Advertisements

Blog Archives

Hello Leg

My leg freaks me out.

My heart was pounding when the fibreglass cast was lifted off a few days ago because I wasn’t sure what I’d see below that clinical white shell. If not for the maroon gel polish matching the other foot, I wouldn’t have recognised the foot and leg at all. It was tender and fragile and bruised.

The left foot I know is in perpetual motion – walking, running, bobbing nervously when I sit. It is a partner in crime to the right. The limp, mottled limb I saw emerge from that cast is a burden, a stranger. I felt like I was looking at a kidney or other internal organ inadvertently exposed; seeing something I shouldn’t see, a fragile thing in need of protection.  My leg was then transferred into a large, removable aircast and strapped in place beneath layers of foam and plastic. I was relieved it was safely out of view.

It bothered me all day, that encounter with my leg. Never mind the pain that ensued from the new cast, I couldn’t stop thinking about the disconnect I had experienced from this poor hurting part of me that had spent two weeks in exile. I was such a bad leg owner!

But there is one thing I can work to repair right now, and that is my relationship with this estranged part. You see, after I quit drinking and started to unravel the all the emotional junk I have been cramming down inside I had a startling realization: I have a cat-perch in my chest. I was ignoring that parts of my body I didn’t like: my big feet, my coltish legs, my bony wrists and the hand with the amputated finger. The wobbly bits on my belly and thighs. The curves that draw male attention and the lumps that draw self-loathing. I would climb up up up inside myself until I was safely located in my chest, shoulders and head. It felt safe up there. No wonder I have chest pains and headaches! A whole body worth of energy was confined to an area that could barely hold it.

I stumbled into yoga a few years ago. I’d previously dismissed it as too slow and woowoo, but once I tried it I was stuck by the way it relieved the head and chest pain I had constantly felt for years. It got me off my cat perch. At the start of every yoga class, the instructor will often say, “Take a moment to set your intention for this class today.” I have no idea what others’ intentions involve (if you do this please share, I am so curious!) but mine is always the same: to accept and appreciate every part of my body, to be here now in my entirety.

 

I did the same thing with my life. Anything I didn’t like I would ignore and pretend wasn’t real, wasn’t me. That didn’t happen, I didn’t say that, I don’r remember. I raced to the future in my mind, always anxious to get to the next moment. Always planning, thinking, worrying. Too busy for the now. Definitely not looking back, it is scary back there.

Healing my life involved making peace with the past, trusting in the future, and living in the now. Healing my relationship with my body meant learning to inhabit all of me. This is why I do so much yoga, because I can unhook for thinking and just follow the instructor’s voice: breath in and do this….breath out and do that. I need every part of me to balance and twist and move through the poses. I fill up my body, and it is safe…I am whole.

So I know I can’t allow myself to see this poor broken leg as “other”. I can remove the cast to shower and get dressed, which frankly scares the shit out of me because IT IS BROKEN and one little bump will hurt like hell and possibly screw up the healing, but I force myself to free my foot for a few minutes to give it some loving care. I clean it, roll on essential oils said to speed healing and keep the skin soft, and gingerly run my fingers from toes to knee.

This morning I whispered, “Thank you for breaking so that my knee didn’t blow. You took it for the team. Get well soon, leg.” Then I realized I was talking to it like it wasn’t mine, so I stared at it a little longer until it felt more familiar, and tried not to notice that it needs a shave.

Before returning my leg into its robo-shell, I allowed my feet to just rest side by side on the floor. For the first time in weeks, both feet felt the same thing at the same time and I felt connected. It was a sweet, peaceful moment; just sitting and feeling my feet touch the floor.

If you have exiled parts of yourself, whether physical or emotional, it is worth while to sit quietly and experience wholeness. It can feel odd or uncomfortable (okay, you don’t have to talk to it, unless you’re quirky like me!), but just allow it for a little while every day until it starts to feel natural. It has been a powerful experience for me, and this week I was reminded that it will be an ongoing process, something I will have to keep working at to overcome a lifetime of sitting on my perch.

 

 

Advertisements

Navigating a Rough Patch

My last post may have left you with the impression that I had a good cry one afternoon and then everything felt better. That was not the case.

I did feel better for an hour or two, but then the tears would return unexpectedly and with intensity. A familiar tightening of my chest and throat emerged and remained for days; something I used to call “stress” because I was ashamed to say “anxiety”. These symptoms persisted but I knew what to do…

…I knew what to do because of this community’s raw, honest comments about their own experiences, such as the following from an anonymous reader to whom I express sincere gratitude:

Jean….please make sure you call your therapist and please make time for therapy to cope with this difficult time.

My dad passed away in February of this year after a long and courageous battle from Parkinson’s…

How I wish I had asked for help. I hit the bottle HARD to cope and it did not work. I drank because trying to remain present in the moment caring for a parent with Parkinson’s was just too damn hard for me at times and while I couldn’t change the situation I wanted an escape. Alcohol numbed the feelings because I felt emotionally trapped with nowhere to go.

You’re going to have a real challenge on your hands because this next journey is painful and all about having to respond constantly to the unexpected and being in crisis mode – you will not be in control. This alone is a major threat to sobriety and will be a cause for relapse. (Anonymous)

…I knew what to do because other bloggers like Anne of “A in Sobriety”, who has written so openly about her approach to mental health, work to shrivel the stigma and shame around asking for help.

…I knew what to do because nearly 50 years of “pressing on” and “being strong” when I’ve felt this way in the past caused me to embrace coping strategies that were ultimately harmful and self-defeating. I won’t make those mistakes again.

…I knew what to do, so I saw my therapist and my doctor and I told the truth: I am struggling. I have chest pain and throat cramps and I cry constantly.  They helped me to see that my body was telling a truth that I could not mentally register: I am grieving a parent who is not yet gone. I am ashamed of my sadness because it feels like I am wishing him dead, and yet I am dreading the indignities of witnessing my father further succumbing to Parkinson’s Disease.

He is literally half the size he once was. He needs help to stand or walk, and gentle coaching to find his way down the hall or perform simple tasks. He speaks in a jumbled whisper as his face and throat muscles have atrophied. This is my father and yet it is not, so the time I spend with him each week keeps the heartache fresh even as I grieve the loss of the man I knew.

In the past I would have drank to quiet these feeling and numb the pain. Now I understand that drinking would have made things worse, creating an illusion of comfort that would silently accelerate anxiety and stall true healing.

I have made slow progress these past weeks, patiently tending my routine responsibilities while waiting for the effects of my medical care and talk therapy to loosen the knots. Also I embraced the self-care I so frequently suggest to others and went for a massage, got a fresh cut and colour, went to yoga classes, switched my coffee to half-caff, and spoke honestly to my family and friends about my situation. On my doctor’s advice, I booked a week on the beach (choosing, of course, my favourite getaway: a She Recovers retreat in Mexico that miraculously had a last-minute cancellation).

My emotions are better regulated and my chest pain is dialed down by half.

Last night came a true test of my progress, serving as emcee at my niece’s wedding. Weddings are notorious triggers for people in recovery, and as the official host for the evening I could not rely on old standbys like slipping out the back door when things got uncomfortable.

Hosting hundreds of Bubble Hour interviews prepared me well for staying comfortably professional in front of a microphone while feeling deeply vulnerable and human and flawed. I focussed on my affection for my niece, the happiness of the day, and the script I prepared in an extra-large font for easy reading. I was in my element, in my body, and in the moment. I gave service by way of warmly hosting the proceedings, and felt grateful for the ability to do so.

My father was seated right before me as I spoke. He is no longer able to smile his big grin or laugh from his belly, but he seemed to quietly enjoy the festivities from behind his hazy gaze.

Now as I reflect on that scene – me at the mic and him in the audience –  I realize that I did not look to him for approval: he has none left to offer or withhold.

Maybe that is part of my grief too, knowing that something I spent my life striving for is officially off the table. The notion brings me sadness and relief. I allow myself to feel them both fully and move on.

 

 

The Luxury of Tears

My husband is away on a golf trip and I am very good at alone-ing. I clean, bake, read, write, walk the dog, watch documentaries, work, and use complicated beauty products (moisture mask, micro planer, green self-tanner…). I listen to podcasts on speaker and eat supper at 8 pm.

The only thing I don’t do well in the Mr’s absence is go to bed. Correction: go to SLEEP. I actually go to bed earlier than usual but then procrastinate the actual “lights off” part. I’ve written many times about dreading sleeplessness. I know better, I do. I have strategies and thought processes and tea with valerian, and truth be told I don’t often need any of that. Sleep comes easily once I remember to give it a try.

Nevertheless, maybe I am a little short on sleep, okay? Just a few hours behind, but enough to weaken my defences. And also I am reading this great book on attachment theory (“How We Love” by Milan and Kay Yerkovich) – I’ve been picking it up and putting it down for months because it has just been to raw to consider various aspects of my childhood now as I help to care for a parent with Parkinson’s. The then and the now crash together like thunderheads and I have to stop and draw slow breaths and blink blink blink. But with all this alone time I’ve been trying to finish the book by reading chunks and then walking the dog while processing the information.

This afternoon I felt an emotional *clunk* halfway through my walk around the lake. Scattered memories sorted themselves into a pattern and I was simultaneously enlightened and despondent. The combination was overwhelming so I hurried home with a quivering chin (and an oblivious Schnoodle). Safely home, I was about to busy myself with some distraction – the laundry and a Bubble Hour outline for next week’s show – when it suddenly occurred to me there was no reason not to feel the feelings I was pushing away.

With the same sense of wonder as I feel when turning off the lights to sleep (“Oh right, this isn’t hard at all”) I sat on the stairs and held space for myself. (“Go ahead now and allow the response that occurs as a result of those memories.”) I wanted to see what might happen next and I bet you can guess: a cleansing cry of the private sort, the kind that doesn’t worry about how it looks or what anyone thinks but just releases and renews. It went on longer than expected and I marvelled at my own capacity to weep. It felt good to give up this burden I didn’t know I’d been carrying.

Several tissues later, I realized my little dog was watching me with concern. Whoosh! The reflective self returned. I never trouble my loved ones with my uncomfortable emotions and I can’t even tolerate worrying the damn dog. Deep breath…it was finished anyway…I felt better….

I will call my therapist tomorrow. It’s been months since my last appointment and I could use some help making sense of things. Just because it felt good to cry alone does not mean I need to process everything that way.

If I have learned anything in these years of recovery, it is the power of asking for help.

Hurrah for coffee!

My new sober adventure!

Blog - Laura McKowen

How I Secretly Quit My Secret Habit of Secretly Drinking

Honeybee Living

How I Secretly Quit My Secret Habit of Secretly Drinking

suburban betty

clean & serene

Heya, Monster.

A SoberBlog by a TallWoman.

A Spiritual Evolution

an alcoholic's blog and addiction memoir

life without vodka rocks

Quitting alcohol on my own terms

feelingmywaybackintolife

living without alcohol, living again

Seeing Clear Lee

musings on becoming alcohol-free

Needy Helper

Helping You Stop Drinking Alcohol Today

My Road To Abstinence

Sober, me? Really?

ainsobriety

Trying to ace sober living

viatoday

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Starting today I am on my way.

The Six Year Hangover

A BLOG BY A GAY MAN GETTING SOBER IN NEW YORK CITY.

sparkly sober

writing my way out of drinking

And Everything Afterwards

How I quit alcohol and discovered the beauty of a sober life

Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home

A Book and Blog for Parents in Recovery from Alcoholism and Codependence

unsmashed

Finding myself by leaving the wine behind...

HealthyJenn

From daily wine drinker to alcohol free living...this is my journey.

Mrs D Is Going Without

How I Secretly Quit My Secret Habit of Secretly Drinking

A hangover free life

Waking up to the sobering reality that booze is the problem not the solution

Mished-up

Mixed-up, Mashed-up, Mished-up.

Off-Dry

Sober girl, loopy world.

Heather Kopp

Spiritual Awakenings on the Path of Recovery

Sober Grace

Finding and practicing grace in recovery

themiracleisaroundthecorner

There are no coincidences.

Running on Sober

This blog is on permanent hiatus, thank you for your support.

Sober Identity

Sober Identity #Life Coach #The 50+ Years #Striving #Thriving #38-Empowering Affirmations #"Emerge: Growing From Addiction-Starter's Guide" #AfterRehabCoaching #Motivate

%d bloggers like this: