Freedom, A Cool Wind That Burns Your Face – Part I
Tiny Tom:I’m frightened!
Bobby: As well you should be. Freedom is scary. It’s a blast of cool wind that
burns your face to wake you up.
– Run, Freedom, Run from Urinetown the Musical
Greetings gentle readers,
Therapy has continued to be interesting. Sessions have been a little erratic lately, with one two-week break due to BN’s schedule and another two-week break due to me getting ill. The session at the end of the second week break was really good, although I was having mood swings for the next week. I went from feeling really optimistic then back to sad and weepy, then energized to feeling a bit lost. At times I would feel very connected with BN and at other times too distant. I think, in part, it’s becoming clear that I’m becoming more able to do without BN. It’s as if for the longest time I’ve been focusing on BN and now we’re shifting the focus back on me, where it should be. I think it feels like I’m losing him, even though I know that’s not true. Actually, I think it’s tied in with a breakthrough I made that session, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m going to rewind a bit.
I have really been trying to lose weight on my own but it’s not going real well. I really don’t want to have bariatric surgery but I am having a lot of health problems related to the obesity, including numbness in my hands and feet from bad discs in my neck and back, and my knees are pretty shot. So much so that my mobility is becoming severely compromised. I’m a 54-year-old who could be outrun by a septuagenarian.
I have started a new weight loss drug called Contrave (I am working with a new GP whom I really like and with whom I am comfortable being very open about the weight problems; a sign of growth right there. I used to just get hysterical if the subject came up. He is very engaged and there is absolutely no shaming. Which is good ’cause the man is a serious beanpole. 😀 ). Contrave is actually made up of Welbutrin and another anti-addiction drug. I’ve been on 300 mg of Welbutrin for a long time (probably almost twenty years) so we needed to titrate down on the Welbutrin while titrating up on the Contrave. Which meant the first week I went up to a dose of 390 mg of the Welbutrin which wired me beyond belief and jacked up my anxiety levels. I’ve been on the full dose of Contrave for around a week and a half, which means I’m now on 270 mg of Welbutrin, so things are settling down. But I think going through the drug changes has been affecting me emotionally.
I got sick on a weekend, but when I went to the doctor on that Monday, my symptoms were a bit obscure. I was really exhausted and had an occasional ache in my chest (which I think was anxiety induced) but the NP I saw got concerned it might be my heart so she did an EKG (which was normal, thank God) and blood work. The results of the blood work showed that my inflammatory marker was up. When I did some research (the nurse I spoke to was less than informative), there were a number of possible reasons for it. Two stood out. One was because of overeating and lack of exercise. Basically you’re making yourself sick from a lack of self-care. I realized that about five or six days earlier I had kind of given up on the healthy eating (my husband and daughter had bailed on the diet a few weeks earlier and I’m not good about going it alone, nor does it help to have the junk food in the house, although to be perfectly clear, I am responsible for what goes in my mouth) and was eating way too many carbs and processed food. I can’t begin to explain how much of a failure I was feeling. My life literally depends on my controlling my eating and yet I seem completely unable to. I felt disgusted and ashamed of myself for what felt like an immense lack of self-control (I realize it’s more complicated than that in reality, but ugh.)
The second factor that can contribute to inflammation was stress and cortisol. It has been a lifelong problem for me that my feelings come out through my body because I push them away. One of the interesting things that happened while working with BN is that I have seen a lot of strides in my self-care (aside from food). I used to get constant sinus headaches, bronchitis and asthma. It wasn’t unusual for me to take antibiotics six to eight times a year and every November I would get laid low for around three weeks because of a sinus infection that would lead to bronchitis which in turn would kick off my asthma. It’s been a number of years since that’s happened. The difference has been marked enough that my husband has commented on it. I assumed that part of it was that so much of my work has centered on allowing myself to express my feelings and needs, so I wasn’t getting sick as often from stress.
Then this February, it happened again. There was a nasty respiratory virus going around and I caught it, and then it turned into bronchitis (I almost ended up with pneumonia) and then my asthma kicked off. I haven’t had that bad a bout in a long time. It ended up taking 14 days of a really strong antibiotic, a shot of steroids, two runs of oral steroids and inhaled steroids three times a day for three weeks to get through it. My breathing was so bad that the second time i went to the doctor’s my oxygen level was 88% (when my lungs are clear, it runs around 98 or 99). I managed to drag myself to therapy in the middle of this and BN was very open with me that he thought the breathing problems were very connected with the work we were doing in therapy. And honestly, I finally started to get better after a breakthrough that session. I’ve been going deeper into my core emotions than I’ve ever allowed myself to and integrating some pretty painful split off parts. And my body is showing it.
I recently developed a bad case of eczema on my hands (I’m using a prescription steroid hand ointment) which is stress related and then I hit this inflammatory marker being elevated. And all I can think about is 29 years in therapy and I’m still so repressed that my immune system is turning on itself. I hit a point where I just felt so ashamed and hopeless, like there’s just been no progress. As if I’m never going to be emotionally healthy enough not to wreck my physical health.
Which then brought me full circle back around to my failure to eat right. I hate how self-pitying and whiny it sounds, but it just felt so overwhelming to have to work through all this. Especially because I’m really struggling with feeling like maybe I’m just not capable of it. So I have been fighting wanting to flee therapy. Like I’ve hit the wall and I’m just not willing to go further.
But mixed in with that is, I think, the dawning realization that I am going to have to give up using food and overeating to deal with my feelings (BN has been gently, but relentlessly, dinging me on this topic) and frankly, on some level, I think it’s totally freaking me out and making me feel panicked. It’s such a powerless and shameful feeling to realize that there are moments where I’d give up years of my life to just be able to keep stuffing myself when I wanted to. That just sounds so screwed up.
BN and I keep talking about my feelings of being too much, and thinking he must be dreading seeing me. BN has tied it into my deep need to keep the other person in any relationship happy in a (futile) attempt to control them and keep them from leaving. He has explained again and again that no matter how I am feeling or what I talk about, he won’t change. That no matter how I am feeling or what I am expressing when I come into his office, I am accepted and that is just NOT. GOING. TO. CHANGE. But it’s a hard feeling to shake, because it’s deeply rooted in my early experiences. And I get so scared I’m making up the good stuff; that I have somehow imagined this unconditional love. When the shame is really strong, its hard to see how anyone else can see any good in you.
I was also struggling with feeling like a fake. Having people write me at my blog as if I possess such wisdom and insight just feels like I must have a really good facade because obviously I’m blowing smoke, or I wouldn’t still have so much work left to do. (I can hear how irrational and wrong this is as I’m saying it but the truth is, it’s how I sometimes feel.)
I originally was supposed to have a session on the Monday I went to the doctor, which would have been a 10 day gap, but I felt so exhausted, I knew there was no way I had the energy to go. So I messaged BN and told him I needed to reschedule. He got back to me with an appointment for that Friday. Because of all of the shame and self-doubt swirling around, the closer the session got, the more my fear increased. BN somehow begins to feel much more stern and punitive and cold the longer I remain trapped in shame. So Wednesday I called his service and asked for a call back. When he called, I told him I was struggling with a lot of shame and feeling hopeless and that I really just wanted to bolt from therapy. The closer I got to our session on Friday, the scarier he got. So I called to experience that he was much less scary in person than he is in my head. He told me it was a really good strategy to connect as the shame would push me away from doing so. I talked a little more about being scared I was going to walk in on Friday and explode; I was feeling like I would be too much again. He told me that he understood and that if I needed to reach out again, I should do so. His voice was really warm and caring, which can help more than what he actually says. And we still managed to come in under one minute. It at least prevented me from running away screaming when he opened the door for our next session.
Which, of course, I’ll talk about in my next post.*
*I know, I know, I am getting way too fond of cliff-hangers. 😀