Sunday, December 22, 2013

Into the Red and Massive Pain overnight....

A strange thing happened. I did my usual 'work' in the bath, squeezing muscle/body parts of stroking along arms/legs/back etc. I spent more time on the muscular groups in my back and then decided to do gentle tapping moves on my body up and down - as if playing keys on the piano. I felt relaxed and got out of the bath and applied some really nice citrous lotion on my body and felt the need for my heat-pad before settling into bed (early - I was very tired) to read my book. I fell asleep for a short while before waking up in absolute agony all over the 'edges' of my book and into my back. It was if my body had gone into complete spasm. Since I had had some back pain earlier in the day I had already taken a variety of pain killers including diazepam, so the only thing I hadn't taken for a while was more paracetamol and dihydrocodeine. I got up and went on my computer for a short-time before then going back to bed, feeling very surprised about the amount of pain I was in, and eventually fell asleep.

In the morning I woke up tired, but in significantly less pain and since the weather was dry and sunny went for a walk. I have returned now. I am still tired, but again was surprised that clearly my body still finds 'tapping' movements of any kind a very distressing and obviously startling experience. On my walk I did some 'heart on hand' movements and finger tips together for strength and allowed for some deep exhalation as well as 'being in the moment' on the walk.

I feel some equilibrium again now, but it just goes to show how easily alarmed by body can still be.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Hand on my Heart - Somatic Experiencing Session®

I had a lovely 'last' Somatic Experiencing® SE® session of the year. It was really positive to be able to tell Therapist (T) about how much more 'in' my body I now feel and how I was no longer dissociating anywhere near as much as I had prior to starting my SE® work. I was able to report how I had been continuing the 'bath' exercise and that I was now applying different pressures and sensations to my body, whilst giving the body time to respond, but that it was becoming easier, safer and more enjoyable all the time. I also explained how I was continuing with the use of body lotion after the bath, and that again, this was feeling 'more real' in my skin than in the past. I spoke today of feeling rather sore and stiff around my body's whole perimeters as if they had been thoroughly awakened, but that I did not see this as a negative experience, just a new awareness. I said I could even feel the front of my face and that now the most de-sensitised part of my body was my spine, which I will pay more attention to in the future. I said I had woken up feeling rather tired, so that this could also explain feeling more achy. However, the most important thing was that I felt safe and happy within my whole being, and reported to how I had enjoyed the child-likeness of sleeping in my 'onesie' suite!

I explained to T how I had averted crisis when I felt very 'dangerous' earlier in the week, that I had moved and walked outside of my flat, (had a smoke) and then pushed the air away with my arms, saying 'no' and how this empowered me and released the charged energy I might previously have self-directed in self-harm. We both saw this as huge progress, also in line with my Dialectic Behavioural Therapy (DBT). I said I had also noticed that I was taking more slow and deeper breaths which T reinforced would re-balance my sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous system.

T asked me to put my hand on my heart. I did this with my left hand and after a few moments, asked me what I could feel. I said that I felt that my ears were bilaterally warmed and felt 'pulled.' I then said that I had some 'pain/tension' in my left neck. T thought it might be because I was using my left hand over my heart, so I swapped hands, the feeling remained, but I felt very happy and said I could feel this in my whole face and in my heart and diaphragm. My breathing further relaxed and I felt very peaceful, happy and safe.

T asked me what next year would look like. I said that I now felt I was in the 'yellow' of my bucket and that the blue would mean I was feeling well much more of the time, rather than just for days here and there. I spoke of my plans, and that once my surgery would be out of the way that I could start to visualise a much healthier and happier future and perhaps allow for someone personal in my life. I spoke about future writing work and other projects. It felt really good and positive. T asked me to put my finger tips together, this made me feel even stronger as I continued to talk about my aspirations for the future.

T described me to be like a 'race-horse' who always needed to be busy, and that is a part of who I am, but that it was also important to be able to apply the brakes. Balance. This is what I am working on and working towards both with T and in my DBT work. The session closed with some new learned tools - the heart tool, and fingers in a triangle. T said that I was responding extremely well to the work and making very good progress. I agreed. We wished each other a Happy Christmas and New Year 2014. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

"Getting what I want" (in the nicest possible way!) and 'breathing!

Today's Somatic Experiencing session was particularly thought-provoking. My Therapist (T) asked me how I was feeling. I mentioned that I had been in the "red" again. Before we went into that much later in the session, T asked me what I was feeling 'now.' I was sat in my usual black high-backed chair with a cushion. I reported to feeling both my feet (no shoes) on the floor, my arms on the arm rest and the top of my head. I said that I could feel the whole of my body as if I were a triangle with my head at the apex of the triangle. I said I was enjoying feeling much more in my body than I had before treatment had commenced.

Early on in the session my attention was diverted to a small blue ball that was sitting next to T. I asked T if the ball belonged to T, and if so, could I have it? T confirmed that the ball did belong to T and asked me if it was OK to throw it to me? My face lit up, and I just hoped I would catch it. I did. The ball was not exactly what I was expecting. I thought it might be a soft foam ball, but it was actually a solid rubber ball with a suede like texture. I felt a real childish pleasure in palpating and exploring the ball. T said that my pleasure was evident. I had asked for something in a simple and direct way. I had got what I wanted, which T suspected was not the case when I was a child, and now I could enjoy something, just as a young child would. I also loved the blue of the ball, which has become my imagery colour for the bottom of my bucket, when I get there, and the safety that represents for me.

T and I talked about whether I often got my needs met as a child. I explained that when I was unwell I often did not and was sent to school (ill) and that if I was actually allowed to be off sick felt compelled to stay in bed for the whole day because I otherwise felt guilty I wasn't at school. I recalled a memory of my father giving me sugar water in my favourite mug when I suffered from vomiting bugs, and the comfort that represented. T then asked me about other times when I was not unwell if that was not getting me the caring attention I deserved then what happened? I said that because my face was fairly expressionless it was hard to tell what I wanted. I said that had probably happened from the age of about 5 or 6, but T suspected it went back to when I was a young baby. What I realised I felt now was that I love to care for others, but am still extremely poor about getting my own needs met, even if it is something as simple as asking people not to bombard me with questions at work, or whether I would prefer the lighting in a therapy session high or low. It is here where my work needs to begin. It will be a change, and will take some time, but it has to start sooner rather than later so that I can begin to get my own needs met before I start to experience signs of distress, which I described as a deep pain in my diaphragm and like "static" down my arms. T asked me to move my arms which I did, and then to explore the possibility of just walking around the room. T asked me how I felt. I said that it had helped to calm me down a little.

We begun to talk about breathing. It turns out that actually inhalation is about the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight system) whilst the exhalation is about the parasympathetic nervous system or (rest and digest system). When I (or anyone else suffering from trauma) goes into a "freeze" or playing dead, it is actually strangely enough the parasympathetic nervous system that has stopped the breath whilst there is an undercurrent of huge charge from the sympathetic nervous system (as if preparing to run from a tiger, Levine, 1997). We talked some more about how panic attacks occur when the breathing becomes both shallow and rapid and that there is too much carbon monoxide in the body. We discussed a breathing technique that I was already employing of inhaling for four counts and exhaling for six to re-balance and calm the body and discharge the held energy. I also explained how dance and walking helped me to discharge feelings of anger and we talked about 'Five Energies' (a form of dance) and stomping in the ground being a positive thing to do. I said that when I was angry my choreography became very "strong", dynamic and certainly grounding.

As the session came to a close, I asked T what T's needs were and T said that T was hungry. I explained how I couldn't tell that, but it was a simple enough question to see what T's needs were. I threw T back the blue ball and my homework for this week in addition to continuing with the bath and skin-lotion work is to practice asking for what I want, particularly in avoiding being overloaded at work and avoiding my red state:

Signs of me being in the red:
·         Severe pain (major negative distraction
·         Being bombarded by questions
·         Being asked to explain a lot of things, one after the other
·         Suddenly feeling very fatigued/tired
·         Mood suddenly plummeting
·         Feeling fidgety and uncomfortable
·         Feeling as if drowning/submerging
·         Sudden need to be alone
·         Not being able to listen/concentrate to what I am being told
·         Failure to follow instructions and/or forgetting something
·         Feeling weepy
·         Feeling dissociated and uncomfortable in my body
·         Wanting to throw a tantrum and shout
·         Feeling angry because my needs are not being met (because people cannot ‘see’ what is happening or for me to be able to explain ‘what’ I need in order to feel better.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Talking to my body

I was able to report many good things at my SE® session on Friday 6th December, by saying that I felt entirely in my own body following the bath exercise, and how joyful that had made me feel, and that I had been imaging a great deal about my 'blue bucket' and how that was going to feel. In the session on 6th, T (Therapist) said that it would be really good if I could now build on the bath 'work' by asking me to say out-loud the different body parts I was palpating (or gently squeezing muscles) so that in addition to the touch stimuli that my brain could also "hear" the different body parts as I was re-mapping it. I agreed to do this and tried it the evening after treatment sometimes using my right arm to palpate the left side and sometimes right arm for right body and then vice-versa. I noticed any areas that the body felt wary of, but wasn't distressed and was able to cope easily and be mindful about what was happening. The bath water was a very pleasant temperature, and I used candles to ensure the lighting was very calming.

After the bath I applied body lotion to the whole body, using more like 'stroking' techniques to each part of my body, again talking through where I was working so my body could both see, hear and feel the sensation. If I keep this up, I will have the most velvety skin in the whole world!!

Another image I talked to T about was these 'all-in-one' pyjamas called 'Onesies' and how they are like baby-grows and how the idea of having one felt 'child-like', safe, warm and comforting. I am off to buy one!

Finally, we talked about the fact that although I am smoking (bad) that it was keeping me mindful and that when in periods of deep relaxing, my breathing becomes much deeper (not necessarily when I am smoking) and relaxed.

I said how much more aware I felt of my body, being in my own skin and how wonderful that felt.

We are continuing to build on the sensation of feeling good and safety in my body before we progress this work - however this remarkable and fascinating journey may unfold.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Feeling my body and being in my own skin!

Part of my Somatic Experiencing® homework has involved being in a nice warm bubble bath, with candles, to relax and enjoy feeling the water on my body, how it flows around its edges and then to explore my body through palpation. I have been developing this for a while and lately been at the stage of making more stronger 'squeezing' like touch on major muscle groups, bilaterally and body-wide. I enjoyed the feelings, they were not alarming, and  I liked being in the water.

Afterwards I went to bed and read a chapter of my book, and lay in bed and felt, for the first time for as long as I can remember that I could feel the whole of my body, it's complete outline and that I fit in my own skin. I was aware of everywhere. I felt peaceful and blissfully happy and relaxed. There is so much to live for.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Somatic Experiencing® - How full is my bucket of 'trauma'?

Therapist (T) removed me from the waiting area at our clinic, which was quite noisy and rather busy. He had observed that I was in a 'frozen' state and invited me into his clinic room a few minutes earlier so I could come down as he had noticed my traumatized state. It gave me a few minutes to calm down and regroup. T asked me how my week had been. I talked about a small OD I had taken earlier in the week. I explained how I had gone into the 'red' state of overload and overwhelm we had discussed in the previous session. I explained some of the triggers that had lead to this state, including work - I had ended up leaving abruptly at 3pm. A phone call later on had aroused anger, especially as the person had made unhelpful judgemental comments about my mental health state at that time. I explained how I had almost hung-up the phone. I had tried the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) but had left it too late in the date to obtain any help. I decided to use ice - a pack of frozen peas put in my tummy in order to 'shock' me back into the now. The phone rang again and it was the same person who had upset me before. They tried to smooth over the previous conversation, but it was too late from my point of view. A short while later, I felt I couldn't be bothered to stay up any later in the day (it was 7.30pm) and I impulsively reached for a few tablets - reasons why - wanting to zone out, again, wishing I didn't have to wake up again. I knew that my behaviour was maladaptive, but I was too much in the 'red' and other skillful behaviour -e.g stroking cat, watching TV, dancing, had all failed.

T asked me to say how I was feeling. I explained that, minus my back which was in a serious state of pain and spasm owing to a strained facet joint and all the inflammation that included that I was able to feel the carpet, my sitz bones etc. T observed that I was relived the conversation that had upset me on the phone that my fists were clenched. He asked me what I might have wanted more ideally in the phone conversation. I reiterated to T what I had discussed in therapy earlier in the week that I wanted to be listened to and helped. We conducted a zen like conversation where T pretended to be the person who had upset me and showed empathy and listening skills. T asked me to look at what I could see in the room, what I could hear, what I could feel with my left hand, right foot etc, what I could smell. As these feelings were considered my body calmed down and I started to breathe having previously been crying when T said, (as in the role of caller) that T loved me, that made me cry more. We carried on putting me back into the present moment. I explained how smoking gave me a few minutes to enjoy being in the present moment as I observed sensually what I was seeing when I was in the garden at home.  T (for better or worse) encouraged me to to this for the time being.

I then started to talk about a brief visit to my sister, where although it had been nice to see my new niece and my nephew that my sister needed much listening to and then was asking me questions and I had blanked out and dissociated. I had realized I had the red again and that it was like pouring more water into an already overflowing bucket, that at the moment my bucket was fulled to the brim and in the red. I explained how the best I could get my bucket was to a deep amber state (next state down from red), which therefore gave me a small range of time to function before overload set in. I said that after red would come a deep yellow, a pale yellow followed by green and then blue - a sky/lapis lazuli blue that was at the bottom and would be an ideal state of functioning where there were very gentle waves, rather than huge ranges of waves and that I was calm, in the moment, that I had my short-term memory, that there was a huge hard-drive of more space, that I could easily do my writing work, that there was balance and harmony in my world, that I was relaxed and calm and measured. That life was a pleasure. Visualising that state, which is where we are aiming for was part of my homework, as well as making gentle contact with all parts of my body, varying touch and intensity depending on what my body felt same to manage. It was a surprise to both of us when I started crying after merely palpating my left heel. The right side remains much calmer and happier with touch. I agreed to use candle light in the bath to calm me down, to be listening to music more and to palpate/use lotion on all of my body, not just my shins as additional homework for the week.

It was a good session and left me lots of time on the bus to reflect upon my 'blue bucket' of Zen!