Posts Tagged ‘therapy’

I’m that person.  The person who cancels.

I have the BEST of intentions.  Really.  I want to see you.  I want to hang out.  I want to laugh and spend time and celebrate our wonderfulness.  And so I say YES!  Yes I want to see you and come to your house and stay up to all hours loving life.  YES!

But I’m going to cancel.  Watch me.  It will happen three out of four times and the fourth time is just cause I’m feeling guilty.  24 hours before I’m supposed to come I get paralyzed.  I can’t do it.  I dread coming to your house.  I feel like I might die.  I know I’ll have a good time, I know you’ll be a magnificent host.  I’m sure I’ll even be charming.  But I feel so much better if I don’t come.  Like a test I haven’t studied for being cancelled.  Like a test for a class I’ve never been to being cancelled.  Relief of the holy kind.

It’s not anxiety exactly.  My palms don’t sweat and my heart doesn’t race.  It’s just that when you asked me I really did want to come.  REALLY.  And then when it’s time to be there, I really don’t want to go.  REALLY.  There seems to be no strategy for this except to say no in advance and apologize after.  This would be easier if I’d have the good sense to say no when you ask, but when you ask, I want to, I do.

I’d go somewhere to fix this, but I’d probably cancel.


Posted: 2 November 2009 in observations
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I started seeing an acupuncturist.  I mean really started – just one visit so far.  Apparently, she let loose seven dragons and, considering I didn’t even know I had any dragons, it was very pleasant.

She was a likable lady.  I’ve had mixed results with therapists and doctors of all sorts in the past and it’s always a delight to find someone who is likable from the first instant.  I had hoped she would be as sincere, upbeat and professional as her voice sounded on the telephone and I was delighted to find she was.  Given my typical reaction to white coats (not that she was wearing one) things went very well.

I’m trying acupuncture for a billion reasons, not least of which are the nasty migraines and incessant nightmares.  D and I would both like to get a good nights sleep.   The first session was a long two hours – the first spent exhausting my physical, mental and emotional history and the second pushing needles.  The history was unremarkable, except for the disturbing self-realization that I’m gathering soul scars as I get older.  I deeply enjoyed the second half.

Shedding my pants and socks, I had a lovely high table to lay on with sheets and blankets.  She used seven needles (to release the seven dragons that fight the body’s demons – an initial treatment done once) and put three in my stomach, one in each thigh and one on each foot (or was it ankle?)  She then came back at regular intervals to twist the needles a quarter turn until she’d gone all the way around.  Sounds a little brutal but wasn’t remarkable at all.

The sensations during treatment were remarkable.  As she put each needle in, it felt as though someone was gently pressing down on my back from the inside.  It was a heavy, pleasant feeling.  I’m not afraid of needles, and these are so small, they barely created a sensation other than the weight in my center.  Occasionally, the needles felt cold or radiated tingles, but for the most part, I was unaware that they were there.

During the times she was out of the room, I concentrating on breathing as she suggested.  At first my mind was busy, flying all over the place.  When she came back into the room and I mentioned the commotion, she said I might try being a river bed with the thoughts flowing above.  That worked beautifully and I felt as though I was glued to the table when she came back into the room again.  I couldn’t have moved if she had asked.  I was cemented to the table.  After that I slowly spun upward again until I was ready to be on my way by the time she finished.  I don’t think I’ve been so completely relaxed in a long time.

I’ll be heading back again every week for six weeks to see if the acupuncture has any effect.  Folks have been suggesting I try for years and I’ve always been willing but never motivated to spend the extra time and money.  At this point, no new solutions are coming from the traditional medical community and I’ve always been at home with alternative techniques, so it’s well worth the try.  Here’s to hoping the dragons swallow the nightmares.


Posted: 21 October 2009 in observations

The months have been getting away from me.  Spring flew past in a blur of planting a new garden, learning a new neighborhood and owning a new house.  Then the start of the academic year, thousands of colleges kids coming back to a new start, and a change in the work routine brought on by living in a new place.  Slowly, work got busier as the students discovered the library and D and I spent more time focusing on things running smoothly at work, home life somewhat forgotten.  Right now, in some ways, our focus has turned inward and we’ve let everything else fall by the wayside.  It was a luxury to be able to do that.

My parents arrived last week to stay for a couple of weeks.  Refocusing has been more rough than expected.  We’ve been sucked into the whirlwind of having three extra people in the house.  My grandmother is elderly (very) and my parents are in their sixties.  They all arrived coughing and wheezing and have been slow to recover.  Sick or not, I’m reminded that my mother and father love each other very much.  I hoe D and I have that, I thing we do.  And it’s always amazing to see my grandmother again.  Every time I see her, I feel like it might be the last time.

All this introspection has left me sleepless.  What will happen when my parents die?  And worse, since most folks don’t simultaneously pass, what will life be like for my mother alone?  How will my father manage without her?  How will he cope with the grief?  Will she go crazy in that empty, cold house?  Who will chop the wood when he’s gone?  And that, accompanied by the inward focus of recent weeks, leaves me panicking over D and life without her.  It spirals on, of course, and soon I’m thinking about our dog, how wonderful he is and how we’ll get, at best, nine more years with him and then I’m sitting wide-eyed in the basement while D sleeps.

I know there are chemical reasons for this.  I haven’t been working much since my parents have been in town, I’ve been sleeping more and eating differently and my schedule is thrown off.  I know that this alters the way I think and that this panic and anxiety isn’t me.  I’m not a basement sitter, basement dweller, tears dripping from the corners of my eyes when I pretend to sleep.

I’m lucky to be able to afford to be so self-centered.

No, you can’t.

Posted: 30 August 2009 in Food
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You need vitamins.  Protein.  Even a healthy amount of fat.  Google searchers, you can not live on lettuce.

We don’t know each other, you and I.   But we both know that, while an attractive strategy to become a shard of your former self while still eating every meal, it can’t be good to eat only lettuce.  I was there once.  I wished that I could be as thin, no, thinner!, than the other girls at school.  Jill had the cutest, shortest white shorts that she wore all summer long.  Kim had legs that you could drive a train between.  Jennifer was a tiny thing – not five feet, all eyes and a smile.  A trio of Shelbys with itsy bitsy ribcages and small gently curved arms waving from snug tank tops.  I didn’t dream about magazine models – everyone knows you can’t look like those woman, right? – but I’d have given anything, even heads upon heads of lettuce to look like the thin girls around me.

I’ve spent time on the edge of resolutions.  Nothing anything after 8.  Nothing after noon.  Just breakfast.  Maybe nothing.  I’ll go to the gym for an hour.  Every day.  Twice a day.  I’ll stay two hours.  I can look like them.  I can be them.  Lettuce lookers, “can I survive on only lettuce” and “eat only lettuce”, I’m talking to you.

High school years behind me, I know I was that same girl.  Rounder maybe, curvier.  Cuter.  But I lived on ice cream sandwiches for breakfast, an apple for lunch and two hour swim practices each afternoon. How I managed it, I have no idea.  Regardless of my miserable eating habits (which I am now, happily, over) I never resigned myself to a vegetable that is basically water.  So please, don’t come here looking for tips on living on lettuce alone.  No one is selling that promise here.

Folks, this could be considered graphic.

Sometimes, I’m a pretty bad wife. Occasionally, I’ll insist the chicken is still frozen so that we have to have pizza instead. And, every so often, I’ll stick my head out from a  book and say, “Why is the cat meowing?” without even checking to see if he has food. I know, dastardly. I don’t even make up for it in other ways. You see, I don’t like to touch the wet laundry unless there’s lotion nearby and I don’t like to fold things that are inside out. I don’t like to unpack things and I don’t like to talk about key racks, picture frames, closet organizers or decor. But, at least I do these thing every so often. Throwing her a bone, so to speak. Like I said, I’m a pretty bad wife.

I don’t think I’d had a single panic attack until I rode a collapsing deck down a couple of stories. After that, creaking wood sent me into heart-fluttering shakes. But otherwise? Totally okay. Totally okay in all areas except, apparently, disco rice. I would link that, but I’m not up for whatever images might be behind that Google search. No, seriously.

I think I’ve been storing up panic. Pre-deck crunch, I went to Africa a reletively undamaged person. In fact, I’d say my interests ran to the macabre and that I had a stronger stomach for gore than most. And then I spent one very hot afternoon in an African morgue. Culturally, it was fascinating, though that word implies a lightheartedness I don’t intend.

A crowd of women in colorful fabric crouched around a small set of steps in the morgue courtyard. The courtyard itself was pretty, trees and benches dotted a walled cement area framed on one side by tall concrete and the other by a low L-shaped building. The women wailed. Isn’t that what you’re meant to do when mourning? It’s not really crying anymore, it’s a ripping sort of hollow sob that rises and falls with your breath and your memories. I watched them cluster and mourn while I was taking a break from watching a body.

This was on the heels of several mundane things. The stereo from the embassy truck was stolen after delivering the coffin. My boss yelled at me on the cell phone for not being able to be two places at once. I watched dried leaves drift on the pavement. It also followed some firsts for me.  Speaking with the tender-voiced manager of the morgue about why we would need to use our U.S. coffin. Explaining why someone needed to stay with the body. Learning about the draining mechanism in the steel lining of a coffin.

Even now, I’m unable to give eloquence to that afternoon. There was blood in swirls on the floor. And, there were bodies. More than I expected. Stacked and carried in ways I hadn’t expected. A smell that never faded, even after hours. And of course, there were bugs. This is not CSI’s cool, dimly lit morgue. This is a bright, summery place with no air conditioning and wide open doors and windows. Honestly, it was easier to stare at the tiled walls than at the waiting body. Or worse, the wide hallway with a slide-show of atrocity. At least, it was easier until I realized that I wasn’t dizzy so much as the tile was moving. And that the small, white bugs responsible for the movement were everywhere.

You know, that’s all I can say today about that day. And it’s the first time I think I’ve put it into writing. Shared with someone who wasn’t my partner or a therapist. I’m not sure how I developed the idea that the larvae exclusively populated one-hour crime shows, read-in-a-day detective thrillers and third world countries. How privileged to assume wealth is an inoculation.

One weekend before we moved in, we left a trash bag with discarded sandwich wrappings on the floor of our new kitchen. When we came back a few days later, I picked up the nearly empty bag to toss with the rest of the painting detrius. I’m sure I don’t need to explain what was under the bag. I can’t anyway.  The 20 minutes of sobbing and shaking that followed was enough to turn D. pale. That was a real panic attack. It put my issues with cracking wood to shame. She cleaned up the mess and soaked the kitchen in chemicals. I don’t know how long it took or how awful it was. I’m not even sure where I went in my mind as it happened.

Last night, we discovered our outdoor trashcan had picked up unwanted visitors. First a few, then a lot. I think we’re both happy that I wasn’t the one who discovered it. Regardless, I also wasn’t the one who dealt with it. If, by dealing, you mean dousing the interior with dichotomous earth and returning, green, to the house with this statement “Let’s throw out the whole can.” I can’t help but wonder if she’d be less squicked if I hadn’t turned the first instance into weeping, startling panic. But they are gross, and I don’t blame her for wanting to spare the trash collectors.

Summary?  She is amazing and I am damaged.  I’m the lucky one.

My sister called today to announce, through tears, that she was coming to spend the weekend.  I’m devoted to my sister, but she’s 3000 miles and a pricey plane ticket away from this weekend.  As it stands though, she’s coming to drown her sorrows in a cold snap and fall leaves. 

When I told D., the first thing she said was, “She’s not moving in with us again, is she?”  And thank goodness, she’s not.  But she is grappling with a best friend who hates her boyfriend-almost-fiance and the third year of law school.  If I were her, I’d run away too. 

It runs in the family.  I also made a 3000 mile bolt one year.  The Foreign Service, wonderful though it may be, isn’t known for its tranparent, fast hiring process.  I’d been told, over and over, that I’d need to be in DC  in late September.  The Thursday before class started, I still sat, still in sunny Arizona, still unpacked, still without a plnae ticket, still in shorts, still without knowing where I needed to be on Monday.  When I called (no, no not in panic, really!), they told me that if things “worked out,” I’d need to be there in a suit and heels, shiny and happy.  I still did not own a suit.  So I bought a ticket instead of a suit, and flew to Chicago to stay with my mother’s best friend.  She bought me a piece of pie, and let me be a runaway for a weekend.  I’ve never forgotten how kind she was not to ask what I was running from.

Bonus points if you, too, run further than the nearest Baskin Robbins if you want to escape…

Sand Trays

Posted: 10 August 2006 in therapy

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

It’s the reason I’m seeing Ann. Oh yes, apparently, I’m damaged. I could go into it, but you’d be bored and I want you to stay, not run screaming from the scene. Someday I’ll tell you about the exaggerated startle response (no, it’s not fun to slam the door and see what I’ll do!) or maybe about the trouble concentrating (what was I doing again?) but you’re probably safe from a recounting of the things I think about when I’m alone. Frankly, I wish I were safe from the things I think about when I’m alone. But today, you’ve won the therapy lottery. It’s a jackpot. A windfall. You lucky duck. I’m going to tell you about sand trays.

Not what I did (you wouldn’t like that) but about sand trays in general. Have you ever done a sand tray? I haven’t…or rather, hadn’t. Ann has a waist high table, flat and slightly tilted toward you, and about as big as a coffee table. It’s filled with soft, pale sand. It isn’t so shallow or narrow that you feel restricted to what you can do. And you can do anything. Draw, place small figurines (since you asked, I placed a pirate and a palm tree but I’m not telling you what else), anything at all. It seems innocent and easy. But this is still therapy, people.

It was amazing that I knew what I was doing and had an entire inner dialogue about it (oh sure, put that one down, then you’ll have to explain it to Ann and she’ll know you’re a freak show, so put it back and hey! wait a second! don’t put that in the sand, now you’ve done it, oh but here’s another one, oh sure…and so on) but I was unable to build a pretty little scene that would make Ann happy. It was depressing, not being stronger than my own mind.

We scoffed at the sand trays upon reading about them in Ann’s bio but it was surprisingly soothing. Well, not the depressing part, but the rest. I thought it would be all rocks and little rakes and concentric circles. Instead there were plastic snakes and monsters, little metal tanks and pretty plastic things of all kinds. Part of me felt silly, playing in the sand, but mostly, I enjoyed putting down just about whatever I wanted. Too bad it was, as I mentioned, depressing. I can only imagine what I’d do with a sand tray in my own house. A girl can dream…