I’ve shared before, I think, that my wife and I have a son with issues that cause out of control behavior on a regular basis. His out of control behavior gets more and more uncontrollable as he gets older. He is now 10 years old. Yesterday, was one of those uncontrollable days. He hit me, kicked me in the knees (yes, the newly replaced one, too), dumped laundry detergent all over the place (not good for a mama with wobbly knees), broke off a post in the basement, and ran outside and tore off a section of our picket fence. The emotional and physical stress of that attack caused a fibromyalgia flare, I think. My whole body aches today. My new knee and that leg was particularly painful and swollen today. And I was exhausted beyond belief. I had physical therapy for my knee today, and we mostly did treatment…TENS, ice, massage, range of motion, gentle stretching. I think my PTSD became even more intense today…flashbacks, hypervigilance. Once the kids were in bed, and wifey had gone to bed to watch tv, i sat on the couch, in the dark, with my favorite soothing music, and my electric blanket, and my 2 cats in my lap. I reminded myself that I’m okay. I reminded the child parts of me that this was not the same as my childhood abuse. I enjoyed my solitude and my cats. (I read not too long ago that cats absorb negative energy without harming themselves). I relaxed and felt at peace for awhile. I feel taken care of and soothed. I took care of me. I need to remember how good this felt.
About 2.5 years ago, I had bariatric surgery and over the next 20 months lost about 220 lbs. I believe I had become morbidly obese by eating to attempt to deal with the severe abuse I experienced from the time I was a young child until I was a young adult. I had bariatric surgery when I did because I felt that I had come far enough in therapy that I could deal with my eating disorder and memories and still be successful and happy with losing weight. It went really well for about 26 months. Then in the last couple of months, I’ve gained 20 lbs. I still can’t eat much at one time, but i started eating way more often and substituting junk food for tbe healthy food. I’ve been dealing with some flashbacks that involve taste and i think I’ve been eating to try to cover up the odious taste in my mouth and to try to shut up the part of me that wants me to look at this stuff. A few days ago, i hit the +20 lbs and thought, nope, not doing this, and started tracking all I put in my mouth, increased my protein intake (a bariatric necessity), and said no more junk food. It was all good until tonight. I ate a snack of carrots and a tablespoon of ranch dressing. Then I ate another snack of blackberries. I already hit a great number of protein grams and a decent amount of calories, and I really wanted to leave things where they were. I was running through my list of possible snacks, when it hit me that i should commit to doing something for 10 minutes before deciding to eat. I saw a book about Zentangling on my shelf. I never realky opened it before, but I thought, well, i could try it for 10 minutes. I didn’t get far, but 20 minutes later, i was pleased with what i started. I think that I’ve come up with a new and healthier way of calming the turmoil within me.
It happened 26 years ago. I was 26 years old. It’s over, yet my body insists on remembering. I open my hands to let it go, but instead of blowing off like dandelion fluff my breath sucks it back into my body. It’s a cycle that cannot end.
Of course. I have questions that i think the 26 year old me cannot answer. Why did she go there? Why would it be better? Did she really believe that monsters can change?
If she came from monsters, am i a monster, too? Maybe she was just trying to join the monstrous clan. Maybe she just does an amazing job of covering up her inner monster. Maybe she wears innocence like a mask.
Something is wrong.
I can’t breathe.
Is this a flashback?
This isn’t real.
It’s not happening right now.
I’m 51 and sitting on my couch.
No, I’m 14 and trying ti escspe ftom the hands and the penises.
No, I’m 51 and I am safe.
I don’t feel safe.
But, I am.
I like being in control. Everybody likes being in control. This knee replacement of mine makes me unable to control some parts of my life, and it’s making me cranky. It’s also triggering some childhood feelings left over from the severe abuse i endured.
I keep having to remind myself that I am an adult and I chose this surgery for a good reason. In the end, I will be more in control of my body thanks to a better working knee. It’s really difficult work recovering from this surgery and I have cried in frustration at the pain and length of time it is taking to recover. I’ve also started thinking about how long the journey has been and still is to healing from severe childhood abuse. And I have become a warrior in this emotional healing journey. I will also be a warrior in my physical healing journey.
Many of the coping exercises my therapist has taught me to deal with emotional pain also help with physical pain. Breathing. Just plain deep breathing helps. My attention shifts from the pain to my breathing. Noticing the pain and its’ location and shape and color and the metamorphosis of those things as i breathe is helpful. Focusing on some coloring or reading once the above activities help extends the pain relief.
I am in control. Sometimes it feels like I am not, but I really am in control.
2 weeks ago, I had a total knee replacement. That is my 4th surgery in 2.5 years. I’ve been able to find at least a healing moment in each surgery I’ve had. I really did not know what to expect from this surgery. I’ve been very afraid of becoming less mobile than I already was. Even with 2 knees with very severe osteoarthritis, I’ve become very fit since losing 200 lbs. I go to the gym often, walk at a 13.5 incline on a treadmill for 50 minutes a day, do Aquafit, and walk outdoors for at least 30 minutes everyday.
At a knee replacement class, the nurse teaching it, told us that after surgery and getting to our rooms, we would soon be standing and walking a couple of steps to get to the chair or commode. Commodes are scary to me. One was actually part of the last memory traumatic incident I shared with my therapist. I went to see my therapist after this class and told her that comment and my therapist told me to ask them to just take the thing out of the room. I knew I would be able to do that as I knew I was getting a private room so I felt relaxed and confident.
I don’t remember waking up in the recovery toom, I don’t remember the ride from the recovery room to my room. All I know is that I woke up sometime later with a nurse, my niece, and a good friend in the room. I looked around, saw the bathroom around 15 feet from the bed, figured it w5aa a possible walk, and said that i had to go to the bathroom. My niece and friend helped me to sit up on the edge of the bed (my niece is an RN). Then I saw the nurse had put a walker and a commode with a bedpan in the bucket place by the bed. I immediately argued. Get that thing out of here. I’ll get to the bathroom. The nurse gently told me that she didn’t think I could walk all the eay to the bathroom and that part of the bathroom was too narrow for my walker. Really, an orthopedic unit with bathrooms that cannot accommodate a walker?!?! What sense does that make? She told me they wouldn’t watch. She told me they were used to this. My niece and my friend assured me that it was okay. I yelled that this was gross. They all said no, that everybody pees. I was kind of woozy and could feel my body slowly swaying and my feet started doing the potty dance, so I acquiesced. The nurse taught me how to stand up with the walker and turn my body. I slumped onto the commode and tried to pee. Nothing. The three ladies were still in the room, but they had moved into the entry way and were talking, trying to give me as much privacy as possible. I was facing away from them. Finally, I urinated and felt such relief. My body was relieved and I was relieved to find out there was no noise of pee hitting plastic…thank God there was a bedpan instead of a bucket to pee into. I actually felt like not wiping because I didn’t want people seeing me wipe, but my niece came over and handed my some tissue and looked away. It got more and more comfortable that day and the next to pee on the commode. Thank God, surgery slows the digestive system way down. My niece and friend even emptied the commode bedpan, which i begged them not to do, but they insisted it was no big deal. My abuse has made me so ashamed of my bodily functions. Everybody pees and everybody’s pee basically looks and smells the same… so why the shame and embarrassment? Then one night, i had a male nurse and male med tech, and they let me use the bathroom with the door closed. Life worked out right.
And based on my last post, I was brave.
A few weeks ago, I shared with my therapist one of the last remaining secrets (maybe even the last) of my trauma. I was terrified of the reaction of my therapist as she read my written account of the incident. The incident was frankly gross. I’m starting to understand that the grossness should be attributed to the perpetrators, even though my body created the grossness. And my therapist read the two pages, with only empathetic facial expressions and little noises, and then sat as close to me as she ever has and told me how sorry she was that this had hapoened to ne.
And, I was brave.