Friday, March 01, 2013

Catching My Breath for a Minute

I finally found a video I like on improving your running form. I've gotten a lot of questions on barefoot running, and my opinion at the moment is that barefoot running probably forces people into better running form, but the actual barefoot state is not required. Some of us run the "right" way naturally, and running slowly is more likely to reinforce good habits, but take a look at this to check your technique.

In other news. The past few days have been ok. Whereas last week was AWFUL. So awful that I texted my therapist. This was not a big deal to him or probably to most people but the barrier of not wanting to be That Patient is huge to me. That Patient being the one who is so dependent and needy and unwilling to take steps to help themselves that you cringe when they contact you. I realize that sending one measly text in, what, a couple of months is about as close to being That Patient as sending a fan letter is to being John Hinckley Jr., but in my bad moments my ability to zoom out is harder to accomplish than it is on Google maps using 3G, and the bad moments were many.

The therapist had given me homework (at my request): "Try to think about The Events for 60 seconds only, just once." Me, ever the overachiever, thought I'd push a little harder and - bam! I was thinking about it nonstop. Pretty much every moment of every day that my mind was not fiercely engaged on another topic, I was thinking about this. Waking up, going to sleep, running, everything. Monday I texted my therapist. Tuesday I saw him, after which he offered extra sessions and wondered if he should speak directly with my psychiatrist and whether I had any anxiolytics available to me. THAT PATIENT! was shrieking in my head. "I'd rather you didn't, though I'm not sure why," I said. "Because you don't want people talking about sensitive subjects and making plans about you behind your back," he said. "Oh. Well, yes, that," I allowed. I did, however, make sure to tell people (including my husband) about it. So I've got people watching my back. Which reminds me of the time I got hammered at a wedding and a group of us went out afterward and I insisted on going skinny dipping in a lake in the dark. My boyfriend at the time (a nice one) and one of our friends, who were not drunk, did not think this was a good idea, but they humored me and swam out in a protective circle around me. This is a lot less fun, though. (Though that turned into the worst hangover ever ... one of those Lesson Learned episodes.)

Oddly enough, Wednesday was much better. (Hmmm. Could it be - the therapy?) (And I texted my therapist that I was doing well, thereby to my mind bringing my tab back to zero in regards to my text of last week.)

I felt better even before getting through The Big Meeting Wednesday about the future of my projects where I had to talk with the CEO, the Dean, the Chief, the creepy guy, etc. etc. This meeting was such a big deal that I just sort of gave up. E.g., I thought about wearing a suit or some such, but realized that I wanted to dress the way I feel comfortable. Hello bright yellow Target dress:

Oh and, the outcome of the meeting - at least in terms of plans for the next year - was ... pretty good. !! This will not hurt my state of mind one bit.

Aside: One of the Big Wigs, Botoxed to a fine sheen, entered the meeting laughing merrily and said "This is so funny! We're renovating our vacation house and had to gut two of the bathrooms - we're talking 1980s bathrooms! - and they mixed up the colors. The funny part is that after they fixed it they left all the wrong-color cabinets and things at the house and said 'Sell them on ebay or something'! What on earth am I going to do with them?" (There were a few strained smiles. "Habitat for Humanity?" someone suggested. Fortunately most of the people I work for are not entitled idiots. But you can see why I feel nervous about my shabby but honest educational projects involving trainees working with the underserved.)

And, in line with his perceptiveness plus tenacity, HB finally insisted on me telling him what was wrong. "Mom. You have been distracted, sad, in a bad mood, and you keep saying you're fine or that it has nothing to do with me, but will you please tell me WHAT IS GOING ON?"

He knows that sad things happened to me as a kid - mainly my father dying when I was five, and having little money - that aren't going to happen to him. So I sat down and explained that sometimes grownups who had something bad or sad happen to them when they were kids for some reason get sad all over again for a while when they're grown up, and that was happening to me, but it would go away, and I was talking to a counselor about it. "Like when you lie on a couch and everything?" "Well, no couches, just chairs." "Ok then!" he said. "Thanks for letting me know. That's very helpful." (I don't know what I would have told him had he not had some knowledge of my crap childhood. That would have been a much harder discussion.)

In the midst of last week I couldn't see through to how this would ever get better. Just what the hell is going on around here? Someone needs to shape this place up. Jeez. My ignorance as to all of this is epic. I've been doing some reading - knowledge, power etc. - and have been startled by a lot of things. I did not know, for instance, that my episodes of overwhelming anxiety/fear/self-loathing/etc. are flashbacks. I thought a flashback was always visual like a movie, not just a feeling. Nor did I know what dissociation is (though that's not a simple topic, apparently). In general, I kind of thought no one else felt this way. And I couldn't understand how part of me can be doing so great and part ... so very not. Very black and white thinking, which is odd for me.

I'm both encouraged and frightened to think about the things I might learn next. The chaos state feels like wading in a river and slipping on a rock and suddenly being swept into a fierce current and thinking you'll never find your footing again and you're going under and you'll be over the waterfall in a moment. Then the current slows and one foot finds a little purchase and then the other does and you can stop and wipe the water from your eyes and catch your breath. For a minute.


Blue said...

Welcome to the river, girl. It's quite a ride...but like I said before, eventually you get to the end and find that you've been washed clean of a lot of detritus that you didn't even realize had built up. It's pretty freeing. Hold on during the rapids. You'll make it through...even if you capsize and swallow some water. Those friends who circled your skinny dipping adventure will also resuscitate you when you almost drown. You'll make it! I know you will. It's also so strange to see you write the very thoughts/feelings I've had in the past as I slid down that very same bank and embarked on my own whitewaterrapidsaga. I was so surprised any time I had a new realization about myself or the experiences I'd had. It's like "How did I not know this before?!" And almost like I probably should have figured it out on my own in the first place, so I felt kind of like an idiot. But that was just my pride and ego. Hang in there. Keep your life vest handy (whether it's meds, running, professional help or just the love of people around you). And don't rush it. Odd as it sounds, you can actually enjoy the journey. Some interesting scenery along the way and you'll have helpful stories to share in the future with others who haven't yet done the river run.

Not on Fire said...

Wow! I really like what Blue said. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Here's to more and more moments of catching your breath! (And when there are enough of them they'll start running together into whole days where your feet feel on sold ground. Really, they will.)
Best, Brit.

Anonymous said...

Loved your explanation to your son. So well done!!
You will get through this and when you do, it will be well worth it!!

ozma said...

You are very fascinating. I gather that these things happened to you as a child or much younger person. You must be incredible at coping. I was always such a basket case my whole life. I knew there was something wrong with me always. I did not know it was mental illness or PTSD or whatnot. Only that I was severely damaged in some way. But it sounds like could have these bad things happen and then be so functional you wouldn't have to confront them earlier in life--which is amazing to me. (Not that I know what happened. So maybe I was wrong and it was not in your childhood.)

Oh, HB. How insightful of him. Did he really say "that's very helpful." What an extraordinary conversation to have with such a young child. I struggle with how to explain my horrible childhood to my daughter because there are some things that need explaining and I can't talk about them and she asks questions I can't answer. She does know that I had a bad childhood but more like that--so I say "I had a bad childhood." But this is sort of a placeholder for whatever I'm going to tell her. She already guesses things because she knows my parents and she's observant.

But I don't go into details because all the adults were always going into details with me about personal things when I was a kid and I want to be different from them. She is envious in some ways because when I tell her stories they are about things I did on my own because I had so little parental supervision--and they are adventures and she is jealous about some of these things I got to do. Some I don't tell her about because they are just *too* crazy.

I would love to learn what you know about dissociation because this has happened to me and I've often wondered about it.

I love the yellow dress.

I guess I am surprised people in your field use botox! I would be afraid people would not take me seriously if I used botox and I assume that people in your field would have the same concerns.

Becky said...

The dress looks awesome and you can do this! :-)

Something helpful my therapist told me re: overly needy/annoying patient concerns. They are trained to teach people about limits, boundaries, and various other self preservation techniques. This means a therapist is also able to implement these techniques in their practice. If they didn't feel comfortable giving out their number to text, letting the session go a little long, etc, they wouldn't do it. If you are abusing the access, they are well trained to deal with the problem and will let you know. Also important to remember, a- they became therapists because they *wanted* to, not for the big bucks! b- You are hardly their first patient, they know what works for them and what doesn't, respect their personal expertise. :-)

Second, you might find it helpful to do chocolate meditations when you feel yourself slipping into an anxiety attack- especially at work when you can't exactly call a time out. :-) It's a good way to bring yourself back into the present without being really obvious. It doesn't take the place of medication and therapy but can get you through in a pinch. Keep small pieces of chocolate like m and ms or peppermint tic tacs, etc, readily available. When you feel yourself slipping away, put a piece in your mouth. Take a deep breath. Pay attention to the feel of the item melting in your mouth, the flavor of the candy, and the way it smells. Take a few more deep breaths. The whole process takes about 60 seconds (give or take) and can bring you back from where you were pretty unobtrusively and effectively.

Unknown said...

Thank you for all that you are sharing. And ditto to Blue: that was beautifully expressed.
On the subject of running form - watched the video, tried out just one change today (the flicking your feet higher - better lever thing) and OMGWTFWOW. I felt kind of like a trotting pony, and like my legs were running away from me, but then realized that I was actually running instead of shuffling :)
Ran 2km further than usual. So thank you!

Anonymous said...

I know this post wasn't about running per se, but you did include the link to the running form video, which I watched, and I'm commenting on that. Good tips and very clear demonstrations. Much of what was recommended seems similar to Danny Dreyer's ChiRunning technique. I bought his book about a year ago, after a knee injury kept me from running for a couple of months (aaaaargh!). I've completely changed my running style at this point, using the ChiRunning method --- lean from the ankles, faster cadence (close to the 180 steps per minute suggested in the video) and most especially a focus on lifting the knees rather than pushing off with the feet (letting the hip flexors do more of the work). My running is much easier and lighter than it's ever been (and I've been running for more than thirty-five years and have read about and tried a lot of tips for better running). I'm up to four miles right now with absolutely no knee pain. As the guy in the video said, I now feel like I'm going with my body when I run, instead of fighting it.


L. said...

Thanks for the running video! I have been wondering a lot about form recently so it's great to have some tips I can trust. Although I am a little chagrined to find out that yes I do have to work on lifting my thighs higher, as that is a really weak point for me and I had convinced myself that I didn't really have to worry about it.

I gave up on running outside throughout the winter. It was just making me too miserable and I'd rather work out some in a gym than not at all. But now that it's lighter out and slowly getting warmer I am really looking forward to running outside again.

I didn't know that about flashbacks either, and I'm curious about dissociation too. Aside from all that, you can do this, you are doing it! And, from the outside, I hope it's not too glib to say that of course this is hard, frighteningly so. If it wasn't, you would have done it already. But you are chipping away at it and making change despite the scariness and unfamiliarity, and that is awesome.

I love your conversation with HB--impressive how both of you handled it.

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