Challenge Your Disorder by Becoming AWARE

Last week took a toll both physically and mentally, and now it’s up to me to not derail my progress. Since a scheduled titration was done during that time, withdrawal symptoms feed on any extra stress.

I started Sunday feeling stiff, but like I could resume my structured day. As I got up, however, my brain had other plans. Checking in, I decided it would be best to complete necessary errands, then come home and get some rest.

Things seemed okay, but the moment I set foot out my door, my stomach fell to the floor. Blood left my arms and legs, my heart was pounding, and I though I was going to vomit.  My hypervigilance kicked in – all senses heightened. Guess today’s primary symptom is cPTSD related agoraphobia. Explain very simply, I’m afraid there won’t be enough exits, and no matter how much you try to convince me, my brain’s making me believe there’s danger everywhere. Hypervigilance makes lights too bright, smells quite strong, and I can hear a pin drop.

I’m stubborn. Too stubborn. All anxiety related disorders are your brain trying to keep you safe, but in 9 out of 10 cases, it’s lying to you about any actual danger. The only way to beat this bullshit is to fight back.

I started by using an ACT technique ‘changing my but to an and‘. I will go out and I will feel [insert all symptoms of anxiety/pain]. This seemed to be working for the first 20-30 minutes outside. Sadly, I have no control over dissociative behavior, and I guess the stress caused by the anxiety flipped the switch. I started to feel dizzy, my vision became blurry, and it felt like I was glued to the car seat.

What the hell do I do now?

I remember coming across a website that used a combination of methods for anxiety disorders, and came up with the acronym AWARE.

Acknowledge & accept
that I’m in the state I’m in right now. I don’t agree, but it cannot be helped. It’s okay I don’t know why in this moment I’m having a hard time with my symptoms. It is what it is.

Wait and watch what’s happening to me. Taking the time to note what sensations are the ones triggering dissociation. If I allow this to take over, I won’t get done what I need to do. Taking this the time to HALT is beneficial.

Actions that assist in lowering my arousal. Am I taking deep, belly breaths? Do some grounding techniques to self-sooth and bring me back down to earth. Say to myself what exactly is happening. Say to myself this is my brain thinking I’m in danger when there’s no proof that I truly am. Don’t make the quick decision that I need to go back home.

Repeat. If I need to take an extra ten minutes, it takes an extra ten minutes. If it’s been a substantial amount of time, it’s then a matter of me delaying going back to where I deem safe. Completely removing the option to leave will cause anyone to feel trapped. My body doesn’t know what to do with all these brain chemicals, it’s my job to help it where I can.

End. This is where you’re supposed to remind yourself that all states are temporary, and it will pass. Sadly, I’ve noticed being in a constant state of withdrawal, it’s more like volume control. I’m at a 9, it will go back down to 4. When I’m asleep, I’ll have my sweet period of zero. Trauma related practice is all about settling yourself as to not re-traumatize, and in my case, not bring on full-blown dissociation.

I’m trying to figure out what level of success I had. One type of mindfulness I’ve been taught is you’re to accept no matter what the outcome, but this has been killing my already depleted morale. When you go from being a ridiculously over-productive perfectionist to a frozen slab of human, the lack of being able to see progress kills any remaining hope. Luckily I was with someone, and I can say normally I’d ask to be taken back to my place the moment I feel dissociation coming on. Doing the above allowed me to stay in the vehicle while priority errands were finished.

I didn’t bail. I didn’t bail. After some rest when home, I was able to some household chores. It wasn’t what I planned on doing, but more got accomplished than other times I’ve come strait home to settle down.

It’s a start. All of this is practice. Progress feels like shuffling forward, but at least it’s forward.

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