Feeling Good Feeling Strong
If you had told me ten years ago I would be going to Weight Watchers meetings I probably would have punched you in the face. In fact, after punching you in the face I would have laughed at the absurdity of your statement.
I wasn't a believer in the whole "metabolism slows down after 30" thing. I'd always eaten junk food like it was going out of style. I even worked at Burger King for like, two years in high school. Mainly because I had a friend who worked there and she told me it would be fun. And I believed her.
(Are we noticing a certain naivete in my younger self? I think so.)
Sadly, everything I refused to believe has kind of come true. I'm not saying I'm wildly overweight and am on track to need a crane to get me out of my recliner. I'm just saying, I'm not digging my 34-year old body and think I could be doing a better job steering this ship.
I suspect a part of the anxiety I've been wrestling with has been about the belief that I am not strong in body or in mind. Because every time I had to do something out of my comfort zone over the last ten years I'd either have to drug the shit out of myself with Xanax and/or Clonipin (which did not always work, eventually my tolerance for that shit was on par with that of an angry rhino) or have a massive panic attack. Not an "uh-oh, I'm feeling funny and I'm a wuss who can't handle it" attack. No indeed. The best way I can explain my experience of panic attack is: my vision will tunnel so I can't measure depth of field well. My hands, face, and chest tighten and heat to redness and sweating.
My thoughts go from: "I'm okay, I'm safe, everything is okay, just breathe."
To: "I want to die. I wish I would get hit by a car so I could have an acceptable reason for this bullshit. I hate myself. I hate life. I ruin everything and I'm no fun and nobody should ever love me because I am a piece of shit and there must be something wrong with these people because they brought me to their (Fill in the blank - game, concert, batchelorette party, etc.)
Mixed with explosive diarrhea and nausea and usually followed by a migraine.
So no, it's not "all in my head."
I talk about my anxiety a lot because it has changed the shape of my life. It is not for sympathy. It is to help you understand that if you're the one having the panic attacks in your world there is nothing wrong with you. You are not defective. You deserve good things. You deserve to live the highs and lows of your life. You can do it, if I could beat it, believe me you can too.
It's also so the friends and family members of the individual with the attacks can understand how awful it is. How debilitating and humiliating and painful. So even though you're pissed that your plans got messed with, no matter how bad you feel, the person actually having the attack hates themselves and feels worse about themselves more than you could ever know. Because the one having the attack not only gets all the effects I mentioned above, but they also feel guilty and ashamed for losing their shit in front of you and letting you down.
Want to help someone in that situation? Tell them it's okay. You just want them to be okay. Hopefully, prior to your event, you listened to them when they said what they were and were not comfortable with. Most of us with anxiety know our triggers and have developed ways to avoid them. Personally, for me it was always of great comfort to know that I could get to an event just before it actually started so I wouldn't have a lot of down time where I wasn't being distracted. It also meant I needed to drive myself places so I could go home if things got ugly at any point.
Therefore, the awful day in Erin History when my husband innocently brought me to the Patriots/Miami game (we're Dolphins fans, well, he is, I just go with it) was one of the darkest we've had. Because despite my telling him numerous times I did not feel good about tailgating, he wanted me there with him because he loves the Dolphins and he loves me. He is a man who wants me to share his life with him and part of that life involves actually going places and doing things. He believed I could do it.
I, on the other hand and despite my best efforts hyper focused on being trapped in a parking lot with NO ability to get out at all in case of emergency (stampede? fire? terrorists?). I knew myself back then and I knew sitting around trying to eat of all ridiculous things would be hard for me. And big surprise! It was a complete disaster that ended with his friends having to drive him home (about 2 hours out of their way might I add) as I went to the hotel next door and got the concierge to have their limo driver bring me to the Home Depot parking lot our truck was in. Because I wouldn't let him leave the game entirely. It's once a year his team comes to town and I insisted he stay.
Afterwards he was furious with me and I can only assume his friends thought I was absolutely insane/high maintenance/selfish/whatever else. Disaster isn't a strong enough word. However, please understand, my husband has been through this with me for four years now. He struggled to believe the limitations his otherwise laid back, easy going wife had. It doesn't make sense that someone can't do simple, fun things. It defies logic and my husband is a very logical fellow.
It took me another two years to find my panic and anxiety cure. And if you've been paying attention you know that was due in one part to a brilliant psychiatrist and the rest was Rhonda Britten/Kripalu wellness and yoga center in western MA. It took me about fourteen years to get to a place where panic does not control me and I feel safe in my own head.
The physical body stuff I'm hoping and praying will be easier. Certainly less traumatic that's for sure. In about six months, I'll be 35. It's my goal to be lean and mean and ready to rumble! With like, muscles, and stuff. Today at weigh-in I was down 2.4 pounds. Go me!
It didn't happen by accident, but neither do most things. Call me Point Tracking Mama when you see me. And I will fight the urge to punch you in the face. I promise.
Yesterday I talked about how great EMDR is. I explained how it works by essentially allowing you to change your old negative pathways of thinking and develop new, positive ones. This allows those old, negative pathways to heal over and eventually disappear. I tried to describe the feeling and experience of EMDR but in the interest of time I decided to make this a 2-part essay.
Going to an EMDR therapist you should probably be prepared to see and experience things differently than when you go to your regular therapist. While you are doing EMDR it is probably best to put your regular therapy on hold so you can focus solely on your work in this model. A lot of the time, you will only see your EMDR therapist for however many sessions it takes for you to reach your goals. This depends completely on the therapist you choose. Some only do the intense EMDR work and that is all they do. Others mix traditional therapy with EMDR and you may end up seeing them for longer. My main point here is, EMDR is intense, it's draining, it's real, actual work. Going to your traditional therapist while trying to do EMDR may be too much to handle and if it is, that's totally okay. If your therapist cannot or will not work with this, find out why first and foremost. Your therapist knows you, they may have very good, clinical reasons for their opinion. Hear them out and try to figure out what will work best for your specific treatment. If they try to talk you out of EMDR but you still feel strongly about it, then I would say you may either want to wait or visit an EMDR specialist in your area and see what they say. They will likely be completely happy to talk to your therapist and attempt to work out a treatment plan for you together with your therapist.
I should also explain that EMDR is different than a traditional therapy session. Your therapist will ask you questions and will most likely ask you to close your eyes and really visualize your answers. This is helpful in getting you to relax and feel open and ready. Your EMDR therapist will ask you to be aware of your thoughts and your body - how does it feel? Do you feel any particular sensation anywhere in the body and what do you feel or hear as a message when you pay attention to it? Your therapist will ask you to allow your mind to go wherever it needs to go, you may see memories in your minds eye of events you had totally forgotten about. You may experience sensations in your body - warmth, tingling, aching, tightening - pay attention to these sensations and make note of them and what they mean to you.
Your EMDR therapist also uses tools to help speed up your brains processing and building new pathways. These tools can be one or all of the following things - an approximately two foot long bar with small colored lights inside held up on a tripod or set on a desk or table - you will be asked to follow the lights with your eyes. Another possibility will be what I have experienced with both of my EMDR therapists. Small rounded paddles, approximately two inches around held in your hands that vibrate intermittently while you are searching through old memories. Or, your therapist may just ask you to follow his finger with your eyes and stand in front of you moving it back and forth while you focus on the movement with your eyes.
Remember - EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Re-processing. Studies have shown that moving your eyes or focusing your attention left-right, right-left, etc, directly effects the building of new neuro-pathways and brings symptom relief for PTSD, anxiety, and depression sufferers.
Through EMDR I learned the following pathway was alive and kicking in my brain. I began focusing on the sensation of anxiety in my chest, my therapist had me hold the paddles and close my eyes. I let my brain bounce around, go wherever it needed to, and after a minute or so I saw my teenage self sitting on the porch of my boyfriend's house when I was about 17. I recognized this as a memory of my smoking pot and completely freaking out. I was not the pot-head type but the boyfriend was so I had gone for it. Only to find out, it made me want to die (I believe this may have been a panic attack brought on by the paranoia I got from smoking pot. Awesome.)
My brain then bounced to several other long forgotten incidents of my throwing up or panicking or freaking out. Eventually my brain bounced its way to a memory I had completely forgotten. It explained why I hated Boston and didn't want to go there ever. Apparently, in college I had gone to Boston with some friends and at some point, the T (metro) broke down. Underground. And it was really dark and really freaky for about 15-20 minutes. Surrounded by strangers, clinging to my friends and amazingly, not freaking out during the period of darkness, probably because I knew instinctively it wouldn't do any good.
Basically, my brain had built a pathway with all sorts of delightful stops along the way, that I had largely forgotten. And somehow along the line they became tangled and the messages I received from these long forgotten experiences were "You ruin everything. You kill the fun. You suck. You can't do anything right so you should just stay home. Boston hates you, it's out to get you. You ruin everything. You ruin everything. It is all your fault."
Um...well if that's not a Panic Attack Cocktail I don't know what is! And there were loads of these pathways in my brain created by many other incidents and traumas that had stuck with me. Never processed or resolved, just...basically squatted in my brain rent free for years. Years. Many of them. Seeing these memories allowed me to take the power out of them.
The best part of EMDR is using a memory of a time when things were amazing or wonderful. This is the heart of the experience - you will use this memory to flood your brain with delightful, delicious endorphins and dopamine! Yum! When you end your session you will likely end it on this memory. You will use this memory like a mouthwash to rinse the icky off the session and replace it with minty freshness.
|Find your truth and own it baby!|
One awkward thing about treatment is, what do you do when you've outgrown your therapist? I mean, it's great, they probably helped you a lot. So how do you end treatment with them?
Technically, the therapist is supposed to see when things are at an organic end point but that doesn't always happen. I saw my former therapist for almost three years. She was exactly what I needed when I needed it but when my life finally began to change and stop sucking so much all the time, I actually felt like she didn't trust me. I felt that she was overly critical and even territorial when it came down to it. I didn't feel that she understood the extent of the suckage that was my life. I was legit living in the ghetto for just under two years. And my original land lord had died and left us with her horrible partner in charge.
The partner (Slum Lord Biotch or SLB for short) was truly the most horrible human being I have ever met. And let's face it, I attract assholes like moths to a flame. So I wasn't surprised that she was awful, I was just surprised she was THAT awful.
When we got the opportunity to move out of there 2 months before the lease was up we were all over it. We did everything by the book but...being a psycho SLB, she continued to hound us and hound us for more money. The last time I ever saw her I had been cleaning the apartment top to bottom for about 4 hours. And it was HOT. I so happened to go outside to put something in my car when she appeared out of nowhere. She claimed to have paid the handyman to remove the giant pile of trash we'd left on the sidewalk. I told her the town was going to pick it up for free as I had called them and spoken to a very nice lady about it. But she'd already paid the guy so I figured I would suck it up and pay the $150 just to keep the peace. (Apparently peace pricey!)
Except she followed me upstairs. And stood really close to me. And then demanded more money. And I completely lost my shit.
Lost. It. (I suspect now, looking back, I was angry at two other women who'd had some form of power over me and I never got to tell them off so this was kind of my moment.)
Anyway, I think I may have blacked out. Because I could hear myself screaming at her and calling her every name in the book. The C-bomb, which I try to only use on special occasions...stole the show. It was as if I developed Tourettes Syndrome and that word was all I could get out. Loudly. Very loudly. Until I finally came back to my body a bit and had the sense to scream "GET OUT! Get out of my house you evil crazy bitch!"
Then called my husband and cried "I just called Lori the C-word like, 87 times and I'm totally freaking out!"
My therapist's response to our moving out of the ghetto was that it was wrong of me to break a lease and that renting from my landlord was wrong because he was the step-dad of a former client. Her exact words were, in fact, "I will fire you as a client if you do that. For as long as you live in that house you will be going completely backwards."
I went back one time after that. It was okay, I did tell her I didn't appreciate what she'd said. Or her weird denial of the fact that we have the same job. (Seriously! I felt so judged by her!)
I didn't call her and she never called me. I consider that not just poor business, but poor social skills. After three years of treatment, I feel a client falling off the face of the earth would merit some form of communication.
The real deal breaker was later that spring, I had a horrifying experience trying to wean off Effexor (My med of choice for years. Too bad it was the wrong one!) I basically went into withdrawal and could not function.
I have no idea why, but I thought I had an appointment. I called her and stated, "I am extremely ill, in withdrawal from Effexor, the doctor gave me cancer meds to stop the nausea and I'm so scared but I really hope I didn't mess up your schedule because I hate missing appointments and I am so sorry and baaahh..."
Her response? "No, we didn't have an appointment."
And she never called me again.
It may be crazy of me, but if one of my clients dragged themselves out of a withdrawal stupor to call me and apologize for missing an appointment that didn't exist, I would have called them again in like, a week, to see if they were alive.
Anyway, if you want to stop meeting with a therapist, it's okay. Really. We are surprisingly resilient and don't take that personally. It's okay to tell your therapist face-face that you're ready to move on. In my case, you could even text or email. No hard feelings. Come back and see me sometime if you'd like a tune-up.
|That about sums it up. It's not always about you!
(But it is usually about me.)