Archives for category: pain

This morning I woke to the sound of distant music. I couldn’t place the source. I turned over once or twice, thinking perhaps I might go back to sleep, once I wasn’t hearing it. It was faint. Ambient. Vaguely familiar. I finally sat up, wondering if my Traveling Partner was awake, quietly watching TV or something. There was a hint of light, under the bedroom door, so… maybe?

Well…shit. Now I’m awake. LOL

I got up, and made my way down the hallway in the morning darkness. No lights were on, there was only a hint of light from the front stoop, illuminating my studio through open blinds, which gave some small amount of light and the hint of an appearance (from within the dark of the bedroom) that a light could be on. (No lights were on.) I stood in the darkness, puzzled. The house was quiet. There was no music. I had stopped hearing it, as soon as I opened the bedroom door onto the utterly ordinary darkness of the house in the wee hours. Strange. I turned my head, and thought I heard something, again, like music… I shrugged off the inconsequential mystery and started to get ready for a new day.

I started making coffee, and it was then, while the grinder was running, that I heard the music again. It’s not music. Now I’ve sorted it out. Between my tinnitus, and the sounds of the fridge, and the aquarium, when the heat kicked on, too, I heard it; a hint of an impression of the sound of distant music. Frequencies of noise, blending strangely, and becoming vaguely musical. lol Damn it. That woke me? Wild. I sip my coffee, breathe, relax, and let that go. It’s not really relevant to anything else, at all. 🙂

I dress myself every day. I’m not bragging, most people do. I’m just saying, usually I feel pretty comfortable and satisfied with those choices. Easy enough. Today, weirdly, I just… don’t. LOL I’m not sure what I wanted out of wearing clothes today, but somehow… this isn’t it. LOL I’m feeling my years. I’m feeling my weight. I’m feeling aggravated by the sensations of fabric and constriction and confinement and… wtf? Oh. Hang on.  I breathe and let that go, too. I notice that my tinnitus is pretty loud today, just generally, and allow the awareness to become more real, as I listen to it. Okay, so, a quiet noise woke me, and my clothes “feel weird”. I give myself some self-care and attention. I listen to the woman in the mirror beefing about the weird of the day, and wonder how much is symptomatic of one issue or another. TBI or spinal injury… I guess I can take my pick, or admit that acknowledging the potential is enough to initiate heightened attention to my physical wellness and self-care needs today, and let that be enough.

A few minutes of meditation. More coffee. Neck pain. A headache. More self-care. Appropriate medication. A glass of water. The day, oddly, is beginning pretty well, in spite of whatever bullshit and weirdness is going on with my nervous system today. I’m content to enjoy the parts I can, and nurture the parts that need care, and just let the rest go. It’s enough.

One last swallow of coffee. One more quick scan of this moment, and this space, right here; do I have what I need for the day ahead? I guess it’s time to begin again. 🙂

This morning I woke ahead of the alarm clock, feeling rested. I did some yoga. I showered. Made coffee. Dressed for work. I hadn’t yet checked the weather, but so far “snow-pocalypse” has been fairly disappointing, and I wasn’t worried about the weather, because I arrived home last night prepared to work from home this morning. Instead of fussing about the weather, I took time for meditation, no timer. It was a lovely start to the morning.

(I still don’t know what the weather may be like, and still haven’t checked.)

Now, I am sipping my coffee and considering things. Mostly things I am grateful for. It’s not exactly “prayer” – but it isn’t entirely unlike prayer, I suppose. I’m not conscientiously cataloging gratitude-worthy moments, or events, or people, either. More like I’m allowing my thoughts to go where they wish, and as they do, I’m making a point to definitely feel gratitude for things that I happen to be grateful for. It’s an exercise in appreciate, in awareness, and in observation, and I feel lifted up every day that I do this particular practice.

(There’s so much in life to be grateful for.)

My coffee is precisely as I like it. I sip it with contentment, and wonder briefly why no other coffee really tastes quite like this first carefully crafted pour-over in the morning? I let that thought go, and welcome the next. One by one, they turn up, and then depart. Moments considered. It’s been a good week so far, and even my pain has been generally fairly well-managed, which tends to result in being in a “better mood” just as generally. It’s nice. I think about valued co-workers and some exceptionally satisfying positive interactions in this young new year. Promising. I mull over the past year of living with my Traveling Partner, and smile; it’s been delightful to enjoy so much of his company. I appreciate his presence. I think about practical details that are worthy candidates for gratitude, right down to the small details like doors that lock, indoor plumbing, refrigeration, and electric lights; life would be different – very different – without those. I take a moment to appreciate connectivity, and then to appreciate the vast improvement in my day-to-day experience that resulted from giving up social media; those experiences exist side-by-side in a meaningful way, and there’s something to be learned from that, beyond this moment. I sit quietly, absorbed in my thoughts, suffused with a feeling of contentment.

(I allow myself to be distracted by the clock on my monitor for an instant.)

My seamless fabric of grateful musing begins to unravel with distractions. I haven’t put on earrings. My coffee is almost cold – and almost finished. Will I drive or take the train today? Will it actually snow? I wonder what we’ll have for dinner tonight? I wonder if there are “any cool shows on” tonight? I haven’t put on perfume. Did I actually brush my hair? Is my backpack ready for the day? I didn’t forget my laptop or hub, did I? Did I manage not to wake my partner while I dressed? I wonder if today will be sunny? How is my author friend doing? Or that one DJ friend of mine? Or the friend with a new baby? Should I get back in the habit of writing paper letters, and hand-drawing and water-coloring note cards? Oh, I already finished my coffee… I wonder who will be elected president this next time? Shit, the world’s going to hell so fast, it seems like. Where shall we go out for “date night” next time? Oh, hey, what time is it, now?

(I notice the endless possible distractions have lead me far from mindfulness and contentment. I take a deep breath, and another. I exhale. I relax. I bring myself back to now, and begin again.)

The heat comes on, reminding me of the cold morning temperatures beyond these windows and walls. I breathe deeply. I sit quietly. I’m not asking anything extraordinary of myself in this moment, just to be here, now, awake, aware, and listening, observing the world around me. I feel relaxed and contented. Calm. I experience this as a state of readiness, without agitation, or hyper-vigilance, simply present in this moment. I give myself over to a few minutes of simply being present and aware, without any agenda or concerns. It’s a good foundation for the busy work day ahead. I look at the clock. It’s definitely time to begin again. 🙂

I woke earlier than I needed to, this morning. No reason. Maybe I’d gotten enough sleep? My anxiety started to increase a few minutes after I woke. Yesterday morning was like this, too. There are steps to take, and they do work pretty well. The key detail is that I have to actually practice those practices. Reliably. Thinking about it isn’t particularly effective; however well I know that there are practices that help reduce my anxiety, doing them is what is required. Verbs. Action. Practice.

What works? Probably a lot of things. I started here. And here. And here.

What works for me, may not be what works for you – but that may not be an obvious certainty until you’ve tried them. So… what worked (for me) yesterday? Meditation. Good self-care. Positive self-encouragement. Taking a walk. And (for me) a bonus; my Traveling Partner was out of the house for a couple hours hanging out with a friend, and I got some much needed solo time (actual solitude, spent actually at home) in which to meditate (more), read, and find an hour of real ‘cognitive stillness” (no TV, no music, no notifications, no conversation, no other human presence…just… quiet). I recognize that the profound desire for “cognitive stillness” and solitude, isn’t a thing for which we all have a uniform need. Some people would definitely not enjoy that kind of deep, stark, uninterrupted stillness, and some people find solitude, itself, quite terrifying. Finding the practices that truly support our individual needs, and our own emotional wellness, is complicated. Try a lot of things. Stick with what works. Be mindful and compassionate with others; what works for you may not work for them. We are each having our own experience. 🙂

Sometimes it’s a good idea to take a minute, and sort things out.

I suspect that a considerable portion of my anxiety, right now, isn’t properly my own. I’m picking it up from relationships and circumstances, from the media news, and sort of “inheriting” the anxiety of people dear to me, as they work through their own baggage, and deal with their own deal. Nothing about that results in the anxiety being less real; it is what it is. I’m feeling feelings. The feelings are uncomfortable, and mess with my mind, and my emotional comfort. No reason to take it personally. I have practices to help with that. Practicing those works. (Talking or thinking about them, as practices, without practicing them, does not work at all. lol Just being real. There are verbs involved.)

Once I noticed the anxiety creeping in around the edges of my awareness again this morning, I immediately began taking steps. Breathing. Meditation. Checking my email. (Um, no. Not that last one. lol) A quiet cup of tea. A bit of reading. I look out the window thinking about taking a walk. The sun isn’t even up yet. It’s quite dark. So… too soon. lol Instead, I reflect on how meaningful and appreciated that few minutes walking yesterday really was.

It was a beautiful day for it. Clear, and chilly without being cold.

It felt good to be out on the trail. I was grateful for the paved path, and that I remembered my cane, which I am definitely needing for longer walks.

Blue skies and trees illuminated by sunshine became a smile on my face.

I found the walk challenging enough, between slippery bridges still wet from recent rain, and my aching ankle, and popping knee, that I only managed a (fairly gentle) 1.22 miles. It still felt great to be out there, just walking, alone with my thoughts.

Gnothi Seauton. I wisely choose not to walk a distance or paths I am not ready for, today.

The distance was shorter than I could easily cover, fairly recently, but I didn’t take the setback personally. I just enjoyed the walk I actually took. 🙂

It was enough to walk in the sunshine, smiling, watching the squirrels.

I find myself glancing through the blinds, now and then, while I write, this morning, hoping for another good day to take a walk. It looks rainy. My ankle and knee (opposite sides) ache. Letting that stop me is counterproductive for several reasons, so I maintain the intention of “getting out there” for at least a mile. I may try to do this every day…

How else will I see all the squirrels? lol

I didn’t get as much sleep last night as I’d have liked, but the sleep I got was restful. No nightmares. I’ve wrestled a bit with anxiety, this morning, which prevented me sleeping longer, or more deeply. I finally just got up.

I spent some time meditating, before I made coffee. Feels good to be restoring a reliable meditation practice, and letting go of the vague feelings of shame or guilt that had occasionally been surfacing as a result of letting a valuable effective practice fall behind. I know how effective it is; just a couple days into a “New Year’s” commitment to meditate more reliably, my Traveling Partner commented, last night, that I “seem so much less stressed”. 🙂

I think about the “you’re not lazy, bored, or unmotivated…” video. I sip my coffee and consider my fears. What holds me back? I leaf through an old day planner. Remember those?

I relied on this planner to hold my life together for a few years, but it wasn’t the solution to everything.

New Year’s resolutions come and go. Dreams become goals, become plans, become actions, and eventually become outcomes of one sort or another… or disappointments through lack of action. I know I am not the only human being who struggles with the fears that hold me back. I watch the video again. There are things I’d like to do with my life… there is limited time to do them in.

I breathe, exhale, relax, and feel the anxiety that surged when I thought about the many things I also “need” to do, begin to recede. It’s an interesting exercise. I think about the thing I could undertake to start, do, or finish, my anxiety goes crazy; I breathe deeply, acknowledging the part I play in my own decision-making, and what I do with my time. I exhale, relaxing again, with a measure of self-directed kindness, and understanding that “things can feel so difficult, sometimes”, and the anxiety falls away. Back and forth. (Am I seriously playing with my anxiety?? Wtf?) Like wiggling a loose tooth; it is uncomfortable, but hard to resist doing.

Life can feel so overwhelming at times; the dreams, the goals, the chores, the errands, the tasks, the resolutions, the commitments, the projects, the responsibilities… they all pile up and compete for attention, and for limited bandwidth. Some are my own, others are imposed upon me externally. Some have some urgency. Others are deceptively lacking in apparent urgency, but more important things rely on them, in the future. Some I earnestly want for myself, but lacking encouragement, I give up on them. Others meet needs expressed by other people, and I vacillate wildly whether to do them at all. I guess I’m not surprised how often I find myself stalled, and at a standstill, just… not doing things. Realistically, I also don’t feel physically able to “do things” continuously throughout the entirety of the portion of the day during which I am awake; fatigue and pain are limiting factors that require some care…which becomes a handy excuse all its own.

About that… pain does not make getting shit done any easier. No surprise there. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a whole new year, or not. Pain sucks. I have another sip of my coffee and really think that over. Pain is pain, for sure, but… I’m not the only human being fighting to live a good life in spite of the pain I live with. Hell, I’m fairly fortunate that physical pain is my greatest day-to-day challenge, actually – things could be much more complicated than that. I let that go, and consider what I can do with my day, today, to support the quality of life I most want, in the most skillful way, with the time and resources I’ve got, while still feeling as well as I am able to, and enjoying the best possible self-care I can offer myself. It seems a worthy goal. (This approach is often where my “to do lists” begin, honestly. Very “tactical”. Not especially strategic.)

I push myself to “think farther out”, beyond this one day. What can I do with my day, today, that builds that quality of life farther out in the future, not just here, and now? Building blocks. Getting to those is fairly easy, and it is quickly apparent that most of those also have “building blocks” of their own; tasks that need to be completed in order to complete another more complex task, in order to further a project along its way, in order to get something done that may, at some point, result in a goal being achieved, or quality of life being improved. Fuuuuuuck. It all seems so messy, and chaotic, and human, and… omg, so many verbs!! Merely lobbing verbs at tasks isn’t ideally suited to bringing dreams to life, or achieving goals. Organizing my thoughts is worthwhile, having a plan is helpful… neither reduce the number of verbs or the amount of effort involved in making a great life, or reaching those far off goals, I guess, but the clarity of mind is useful, and often, within the planning and consideration, there are new observations to be made regarding how various goals and plans dovetail with each other. Small changes in timing or resources or “order of operations” can result in amazing things… Every journey feels easier with a map. (This is driving my thoughts towards day planners and project management applications. lol)

…”Every journey feels easier with a map”…

…I start thinking things over differently… How will I draw this map? I am my own cartographer… and it’s time to begin again. 🙂

I’m feeling frustration and despair, this morning (yep, still morning, and not even 4 hours into my day). I’m struggling to pull myself out of the emotional muck, and find perspective. I’m working through the tedious effort involved “letting shit go” and “moving on”. I’m forcing myself through practices that both my intellect and my experience tell me definitely work, but I’m also having to fight a frustrating, pervasive feeling of resistance to the effort, and futility about the likely outcome. This moment right here is hard. Not what I had planned or expected for this first day of the new year. :-\ Fuck 2020. I mean, so far…

PTSD is an absolute motherfucker of a mental health condition. No need to exaggerate, or attempt to persuade; if you’ve been there, you know. If you love someone who has PTSD, you know. Flare ups, episodes, freak outs, flash backs, cognitive distortions, and the frustration, despair, depression, guilt, sorrow, grief, or anger that follow any of those, aren’t as predictable as they might seem they would be, and come at us unexpectedly – in spite of the fairly lasting certainty that we’ll experience them again. Trust me, it’s not a pleasant sort of “surprise”.

I’m having a rough New Year’s Day. Well. Sort of. Right now, I mean. Actually, only about an hour of it was unpleasant. Confusing, surreal, and scary – also good descriptions. Now I’m just… sorting myself out and trying to find my way.

Are you having a rough New Year’s Day, too? Have you handled your self-care skillfully? Are you in a (physically) safe place? Have you taken time to breathe, maybe even meditate? Can you convince yourself to take a step back from the problematic moment? Can you take that a step further and reflect on impermanence (“this too shall pass”), and non-attachment (letting it go)? Can you put your spun up consciousness on pause long enough to reflect on the small things for which you can feel grateful (yes, even right now)? (Anger and gratitude don’t easily exist side-by-side in the same moment.) Do you have a useful distraction at hand (a healthy one), like completing a task that requires some focus, or simply reading a book? (Or writing… see? Here I am, and it does work pretty well, for me, generally; your results may vary.)

…When “things blow over” (assuming you didn’t wreck someone’s property, or injure someone, or do or say something with lasting serious consequences), at a minimum, you’re probably going to have to deliver real apologies to people affected by your PTSD (yeah, I know, it fucking blows, because you already know you most likely won’t receive the same in return, however hurt you feel by the circumstances; it’s not a fully equitable, reciprocal world, and human primates can be dicks – you’ve got to let that go, too, in favor of simply being the person you, yourself, most want to be, because there is real healing in that). An apology is a relatively small thing, isn’t it? Just deal with it, graciously, compassionately, and accept that your “issues” really do affect other people, in some ways every bit as much as your PTSD affects you directly, only… their experience is the only one they can actually feel. Your experience of being disordered, broken, wounded…? They only understand any of that in the abstract, and yes, even if they also have their own PTSD issues to deal with. We have a limited capacity to truly understand each other, however commonplace our experiences may be. We are each having our own experience. For people hurt by a loved one’s PTSD, those sincerely intended, genuine, unreserved and unconditional apologies for the damage done really do matter. Say you’re sorry so you can move the fuck on.

“Stop catastrophizing” may be some of the least useful “advice” ever offered from one human being to another. Just saying – it’s a lot like suggesting that someone should calm down, when they are upset. Well-intended, often potentially correct, inasmuch as it would be helpful (and wise) to do so, but… who can hear the words and then act on them with fond appreciation for the concern? Like… no one, ever. LOL Not how that works. Still… if you can, it’s worth taking the steps needed to shift gears from catastrophe and despair to something, anything at all, less bleak. Small steps are fine. Incremental change over time may be all we can rely on in such moments. While you’re at it… breathe.

One of the nuisances of PTSD is how long it can take to “bounce back”, emotionally (the chemistry of emotion is tricky shit). I’ve been less than consistent with my meditation practice over the past year, and it shows; my resilience is less reliable, less deep, less durable, and I feel it today – it may take me hours (instead of minutes) to recover a positive sense of self, and move on with my day open to any outcome other than this bullshit right here, now. I feel sapped, and vulnerable. I take another drink of this water (self-care 101; if you’ve been crying, you need to drink more water), and remind myself that my “episodes” were once much more severe, lasted a great deal longer, did real damage, and the recovery period was measured in days and weeks, not hours, or minutes.

Progress made is not lost just because one moment goes sideways – it just feels that way. Expect that to be a thing, and be willing to give yourself a fucking break. This shit is hard.

Every word of this today is for me, now. I write, and read it back, paragraph by paragraph, as I go. I am reminding myself, practice by practice, of what it takes to maintain emotional wellness, and attempting to make good on that promise to myself. The feeling of internal resistance has dissipated, which is progress.

In the background, I hear my Traveling Partner slaying monsters of one variety or another; video games are another excellent “escape strategy” when a peaceful morning explodes in emotional chaos. He’s got his own hard mile to walk, and I don’t doubt being my partner makes that all much more complicated. I listen to the measured cadence of his game-play, and find it calming. I pause my writing long enough for a self-inventory of where I’m at right now. I still feel sort of muted and a bit blue, and may be prone to being easily hurt (emotionally) for some hours to come. I put that aside, reminding myself not to take shit personally. My head aches. The ringing in my ears almost deafens me if I turn my attention to it. I feel wrung out. Fatigued. Emotionally bruised. Having a bite of lunch helped. Drinking some water helped, too. The lingering feeling of personal failure and disappointment is a bummer, but, and this is true; it’ll pass.

Hell of a start to a brand new year. I expected better of the day – and of myself. It’s not “too late”, though. I can hit the reset button, any time I choose… right? I consider how best to make use of the moment; there is growth and momentum in mastering the chaos and healing the damage (more than any pleasant easy moment can offer). It’s definitely time to begin again… again.