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Last Time on Meme Therapy
I spoke about the heartache I'd been experiencing as a result of physically processing unresolved childhood pain. A friend suggested that it could also be a side effect of the medications I'm on, and turns out chest pain is one of the side effects of Dexedrine. Was I simply experiencing a physical symptom and misinterpreting it as an emotional experience?
The question got into my head as a former victim of gaslighting. (Need a fun idea for movie night? Watch the 1944 movie that originated the term, "Gaslight!") Is this just how amphetamines affect the heart? Did I imagine all that emotional pain? Big, if true. Embarrassing too.
I finished reading "What My Bones Know" by Stephanie Foo, and she experienced something similar, referring to it as "The Dread." You sometimes hear how the human body and brain are either really wise or really dumb. Foo pointed out that when you're a little dehydrated, you feel thirsty, but if you are really dehydrated, you feel exhausted. But if you only notice the exhaustion, you might not think to drink a bunch of water. And if it made you irritated at people or situations, would those feelings be completely invalid? If you randomly decided to rehydrate, would that resolve all that tension and discord?
I'm calling this stage of healing and recovery my “Drug Era." The heartache didn't really change whether I took my Dex or after it had left my system. Was it withdrawal from nicotine? No noticeable change before or after vaping. Antihistamines can make you drowsy as well, so was my low energy from killing histamines or depression? Antidepressants were added to the mix after raw-dogging talk therapy for the first several years because I reached a plateau in the progress on my therapeutic goals. My mood had never been higher, but since my body was disagreeing with the side effects, I quit those and still haven't found a replacement. Need to touch base with medical professional on this chest pain.
My family doctor was recently in training for psychedelic-assisted therapy, so I asked him if he was taking patients. Apparently it wasn't that kind of training, so he suggested I contact one of the clinics in Calgary about their services. I spoke with one that required an assessment with their physicians and a referral from mine. Comes out to some $7,000 for six sessions. Seems like a pretty steep premium from the standard $220 with a traditional psychologist, so...that price gives a person pause. Am I really in that rough of shape?
The music I've been listening to has also changed to softer and sadder music rather than my usual hype and bassy playlists. Until further notice, I've relegated the physical symptoms to simply being one component of the equation, and I'm going to lean into the sad music. It's apparently the season of deleting old songs from my playlists and fixating on ear worms. If you've got some sad songs, send them my way!
After I published my previous post, my car broke down the next day. The post before that, I lost my job the following day. What is this a sign for? I wonder what other exciting challenges Life has in store for me after I share this one!
Car started giving off multiple warnings, the power steering cut in and out, the dashboard turned off, and the engine sputtered as I muscled the steering wheel into a parking spot. Some people said that the multiple warnings meant alternator problems; the part that recharges the battery. Dealership said it'd be $600. My previous interaction with a dealership service involved fear mongering to repair a "serious safety" issue that cost $700 and took hours longer than quoted, whereas my original mechanic later said it wasn’t worth fixing at the time.
Following that post, I practised positive thinking. Had car troubles last year before the annual road trip. At least this time, it happened two weeks before I needed to hit the road, so I had time to either get it fixed or book a rental. I'm also in a stronger position financially this year. The car managed to sputter into the parking lot at work. Lots to be grateful for.
But wait, there's more! Turns out one of my coworkers is a mechanic. He could find me a replacement for a good price and said the repair wouldn't take long since the alternator sat higher up on the engine. Was reminded I had it replaced last year, so thankfully it was covered under warranty by the garage and parts supplier, and they repaired it within a couple days. Not as much need to practise positive thinking since there was a positive outcome, but at least I was able to catch the thoughts before they ran away with my feelings.
My nervous system is well-acquainted with dealing with crisis and disaster, so the car wasn't exactly a huge problem in the grand scheme. Stephanie wrote about how her Complex PTSD primed her to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. You're mentally unwell when your brain is looking for a massive threat when there are none, but it's suddenly the most healthy when calamity does strike and nobody else knows how to deal. The tough part for me has always been the energy crash and reaching calm again. I'm trying my best.
Trying New Things
My old coping strategies aren't cutting it for this new challenge/opportunity, so I’m making some changes. What's going to help? I don't know; let's find out!
Yin yoga with a new-old teacher helped me reach nirvana briefly. Yin is the restorative type of yoga where you hold stretches for several minutes while sporting comfy sweaters, laying on thick bolster cushions under cozy blankets. Quite the challenging class, followed by this big emotional release during the final shavasana/corpse pose. I’d like to keep going to yin.
I recently noticed the heartache coming and going with stress, and the biggest source of it currently comes from the way I’ve been working at my new job. Labouring less is the first order of business. I reached an important milestone this past week, laying the foundation for increasing quality and reducing turnaround time for all future projects, so I think it's high time I switched over into Maintenance Mode®. I feel proud of bringing the learning curve down from the typical six months down to three. I've also just finished up my first vacay bébé since last summer, and I was able to catch up on sleep and Do Less. Also booked the week of Stampede for vacay bébé since I’m going to Cowboy Raves. Seeing Skrillex for the first time, deadmau5, Bob Moses, Excision, Bijou, ATLiens. I'll get a healthy dose of bass, dub, and time dancing on concrete. The local music scene hasn't been getting me where I need to go, so I’ll be very glad to hear the stuff I like. My genre is bass house, which was apparently just a fad that faded in the middle of the last decade. I describe it as Skrillex House, so maybe bass house will get another chance in the sun now that he's finally received the vibes I've been sending.
To shake things up, I had the bright idea to go to a Body Pump class after seven months away from the gym. Actually didn't even know the name of the class until after it kicked my ass. Forgot my water bottle, snack, exercise shoes. I thought I was in decent shape, cycling 1.5 hours every few days and bringing in all my groceries in a single trip. Nope. Usually the soreness goes away after a day, but this time it took five. It’s like I’ve never been to the gym before.
My friend was the instructor for Body Pump, which had the best music I’ve heard in a workout class whereas most usually play tunes similar to the toe-tapping sound of Belgian techno anthem, Pump Up the Jam.
All this struggle to chill tf out makes me glad I started therapy when I did because it feels like I'm fighting a war against neuroplasticity. Plasticity is a funny word because we usually experience plastic in its hardened form, but it refers to a chemical’s ability to start in a standardized shape and morph into whatever you want, like when a 3D printer melts a thin filament into a phone stand! As you age, the brain loses plasticity and becomes more hardcoded into the pathways it already formed. Started reading “What Happened to You?” by Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey, another fun book that makes it easy to read about trauma, and he mentions how fetus produce 20,000 neurons every day in the womb while an adult can make a mere 700. There's the expression that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. You still can, but it takes far more effort than teaching a young puppy. My neurons have certainly lost some of their plasticity, but I'm still trying and achieving change.
The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
As much as I need to change up my coping strategies, I also need to focus on stability in other areas. Eating regularly with better nutrition, practising better sleep hygiene and bedtime routine, keeping my work hours a bit more consistent, seeing friends, resting. (I regularly make these pep talks with little success.) Pretty sure the key is to silence the voices and tolerate the deep discomfort with feeling unproductive, which is progressing but only with deep thought and great concentration.
Choosing stability means that any incremental improvements aren't worth restructuring the system. Acceptance. It flies in the face of my endless pursuit of perfection. I resent when organizations prioritize the status quo over improved output, but that’s what my organization is facing. Going to an intensive gym workout after a long absence is not controlling growth. Given the massive fluctuations in my last 10 months, it's high time I tapped on the brakes; stomped?
Last time, I spoke about how some people have very quiet and boring lives. A close friend recently acknowledged how weird my life has been, how stuff keeps popping up on me, and it meant so much. Validating to hear that it's unusual to have so many sizeable threats crammed into such a short time. A quick look around at my immediate circle shows folks facing a handful of problems, and most people don’t overshare like me. (Would you agree, reader?)
Leaving my pity party to engage with others and hear their stories, most people don't seem to enjoy as much quiet as I’m imagining. Much of my circle seems overwhelmed on the regular. We're all just trying to get by and barely managing to do so. They're considering taking leave from work, daydreaming of taking lengthy vacations, or recoiling from everyone and everything. It's comforting and discomfiting to see how poorly others are faring. On the other hand, I’m trying to celebrate trying and not be envious of those who are thriving. Feels bad to know that many would love to have my first-world problems.
Gratitude Feels Grating
Though all of my therapists have told me to think more positively, it only just occurred to me that they were right. In my defence, I've needed to move mountains in all that time. Part of my hesitation is that optimistic attitudes can quickly slide into toxic positivity and serious denial/procrastination about doing The Work. Now it feels superior to the despair and "woe is me" I've been practising so far.
Choosing happiness and gratitude makes me marble-mouthed. Does settling require me to become complacent in the pursuit of...whatever it is I'm pursuing? If I actually got what I wanted, would I actually be happy or would I simply lock onto the next thing? It seems too simple, but is it the life hack I've been looking for? Is this one of those simple-and-difficult exercises I need to practice every day until I die? I have a lot to be thankful for, and I can't say that I've tried that hard to incorporate gratitude into my everyday existence.
For all the whinging I’ve done on this blog, here are some things I can be grateful for:
Greed-flation hasn't hurt me as bad as most since I was able to build a small moat. My mortgage is on a fixed interest rate, so overpaying for a few years has resulted in savings now.
I have a job that I love and that loves me.
There is deep love in my relationships. I have a robust support network that provides comfort and care following the disconnection from my family of origin.
I enjoy housing security. Rent increased only by a little when re-signing last fall.
The frugality forged in the years of lower income has returned to centre stage as I find opportunities for cutting costs and shortcuts, now supercharged by a Costco executive membership, Amazon Prime, a larger network in the city, social media comments, and ChatGPT.
Affordable access to healthcare for my mind and body has resulted in vast improvements that improve my functioning. The resolution of past traumas allows me to live closer to the moment and to deal with new situations with greater effectiveness. Small threats don’t feel as catastrophic now.
Positive thinking still feels minor in the ultimate aim of survival and self-actualization, but it also seems to be an important tool in the arsenal. A muscle that needs development and consistent practice. I’ll remember to take it more gently than Body Pump next time I’m at the emotional gym.
Wrap It Up
Heart still hurts. Thought it could be physical symptoms, but it doesn’t seem to change when taking pharmaceuticals. Need to talk to my doctor again. Listening to sad music. Send me songs about heartache!
Trying new coping strategies because the old ones aren’t working. Reducing stress. Working less frantically. Mixing vacation and Stampede.
Stabilizing other areas. Resting more. Thinking more positively.
I…feel lost and confused. I don’t really know what is going on with me and whether my plan is going to make a difference. I’m also not sure that I have time to sit around and philosophize about it. Clicking buttons on a computer will surely get me closer to the answer.
Oh, and my dad pushed his way onto my radar recently, so, uh, that’ll be on my mind for a little while.