Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


For, Not Against

A couple of weeks ago at therapy I was sharing my, per usual, mixed response to the good news about my cardiac calcium test.

Things I read about the test noted that when that score hits 400 there's discussion about interventions involving exercise and diet.

My score was zero.

I honestly never considered that would even be a possibility. We're still going to test my cholesterol to see if the supplement I've been taking to address it has had any positive effects. If it has, I'll keep taking it just to be on the safe side.

I'm 51 and over 18 years ago I decided that I was going to tackle my family history of heart disease and my high cholesterol on my own.

I also thought I was going to help my back pain get better. By 2001 I'd already lost a bunch of weight, so I dug in.

I lost over 150 pounds. I kept off around 130 of that. I regained about 40 pounds, but then lost 20 or so pounds of that in the past couple of years as I've passed menopause. The numbers are a little vague because I stopped using a scale a couple of years ago.

There was part of that weight loss that involved really disordered eating behaviors. That deserves multiple posts by itself.

The net result was that it worked. I got all kinds of wonderful feedback and accolades for doing it. No one thought it was weird that I spent hours of every day absolutely obsessed about food because my cholesterol went down and the weight came off. I was my doctor's ONLY success story of personal lifestyle change affecting cholesterol.

Then, poof, I passed menopause and my cholesterol popped up. This test was to see if there was really anything to worry about and, clearly, I can relax a little.

Yet, here I am, unable to celebrate my good news. Again.

I "won" and I don't feel it.

I mentioned it to my therapist. How it almost is as if I don't know what to do if I'm not actively pushing against the examples set by my horrible family. I've used them as a kind of backstop from which I can blast away from.

Now that I've blasted on past any of the health expectations I was haunted by growing up, I don't know what to do!

My therapist wondered if I had to keep them as what I'm always resisting, pushing back against them, pushing myself further away from them.

What if I used that energy to work for myself?

Today in our session it came up at the end in being able to see how I sought out help and resources in the form of neighbors, concerned teachers, a pastor's wife, museum staff, librarians from all over, and more. When I was doing that and other self-soothing & emotionally regulating activities, it wasn't pushing against my family, I was seeking outward to support myself.

I'm going to keep focusing on this shift. I've moved so far past my terrible family that I don't have to fight them, I only have to keep moving myself forward.


Tender Points

I saw my PT today and she worked on my jaw and neck, as well as hip and lower back pain. Truly, my whole left side has had increasing issues for weeks now with interconnected pain from my head to the foot.

IW releases tender points that occur on my body. They're created when the various circulatory systems in the body don't flow. She then moves the body to unlock the area. It's remarkable work.

Sometimes treatment immediately improved my energy, other times I feel tired. And some days it feels like I've been put through the wringer. Today was a wringer.

I'll feel better over the next day or two. Today I got under my weighted blanket and just rested. The work on my jaw is releasing the trauma held there related to the memory from she 6, I felt waves of grief with those.


Leveraging Resources

Just before going to therapy today I read this article by Alissa Quart about resilience, a need to reframe it because it becomes a kind of victim blaming. Instead we need to consider the resources people had access to, how they were able to leverage them; that's a measure of resilience.

It felt like a door opened, letting in a gust of air and light on the memory from age 5 where I am hearing JJ abusing LJ and TJ. The sound of TJ is so haunting that at first it was the only part of the memory I could call up. It blotted out all other memories of JJ's apartment, taking me several minutes until I could come up with a visual to anchor onto.

JJ became my caregiver when my Mother worked once we moved into the apartments in Gladstone, after leaving my Aunt's home in Redland. She lived in the apartment across from ours and her boys were very close in age, LJ being a bit older than me and TJ just a little younger.

A few years ago I went looking for these brothers, I found LJ. He told me that several years ago TJ killed himself. LJ had cut off their Mother many years ago, but TJ remained in contact.

As I've worked to integrate this memory I have felt caught in a whirlpool of grief about TJ. Why did LJ and I get "enough" resilience and TJ didn't? In a memory that's filled with injustice, this feels so terrible.

Today I remembered that TJ was dyslexic and had ADHD. I was already seen as "gifted, even though it would be 3 more years before it was acted on in school, and that got me special encouragement and praise from teachers. It set the stage for my getting extra support from teachers that I couldn't get from my family. I figured out how to leverage that resource right away. At age 6 I was already good at leveraging resources, just as I was at managing the emotions of unstable adults.

I had a vivid memory of TJ being berated by a teacher for not being able to make a "B" the right direction.

That's where the resilience gap is.

My therapist thinks that this meet might get fully integrated next session of we can get a good block of time on it. Need to focus on not talking about the election and get this memory done. Age Six's memory has been knocking on the door, so to speak.

Got to float today too which helped my pain a lot!


Worth Keeping Safe

Trauma Therapy Tuesday today. Skipped last session on account of the smoke. In person sessions are contingent upon the windows being open in my therapist's space. I realized that if she hadn't moved to this space, with windows all along the north side, I wouldn't be able to continue seeing her!

I don't like this work. It is sad and difficult to repeatedly confront instances from each year of my childhood where I felt worthless. At age 5 I felt so worthless that I didn't think I was important enough to be kept safe. This was the only explanation as to why my Mother left me with a violent caregiver that made sense my my brain.


That's the message again and again. Eventually it winds itself around the belief that I myself am just toxic, that's why people must leave.

The message I want to believe about myself at age 5 is that I'm valuable. I'm worth keeping safe.

It hit me during the processing today that CK setting things into motion for us to move is this huge, tangible demonstration of how valuable she finds me. I, we are so important that she's prepared to move us far away so we'll be safe. So if something happens to her I don't lose all my healthcare and support.

No one has ever done that for me before.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!



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!