Discover more from Meme Therapy
So much has improved in the last couple weeks that it’s been too hard to write about. Like my eighth attempt at writing this post. Gonna pick a few topics. Could probably write a full five posts just on what’s changed in the last fortnight, but I won’t subject any of us to that.
Things were looking bleak some weeks ago. Struggled and tweaked my treatment/management of symptoms and kept coming up short. Had to reach a place of acceptance that maybe this was my life now. Feeling awful all the time and never sleeping enough and nothing helping the bad feelings go away.
Then last week marked six months at the new job, and my body dramatically relaxed. As such, a big portion of my brain capacity opened up, and that led to a lot of improvements in other areas. Back in the gym. Sleep quality and duration increasing. Still not drinking much, maybe one drink a week. Seeing people and engaging in hobbies. Resting. Can’t believe it’s actually happening.
Still reducing my nicotine. Topped out at 20 mg/mL in the summer, now down to 5. Fairly linear experience so far. Most smoking cessation programs aim to reduce intake by slowing release with stuff like nicotine gum and patches, and compared to cigarettes, vaping gives fine grained control over things like concentration, juice, heat, cloud. Pretty neat.
Watched Dopesick recently, a really good mini-series on the opioid epidemic. A person might feel compelled to quit all addictive substances after watching such a program, but willpower can only go so far.
I’d like to pull out one clip from the show. In order to increase sales and lie to the public, Purdue Pharma was looking for a doctor who could confidently state that opioid addiction wasn’t real in order to sell more of their extremely addictive product. He said that all addiction was rather something called “pseudo addiction.”
Take out the word “pseudo,” add in emotional pain, and I think it’s mostly correct. When there’s untreated pain, a person has to find a treatment that will reliably soothe their suffering, despite the other negative side effects. Layperson understanding of addiction. I’m still working on treating my untreated pain through the healthier means in addition to the less ideal ones.
Switching ADHD meds. Started on Dexedrine earlier this year, and recently started to use it off-schedule; not within the recommended levels. I developed a dependency that required increased usage for the same effect, which is what happens when you tango with amphetamines. Suppose you could also call it the early stages of addiction. Clearly I needed something stronger, and it’s recommended to stop Dex at regular intervals anyway to see if the underlying behavioural symptoms still exist in their original maladaptive form.
Spoke with my doctor, so currently in the midst of tapering off that in order to trial Vyvanse, which lasts longer in a day (half-life of 14 hours versus like 3 for Dex) and has a mild side-effect profile. This decision came in the middle of tapering off nicotine and reducing my steroid inhaler, so now I’m caught in a fun drug withdrawal vortex. This is the other side of the coin of my Drug Era. Stuff still works better than without drugs, but it gets real uncomfortable when it doesn’t.
Leaning into the CPTSD self-diagnosis.
Whereas PTSD usually involves a single traumatizing event, people with CPTSD experienced multiple traumatizing events without being able to escape.
Feeling bummed out yet? Hang onto your butts.
CPTSD is a rather unfortunate initialism that’s hard to say and read, but that’s all that the Public Relations team could come up with for this disorder. Too many letters that don’t roll off the English-speaker’s tongue. Calling it “Shit’s Fucked” probably wouldn’t fly at the psychology conferences.
The Body Keeps the Score (TBKTS)
Finished TBKTS in early September. Felt like “wow, finally a book that gets me.”
It talked about the limitations of drug treatment for complex trauma, so I’ve finally decided to not try ketamine therapy, at least for a long while. Friend reminded me that it isn’t even talk therapy but more like a supervised drug trip where you’re allowed to talk about whatever but you don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to. That’s all well and good. Talk therapy has limited efficacy for people with childhood trauma.
Book pointed me in the direction of neurotherapy. Found a good psychologist who practises such dark arts, and they were only the second person I reached out to, so the dating experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be this time. They seem capable and competent to treat my childhood trauma, but will need to take it slow. Too much going on right now.
They specialize in neurotherapy, where I’ll have a helmet with electrodes attached to my head to read my brain waves. Also, working my way up to having electrodes zap different parts of my brain to stimulate growth in damaged or underdeveloped areas. Reading from my brain seems like no problem at all, but making changes to it feels scary. Not altogether different from drugs penetrating the blood-brain barrier, except for the hundreds of millions of pills prescribed every year compared to the paltry sample sizes of neurotherapy studies, but a topic for another time.
Complex PTSD by Pete Walker
“Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” by Pete Walker, or “CPeteySD” for short. Recommended by a member of my chosen family a while back, and wow, finally a book that gets me.
Was asked recently what my favourite genre of book was. My favourite books say “Do this and not that because we did a ton of research.” Amazingly, CPeteySD feels so much more powerful than TBKTS in that regard. Barely three, four chapters in, and it feels like a miracle drug in paperback form. Not only has the author worked through this illness themselves, but they’ve been guiding patients through the same treatment for 30 years. The book is also graciously written in plain language, which I feel is the mark of a deep understanding of the material.
Sometimes learning about mental illnesses, or psychoeducation in therapy-speak, is enough assistance through the shitstorm. Cracking open the book has unleashed a ton of introspection, growth, epiphanies. Reading slowly because I have to stop a lot to highlight sentences or paragraphs. Can’t deal with all the truth bombs on my own, so have to text heavy passages to certain supportive individuals and freak out in that way. Like this one:
When we are chronically stressed out [stuck in sympathetic nervous system activation], detrimental somatic changes become ingrained in our bodies. Here are some of the most common examples of body-harming reactions to Cptsd stress [I’ve bolded the ones that apply to me]:
Shallow and Incomplete Breathing
Armoring, i.e., Chronic muscle tightness
Wear and tear from rushing and armoring
Inability to be fully present, relaxed and grounded in our bodies
Sleep problems from being over-activated
Digestive disorders from a tightened digestive tract
Physiological damage from excessive self-medication with alcohol, food or drugs
What do you think of my self-diagnosis? Now I get why I have such problems with chronic muscle tightness and with sleep from constant adrenalization. Goddammit.
Book’s probably the primary reason I haven’t been able to write so much because the heightened pace of emotional processing took me by surprise. Used to read to fall asleep, but not with this one. Alas, this dark cavern in my brain now has a map and a bright spotlight. Now all the other problems make sense.
I once heard renowned traumatologist, John Briere, quip that if Cptsd were ever given its due, the DSM [The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] used by all mental health professionals would shrink from its dictionary like size to the size of a thin pamphlet. In other words, the role of traumatized childhoods in most adult psychological disorders is enormous.
CPTSD seems like a large umbrella that covers many sub-disorders, so a person can be misdiagnosed with a few things while missing the bigger picture. ADHD falls under this umbrella. 👀 Elsewhere, Petey states:
Reducing Cptsd to “panic disorder” is like calling food allergies chronically itchy eyes.
I dropped the ADHD reading because it didn’t feel like it explained enough about me. Not much trail left to hike, so found a new mountain peak to climb. What have I gotten myself into?
Common theme in CPeteySD is the self-critic. The traumatized child internalizes a critical voice as a coping mechanism from constant rejection, so they naturally a perfectionist and anxious attitude to prevent future rejections from anyone, no matter how big or small. No wonder why I have such terrible self-esteem and why I care so much about what strangers think of me.
Final point on this is emotional flashbacks. When you read about plain old PTSD, it is heartbreaking to hear how people have flashbacks that feel like they’re physically transported back the traumatizing event in the past. I got that after the car accident. Flashbacks with CPTSD are mostly emotional in nature without the visual element. When CPTSD comes from your parents, well, let’s just say that almost anything can trigger an emotional flashback. Men in positions of authority. Home. Loneliness. Food. Smells. Shit’s Fucked.
Again, far too much to say on this topic. Gotta keep this train rolling.
My energy be low. Like, really low. Likely withdrawal symptoms from the amphetamines. Randomly losing all energy to move is frustrating and unpredictable as hell. Getting better in recent days, but still sucks ass. Hoping the improved sleep and consistent gym attendance will add energy back into my day. Mindfulness about emotional triggers will keep me from going too deep into shame spirals.
Oh, and by the way, I’m bisexual.
Realized it about five years ago. Never felt like I struggled to reconcile my sexual orientation with my identity, so didn’t feel the need to come out. There’s a small part of me that wants to be known for who I really am, though I’m doing this because I feel more compelled to share to help the people struggling out there. If I hadn’t ended contact with my parents nine years ago, I suspect they would have disowned me for this anyway.
I’m not about to make any big changes as a result of this discovery and announcement. Still happily married and still plan on continuing on that path.
The modern commentary on bisexuality is that it falls under pansexuality, and though bisexuality is an older term based on older theory, it can still feel like a more appropriate label for people. On average, it feels like my sexual attraction is 95% hetero and 5% homo, but there are moments or days when the mix is very different. Whatever it ends up being, it’s all still valid and considered bi and pan.
The asexual community also informs of us of the difference between sexual and romantic orientations. You can be asexual yet homoromantic, that is, not being driven to have sex with anyone yet wanting to have a romantic relationship with a person of the same gender. You can be asexual and aromantic and still have sex and be in romantic relationships too. Do you ever eat when you’re not hungry? I feel like I’m bisexual and hetereoromantic. I feel attraction to both men and women, and I’ve only ever wanted to be in romantic relationships with women and not men.
Bisexuality also has an interesting position in the queer community. Despite being the third letter of the initialism, gay people can be hostile to bi folk for not picking a side or for being confused. There’s a lot of erasure and invalidation of this orientation for some reason.
Trigger warning: mention of CSA.
I do have to make a correction for the few folks I did share it with in the past. I used to say that I wondered if it had to do with being a victim of childhood sexual assault by a man, but that’s not how this works. The correction is that people are just born this way. I attribute the incorrect statement to how a person can understand things mentally when discussing topics at a distance whereas the logic changes when it’s up close and personal. Alas, my apologies for saying a wrong and harmful thing.
Grew up in a Christian household, so let’s address that side of it. The Bible never says that it’s wrong to be sexually oriented in a different way. It’s not a sin to not be straight, any more than it being holier to be straight. It’s easy to poke holes in the “logic” of Christians who discriminate against LGBTQIA2S+ folks. If anyone out there really wants to piss off a Christian, quote the Bible at them. Tell them to read passages like Matthew 5:28, Matthew 7:3-5, John 8:7, John 12:47, and Romans 3:23. Any Christian protesting and making signs to oppress queer folk are simply hypocritical and xenophobic. Read somewhere that someone studied these types and found that many of them were in fact queer themselves but had so much self-hatred that they would lash out externally. “The [person] doth protest too much, methinks.” If such bigots don’t want to change, then the only real remedy I can see is to distance yourself from such people, at the individual and societal levels.
In any case, there you have it. I’m bi.
Wrap It Up
Phew, finally made it to the end.
Doing better than ever. Changing up my drugs. Reading CPeteySD. Therapeutic Moments. Fatigue.