PTSD, Eczema, IBS-C, and Thoughts of a Thursday in December

First off, a follow-up on the application of apple cider vinegar to the eczema on the bottom of my feet.

It didn’t help in any way.

Please don’t take my experience as universal. A lot of people on earthclinic.com said it worked for them. Maybe the nature of my eczema, which looks like a big red burn on the middle of each of my feet, isn’t conducive to that kind of remedy. The skin is extremely dry, peels and burns. There are no – sorry to gross you out – pustules. Maybe it would work better for that kind of condition.

I had this kind of dream of life planned after Jack and my uncle died. I’d get up early and hike in the mountains or do my walk/sprints nearby on pretty landscaped streets. I’d meet someone to hit balls with on a tennis court. I’d do yoga regularly at a place a few blocks away. I’d attend my support meetings and meet new friends. Maybe I’d volunteer at a stable and curry horses or volunteer at a hospital.

But the Universe has given me a big fat NO to these ideas.

Ever since my uncle’s memorial mid-November, my stomach has been killing me. It’s IBS-C and wakes me all night. Sometimes I can’t sleep at all. I might go four nights with little or no sleep, which is a total drag. I do not want to ever be so sleep deprived again that I hallucinate as I did years ago. (See my book PTSD: Frozen in Time or the short-read Startle: A True Story of PTSD and the Paranormal on Amazon or https://www.books2read.com/u/m0zzRl for other online stores.)

Interestingly, the inflamed area on my feet correlates to the stomach/GI area in the reflexology chart.

As far as the body-mind connection goes, if it’s anger trying to erupt, if it’s that simmering beneath my skin, I wish I could feel it, so I could release it.

Sadness, I release every day.

I wonder if it could be feelings of horror at what Jack and my uncle went through since I had a nightmare last night of a family having been horribly murdered in a camper outside my bedroom window. There was often no time to absorb, process and release trauma energy in the hospitals last year. Ditto with my uncle this summer.

Anyhoo, as a result of the pain and increasing exhaustion, I haven’t left the house much, but I do go to the post office almost every day of the week because I have a little business selling products on the internet.

Last week, I stood in line at USPS and started talking to the guy in front of me. He emanated such an incredible healing energy, he practically glowed.

When he told me he was 78 and a Viet Nam veteran, I said, “Forgive me for asking, but did you develop PTSD?”

His face clouded a moment. “Yes.”

I said, “You have such a healing energy around you, it’s tangible. Do you still have PTSD?”

He said, “No.”

I said, “How did you heal it?”

He smiled big and pointed towards the sky.

Our conversation soon ended as it was his turn next at the USPS counter.

I have no doubt he experienced a miracle.

Unfortunately, we don’t all get them. Although, when you think about it, if all of us did get miracles on demand for disabling conditions or difficult scenarios, what an absurd world it would be.

It’s my belief we choose to incarnate to evolve our souls (or contribute to the progress of mankind) through various challenges. We don’t necessarily see the details of how we might suffer or be challenged, but we know the issues we will work through as a result.

In Ram Dass’ Polishing the Mirror, he talks about being aware of our storyline in this incarnation, of being a witness to the soap opera or melodrama in order to get distance and perspective on it. I like that.

As for pain, he says, “Once you start to awaken spiritually, you reperceive your own suffering and start to work with it as a vehicle for further awakening.”

He admits when he had a stroke, he was overwhelmed for a while–I think for a few years–but eventually he saw it as a vehicle that pushed him into his soul.

He said “I am inside, and I live with the pain—not as the pain, but with the pain.”

Whatever we believe about this mystery of life we’re in the midst of, when we experience pain and suffering, we have a choice: to find a way to benefit from it or give up somehow, push it away, numb ourselves, get lost in blame and the details of the soap opera.

I certainly numbed myself for years, inadvertently with PTSD meds and, later, purposely with painkillers.

I’m not numb anymore, that’s for sure.

I wish I was as evolved as Ram Dass and felt my pain as grace, but I’m not that refined a soul at this point.

I do try to find a way to make periods like I’m going through work for me. I have plans ready for when the pain wakes me at night like working on my novel or writing to someone. Sometimes I’ll plug in my earbuds and listen to Binaural Beats while doing mindful mediation. I pray for others when I hurt, too.

When I do get quality sleep, oh happy day!! I’m appreciative of everything–the clear blue sky, the fresh air, the delightful palm trees, the comforting mountains surrounding the valley. Yesterday, I felt almost unreasonable joy dancing around my kitchen to The Isley Brothers’ “Harvest for the World”.

I went to the post office and started talking to the woman behind me. She was a 71-year old black lady named Fannie Mae. I was so grateful for her warmth, openness and kindness. The pain has isolated me. She told me a little about her life as we stood outside later and I told her a little about mine. She told me she sang. I asked her what kind of songs she sang. She said, “I’ll sing two.” And right there and then, outside the post office, she sang me two gospel songs. She had a beautiful voice. The first song made me cry–in a good way–and the second made me smile inside.

The Universe said YES.

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Can’t Connect

I know it’s probably a common feeling for people to feel they aren’t connecting with anyone when they basically don’t know anyone in a new town.

Without Jack here, it feels like no one “gets” me. It feels like no one hears me or understands what I’m really saying.

It’s a lonely, disorienting feeling.

That new-girl-in-town feeling is glommed on top of a couple years of the stress of taking care of Jack, then him dying in May and finally my uncle dying a few weeks ago.

I know I won’t always feel like this.

All things pass.

For the first time in over ten years, I wanted to just sleep and sleep today. I didn’t want to be me. I didn’t want to feel sad anymore.

When I ignore my sadness and refuse to cry (because I’m so darn sick of it), my body/mind will wake me at 3 in the morning.

So I woke at 3 in the morning.

I still wouldn’t cry.

I ate a buttered, toasted Bays English Muffin with a Coke, finished a book on John of God, and started a memoir by P.D. James. (The latter quite good.)

I went back to sleep at 7 a.m.

I didn’t want to get up at 11, but the room was drenched in sunlight.

I didn’t want to do trauma releasing exercises.

I didn’t want to listen to the usual songs that elicit tears, even though I knew it would make me feel better.

I sat on the couch and drank two bottles of water, plugged in my earbuds and checked what playlists Apple had for me today. (I signed up for the free 3-month trial.)

The 70’s playlist had a song I never heard of by an artist I never heard of. The singer/songwriter was Judee Sill.

She has the voice of an angel. The harmony in her music is out of this world, the lyrics and melodies incredible.

I checked out the original album. Eponymously titled, it was from 1971. How did I never hear of her? I was 14 and 15 years old that year. All I did was listen to music.

Her big influences were Bach, gospel and country.

She signed with David Geffen, was critically acclaimed, opened for legendary rock groups, but never became a big name herself–even though the legends she opened for recognized she was way ahead of everyone else in terms of her songwriting.

Her second album came out in 1972 and there wasn’t another.

She had a terrible childhood and eventually became addicted to drugs, having to resort to prostitution in the end to feed her habit. She died of an overdose in 1979. She’d been forgotten by then.

I couldn’t get enough of her today.

Music can make me feel connected to myself and then I feel grounded and somehow recognized. I need to remember that.

Check out the fabulous artist, Judee Sill.

 

Eventually I flipped through other playlists. Guess which was the song that did the trick, got me crying even though I didn’t want to?

Mel Torme’s “That’s All”.

Ach! I’m such a romantic.

Anyway, I sobbed and sobbed and felt better. I didn’t feel as tired. I took my shower and did some errands, made a couple phone calls and scheduled my first yoga class for tomorrow.

 

 

Ode to the Cotton Bug VI

 

Oh Cotton Bug, Oh Cotton Bug,

Hello.

What’s happening?

Remember when we watched Keeping Up with the Kardashians together?

Or I imagined us watching it together anyway,

you in your glass bubble

me on the couch in my human container.

Good times.

I think you’re the only one I’ve connected with out here,

besides my uncle.

That doesn’t mean I want you back.

You go your way and I’ll go mine.

That’s the way it’s got to be.

Still…I’ll never forget you, Cotton Bug.

So long.

 

PTSD Teeth

I’m putting off working out so I thought I’d write a quick blog about PTSD teeth.

I wrote a short essay about them in my book PTSD: Frozen in Time (That’s an Amazon link. Elsewhere: https://www.books2read.com/u/m0zzRl)

One of the things I said was that, statistically, people with PTSD clench and grind their teeth more than the general population. Surprise, right?

I clenched my teeth while I slept for decades. Sometimes when I woke up, I’d have to pry my teeth apart with my hands. I only sporadically went to dentists so I didn’t have one watching my teeth slowly deteriorate over the years. If I had, theoretically s/he would have suggested I wear a tooth guard. Unfortunately, this wasn’t suggested until I was nearing fifty and my front teeth had become so thin at the bottom, they were breaking off into little square chips that cut the inside of my mouth. That hurt, so I’d take a nail file and try to smooth the jagged edges. You can see the result of my fine work in the before photo below!

 IMG_0698 (3)

Anyhoo, I got a tooth guard, some implants (ow!) and began seeing dentists regularly about twelve years ago. I didn’t think there was anything that could be done to fix my raggedy teeth. Then about a month ago, I went to my new dentist in Arizona and he said he could bond them.

I don’t know why my Chicago dentists didn’t come up with that idea, but I was thrilled and immediately booked a bonding appointment.

Here is my after picture. Yay! Isn’t it nice that some things can change?

 IMG_0700 (3)

Looks like I smoked two cigars between the first and second shots, but it’s just the lighting. Those two pics were taken within an hour and a half of each other.

I also wrote in my book that according to peeps on earthclinic.com, black walnut tincture can strengthen teeth. I used it regularly after I was 50. My teeth seemed to get better. They didn’t get any worse, for sure, and they stopped breaking off. I didn’t get any cavities for a decade either, so it didn’t hurt.

 

***

So…

…I guess I’m going to have to work out now. Wah!

Here’s a tip. If you increase your workouts to two hours a day (weights, aerobics, core, balance), you will not lose weight if you eat a lot more. As in Milano Cookies. Lots of Double Chocolate Milano Cookies.

 ***

Ode to the Cotton Bug II

Oh cotton bug, oh cotton bug, where have you gone?

I know you’re still here. I feel your cotton-bug spirit.

Perhaps you’ve found yourself a cozy nest in the millions of fibers of my living room carpet.

You seek warmth for you are in tune with the seasons.

You sense the winter coming.

Well so are the carpet cleaners.

This Friday.

Unless you leave my space in the next forty-eight hours, you will die.

Goodbye cotton bug.

Goodbye.

PTSD As a Label

Last week, I picked up Darrell Hammond’s memoir: God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked.

Oh man, what a life. Talk about a living hell. He doesn’t go on and on about his childhood abuse, but when he does go into detail, I had to skim. Trigger territory for me.

Becoming successful and somewhat famous on Saturday Night Live did not, of course, change his internal quality of life. Wherever you go, there you are—even if you’re making a lot more money and everybody knows your name.

He self-medicated with drugs and alcohol and was hospitalized many times. Doctors repeatedly told him he was suffering symptoms as an adult which were the result of childhood trauma. They compared it to that suffered by soldiers in war and molested children.

Hammond’s experience of life is chock full of PTSD symptoms. He’s like a textbook case, but he never uses the term “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” or “PTSD” in the whole book.

I thought that was strange.

It’s so clear he has it.

But he won’t say it.

I wondered why.

I’m just guessing here, but I thought maybe he doesn’t want to be labeled.

Sometimes a label can have the effect of stereotyping people, minimizing and reducing their experience, tying it up with a bow, sanitizing it, making it palatable.

But the experience of trauma is, in essence, indescribable—and childhood abuse can never be made palatable.

Hammond’s book is written so well, you really get a feeling for the dimensions of hell he lived through.

If you have PTSD, you know what he’s talking about.

 

Ode to the Cotton Bug

Ode to the Cotton Bug

 

Hello little cotton bug.

You look so sad and slow crawling on my kitchen floor tile.

Why don’t you run when you see me tower over you?

Do you not value your life?

Or is it because you are in despair and are past caring?

How long in cotton-bug years have you searched for the cotton fields, which once filled this land?

Ten cotton-bug years?

Twenty? A hundred?

Now the cotton fields are gone, replaced—at least in my vicinity—by an apartment complex.

Your paradise is lost.

At least in this dimension.

And yet, you are valued by one you do not know.

The lady in the management office asked that I not squash you with my shoe, but gently sweep you out the door instead.

Oh cotton bug, I am not so generous as she.

Do not come here. Stay in the wild. Close your eyes in the fresh earth, remember all time is now and return to your golden vista.

Or come inside and die.

 

I am very tired and still recuperating from caretaking Jack and the sort-of mental decimation I went through after his death. It’s like my I.Q. exploded into bits and half were blasted billions of miles into the universe. Day by day, one or two return. At least, I think they’re mine.

Grief wakes me in the night in the form of stomach pain, which is a drag. It goes away when I cry. I have to release buried energy or I’m in trouble. It’s interesting to me that even in sleep, sadness has a life of its own. Certainly my buried trauma energy didn’t go anywhere until I released it decades later.

I’m so tired, I’m not even going to advertise any of my books here! Now that’s tired.

S’long for now.

 

PTSD and Feeling Paralyzed

I was diagnosed with PTSD in my 20’s and immediately put on medication. At the time, I was like, Great, man, fine, whatever you want to call it, just give me something to make me feel better.

I didn’t know anything about PTSD, what caused it, the symptoms, and so on. I was just in a zombie state, numb or in despair, unable to sleep more than an hour or two a night, unable to keep a job very long. I was barely surviving.

There was no internet back then. Even if there were, I don’t know if I would have done that much research. I was in too bad a shape. You may know what that state of affliction feels like.

The meds helped insofar as I could sleep again. Sleeping regularly, I got my physical health back and, therefore, could keep a job much easier. (More on my story in PTSD: Frozen in Time.)

For about twenty years after diagnosis, I continued to live mostly in the dark as far as understanding PTSD.

Although I was socially adept at work and developed a successful career, I became increasingly isolated outside of the office.

When I was home in my apartment on weekends, I’d go from feeling fluid, self-assured, smart, and successfully independent on Friday evenings to feeling a complete failure at every level on Sunday nights–curled up on my couch feeling afraid, demoralized, physically cold (despite environmental warmth), almost paralyzed (despite athleticism), and in despair.

I did not understand this weekend-metamorphosis and shoved it out of my head the rest of the week.

Sometime in my 30’s, I read The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis. (Subtitle: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse).

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that my childhood trauma was not sexual abuse, but I had so many of the same survivor symptoms that the book spoke to me, especially on the issue of boundaries.

It’s been many years since I read that wonderful book, so please forgive my inexact and dusty paraphrasing of what I recall. If memory serves, the authors suggest something to the effect that adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse sometimes don’t realize—at an unconscious, visceral level—that their bodies are their own now, under their power and control alone, and no one can touch them unless they say so.

They may understand this intellectually, but physically moving gets the message to the survival brain and calms the body down.

I remember them saying it might be helpful when a person is having trauma symptoms to pull their bodies back into the present moment by punching out or kicking out or somehow through movement letting their body/minds know there is no one in their personal space now. The adult survivor is physically free, they can move in whatever direction they want to go, no one is going to stop them. No one can come into their space unless they allow them (barring unthinkable scenarios).

This was an epiphany to me at the time. A real paradigm shift. It was the first book I read that related to what I was going through, years before I read a ton of books on PTSD (beginning with Peter Levine’s Waking the Tiger.)

I thought of this recently because, since my husband’s death, I have experienced periods of feeling frozen again–tiny, powerless and paralyzed with fear.

But I’m not little anymore or powerless or frozen. It’s just a feeling, albeit an unpleasant one.

So…this morning I got out of bed (just physically moving sometimes rids me of the frozen, tiny feeling, although a workout or walk is more satisfying), had my berries, and started planning a brief road trip.

I’m going to drive up north to the town where my uncle and cousin live and check out apartments. Although the area I live in is beautiful, it’s shot through with the sadness of Jack’s illness, multiple hospitalizations and passing. Plus, I know almost no one here.

Also, the area up north is the closest to an “old neighborhood” for me after Chicago. I visited my dad and uncle there for over twenty years.

I hope you are having a day filled with moments of wellbeing and that you will hear a song or some music today that heals your heart.

Felt Frozen This Morning

I haven’t written for a while because my husband’s congestive heart failure and kidney disease got worse, and he died two weeks ago.

I feel lousy.

I feel sad almost all the time. I sob periodically.

I’m mad sometimes. Not at anyone in particular, just mad–like a crazy, inarticulate I-hate-the-world feeling the kind a little kid would have.

I miss Jack so bad, I don’t have words to do justice to the feeling.

Woke up this morning with that frozen feeling, a sort of an inner paralysis. I felt tiny, too, which goes back to old childhood trauma.

I am familiar with that feeling.

I’m glad I went through so much releasing of trauma energy years ago because now I read my body pretty well (after decades of physical numbness when I didn’t have a clue), but I’m still learning.

Like last night, I had the worst back pain ever for no physical reason. I did sleep on the living-room couch for months across from my husband, who had to sit up to sleep (due to fluid in chest/lung area), and I slept in a cot in his room when he was hospitalized, but I never had back pain from these things.

Years ago, when I was fired from a job in my late twenties, I had almost immediate back pain that no physical repositioning or drugs could alleviate. It went away with time and new interests, (although I did start a life-long practice of crunches to strengthen my lower back.)

Through the years, the lower back pain returned and I came to associate it with a sudden withdrawal of support. Certainly, my losing Jack qualifies.

I wondered how long I’d have to put up with the excruciating back pain. I can’t afford a chiropractor at the moment.

As for pain pills. Forget it. (See my book: PTSD: Frozen in Time)

Then I started crying for about twenty minutes.

My back pain went away.

A couple hours later, I got that TMJ feeling in my jaw.

Man, I hate that pain. Hadn’t had it for decades, not since I was in my early 30’s and feeling so much unexpressed rage about my childhood. I worked out a lot of that over the years, especially with punching bags and hitting (smashing) tennis balls as hard as I could across from a ball-machine. I gave away the big kickbox-type punching-thing when we moved from Chicago to Arizona. It’s too hot to play tennis in AZ at the moment. Plus, I’d need a ball-machine.

Around midnight, I started crying again. When I finished, my jaw pain was gone.

I’m so lucky I can release the physical pain with crying. I hate it, but imagine the alternative.

So anyway, when I woke up feeling that old paralysis this morning, that little girl freeze of fear, I knew I had to make a move.

Some move.

Any move.

I started this blog entry.

Cried.

Then I called and left a message for my brother.

Cried.

Then I called the Pension Board and Mutual Aid Board.

I’m going to take a shower when I’m done writing this, and take a walk plus do sprints. (Only in the low 90’s at the moment!) I don’t feel like it, but I know I’ll feel better.

I hope to see my Scarlet Tanager friend. He reminds me of a cat I had once. I’d be reading in my apartment, lost in a book for a couple hours, paying no attention to Kitty. She’d do something to get my attention, run quickly, madly, from one corner of the studio to the other several times, and then stop and lick a paw as if nothing happened. When I’d say, “What’s going on Kitty?” She’d look so disinterested, as if to say, “What’s that? I have no idea why you think something is going on. I’m just minding my own business here.”

The Scarlet Tanager does something like this when I start walking. He’ll come out of nowhere, race ahead and stop at a bench or tree branch a few feet ahead of me. I’ll stop, in real awe and wonder, and say, “Hi beautiful Scarlet Tanager. What’s going on?” He’ll turn his head this way and that, as if to say, “What’s that? I have no idea why you think something’s going on. I’m just minding my own business here.”

I will bring him a strawberry today. I read they like strawberries.