I really hate change. Even positive change. My brain views it as a threat to safety, and change for me can look like an explosive emotional reaction to something that may have before barely registered as a mild annoyance or even somewhat interesting and exciting.
One of the many, many reasons I practice yoga. It helps.
I did not have to deal with a lot of transitions in my own recovery for a long time, because things were not changing for me for a long time. I wasn’t able to do a lot of work or work on changing my thought patterns and responses, so the transitions were fewer and farther between.
That is no longer the case. Things are changing quickly with my recovery (in a good way!) the work is starting to pay off, and things are changing more quickly with work (the work and work on myself is really starting to pay off!) I gave a public presentation this morning that was really well received, I’m about to kick off a great project, I have a project stalled in bureaucracy, I’m about to finish a project with which a client is very pleased, and I’m not pushing myself on hours this week because I don’t have to and I need a lighter work week after a tough May schedule.
This all includes a lot of transitions, and will continue to include a lot of transitions. Those things I don’t respond well to. Those things that come with change, which my brain hates.
So I breathe.
If I hold my breath in the transitions, if I wait until (insert future point or accomplishment over which I have little to no control) happens to breathe, I won’t make it. Breathing is calming, breathing is necessary, breathing is good.
Yes, breathing is good.
Sometimes you have to make space for it, sometimes you have to be reminded to do it, sometimes you have to shove the crushing weight off of your chest, but you have to breathe, and you have to breathe in the transitions. Breathe with them. Breathe into them.
I do a lot of measuring and data collection and analysis at work, and with my work. I dig into tax reports, financials, budgets, attendance, points of origin, square footage, density and a whole lot of things that look like lots and lots of math. It is, and I can understand that MATH looks hard and intimidating, but I look at it differently. I want to know everything I can know to really understand what I’m working on, and sometimes that involves a lot of numbers, so I’ve learned how to manage and analyze the numbers. I didn’t start out good at math, I got good at it when I needed to and had a purpose for it.
I do a lot of measuring and data collection and analysis of my work too, because I know that I need to know how things are working…or else. If I’m not on top of how I’m spending my time, how long projects are taking, how much things costs and how many miles I’m driving, I can quickly get to a place that I’m losing money and have to close. If I’m not charging my clients enough, I’m not helping them, I’m hurting me and my ability to pay for things like mental health care, insurance and food.
So, I track things and assess them and I make the time to know how things are going at work, because my work is important to me and I want to be able to keep doing it. Not that it was always this way. It took a while for me to learn what I need to know to assess how well the company is performing and what I need to adjust to not just barely keep the doors open, but to really succeed.
It’s that way for us personally too, and it’s not any easier. It still takes discipline, and for many might mean doing things that you don’t like or don’t feel “good at”. But you can! And it may make a big difference, especially if you are also having to manage mental health challenges. If it’s overwhelming or seems impossible or zero fun, here’s how I got started when managing myself seemed like something I would never be able to do again:
Start making and using a budget so you know how much you make and spend each month. That was a hard habit for me to get into, but once I saw where my money was really going I was inspired to make some changes. I was spending more than I thought on things that weren’t really benefitting me, and at the time I was eating out a lot without paying attention to how much it was costing me. For me, that was money I needed to be putting toward other things, and even if grocery shopping and cooking weren’t that easy for me to start doing more often, I could certainly save some money with different eating out choices. If you’re making a lot of impulse purchases, accounting for them might make you think twice!
Start saving a little each month. I wish I had known this earlier – really known this – but saving even $5 a month can really add up. I pay my own taxes on my income rather than having someone else withhold income taxes from my paycheck, and if I were not setting that money back automatically each week, I would be really unprepared when my income tax payment dates come around! I also have to budget for expensive annual software license costs, and the practice of saving – even a little bit when you get started, is a habit that can really pay off later. It’s also one that can be really hard to do if planning ahead is a challenge (as I know well!), which is why those small steps to practice are important.
Be really kind to yourself if this is hard. Boundaries (managing your money proactively is a boundaried activity), planning, discipline and resisting impulse might be very challenging, and certainly have been for me post-PTSD. I was debt-free, organized, energetic and focused before, and I have had to re-learn a lot as I’ve worked slowly through coming to terms with my new brain and new reality. I have not done it all at once, it has taken a lot of small steps and a lot of backward steps – which is why being kind to yourself is so important!
Rest is a new concept for me, and one I am working on more often these days. I’ve found that not only does my body tell me when I need to rest, it will knock me down if I don’t. I fell sound asleep at 8:30 last night and didn’t wake up until 9 this morning. Although I was awake (sort of) about three times before that starting at 5:30am, I could not actually get awake. Every time I would try I would fall right back asleep until I had rested enough. That doesn’t happen to me often, but it does happen when I have hit the end of my tolerance for stress. And I was there.
I knew that because I had been having auditory hallucinations.
I “hear things” when I am either exhausted (genuinely exhausted, not just tired) or overly stressed, and when I am both I experience Exploding Head Syndrome, which is a more intense form of auditory hallucination. The noises I hear vary, but are usually some form of phone notification sound or door knocking. I know they’re not real because they are not as clear as if the sound were real, and there are either no other phones around or no one has come to the door. With the exploding head noises they are usually loud bangs or loud knocks, and always when I’m asleep. It’s a really disruptive experience.
My body let me know I needed to rest, and when I didn’t it didn’t give me a choice. Thankfully that was ok today, and it’s a good reminder to pay attention!
I’m saying this kindly, but I sucked. Not my week sucked, although by extension that is also true, but I sucked.
Work is still going well, I’ve pushed out some big documents this week and clients are happy and I’m still working on the stuff I haven’t been able to get to for the last several months.
I think the best illustration is yoga. I have barely been able to hold a downward dog this week, and I don’t think I’ve even attempted a plank. I’ve done the video sessions (thanks, internet, for making it possible for me to practice at home!), but only halfway, if that. I just don’t have the strength or energy to do more, and I was risking landing on my face. My best posture was laying on the floor – I excelled at that!
I’ve spent the better part of today reading articles and listening to podcasts (while being judgy about the voices and speech mannerisms because I want to hear the content but the voices are annoying) because I don’t have the capacity to do much else, and I’m hoping I get ambitious enough to do some house cleaning here shortly.
But I might not. Cause I kinda suck this week. And I’m just gonna roll with it and lay on the floor while the peppy, sincere human in the yoga video does some floor acrobatics.
I absolutely cannot do this pose – either part of it – but I do have some leggings kind of like that! #Snazzygoals
I’ve once again gotten to the point that there isn’t a lot for me to gain in therapy. Things are still hard, I still have a lot of triggers and terror while driving, but the triggers are generally fewer and the terror is less prevalent and I’ve learned to manage all of it to the point that I’m no longer avoiding getting in the car. I’m managing, and managing well. The new reality is that driving is hard, I will have symptoms to manage for the foreseeable future and I spend a lot of time and energy on trying to handle what goes on in my head.
But maybe less as time goes on and I have more practice with it.
And since there isn’t a lot left for me to do in therapy for this round, after a couple of months I’m back out again and grateful that it was an option for me.