The Battle of the Brain
by Linda Meredith
Last night I put my order for the next day down in black and white (on paper). It included the order of what I wanted to achieve, when I wanted to achieve it and so on. Then today arrived. Most who struggle with Complex PTSD will understand exactly what this means. No matter how great the practice of order there is always going to be the day that happens completely out of order. Completely out of Brain Order that is!
I managed to achieve the first few things on my list, meditation, journaling, and getting ready for the gym. Next up was fitting in some reading of Pete Walkers book Complex PTSD: from Surviving to Thriving, and I was loving the reading and understanding gained. As my daughter was ready for me to drop her at College we left and I headed for the gym, and that's when things became disordered, or so I thought.
Now, here's the thing with being triggered. It's not until the emotions/thoughts begin to manifest physically that the realisation is made that my brain has gone off the rails, so to speak. Well, I say so to speak, because I'm still driving, walking and aiming to get on the bike at the gym and unbeknownst to me my Amygdala is working away, feverishly looping, as my Prefrontal Cortex was disengaged as apparently, I needed to prepare for being unsafe.
Standing behind the gym bike I normally check over and get on automatically my entire body is frozen and I feel slightly sick at the thought of getting on the bike. Consciously I'm "what the heck is going on?" I engage my senses and become aware my brain is triggered. As yet, I've no idea why. My first thought is to throw in the towel and just go home. Seriously I think, I'm having a normal, good, day.... aren't I?
Again, I go to get on the bike, and I'm overwhelmed with a sense of just run. This is not comfortable at all for me. However, here's why creating order is crucial for recovery. I stood there and thought about my options. Leave, go home, and then what? I'd feel miserable and ticked off. Okay, so what can I do? What can I try so I can have a much-needed workout?
I look over at the treadmill and remember one of my Cognitive Exercises was to walk as slowly as I could on the treadmill without holding on. When you've lost Cognitive Function this is hard to do as it makes you focus on balancing. With nothing to lose, I decided to give it a go. As I'm walking slowly I regain an awareness of my body and it only takes 5 minutes of this and I feel comfortable to return to the gym bike.
I'm then able to stick it out for 20 minutes, this is good. Why? Going home would mean I couldn't use this trigger to retrain my brain. My brain needs to know I can make good decisions. Decisions that do keep me safe even when triggered. And when this happens in the future I will do the same thing. Yes, absolutely, there have been times in the past when I've had to walk out the door and go home. Recovery is all a process of gaining awareness of what the brain is doing so we can take charge of where we are headed.
The important thing to remember is THIS IS WORK. I came home remembering the information I'd read and why it would have triggered me. I was caught between wanting to process and wanting to just let it go. I spoke to a friend and realised I could just let it go. Other options are to journal it out, shed the tears, sit quietly in nature and so forth.
Irrespective of what I chose to do the next part will always be the same. I could literally feel the emotional energy discharge from my brain, and I was tired. I had tried to do some writing work this morning, but my brain was so exhausted from the discharge I gave up. By then it was lunchtime. I sat and ate and promptly fell asleep in my chair. The interesting thing for me was during the light sleep I'd wake up as my brain jolted.
I've no idea why my brain was doing this, I figured it was something to do with letting go this morning. Rest is critical for recovery, whether we like it or not. Reaching out and not doing this journey alone is also super important. The brain will create new neural pathways, honouring ourselves and what we can and can't do each day is a healthy practice. Something I needed to learn.
Then, as I'm able to look back, I realise I'm reclaiming more and more time in my day to day life. That feels sooo good! To go from being bedridden to reclaiming my life is a gift I intend to use wisely. There are many that need our particular brand of inspiration so let's get to it, one day at a time, one step at a time, together.