Archives for posts with tag: do what works

I woke with a headache and a snarl, and I also woke rather slowly and with great effort. I slept poorly, both restless and wakeful, I didn’t get the rest I need. It is a new day.

My pounding head reminds me that although there are no loose bits rattling around inside, this fragile eggshell is cracked. I smirk at myself, aware that some of my tendencies – things like linguistic complexity where none is required, “being deep” in casual conversations, the peculiar awareness of and communication via living metaphors, the likelihood that I will take something sarcastic at face value, the difficulty ending a conversation, oh, just a whole bunch of things, really… “quirks”, eccentricities, moments of weird – are complex outcomes of a brain injury, of PTSD, of surviving some nasty shit by learning to cope with it. I can say I’m “broken” with something like a comfortable feeling of familiarity. I used to let it define me… differently.

For awhile I fought it. I refused to define myself in terms of the chaos and damage. I refused to “be” broken. Other times, I wallowed in it. Yielded to the damage. Gave in to the chaos. Gave up on changing anything.

Time passes. Change is.

This morning I woke up snarling at myself. Frustrated by the headache. Annoyed by feeling so groggy. Eager to get to the coffee…

I am unsure whether it is the caffeine, the comfort of the hot mug, or the slow familiar waking ritual of making it, then drinking it, that serves so well to put the day on track. It does though. It does put the day on track, generally. This moment of warmth – literal and metaphorical warmth – enjoyed alone each morning, a moment to “get my head right”, and get past the headache, or the arthritis stiffness, or the stuffy nose, or the lingering recollection of a bad dream, or… well, whatever the waking moments of consciousness throw at me. I’ve got that cup of coffee to help me turn things around. Does it actually matter to me what the mechanism of action actually is? Not in the slightest.

Be broken, if it helps. Grieve if you are hurting. It’s not especially helpful to squash down all the feelings with a lot of “shouldn’t” and “don’t” and extra helpings of criticism taken from the words of others, and reformed in your own words and returned to your narrative as your own thoughts. No one needs guilt or shame on top of the things that already suck so much – and those things don’t only weigh us down and hold us back from going on with things, they also tend to stop us embracing what is authentically good about who we are – chaos and damage and all. Some of this broken shit frustrates me, daily. Some of this broken shit is part of who I am.

“Broken” 14″ x 18″ acrylic and mixed media with glow.

Some of my most cherished individual qualities are very likely specific to my brain injury – or my PTSD. Some are things I like most about myself, others are things that other people have indicated they really appreciate about me. I’ve no intention of “fixing” those things. Don’t want to. Don’t need to. What if fixing the rest would also, by necessity, fix those things as well…? This thought is one underlying my focus on “being the woman I most want to be” rather than focusing on “fixing all the things wrong with me”; some of the things I may think are “wrong with me” in one moment, or from one perspective, may actually be very “right with me”, after all. πŸ™‚

I’m rambling. Sipping my coffee. Grateful to have taken the time to really wake up before going on to other things. I take time to appreciate the value in waking up early enough to let myself really become my best self before I go on with my day. I pause to wonder how I got through so many years of launching myself from bed first thing, and immediately dressing and getting out the door quickly; it seemed efficient at the time. It was a grueling and fairly punishing routine, in practice, and I often treated people who are unfortunate enough to interact with me very early in the morning fairly badly, especially in that first hour after waking. I’m not suggesting that getting up at 4:30 am to depart for work at 7 am would be “the right choice” for everyone, there are other needs, and other ways. This just works for me. By 6 am, I am feeling mostly human. Awake. Aware. More able to respond, and less likely to react. The headache has dissipated. It feels like a lovely morning.

It feels like I can begin again. πŸ™‚

It’s a true thing, is it not, that storms pass? That change is? That impermanence is a durable characteristic of this human experience? Well, in my own experience it sure seems to be the case that all those things are true. This morning, I woke to an entirely different experience than yesterday morning – to be fair, it is an entirely different day.

My black mood yesterday morning didn’t even last to lunch time. My refusal to take it personally, catastrophize it, spend all day root-causing the emotions, or to give up on myself (and the day), paid off. The turning point was twofold; my traveling partner reminded me that having yielded to the need to take more robust steps to manage my pain (an Rx pain reliever) for a couple of days and then… not, most likely resulted in having to slog through ‘the down’. Withdrawal symptoms, however mild, however transitory, totally suck – and I reliably fail to remember right away that I am at risk, particularly complicated by my limited executive function in the area of emotional regulation. The other turning point was a matter of human connection and intellectual distraction in the form of a new neighbor interested in my art work. Inviting him in to take a look at my work, talk it over, (and discuss a possible commission as it turned out) put my issues of the morning to rest, and left me feeling excited to be alive…and something else that I couldn’t quite place, but felt very good.

As the morning developed that ‘something else’ developed too, and as I was chatting with my traveling partner, it developed further still… a certain pleasant tension in the background of my emotional experience, an eagerness… something lost felt found… I wanted very much to paint. I paced a bit more, and fussed over the idea. I found myself having this peculiar inner dialogue about ‘not painting from this place’, and feeling as if I had ‘always painted from the positive’… but… as I considered it this was recognizably not the case. I looked at other work. Other times in my life. I have quite a lot right here to look at… I clearly paint mood pieces from any number of deep dark vile places, and quite a lot of my work bears the stamp of emotions other than joy, contentment, happiness, love, desire, eagerness… It’s true. I have paintings with titles like “Portrait of the Artist’s Tears”, “Anxiety” and “Broken”… definitely not ‘painted from the positive’… so what is this line of bullshit, and where is it coming from?

"Anxiety"  10" x 14" - and she feels much bigger than that, generally.

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ – and she feels much bigger than that, generally.

I decided that was less important than being who I am, authentic, inspired, and grounded in all the things that are real about my experience – regardless of positive or negative. Painters paint. The studio is ready. What more do I need?

I let my traveling partner know I would likely be difficult to reach for the weekend; we coordinated plans for later. I updated my calendar with considerable excitement, “Artist @ Work”. I spent the remainder of the day in the studio.

As yet untitled, 16" x 16" acrylic on canvas w/glow.

As yet untitled, 16″ x 16″ acrylic on canvas w/glow, one of three new pieces painted yesterday.

I woke up this morning in a very different place as a human being, feeling content, feeling comfortable in my own skin, feeling confident that ‘things work out’ and that ‘things are okay’, and looking out on the gray morning sky with a certain something… a hard to describe piece of my experience of self clicked into place quite comfortably without force in this new space, in way it hadn’t quite done at #27, or the shared living arrangement prior to that. I had welcomed myself home.

I initially woke up early, around 2 am, thinking it was 5 am… and without my glasses, in the dim light, the clock certainly seemed to say it was 5 am… a good time to get up, although… Saturday. I could sleep in… I went back to bed, thinking I’d doze for another hour at best, and on checking the clock again and understanding the early hour at that point, crashed out content to just sleep and confident I would. It was a nice feeling, and I woke feeling rested and quite pleasantly human some hours later… properly at 5 am. πŸ™‚ I took my coffee with me to a seat at the patio door, on my meditation cushion, and watched the dawn develop under gray skies, listening to birdsong, and watching the red-wing blackbirds come and go, their cheery bold ‘chirp!’ letting everyone know it is breakfast time. I sipped my coffee awhile. Meditated awhile longer. Moved on to yoga afterward. I’ll finish this up shortly with a rather futile swipe at spell checking it; I’ll catch what I missed later today, I’m sure. Then? A walk in the morning air before returning to have a bite of breakfast and consider yesterday’s new work, and what I might do in the studio today. This feels so good!

A soft rain begins to fall. I smile. My traveling partner pings me a good morning from his place. The day begins. It’s enough – it’s more than enough. Today is a good day to be here, to be content with what is, and to enjoy this moment. Yeah. Definitely enough. πŸ™‚

Some of my most colossal fails are the result of choices that looked good in the moment. I bet we all have that experience, actually. It seems human enough to make a decision on what I know in the moment, with good intentions, and find that because I did not know enough, or lacked certain very specific information, in practice the choice was poor. (This is about one of those, sort of, but only to get to the part where I say ‘thank you’ to someone dear who chose to support and care for me through the resulting crisis, at great personal expense emotionally.)

"You Always Have My Heart" 8" x 10" acrylic on canvas with glow.

“You Always Have My Heart” 8″ x 10″ acrylic on canvas with glow.

We’d been expecting a house guest for some days, and I was more than ordinarily tense about the visit for a number of small reasons, most of which can be bucketed under ‘words – use them!’ Wednesday, I noticed that the office had stocked new varieties and brands of herb tea – I like a hot cup of something at my desk while I work, but can’t drink coffee for 8 hours continuously without serious consequences (obviously), herb tea is the answer for me – and usually after my morning coffee I switch over to chamomile. Gentle, calming, ancient and reliable chamomile tea is something I enjoy. I find the fragrance and taste both pleasant, it is mildly calming, and doesn’t seem to have other effects that I’ve ever noticed. On Wednesday the colorful sachets of new varieties from another manufacturer caught my eye, as did the word ‘calming’, although the tea was not chamomile… It smelled quite nice. It tasted good, too. Wednesday I had two cups of it.

Wednesday night I had very weird dreams, some unusual nightmares, difficult falling asleep in the first place…and woke Thursday with just about the worst headache I’ve had in months, in an unusual place in my head [for me]. I passed it off as ‘morning’ and went on with my day.

Thursday was weirdly challenging…I felt moody and ‘different’ in ways so subtle I could barely detect the differences; they were more of a change in emotional filter than a physical sensation. All day I struggled with feeling stressed, concerned, uneasy, insecure, suspicious – and my heart was pounding, which I noticed but passed it off as ‘stress’. After my morning coffee I switched to the tasty new tea. I was still having a decent day at that point, just feeling… strained. As the day went on, I drank more tea – about 5 cups – and wound up a seriously volatile, angry, defensive, trembling, on/off rage monster. I had enormous difficulty sleeping that night, and the nightmares were… well, I’d give up sleep forever if I had to count on those being a regular quality of sleep, they were that bad.

This pattern repeated on Friday – and my level of hysteria, expressed symptoms, emotionality and panic were finally so serious I had to reach out for professional support from my work environment, because I was pretty sure ‘everything’ was in ruin, and I was actually beginning to feel suicidal. Β When the tea change turned up in the conversation, the conversation changed, too. I’d poisoned myself with a common enough herbal tea that affects most people quite differently. This post is not really about that – I’m just setting the stage, but before I move on to my real point, I will call out the huge self-care fail – another rookie mistake [for me]; I didn’t do my homework on the new herbal tea, check all the ingredients with great care, research their characteristics and qualities and the science and drug interactions. I could have. I know to do that. I did not. That’s a fail. As a result, and in my best interests, I’m now on a very restricted list of what sorts of beverages I can have, and like a well-behaved child I will do as I’m told. No resentment here; I demonstrated conclusively that I am capable of putting my life at risk unknowingly over a tea bag and some carelessness. For now it’ll have to be rules instead of choices on this one.

And now we get to what this post is about; saying thank you. It’s not easy to be an adult with self-care limitations, post traumatic stress, a disinhibiting brain injury, and a lifetime of poorly chosen but overly-well-developed coping skills that don’t cope with now, or meet needs over time. It has some seriously suck moments, actually. I’ll take it further; it’s likely that without the help and support I’ve gotten over the years from friends, loved ones, family, partners, strangers, doctors, well-meaning passers-by – at some point, my limitations would have taken me out of the game, one way or another. This, in general, is a morning to be thankful how interconnected we all our, and to appreciate that in the darkest times, there is often something to hang on to, or to reach for. In the blackest moments, there are kind words from strangers, hugs from friends, the sympathy and care of family, to keep me going.

My traveling partner bears an unhealthy portion of the burden of ensuring I’d don’t walk off the edge of the map by mistake somehow. I don’t actually know how he manages it; he is a super hero to me. In spite of being hurt, angry, and inconvenienced by my drama and bullshit – which is what it looked like in the moment, I promise you – he kept stepping up his support, and dialing down his own stress, managing his own emotions, reminding himself that his brain-injured partner “isn’t always quite right” and staying mindful of the science of both TBI and PTSD symptoms and behaviors. He kept talking me down. He repeatedly walked me through breathing exercises – remotely, while I was at work, helping me hang on – neither of us knowing until Friday afternoon that I was having a medical crisis, more than an emotional one. Emotions are hard – they rock our world in a tremendously powerful way – and this man, this human being, this other person than me, just kept comforting and caring for me, while his own hurt and damage piled up. Fuck. That’s… intense. That’s the super hero stuff of love.

When I got home, he helped me sort myself out, and listened to the information the doctor has asked to have passed on. He made sure I took care of myself further; reminding me to drink water, to take routine medications, encouraging me to rest, and check my blood pressure regularly. By evening I was in a different place, and able to enjoy a quiet family dinner – my super hero traveling partner had so skillfully supported me that our guest was largely unaffected by the circumstances. I was even able to have a fairly healing moment with each member of the household, for heart-felt apologies, and moments of connection; none of that would have been likely without the support of my traveling partner, and his nurturing, healing presence.

So… yeah. I’m saying thank you. I’m sharing how important his support is to me. Living with me, and the issues I’ve currently got, and the process of healing and improving, is difficult on a level I can’t even imagine – I’m having a different experience. It is so easy for me to lose sight of something simple and real; however hard this is on me, it’s hard on people who love me, and likely on the same order of magnitude. Thank you is important. Reciprocal support is important – and valued. I will spend a lifetime practicing the practices that give me the tools to return the favor when he most needs it. How could I choose to do anything less?

Today is a good day to say thank you to the people who treat us well, support us most – and most often – and to appreciate the toll our pain takes on others. Today is a good day to practice good self-care – and to practice saying thank you, because I’m still here to keep practicing.

Thank you, Love "Contemplation" 12" x 16" acrylic and iron oxide. August 2011

Thank you, Love
“Contemplation” 12″ x 16″ acrylic and iron oxide. August 2011