Diggin’ Around in My Toolkit

Okay, so… Physically, i ain’t doin’ so hot.

For months now, my fibromyalgia pain has been intensifying, and radiating to other areas. My RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) has worsened, spreading to my arms and back, coming on during the day as well as night, and increasing in frequency until it’s most days i’ll have at least a short episode or even 2. My headaches have moved from a band squeezing across my temples, to originating at the base of my skull and pulsing out in electric lightning bolts over one side only. My hands are stiff and painful, my forearms regularly numb, and my sciatica has returned after years, although thankfully it’s intermittent. I have a pinched nerve near my right shoulder which was further limiting my mobility and ability to complete simple housework and hygiene. I can explain it all with fibro and its accompanying issues (IBS, RLS, chronic headaches), plus having osteopenia (precursor to osteoporosis), severe Bruxism, and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (diagnosed many years ago and whose symptoms mostly disappeared due to significant weight loss). However, the rise in severity and frequency of these issues is seriously affecting my quality of life.

I’ve been avoiding my doctor (whom i generally see every 3-6mos), the ER, all of it, due to extreme anxiety – practically instant panic attacks at the mere suggestion of going there. Finally, it became such an impediment to my daily life that i mustered my nerve and went in to see her. She ordered a bunch of tests, as i’d known she would. Before i could get them done, i managed to mess myself up even worse.

I’ve had terrible balance my entire life. I think it’s partly due to being so dissociative, but also a result of the type of epilepsy i have (dormant for years, no meds), which affected my inner ear and hence, my balance. I’m incredibly clumsy. Not that sort of oh-i’m-such-a-klutz that so many deal with. I know that’s a thing, and it can be problematic, but what i deal with is significantly more than that. I’ve broken my ankle, my coccyx, my finger, my nose, and my leg in 3 places. I’ve had multiple concussions, hundreds of stitches, and i’m sporting a few bruises at any given time. My ears can start ringing so badly i can’t do anything but sit down and wait for it to pass. I also have vertigo. All this to say i don’t know which of these played a part in what happened, but it could have been any or all. Or perhaps something else.

I was a bit switchy during and after my wedding anniversary. I wasn’t in the face when i fell, but i was thrust back in as soon as i hit the floor. From what my husband and i can gather i’d gotten up from bed for something, and slipped, hitting my face on the wall and then slamming down on the hardwood floor, with my arms at my sides, palms facing up. I had the wind knocked out of me and my arms were paralysed. I could not move them to push myself up off the floor (i’m size Amazon, so it was quite the feat for my husband to get me up and back on the bed). The next morning i had a Neanderthal brow, 2 black eyes, and a massive hematoma across my jawline, spreading up onto my cheek. I couldn’t look to the left or right, nor up or down. And my arms were basically useless – they felt like they were skinless and just a mass of screaming nerve endings. My brain felt like it might explode, and my skull as if it could shatter at any moment.

Since then, the bruises have faded and i enjoy some movements free from pain, but still, i’m relatively incapacitated. I rely on my son to help me cook and clean, and exercising (treadmill, elliptical, dog-walking) has had to be put on the back burner – again. GRR. And now my guts aren’t working well at all. No TMI, but i’m not digesting very much of what i ingest, and so i’m hungry all the time, but i can’t eat without pain and discomfort quickly following. ARGH.

As i blogged yesterday, i did go in to the city and get my tests done. Things are now in motion and we’ll have a better idea what’s going on in the next couple of weeks. Since my symptoms have become this level of debilitating, no one in this house goes into any building we don’t absolutely have to. No matter what, if indeed anything, is going on, my resistance is down due to sheer exhaustion, so we’re being extra careful. Drive-thrus, curbside pickups, and online shopping only.

It’s been incredibly frustrating. Since i fell i haven’t been able to have anything touch my arms without pain. Up until a couple of nights ago i couldn’t lay in any position without my nerves going all hyper-jangly, and i couldn’t shnuggle my husband or my pets for comfort. The day before yesterday i was finally able to –slowly and carefully– turn my head to the right. Yesterday i couldn’t turn my head to the left for most of the day (i had to laugh, because i woke up up saying Yay, i can look right! to swiftly and painfully realising that Boo, i can’t look left!), but the pinch lessened late in the evening. I was actually able to cuddle up to my man for the first night since it happened – heavenly. So comfort. Very sleep (3hrs straight, whee!). WOW.

This morning i woke to pain and exhaustion and worry. After slouching around feeling like a grouchy sack of poo, i made a decision. I took some of my frenetic energy, and channelled it into making my bed and getting out of my jammies. My son cleaned up the kitchen as i ate some food, and while i’m still having the same tummy issues, the act of eating is still pleasurable. I’m getting some nutrition, and i’m not in danger of starving. Heh. I put on an outfit that i’ve always saved for when spring is in full swing (spring is decidedly NOT swinging, mmkay?). I changed my jewellery out for some pretty pastel earrings and a silver atom necklace, and i’ve even managed to slap on some makeup. My son enjoys cooking, and i’m looking forward to my husband coming home, as he’s been working for 7 days without a break. I’m watching terrible found footage horror movies and i’m about to stuff my face full of popcorn.

I’m a seriously mentally ill human who’s haunted by a terrible childhood. I will always be this human. But here’s the thing: I am learning to live life on life’s terms, and make the most of what i have to work with. I’ve worked so hard and for so long to get here.
This morning i got up, and within 15mins i’d snapped at my husband and son for no reason. After sulking for a bit, i stopped and took to my room. I sat on my bed and took stock of myself, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I’m manic. My thoughts are racing and tough to catch. My emotions are running high and momentarily spiking higher. I’m physically exhausted and in a significant amount of pain.
I got up, left my room, and got myself properly caffeinated. While power slurping some freshly ground and french-pressed Irish Cream coffee, i asked myself how i wanted to handle today’s set of challenges. I knew how right then – as soon as i’d asked. I decided to use my mania to pull myself out of my funk and stiff-upper-lip it with regards to the pain and worry. Not to have a bunch of exciting interactions with other people online. Not to spring clean my house, not to make a 3-course supper, not to make myself up like a supermodel… Just to get dressed, do a bit of light housekeeping and self-care. Eat, read, learn something, have a low key convo with my Kiddo, pet my pets. And blog.
That’s not the only double-edged tool i have, though. I could dissociate from the pain if i wanted. But that tool stays in the box. If the pain was too much, either on its own or in combination with a bunch of other things, i might have picked it up and used it. But dissociation + mania = potential for disaster. That’s magical thinking. That’s mania unleashed. Not today, Satan.
Oh look, i’ve gone and done a blog post.

Now, for tea and popcorn.
Also, this movie SUCKS.
Blargh.

I’ll try to check in again tomorrow.
Monday-Funday.
Love and Peace,
~H~
P.S. It’s just another manic Monday, oh-ooh-oh… /lalala

1 Day in the Life of a Crazy Woman

Where i buy a turkey sandwich, but don’t eat it.

Last week i went to see my plastic surgeon. When you lose over 300lbs, you generally need some work done, and i did. I’ve had double brachioplasty, abdominoplasty, double mastopexy and breast implants. I began having tearing pain in 1 breast, and the beginnings of the same pain in the other. As my surgery was 15yrs ago, i went to see if the implants were the problem.
It was a dicey situation for me to walk into, loaded with potential triggers. I thought hard about it and tried my best to prepare. Being topless in front of someone who isn’t my husband, who’s looking at me critically and touching me… I knew it would be difficult, and i’d be dealing with a strong desire to dissociate.

It was hard, and then some. What i didn’t anticipate was that there was nothing wrong with my implants, which left waiting for a mammogram. Great. So something could be wrong with my boobs, like, my real boobs? Fantastic.
There was no way for me to not be alone after the appointment, so i’d invited myself over to my son’s house to visit my DIL and my grandchildren. I figured the bus might be another hurdle still, but doable. I got to their neighbourhood without a single hitch, and then shit happened, as shit do.

I’m on the bus, heading up the hill, and i start feeling nauseated. I know this part of the city well, and i realise i’ve failed to anticipate the real trouble. I’ve spent countless hours in this area’s local park. Waiting for abusers to pick me up and abuse me.
The dissociation happens as soon as the realisation hits, and i can’t stop it.

My body wants to run back down the hill. Get away, go downtown. The library is a haven, and i wonder when it closes. Evening comes early on my side of the equator, so dusk has fallen, and is rapidly becoming nighttime. The air is thick with moisture, and the streetlights illuminate the fog, creating little clouds every 30m or so. I’m wearing knee-high suede boots, because they’re fashionable, and because i’ve only just lost enough weight that my calves can fit any. Yes, i wear them every chance i get, and no, they don’t keep my feet warm at all.

I know the house is only a couple of blocks away, so i should be able to find it. I head up another hill, off the main road, and into the maze of suburbia. In less than 2 blocks i’m scattered, anxiety has started squeezing my heart in its icy hand, and the fog surrounding me seeps into my brain. I find a map on my phone, but it’s too late. I look at it without understanding. I try to zero in on the street names, but i can’t focus. The names bounce around in my head, echoing off bone, passing through each other like string theory. I’m in a cold, foamy sea of yellow roads and names that start with “C”. I’m treading water but i can’t feel my feet and my legs are fast becoming numb…

I startle and quickly look up and around me.
I don’t know where i am.
My feet are blocks of ice and i have snotsicles.
I’ve lost time and wandered.

I call my daughter-in-law for directions, thinking her voice might ground me a bit, or at least force me into a more conscious state. I forget that she doesn’t drive either, and between the 2 of us, we’re not getting me there.
I’m fading in and out. I hear her voice in my ear and then it moves away from me.
My guts churn and my head feels floaty; it starts pounding mercilessly. It feels like my brain is swelling, filling the space like a balloon ready to burst. It presses down into my throat, pulsing, throbbing. My neck and the base of my skull feel like broken glass.

By the time she suggests my son come out to find me, hope is lost. I’ve taken that stumbling hitch-step from Anxiety Hill into Panicland. I feel an icy-hot rush flood my skin at the suggestion of seeing my son. I can’t allow him to see me like this.
I cannot allow my dear daughter or precious granddaughters to see me this way.

Trying to sound calm and blasé, knowing that i’m failing, i tell her i’m going to make my way to the strip mall on the main road. I can hear my scared Little voice quietly harmonising with my desperately false one, but i’m helpless to temper it. All i know is that i must get away from them. She and my son have seen far too much of my calamity as it is, and i committed myself long ago to testing their acceptance and forgiveness of me as little as possible.
I get off the phone and make my way to the string of shops below.

I know i’m close to mild frostbite, but i wander back and forth in front of the various businesses, unable to decide which one i should risk entering. I see a gas station, and think i could buy some gum and use the restroom to gather myself, but as i draw nearer i see it’s a kiosk. Damn.
I see a burger place decorated like a diner set back behind it, but as i walk towards it i see it’s take-away only. Blargh.
Heading back the way i came i see a Korean restaurant, which is a favourite cuisine, but there is 1 person sitting at a table, and that’s not enough to hide, so ixnay on the Ulgogi-bay.
The coffee shop i’d first come across has closed during my indecision. Fucksticks.
Subway sandwiches is open, and while it is cramped AF so not ideal, there are a handful of patrons inside, which might afford me some anonymity.

As i open the door to the restaurant, i close the door on myself.

I look up at blurred images of melting yellows and blacks. My feet are being jabbed with long needles, but instead of delivering anaesthetic it hits me like amyl nitrate – popping me into consciousness with a gasp of pain, immediately followed by panic.
I feel small and naked and my breath is getting away. There’s food and drink in front of me, and my phone is in my hand. Only a couple of my Bits N’ Pieces can use a cell phone, and they’re strictly helping parts, so when i check i see i’ve contacted Kurt.
That should help, but it doesn’t.
I’m too far along and it has me. Full anxiety attack. My chest feels expanded and tight, metallic. My heart is a bomb inside, and it’s going to blow. I need to manage this, but i can’t. I need help, but i can’t think.
I’m scurrying around inside my brain, bumping into thoughts and parts. My emotions jangling, like cymbals crashing, filling my ears, my eyes too wide, one set of fingernails biting into my palm, the other white-knuckling my phone.
My phone.
MY PHONE.

I have a group of friends that i met nearly 20yrs ago on a fansite/message board, and we’ve remained close long after the page’s demise. They’ve stuck with me through all my crazy, supported and encouraged me, held my hand when i was lost and held me up when i was so low i had to look up to see dirt.
We have our own texting group on the phone.
I reach out as sobs are bubbling up and ask if anyone’s there.

They are.
They hop on in response to my need, and proceed to talk me off the ledge.
Helpmehelpmehelpmeplease. I’m trying not to cry but i’m crying. I’m crying alone at a table in a Subway restaurant.
Look down, they say, Look down and no one will see.
It’sokayyou’reokayeverything’sgoingtobeokay. Okay?
Okay.
Can you see 5 things? I say Yes, and whisper them out.
Name 4 sensations, 3 sounds, 2 smells…
I keep my eyes down, and smash the iwonderiftheycanhearmewho’slookingatme that comes and almost derails me.
Do you know any breathing techniques?
Yes! I can 4-7-8.
My no-yoga ass 4-7-8s its little heart out.
Quietly.
In a little curvy Subway chair that cups my rump and thighs and attaches to the table and another chair in 1 big piece.
They continue to text me and say good and kind and right things until the door tinkles open and gives me my husband. His warm and gently smiling face washes over me like a beam of sun and his strong hand knits through my shaking one as he guides me through the watercolour people and into his work van. It’s warm and purring inside, dark and quiet and safe. Safe metal box. Safe space.

I breathe into my collapse. My grateful release of sobs. Panic stops its painful squeezing and my body discharges into the night.

My mother would pick me up from the babysitter’s after work. When she turned left off Northmount before 14th Street, i knew. Sometimes, a man would already be there, waiting. On many occasions though, she would just drop me off in the parking lot of the park, where i would wait.
Wait for a man who was coming to hurt me.
Winter and weekends were the worst.
Weekdays they were usually prompt, but weekends seemed at times to take hours, and our winters are very cold.
My babysitter was the next suburb over, and my grandparents, the one on the other side. A few times i panicked and tried to find them, wandering the streets up and down, looking for help and safety, but never finding it.
Those times my mother would find me, get me into the car, and hit me all the way home. I’d run straight to my room, hoping she was too tired for anything else besides denying me food.

As my husband drove me home i was an earthquake in my seat. My thighs quivered helplessly, my knees knocked together, my shoulders shook, my body heaved and my guts writhed, nausea snaking its way into my mouth. I sobbed and retched as my body discharged and discharged, until i went completely rigid. I arched up against the seatbelt, as if in the grips of a seizure, and then everything let go and i fell back, limp and exhausted.

The panic was gone, and with it went the fear and embarrassment, too. And i wasn’t just emotionally spent, i was calm. I felt noticeably lighter. I felt relief. I felt clearheaded.
As we drove the 50 or so minutes home, i looked back upon what’d happened and i didn’t see failure. I saw success – i felt successful. I was less amorphous in my body; my thoughts and sensations felt firm, solid, like they carried physical weight. My head and my limbs weren’t trying to rise and float away from me, i could feel where they attached to my neck and torso. I was a human being, individual, and contained in 1 whole piece.

All this trying, all this trytrytry, try more, try again, wait and try harder, try different, try her, him, this, that, them. This struggle. This work.
It’s all brought me here.
My brain is afraid and it runs and hides.
My body hurts and it curls up tight like a fist and tries to make the pain disappear.
But all this struggle, all this work, all this freaking TIME i’ve put in, to figure out where i’m broken and put myself back together has brought me here.

Today i have a kit full of tools and a phone full of support.
I still slide and switch and freak right the fuck out, but today i can figure out why. I dig around in my bag and pull out something that helps. There are dozens –yes, DOZENS– of people who will love me and help me through it. The crises that inevitably come are not beyond my ability to cope. I’m no longer left drowning in wreckage, wretched and lost in the aftermath.

This is life as me.
It’s changing and it’s good.
And that’s storytime for today.
Be well readers, friends.

Love and Peace to You All,
~H~