated my grief that I hadn’t let myself feel because I didn’t believe it was real.  Once I allowed myself to grieve, I stopped being depressed.  I haven’t been depressed since.

Posted in Healing | Comments Off on Big Change in my Life

Story

People talk a lot about stories as in “she’s stuck in her story.”  Story is made out to be a bad thing.  Story is often given a bad rap, but there are also stories that inspire, that open doors for us.  I think we need to learn the difference between stories that trap us, and stories that support us.

One of the things I learned, perhaps when I was doing co-counseling, was that if you listened with attention, the person would work their own way through whatever the problem was.  One time I was listening to my friend Beverly talk about something that was troubling her.  I had all sorts of ideas and agendas to ask her about, but fortunately I kept my mouth closed.  She took the story to an entirely different place that was a good solution for her.  So I learned to keep my mouth shut and listen.

I had another friend, someone I saw regularly, who was living in a community.  Some new people moved in who belonged to a fundamentalist group.  Every time I saw her, she would talk about how awful they were, how she was scared they would take over.  I kept listening dutifully, hoping she would work her way through, but hearing the same story over and over.  Finally I got so fed up I told her it was boring.  She was horrified.  I felt terrible.  I thought about it a lot and realized I should have intervened much earlier.  I had failed to pay attention to my own frustration, and had forgotten the useful skills of NonViolent communication.  It would have been so much better if, as soon as I started feeling frustrated at hearing the same story yet again, I had said “I’m uncomfortable listening to this story.  It sounds to me like you are telling the same story over and over.  Could you tell me what you’re feeling as you tell me about these people?” or some variation.  I learned from that experience that sometimes people do use a story to stay stuck.

I don’t think anyone uses a story to “stay stuck.”  But I think it is possible to get stuck.  Lots of people get stuck in “victim” stories, possibly that makes people feel sorry for them?  It also allows them not to do the hard work of healing.  Or they blame their perpetrator.  Neither of these stories creates movement.  On the other hand, sometimes you have to realize that you were a victim, because then you can stop beating yourself up about the stupid behavior that resulted from being victimized, and you can start to heal.

Posted in Healing, Story | Comments Off on Story

Here is the Plan…

This is a piece of writing I did in Writers for Recovery.  “Show up,” and “Pay attention” are from Angeles Arrien’s Rules for Life.

Here is the plan:

First, do not turn on the Computer
Do not read emails
Do the next right thing
Remember to show up
Now pay attention
Now pay attention some more
Ask God, Higher Power, or Divine Process what to do
If you don’t hear anything do not swear
Practice patience
Practice patience some more
Pay attention
Now do the next right thing
You will know because the dog will follow you
Ask God, Higher Power, Divine Process for help
Pay attention
Listen carefully
Listen very carefully
Help will arrive
Practice patience
Remember, help may not look like what you expect
Accept help when it comes
Give thanks.

Posted in Guidance, Healing, Present Day, Spirit, Story, Writing | Comments Off on Here is the Plan…

My Recent Adventure

This is what I wrote the morning after I got home from California.  I went to Commonweal, a retreat center in Bolinas, for a workshop with Francis Weller.  We did a lot of writing, and reading out loud in a small group.  There was drumming and movement and some wonderful songs and chants.  Sunday afternoon we did a grief ritual, which was very intense.  I will probably do a blog post about it.

Home.  Second cup of proper tea.  Dog next to me.  Of course now I’m on California time.  Don’t need to do anything but rest and digest.

I did it!  I did it!!  I got myself out there and back and I was present for the whole workshop.

I had a moment yesterday when I thought “I didn’t do anything at the workshop, I didn’t get anywhere.”  Then I remember — that’s how I felt after dance camp, too.  The theme was “change” and we did sequences of dances on that theme.  We also did exercises around what we needed to give up, what we wanted, what we intended.   But I didn’t feel like I had “gotten anywhere.”  Well, as Francis would say, “That’s not the point.”  I understand that I have set a process in motion and now I have to wait, without interfering, for it to work its intention into my life.  The same is true of Dance Camp.  I was disappointed afterward that “nothing had happened.”  Then I comforted myself that most of the work is below consciousness.  “Seeing that a process has been set in motion,” which I just saw today, is more than comforting, it’s trusting the process.  That I can put myself in the right place, open my mind and my heart, and wait.  It’s like planting a seed.  I don’t do the work of growing but I can create good conditions for the seed to grow.  I remember Beverly saying: “Jenny, seeds want to grow.”  I can till the soul (o my!) soil, aerate the compost, stir it up, let it cook.  Tend the fire as Francis said Jung said.  The work I did in the plane, “I remember…” was a good start.

Do not turn on the computer.  Do not check emails.  Repeat not.  Enjoy your cup of real tea.  Have some blueberries.  Allow yourself to be welcomed back to New Hampshire, to your village, by blueberries, rabbits, bears, moose.  By Mount Lafayette and Lafayette Brook, and the Gale River.  By Mac’s and Mojo’s and the Hardware store.  I was welcomed back by an incredible sunset behind Lafayette and Cannon, right in the Notch, and by Lynelle and Daria’s note & blueberries, and by Pam and Mocha.  By the puzzle and my journal.  By blue stone fireplace and denim couches.  Let yourself settle.  Feast on your life.

Yes.  A process has been set in motion and I can let it carry me.  “… as the arrow endures the bow, to become in the gathering outleap something more than itself…”

“Real tea” means tea made with water from my own well and soy milk.

The last line is from Rilke’s first Duino Elegy.  I learned it from a fellow graduate.  I don’t know who did the translation.

The injunctions “Do not turn on the computer..” come from a piece I did in Writers for Recovery.

Feast on your life” is from a poem I love, that Francis read to us.

For more about Francis:   YouTube talk
His website

Posted in Healing, Present Day, Spirit, Story | Comments Off on My Recent Adventure

Struggle to Understand

Little bits of the past come up, and it’s so painful.  I was remembering when Daddy dislocated his shoulder riding, and Granpappy’s palomino Rey del Oro and how I would call him “Ray Dell” in teenage fashion — or so it seems to me now — I look at that lost girl, trying to… what? be like the popular girls? claim something for my own?  I look back and I see her trying so hard, and my heart just goes out to her.  I want to put my arms around her and hold her and say “there there.”  She was wanting romance and passion and color.  She never really found it, she found sadness and pain instead.  I sit here, lost and sad, at the end of a wasted life.  Part of me knows that’s not true, but that’s an objective observer, not my experience.

Painful painful session with Erica.  I cried a lot.  I told her I was lost.  She asked if she could get closer, I said yes.  She put her feet outside mine and her hands on my knees.  I grabbed her wrist and held on.  She asked if I felt connected.  Not really.  I told her I saw my life stretching away in greyness, like being in the desert, no excitement, no color, no friendship.  It felt a lot like that twilight feeling.   I read her the pages about life “designed by god.”   I asked her why the good times come and then fade and are completely forgotten.  She said something about “shelf life.”  I said I don’t have the receptors for good things because they didn’t get built when I was very young.  How can I build them in now?  There was something about it wasn’t OK to feel good about what I do well, because that would be “thinking I was so great.”  She asked me if I could tell that I had done better with my life than my parents had with theirs.  Not really.  My life right now looks like a wasted life.  Erica wondered if I felt disloyal to have a bigger life than they did.  I don’t know if it’s loyalty or fear — I think it’s fear that keeps me small.  Erica asked again if I felt connected to her.  I struggled, searching, and found “not allowed.”  It’s like Mama Greene, I’m afraid of mother’s jealousy.  I was afraid to build a relationship with the woman who came to take care of us when I was three.  I told Erica about telling R “I just want to go home and be taken care of,” and her saying “Everybody wants that,” and how it diminished my actual experience.  Mother did that all the time.  But everybody doesn’t feel the same terrible lostness and loneliness I’m in.  I think maybe R’s remark was one of the big triggers of this baby state I seem to be stuck in.  I guess claiming that my experience is more painful and deep than most people’s is also “thinking I’m so great.”  No, you are not allowed to be any bigger or feel more deeply than your mother.  I feel like my whole emotional life has collapsed to a flat line.  Francis Weller talks about this, he described our culture as being a “flatline” culture because we aren’t allowed to feel great joy or deep sorrow.

Posted in Journal, Present Day, Trauma | Comments Off on Struggle to Understand

Who am I Really?

Lots of people who know me through circle dance see me as enthusiastic, creative, competent, etc.  When I tell them how awful I feel about myself, they have trouble believing it.  This is painful for me, because it means that my pain is invisible, and I often get invalidated by people who can’t believe I’m as vulnerable as I am.  They don’t understand that the person they see when I’m “on” — that’s what I call it to myself, and I know I’m being enthusiastic, creative, etc. — even though I can experience myself when I’m “on” it’s like she disappears when I stop being “on.”  The truth is, though I’m aware of being her, there’s a dissociative barrier to my being able to integrate those qualities into the self that I experience.  This is not about “self-image” which is how I see myself, and always changing, this is about how I experience myself.

The dissociative barrier is not as complete as it is when a person has “multiple personalities” and when she’s in one, she doesn’t know about the others.  “Dissociative barriers” can be big or small, complete or non-existent.  We all have “sub-personalities,” who appear when circumstances call on them, and there’s not really any dissociative barrier.  For example when I teach astronomy, no matter how depressed I may feel going toward the classroom, as soon as I’m there and start speaking, I’m able to be competent, knowledgeable, and able to engage my students.  I know I’m a good astronomy teacher, it’s a skill that I have.  But as for knowing I’m creative, or kind, or generous — words that people have used to describe me — I feel “who are they talking about?”  Which leaves me wondering if that other person can possibly be connected with me.

I have struggled with this issue, trying to understand how to change it.  One concept that has helped is the distinction between “implicit” memory and “explicit” memory.  Implicit memory is like learning to drive a car.  You may not remember exactly when you learned, but now it’s so natural that you can drive a car while thinking about something entirely different.  It’s a built-in part of you.  Explicit memory is remembering the time when you went to the beach and it was so hot you ran into the water with your clothes on.  That’s something you recall, it’s like going to a library and picking one of the books off the shelf.  A lot of what we learn in our first three years is implicit memory.  We learn how to function as a human being, how to negotiate our way through our environment.  A lot of what we learn about ourselves is from “mirroring” — the mother “mirrors” the infant by responding.  If she smiles a lot, the infant learns that she is lovable, if mother frowns a lot, or leaves the baby alone a lot, the infant learns that she is not worth attention.

I have struggled with this a lot more since Neskaya was built, and people see me as this amazing person who built this very special place, and infuses it with a spirit of joy, of acceptance, of connection with the sacred.  I wonder who she is.  I’ve been in therapy my whole life, first trying to fix myself, then trying to unlearn what I learned from alcoholic parents, then trying to heal from PTSD.  Recently I’ve been working with a therapist who specializes in attachment and trauma.  “Attachment” means the primal relationship with the mother or caregiver.  Erica works very differently from my previous therapists.  She is constantly mirroring me, giving me feedback about my actions, my tone of voice, the look on my face, what I’m doing with my hands.  I’ve never had this kind of feedback before.  At first it seemed to fill some empty place inside me, but now it’s getting harder to take in.  It’s as though some part of me is resisting this new information about myself.  That’s where I am right now in this process.

There is an earlier post with this same title.

Posted in Trauma | Comments Off on Who am I Really?

Words to Help me Keep on Keeping On

“If he could get to the end without having thrown in his hand he would have kept his integrity.”  Paul, thinking of Charles, The Scent of Water, p273

From Mother Teresa:
“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.”

“We may not live to see the slaves go free.  Neither did Moses reach the promised land.  Still none can be more blest than we who are an instrument in God’s hand.”  from Magpie song “Mary Brown, Abolitionist.”

Walter Benjamin: “Every line we succeed in publishing today — no matter how uncertain the future to which we entrust it — is a victory wrenched from the powers of darkness.”

“Did I win or lose?  All I know is I am full of wounds and still on my feet.”  Nikos Kazantzakis.

“There’s nothing as dark as night
But nothing so strong as light,
And here is the choice —
To let it burn out — or bright.”         Christine Kane

“Hope …  is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizon.  Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but, rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.”     Vaclav Havel

“Resistance is first of all a matter of principle and a way to live, to make yourself one small republic of unconquered spirit.”      Rebecca Solnit.

“Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”         Martin Luther King JR.

“In the face of all the challenges we face today, is my optimism about the future of humanity idealistic? Perhaps it is. Is it unrealistic? Certainly not. To remain indifferent to the challenges we face is indefensible. If the goal is noble, whether or not it is realized within our lifetime is largely irrelevant. What we must do therefore is to strive and persevere and never give up.”          —Dalai Lama

Posted in Activism | Comments Off on Words to Help me Keep on Keeping On

Hope in the Dark

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

I don’t know what turned me on to her.  I refused to order the book from Amazon, just a small protest.  They forced our wonderful local bookstore to close.  I ordered from Green Arcade in San Francisco.  I think I must have found it on her website.

She is enormously inspiring.  She points out recent history where things have happened that were totally unexpected.  The Berlin Wall goes up, the Berlin Wall comes down.  The Soviet Union falls apart.  Grassroots movements unseat dictators in South America.  And yet the US gets bogged down in Iraq.  Bad things happen too.  But it’s not a linear process.  Tremendous movements: the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, the civil rights struggle — have all taken longer than we hoped, yet looking at the sweep of history, they happened very fast, almost out of nowhere.

She also talks about the behavior of people in disaster — it’s not what’s expected, the story that people are fragile— can’t take care of themselves — or that they are violent and selfish — neither story holds true.  The reality is that people help each other.  That disaster can create a community of people who feel bonded by helping each other.  She talks about all the people in little boats who rescued people caught on rooftops during Katrina.  Meanwhile, government created a shambles.  Partly, I suppose, because of Bush’s lack of caring for poor and people of color.  But also because bureaucracy is cumbersome.  I heard that the Coast Guard ignored the rules about how long a pilot could fly, they just went in and did what they could.  It makes me think of the rescue of the British Army from the beach at Dunkirk, in WWII, by thousands of people with little boats crossing the channel.  It made me think of the book about Katrina, Heart like Water, written by someone who stayed in his apartment.  He too records many acts of sharing and help for each other.  He talks about the reports of killings and lootings, but they never saw anything in their district.  I think he talks about a grocery store whose owner gave away food to all who came.  There is also a lot of evidence coming up from science that co-operation is at least as important as competition in evolving healthy ecosystems, healthy communities.

I love what she has to say, and find it very encouraging.  Looking at history as complex and chaotic instead of linear.  At any moment, anything could happen.  There are hidden forces, changing perceptions and beliefs, that result in totally unexpected happenings.  She describes two pitfalls.  One is despair, so you lie on your couch and do nothing.  The other is thinking victory has to being total change, we have won, we can stop now, instead of seeing that it’s one success on the way to a larger goal.  Or giving up because the “victory” wasn’t complete, was imperfect, etc.  We need to acknowledge and celebrate it and use that as energy for keeping on.

That’s what happens to me.  I think I’ve won: “I’m OK now” as though I’ve “gotten there,” and then being crushed when the old stuff comes back.  At least I did something different this time.  I was excited when I found I had resources that could dissolve the terror, painfully discouraged when they didn’t work for a new round, then saw a larger context.  Now I continue to remind myself that I had 24 hours free of fear, and I savored that wonderful feeling of relaxation.  I’m not hugely upset that I lost it, or trying to get back to it, or thinking I’ll never get back to it; I’m keeping it in mind as a success in the process of working toward seeing that I’m OK just as I am.

Another example of people giving hope to each other: Circle of Hope

Posted in Activism, Healing, Journal, Present Day | Comments Off on Hope in the Dark

Comfortable with Uncertainty

In summary:  Terror faded on Monday as I talked to Dr. Dean about the physiology of trauma.  Tuesday morning began terrified but I was able to shake and could feel it releasing.  Wednesday morning began terrified, but then I brought compassion to it and it faded.  Writing was great.  Thursday morning was when I felt so totally relaxed and then got triggered again while making breakfast.  Eased by talking to Elizabeth and Karen.

Both Elizabeth and Karen suggested that I couldn’t make fear go away, I could only do my practices and be grateful when grace comes.  Maybe it’s something about being open to grace.  Being comfortable with uncertainty.  When I first read about that idea it scared me.  I don’t want uncertainty, I want to feel safe.  What I really want is to feel that I am OK just as I am.  No amount of physical security can produce that.  Only being within a community that tells the truth and is willing to listen to the truth.

I realize that I am already comfortable with uncertainty in the realm of science.  I don’t care what is the “real story” of the creation of the universe, I only know that it is more complex, more beautiful, more interconnected than human brains can understand.  I know that the complex processes that represent the workings of nature are such that they can be modeled, but can’t be predicted.  This is known as the “butterfly effect,” or sensitive dependence on initial conditions, which basically means that we can’t control the process, can’t even make predictions, because some small thing that we hadn’t noticed can make the whole process shift in another direction.

As I write this paragraph, I realize that my life, and my healing, are also complex processes, nonlinear — which means that I don’t just gradually get better — and I am powerless over my life and my healing.  I can set a direction, make choices in line with that direction, practice doing things that manifest my values, and keep on keeping on.

Posted in Healing, Trauma | Comments Off on Comfortable with Uncertainty

Week of Terror

I’ve just been through a week of terror.  Lots of possible triggers.  I haven’t had this bad a bout of terror for many years.

Tuesday, June 28

I’m feeling terrified.  I was reading Deborah Crombie and felt scared while I was reading.  Kim left a message.  She sounded a little drunk on the phone which was unnerving.  I have to leave for St.J. to see Bess about Writing for Recovery in 45 minutes.  I set it up because Erica is out of town today.

The Crombie series is one I read over because I know it is safe.  This is the last book.  Not having something safe to read immediately can be a trigger.

Wednesday, June 29

The meeting with Bess was good.  I was scared all the way over and for a little while after she’d come, and then as we talked I started to feel better.  The work sounds fascinating.  Bess is currently teaching the workshop at the Recovery Center in St. J.  It’s Wednesday night, and she has just started, so I’m going to go tonight.

What am I afraid of?  Asking the question makes my heart feel cold.  A lot of my skills for coping seem to have vanished with the meaning.  I’m thinking it’s a mistake to try to lower the Ativan right now.  I’m so scared I’m frozen.

Trying to lower the problematic tranquilizer (it can cause memory problems in seniors) may be the problem.  Going back to the higher dose didn’t help however.

Thursday, June 30

Went out to walk the dog while the prunes cooked.  Went around the loop but came back breathless, still feeling scared.  Sigh.  There were mornings when I was glad the dog got me out.

Terrified.  It started after I came back with the dog.  This afternoon I get to see Karen, thank god.

Being outside, especially in the bright sun is often, but not always, a trigger.  I have no idea why.

Friday, July 1

Awful waking.  I was able to lie & count my breaths.  Finally made myself get up.  Bright sun.  I’m feeling totally overwhelmed.  I realized driving back from Montpelier, that all the different shades and textures of green were too much, that my efforts to “take in” everything were overwhelming me.  So I closed down which helped a little.

I stayed terrified until I saw Karen.  Being with her helped quite a bit.  The session was painful.  I said I was scared I would never get better.  I told Karen about the image of lying helpless in the street with a steam roller coming toward me.  She asked if I was being too hard on myself.  I puzzled over it for a little, and then said that I wasn’t, that I knew I was up against a lot and that I was doing the best that I can.  I see that part of my discouragement was seeing that the best I can do is not enough.  That’s when you see that only something bigger than yourself can help.  “Came to believe…”  I guess I’m stuck right there at Step 2.

The first four steps of AA’s twelve:
(1) accepted that I am powerless, my life is unmanageable
(2) came to believe that a Greater Power could help
(3) became willing to turn my life and my will over to Greater Power
(4) offered my life and will to the Greater Power.

I’m interested that the two steps in between suggest that there’s a process that may take a while.  You don’t just move from (1) to (4).  When I’m frozen with terror, I find it very hard to believe in a process.

The image of being alone and helpless is a pretty good rendering of how an infant feels when they are left alone too long.  They have no language, no concept of death.

I just watched the video on Writers for Recovery.  5min.  I found it supportive especially after being with the group on Wednesday.

Saturday, July 2

Nothing to say.  Empty, unmeaning, bleak, scared. Lonely.

O yes, I talked to Erica in the morning.  It’s a little scary that I can forget it so fast, and forget whatever connection and hope there was between us.  She thinks the fear is coming from taking big risks — planning to stay at Riverglen and starting the writers’ group.  There’s also the Francis Weller workshop.  The travel arrangements are scary, the workshop itself sounds like a refuge.

Blank again.  It’s so painful and confusing.  I get a lift from something and then lose it right away.

The Riverglen is independent and assisted living for seniors.  I have signed up for four days of “respite.”  Usually a respite stay is for a caregiver who needs a break, or for the one who needs assistance so the caretaker can go on vacation, visit family, etc.  I realized that I am the caretaker of terrified Jenny, and I’ve hit the end of my resources.

Terrified while shopping.  Lynelle is going — has gone— back to her parents.  I thought she was going to stay a week.  So my level of fear escalated.  I was able to shop at the Co-op, and Rite Aid, despite being terrified.

Sunday, July 3

I got out a puzzle but I haven’t opened the box.  I haven’t done much typing either.  I read or play Solitaire.  I guess that’s a measure of my degree of terror.

At one point I thought “Suppose I were going to die tomorrow.”  Sometimes that thought makes me notice good things.  Sometimes I feel guilty that I haven’t “experienced” the beauty and depth that is there.  Yesterday I felt huge relief and sorry that I was too terrified to appreciate the day, but that’s how it was.

Judith Herman says traumatized terror is qualitatively different from ordinary fear.

Monday, July 4

May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I live in peace.  My mantra for this morning.  I’m OK right now.

But when I walked the dog, I got terrified being outdoors.  Heart feels shocked and vibrating.  Body feels full of electric energy.  Sight frozen.

Erica suggested that the odd thing that happens with my sight is like a deer in the headlights.  Exactly right.  It helped to have that image.

Tuesday, July 5

Woke up feeling the heat, the hot-cold thing.  I feel a bit dazed.  I notice that if I get lost in thoughts I’m OK, when I return to paying attention to myself I can feel the first little vibration inside that will become fear.

Bright sun.  I know the light and the heat have been part of the problem.

In fact I’m wondering if some of this isn’t a flashback to the Summer from Hell after I had that horrible experience on Paxil.

O gosh I’m starting to feel blind.  Can I hold myself with kindness?  The best I can do is think the word.  I do feel a little softening.

Just now I put my head on my hand and closed my eyes and felt very sleepy.  The thought came to me to start shaking.  So I did and then let it become involuntary.  I can feel the terror draining out.  I will just keep doing this.

Yesterday I saw the chiropractor.  I told him I was terrified and he was sympathetic.  When I was on the table I started telling him about the physiology of trauma, how your system gets activated into fight-flight-freeze, the energy built up to run or fight had to be discharged somehow.  I told him about the video of the possum, it’s not actually “playing possum” its instinct has frozen it.  The coyote noses it and then walks off.  The possum gets up and shakes itself, and walks away.  Dr. Dean was really interested.  I wonder if talking about this is why I thought of shaking today.

I’m also starting to feel clearer and calmer from the shaking.  And also feeling better because I have something I can do.

Wednesday, July 6

Some waves of fear before I even got up.  I’m working on feeling compassion for myself.   Take a big step back.  This woman is terrified, and trying to bring compassion to herself.  Now I’m wondering if she deserves compassion.  There’s nothing wrong in her life right now, she has no excuse to be terrified.  Well I know that’s not true.  She was traumatized in infancy.

I think about a tiny baby experiencing that degree of fear, and my heart just goes out.  I feel much more relaxed and softer.  I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to awaken my compassion.

Looking at the DNR.  So grateful to have such a thing.  My life is so painful and difficult right now that death would be a relief.

[Do Not Resuscitate order: so if you’re in an accident and your heart stops, they won’t resuscitate you.]

O it’s such a relief to sit here and be relaxed.  I have “Writers for Recovery” tonight!

Thursday, July 7

I’m OK this morning.  So grateful.  The bliss of not being terrified.  It was having compassion for myself that did it.  And being with the writers.

Posted in Journal, Present Day, Trauma | Comments Off on Week of Terror