Navigating My PTSD : Back on Track to a Healthier Me

Recently I was driving  mindlessly down the road. I was headed to one location, and without realizing it driving to another.

Has that ever happened to you? You mean to drive towards dinner with a friend after work and absentmindedly start driving home before you realize you're going the wrong way?  Or maybe you are headed to the grocery store, lost in thought, before you realizing you got on the wrong street. Or like I often do, get caught up on a phone conversation and completely miss your intended exit.

I try to remind myself often to focus on what I am doing. To be in the present to prevent such dilemmas. But time and time again I find myself in that very position. Headed to one location and without realizing it, driving towards another.

I would say that my recent discovery of having PTSD and dealing with it in some not great ways was much like this. I was headed towards "moving past" Alvaro's accident. But in reality, I was numbing my anxiety, fear, and pain in what was my usual default route - eating away my pain.

It's no secret I have had an unhealthy relationship with food much of my life. However, before Alvaro's accident, I had been living on a Ketogenic diet for months. I had felt like that unhealthy relationship with food had been severed.

Then the accident happened. It was something greater than what I could handle. It stole my focus, and without realizing it - the name of the game was survival. For me, that meant, eat and move on. Soothe, numb, push past, and move forward.

I thought I was headed in one direction, until one day I caught myself hurtling towards another. I found myself 25 Pounds heavier, having "a glass of wine or two" a bit more frequently than I cared for, and wondering what in the world was happening. How did I end up on the wrong path?

But luckily, I was able to do what I do when this happens to me while I am on the road. Sometimes I pull over, and pull up my GPS to find how to get back to my intended route. So that's what I have been doing these past 3 weeks or so.

I stumbled upon a service  provided by my employer. I had access to a therapist that allowed me up to 3 therapy sessions per event per calendar year. So I called the number and set up an appointment. I have since then "met" with my therapist over the phone for those 3 sessions.

The first session was my "here I am" session, where I called upon this "GPS" and tried to locate my position. That's when I learned I had PTSD.

My second session was what I call a breakthrough. Talking to this therapist allowed me to see what was preventing me from moving forward. I was able to see and confront how my "numbing" and "coping" behaviors were only prolonging the healing and self care I desperately needed. I was also able to see how the trauma of my son's accident brought up fears and anxieties that were buried deep.  I thought I had worked some of these fears and anxieties. But the accident just showed me I had some more work to do in these areas. While it was frustrating to realize they were still there, it was also liberating to see them and name them. To acknowledge and validate those thoughts and feelings and lean into them. That was a hard but healing experience.

The third session was me letting my therapist know what changes I had seen and what changes I have planned. Among them, I will start running again.  I know my doctor discouraged running because of my PCOS. But for now, running is a much healthier cathartic option to eating a bag of Pretzel chips covered in a half jar of Nutella and washed down with 1 or 2 glasses of wine. Which was happening nightly.  When I run, I don't like to eat crappy. When I run, I don't really like to drink either. They make my body feel like dead weight. So... I may not run for ever. I may not run more than a few miles a week. But getting outside, channeling my stress into a physical energy that can expel it, is a welcome change. I have running shoes on the way. I have also signed up for a 5K to keep me motivated.

I will also start writing more. I want to write. I need to write. Some times I don't even know what to write about. But I know that writing make me feel refreshed. It makes me come alive in the creative parts of me that likes to express myself with words. And if you know me personally, expressing myself with words is kind of "my thing." (That's code for I talk too much anyway- so I might as well channel it in a productive way.)

I'm trying to find ways to be more social. This one is a tough one. I work full time. Evenings are spent with homework, bedtimes, and trying to squeeze in the limited time I have with my kids in between. Throw in cooking for a child with Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Soy Free Diet, on top of my own Ketogenic diet- it can all be quite a chore. So getting out regularly with a friend or two is difficult. Especially when the time between the "let's get together" conversation and the reality of that happening is about 3 month timeline.  But I am an extrovert. Being social re-energizes me.

I am back on my Ketogenic diet. I just finished Day 7 with no cheats. I haven't made it past Day 6 in months. I know its different this time, because I went out to dinner with the hubby last week and didn't cheat. I didn't even want to cheat. That's a huge deal for me.

Then to top it all off, I sought out a life coach. I know I need accountability. I need someone to help me look outside the box and think about options where all these are possible. I'm really good at explaining away why things can't happen. I am hoping a life coach will help encourage me to look beyond my "can'ts" and find room for my "cans."

I know someone who used to say, "I'm a work in progress, though sometimes I am more work than progress."  I repeat that one often. But I'm relieved to say that, lately anyway, I am more progress. It's still work. It's still hard. But I am finally feeling "unstuck" and gaining traction to be a healthier, whole, healing me.

In fact last Friday on my way to work, I was thinking about Alvaro's scar when he left the hospital. I was remembering what my baby looked like when he laid in a hospital bed, hooked up to tubes, sedated and sleeping. And I cried. I cried all way to work.  I let myself cry. I needed to allow myself the sadness and deal with the flashback. As grateful as I am that by God's grace, He is OK, I still needed to process the feelings of sadness in my heart.

But after my cry session in the car, I dried my tears and went to work.  And you know what? I was OK. I even had a decent day. Go figure!

I still have my days where I am sad. I still have days of flashbacks and tears. I still have days where I am working through my anxiety and fears. I still have days when I play the awful game of "What ifs." What if I had... What if he had... What if... I hate that game. I never win when I play that game.

So instead of playing the what if game, instead of numbing and coping on the couch with carbs, sugar, and self-consternation, I've stopped. I realized I was headed down the wrong road in the wrong direction. I pulled up my GPS. Turned around, and now I'm headed down the intended path.


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