Recovery: Panic Attacks, medical procedure, slow & steady healing

Rainbow aka healing light aka love
Photo by Alturas Homes on Pexels.com

Panic Attacks

Well, life likes to kick my ass on a regular basis. It’s a good way of reminding me to stay present, be kind  to myself, and stay open minded about what might come up as life changes.

My body does not often experience a physical panic attack bad enough that all of me is out of commission for any period of time these days. A rough estimate is 2-3 times a year for the last 3-4 years. Compared to once a month or once every few months before that, this is a big improvement.

So why did it happen? Well, something triggered a seriously scary and painful set of body memories that became flashbacks. The flashbacks literally had different parts of me reliving and re-experiencing the past all over again. No, I am not going into detail. Yes I will tell you it all goes back to my childhood/adolescence and life in the cult. And yes, I will confirm it does have to do with being female, puberty, and menstruation.

Beyond that, no I will not share anything else. Every individual experience puberty differently. What happened to me and continues to happen in my body is unique; just as yours is unique to you. Whether male or female, the changes are sometimes obvious; other times not so obvious. But we all go through it. And it affects our experience of life in the present and future.

The gassy, bloating sensations and cramps trigger negative thoughts and experiences for me. From there, it’s like dominoes. One knocks down the other until the entire chain falls. In response, the rest of my physical body tightens and prepares for “attack”. It doesn’t rest until the “threat” or “trigger” (in this case the flashback or series of flashbacks) ends.

On the good side, this one didn’t last as long as the others or cause exhaustion; I was able to work and go on with life as usual the rest of the week.

Medical Procedure

Wednesday, I had my fallopian tubes removed. The procedure itself did not hurt much at all. And my recovery is going well. I’m late posting because I’ve been sleeping a lot the last 2.5 days. The bruising is going away, and the incisions are healing fast – itchy but not painful.

The hardest parts of all this are a) recovery from anesthesia and other medications and b) having limited wardrobe options in cooler weather. 

What? you ask. Well, here’s the short version.

A) Medications and I do not mix. My body has a strong sense of self-protection. While all parts of me felt safe and comfortable in the hospital and around the nursing staff, they/we did not trust them enough to put in the IV. After 5 pokes with the needles, two nurses, and 3 injections of numbing agent, the anesthesiologist managed to get an IV needle into a vein in my right hand. Once the IV worked, I fell asleep and woke up in recovery not knowing anything happened.

But, coming out of the anesthesia was awkward. I experienced flashbacks and panic attacks (like Sunday’s panic attack) as my mind and body struggled to wake up. The nurse offered me extra pain meds, and I accepted not realizing the pain came from flashbacks at the time.

Upside, the pain meds helped with abdominal pain from the procedure.

Downside, I had my usual reaction to pain meds and passed out for a while as the flashbacks and panic attack pain continued to move through my body. No, the pain meds did not help. My body fought the meds like it fought the imaginary intruders in the flashbacks while I was asleep.

B) Because the incisions are on my belly button and abdomen, I can’t wear pants or skirts or keep anything like waistbands on the area for too long. March is still cool/cold out in the Pacific Northwest, so I still need to wear something under and over my dresses. It’s made getting dressed/staying comfortable at home and going out a bit difficult. Plus, I can’t bend over or do much heavy lifting even at home. That requires some creativity to get things accomplished and easy meal options. Luckily, my relatives sent care packages that made cooking easier the past few days. But I’m kind of tired of all that and itching to try something else for a change.

Slow & Steady Healing

This Wednesday marks 1 week since the procedure. Everything is healing well even if the rest of my body is protesting with physical pain. The most painful areas are unexpected to be quite honest. I am often aware that the sides of my body and mid/lower back around the bottom of my rib cage and shoulder blades experience sore muscles and pain. Same with my hip joints and the base of my skull.

But I have not experienced actual pain in those areas for some time. They would feel tight like a rubber ball when poked. The pain appeared in my face or along my spine. Confusing, yes? Lately, though, I have been some experiencing physical pain (kind of like when you exercise too hard and your muscles protest a day or two later) in those areas. Not enough to limit my movement, but enough to trigger anxiety and flashbacks.

And this is where the aromatherapy classes and exercises come in to play. In each lesson we are given category of essential oils to learn about and “blending” exercises to complete. That means I use the class knowledge about essential oils, essential oil chemistry, blending, carrier oils, and therapeutic properties to create my own oils, lotions, bath salts, body butters, etc. My first blends were geared towards muscle pain relief, decongesting my sinuses, and improving circulation in my body (not just blood, but lymphatic system too).

They worked really well, so I felt hopeful about the next group of blending exercises. Many of the oils in these three categories helped with pain relief, stress, anxiety, and wound healing. So I chose to create a bath salt, a healing lotion for minor cuts and bruises, and an oil-based ointment that worked like Neosporin for short term use. 

antibacterial, nourishing, and relaxing bath salt

Since the incisions are too new and delicate, I can’t use any of these blends directly on those areas. But I used the bath salts the night before my procedure because 2 of the 3 oils have antibacterial properties and I can’t use over-the-counter antibacterial soaps. The third oil has general anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.

lotion to reduce stress-related muscle tension or pain

And the lotion works really well for my entire body and head/face. I’ve been using it 1-2x a day on specific body areas every other day to test it out. Last night, I tried it all over and experienced a really good sleep. For the rest of this blend’s use (until I finish), that will probably be my go-to choice. Put the lotion on all over before bed time and relax into sleep. But, the next time I make this, I will be using less oil overall because the ratio of oil to lotion is too high for long term use.

trial blend to heal wounds, bruises, etc. have to see if it works…

The third ointment has not got much use yet. It’s a powerful healing ointment made with Tamanu carrier oil and a mix of essential oils with wound healing therapeutic properties that works well on bruises, abrasions, rashes, or scabs/scars. I’ve been waiting for approval from the doctor and nurses to use around (not on) the bruised and tender areas near the incisions. 

And no, I am not going to list the oils and blends at this time. One day, in a future post, I will share some of my recipes with you. For now, there are many safety concerns related to using essential oils, and I am not willing to give you half-assed information that includes a recipe, but not measurements, safety precautions, or reliable places to make purchases.

So the recipes will have to wait.

And posting new content might be erratic until I catch up with my day job and am more mobile. Recovery requires me to sleep more, rest more, and get up and move once every 1-2 hours while I am awake to keep up circulation. There’s a lot going on, and I want to be present for you when I share these posts.

Thanks for reading.

 

Alter Post: AlterXpressions – the host reveals herself

Hello Guests,
My name is TJ.  I guess you can call me the host of our expansive system.  But it’s not quite accurate because none of us is ever the host full time.  Not even in the past before anyone knew about alter personalities and Dissociative Identity Disorder.  I’ve always heard voices and made intuitive leaps that defy logic.  And I’ve always been different.
As a child, different meant being a target for bullies and racism.  It meant being too smart for my own good and labeled a nerd with no personality among my peers.  Within my family, being different got me excluded from group activities and punished or made fun of for being too slow, emotional, mouthy, disobedient, or ditsy.  Never for being smart or capable.
I had friends for a little while, but then they slowly disappeared.  As they left, I retreated to my amazing inner world.  When that didn’t work, books were my escape.  Crafts helped too unless Mom found out and decided to interfere.  Then crafts became a punishment.  Either I was with the cult, alone at home, or somewhere supervised by my mother.
The memories are fuzzy, but I do remember the following:
  • Climbing up high to hide from “monsters”
  • Crawling under sofas, beds, etc. to “escape” from something
  • Hiding in cabinets, boxes, closets, etc. and getting punished because no one could find me; then having my hiding places blocked
  • Lots of pain and fuzziness from “medication”
  • Lots of adults and secret games
  • Shame and despair and suicidal thoughts
  • Middle school hell because I got stuck with the “popular” kids
  • High school drama and worse because of “popular” kids, death of family members, being forced to go to prom, and graduation
  • Suddenly losing time  and being abusive and angry all the time without understanding what was happening or why
  • Hating my body and wanting to be invisible – aka negative body image and sense of self
  • Being a social outcast for most of my life because I never learned “proper” social skills
Who am I now?
I am one of many in our system and the face most people in the outside world meet or interact with.  I have a stable job in Corporate America, friends, and loved ones.  Lucky for me, I’ve had the same job for more than 10 years and earned the respect of my co-workers.  They accept my panic attacks and PTSD as part of working with me and value my skills.
The job provided me with mentors and an alternative family that taught me how to be a real person.  From those people, I learned how to be respectful, accepting, honest, and trustworthy.  They taught, through modeling and personal experience, how to interact with people and be social in positive, safe ways.  Without this job, I’d never have gotten away.
My favorite hobbies are: reading, cooking, writing, walking, and sleeping.
When not triggered, I also enjoy knitting, sewing, discovering my personal style, working with my hands, and learning about a variety of topics.
I am interested in alternative medicine, nutrition, personal finance, mental health, intuition, spirituality, wellness, and living a conscious, authentic lifestyle.  I am an empath, a highly sensitive person interested in learning more about angels, spirit guides, guardians, and energy healing.  I want to find ways to work with my alters and integrate so that we all can enjoy life in the outside world.
Personal relationships are difficult because most people can only accept part who I am and reject everything else.  Friendships take time, work, patience, and trust.  Do I want an intimate relationship someday?  Yes.  Will that happen in this life time?  I don’t know.  Do I have hope?  Yes.
Finding a man (because I am heterosexual) who can accept all parts of me sometimes feels like searching for a unicorn.  I mean who could ever accept, not only the darkness inside me, but also that I am a multiple?  Yet I still have hope and am open to all of the possibilities my future holds.  So maybe one day…
Thanks for reading.

Recovery: Does a traumatic past = unhappy or terrible past?

Halloween is tomorrow.  From an objective perspective, I enjoy people watching and seeing the families with young children trick-or-treating.  From a personal perspective, my triggers are still too raw for my to actually enjoy the holiday.

So here is Wednesday’s post a few days early.

Background

Saturday afternoon, I was doing errands and visiting friendly people in the neighborhood.  It was the first day all week that I felt somewhat energetic and able to go out.  Not sure about you, but sometimes, in spite of using every coping strategy possible and trying to stay healthy, the flashbacks, triggers, pain, and exhaustion win.  And it comes down to choices: stay in, rest and be able to work; or go out, enjoy the nice weather, do errands, and come home feeling tired/sick/unable to work then next day?

But Saturday, started off pretty good and continued that way until obligation reared its ugly head.  Not sure if you recall, but I wrote a few posts back in August/September about toxic relationships and communication with people in my life.  My choice was to share the posts as a way of discussing the issues with them and then let those individuals make the next move since verbal conversations turned into stressful arguments or worse.

Post 1, Post 2, Post 3, Post 4.

Well, one of those individuals reached out indirectly; not through email, Facebook, text or anything like that.  Maybe this person expected me to come back and visit or reach out in some way?  When that didn’t happen, a mutual acquaintance “casually” asked if I was stopping by a  particular store to visit there too.

The situation

Personally, I knew that I would talk to the individual eventually because I would want closure in the future.  But I wanted to do that on my terms.  That meant walking away from a triggering situation with a potentially toxic individual for a while.  Then using that time to reflect on conversations, interactions, and changes in perspective.  I honestly did not expect her to reach out in any way.

But I also knew that if this individual did, I would be walking into a trap of some kind.  And by trap, I mean a situation where the other individual controlled the setting, manipulated our interactions, and tried to incite a reaction (negative) that shook my confidence or made me feel less than her.

The goal: to put me in my place by making me realize I had no control in the relationship.  That I conformed or got excluded from the community.

The set up was pretty obvious from the time I walked in.  Two friends were in the store with the individual; people close in age with shared interests and perspectives on life.  All three went out of their way to show me with their body language and own personal stories how little my update mattered to them and how boring my apartment decorating was.  When that didn’t incite a defensive or shamed reaction, they moved on to discuss other topics.

I listened to them and observed the store owner; that’s why I was there you see.  I wanted to confirm that this individual was not someone I wanted in my life.  Listening to the store owner talk to someone else my age, some other older customers, and answer a question I had about store credit confirmed that we would not ever be able to be friends or have a relationship in the future.  Put downs disguised as teasing.  Emotional manipulation in the form of “helpful” advice or suggestions.  Passive aggressive comments about body shape from the friends all spoken in sugary, polite tones.

But what really got me was when one of the friends talked about her “terrible childhood” and then condescended to tell me that I “was probably too young to know” what they were referring to.  The condescending part didn’t bother me.  I look 10 years younger than my age and told them so.  Then mentioned some other shows from that time period.  Not the reaction they expected, so the conversation ended with: “You’re a baby” from a person 9 years older than me.

Inspiration for this post

The female friend’s description of a “terrible childhood” struck me.  You see, the store owner befriended me when I first moved to the new state and was vulnerable – alone and getting to know the neighborhood – thanks to my social experiment.  So she knew a fair amount about my past, but not all the details.  One thing she knew about was my traumatic past and toxic family situation.

What she didn’t realize until later was the following:

  • I may be soft spoken and quiet, but I am not a pushover
  • I may not act confident all the time, but I feel and am confident in myself as an individual
  • I cultivate and live by the following concepts: radical acceptance, unconditional love, respect for all living beings, unconditional compassion, and forgiveness
  • Doesn’t always show because my triggers get in the way, but I am secure enough in myself to fight back, speak up, and assert myself when people try to take advantage of me or manipulate me or bully me or be mean in any way
  • I hardly ever start fights/arguments/etc. but I always finish them
  • I am strong, am resilient, and fight to survive – that means I fight to win and/or escape every time – and am well versed in how to fight dirty with words or fists
  • Finally, I work hard to cultivate only supportive, positive relationships while minimizing and removing toxic or negative ones.

So when she and her friends texted each other and brought up so many potentially triggering topics (personal finance, repairing/decorating the apartment, family) to try and manipulate me, I realized that I don’t need or want people like that in my life.  Listening to their conversations without reacting frustrated them more than it did me.

Observing them in action and talking about their childhoods got me thinking about my past.  It also got me thinking about the definition of an unhappy or horrible childhood.  Because honestly, I’m not sure that having a traumatic childhood is the same as having an unhappy or horrible one.  Yes, trauma causes many unhappy, horrible, unsafe, and dangerous childhood experiences.  Yes, trauma has a long-lasting negative influence on child/adolescent/adult development.

But does the experience of a traumatic past really = an unhappy childhood?

My perspective

Feel free to disagree with me on this.  After all your experience is just as true and valid as mine, and this blog/website is about accepting and valuing all perspectives and experiences of trauma.

When I started this website, about 28-30 years of my past was a blur of fragments and sensations that didn’t make much sense.  I couldn’t trust my memory of past events because of all the holes from traumatic amnesia.  And I didn’t know that my dreams and nightmares were sometimes interpretations of my childhood memories intertwined with the traumatic events.

There were times I woke up one morning and couldn’t remember what happened for the last 6 months.  Or times I was at work in the middle of a report, dissociated and/or switched, and couldn’t remember what happened for 5, 15, 20, 60 minutes at a time.  I had to go back and redo all of my work because I couldn’t remember what I started or finished.

That memory problem lessened as I started working with a trauma informed counselor.  And as the tangled trauma memories sorted themselves out, other memories surfaced.  Memories of childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood that brought smiles and laughter.  Memories of accomplishments and small successes that strengthened my resolve and helped me understand where my values come from.

Memories, that when separated from the trauma triggers and shame, that reminded me of how wonderful and happy the most important parts of my childhood were.  Experiences where adults modeled tolerance and acceptance and forgiveness and compassion in their daily interactions.  Experiences that showed me how to bounce back from mistakes, be an individual instead of part of the crowd, own my flaws and turn them into strengths, and always have a plan.

Most important: anything is possible as long as I believe in myself and not let fear stop me from trying, making mistakes, learning, and trying again until I succeed.

Sure, I am flawed.  My family is flawed.  Some of them are outright dangerous and toxic and unsafe.  But others are safe and trustworthy and loving and accepting of everything in their own ways.  And the safe relatives, those are the people who taught me the skills I needed to survive and then let me go when I needed to leave in order to find myself.  When I did come back, they welcomed me with open arms and unconditional love and acceptance and forgiveness for hurting them – unintentionally or not.

Conclusion

So while traumatic situations can cause unhappy and horrible experiences in any phase of life, I truly believe that individuals choose their own perspectives of childhood or any other part of their life.

I choose to acknowledge and value what my traumatic past taught me while living without regrets and focusing on the gifts that same past gave me so that I could become the woman I am now and who I will be in the future.

And I hope that sharing this story helps other guests find the little bits of positivity that comes from any experience to help them move forward in their recovery or healing journey – whatever they choose to call it.

Thanks for reading

Coping Challenges: Memory Floods = Scaring Myself

Going back to school was amazing in some ways – I felt so comfortable and accepted there.  Socializing was a lot easier than I anticipated, and I had so much fun in spite of the stress from lack of self-care time.  But I realized that my concern about self care masked the real challenge.

The real challenge was a flood of memories about my struggles trying to socialize and fit in with peers or attain meaningful goals.  My body started reacting first.  But not in the same way it usually does.  The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments have been helping a lot, so the cramping pain, nausea, and rapid breathing changed to something I didn’t recognize.  My sleeping was okay, but the dreams changed.

My anxiety increased every day as I got closer and closer to the last class.  Up until Friday in class, I debated whether or not to not follow through the rest of the application process.  There is still an email telling my admissions counselor I don’t want to continue waiting in my draft box.  It explains that maybe I am not sure I feel ready to start school in September.  My alters and I do worry that our body is not ready for that kind of stress yet.

Earlier in the day, I texted my counselor about my worries.  She got back to me while I was in the last class and convinced me to wait until after our session to decide about the email.  My counselor and I talked about it in session, but what came out of my mouth wasn’t what either of us expected.  My parts started talking.  They shared what each of us had been told throughout the years without providing context first.  By the time I came back, the session was over.  I felt really mad at myself, upset, and confused.

  • What I wanted to share has to wait until the next session.  But right now, we have to cope with the fallout symptoms from being triggered on multiple levels.
  • Memories of shame and humiliation with regards to socializing, participating in class, and enjoying myself in crowds
  • Memories of what my parents, brother, relatives, so-called friends, and other people said to shame and discourage me from achieving my school-related dreams
  • Coping with the fact that my body and mind are not reacting to these triggers in the “typical” way – and none of us know what to do

So now life has calmed down.  Work schedule is getting back to normal.  And I have an essay to write.  But this weekend was busy with work.  And I finally had some warm, sunny days to enjoy outside.  It was fun hanging out with neighborhood friends and seeing the crowds of people on the street again.

Thanks for reading