Posts Tagged ‘taking care of yourself’

The weekend away was exactly what I needed. I had been triggered on top of triggered for so long that I had just about forgotten what it felt like NOT to be triggered. I know that I used to live my life like that, but I don’t anymore, and being triggered is not my “natural state.” Sadly, when it keeps happening like that, it’s easy to fall back into that unhealthy place because being constantly triggered can seem “normal” again.

This trip away has driven home just how important it is for me to meet my own needs and take good care of myself. Getting some physical distance from my day-to-day life helped as did removing some of my responsibilities. However, I don’t think either is what grounded me. I did a lot more exercising (walking) and spending time at the beach, which has always been a grounding force. Instead of trying to get X, Y, and Z done, I read a book and chit-chatted with my sister for hours.

Not being triggered is my natural state just as being triggered used to be what felt “normal,” so I didn’t fully appreciate when I had moved from one back to the other. I noticed it in the little things, such as no longer needing to do different obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) actions to relieve my anxiety. (I no longer had a lot of anxiety to process.) I was also able to sleep each night without needing to take a Xanax.

When I return home, I need to figure out a way to get back to this level of balance. I like to work, but I also need to take time to self-nurture. The good news is that I do know what it is like to live a more balanced lifestyle as well as what tools I need to use to get there. I just need to do what works for me, and that is going to be easier with hub back at work and child in summer camp now that school has ended.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Ahhh … finally some time to blog!!

To catch you up, I am over all of the health issues at the moment. I was battling migraines over the weekend, but I have been doing well all week and even went to the gym a couple of times. I have been working feverishly to catch up on to-do’s that had fallen behind in my offline life. I also took the day off today, including a well-needed nap. I am feeling much more like myself.

That being said, I have been dealing with several issues in my offline line involving other people’s “drama.” I put “drama” in quotation marks because it’s really not drama in the sense of people being difficult for the sake of being difficult. People who I care about are dealing with some difficult issues, and I have been trying to help them through it.

I told one of my offline friends that I had hoped that 2012 would be kinder than 2011 because surviving 2011 about wore me out. She pointed out that most of what I have been dealing with in 2012 involves other people’s stuff, which is a different dynamic. The nice thing about the issues being other people’s stuff is that I can take a break from it.

Let me tell you – When I was able to turn my brain off today to rest, it was so much easier to do than when I am triggered, as I was during various periods in 2011. I was able to lie in my bed and watch some of my favorite comedies without thinking about other people’s issues.

Learning how to be able to detach like that is such an important skill to learn in setting boundaries. It is one that I never learned as a child, and it didn’t come naturally to me. I used to think that I had to stay immersed in other people’s stuff if I really cared about them. I have come to realize that I have to follow the metaphoric version of the instructions provided on airplanes – put your own oxygen mask on before you place an oxygen mask on your child. This went against what I believed it meant to care about others. I now realize that I cannot be of help to others when my own tank is empty.

I cannot say that I have fully mastered this skill, but I am making progress. I don’t find it taxing or weighing to read comments on my blog. People can share all sorts of painful things with me, and I can care and be supportive without having to climb down into the pit with them. This comes from learning how to set boundaries – learning how to take care of myself so that I am able to take care of others.

I am still a work in progress and probably always will be, but it’s nice when I can look at myself now, compare to where I once was, and see true progress.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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PhotobucketI had a wonderful day yesterday resting. I did not rest the entire day, but I rested enough to feel rejuvenated this morning.

I have been working too much lately, and this will continue for two more weeks. One of my three part-time jobs ebbs and flows. I am teaching students how to study for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), which is offered four times a year. The next one is on October 1, so I am very busy teaching a class as well as tutoring. Feast or famine is the nature of the job. I might not work again for this part-time job until 2012, but right now, I am completely slammed.

I worked 9.5 hours for this job on Tuesday PLUS an hour for job #2 PLUS an hour for job #3. Other than short breaks for meals, I did not stop. A month ago, I had not seen a paycheck in weeks. Again, nature of the beast.

I had worked all weekend (am covering a class in another state on Saturdays, which requires five hours of driving), all day Monday, and then this insane day on Tuesday. By Tuesday night, my brain was no longer able to process the formal logic required in class on Tuesday night. I made jokes about it with my class and pointed out that I, like them, needed to take a little time off from the LSAT.

So, I rested yesterday. I had three hours of work that had to be done for my other jobs. I did one hour before breakfast and the other two hours from 1:30-3:30 p.m. The rest of the day, I nurtured myself. I went to the gym and read my book while doing 30 minutes on the elliptical machine. I then did weights before coming home and doing yoga. I took a shower and then camped out in my bedroom.

I kept a scented candle lit all day (lavender/vanilla), and I watched the season premieres of two of my favorite TV shows. I ate what I wanted for lunch. Then, I took a three-hour nap. I was so relaxed that my body actually RESTED! (I continue my struggles with insomnia at night and awaken each morning around 5:00 a.m. with my heart pounding.) After I woke up, I watched a comedy.

Next, I picked up my kid from school. (It was an early release day.) He relaxed in his room for a couple of hours (he is wiped out as well because he won’t sleep when I am not home, and I don’t get home until 10:00 p.m. on Tue/Thu) while I did my other two hours of work. It seemed so easy because I was so well-rested.

Next, my son and I took our dogs for a walk. Then, we met friends for dinner at my favorite restaurant. (Hub is out of town on a business trip.) By the time I went to bed, it seemed like three relaxing days had passed.

I cannot believe how quickly a busy day flies by, whereas a relaxing day seems to take its sweet little time. That is exactly what I needed.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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PhotobucketOver weekend, a friend and I went to the beach for a relaxing weekend without husbands or children. It’s been almost a year since I have gotten away without my child, but that was a different kind of weekend that had its own share of stresses. This was an incredibly relaxing weekend with the two of us doing whatever we felt like doing whenever we felt like doing it. I am not sure I have ever had a weekend quite like it.

As I shared yesterday, I had a professional massage for the first time. We ate at restaurants I have wanted to try but that hub has always nixed. We watched movies (something I love to do but rarely get the opportunity to do at home since nobody else in my family likes to watch movies). We laughed. It was a fun, carefree weekend – a concept that was completely foreign to me. I felt so relaxed.

As we started driving home, I felt a heaviness settle over my shoulders. I could feel the weight of returning home, and it made me feel so sad. (It doesn’t help that I also have a sinus infection, so I was/am in physical pain while working through these emotions.) I just wanted to cry.

When I got home after a 4-1/2 hour drive, I wanted to cry but had no time. I had dinner with hub’s family following by 2-1/2 hours of online (webcam) training for my job. I was exhausted after that and went to bed. The next day, I hit the ground running for work and appointments.

Thankfully, I had a therapy appointment yesterday. The first thing I did was cry. My T asked me what I was returning to in my life that was about me. I said nothing, to which he replied, “Exactly.” We talked about how I spend my time doing everything for everyone else and that there isn’t time or room for me.

My T asked why I went to family dinner the night before when I was so tired. I said it never occurred to me not to. He said that I need to examine all of those automatic responses that I have. I am on autopilot in so many areas of my life, and the autopilot is programmed for me to take care of everyone else. There needs to be time and space for me. Right now there isn’t, which is why I felt so depressed about returning home.

My homework is to challenge every automatic response and think about ways that I can make room for me in my own life. I have to expect that all of these changes will come with resistance, and I will have to let go of being perceived as the “good” person (good wife, good mother, etc.) It has always been so important for me to be the “good” ___ , and the people in my life have exploited this to direct me to meet their needs at the expense of my own.

This is such a tall order, and I don’t feel up to it with my head hurting every time I breathe. I need to get this sinus infection cleared up first and then focus on this challenge. I actually did do one thing yesterday – I didn’t feel up to cooking dinner and bought takeout instead. That’s nearly unheard of for me.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I had an interesting session with my therapist last week. We talked about all of the things that I blogged about and then some. Once we worked through a bunch of that, he asked specifically what was going on in my day-to-day life that precipitated my “breakdown.” He believes that my biggest problem was not taking care of myself. He said that he thinks my “gas tank” reached empty and that there was simply nothing left to keep going.

Looking back over my calendar from the last three months, I think he is right. From January through mid-March, I had a pretty balanced schedule. I rarely worked more than four hours a day, and I was going to the gym and doing yoga/meditation daily. That balance abruptly ended when I started training for my new part-time job in mid-March. I was not given a “heads up” that I needed to set aside 15 to 20 hours a week during training (in addition to the four-hour training sessions each Sunday afternoon), so I had not cleared my calendar of other obligations. That put me working pretty much a full-time schedule with no advanced planning.

After training ended, the close to full-time schedule continued as I prepared to teach my first class for the new job. Then, I did 3.5 weeks of tutoring at a close to a full-time schedule. That was mid-March through the beginning of June on a close to full-time schedule without letting go of other obligations (blogging, leading a Bible study, etc.)

I kept telling myself that I only had to get through X number of weeks, and then I could rest. Tutoring ended, but then I was slammed with “last week of school” and other scheduling issues. My kid had a doctor’s appointment and ball practice on Monday. I led Bible Study on Wednesday. I had to go to my kid’s school for an awards presentation at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, and then school was out for the summer after that, which meant I was taking care of my kid and not resting on Thursday and Friday. My kid had an ear infection, so I had to take him to the doctor on Friday.

Hub pulled me out of bed in the middle of the night having a full-fledged panic attack. He has been depressed and anxious ever since, constantly talking about how miserable he is and how he thinks the stress is going to kill him.

I thought I could finally rest the next week (first week of summer while my son went to summer camp). Instead, I babysat a friend’s very difficult kid on Monday, went to a retirement party on Tuesday that I found out about at the last minute, and had Bible study on Wednesday. I planned a “rest” day on Thursday, but my kid’s ear was still bothering him too much to go to camp on Thursday – goodbye “rest” day.”

Also during this week, things blew up at part-time job #1 with students not having reliable access to the online classroom. These are all entry-level students with three weeks of college under their belt, so I was fielding panicked phone calls and emails for four days until the connectivity issues were resolved.

Add to that having several friends in crisis during the same week. One found out that her child was being cyberbullied. Another was freaking out about a college project. A third was “losing it” over issues with her kids. I told the third that we needed a “mental health” day on Friday so we should go to the movies. While I enjoyed the movie and chit chat, the outing came at the expense of rest.

By Friday, I could barely move my body and feared that I had contracted mono. I canceled my Saturday morning plans, fearing that I was sick. I hosted Book Club on Saturday night and had to spend a lot of time on Friday and Saturday preparing (cooking and cleaning) as well as ran my son to the doctor’s office again for the same ear infection.

Sunday was Father’s Day, so I had to be “on” to make it about hub, who ended the day by saying that it had not been a “good” Father’s Day despite all that I had done. I thought that, if I could just make it to Monday, I could rest. My plan was to drop my kid off at camp, work out at the gym, do yoga/meditation, and then do whatever I felt like doing for the day. Then, the camp would not take my kid’s medications at the bus drop-off point: I had to drive all the way out to Timbuktu to hand-deliver the medications, so my “me” time was replaced with an 80-minute round trip drive to this camp in the middle of nowhere.

That’s when I snapped. I kept holding it together until a later date when I could rest. My “rest” day kept being taken away, and I was completely spent with nurturing everyone else. Then, when all I needed was five minutes of nurturing from someone else and couldn’t get it, the bottom fell out.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Being Willing to Try New Strategies after Child Abuse, some readers got into a discussion in the comments about the importance of setting boundaries. Here are some words of wisdom to consider from some of my readers about setting boundaries:

I found the thing that I needed the most was to be willing to set boundaries with people. Every time I did something out of a sense of obligation to other people I was hurting myself (and that girl). When I became willing to say no, and to spend my time and energy in the way I needed to, I built up a level of trust with myself. It was hard to do at first- e.g. telling my family I wasn’t going ‘home’ for Christmas when I didn’t appear to have a ‘good’ reason not to (I’ve always been way too concerned with other people’s feelings). It’s an ongoing practice but gets easier all the time. And I notice that other people treat me with more respect and consideration than they did when I was a nice door mat. I think this has been an incredibly important step in my healing. ~Christine

Once my inner child knew she could trust me to protect her, stand up for her, set boundaries for her, nurture her, etc…did I feel a profound sense of healing. And guess what helped me….setting healthy boundaries with EVERYONE in my life. Until then, I didn’t realize how important boundaries are for healthy relationships. Even setting boundaries with myself is healthy. I mean it is KEY! The two things I finally did differently that made a difference:

1) TRUST myself to make the best decisions for ME.

2) Setting healthy boundaries.

These made a huge, huge difference in my healing process. ~ AllyValentino

Also relate to what Christine says about keeping the inner child safe, a big turning point recently for us was stopping listening to people (especially therapists) telling us we needed more friends and closer ones. Sure, it’d be nice, but what we really needed (and have finally started doing) is to stop bending over backwards to please everyone else, regardless of how they treat us, just so they’ll be our “friends”. Yep, boundaries, so that’s what they are! So, ok we lost a few “friends” and don’t have so many now, no one ever calls (but it’s ok cos we don’t expect them to) but at least we feel safe and don’t feel taken advantage of. And maybe, just maybe, some of the people we are friendly with will become real friends in the future. ~ Bay

What everyone else said was so great that I don’t have much to add. My therapist made “setting boundaries” my homework assignment after each session, and he assured me that if I thought I was “being a b@#$%,” I was probably moving toward nearing normal boundaries. I couldn’t really “get it” until I worded it to myself in this way: Whenever I don’t say no, I am choosing to hurt myself rather than hurt the feelings of an inconsiderate person.

Setting boundaries made me feel safer and less “used.” It was eye-opening to recognizing that I was not obligated to do everything that other people asked me to do for them!

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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This past week has been an incredibly intense and empowering week for me. After dealing with feelings of despair in the prior weeks, I decided to fight back. I went to the gym every day this week. I did yoga and meditation four days. (I would have done five days, but my son’s school sent him home for an alleged fever although he had no cold symptoms whatsoever at home.) I did my Bible study. I took an afternoon off to rest and nap. (I try to take a full day each week, but I was too triggered and wound up to take the morning off. However, I did still go to the gym.)

My experience this past week has been being triggered and fighting my way back to calm. Triggered…fighting…calm…triggered…fighting…calm. I feel like a Weeble Wobble that keeps getting knocked down but then still winds up in an upright position. I decided to write this blog entry while I am in a calm place. I don’t know how long it will last, but I plan to savor it as long as it lasts.

My therapist told me that I will never “get over” the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Instead, I will learn how to manage it better. Instead of being triggered for weeks, I will recover within hours or days. I found that very hard to believe in therapy, but he was right. I think this is why some of you have commented that my blog seems much more hopeful that what I write when I am in my dark places. While in the dark place, it feels like I have always been there and always will be. However, the bad times really don’t last that long. I don’t think I give myself enough credit.

Through this recent experience, I have learned that I simply cannot skimp on my healing tools. I must go to the gym at least three days a week (and preferably five). I must do yoga and meditation as close to daily as possible. I need to be doing Bible study at least a couple of times a week. I also need to get back to playing the piano. (Thank you to the reader who reminded me of the beauty of playing a musical instrument!)

It all gets back to the battle of the wolves going on inside of me (and inside of each of us). I have to feed my good wolf. I do this by taking care of myself, being compassionate to myself, and bringing joy and rest into my day-to-day life. It is so easy for me to buy into “The Voice” in my head that repeats my abusers’ lies. The more I take care of myself, the easier I find it to fight off The Voice. However, the more I skimp on my tools, the louder The Voice becomes, and it drags me right back down into the well of darkness and despair.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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