Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.

8Aug/200

Short Term Disability

Five and a half years ago my Mother decided to blow up our life.

I'd stopped responding to abuse in the ways she'd trained me to. CK had seen through the mirage, catching my Mother being emotionally & verbally abusive to me.

I think it was the moment, as movers were trying to remove her things from our home, when we were informed her bed frame had bedbugs, that something just snapped. I was crying. CK was laughing.

The last straw fell in that moment and all my careful juggling and managing of my mental health over the years just stopped working.

In November 2014 I took what I thought was a month of Family Medical Leave. We were moving my Mother out of the house and I wanted to be free of the considerable distraction of my job, a job the often demanded 50-60 hours a work. Work often at night, weekends, on holidays, etc.

In December I was out on short-term disability. In February 2015 I wanted to extend it 6 months. Three members of my healthcare team, including my doctor, my PMHNP, and my trauma therapist, all were urging this. All, my doctor emphatically so, told me I needed to leave not just my toxic job, but my whole tech career.

At the time a strong breeze would cause me to dissolve into weeping. I'd lay on the sofa with our dog, blanket pulled over us both, crying. I attempted to go to a job interview to get out of my job and not go back, but I nearly threw up in the parking lot. This attempt at an interview, plus the fourth member of my healthcare team involved, sank my request for an extension of benefits.

The CBT therapist I'd been seeing for several years agreed that I should just leave tech and teach yoga, become a yoga therapist. It would be so much better for me. Despite this, when she got the paperwork to extend my short-term disability, she refused to confirm that my PTSD was trigged to the point of weeping on the sofa with the dog for hours at a time.

In our last session she said to me, "If I give you this diagnosis it will enable you to not try. Besides, your wife has a good job, you'll be fine without continued disability payments."

I still cannot believe I paid her for that session. I walked out of it.

I was reflecting on this on Twitter this week, in a thread about things that folks with disabilities run into. It was so destabilizing to my health, to CK's well-being. It put so much stress on her to take care of it all.

I was able to get unemployment insurance, I had to jump through several hoops to get it. I had to convince them, having a panic attack in front of my case manager probably didn't hurt, that I wasn't cleared to do a job search for tech jobs. I was ONLY cleared to search for yoga instruction.

I got classified as a "dislocated" worker. I was able to get full benefits for the maximum length of time. I was also put into a program that helped me create my business plan for transitioning into yoga therapy.

One of the things that's been filled with grief for me, even as there is so much success to celebrate, is how I've spent nearly the past 6 years rebuilding my life after a mental health breakdown. I built a whole new career and was getting established.

Now COVID. Now protests continuing. Russia still meddling in our elections.

There's so much grief and anger.

6Aug/200

Genetics and Destiny

I was so relived after my doctor's appointment I had potato chips.

"Genetics isn't always destiny.", she said to me.

While I've got significant family history of cardiovascular disease, I have done a really good job keeping the risks down.

My doctor was looking at seven markers, cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, inflammation, and others I'm not recalling clearly. I have over risk factor, high LDL cholesterol.

In that risk, the shape of my LDL particles is the least likely to accumulate. Big, fluffy LDL is good, if you've got it.

I've done everything I can do with dietary changes. I'm dealing with my lousy genetics on both sides. Entering into post-menopause life flipped me over after keeping it low through diet for over 12 years.

I could just say I don't want to do anything else at this time. My doctor backs this up because the good numbers in my tests after very good.

However, I feel like it's a moral obligation to not ignore it. So I'm going to be getting a test at OHSU that will measure any build up in my carotid artery. If that's really low, I'm further reassured that I'm controlling risk factors well.

If it's high, we'll discuss.

I'm also going to try taking a supplement made from red rice yeast that contains naturally occurring statins. It might not cause the usual side effects associated with this class of drugs, muscle pain and brain fog. If I get side effects, I don't take it any more.

We test again in 6 months.

She's delighted I'm boxing on our Switch. Doing cardio exercise daily is "extra credit". Not required, but might help my LDL. Definitely will help the rage I've been dealing with.

We even talked through what "cardio" looks like for someone who's asthma is triggered by usual cardio.

Talked about Intuitive Eating, I'm to stick with it. She's in agreement that I'm lucky to not have a full blown eating disorder. I'm to be work at not skipping meals even though food isn't always appealing.

I'm so grateful.

4Aug/200

Integrating: Age 4

When I was 4 my Mother and I were briefly homeless. We went to live with my Aunt and her two children, both of whom were older than I was.

It was hell and deeply traumatized me.

My childhood was spent bereft of adults who were looking out for my best interests. No one in my family took my side. I was the only child of the family scapegoat.

Today, after months of work to take the charge out of the memory I had, plus new horrifying memories of that experience the process revealed, I finished the process of integrating, "installing" the memory, per the language of SAFE.

My Mother was regularly physically violent with me as a very young child. Her inability to soothe herself resulted in terrifying outbursts.

She knew though, all along, she knew what she did to me was wrong. She waited to get me alone to unleash her anger upon me. She continued emotionally abusing me until the end of her life, but that too she would hide. She had a personality disorder, she herself experienced a terrible childhood, and she knew how she treated me was wrong.

I was, am, a remarkable human. I figured out my own ways of grounding myself, releasing my own rage out of sight of my family, learning ways to soothe myself, and resolutely turning away from the examples I was shown. I rejected narrow-mindedness, homophobia, and the casual racism that's so common in the rural edges of Oregon, just and hour outside of Portland.

I'll put an entry in a special art journal I have for this work. Each time I finish with a memory I've made a page. This is the third one, the hardest one so far because with each year we move forward, the more aware I was and making memories.

Today I had another float after my session, that's been really helping these past few sessions. I picked up takeout pizza and a bottle of wine for dinner. It was wonderful.

30Jul/200

Good News, Anxiety

I heard back from my doctor this morning in response to my letter. I have her permission to continue to explore Intuitive Eating and stop reading, and obsessing about, the saturated fat numbers on all food I consume.

I realized after reading her response that I'd be holding my breath with anxiety this whole time. I was giddy with relief as I started to teach, so I shared that and then did a meditation on the sensations of gratitude and relief in the body.

I've spent much of the day feeling anxious. Being seen, valued, and having my needs met in this way feels good, but also leaves me feeling unsettled. As though my brain can't distinguish between happy excitement and certain dread.

Tomorrow I'll practice really celebrating that I have more good happening with my health even if I've lousy genetics. I'm really grateful for our doctor.

28Jul/200

Boxing, Who Knew

Including the demo days, I've been doing 10-15 minutes of boxing with our Switch for a week now. Although I still feel awkward, it isn't as uncoordinated as I feel trying to doing dance moves.

I'm trying to use my whole body, it is all very different from the yoga movement. I'm surprised to find how good it feels to punch.

New shoes arrived today. Improved all activities and I like hour they look too!

26Jul/200

Boundaries

I’m getting better about setting boundaries, it’s a journey to learn this since my Mother raised me to have none. It goes along with learning to acknowledge my own needs as important.

It feels like boundaries are easier. Having needs, putting myself on my to-do list feels like more of a struggle. Granted, since I fundamentally struggle with feeling unworthy, it kind of makes sense that seeing my needs as worthy world be hard.

Today I told someone to wear their mask correctly and to keep their distance because they kept standing close to me at the market. Another white man, they have been the worst. He even fake lunged toward me and I told to stop joking around. I then finished conducting my business.

Boxing practice felt pretty good after that. Is joked online I'd picture the guy as my targets. Really I just thought about all the selfish people being jerks about masks and distancing.

I'm grateful to finally get a few blueberries from the middle season plant. The birds have been getting them, all of the early season ones!

25Jul/200

Throwing Punches

I'm enjoying the boxing game even more at I get more combos! I found I can turn the background music pretty much off and that's helping. I did some later tonight, hopefully I didn't wake up CK.

I feel like I'm being frivolous walking briskly while reading and while boxing, it's a game console after all. I'm trying to remind myself that these things, and bowling with CK, are all about more variety of movement for our health. Increasing my heart rate is good for me.

Those is as important as dishes. I'm going to keep reminding myself this until I believe it.

There's another post about learning to hit when it was so unsafe for me to ever consider using my fists to protect myself.

23Jul/200

My Needs

Still trying to convince my critical self that I deserve rest, movement that isn't a household task, make at, and play on my own.

It is when I center myself that I get stuck. I don't put my own needs first on the list. I was trained not to and was still told I was selfish when I would try to do my own thing.

I then had spouses who took advantage of this. Which further pushed me into the habit of not caring for myself.

CK actively appreciates that I put her first, but also reminds me that I have to take care of me. We've lived through my not taking care of myself.

I'm not yet ready to say, "Me first!", but I'm accepting I need to be in the top 3.

We've been playing a bowling game! Exploring more things we can do at home together with more movement! CK ordered a set of controller for me, they won't get here until next month because I'm waiting for a set that are purple and orange!

22Jul/200

Cardio & Cholesterol

For most of my adult life I've been chasing a lower cholesterol number. For over a decade following a vegan diet and doing yoga has done the trick. Now at 50 it's not working so well. My doctor tested my blood at the beginning of the year and the numbers were high.

This month she tested again, an expanded panel on lipids, and the numbers are still high. Better than January, after months of student cookie gifts, donuts, and fried potatoes of all kinds. We hoped we'd see a significant change since the pandemic has kept us from eating out as much and I don't see students anymore.

The numbers did improve, but not as much as we'd hoped. Also not as much as expected, given my diet. I am not fat free and do get a fair bit of saturated fat from things like nuts, avocados, coconut milk in stuff, chips, and chocolate. Even then, I don't eat those things daily or excessively.

My doctor said she's wondering about a genetic issue.

I really don't want to have to go on a long search for a statin that doesn't cause joint pain, something I already live with, and doesn't cause brain fog. Something I also live with since C-PTSD causes me enough Trauma Brain fog already.

Today I sent my doctor some more family history, my concerns about statins, and a couple of questions of things I haven't done yet. The big one question I have is around exercise that raises my heart rate. The yoga I do has helped reduce my cortisol levels, but it doesn't really get my heart rate up.

My therapist and I discussed this too, I noted that in these pandemic days the only way my heart rate is getting up there is rage. While this is a good joke, we both agreed that some amount of time each day with my heart rate up will help with the rage and anxiety I'm experiencing, even if it doesn't help my LDL cholesterol!

I jumped right into it after that discussion. The past couple of nights I've done a very brisk, twenty minute walk on the treadmill. Today I also explored the Fitness Boxing game on the Switch, it's got a 3 day trial. I was surprised to find I really enjoy the boxing, so we're going to buy it and more controllers so we can both play it together.

I'm not actually getting my heart rate up to true "cardio" range, but high enough that I'm sweating and a little winded. Our treadmill gives some heart rate details, so I know I'm not staying up very high. My asthma doesn't do great at a high rate, it never has. I mentioned all this to my doctor in my letter today and asked if I have to be at a high burn for a long time to make any difference or is just getting it up higher for 20-30 minutes a day enough to potentially help?

I got to sleep faster last night. Tonight my mind's going fast, so I'm just writing this all out on my laptop to get it out! Now onto a little down dog and meditation.

10Jul/200

Anger and Shame

Today we had a surreal experience. Our doctor drew blood from each of us from the car, with our arm stuck out the window.

A whole bunch of tests for CK and a more extensive lipids panel for me since my cholesterol was a little high this past winter.

I'm trying hard not to obsess over it.

On the drive home I told CK about getting stuck in my anger at my peer. She's had her own "nemesis" experiences, so she really gets it.

When I shared how I'm feeling a lot of shame because it's anger about yoga stuff, she said the best thing.

"Never be ashamed of your anger!"

I was floored and got all weepy and needed hugs.

My session this week looked at how I learned very quickly to compartmentalize unacceptable emotions. Anger was near the to of the list of emotions I was forbidden from expressing. When I feel angry, I always feel shame.

She then suggested I have a more restful day, that it was OK to rest today and play video games even if I want to do that tomorrow too.