Baby Stepping

I’m doing the work, I’m baby-stepping, I’m not a slacker! Just look, I’m in really bad shape!
~ Bob Wiley, What About Bob? (1991)

When i’m in the weeds, you know, down the rabbit hole, neck deep in shit, whatever you wanna call it – i’m learning to make temporary changes to accommodate whatever it is i’m currently dealing with.

This body work has, at times, been all-consuming, as in, it’s all i can do, and i have nothing left for anything else. When that’s happened, i’ve built a circle of support around me to help get things done that must be done, like cooking and light housekeeping and pet care. There are times in between though, where i’m capable of doing a few things, but i’m still not able to function at the level i could when i wasn’t dealing with body memories and pain, and the panic and chaos that can cause.

I’m fortunate that i’ve been able to create the kind of life where i can just stop everything and focus on myself – i know not everyone can do that. It was hard work and i made some good life choices, but i know that for some people, what i’ve been able to achieve simply isn’t possible. That’s made me both proud of myself, and so grateful for the opportunities life’s thrown my way.

What my life looks like right now is not what it looked like a few months ago. There are days where my body’s so wracked with pain that i can barely get my ass out of bed to the bathroom or the couch. I’m not able to shower, cook, or clean house. Those are the times when loved ones step in to help with the basics. And no one minds if i’m unkempt and stinky for a couple of days. Most days though, i’m able to accomplish a few basic, maintenance-type activities, but it’s taken time, and a lot of experimentation to figure out what works best for me.

The key for me is baby steps. (If you’ve seen the movie What About Bob?, you may chuckle now – i am.) I drop anchor and take a look at what i can reasonably get done. I’m going to need to sail eventually, but can i proceed now, or are the conditions too dangerous, and my best bet is to wait. If it’s something i can navigate if i’m careful, then i’ll weigh anchor. I’m sailing. I’m sailing! I’m saaaailing!
Okay, done with the movie reference. Heh.

I get up in the morning with my husband at 5am, if i can, and i’ll make him breakfast. Sometimes all i can manage is cereal and juice for his meds, sometimes i can get a hot meal on the table. If i can get his breakfast together, his lunch is a cinch. All i need to do is make a sandwich. He’s not a picky guy, so whether it’s PB&J on white or turkey and swiss on rye w/lettuce and dijon, he’s satisfied. Everything else that goes in his lunchbox is prepackaged, so i just grab it and throw it in there.

Once that’s done, i can go back to bed if i want/need to. Sometimes i need to, because i haven’t slept well, or i’m in pain, or both. Sometimes i want to, because he watches the news in the morning and i don’t want to, or i just want to shnuggle up under the covers, or that’s all the peopling and activity i can handle for the moment. Some days i can stay up with him and see him off to work, which is nice for both of us.
Speaking of him watching the news…

I can’t handle it lately – at all. I’ve tried, because i like to be up on world events, but over these last few weeks any little bit that i take in has had a detrimental effect on my mental health. I get angry and anxious and i’m too easily triggered right now. So if i can stay up with him and see him off to work, i listen to music on my headphones and surf the web while sitting beside him. I trust him to tell me world events that he knows i would want to know. The last few days i got sucked back into the news due to COVID-19, and yesterday i realised that wasn’t good for me. I know what to do to best protect myself and i’m doing that, and there is nothing that i can reasonably do for what’s going on for people in the rest of the world. It may seem coldhearted, but it is self-preservation. I must cut the emotional baggage wherever possible; what’s happening is breaking my heart and i need all of my heart for myself at this time. Politics is an absolute NO, full stop. Take out “breaking my heart” and insert “scaring the shit outta me”. Again, i need my thoughts and emotions for myself, to get through this work. Selfish? Perhaps, but i know that once this work is done, i’ll be a far more functional and capable human, with a lot more to give. My well-being will increase the world’s well-being.
I don’t have many spoons in my drawer, and i’m going to need them all before this is done. The earth will continue to turn with or without me, and people will continue to do good or bad as they choose.

Bit of a side note here: A couple of years ago, i cut out entertainment industry gossip, talk shows, and fashion magazines. I’ve been amazed how much better i feel. I used to be envious of the rich and famous, and disgusted by their conspicuous consumption. I used to get pulled into the staged talk show “discussions”, get sucked into the belief that i must be an us or a them, and get swept along with the waves of outrage, rhetoric, and vitriol. Do i even need to say why i feel better now that i don’t read fashion mags or watch red carpet events? I’m gonna go with Hell no! and leave it at that.

If i’ve gone back to bed in the morning, and sometimes i do even after i’ve seen my husband off to work, i get up as soon as i can.
The rest of my day is fairly easy to describe. I do some something productive, and then i take at least as much time to rest and do something that’s not work. The productive things in the morning usually involve stuff like making my bed, tidying my room, personal hygiene, washing dishes from the night before (by the end of the day, i’m often too tired to do anything but scrape the dishes off and place them in the sink), cleaning the countertops, and even planning supper can use up some energy. I’m careful to only do 1 or 2 things at a time, and then i get to sit down and surf the net or watch some telly or read. In the afternoons, i’ll try to get at least 1 larger chore done, like vacuuming or sweeping, or cleaning a bathroom. There are times all i can do in the bathroom is a basic wipe down, other times i can do a proper scrubbing with cleaning products. Often the tub and tile are too much for me, so i just spray with the foam that’s supposed to do it for you – you know the one, right? Then i squeegee it off and that has to be good enough.

With hygiene, again, i do what i can. I like to use an electric toothbrush, do the full 2mins, floss, but sometimes all i can do is scrub the fur off with a regular toothbrush and call it done. I have a very intensive skin care regime for morning and night, but if all i can manage is to wipe my face with a warm cloth and slap on a dab of cream, then Yay for me. Some days the shower is too much energy and some days it’s too much of a trigger, so then i just do a quick gas station wipe down of the pits and the bits. If i can’t even do that, i put on clean underwear, and use extra pit-stick. If i’m that low energy, chances are i’m not leaving the house anyway, and my people love me even when i reek.

Fresh air is good for me, and i love to walk, so i’ll try to get out for a bit. Some days i’ll get in a solid hour w/the dogs too, sometimes i just walk down the road to meet my husband as he comes home from work, and there are days it’s a triumph if i can stand on the front steps and do some yogic breathing for 10mins.
I listen to my inner thoughts, i pay attention to my body and try to minister to its needs. I do what i can and i take lots of breaks in between.

As you can probably imagine, sometimes supper is at the table, with something i’ve made myself, but there have been many times recently, when my husband’s brought take-away and we sit in front of the telly and eat crap.
I have to let that go and be okay with it.

Just for the record, some days writing is my reward, and sometimes it is my chore. And too many times for my liking, lately it’s been too much to even try, and even trying i’ve found my well dry.
I have to let that go, too.

I know this post may be a bit mundane and boring, but i wanted to share it anyway. I want for readers to see my process, to see how i figure things out, to see how my brain works. There are plenty of gurus and self-help books out there, full of advice on how to manage one’s life, and some of it is pretty good. All it ever did for me was make me feel pressured and judged if i didn’t do it or didn’t do it right, or did it and it didn’t work. It mostly just caused me more stress and anxiety, but i did collect enough information from all of it that helped me to carve out my own way to do things.
And that’s why i’m sharing this today –not to tell anyone how to do it– only to show that i’ve done it, and i”m doing it, and i’m learning more and tweaking my routines and getting better results, and having more of the kind of life i want for myself.
I share this to extend hope that if i can, maybe you can, too.

Hang in there. Do what you can. Try not to worry about the rest.

Love and Peace,
~H~

Schmozzle

I usually write after the bad stuff has happened, but recently, i’ve been trying to write through it, to open myself up a bit more. I write for me, and for anyone reading this that might find benefit… The days following my last post were decent, i could feel myself settling in to what’s coming in therapy – going deeper and tuning in to the story my body wants to tell me about my childhood. I got back into some regular activities and regimens: housework, hygiene, communicating with family and even a couple of friends. Normalcy, and with it, some peace.

Unfortunately, my physical health has taken a nosedive. I’m in full fibro flareup, which is bad enough, but i’ve got some new issues as well and they’re sapping what little energy i have to cope. I’ve been handling it the way my therapist has encouraged me to, by tuning in to my body and listening to what it’s telling me: i’m hungry feed me, i’m aching rest me, i’m upset soothe me… It’s that last one that i struggle so hard with, though. I got through this last crisis and returned to my schedule, not pushing too hard, but doing my best. If i was too tired, i might skip my nighttime skincare, and i only brushed my teeth perfunctorily, rather than my full 2 minutes, because it was making me retch and triggering me. When sexual activity came up, my body went completely numb, and i heard and honoured the NO.

These are good things and i’m proud to be accomplishing them, but my physical issues are getting so big i’m having trouble hanging on to even this amount of progress. I arranged to see the doctors i need to, but i’ve a week left to wait, and i don’t know where i’m going to find what i need to hang on until then.

Last night i was short-tempered and weepy, and today i hit a wall. I’m panicking about the wait. I’m worried that i can’t hold my system together and function properly until i see my therapist and my doctors. My pain level is too high, and my compulsion to take off and walk is almost too strong to resist. I don’t want to do this anymore.

I’m trying to listen to my body, but i don’t know how. My body terrifies me, and today i’m not sure if i can bear what it wants to share with me. I’m feeling sorry for myself, i know, but goddamnit why do i have to have the mental AND the physical? Haven’t i been through enough?
I feel young and small and i’m stomping around in my head with balled up, chubby little fists, doing that pre-Kindergarten angry cry.
I feel angsty and awkward and my delicate, teenage heart cries crimson tears.
I feel emptiness gnawing inside, a yawning pit where i lay at the bottom and am slowly consumed by the ache of fear.
Any desire or inspiration i have to deal with all the brain stuff, is being steamrolled by all this motherchristing pain. It’s taken 3 1/2hrs to get this much bashed out, and my head is thumping so hard it feels like my skull might pop off.

There is something, though. Writing this has made me calmer. I had to settle down enough to gather together a few words that made sense. This isn’t dissociation either, which is what i’ve been trying to avoid. When things are this tumultuous in my thinking, and then the physical piles on, the temptation to hide in the insensate is strong. It beckons me with the safety of nothingness.

I want to stay present, so i practise mindfulness, which, lemme tell ya, ain’t a helluva lotta fun right now. There’s a whispering behind a door inside me, and it’s practically swelling in its frame with its desire to open for me. I can open that door, go through and disappear for a while. It’s not restful, because the rest of me is still conscious, and my Bits N’ Pieces use up more energy than i do. It’s not safe, because a number of them can, and ohmygod have, gotten me into some dangerous situations.

Behind that door lies nothing.

I step into a void where i stop existing, only to step back, more tired, and often with some kind of mess to clean up. Damaged relationships, sometimes property (although not for a loooong time), almost always my body. Then comes the shame and anxiety, which must be handled carefully. If i’m not careful i can push myself into another hard switch. If i don’t consciously deal with the feelings at all, a switch is likely. Switching is not what i want. I love my people and i’m grateful for their care and protection, but i’m ready, willing, and mostly able to take the reins and drive this wagon full time.

I suspect this is what the next few months are going to look like:

I can do this. It’s gonna be fine.

OMGWTFICANTDOTHETHINGBBQ!!!!

It’s okay. I can do the thing.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

**********

I held onto this over the weekend, because i wanted to make sure that posting it was what i wanted to do. I know it’s not much of anything, because i’m scattered, enough so that, i think, it’s obvious i’m not quite all here. I’ve lost my voice. Whatever it is that identifies my writing as mine has slipped a little. I’m unsettled; rudderless. I’m anxious AF.

I want to edit/rewrite/punchup the entire thing, but i think that’s the wrong way to go. Reading my other stuff and reading this, may give you some insight. This is rambly, it’s trying to say something, but it doesn’t get there. It lacks cohesion.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but i am also currently lacking cohesion.
I’m scattered, and not quite all here.

I know i’m going to get through this and be better when it’s done. I also know there will be times when i’ll doubt that and be afraid i’m going to fail. I know that sometimes the pain and fear will be so intense that i’ll want to stop.
I have learned from being in the weeds many times before, that it will be okay. I will be okay. I lived through the actual experiences, anything after that is at least bearable.

It’s like when i used to smoke marijuana and hashish. Over the years i became more and more paranoid, but i could always handle it, because i knew, based on experience, that the high would end, and the feelings of paranoia were drug-induced.

So, with that in mind i’m going to post this meandering piece of weirdness, because i think it helps illustrate how my brain works. I think it could be a bridge between moments of clarity. How do i get from panic to peace? My brain isn’t always full of pithy observations and poetic imagery. Heh. Sometimes it’s on the mouthbreather setting. I’m fumbling around in here, trying to find meaning, trying to find something solid to stand on…

I’m not having much luck folks, but i’m not overly concerned at this precise moment. I think that writing has been instrumental in getting me from where i was when i first began writing this around 60hrs ago, to here, just about to smack that “publish” button.

This is part of my process. I recognise this place; i’ve been here many times before.
I can do this.

Pithiness will follow.

Image: Convergence, Jackson Pollack