About 20 days ago I wrote my last original piece on this blog until today. I was suffering pretty bad symptoms, which got worse until the 12th of February, when I was able to use the weekend to try to reset.
As the nightmares continued each night I slowly felt myself draining of energy. Usually this starts increasing my day symptoms like flashbacks, nervousness, anxiety, and avoidance coping. By Thursday evening I was scared to fall asleep, and avoided doing so until pretty late, I think 2 am I finally passed out from exhaustion while reading. I did my meditation at night before bed as usual, but I found it very difficult to complete the purification rituals and my mind was more distracted than usual. I had 4.5 hours of sleep that night before work.
Friday all day I was watching the clock and counting down the minutes until I could head home, I had to stay a little late at work in the end, but I was so grateful to have completed the week without calling in sick. It’s a huge accomplishment for me because I usually do need to take at least a day when my cycle is thrown off from bad PTSD symptoms. On Friday at work I had to take more bathroom breaks than usual due to my startle response starting flashbacks. I just would go to the private bathroom that has no stalls, only one toilet in a room, and just calmed myself down and waited until it passed. Then I would wash my face, check my makeup and hair, and head back to my desk. I did my best to play non-triggering soft music, like the Kingdom of Heaven soundtrack, and made sure every time I started to shake, feel anxious, or got jumpy to excuse myself to the bathroom. I kept having images of RJ standing over me…
Friday evening I was in full “let’s heal this bad cycle” mode. I wanted to make sure I kept track of what I did for my blog, so I made notes!
First thing first, I changed into comfortable clothing and slippers. I made some tea next, and lit some incense. Smell is a component of me feeling safe, so is music, combining relaxing aromatherapy with soft music helps ground me in the present. I hopped onto the bed and Tigrou my cat jumped up to talk about his day and give me snuggles, then we played with toys: this helped a lot! I really strongly believe that animals help with healing and therapy. After this I noticed the time and decided I didn’t want to cook so I ordered in, I can’t remember what… I wanted to try to get something done so I felt useful, so I forced myself to pick up the clothing laying around and fold and put away what I had left in the basket all week. Then I watched Netflix with Tigs. I went to bed at a good hour, but had a nightmare and stayed up afterwards.
Pirate’s dog was not well, so he called me to tell me he was spending the weekend with family. Totally understandable, especially looking back I am happy I let him do his thing because these were his pupper’s last days alive before he was put down, and also because it gave me the opportunity to try to heal and break the cycle on my own. I was pretty exhausted from the night before, but I decided I didn’t want to nap too long so that I could still reset the sleep schedule.
I focused on self-care this day mainly reading, taking a bath, playing my flute, and forcing myself to go out for a walk. It was a short walk, and I did avoid areas I was scared of — but I took note of that fact, and thought about why I was avoidant, and why I shouldn’t be avoidant once I got home. What would happen if I actually bumped into RJ at that Starbucks? He couldn’t hurt me. I would leave, and if he tried to come talk I would get help. Thinking rationally about the avoidance helped reduce symptoms for the rest of the day. I felt like I had, in my mind, confronted my emotions and symptoms with rational “back talk”. I took a nap in the afternoon, without any nightmares, I was happy about this and decided to make a hot chocolate to reward my brain for having survived the nap without being scared. I spent the rest of the day reading.
That night before bed I told myself I was safe, and that I was okay. I reminded myself of how safe my space is by smudging it with white sage before bed. Every time a scared thought about a possible nightmare came forward I would address it with kindness, “you’re okay, it’s okay, I am safe, don’t worry”. I did my prayers and meditation and went to bed.
On Sunday I received a call from Pirate saying his dog was on his last legs. I promised to come see him, even though I wanted to avoid and hide inside. This is such an important thing. I knew that if I didn’t go I would regret it and Pirate would be hurt. I also knew if I took the subway it would make the symptoms that I’ve finally been getting under control flare up again. I opted to spend money on a cab, each way, and Pirate helped cover the cost in the end — knowing what I was experiencing. I said prayers over Pirate’s pup, smudged him, burned incense, made some suggestions to Pirate (like playing sounds of nature to help relax him). There were tears, and many hugs, and pats. Pirate’s dog had to be put down, and so this was my last time with him. Helping care for my partner during this difficult time despite me not feeling 100% really helped me reorient myself.
I knew I had the Monday off of work, so I decided to make the most of it and try approaching the areas I was avoiding. Having resolved to do this once home I made my plan for the approach task, and then I spent time with Tigrou before bed. Planning is an important step when you resolve to complete an approach task. Approach tasks help us survivors confront anxieties and prove they are wrong. They help make us stronger. Having a plan for the task helps us go over what we want to approach, what to do if something goes wrong, and the details of getting home.
Sunday night I had no nightmares waking me up. I also had no flashbacks or shakes. I did avoid the transit, but I think that was a smart choice considering what I felt I could handle. By Sunday my bad cycle was done. I made sure to complete the approach task Monday: I successfully made it to the dreaded Starbucks under his old sifu’s dojo, I sat there and had a coffee, watching my anxiety and waiting for it to lower. Once it was down, I congratulated myself in my own mind for being so strong, and then I headed home.
The nightmares were gone and I knew the rest of my week would be calm…. or so I thought. I got sick on the Monday through to the Friday of that week, this made everything come back, but more on that later. Today’s post is focusing on the success I had in breaking the bad cycle! 🙂
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