Hey Guys!!! So, you might have noticed that I haven’t been on here for awhile… And it’s time I come clean. I’ve been really, really, reaalllyy struggling. Nobody want’s to talk about not feeling safe in your own head, but there it is.
Trigger warning: This may get a bit dark, but I promise it is a positive story!
See, sometimes, I compartmentalize my conditions and focus on each one individually and with my recent shoulder injury, I didn’t want my [fairly new] doctor to immediately lump it in with my chronic pain and ignore it. Because of this, I took a laser focus on resolving the injury and flared up chronic pain symptoms and put a blinder on to everything else. The reality of the situation is that when you are juggling multiple conditions, it is a fools errand not to think that one doesn’t effect the rest. I KNOW this, but sometimes its so hard to keep in the forefront of your mind, especially when you are trying to keep it from distracting someone else from the problem.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Enter my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It took me years to get control of my chronic pain, but after a few years of keeping it at a steady level, my energy reserves slowly began to build. This is how I was able to build myself up to kickboxing, something I still am amazed I was doing consistently for so long. When you are so active, it’s incredibly easy to forget the true nature of your condition, which was the case for me, so when it finally began to rear it’s head, it was pretty much too late to do anything about it. I had taken my tank down to E, and I didn’t have enough currency left to fill it back up. By really focusing on the necessary things and cutting out everything else, I was able to get through the work day as long as I crashed and let myself charge enough at night to get through just one. more. day.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Here is the dangerous part. I forgot how much energy it can take to stay on top of my PTSD. Again, I was doing ok, and then… I wasn’t. At first I just thought I was triggered. Then, I figured it was situational stress plus a trigger. But then… then I kept having my inner self interrupting my thoughts with “I can’t breathe” and “I can’t do this”. First just at night when I was trying to fall asleep, eventually, during the day, and finally on repeat.
I want to preface this part with a quick commentary. I personally am quite an optimistic person, and even at my worst, I have never had thoughts of self harm. At all. That being said, if you EVER have a thought of hurting yourself, even if it isn’t serious, please talk to someone. Call a family member and express the seriousness of your mental state and that it scares you. Call your doctor and let them know you are not ok. Or call the national suicide hotline 1-800-273-8255, which will help you even if you are not actively going to harm yourself at this time. You are important, and you deserve help.
For the last month, I feel like I have been walking around with a steel fist clenching my heart. Feeling the anxiety crush my lungs. Listening to my panicked mind as it tries to keep itself from drowning. On the surface, I was functioning quite well, but underneath I was suffocating.
I finally realized I needed help while watching Logan last week. I love X-men and more specifically, I love Wolverine. Damir, who also wanted to see the movie, treated me with a night out plus popcorn with chocolate for supper, and I wanted so badly to have a wonderful time. And you guys, it was a fantastic movie. Even at over 2 hours long, I would go back and watch it it theaters again. But, here is where I had my moment.
Logan, while a fantastic movie, is a bit depressing. He has spent a long life running, being judged, being outcast, and being unable to secure happiness. I had two distinct thoughts. First:
“Am I going to feel like this for the rest of my life?”
Then, the voice that had been repeating “I can’t breathe” on repeat chimed in with:
“What’s the point?”
Realizing when to get help
For the rest of the movie, I managed to keep it together and keep immersed in the story as means of distraction. I got to the car, and as Damir and I were discussing our thoughts on the movie, I started crying a solid stream of tears. He looked at me and asked what was wrong, and I finally voiced what I had been scared of saying for over a month. “No. I’m really not ok. And I’m scared.”
I will admit, the next five minutes of heaving, blubbering, breathless hysterical sobbing actually did a lot to make me feel better. I had finally admitted that I wasn’t ok, and that I thought I needed help to be ok again. Luckily, I had a counseling appointment the next day, where I fully admitted the thoughts I’d been having. Again, I have never had any thoughts of self harm, so even thinking something so depressing was very uncharacteristic for me, and it really scared the crap out of me. I don’t want to hurt myself in the slightest… I’m straight up terrified of getting hurt or dying! But I don’t want to feel this way. My counselor and I discussed a plan, and I already had an appointment with a Chronic Pain specialist a week later (I had waited over a month for it) and knew that I would get back on top of it.
This was really a great appointment. There is just something about having a doctor that GETS chronic pain. After my last pain doctor moved out of state, I worked with my current doctor and he did his absolute best to help me, but it just missed that connection. My new doctor not only understands, but did a complete history on me before even meeting with me, including looking at past MRI’s, medical history, etc. from 7+ years ago. Color me impressed.
After doing an exam to determine if there was a possible tear in my shoulder and ruling it as a sprain, he jumped into questions about my PTSD… and even though I knew I needed to address it, it still irritated me. I’m here for the pain and this is NOT about it being in my head! Instead, he shocked me once again by stating that, we were indeed going to get to the bottom of my pain, but that he was worried that having this bad of a flare up while I also have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome would lead to a lack of control over my PTSD, and he wanted to make sure I was ok there first.
It’s like a light went on in my head. I’m not losing control! I mean, kind of, but it’s not my fault! There is a reason! Of course this makes sense when you say it out loud but I cannot tell you how much of a comfort this was to me hearing it. We discussed medications, and while I am not a big proponent of the roller coaster that comes along with making medication changes. He recommended a new medication to help supplement my current meds. The reasoning? I’m never going to have the energy to heal my body from this flare up and restore my energy if I wasn’t healthy mentally first. Facepalm. Also, I’m officially in love with my new doctor.
In fact, I’m now in love with everything! It is incredible how making a seemingly small change can have such an impact! Have you watched that viral video of the little girl giving herself positive affirmations in the bathroom mirror?
Just a week after my thoughts were so depressed that I was scaring myself, I suddenly had the curtain lifted. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not manic. But the steel fist clenching my heart has evaporated. The weight crushing my chest has given way to a breath of fresh air. My mind is at peace… and filled with so much gratitude to be so.
Night and Day
Nothing brings the fact that these are lifelong illnesses into the light like realizing that I really needed to go back and cover the basics, but in all honesty, I should also be proud that I have been doing SO DAMN WELL for the past 5 years and I won’t let anything take that away from me. I was always terrified that I would lose control and that my world would fall apart again, and it has been enlightening for me to realize… THIS is what I was afraid of. And I’m ok. I’ve had two MRIs in that past 6 weeks, added a bunch of [short term] meds to my routine to get this under control, and cried almost every single day. I’ve been in more pain than I have been in for 5 years.
And I’m OK.
What I’m saying is that life is a moving target, and with that, so are our conditions. Just because something worked for 7 years doesn’t mean it is the best remedy for me now. Sometimes you need more, sometimes less. Sometimes you need to switch it up. And sometimes you just need to cover the basics so you can get back to where you were. Don’t be afraid to say you aren’t on top of things. Don’t be afraid to switch it up. I recently ran across a quote that really spoke to me.
In reality, our road to recovery will never be a straight path, nor will we ever truly have a “destination” of completely healthy, but rather a journey to living the healthiest life possible. There will always be detours, and even if it doesn’t often seem like it is the right way to get to our destination, detours often get us around a dangerous or un-passable situations in the fastest way possible.
Here is to the next leg of this journey!