Saturday, March 21, 2015

Switch: Flipped?

I'd been planning to tell you about how I'm ramping down my antidepressant-- turns out it's a far longer, more tedious, and hazard-prone process this time around than anticipated, so there are anecdotes to relate (and a whole shit-ton of new resources to share, OMG)-- but then SOMETHING HUGE HAPPENED so Imma tell you that instead.

My daughters (5-year old twins) have been sick lately-- they got pretty nasty colds a few weeks ago that lingered, and then last week started coughing and feeling poorly again. They have mild asthma as a result of their premature birth and we've been easing up on their daily inhaler medication, hoping they've begun to outgrow it. But when the respiratory illnesses come around, it's always a little nerve-wracking, because they are prone to pneumonia.

Well. Sure enough. One of them ended up developing both an ear infection AND pneumonia. And I forgot to ask the doctor for chewable antibiotic tablets, instead of the liquid, which my kids flat out refuse to take. And then when I called at closing time to have her switch it, the kind she ordered were out of stock and the replacements were a different dosage and the pharmacy wouldn't make the switch without authorization, so we ended up having to take home the liquid.

Which my kid wouldn't finish, even in a smoothie.

Fast forward to the next morning. The kid with the pneumonia is acting fine, but her sister, whose lungs are clear, has nevertheless developed a horrible, deep cough overnight and is red-faced and hacking all morning.

Pneumonia girl rejects morning smoothie. She's now down 2 doses of antibiotics. I begin trying to get people together for a trip to the pharmacy to right this wrong. We reject getting dressed and opt for nightgowns and shoes. All systems go.

And then.

NON-pneumonia girl, who has been coughing virtually non-stop, suddenly grabs me in panic during a coughing fit, gags, and throws up all over the couch.

She and I spend the next 45 minutes in the bathroom, during which time she is convinced she is going to die and I try to calm and soothe her and tell her that she can breathe, that her coughing just made her choke, that she is doing fine, that I'm there with her and everything will be okay, that she is not, in fact, going to "barf forever," etcetera. Over and over.

Meanwhile, in another part of my brain, l'm gauging the potential for her twin to either join us in the bathroom or need further medical intervention because she has freaking PNEUMONIA and I haven't started her on her meds yet.

Finally, I give up on the idea of dragging these people out of the house and call my friend UltraViolet (yes, that is her Superhero name, and it is well-deserved), who runs to the pharmacy and grabs the meds for me, done and done.

So I get everything cleaned up, everyone talked down off the ledge and/or medicated, get them nebulized and fed and listened to them whine and let them crawl all over me for a while, and then put them to bed for a nap just as my husband is getting home for lunch.

I gave him the lowdown of the day, he went upstairs for a minute, and when he came back, I was sitting on the floor, tidying up. He looked at me and stopped dead in the middle of the room.

"Look at you," he said. "You're not triggered right now!"

I froze. Holy shit.

I did a quick inventory:

  • Off-gassing? No. 
  • Prickling along the hairline (something I've noticed goes along with full-throttle adrenaline charge, in me): Maybe 10% of usual. 
  • Need to shut down, disengage, stuff my face with insulating junk food? No! Look at me! I'm CLEANING! (although a donut wouldn't hurt right about now, let's be honest. Baby steps.)
  • The Fog rolling in to swallow the details of the morning? Clear skies, as far as the eye can see!

I stared back at him. "I am not triggered right now."

Normally, a stressful morning like that, full of worry and stress and chaos and whining and barf, for god's sake, would have triggered the living hell out of me.

I'm a person who gets triggered by needing to make a simple phone call, remember. A morning like this would have required a 16-hour shut-down to recover.

And I could feel it-- don't get me wrong, I could feel the reaction in there, a tiny one, trying to find purchase, but it was as if the edges inside were suddenly almost smooth, and there was nowhere left to bite.

And so it was dissipating. Maybe like it does in normal people; I'm hardly qualified to know. But there I was, not sitting on the couch and staring into my computer screen. 

There I was, after the morning I'd had, being a normal person.

My husband's grin was incandescent. "Look at you," he said again. "Look at you."


We talked about it some more later that night. 

"A year ago," he said, "or even a few months ago, you would have been completely different after a day like this. You wouldn't have been smiling, you would have been irritable, you wouldn't have been talking, you would have been buried in candy or some kind of comfort eating. You would probably have a migraine."

All true. I've been triggered worse for far less.

But that night, I laughed. "To be honest, I've been sitting here thinking I want to go get some ice cream. That one's going to be a harder habit to break."

He gave me a wry smile. "Well, two out of three ain't bad."

"I haven't gone, though," I said. "I'm still here."

He reached out and grabbed my hand. "You're still right here," he said.


I'm going to say this out loud now. 

It's the thing I've been hoping I'd be able to say since I started writing this blog, although if I'm honest I don't know if I ever really believed I'd get the chance.

But I'm going to say it. Type it. Whatever.

Here goes:

I think I flipped the switch.

I think I turned off my fight-or-flight response.

You guys: I THINK I DID IT!


It isn't quite the fairytale ending I'd imagined, I have to say. Or an ending at all, really.

As it turns out, turning off the response doesn't immediately solve every problem, end every struggle, or bring this journey to a close.

What keeps coming to mind is the image of a person who was once very obese but then lost a lot of weight, and now has far too much skin hanging on a suddenly-much-smaller frame.

My body is used to housing parts that are no longer there, and running on systems that no longer operate. Not everything that comes from that is automatic-- there are a lot of learned responses that follow that I still need to work on unlearning, for one thing.

But all that will come.

Because this thing that I've done... I've really done it. 

I've spent the last four-and-a-half years slowly and systematically setting up the conditions under which this transformation could take place, and it has.

And that means I have the systems in place for what happens next.

I've learned what is happening to me, and why and how, and with the help of Dr. Oz and my dear husband and my wonderful family and friends and you and this blog, I've learned how to recognize the changes when they happen and take next steps when it's time.

And now, with Dr. Q and neurofeedback, I've got my brain working from the inside to help get things put back in order as I clear space.

I've just cleared a lot of space.

I can feel the knot unwinding. That relentless, spinning ball of filament wires is finally slowing down.

The landscape is finally, irrevocably changed.

Throughout all this work, so many of the things I've learned and changes I've made have been perspective shifts; intellectually understood and incorporated as fully as possible, despite the fact that there has usually been little to no "agreement" from my instincts.

I think I've probably put a more positive face on it in this blog that it has earned in real life, simply because you're getting this stuff straight from my intellect, here, so you're dealing with the part of me who totally gets it and can successfully navigate all the theoretical nuance.

In practice, I've been much less consistent and aware, because that's where my lizard brain takes over and runs the show. But I've been trying to fight that, all this time, and trying to override what I feel to be true (or what my body knows to be true) with what my intellect knows to be true, and it's been disheartening at times.

I've mentioned it here, I know: that sometimes, despite all the work I'd done, I still felt so far away from resolution; like nothing inside had really changed at all.

That's because it hadn't. Not really.

That fight-or-flight response was still on, so as much as I was learning the whys and hows of it, and learning how to work with and through it, I was really only learning how to act upon a process that remained constantly in motion. Things were not changing from within so much as my understanding of things within was changing, and from there I was able to act.

And mostly, to act as if.

Here's how this week's event was different:

This week is the first time the change has come from my body first.

This week was the first time it has been clear to me that it is not just my perspective on my instincts that has changed, but my instincts themselves.


I have so much more to say about this; so much more to do with this, but I rather think this is enough revelation for one blog post. I'll save something for next week.

Until then, I'll still be reeling a bit from everything I've discovered over the last couple of weeks. And asking myself the question I've been asking for a while now, and in light of recent events, has become undeniable:

I've done what I set out to do. 

It is possible to do what I set out to do. 

I've done it.

And if I can do it, so can others.

How can I help?

1 comment:

  1. Lisa in berkeley23 March, 2015 20:15

    Kate-the-girl-who-lived-and-then-DID-IT!!!, you are just delicious. And the sweet real love between you and your hubbie is clear. Man, how cool to read this. And as a mama who got puked on a few times last week, I say it's poetic that kiddo barf framed such an awesome moment in your life!! Other people go to art things or happy hours or romantic vacations--we get to heal boo boos and GET METAPHYSICAL SHIT DONE while teaching imps that puke is not everlasting and that things get better. Divine, if you ask me. Moments of grace baby, moments of sacred pukie grace.

    And, by the way, may I join the quiet voice inside who says "you earned it, lady."

    Thanks for sharing your work with all of us. Schmoochies to your gorgeous self.