It has been a challenging 3 or 4 months to say the least. I overextended myself physically to ensure I could meet a financial responsibility. I encountered some triggers I did realize would set me into a tail spin and I am essentially picking up the pieces.
I took an extra part time position to pay a few outstanding bills related to child expenses. I had hoped and prayed to find a way to meet these obligations and I received an offer to teach an additional class at a local University. When I stopped to sign my contract there was an additional night class and I was asked if I would be interested in that too. It would allow me to cover my responsibilities although I was concerned it was an evening I would have my children. My youngest struggles with some of the emotions related to the change in living situations and while he loves the sitter at this time his father also started to dismiss his feeling which undermined his sense of self-worth. On the day following the nigh class, he was very needy, seeking additional validation and if there was a dinner guest, he was looking for their attention too. In late March, I started working with a counselor and his doctor to keep him balanced; I have great techniques to give him the sense of balance and security he needs to thrive. I have seen incredible growth the past 8 weeks and compared to a year ago he has grown immensely; I am very hopeful this development will continue on the same trajectory and this time next year he will be back on firm footing, possibly sooner. While I have seen marked improvement, it is emotionally exhausting some days for I want my children to be loved, to be secure in the home, to feel free to be themselves and know they are loved unconditionally loved and accepted without judgement and I cannot control the way others treat or interact with my children. I suppose as with any parent struggling when their child is hurt I am responding with pain in my heart.
Shortly after the beginning of the year I began to have odd dreams that disrupted my sleep. I am not sure I have slept a continuous night since Christmastime. Some are parts of memories while others are just odd streams of fearful things. My dreams have always been vivid, have always been a way for me to process an issue and arrive at a solution which is why these were so confusing. The lack of sleep and waking with an elevated level of anxiety and fear coupled with all the additional work from the part time positions and my graduate work made my world begin to unravel. Also exposure to other triggers, prior initial threats also contributed, for instance a friend loudly scolding his dog was one I noticed, at the studio the other day my co-worker slammed down a tool with a string of expletives, both of those created a response in me but there was never a real threat. I held tight, working hard to keep all the pieces together but it was quite the impossible task. So in March I found myself looking for a new therapist.
I believe in the value of mental health professionals add to one’s life at times and have been involved with therapy for over a decade. Since I am highly logical, I struggle to understand things that are emotional, that lack patterns, that are irrational, that are illogical. For years I did not have the luxury to deal openly with my emotions, typically packaging them up and tucking them away quickly waiting for the next impending disaster. In 2002 when I initiated my first attempt at an exit plan I started to see a therapist to ensure I was able to manage what I was dealing with and learn how to explain things to my two children who were still moderately young. We worked on how to break the cycle and looked at codependence. When I knew that I would not be making my move to leave, we worked on how to no longer enable behavior, I had my finances separated and did learn to set boundaries, many of which were always challenged and at times violated. In 2011 in a new town I found a new therapist that worked on the fact I need to make decisions based on what is best for me and my children which started the long hard road to separate. Through a life-threatening health crisis I knew that I was meant for more because I had been blessed with my life. I continued with therapy here and there to maintain my support but with a change in insurance, I needed to find someone new that was in-network.
In April I ended up in a full blown anxiety attack, having not slept for three day because of a combination of illness, stress and some extraneous issues I was on the verge of a breakdown. Having a history of cardiac/pulmonary issues I was rushed from the doctor’s office directly to the hospital. The following few days I was already scheduled for an appointment with a new therapist. It was validating to say that any one of the issues I shared could have cause this response and to have them all at the same time it is amazing I didn’t crumble before I did. We are working on dialectic behavior therapy to learn to manage feelings that become overwhelming as opposed to just tucking them away as in the days of old. We are working on how to manage triggers that are related to the responses, she has labeled it ptsd. I subsequently saw the psychiatrist that emphasized the importance of sleep that is sporadic at best, to not take on any interpersonal projects because I wasted too much of my life in that already and how wonderful my life will be without a dysfunctional unhealthy abusive relationship. He also discussed the process of kindling which I have learned about but tended to overlook. It is the biological side of the concept of conditioning. The neural pathways in the brain are developed and the more exposure to a stimuli the more route the neural response. In my case there are a few but the one I encountered most recently involved the silent withdraw of someone close to me for as long as I can remember that silence was followed be cruelty in some form of attack so those neural networks initiated the response of back on eggshells awaiting the attack. In this case there was no real attack just isolation, a few curt works and then being ignored which creates new confusion.
It takes time to retrain the mind but I need to move beyond this. I have left my PhD program, cut back to a single job and am focusing on finding my center again
It is an inside job, something I am responsible for otherwise it will impact my relationships with my family and friends. I cannot spend the rest of my life reverting those old neural networks. I must find a new path.
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
Henry David Thoreau