Grounding

Pretty much all of the work I do here is really stressful and I often feel very overwhelmed by emotions and get totally flooded.  Frequently, I end up dissociating, which does no good for working through issues in therapy.  Because of this, it is important for to me to have grounding techniques and tools. Basically, grounding brings me back into the present and changes my focus so that I can stop feeling flooded.  The goal is to calm myself enough to continue the work.  Examples of grounding techniques I use are 5,4,3,2,1 , ice pack/cool cloth, breathing, sensory input, hand fidget toys, reading book titles, counting things, etc.  Some of these I can do on my own, some end up being facilitated by my therapist if I am dissociated.

I do well with sensory input, like my stuffed rabbit, or the ice/cool washcloth, or things with texture or that fit in my hand.  I will automatically start rubbing the hem of my shirt, or fiddle with my socks.  I have some toys, putty, a baby teether with spinning beads, etc that give me something to do with my hands and give me sensory feedback.

 

 

However, I recently found the most amazing grounding tool for me!  I snagged it a local Goodwill.  It is a Crayola product, they call it Mess-Free Touch Lights.  It is basically finger painting, but without the mess.  Technically, the toy is supposed to have a stylus, but being at Goodwill, mine doesn’t.  But that’s okay. I much prefer the tactile input of just using my fingers to draw on it.  And the  best part is it is a light board, so the drawing is backlit and just looks really cool.  I use the board before bed if I am anxious and/or having a PTSD hard time.  I also use it at programming.  Actually, I was lucky enough to find a second one at Goodwill, so now I don’t have to tote my board back and forth.

Here’s what it looks like:

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And here’s what it looks like with some doodles and then with a hand print and some of the color options.

Anyway, I just adore this toy and it totally works for me.  Oh…and if I leave it by my chair at programming, sometimes I am lucky enough to come back to it and find messages from my peers; smiley faces, “I love you” and one time one of my group leaders was talking to me and reminding me to cut myself some slack and she wrote “Kind” on my board.

I have to say, if you like hands-on grounding things, I highly recommend this.

 

Yes, I AM Alive!

For today’s blog post, I am posting the summary that I sent home to my outpatient team this morning:

Okay…After a horrible week, and two days nonstop of crying, Thursday evening, I decided that what I was doing to adjust to being here was not working.  And so, I woke up Friday morning, and decided it was time to do something different. And yesterday went much better.  I don’t know why I can flip the switch like that….But I finally feel like I am settled in the partial hospitalization program, I don’t hate it anymore, I don’t have uges to run away anymore and I have realized that PHP will be what I make of it.  It took me three weeks to get to that point, but I am finally there.

I think that I finally have started to develop an attachment and trust to/with my therapist (as much as I don’t want to admit it.)  I am pushing myself really hard in therapy and she pushes me hard too.  She also calls me out on every single therapy interfering behavior I use during out sessions, it is painful and annoying and I have a hard time not letting it trigger my core beliefs (that she is criticizing me vs. helping me and that it does not mean I am a bad person).  I can see myself getting a lot of work done with her.  That said, I think it is going to be a slow and excruciating process.
They have a level system here and I am still on Level One.  It is hard not to compare and judge myself about it as there are people who have come in after me and are already on Level Two.  It makes me wonder what is wrong with me… I am guessing it has a lot to do with my rocky transition. Oh, and I have had a couple of episodes of engaging in behaviors (calorie counting and 5 days in a row of “invisible restricting”). I did eventually hold myself accountable for both behaviors and have not calorie counted since, but am still struggling with high urges for both.
I am up to 5 solo walks a week.  This is something that I don’t mess around with.  Getting a chance to be outside and have a half hour to myself is very motivating to not abuse the exercise.  I do not want to lose the privilege!  I am also supposed to go to a yoga studio twice a week, but my social anxiety has prevented me from getting there.  I need to make a plan with my anxiety therapist about it.
Speaking of my anxiety therapist, I did my first social anxiety/food exposure this week.  I would tell you it was horrible, she would say it was good.  I can say that I survived and my anxiety did come down after it peaked.  But I didn’t like it.  And…we get to do it again a few more times. 😦
Yesterday, I moved out of the off-site apartments and into the home of a friend of a friend of a friend.  I hated the apartment because it was dark and dreary and dingy.  I need light and brightness. Also, the woman who owns the home is charging me about half of what I was paying the treatment facility for the apartment (finances are my main reason for moving), which will extend the amount of time I can spend in treatment, although I really want to be home at the end of October.
I continue to work hard on on my “homework.”  I have assignments such as, “If I wasn’t judging myself, would I think others were judging me?  And would I even care?”, “Why do I respond to sadness with self-harm?” and “What do I want to change about my relationship with food?”
Okay….I think this about covers the past week.  I am glad I finally got myself “unstuck” and am moving forward again.

The Honeymoon Is Over

And here’s where it gets real.

I have been sort of coasting on different levels since I got here, much of it has been emotionally intense, but in ways that are more about the transition and homesickness and finding my way socially.  Plus the whole stress about all the members of of Team Heidi the Hilltop version.

But today, the shit hit the fan.  I read my timeline assignment in one of our groups.  It is a timeline of the major events in my life and the development of my ED.  For major events, I really focused on trauma related kinds of events.  This is the assignment that I can’t post all of because it would be too identifying, but here’s a snippet:

1983: age 11:  Just after my 11th birthday, I got my period.  As soon as I hit puberty, I started gaining weight.  I also rapidly grew breasts and pretty much went from flat chested to a C cup size.  I refused to wear a bra until I was shamed by the leering and ogling of my male classmates.  The boys also would elbow me in the chest to hurt me.  I continued to gain weight.

I was tortured by my peers for being heavy.  In gym class they would sing, ‘watch it wiggle, see it jiggle’ At this point, I really wasn’t excessively heavy and wasn’t even the fattest girl in class.  But I was still tortured.

This is also the time that I would say my eating disorder started, I started eating for comfort. I needed relief from the bullying at school and also I was really struggling with the onset of puberty and having a grown-up body when I still felt like a little girl.  I also was very uncomfortable with the ogling and felt dirty and disgusting.

1983:  My parents sent me to my first counselor, a woman who treated me like a child and just didn’t seem very smart.  I didn’t go to sessions for very long.  I don’t remember much about the sessions except that the woman was not very smart and was condescending.

1984:  age 12; I was part of several pull-out groups run by the guidance counselors.  The kind of groups which meant I had been tagged as “damaged.”  One of the groups was a book/discussion group about a book about a girl with anorexia.

1986: Age 14: I started high school.  This is the time when the two middle-schools blend into one high school and everything is new and scary and disruptive.  Within a couple of weeks of school starting, a girl who was a freshman too but from the other middle school was kidnapped, raped and murdered.  They didn’t find her body for over two months.  The first two months of school were all about speculations as to what had happened to her…It was all people talked about all the time.  There was a significant unease at school.

There was a woman student teacher in my English class that took a liking to me and showered me with gifts and attention.  I loved someone finally paying attention to me and liking me.  What I didn’t know was that she was grooming me.  Eventually, this led to sexual abuse.  I don’t remember how long it went on for other than it was months.  Honestly, a lot is sketchy about this time.  Like I thought it happened in the fall, but then I remember spring weather and her taking me places in the summer…It is all fuzzy.  Eventually, my parents complained to the principal and the student teacher was no longer allowed to spend time with me outside of school hours.  I don’t remember how the relationship actually ended.

So, l read the whole timeline from birth to now. And then I got feedback from my peers, lots of them related to parts of my story. And then the therapist running the group asked therapisty kinds of questions and gave therapisty kinds of observations.  And it was really hard for me.  I feel incredible shame over parts of my timeline, as a matter-of-fact before I read it, I referred to it as my “Timeline of Shame.”

But it wasn’t shame I felt when I finished reading it.  What I felt was sad.  It really is a simplistic kind of feeling for putting my whole miserable life out there.  Except that I don’t do sad.  Sad is one of those unsafe and un-allowed feelings.  Sad leads to those secret hidden spots that nobody is allowed to see.  Sad is the feeling that will consume me.  Plus, if I feel sad, then I have to ask what the sadness is about and I am NOT going there. NOT. NOT. NOT.

So…My brain turned the sad off and replaced it dissociation.  If I can’t feel sad then I won’t feel anything.

We went back the the residence building for a bathroom break and that’s when the dissociation hit me. I started to feel all disconnected and floaty and like I was pulling away from myself.  I felt a little bit wobbly on my feet and just needed to sit down and feel grounded (but I didn’t).  And instead of tapering off quickly (as it sometimes does) I was really struggling and it was not wearing off.  When I get all floaty like that I don’t even feel safe because I feel so disconnected from my body and I just can’t connect with my functional brain either. Like I washed my hands after using the bathroom and in my totally spaced state, I walked away with the faucet still running.

I knew it was only going to get worse, so I approached one of the Direct Care people that I kind of like and asked her for a wet washcloth because if I rub one on my hands and arms, the roughness of the washcloth and the coolness of the water evaporating off my skin can help ground me.

We returned to the next group and it took me over an hour in that group to pull myself back into my body and be mostly grounded.  I say mostly because I wasn’t really grounded. And the next hour or so of time is pretty much lost.  I know what I had to have been doing, I just don’t remember doing it.

And then it got worse.  We went to our Psycho-Drama group and the woman who was working on her trauma experienced a serious trauma at the same age I had had my first sexual abuse trauma. She hesitantly connected with that painful child part of herself and I could identify really strongly with it.  Only she is much farther along in her process so she had the strength and courage to do it.  But I am not that strong and certainly not that courageous so I was just overwhelmed and I slid pretty easily back into dissociation.

Immediately after that, I had therapy.  I didn’t want to seem my treatment therapist.  I didn’t want any members of Hilltop Team Heidi.  I wanted my regular, safe, comfortable Team Heidi.  I don’t like being here and not feeling safe. I don’t like new everything.  I want my own PNP, my own AT, my own everybody (except my own nutritionist).

When I got to therapy, I melted a little bit.  But just a little.  I just couldn’t let it all out.  I mean, my therapist here is nice enough and surely seems competent, but she’s not the AT.

I struggled my way through the appt and only briefly slid a little deeper into dissociation a couple of time…And I don’t think she noticed which is okay with me. I don’t want her to know me. I don’t want her to know when I am struggling.  I don’t want anything from her. And I certainly don’t want her to care.

Yes, I know.  The whole point of being here is to work with her and everyone else.  But it is soo hard.  I don’t want my feelings.  I don’t want to face my past.  I don’t want to eat.

And yet, I will get up tomorrow morning and try again.  I just wish it didn’t hurt so much and that I wasn’t afraid all the time.  I just wish I was normal and didn’t even have to be here.

I hate being me.

 

 

 

 

Hollow

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Hollow

I just don’t have much to say today.  I feel empty inside, hollow…Like my outside is a crumbling shell and I am imploding because there is nothing on the inside to give body to the shell.

I feel depressed…Sad, isolated, alone, unmotivated, flat.

Those feelings careen around in the hollowness, bouncing off the shell, overlapping, tangling, ricocheting…becoming an unbearable dissonance.

I don’t even want to bother with slipping on an “I’m okay.” facade to day.  I just want to fade away into nothingness and not feel anything anymore.

 

 

 

Putting The Backstories On Hold For A Little Bit and My Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and Pottery

Putting The Backstories On Hold For A Little Bit

I think I am going to take a day or two off of the backstories.  I have lots more stories that want to be told, but I have had my mood dropping all week and I think I just need to pace myself, iykwim.  Especially since one of the backstories I want to share is about my family and food.  That one will be tricky, I need a day or two to figure out what I am going to say.

My Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Yesterday, I saw my PNP.  I had a hard time talking with her yesterday as I think I went in to the appointment half dissociated…Not her fault nor me having anxiety about being there, but more a product of my needing to pace myself as I said above.  She was able to reel me in though and I even drew for her!

And I cried.  This crying thing is becoming a habit!  I am going to try to stop judging myself about it, because I am not sure I have any control over it anymore.  If it’s going to happen, I guess it is going to happen.

What I didn’t realize (until I cried) is how strongly upsetting my Nutritionist appointments are for me.  Because, that’s what made me cry.  My PNP asked about how my Nutritionist appointments are going and if they are still hard and my eyes just welled up with tears and I couldn’t even look at my PNP.  I am not even sure what is so hard about the Nutritionist that just thinking about it made me cry…But clearly, there is a trigger there.

And of course, I see the Nutritionist today. <sigh>

Back to the drawing…I wish I had taken of picture of it so that I could post it here.  She was asking what my eating disorder looked like, and I told her it was black and had long fingers…gripping fingers.  She asked a few more questions about how it looked and then handed me a clipboard, paper and a pack of crayons so I could draw it.

When I finished the drawing, she asked if I wanted it or if she could keep it.  I told her she could keep it, but that she should probably send a copy to the AT.  She said she would fax it to him.  It’s funny, it’s not at all the kind of drawing that I would do in Art Therapy…The different settings appear to invoke different responses.  I guess that actually makes total sense…I had just never observed it before as my PNP has never given me an opportunity to draw before.

Lastly, I left my PNP appointment with my pocketbook stuffed full of samples of one of my meds.  I am truly appreciative that she gave me the boxes of samples because I have been feeling stressed trying to keep our finances afloat right now.  And since we have rolled into a new year, I am still meeting my deductible for my prescriptions and at the moment, paying full price for my meds is challenging and kind of painful.

Pottery

Just a quick note about pottery class…I know my mood is off because I didn’t really feel like going to pottery class…I feel like I just don’t care and am not motivated.  However, I did go and finished some glazing and collected my tiles from last week that had been fired.  This one came out amazing.  I am so pleased with how my glazing worked!

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Then I was prepping the lid for the pot (smoothing rough spots) so it and the pot could finally be bisque fired.  Only, I pressed too hard and…..

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Guess next week I’ll be making lid #3!

Not Quite Back From The Flashback and I Can’t Do Therapy Right and Yoga Goals

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Not Quite Back From The Flashback

I thought that I was over the flashback trauma and back to baseline…But I am not.  My hyper-startling is on overdrive.  Things that haven’t bothered me are just killing me.  The phone rings and I jump out of my skin.  The dog barks, ds closes a cupboard door loudly and I startle and feel a wave of adrenaline rush through my body.  But what really showed me that I am having a hard time is that I even hyper-startled at work yesterday…And for the most part, I can keep my PTSD shit out of work.  But I was in a patient’s room, the door was closed and someone knocked on the door and my whole body jolted.   

Another thing I’ve noticed is the aftermath of Thursday’s dissociation.  Like my pocketbook yesterday morning (the first time I had looked at it since Thurs) was a total mess.  I was looking at it and thinking, “Why is my driver’s license here and my debit card there…That makes no sense.” And then I realized…Thursday.  Dissociation.  Scrambled thinking.  And then it did make sense.  I have found a few other little things that also were clearly evidence of my scrambled thinking on Thursday and Friday too.  It’s sort of like I left a little trail behind me.

I Can’t Do Therapy Right

Speaking of dissociation…The AT kind of called me out on it yesterday.  That is to say he told me (and this is a very liberal paraphrase here) that I need to stop dissociating in session and be present to allow myself to feel and get better.  As if I have any control over it.   But then again….I could make more of an effort to pull myself back from it when he is trying to bring me back into the room and into the present.  And I did try that some yesterday….partly successfully.

Now…There is a part of me (that I am fighting) that wants me to hear that what the AT said is blaming me for my lack of progress.  And that negative voice wants me to internalize the blame and turn it into festering self-hatred. My mind hasn’t done this twisty game with me in a while…Twisting what the AT says into something negative….I’m not sure why it is tormenting me with it right now.  I am pretty sure the AT wasn’t trying to blame me….but I just have this little nagging piece of doubt.

It’s still all about trust, isn’t it?  I wish I did a better job of trusting him.

Yoga Goals

Maybe I should have just posted the Yoga Instructor’s full email yesterday because I am about to quote it again.  One of the things she said was, “I am most interested to learn from you what your *goals* are in coming to yoga.  We can work together to create classes that will most nourish you in and outside of the studio.”  So…I have been thinking about my goals in preparation for tomorrow…Nothing conclusive yet…But the wheels are turning.

Processing: Part 2

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Processing Part 2

The Art Therapist:

So, like I said yesterday, I don’t remember much about that appointment.  Here’s what I remember:

  • Shortly after I got there, the AT said he had expected me to walk in dissociated and was remarking that I was not, or I wasn’t as dissociated as he had anticipated…I don’t remember the specifics.
  • He looked at my paintings from Wednesday and then put them up in a circle for an exercise about trauma states. I really didn’t even want to look at them, but they were in my line of sight, so I spent time staring at the floor or to the left or right of the paintings.
  • I thanked him for talking to me on Wednesday
  • He tried again to get me to hear that I matter.
  • He looked at one of the paintings (the one with the pieces) and talked about the fragments/broken pieces…I have no idea what he said, but I do remember thinking about the Me figure in my Inside/Outside Box (a very early Art Therapy project)
  • He gave me an art directive about the Fragmented Me pieces and planting them and how would I nurture them and get them to grow?

And that directive is where it all really fell apart.  I moved to the art table and got a piece of paper and I felt like I was moving through sludge.  I pulled colored pencils out of the pencil jar and put them over the paper and I started to draw me, torn into pieces.  Only, I felt soooo slow in my drawing.  I don’t know if I was being slow, but I felt like I was moving in slow motion, or like I was dragging the pencils through playdough.  And then he didn’t have a red colored pencil, I so got out the watercolors…And I finished the body pieces and then I went to paint the dirt…For which I chose the black watercolor and I painted all around the body pieces in dark black.  I kept dipping the brush in the paint to make the black as black as possible.  And then I added another round of black to the edge and I realized that the picture wasn’t of something planted but of something dead being buried.  And somewhere in there, I started to feel like I was watching myself painting, rather than me doing the painting. And I kept adding black around the edge so that the blackness around the body pieces was spreading away from them…I think I would have kept going until the whole page was black.

But…the AT said something to me.  I have no idea what he said, but it pulled me back into myself and I realized what I was doing and I stopped painting.  The AT asked me what had happened and I didn’t have an answer for him.  I was still trying to slide back into me.  I don’t know if I answered him or shrugged or what.  Then he said something else…again, I have no idea what, except that he was worried that he had offended me or something and that’s why I stopped painting.  No…I stopped painting because I had come back into awareness and I didn’t need to fill the paper with black.

And then he tried to get me to talk about the drawing.  I remember telling him, “She’s dead.” And talking about the picture in the third person…but I don’t remember what I was saying to him.  Then at some point he pointed out that the picture was of me.  I think I said, “No” or shook my head….Ugh…I just don’t remember…But I didn’t want to own the person in the picture.

The last thing I remember talking about was that it was my fault.   That there must have been something wrong with me and it was my fault I was sexually abused.  The AT told me it was the abuser’s fault not mine, but I couldn’t hear that, so I said no…or shook my head or something.

And then, it was the end of the session and the AT was telling me that I could contact him if I needed him before my Monday appointment.  And I joked that I couldn’t do that twice in a week because it broke my rule.  And he said something about my rule breaking his rule of being available….Again, I am fuzzy on this and what exactly he said…Except that I remember feeling kind of jolted by the idea that my rule broke his rule…Not in a bad way, just like I had never thought of that before.

And then I was putting on my coat and leaving.

And the rest of the day was me being a total dissociated mess.

At this point…I am pretty much calmed down and present in my body again.  I think I am probably back to my baseline.

And life goes on.