Tarte Ganache with Raspberries

I used to bake a lot.

I was in the kitchen a lot with my grandma when I was little, but she didn’t make anything “fancy”. My mom has only recently become a good cook – the rest of my life she’s made perfectly fine food (except she was pretty terrible at cooking when I was young), so at some point in my ten years on my own and away from family I decided to learn to cook, and cook well.

I got a wild hair to make a ganache tart for my birthday this year, and I have a long history of making my own birthday dessert – usually a cheesecake. Ganache tart is quick and easy though, and I had some Girl Scout cookies to use!

  1. Crust

I popped a box of Girl Scout shortbread cookies in a large Ziplock bag and beat them into crumbs with a meat tenderizer. You can use any shortbread or similar cookie. Or no cookie. Or toasted coconut. Graham crackers. Whatever floats your boat.

2. Ganache

I put a bag of really good dark chocolate chips in a bowl, heated an even amount of heavy cream on the stove until it was scalding, them poured the cream over the chocolate chips and let it sit for a few minutes until I started stirring. I added 2 tbsp of home brewed vanilla that has almost aged to 6 months (one of my side projects) and stirred until shiny and smooth.

Somehow the cream wasn’t hot enough to melt the chocolate chips completely, so I popped the bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds and stirred again. That did the trick and didn’t mess up the chocolate. You can see the reflection of my phone in the ganache it was so shiny!

3. Tart!

I filled the ramekins with the ganache and placed fresh raspberries around the edges. I placed them in the fridge to cool but they can just as well cool and set on the counter. In about three days the cookie crust will lose its crunch and absorb too much moisture, but they will keep nicely in the fridge for a couple of days. Voila!

Super rich, super dark, crunch from the crust – just my kind of thing!

Coping with Heartbreak When You No Longer Numb

Yeah, I have no idea. Now taking suggestions.

Because the world doesn’t stop to give me time to grieve, it keeps calling and emailing and pushing and demanding.

The pressure to perform and pay bills and get my life together just as it’s breaking apart doesn’t stop just because I desperately need to.

The need to drink and work and shut it all out and binge tv doesn’t stop, I’ve just stopped doing those things.

The harassment and messages from guys you thought were friends doesn’t stop. In my experience, that shit hits like a flood when you’re at your lowest and loneliness. But it’s numbing too, and I don’t tolerate it anymore.

Putting your energy into others still means the energy isn’t going to you.

So I just accept the heartbreak and the tears and the grief and sit with them like uncomfortable acquaintances until they are ready to move on and I am ready to stand up and put my face forward again.

I Feel Like I’m Failing at Everything.

I spent most of the afternoon trying to write up how I fell into the career I have and why I do what I do. I couldn’t even write a cohesive story.

I know that trauma disrupts narrative and memory, and this evolution of my career has happened in the middle of the trauma that changed my brain, but it has been painful to not be able to craft a cohesive, linear narrative of something that is fundamental to who I am.

It makes me feel like I’m failing at everything.

I tend to catastrophize situations, and that is exactly what I’m doing here, but I cannot seem to kick myself off the loop of not being able to acknowledge what’s good. I am making my own way, opening my own doors and having great response – and all I see is failure.

I don’t have the support I need from the people I need it from, and all I can see is failure.

I don’t have a clear path forward, and all I can see is failure.

I’m not quickly bouncing back from this or adapting to it, and all I can see is failure.

It’s for these moments that you need the practice of self-love and self-care. It’s for this that you need to be able to forgive yourself and give yourself some grace. It’s for this that you need the perspective that this is temporary and that you can hit the pause button before trying again. So that is what I will do – set down the article and the other things I feel I’m failing at – pause, then try again.

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Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

There’s the You I Love, and Then There’s…

Whether it’s this particular point in time or that we’re not a good fit regardless of time, my boyfriend lashed out at me in a way that surprised and hurt me, and that I didn’t find fair. We’ve had a lot of problems in the last few months, including communication problems, which don’t seem to be improving.

We’re both trauma survivors of different types, and it has been a hard combination to deal with, particularly as the ways we cope are different and not often compatible. That, coupled with how hard I push myself to heal and how hard he thinks I push him (not clear yet if it’s pressure I put on him or pressure he feels because of me), we wound up in a shouting match after he went radio silent for a day and didn’t appreciate my views on that.

Just let me know what’s going on, I can’t read your mind and no, I don’t feel assured that the reason doesn’t involve drugs and/or alcohol, honestly. The past doesn’t stay in the past when you keep repeating it.

It’s hard for me to know if what he said is really how he feels, because we’re back to not talking after he blew up at me again for wanting clarity on what taking some space entails, but he made some statements that don’t sit well with me.

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Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

“You need to stop being so pessimistic…it’s like dating two people, the one I love and then (statement left unfinished)…You put expectations on me that are completely unreasonable…You pust way more pressure on me than you ever put on yourself…” and a lot of bringing up other people, which I’m not the least bit interested in when we’re discussing our own relationship and the problems that are between us.

And the people who do know me and have for years will tell you without hesitation that I put way more pressure on myself than I ever have or will put on anyone else.

I don’t see myself as two people. I was evaluated for bipolar disorder when I was diagnosed with PTSD, and I showed no indication of it, nor does my trauma history support the diagnosis. And I don’t have that experience. I am the same person, no matter what. What does happen, and what is a constant problem for me, is that sometimes I am public-facing me, and sometimes I let the mask fall and am the me that often struggles to maintain my sanity and independence, such as it is. I don’t see that as being two people, rather being a multi-faceted person who places high value on successfully relating to other people and who chooses not to show the darkness I live with because I don’t always want to be reminded of it myself. But when I don’t have to put that kind of energy into my appearance, I don’t, because I don’t have that much energy.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. I worked at a gallery for several years, including when the car wreck happened and for about three years after. My employer put a high priority on customer service, and when I was on the sales floor I was “work me” – charming, helpful, sparkling and knowledgeable. I frequently engaged with customers in long conversations, and I took pride in being a bright spot in the day. It made us money and made me look really good to my bosses, and I really enjoyed it. But that was a snapshot of me, not the whole me. A man asked me to dinner one day after talking to “work me”, and I am not kidding when I say he was disappointed to find that outside of work I was quieter and a little more reserved. He ghosted me after dinner, and I know it was because he thought that the snapshot of me he had gotten of me at the gallery was the whole story, and that’s the story he wanted. Well, no, I’m a human, not a Barbie.

Now that issue seems to be coming up again – and I frequently communicate how I’m feeling to my boyfriend so that he knows what to expect and doesn’t get blindsided – it is hurtful and disappointing, because this is after more than a year, not just a date. I don’t get to walk away from this, and I fight as hard as I can to beat it. But hey, if this isn’t for you, I get it. I don’t want it either.

We aren’t pessimists. We aren’t two people that you can separate into a person you love and a person you don’t even like. We aren’t simple, we aren’t your problem to fix and we don’t need your bullshit and lack of compassion. I am a human with a traumatic brain injury that is overlooked and ignored most of the time, even by the people closest to me, because you can’t see my injury and you choose not to engage in the communication and behaviors that will help me heal. And that’s not on me, that’s on you, because I am doing the best I can, and frankly it’s enough.

HRV – What It Is and Why I Track It

It’s a heart rate hack for PTSD, if you will. And it lets me know what I might be able to expect day to day based on how I experience stress.

There are no affiliate links in this post, and I’m not being paid for a damn thing. I think we’re all ok with that.

The best book I have read to date to help me understand PTSD is The Body Keeps the Score. I like research and data and analysis, so the approach to learning about and understanding PTSD really worked for me. It helped me make sense of what happened to me, what I experience and how to heal, and it gave me hope and comfort. That said, there are no trigger warnings, and it can be hard to listen to at times. It was definitely written by a researcher, the tone of the male reader is a bit flat and clinical, and it does not use caution with the trauma and symptom descriptions. Please take care in deciding if this is a helpful resource for you, and if you are in a place to tolerate it.

One of the tools from the research was monitoring Heart Rate Variability – HRV. From Wikipedia:

Heart rate variability is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. It is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval. Other terms used include: “cycle length variability”, “RR variability”, and “heart period variability”.

HRV is used in medicine and sports/fitness because it can measure your heart health as well as your state of recovery or stress or activation. The greater the variation in the time interval between your heartbeats, the more relaxed or recovered your body is. You can think about it like the more relaxed your body is, the more variability in your heart rate. Your heart can kind of do its thing on its own time, because everything is cool. However, if you are under stress, let’s say you experience PTSD and you are activated or triggered, so you are under a lot of stress (even if it’s not “real”) and on high alert, your brain tells your heart that you need to be tensed up and ready to fight or flee, and your heart rate variability shortens because your body tightens up and gets prepared for whatever your brain thinks you are about to have to do. Your heart pumps now have more purpose and intensity, and it has to show up to work rather than meander around.

Once I learned that information I decided to test it out. If I can strap on a heart rate monitor and be more aware of how I’m doing (because years of numbing have left me still trying to work on self-awareness and I often still don’t realize I’m headed for a panic attack or trigger until it’s too late) I am all for it, so I did some research and settled on a monitor and an app.

I use a Polar H10, which has bluetooth capability and can talk to my phone or laptop. I had a Polar heart rate monitor years ago when I was working out a lot and I really liked it, but it has since died (too much sweat – ha!) and I needed the bluetooth capability, which is a new feature. The H7 also has Bluetooth, but I think when I bought it the H10 was a little cheaper on Amazon? There are a lot of options for heart rate monitors, including new finger sensors that you just slip over your index finger, but I wanted something less expensive and that I could use for workouts as well. The H10 will record a workout that it can send to my phone when I sync it later.

I use the Elite HRV app, which is geared toward fitness and not PTSD but which works fairly well and gives me a readout that I can understand and work with. It’s free to download, and they offer a lot of articles and info that I pay no attention to.

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The app has a Morning Readiness setting, which is what I use to check how I’m doing when I wake up. You can take a reading any time, and after checking throughout the day and in various mental states for the first week, I now just check in the mornings. I put the strap on, open the app, wait for it to read the monitor, then hit the Start button and let it go for 2 minutes while I sit still on the edge of my bed.

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When I started taking readings, I had a rough idea that a score of 59 would be a “good” score, and that I would likely be lower because I’m not in great cardio shape and I have PTSD. That was correct, and I was often reading in the 30s and low 40s. That has changed over the last few months, and a good score for me is in the 50s. If I am above or below that by a lot (10 or so points or more) it indicates that I may not be able to tolerate much stress that day without having problems. This morning I was a 6, which didn’t surprise me given the week I’ve had. 10 is the best, I’ve been a 3 before and that day had a massive meltdown that left me crying in a parking lot for an hour.

It isn’t perfect, but it does help me know where I am and how to take care of myself. If I’m in the green, I can probably proceed as usual with my day and not take any special measures. If I’m in the yellow, I need to pay attention to how I feel and be a bit cautious about putting myself in situations that can cause stress or know that I may be very tired by the end of the day and not be very able to handle personal drama calmly. If I’m in the red, I need to practice a lot of self care and be kind and forgiving toward myself. And this isn’t just because the colors dictate my experience, I’ve been testing this out and found it to be fairly accurate. Some days I can have a reading that seems to be higher than how I feel, so I tend to go with how I feel rather than the score when that happens. Sometimes if I score a 2 I’ll check again just to be sure it was an accurate reading, because a 2 is panic button bad and not a good idea for me to leave the house.

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It’s a process, I’m still learning, but I think it’s helping and I’m watching as I change my practices over time to incorporate more exercise, yoga and meditation – things I hope will contribute to long-term improvement.