Saturday, April 26, 2014

This Is My 100th Post!

One hundred posts. Here we are. You and me and one hundred posts!

Soooo.... <swings arms awkwardly>

What do you wanna do now?

For reals, though, 100 posts is sort of something, isn't it? This has truly become a living, breathing thing, this blog; this action of writing what is happening to me despite my conditioned resistance to peek between my fingers and watch.

Over these one hundred posts, I have gone from feeling so stiff and alien in my own voice on the page-- unaccustomed as I was to speaking this way after so many silent years-- to comfortably re-inhabiting what I think is my most natural environment: right here at the keyboard, where I was always meant to be.

That first post, 2 1/2 years ago, took me two full weeks to write, and it's only a couple of paragraphs. I was so nervous then, so afraid of getting it wrong. 

I didn't know what would happen if I wrote it down. I wanted you to come and read, and react, and respond, but I didn't know if or why you would. I wasn't sure I'd be able to create anything worth responding to. I wasn't sure what I was hoping for, really. I had no idea, then, where it was possible for this project to go.

But I did write it, finally, painstakingly; drafting and redrafting that first post so many times I'm amazed anything finally made it out at all. And then, gauntlet thrown, I had to go and write some more, and in my awkward way I began to spool out the stories of the accident and the injuries and those first few months afterward, and set the stage for everything that has happened since.

I kept coming back to it because you kept reading, reacting, responding. You, the readers who began this journey with me, and the ones who have joined it along the way. You were the unknown quantity in all of this, and you've been an unexpected and unfathomable gift to me as I've done this work and committed this writing to the screen.

And as I've come back, week after week, month after month, I have seen myself change, not just as a person with PTSR, but as a writer as well. I have confidence in myself and my writing that I never quite achieved as a writing student and certainly never thought I'd achieve in the post-grad school world. I've finally come into myself here, and let this essential part of my identity assert itself.

Since I started this blog, I have begun to call myself "A Writer" when people ask me what I do. I never thought I'd have the nerve to say such a thing. I certainly never thought I'd earn the right.

But here I've been, writing nearly every week, committing to a practice that has changed my orientation to writing permanently. And while I've been writing this blog for me, but I've been writing it to you, and that's as essential an element to the process as the laptop on the table in front of me or the cafe au lait at my elbow.

You've been so nurturing to me during this work. It has been such hard and vulnerable work. Thank you for the support you have given me both publicly and privately for what I've done in this blog. 

It has meant more than you can imagine.

I hope you will continue with me. I hope you will comment more. I hope we will continue to learn from each other.

I hadn't planned to do a retrospective here, but it does seem sort of appropriate, no? 

Here's a Sherlockian one, based on statistics:

My five most popular posts have been, in descending order, as follows:

1. So Many Posts, So Little Time (although I think this one just had some bot-friendly keywords in it or something. It is not a particularly interesting post. I had to change my blog security after this one)

2. Here Is What Happened (my first post)

3. Superbetter (a post with some pretty astonishing, potentially world-changing information in the links. I'm glad it's been seen a lot. It was a good one!)

4. New Post... Soon (a post whose popularity terrifies me because it contains a video of my tiny children break-dancing at the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market in San Francisco. Which is really, really cute. But who the hell were all those people who looked at it and how the hell did they find it?! O.o)

5. Active Release Technique. OMG. (a post about... well, exactly what it says on the tin. And also the wonderful and hilarious Dr. John Beall, D.C., C.S.C.S., A.R.T.. Both of which deserve all the page hits they get.

And here are my personal favorite posts, in chronological order. These are the ones I'd read if I were to do a public reading from this blog (and I think I'd really like to do a public reading from this blog, if such a thing were ever appropriate to do somewhere. Ideas, anyone?):

1. Some of the first few posts: First, Next, and Scars, for their unflinching clarity and context, and for the way they pulled in so many readers and held you here, captive. ;)

 2. The View From Here, for the description of the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, DC and the allegory to PTSD. There is still such a vivid connection for me in that image that I get chills every time I think about it.

3. Braced For Impact I and II. One of my first major breakthrough moments that went beyond figuring out what was happening to me and allowed me to start making changes in the ways I responded to the world around me. A important pair of posts. An important time.

4. The A-Ha Moment. The one where I finally figured out a) how my brain actually works now, and b) what is, and what is not, actually under my control, so that I might use said brain more effectively to my advantage. This is known in common parlance as PAGE ONE OF THE MANUAL.

5. Happily Ever After. One of my favorite posts to write, ever, about a day when I... lived. Me. Lived. Just like that. And also my sister got married and there were pretty dresses and lovely treats and wonderful family and friends and beautiful scenery and decorations and everything else was perfect, too.

One hundred posts. Thanks for reading them. I hope you'll be with me for one hundred more, and that the next hundred illustrate even more profound change and growth than I've experienced so far along this road. 

Thanks to you, it hasn't been a lonely journey. More than you know, that has kept me going, and I have never lost faith that it will get me to where I hope to make it in the end. 

And so I dedicate this post, in gratitude, to you.


kate. the girl who lived.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

An Unexpected Breakthrough

I'm not really sure what to write about today. Med and migraine updates are boring (doubled Effexor dose again to 150mg, where I think I will stay; have migraine but it's my once-a-month menstrual one that I consider the most tolerable, somehow. There, done). Anything too off-subject isn't the point of this blog. So what, then?

I have some undeveloped thoughts about stuff I could share. See what you think.

I was thinking the other day about the nature of this whole PTSR thing-- the emotional numbing, the separation of the intellectual brain from the feeling one from the instinctive one, and how, all these years on, it feels like such a long and layered thing to unlearn.

But the truth of it, as I've written about here but never said in so many words and never really thought about in quite this way, is that it isn't something that happened slowly over time.

It happened immediately, the night of the crash. Bam. Boom. Splitsville.

That's really weird to me.

I've come to think of all this condition as something that has accumulated, and in so many ways it has-- protective behaviors and habits and blind spots that have built and layered upon each other over time.

But that initial split, the thing it all boils down to and the thing I'm still struggling with now that I've peeled away as many layers as I can, is something that wasn't conditioned or learned or developed over years and years.

It happened immediately.


That... blows me away.

I mean, all implications aside, think about that. The power of that. The brain is capable of taking such deeply protective measures that in a mere instant-- a second, no more than two-- it can reorient itself to the world so completely. 

It took the measure of that second and decided what needed to be done to keep me safe and made it happen: it shut down memory recording for me so I would never have to experience consciously the moment of impact-- a moment I did experience consciously, mind you-- and then it began, right then, to scan for further threat so that such an unthinkable, horrifying violation could never happen again.

I will save you, it said. And then I will keep you safe.

And 23 years later, it still hasn't stopped.


After I wrote that, I had... a really intense full-body physical reaction.

My legs and arms started doing the cold-fire, off-gassing thing, and my scalp started prickling, so I closed my eyes and put my head down and planted my feet on the floor and started doing my grounding exercises: pool of saliva in the mouth, table under the elbows, mantra in the head: I am here, I am safe, I am alive. I am alive. I am alive.

And then my scalp... and the migraine beneath it... just... released.

And a cold-fire shiver went from my neck down through my whole body to my feet.

And knots in my shoulders and abdomen I hadn't known were there... relaxed.

I lifted my head and opened my eyes and everything looked a little strange and floaty, like I was sitting too high in my seat and the lights were too bright, so I closed them again and went back to my mantra, and just did that for a while.

The next time I looked up, everything was settled again.

I think my body just let something go. Somehow, saying that stuff in just that way allowed me to let another piece go.

That was cool and crazy!

The cold fire is still going strong all through my legs and up the backs of my wrists and forearms, an hour later.

The migraine is creeping back, though. :/

Whatever, body. We just had a moment, you and I. Deny it all you want. We both know what happened here today.

Ha. I should try writing undeveloped thoughts more often, eh?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lists: a Pre-list

Another week on Effexor and all is well. The dose has been doubled and will likely be doubled again before long, and there are no side effects to speak of, so all is looking very, very well.

Now, we wait.

I can't wait for things to kick in a bit more and the motivation to seep back into my bones. I'm already getting a bit projecty. I've got, in fact, an absolutely heavenly pile of creative and body-moving projects to do that could keep me occupied mentally and physically for months upon months. I've got enough fuel.

I just need to flip a few switches and get myself going to take them on properly.

First up: I'm building myself a two-wall, wrap-around desk in my small office. One wall will be the writing side, the other will be for sewing projects, with a drop-down leaf that folds up to a huge cutting surface. I found plans online for a really cool and inexpensive way to do this, and we're modifying them to fit in my space and building it from scratch. We're pretty handy over here. I will post pics when we get going.

When that's done, I'll be able to get some sewing projects done. First up there: roman shades for my daughters' bedroom. I found the most FABULOUS fabric: it's got flowers and fairies in it, and yet it manages not to be too fussy or little-girlie. It's got a bit of an art nouveau vibe about it. And it matches perfectly with their bedding and the deep fuchsia fuzzy rug in their room. 

Hold on, Ill show you:


So, those things. Projects. Things you set up to a) keep you focused and occupied, b) give you something to look forward to and motivate toward c) serve as a yardstick for your ability to enjoy things you once found pleasurable.

See, Mr. Former Migraine Doctor? I TOLD you I took the fucking workshop.

For me, the surest sign that I'm heading out of the depression void and back to productive land is the list-making. I make lists. And although all this PTSD work and pulling everything apart has made the next step harder than it was before, I'm working now on pulling my focus in and completing the items on those lists in a coherent, linear way.

The list-making thing isn't quite happening yet, but it feels impending. I'm noticing areas where lists would be helpful. I'm making pre-lists. I'm collecting blank sheets of paper in my mind and pinning them to walls in preparation.

It seems as though there will be lists, soon.

And after lists, tasks.

And somewhere during that time, EXCITEMENT. And that's when I start to feel like maybe this whole thing might work, after all.

Which is good, because aside from a desk and some curtains, I have writing projects galore to get back to. 

And a treehouse that needs building.

And a piano that longs to be turquoise.

And art that wants reframing, and more art that is waiting to be found and brought home and hung on my walls.

And sprinklers in my front yard and back that would prefer to be dug up and placed elsewhere and lovingly coaxed back to life.

And a garden that wants to happen, despite my fears that I will kill it before it does.

And furniture yet to build.

And closets yearning for shelves.

And walls that want paint.

And baseboards and crown molding that knows for a fact that I will someday soon master the miter.

And little-girl short-sleeve comfy summer nightgowns made from old goth t-shirts that simply must become reality. 

This is all mine, all mine for the taking. This is how fucked up brain chemistry is that these projects have felt so scary and overwhelming that I've been afraid to even think about them a lot of the time.

Thinking about them is beginning to give me joy.

In a very little while, thinking about them will begin to give me fire in the blood.

From there, if I'm lucky, I will go fucking supernova in a frenzy of roman shades and nightgowns and front yard vetiver plants. You will know me by my industry.

And you will be smart to join me or get out of my way.

Well. Ahem. One can always hope, right?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

So Far, So Good

Five days on Effexor, and so far, so good.

You usually notice the side effects of these drugs first, and the intended effects accumulate slowly over time.

This one gives me a bit of a lift in the morning, as promised. I need that. So that's good.

I'm noticing a small bit of what I experienced on Cymbalta, but so far none of the deal-breaker level stuff. Like, I have to pee more often, and when I do, I have to go RIGHT NOW.

(Hi, welcome to the yep-she's-going-there portion of today's post. And while we're on the subject...)

I was thinking about all the insane side effects of psychotropic medications-- truly, the lists are staggeringly long and varied-- and just how bloody unfair and singularly self-sustaining they are. So many of these drugs, like my last one, stimulate your appetite or just make you retain weight (or both), which makes exercising harder-- not to mention self esteem-- and exercise is an essential component for depressives. Exercise is, in fact, a more effective treatment for depression than drugs.

Hmmm... suspicious, that.

(Oh, and speaking of that, now that I've moved to the new med, I've lost 5 pounds in a week. The donuts of my little town are safe once again. Sheesh.)

Another really common side effect is sexual problems. Lowered libido, erectile dysfunction, difficulty reaching orgasm. Super fun! Fortunately, the ones I'm taking now are not affecting me in this area, but the first one I took, years and years ago, made it difficult to reach orgasm. All other systems worked as usual. Same desires, same responses, same everything right up until the crucial moment; just almost impossible to... you know. Get there.

HOW ON EARTH IS THAT HELPFUL TO A DEPRESSED PERSON? If you cut us, do we not bleed? Et-fucking-cetera?

So then my musings led me to conspiracy theories about Big Pharma and their evil intentions (a drone army. They're building a drone army, I'm pretty sure) and the guinea pig-like feeling of being a person trying to find the right drug and juggling all of these potential weird side effects.

Although if a drone army is the goal, creating a bunch of sexually frustrated doughy people who are constantly doing the pee-pee dance and would shank their own grandmothers for a donut is maybe not the most effective method.

I'm just saying.

Anyway. Side effects minimal so far. I'm having some of the expected, transitional, slow-brain stuff. But just a little. The biggest thing is the sleep disturbance. Amitriptyline was a mild sleep aid, which was great-- it was helping me with my mild insomnia. I took it at bedtime, it made me drowsy and made me sleep more soundly, and all was a bit better in that area.

Effexor, being the opposite, does not help me sleep and is taken in the morning. And while it has created a problem, it also helps to solve it, which is funny-- it has taken away my drowsy-maker and right now, during the transition, I'm sleeping pretty horribly, but I have a morning pick-me-up that actually helps to counter those effects.

A pill to help counter the effects it helps create! OH MY GOD, I HAVE ACHIEVED THE AMERICAN DREAM! :D

Ha ha. No. I mean yes, I am sleeping not sleeping well at all this week, but I expect that to adjust itself a bit as well as this transition continues, and hopefully work itself out.

All in all, I actually feel quite good. My husband has noticed that I seem lighter, happier, in a better mood. I feel that way. 

I am hopeful. I double my dose tomorrow. I'm ramping up relatively quickly. Let's see what this baby can do.

I do have some other new things I've been talking about with Dr. Oz, but I'm not ready to write about it here yet. 

I'm sorry, I don't mean to tease. I just need to get my mind around it a bit more before I can be articulate about it, and as evidenced above, now is not the time for that.

I'm in drone army training at the moment. We've got pee-pee dance drills all day, and then grandmother-shanking relays until midnight. No time for reflection I'm afraid.

Soon though. Like I said, I am hopeful.

That, in itself, seems like a good sign, no?