Achieving Tranquility

March is a long month, yet in-between transitions from ethereal highs and tired lows, equilibrium can be found with some focus and work. Living the day with evenness brings joyful satisfaction without drama or chaos; something my life has been filled with since early childhood traumas. Without it, life may feel boring. Boring is good. Boring means tranquil, and that is pure pleasure.

 

A Robin!

Falling asleep listening to the public TV station do a special on sleep seemed fitting. It was noted that those who deal with anxiety in the daytime show abnormal brain patterns during the night that coincide with their issues of insomnia. It is so for me, and something that needs to be accepted over and over again.

It is no wonder sleep eluded me after the news reports that it isn’t if, but when the coronavirus hits the US. Add to that a so called leader of the country who doesn’t lead, but instead says all it well because it makes him look good. 

A pandemic is surely coming. Added to other worries my psyche goes on guard no matter how quiet a life I live. The only solution would be to dig myself into a cave and not ever interact with a human soul. There’s also the mixture of cabin fever crashing with spring fever causing a flux of chemicals chaotically popping in my brain. 

It seems that every week or so sleeplessness hits even when adhering to helpful routines. It isn’t my fault though feels like it must be. It just happens. The show reveals how trauma causes chronic long term problems with sleep. The tendency to blame myself needs to soften because it is out of my control.

Staying in the present, using the breath coming into every moment, and being in the now, these are things achievable. And the gentle voice- it’s OK, you’re OK, is needed especially during those difficult nights.

The snow swirls as dawn breaks while the cat curls up next to me by the fire. On Monday’s walk snowdrops blossomed in the wild gardens by the creek, and my son saw a robin. Periods of peaceful days are savored that much more after moving through the tough ones. 

 

PTSD and Hypervigilance

Usually the dark mornings are too cold to open the door to the screen porch attached to the area by the coal stove and rocking chairs. The cat is let out to hunt– hunt as in watch, prowl, and run but never catching. The door is then shut quickly to keep out the frigid air, and the screens contain the cat until she’s ready to return inside.

But this morning a need for fresh air makes me keep the sliding ajar to hear the birds that have returned from warmer climates. How their morning tweeting has been missed during the dark tomb-like winter. The morning chorus inspires, the orchestra full with the deep bass drumming of geese honking by. Now on the look-out for the first robin, walks are inviting.

Interspersed with periods of deep sleep, reminders of the past creep up with an agonizing punch keeping sleep at bay. A tiny change in routine such as all three grand-children staying for the evening catapults my ‘fight or flight’ mode into the vortex of hypervigilance. After they leave sleep would not come until three hours past the usual time along with twice the usual dose of a sleep aid. 

The next day is quiet, languishing on the couch keeping my body, mind, and emotions from further assault. Tears of anguish find their way down my cheeks. Simply having the grandchildren does this?

Worries over my son and the mistakes I made during his growing up years made my mind spin and my body go on alert. It was out of my control. Once the alert system is activated only medication brings it down.

The need for self-forgiveness continues, along with being the best possible mother, grand-mother, wife and friend. It is all I have power over. I do not have power over the past, but how to prevent it from haunting me so? 

 

The Abyss

Settling in for a cup of freshly brewed coffee, my internal world relaxes. Upon waking my body is revved on guard as if living in a hut with vicious animals that want to devour me. My teeth are still clenched from the nightly demons who visit, and every sinew is taught.

But the heat from the fire begins its magic. Muscles unfurl, like the silly cat next to me who also melts like a wax blob, one half twisted out, the other half curled over the other, looking like a braided pretzel stick.

The onslaught for volumes of food after a week or more of scrupulously counting calories tells a story begun at age 8- I am unlovable, incapable. Love came at the end of a spoon, a form of escape fed by denial.

The sweetness of life drips like honey when staying in my body mastering emotions by being there when they ebb and flow. Because they do flow out eventually. Running into an escape, whether shopping, alcohol, drugs, or my rabbit hole- food, means leaving my body and its cues of physical hunger and satiation.

The craving for emotional satiation is only temporarily satisfied by external things. What can be counted on is emotional maturity fortified with emotional discipline. STAY. Sit, stay, and be there. I’m OK.

 

TRIGGER

It is not the first time Samuel has set off alarm bells so deep within me they are unconscious, but electrify in the night after waking to use the bathroom. No way was sleep returning as the haunts of the pasts, the attacking siblings, have re-visited. His actions replicated theirs in a way my psyche perceives a threat.

After ten years of our bedroom carpet losing its color turning streaked, and oh so ugly, we had a new one put down. Away at my women’s monthly gathering, he took off both doors to saw off some so they would close. The new carpet is that plush! A few specks of dust on the carpet after he re-placed the doors caused him to bring out the vacuum.

It angered me but it was let it go after he said there was dust from the doors. But internally it still bothered me as if something new had been ruined, just like my past when so much was torn away. My body was not mine, nor was anything precious such as my horse or pony. Two of the four attacking siblings stole my animals trying to ride them. One was bucked off, while my mother laughed telling me about it.

The rage from those thefts was palpable. The rage from taking my body had to be repressed due to my mother’s insistence that we were all a happy family. Rage could only be expressed about other things that might seem mundane.

My belief is that rage has fizzled out. Not true. Lying there at 2 AM after walking on carpet that for two days had delighted us with the soft cloud of texture, now felt flat, crushed, and hard. Samuel had ruined it, I wanted to hurt him, to wake him, to make him suffer as I suffered at 2 AM.

Vacuuming, like the dishes, cooking, and laundry are my chores except the rare times he vacuums, once vacuuming the cord on my new vacuum only learning about it when finding it wrapped with tape the next time I used it.

Why does he always have to get in on things where he doesn’t belong? Why does he have to ruin things? Why can’t he know me after all these years, and know this bothers me? While carpet shopping we learned that vacuuming is what bleaches out carpet if done too low, something I’ve done because it seemed to pick up more.

But with the new carpet, when, and it would be a long time until I did vacuum, I would put the lever on high to vacuum just the tops. Some carpet is dyed through, others are only sprayed with color on the top which allows for color loss from vacuuming and high traffic use over time. Unfortunately this new one is the later, but it is the prettiest green and plushiest for the price so we bought it.

But vacuuming? That is the culprit not only for sucking up color, but we were told it crushes the fibers so that only professional cleaning can bring back their springiness. And Samuel runs the vacuum after only two days. Why does he take away everything precious, just like they did? It is no longer new, and no longer brings pleasure, only hurt. 

Laying there in the middle of the night I wanted to hurt him. To push him out bed making his face hit the floor right into the carpet he had ruined. To turn on the lights and have a hissy fit over the carpet in the middle of the night. What insanity.

Staying there trying hard to sleep by feeding my mind with more sane truths; he did not do this purposely to hurt me. He does so many nice things. He cut the doors down to fit, blah, blah, blah… did not work. Something internal had ignited that words could not soothe or control. I got up, took a pill, turned on the TV, drank decaf, and stewed trying to chase away bitter resentments and a smoldering, ghostly rage from the past.

The next morning in tears while talking to Cory on the phone, Samuel was next to me.  I told the ludicrous story of the carpet. Even as silly as it sounded, it also correlated to siblings and all that was taken. My body, my horse, my pony, anything precious.

Talking to Samuel wouldn’t help. He would just argue, shake his head at my lunacy, and defend himself, never learning even after all these years how much his thoughtless actions wound me. (is vacuuming thoughtless or caring?)

And there it is, a wound that has not yet healed. Will it ever?

 

DEMONS

Finally, after many complaints about pain in various areas of my mouth, and after many suggestions of needing a mouth guard by the dentist, one was purchased last year. And the mysterious aches went away. If only I knew. If only I’d paid heed to the suggestions.

But a mouth guard? Samuel needed one but he ground his teeth in the night so loudly I could hear it. But I didn’t grind my teeth. It wasn’t until the hygienist used the word clench did I begin to think a mouth guard might be appropriate for me.

Clench my jaw? That might be a possibility as I must face many demons in my sleep, slaying them one by one, over and over again.

“Can I breathe with one in? Will I choke?” I ask her fearfully.

 The dentist replied, “I have never heard of that. There are many on the market that are inexpensive. Try one. If you have trouble we can fit you with one here.”

So I did, warming it in the microwave as the directions outlined, then fitting it to the top teeth. It fits perfectly, stays in, no choking or other irritant, and voila, no more mysterious pains.

Little had I known. I wish I had known years ago before the first gum surgery when the unskilled dentist took the tissue down severely because he wasn’t a specialist, but wanted my business and the money.

Then the next, a specialist.

During the procedure she said, “Oops. That’s OK,” knifing through to the upper sinus cavity having to put mesh there as a protector between the two places.

Oops?

Then yet another surgery where the new periodontist was up on modern procedures using cadaver tissue to regenerate new growth. Unfortunately that was also at the same time the area’s tissue bank faced charges of collecting uncertified tissue putting patients at great risk. Was mine OK? Turns out it was OK. 

It was the next procedure that made me decide no matter how many teeth fall out, no more surgeries. My terror was so great that on that way there I kept popping Xanax. She had to give oxygen during the surgery, later telling my husband I should have a breathing apparatus for snoring.

No, I don’t need one of those. I need you to stop digging around in my gums with your knife. I could have killed myself with those little white pills used out of terror for going through a procedure where she did not answer questions, and shouldn’t have been doing it anyway. In her haste she proceeded, and I let her.

All those terrifying experiences could have been avoided with a mouth guard long ago. Of course monsters appear when I sleep. What happened as a child is being reenacted, this time  I am victor. My strength is all powerful.

My greatest soul need has been to smash their filthy hands off me. To be the power. To smash their faces away that were so close I couldn’t breathe or ever feel comfortable with closeness  again. In my dreams I fearlessly conquer.  What I couldn’t do then, I do now. 

 

Younger Brother

One week later, a call to my brother as promised, but this time earlier in the day. Surprisingly he pulled over while driving in order to talk to me. In the past calls became unheard of, chatting non-existent, time on the phone or on-line? Nix. 

Exposing myself to his pain is so difficult. Falling asleep took two hours longer even though our conversation was way before bedtime. Coincidence? Not wanting a sleep aid, nor wanting to get up to watch the TV, my inner voice commanded gently, stay.

And sleep did come after my rat brain took a twirl into the past, merging with the present; thoughts painful, memories sad. His son, my nephew, put himself into the psych hospital for a 72 hour commitment.

That is the most he will do for himself. My sister-in-law flew out to release him sooner, give him another credit card because he lost the one they gave him, and will fly back after he is walking the streets where he lives again… until the next episode. The streets are his home, all news to me after my brother shared it just last week .

My brother did not talk about his daughter either, not knowing about her serious drug problem until the day she died 7 years ago. Too late to do anything, to listen at least, to do something to have possibly saved her not that I could have. She was thirty years old, he is 35.

My head whirls into the past when Danny was so spaced out near the end when his last attempt at suicide succeeded. If the person afflicted will take no help is there hope?

Medication, counseling, and a case manager to oversee his mental state week to week once stabilized is crucial. All these necessary interventions won’t occur if he won’t cooperate.

And he won’t, or just enough to keep himself barely going. They bought him a new phone after losing one, and track what he’s doing by the credit card. What else can they do?

Sleep took two hours to come . Checking in with my younger brother is a choice I cannot abandon even if painful and worrisome.