What it means to be human
When it rains it pours. Maybe I was just getting cocky and believed that I had really overcome or defeated the “rock” by hiking more than half way up Pine Cobble mountain with my straight legged splint, digging the rock, and carrying the probably 25 pound rock down the hill. Placing it right outside the doorstep of my house, I can look at it when I enter and leave my house and feel strength in myself. In the middle of last week, I was positive. I felt good. Physical therapy had started and I felt like “okay, the worst is over, I can do this.” I even started to believe that maybe luck had swung in my direction and I wasn’t afraid of what was going to happen to me next or my family, a common worry for somebody who suffers from complex PTSD.
Then, the clouds congregated into a vicious storm. Thunder boomed and lightening sent its electricity through my life; challenging my ability to once again brave the storm. Taking a short walk without my splint (as suggested), I slipped and fell, the bad leg bended all the way up. The pain was tremendous (probably because it was in shock that it had bent). Trip to the ER – another x-ray – still looks like healing fracture, but my muscles and ligaments and tendons on that knee are sore. Call from home, Dad is in the hospital with an infection that no one has diagnosed yet. My sister had a baby 7 weeks ago, Hunter, I still haven’t met him because long carrides are obviously not possible with the straight-legged splint. She moved yesterday to their new house in New Jersey, which I have yet to see.
Just before the downpour, I had seen the rainbow. Although, I was in a rainstorm, the sun was coming up from behind and it’s white light separating into the beautiful colors of red, orange, yellow, blue, green, indigo, and violet. The rainstorm would soon pass. I had gotten through the worst of it. Now, amid what seems to be like a hurricane, and with my flared up PTSD causing fear that nothing will ever get better, I see no rainbow, no sun. Just like that – it disappears. After breaking my leg, it somewhat cured me of my OCD. After all, I was wearing my “good vibes” sweatshirt that day and still fell and broke my knee. I no longer felt a slave to perseverations and compulsions; what was the point? They were irrational and gave me the feeling like I had control over a situation in which I clearly did not. Part of this freedom from my own irrational mind, my OCD, helped me to see the rainbow, see that I could get better. My fear that nothing gets better and trauma is permanent didn’t feel true anymore.
With the scare with the fall and my dad being in the hospital and my sister moving and my presence lacking, I have now fallen back into a hurricane; a direct hit of the storm. With this direct hit has come the perseverations; the testing – leg lifts, walking, swimming, the constant questioning – is my knee okay? I need to know. So I test it through activity, press and search for differences or problems. I start perseverating over my right knee (which is achy from compensation); what about if both knees are hurt? My mind spirals. The first antibiotic given to my dad has had no effect on him, what now? I should be there. My children are in the background – I feel unable to parent how I want. The inability to remain positive, energetic, and fun with my children, and for them to see a “strong mommy.” Trapped in a hurricane of intrusive (although some irrational) thoughts, I cannot find my way out.
I first reach for my soothing skills tool box as I call it filled with lavendar, ice, guided meditation, drawing with my children; these distractions create no dent on my anxiety. The hurricane forces are too large and sweep away these coping skills. Next comes the perseveration and the trying to “reassure” myself that it’s going to be okay, when in reality I have no idea, because I have no control over the storm. Now, rundown after walking, spinning, swimming, and testing physical therapy exercises, of course I’m achy and there is no reassurance. That clearly did not work.
Outside the self-made toolbox is my pharmaceutical box. This is next in line – anti-anxiety medication. Maybe it will make me drowsy and I can sleep through this anxiety. Wrong, the medication (which normally does make me drowsy) had no effect. Perseveration and compulsions still there, anxiety still firing out it’s angry lightening and electricity threatening to strike me and paralyze me.
Lastly, a call to the therapist. A therapist who has consistently let me down in between sessions; why do I try to call him and set myself up for another let down? What really can he say or do that I haven’t already tried. Mistake. Breaching the rule of no contact between sessions for anything, our brief texting interaction further infuriated my inner self and stirred the hurricane winds and downpour filled with anger towards my therapist, anger at myself for being weak and calling him, and guilt for having called him.
Panic; what am I going to do with myself. I can’t live not knowing the timeline of when my body will be healed, my father’s, or when I will see them. But, I have no control over these things. Soothing skills box failed, even kids as adorable mind distraction failed, medication failed, the therapist further infuriated and stirred the winds of the hurricane, what now?
Yes, people have always mentioned the Brien Center as an option to call. Somebody is always there to talk with you. I called them. The clinician on the phone gave me some perspective. I have no control over these things. I have anger, disappointment, feelings that things aren’t fair, why am I so unlucky, feelings of being afraid of the unknown or the future. These feelings all encompass this huge storm that is not going out to sea anytime soon until I’ve felt it’s winds, rain, heard its thunder, and seen it’s scary shots of electricity. I cannot seek shelter behind my soothing skills, my medications, or try to seek support from my therapist; I have to feel the emotions. It is only after I have rode through the storm, that the sun will come from behind (as it always does after serious storms), the rainbow will show, and I will be on the other side of the storm.
As a yoga instructor and even in my writing I talk of acceptance of what we cannot control, of acceptance of the here and now, and that which we cannot change. In last weeks’ blog I wrote of the difference between temporary acceptance and permanent acceptance. There is also the acceptance of the unknown – the unpredictable. This is what I had to deal with now; accepting that there are no answers at the moment.
Here’s a little secret, yoga instructors just like therapists who are supposed to be calming and give great advice and say wonderful things, struggle with these same very issues of acceptance and sitting with intolerable emotions. After all, we are human. Pressure to be “put together” at all times, because you are the “zen, peaceful, accepting, free-living, go-with the flow yoga teacher” is just not possible to to climb out from underneath. We are all human and sometimes we need to hear from someone else those calm and soothing words, because we don’t believe that what we say can really apply to ourselves, because of an inherent belief that what we say excludes us. Over the past several weeks those of you who have read my blog can see the obstacles, annoyances, and more serious problems that I have faced. Many have called me the “bionic” woman. But realize, that behind this seemingly not normal woman is a real human just like anyone else who does have set backs with injuries, does have sick family members, and does have guilt. Not only do I have all of these things, but I too seek the rainbow from the storm, and must rely on others at times to help me visualize the storms’ impermanence.
Distraction, soothing exercises, activity, and reassurance sometimes may not be enough to fight the storm. Sitting in its elements for the brief time it lasts, crying, or releasing your emotions and feeling them and realizing that it will end may be the only answer. And, this is what is means to be human.