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