Rest and Relaxation

My goodness, I have been feeling like utter crap the last two days. Combination of glare up and bug I think, but regardless of cause, I have just been so wiped out! I’ve hardly been functioning, just sleeping at every moment available. It’s always very frustrating when I’m feeling like that, as it would be for anyone, but I do my best to try and put a positive spin on things; what better time to relax, rest, and reset. 

So as I’m typing this, I am snuggled on the sofa with good coffee – very good coffee – and others happy things; fluffy blanket, yarn, slippers, cat. NotMyCat always seems to know when cuddling would make the world a better place, although I’m sure from his perspective, it’s the option of a different lap and different fluffy blanket. I’m so tired that every time I blink my eyes want to stay closed. LittleCrafter is finishing off the little bit of homework he has left – a book repott, so it had to wait until he had finished the book! – and chatting to me intermittently. The birds in the trees just outside are making such beautiful noise, and whilst that sounds terribly stereotypical, it is so peaceful listening to it. 

I decided the other day to treat myself to Pact delivery once a month. I used to have it, but cut it out to save money. I am a self confessed coffee snob, and am not ashamed to admit it, so good coffee is something I am prepared to budget for  Upon weighing it up lately though, the price of coffee beans in shops, verses Pact delivery, AND weighing up the quality of said beans…. I decided Pact was something I needed in my life. 

I know to some that coffee is just a mug with brown liquid in it, but to me it is a relaxation me this unto itself. I drink my coffee black and without sugar, so I need the coffee itself to be lovely. And yes, thank you very much, I am aware I sound a tad pretentious. However, the ritual of making and drinking a good cup of coffee is soothing, and is sometimes exactly what I need when my head is spinning. 

It’s not the only thing I do to chill out, of course. In a recent conversation with the psychologist I’m doing my trauma therapy with, we discussed the relaxing things I had in place, and the others that could be possibly used in addition. Chamomile tea, music, trashy TV, yoga, and of course crochet were just some of the things we came up withj.

Crochet is a major part of my life, and yet working with yarn came in at a really low point. After my breakdown, a friend taught me to knit, which quickly became something hugely important to me. I taught myself to crochet a while later, and there years on, I hook every day for some length of time. It really is a huge part of maintaining my wellbeing. I never thought it would or could be (a friend initially tried to teach me, poor sod – I wasn’t a quick learner), as whilst I am very creative, I had both my lack of artistic ability and my perfectionism working against me. I’ve said before how I have an unfortunate habit to tend towards giving up if things don’t make sense immediately, because I have a fear of failure. But crochet was something I really wanted to do, and I also really wanted to challenge that perfectionism. Crochet in general has been a huge learning curve, both about what you can make with metal and wool, but also about myself, teaching myself and learning about myself. I believe as human beings, we are ever growing and ever learning; there is never a point at which you cannot choose to be better than you are, and crochet has made me a better person. 

Resting and relaxing can come in so many formats. It can feel utterly terrifying, the thought of relaxing, when you have PTSD, so finding a way to tap into this essential need is a real victory. 

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Heart Echo

As part of some ongoing health investigations, I had a heart echo today. It was the first time I’d ever had one, and I was quite apprehensive on my way there this morning. I bought a coffee on my way in, my theory being I’d either be waiting a while, giving me time to drink it, or I wouldn’t wait at all, and my coffee would be the perfect temperature once I was finished. The letter had told me it would take about half an hour, but because this was to be my first one, I didn’t know whether this was an accurate estimate or ‘safe’ estimate.

When my name was called, I found myself facing a man. This had been a real panic in the build up, being due to go into a room alone with a man. PTSD causes issues with all sorts of everyday issues. I gritted my teeth and decided to be brave. I knew that I could ask for a female, to offer to wait as long as needed, under the reason of my PTSD causes, but I’d already sterned myself for this, and I knew also I had the power to stop the test at any time if it got too much.

We went into the test room, and I was asked to strip to the waist, put the gown on like a jacket, and sit on the bed to wait. This I did, feeling my anxiety rise but determined not to let it get the better of me. The professional I was dealing with could not have been more polite but, just as with a lot of PTSD triggers, it had nothing to do with him.

First I had to lay on my left side, my back to him and the machine, whilst he pressed the scanner very ‘firmly’ into the middle of my chest. I’ve never felt so conscious of the size of my breasts before! Then in the same position, he used the scanner to look up at my heart. Then from right under my left boob. This was probably the most triggering part as he obviously had to lean right across me to achieve this. Add to that the pain and I was reduced to mentally counting things so I didn’t lose it.

I had to ask for a minute before the next part.

Then I had to lay flat on my back with the scanner at the bottom of my neck. This was incredibly hard for me; my neck having pressure applied, laying flat on my back, the gown exposing my boobs. It felt quite humiliating, and whilst I knew it was needed for medical reasons, it was only repeating this fact in my head that stopped me from running from the room.

My PTSD is severe. I struggle with a lot of things – A LOT OF THINGS – and I wasn’t surprised this was hard, but I was surprised by just how hard I found it. Next time I think Diazepam would be needed. Hopefully there won’t be a next time needed!

Crafting for Christmas

That’s right – Christmas!

With September being just days away, I can now actually talk about Christmas without looking too weird. The reality is, when you’re planning on making some of the festivity yourself, be it presents or decorations, you have to start what some may consider a little… Early.

I’m a big fan of Christmas anyway; my OH is such a festive person. Last year there were over 2,000 twinkling lights in our living room, and there has already been talk about ‘needing’ more. There are decorations I have made going alongside these, and if I have time this year I am planning on doing a full size wreath to go alongside the mini wreaths I’ve made over the last few years. There are also some snowmen to look cheery on the main bookshelf, and I may or may not have made a bauble hat last year. This year the challenge is a Christmas tree. Or maybe Santa. Or maybe both.

This year I’m really aiming to make quite a few presents myself. I haven’t put a set number on it because I know that will just become stressful, but “quite a few” is what I’m sticking with as an aim. I’ve already made three, am just about to finish another, and have another potential five planned.

I’m trying very hard to balance these plans out with the fact I’ve deliberately kept the last few months as ‘selfish craft time’; working on things either for me, or things I’ve wanted to make for no reason other than wanting to make them. This is a decision that I’m really happy I made as sometimes I get so sucked into making things because I ‘have’ to, that it was almost a bit of a craft brain reset. Crafting is such a happy, wonderful thing, but it can end up feeling like an obligation, if you don’t find a way to keep the joy in it.

So for Christmas this year I’m happy with how things are progressing so far, with how quickly some things are making up, and already thinking happily of giving them as gifts in what is actually only a few weeks away. Crafting for Christmas is one of the most exciting parts of the year as someone who makes things, in my humble opinion, and I can’t wait to see just how things work out in time for Christmas. There is going to be lots of excitement in between then and now, and it’s also a sneaky little way of creeping into Christmas mood early, with a very reasonable excuse!

Onward with trauma work

I’ve just completed the introduction period of my trauma therapy. This has taken some time, and I am so grateful to the psychologist I’m lucky to have been matched with that they have been so understanding to working at my pace. It’s been really hard and overwhelming at points, but the benefit is so much that, through all my wobbles, I have known somewhere inside my brain that I am doing the right thing, and that I am going to carry on.

Part of what I have experienced so far is an increased amount of self discovery. I am someone who does believe that finding out as much as you can about yourself is part of the journey to recovery. How else can you figure out what makes you tick? As such, I have a book dedicated to lists of things like my triggers, for my own understanding and observation, and to share with others, both when I think it is relevant and when I feel brave enough. This list has come in handy with explaining things to Other Half, as well as people like my psychologist. Whilst I’m far from an expert in doing so, some degree of being able to step back and reflect on things, rather than getting so emotionally twisted up in it all, has been useful. Of course this isn’t always possible, and I can’t do it nearly as much as I want to – yet. Work in progress.

Some of the discoveries I have made about myself during therapy so far have been surprising. For instance, the secondary infertility we are dealing with has been emotionally horrific as can be imagined, but I have also come to the realization that I’m finding it more difficult again because of what has been done to my body before; this is another thing happening to my reproductive system that I don’t have a choice over. It sounds a bit bizarre I’m sure, but it makes some sense, even if it is just PTSD sense.

One of the things I was discussing with my psychologist yesterday was how I feel PTSD acts a bit like a spounge. You’re so hyper vigilant, your brain so focused on watching out for danger, that anything that DOES cause you danger, even if unrelated to the initial PTSD, can become sucked in to the PTSD spounge, to cause future triggering, and become things to be hyper vigilant about. Yes, this illness is in fact an utter bastard.

After a lot of discussion, we have decided to take the approach of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT for short) because there is, quite simply, just too much trauma to undo with other alternatives, which are more designed for singular trauma. I say ‘we’, because whilst I would always trust the judgement of the person I’m working with, it has been a joint decision, coming to the same conclusion. In a way, this is both encouraging and demotivating. The former because I know there is an option; the latter because it is acknowledging there really is so much trauma.

I have moments of flitting between being so ready for things to improve, and being terrified to accept my traumas. I can be so detached from them that it’s as if I carry them around in a little box, knowing they’re mine, but being unable to believe these things happened to me. Some days I  can open that box, take things out, observe them, and know they are mine. Other days, that box needs to stay as far away from me as is possible to be, and then a bit more. These are the hyper vigilant, super emotionally charged, triggered by so many things days, and they are hard work. My main goals with approaching this therapy is to be able to handle the box of things more often, and be able to tune down those days. I really hope I”m able to achieve these things, as it would make such a difference to my life. I’ve been preparing for trauma therapy for years, and now I just need to make it work.

I’ve woken up able to face the world….

… For the first time in a while. Tea and crochet do help, that’s true, but who could think of a better way to start a Friday morning!

The last few weeks have been really tough for various reasons. Maintaining my wellbeing, and keeping some sense of stable is almost a full time job right now, and whilst I was fully prepared for things unending when I began trauma therapy, it is still a huge shock to the system being so volatile again. PTSD is one of those conditions for which there is no recovery, only stabilization, and it’s only now I’m seeing how much I had actually achieved, because I’ve gone back a few paces now.

That all said, I woke up this morning ready to take on the world, trauma therapy and all. Even though I’ve been fighting to access this for a long time, it’s now I’m seeing how massively important this is for me to do.

Some people with PTSD can never deal with being retraumatized so much to get through trauma therapy and honestly I can completely understand that. For now I feel strong and stable enough to deal with it (as a rule, not always in individual moments), and that seems like a good place to start.

To get me through this session, and all the rest, and the next fifty years of my life, I will be crocheting. I’m sure my therapist has seen some unusual coping methods before, but this might be one of the more colourful! It’s certainly my best coping method; productive, keeps hands busy, makes me smile…

Right now I’m taking a break from major projects to make a few Christmas presents. I promise I’m only singing the Christmas songs in my head!

Cardigan stall

This meme pretty much sums up where I’m at with the cardigan. I haven’t lost any of my enthusiasm, but the pressure – put on purely by myself – has got to me.

I’m not good with pressure. Stress doesn’t just stress me, but traumas me. Interestingly, in the book I am reading currently, “The Body Keeps The Score”, it discusses how PTSD sufferers are ill equipped to dealing with any stress because of the way their bodies process what they have been through. Which is wonderful for validation; not so useful for actually dealing with stress.

So for now my cardigan is sat in its beloved project bag in the footstool on my side of the sofa, to sit and think about its behaviour, before I can start to actually deal with it again. I feel a bit disappointed in myself for it not being a blazing success, but that’s life, isn’t it? There’s no time frame, no pressure other than that I create myself.

So it’ll be fine. Sometime.

Coming Soon: The Nerdy Cardi

Can’t wait to see this project!

Happy Monday, crafters!

I’m very excited to announce a new project that will be coming soon to the blog: the Nerdy Cardi!

The Nerdy Cardi will be a one-size-fits-most sleeveless cardigan (vest?) type garment. I will be providing a full pattern with photos and measurements, as well as instructions on how to tailor the pattern to make your cardi just the right size for you. Heads up: it might take a bit of trial and error to get the sizing right!

This is the first cardigan-type item I have ever designed, so I am super excited about it! My favorite part about this entire project? It’s very customizable, so you can use lots of designs with the pattern–including some of our C2C designs!

The first design shared will be Harry Potter-themed (hence the Nerdy Cardi’s name), but you will be able to choose from a selection of designs in the…

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Completed Moogly “Amelia Shawl”

Oh wow. I’m completely in love with this finished item.

It’s Moogly’s “Amelia Shawl”, in Caron Cake “Funfetiti” which, in my humble opinion, were MADE for each other. This is a free pattern, and can be found here.

One Caron Cake did up to 3/4 of the row where I finished (Row 28), so just over 200g. The result is something I can use as a scarf, shawl or wrap, and the versatility is incredibly exciting.

I’ve made a few things with a Caron Cake now and I have to say I think this is my favourite so far, though I do now feel a challenge is in order.

This project was designed for Aran and a 6mm hook, and it was also incredibly speedy; I started this on Saturday morning and barely crocheted yesterday because of evil period pains (I’m still convinced there is a Great White Shark in my uterus) so a couple of hours today and it’s done!

It certainly won’t be the last I make!

You can’t escape your trains

When my brain spins so quickly, I can’t catch my breath. I can’t think. I struggle to form words of any kind, in my head or out of it, so caught up am I, involuntarily, in what my brain is doing. It spins so fast, I can’t catch a glimpse of what is passing me, I just know I’m missing it; similar to when you’re on a train, and see something interesting out of the window, but before you can work out what it is, you’ve gone.

Depression is like moving your body and mind through thick squelching mud, whilst all this speed goes on around you. Everything is so fast and so slow, all at once, and all it leaves is you, alone, outside of it. An outsider. The one in three, except we don’t do talking about mental illness in this world, so it’s the one in one, solo, alone. That’s why I’m writing this, because I’m sure there’s another one in one reading it somewhere.

So my brain spins, and I try to grab hold of one of the speeding trains of thought, try to get on board, but they speed up and throw me off. They move around me quicker than I can follow, with my mud covered legs, unable to join them and be a part of my own functionality.

And then the noise of the trains changes; no longer just a choochoo, it is now more of a YouAreMad, YouAreCrazy, kind of sound, because some of these trains must of course be some of my fears, and they spin around me, their noise getting louder and louder, until I want to cover my ears to block them out, but they are everywhere, around me, following me, inside of me. You can’t escape your own trains. They hold your demons, and your demons will follow you on those trains until the day you die.

Is this madness? you wonder as they spin around you, quickly followed by, “what is madness anyway?”, and the trains laugh at this, laugh at you, knowing they’ve got a tight enough hold that they could pull the track up from under your feet whenever they wished. Those damn trains.

The faster they run, the louder they get, and the louder they get, the harder it is to pretend to function, to pretend your trains are all in check. It feels so hard just to know there are trains running riot. Existing is tiring, and even though you will keep on going, it gets more and more exhausting every step you take. And those trains keep on whizzing by, pulling loads full of flashbacks and memories and moments you want to hold down. They keep on going with their YouAreCrazy sounds as they pass by, making sure you’re still trying to regain your balance when their load of flashbacks hits you.

And the worst of it all is that you can’t hide from your own trains.

Those damn awful trains.

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My brain keeps getting in the way

It’s silly how much this blog means to me. What’s more silly is Howe much I close down when my PTSD escalates. I withdraw from everyone, in person and online. On top of that, all my feelings of being incapable, useless and whatever negative thing you can think of (because if you can think it, my brain probably has) come up full piwer, and I just don’t feel strong enough to override them. 

I’ve say down to write so many times since my last post, but my brain keeps getting on the way. Currently I’m reading “The Body Keeps The Score” to aid my trauma therapy, and reading some “justification” , as it feels, of how I am at the moment has given my courage to raise my head an over the duvet a tiny bit. 

I find it hugely frustrating to be like this. But what is important to remember, for myself as an individual, but also for anyone else experiencing PTSD – or any mental illness – and those supporting them, is that it is not a choice. The chronic sense of shame that goes hand in hand with PTSD haunts every movement, especially tHose trying to fight back against against it. When you can speak above the shame, if only for a moment, then that is brave. It’s hard to give myself a compliment – worse to accept them from others – but that much I can say. It might sound ridiculous to some, but fighting back against my brain is a full time job you just don’t get paid for. 

There is a chronic fear in my life about coming across as arrogant. I also fear coming across as weird but to a degree I have accepted that I do come across as weird when people encounter me; my mental illnesses present me in that manner and there is really did all I can do until I have recovered. Not that PTSD recovery is “healthy”; there isn’t going to be a well future in my life. Sometimes that requires a bit of grieving, knowing my life has been permanently damaged by people now living their lives as normal. 

 I’m allowing this rainbow to light up my evening, and hope the colours muffle the darkness tonight.