Walk sleep stay

orangeThanks to all who responded to my last two posts. Such an awesome range of ideas, opinions and experiences. I really felt supported.

My anxiety has receded a lot. I emailed Ron last night to apologize for swearing at him (!!). Who would’ve thought I’d ever do that when I started therapy two years ago. Things do change. I also thanked him for helping me and visiting me in hospital and wished him well. He hasn’t replied to either email. Don’t blame him, especially the FO email. What can you say to that?

I of course still want a reply. I want him to say he’ll keep my session time for me in case I change my mind. I wish I didn’t want that.

Now that I’m no longer furious, the good things and the gains I’ve achieved through therapy and group are coming to mind. Some I’ve been aware of for a while, but this past week some changes have really become clear.

Yesterday, of all days, when I was feeling like complete garbage, I went for a long walk. I walked down to a large park in my neighbourhood, and because I was finding the trees and grey sky soothing, at the point where I would have headed for home, I instead turned down another trail to extend my time there. It was excellent to be among nature that wasn’t judging me, that was simply peacefully existing. At one point I had to stop and sit for a few minutes. In all, i was out for an hour and a half.

I’ve struggled with exercise for years, because anything beyond a certain point makes me dissociate. So a half hour is my current limit before I do that. I only feel the dissociation once I’m home, at which point I notice I feel two-dimensional, I feel overwhelmingly sleepy, I sleep and plunge into depression. I know it sounds ridiculous, but that is what happens to me.

Yesterday that didn’t happen. At first, I didn’t even notice. I got home and got busy with something. After an hour, I realized – whoa. I was walking for an hour and a half, and I’m not dissociated? It was hard to believe.

This is huge. Something I want to do is go on hikes with other people, maybe out of the city. Having this dissociation problem makes that impossible. Plus, I can’t get fit, as it limits my ability to exercise.

I am really searching my mind as to what has changed. Is all this turmoil actually productive? Am I changing? We haven’t worked on this directly in therapy at all, though I’ve complained about it.

My idea about the cause of the dissociation after exercise is basically what a psychologist suggested to me years ago – that I’m walking around normally completely shut down. Then exercise gets things moving in my body, and feelings come up that I can’t stand, so I instinctively dissociate. What if I’m experiencing enough of the feelings through ‘the horrors’ of therapy that they don’t suddenly come up when I’m exercising?

I’m going to try a long walk again today to see what happens. I wonder if I have to be completely devastated though in order not to dissociate? It’s a pretty high price to pay.

The only thing I did in walking that is a bit different, is that when I got tired, instead of pushing myself to keep up (with whom?), I allowed myself to walk slowly.

One day last week I slept for seven hours straight. I have been waking up every four hours for the last few years. Sometimes if I get relaxed I make it to five hours. Then it takes a long time to get back to sleep, at least an hour and a half or two. It makes working very difficult, if I need to get up early. I think it’s traumatic sleeping, where sleep is interrupted routinely.

I haven’t slept seven hours for many years. This sleep issue is another one that has huge practical impacts on my life, and that seems physiological more than anything else. Now with the stress I’m having, I’m back to waking every four hours, but it does point to movement in a good direction.

Then at Easter dinner at my parents’, I have always had an urgent need to leave after two hours. It feels physical, it’s so strong. This time, that didn’t kick in. I don’t know where it went. I didn’t have a better time than usual, nothing had changed. What a relief not to be driven to act by what feels like an outside force.

I wonder if my struggle with this impulse to leave in the group has finally had an impact. If the experience many times of having this impulse, then talking instead of leaving, has caused that impulse to leave to recede.

Those are three big big changes that have happened in the last two weeks. They seem completely out of my control – I wasn’t thinking about them when they happened, I didn’t do visualization, relaxation, mindfulness, discussion. None of that. I wasn’t specifically working on these issues.

So it’s really making me think. What is going on here? Especially the walking, coming as it did in the midst of my therapy crisis.

There are other gains I’ve made in therapy that are more soft and squishy in nature, and I’ll think about them next post.

Art: Lorraine Peltz

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12 comments
  1. I’ve always thought of the feelings associated with trauma to have a particular quantity–they aren’t infinite. In a strict sense, that isn’t true. They don’t just disappear when we express them or bring them out into the light of day. But when we bring them out and can calm them or make sense of them, they do start to subside. Maybe you’ve done that. The overall burden of feelings beyond what is bearable has diminished, and so they don’t bubble up in every possible moment of downtime or every time there is space to start to connect with yourself.

    I also wonder if you feel better in part because you stood up for yourself. You took protective action. Although group and therapy have helped, you also recognized how it was affecting you in ways that weren’t so positive. You took steps to protect yourself by telling Ron off first not so politely and then more politely. Feeling we can protect ourselves inevitably makes us feel safer.

    Just some thoughts. Take care.

    • Ellen said:

      Definitely things to think about. Trauma feelings are tricky beasts.

      And I never thought of my second email as telling Ron off also, just more politely! It’s true in a way. Thanks for your thoughts Ashana

  2. A therapist with a pen said:

    I have been enjoying your posts very much. You describe things I also experienced as a client in therapy in a very realistic and immediate way. And I want to thank you again for the comment you wrote on my blog. I have made changes to the tenses and timing and will continue to keep that in mind as I work more on the piece.

    • Ellen said:

      Glad you are enjoying and able to relate. Good to hear my comment was useful. I’m aware that the tenses in my own blog posts go all over the place, and I can’t be bothered to fix them, but I should. Good luck on the writing – I’m reading along.

  3. Interesting how things that are concerns seem to resolve themselves as we move through therapy. I don’t think your description of how you feel after exercise at all ridiculous. Before therapy when I tried to exercise, it seemed to suck all the energy right out of me. I felt it didn’t make sense to do something that made me feel so much worse. Now I enjoy exercise and I really miss it when I can’t for a few days. Nice self analysis of what is happening. I also noticed that as I became emotionally healthy other things that didn’t seem related became apparent. I look forward to you post about soft and squishy. 🙂

    • Ellen said:

      Almost no one can relate to my exercise dilemma, and it’s interesting that you do. One other blogger that I follow seems to have this issue, but no one else. I am hoping I too will be able to resolve it. Thanks Ruth

  4. i wonder if you might consider going back to see him, at least once, to say good-bye in person. not for him to “convince” you to stay… or anything yucky like that… but for you to leave the relationship from a place of personal power and choice and decision-making, and also to review together all the positive changes you have made. and for you to also express your disappointment in him, and share your assessment of his blind spots. i also had that huge overwhelm post-therapy, for at least our first 18 months. sharon would say “try and only go this deep while you are here” (but in fancier words) and i couldn’t, i was in full-on ptsd thinking and feeling and triggered all the time… it’s like i couldn’t ever turn the overwhelm off. it landed me in hospital a few times. i am glad it doesn’t take me to that place anymore, although, as ever, i often have to come home from therapy and have a big nap.

    • Ellen said:

      Wow, landing in hospital is serious overwhelm. So glad you’re no longer in that place. I actually am also used to having a therapy hangover. That’s why I schedule sessions Fridays, because I often can’t get it together enough to work the next day. Especially when processing trauma. This stuff seems different because I don’t see how it’s caused by my past. It seems to be about Ron, and I don’t feel him as a positive force in all this. That’s not to say it really is caused by him.

      Ron emailed back and said the same, that if I’m quitting, we should meet once more to say goodbye. I would hate to do that. I don’t see the benefit, I see the horrible pain of it, which I’d be paying for, in cash as well as suffering I mean. However, I’ve decided to go back, but to leave group for now.

      Thanks for sharing Catherine

  5. I think it’s a good thing you took measures to protect yourself. You gained a lot from your therapeutical relationship with Ron, but maybe it was time to move forward and maybe even find another person to help you continue on your healing path. I’m sorry you’re feeling so lonely, I wish I could go over there and have a chat with you over some coffee or tea, I really do. Take care of yourself… xoxo

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks Chatte. Wish also we could have tea. 🙂

  6. Gel said:

    I loved reading your post and everyone’s comments. I think you have a lot of intelligent compassionate support here.

    When I read this line: “The only thing I did in walking that is a bit different, is that when I got tired, instead of pushing myself to keep up (with whom?), I allowed myself to walk slowly.”

    In my own healing work I have found it a key to find ways to slow down instead of fleeing or coming to a conclusion that whatever I’m doing isn’t right for me if I’m having an unpleasant experience of it. This really has been fundamental for me in all areas in therapy, exercise and food choices, and especially in relationships when difficulties arise. Just to simpley find a way to slow it down and keep paying attention. I’ve also called this ” leaning into my edge” rather than forcing myself through something. This seems to hold both kindness towards myself and to stay with something instead of collapsing into patterns/avoidance.

    so I don’t know if your slowing down on your walk is like what i’m talking about here but it reminded me of it. From what I read of your experience it sounds like you get overwhelmed a lot – I do too. So learning how to gently expand tolerance for and skills in dealing with all that complexity and intense feelings is important work for me.

    Best wishes to you.

    • Ellen said:

      That slowing down is exactly what I’m talking about. I do a bit of yoga, and I’ve found the same thing there, after many years of doing the opposite. I used to try hard and push until everything locked up. I’ve found if I stop trying so hard, and stop pushing before I hit my limit, feelings can start releasing and everything remains softer. It’s a kinder approach and I don’t get into fighting with myself. I have always been quite unflexible for a woman, and was always very aware of this, so felt I needed to try hard, but pulling back and being gentle has been a lot more productive and grounding.

      I really like how you put this. Yes I’m overwhelmed a lot – I wasn’t describing it like that but it’s true. I think expanding tolerance would be important for me also.

      Thanks!

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