Living and Perspective

| By Paul | | Comments (26)

This is the point at which this blog takes a decidedly personal turn. I am probably going to start writing about things that are more about my day-to-day life, though I will always try to tie it into a broader picture on healing.

The last four weeks have gone like this: I had an enormous trigger in the middle of February. I handled it well initially, but it eventually led to an internal breakdown and huge disconnect internally. I landed up in the hospital and truly thought I was set back two decades ago. I was certain it was going to take a long time to turn things around and would need to cancel my obligations for the next several weeks. But, I am not in the same place I was two decades ago, one decade ago, or even a year ago. I was able to turn the incapacitating disconnect into a total connect which propelled me forward in just a couple days. I learned that my "resilience" is probably here to stay. And that knowledge gave me confidence.

I did not have to cancel any of my obligations. After I got out of the hospital, I had to prepare for a big elementary school "lip sync" show I was co-leading for the following weekend. That went super well. All 150 kids loved it. They got a taste of being on a real stage with real sound, lights, props and costumes. I dressed up as the school mascot, a "penguin" and danced a final act before all the kids came up on stage and we closed out the show with the traditional "Cotten Eyed Joe" dance. I had enormous satisfaction for having a big role in making it happen.

The following week, I had to meet a work deadline of a large research proposal that had been in discussion and preparation for many months. It was a single-spaced 15 page main narrative document with a whole host of ancillary materials. I was not happy with the quality of the main narrative initially, but I had some people contributing pieces to it, and eventually I was able to pull it all together and submit something I was proud of.

Traditionally, there have been total collapses after these work proposals. I have done many dozens of them over the years, but relatively few over the past several years. Even with the last one that was due middle of January, I had a decent sized collapse and I only wrote one part of the proposal. But I did not collapse this time. Instead, the next day I went to the championship swim meet for my youngest daughter and photographed the whole event.

There was definitely a worry of collapse after that. I struggled quite a bit the beginning part of last week, and last Tuesday I started to write a post titled "System Disconnect" but did not get very far as I was too mired in difficulty. I found myself run down. I cancelled some obligations.

But if I had to describe what it felt like, it was as if there was a little something extra in my "tank" that I could call upon. In the not-too-distant past, I could easily find myself in bed for days, unable to do practically anything. Instead, by Wednesday I was back on schedule. Thursday was St. Patrick's Day and I photographed a town event. Friday I went to work and attended an evening social function for work. Saturday I cleaned the house and then went to my youngest daughter's swim banquet where she won a trophy for "Most Improved Swimmer" for her age group. Sunday I was out hiking with the kids most of the day while my wife was in bed sick with a flu. Monday I spent most of the day volunteering in our town's elementary school—more on this in another post. Tuesday, today, I was at work by 6 am and was busy until I left for therapy at 4 pm.

So, what is the problem? Well, on one level there really is no problem at all. I know that to the outside observer my life has looked incredibly smooth. I have been navigating everything perfectly. My wife is the happiest she has been in a long time, because I have been very engaged with the family for a long time now and my engagement is only increasing with time. To me, on one level it feels like things are also very smooth.

But what I do not quite understand is why I am not at all connected to the past week or two or more. It feels like the proposal was a lifetime ago (or really didn't happen). It feels like all the stuff at the end of last week and this weekend was a lifetime ago too, even though I can recount the days and everything. Being able to recount the events though doesn't feel so natural. If never pressed, I would have no need to recount them. But, yet, they are all on my electronic calendar. And they are in email records. And they are in my journal. All of those things I did not have a few years ago or even a decade or two ago—at least in this way and so accessible. All are tools I have now that seem to help me in so many ways.

The last week or so has not just been about "doing things." I know that there has been a really unusual quality to my piano playing that is a step or two or three beyond where I normally am at even when I am playing really well. There have been expressions about religion and Easter and possibly going back to the church that I went back to for the first time last year with "My Healing Guide." I seem to know exactly what to say to my kids, without really getting irritated with them. I have even been more open about what I struggle with, telling certain people some things that seem to naturally come up in conversation, but saying just enough so it feels safe and appropriate. If I were just "disconnected", none of these would be possible. So, it is not the normal disconnection which leads to problems with safety and lands me in the hospital.

The reality is that life has not really been so smooth. "My Healing Guide" brought up her assessment that my ability to tolerate distress is extremely high. And if I think about it, I know that in between all this wonderful "functionality," there have been some massive panics. I know after my proposal was done a week and a half ago, there was a huge conflict about getting home safely and I actually needed help to get home. I know there has been a lot of pain and that I have not taken heavy duty pain pills, but instead Tylenol and Advil.

What I do not quite understand is how there can be so much connection and flow that must require most all parts of me, yet there is a huge degree of disconnection (for me).

After spending time in therapy today, then writing about all of this in my journal, then writing about it here, there actually does not seem to be that much disconnect anymore. So, maybe all that I need to do is allow myself to "live" (which is what I have been doing) but merely stop now and again to assess where I am at and maintain perspective.


Nansie said:

WOW Paul! I am so impressed by all of this. It sounds to me like you are growing stronger and gaining confidence about your strength. At times strength does teeter... lol. I found your post to be delightful because it's so exciting to hear your joy of all you have been accomplishing lately. Not only that but it sounds like you've even enjoyed it along the way instead of feeling pressured by it... what a trade off. Sounds like milestones are happening and benefits of hard hard work are being reaped? :) Sending you giggles and kudos!!

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Nansie:

Thanks Nansie. Yes, it feels that way. But I still do have to take time to assess where I am at. There's a lot of functional collaboration happening inside. But it has to be monitored. This is where I get confused. I think my life should not have to be this way. That I should be able to just live it without having to do extra attending. But that's just not the way things are inside, so I know I have to do that piece of it.

Holly said:

I'm a little in awe of how productive you are! And it sounds like, from what you've said here, that it's been mostly positive? That's really excellent and I'm happy for you.

"So what I do not quite understand is how there can be so much connection and flow that must require most all parts of me. Yet there is a huge degree of disconnection (for me)."

Maybe that's how the connection and flow is possible? I don't know. It sounds like a complex, multi-layered dynamic. Or maybe it's just that it's above my head. ;)

Good to hear from you!

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Holly:

Thanks Holly. Yes, mostly positive. But something is missing if I'm not really connected to it. It seems that my writing this last night and reflecting seemed to put me in touch. I think I was afraid that if I got in touch with what was going on (for me) that it would mean my life would have to come to a halt. But it seems that isn't the case. Yes, "complex, multi-layered dynamic" is very appropro. The past month or so has really helped me realize how truly complex I am.

Kylie said:

This is wonderful, Paul. I am so happy for you to hear that you are making such huge steps and as Nansie said, you are beginning to benefit from all the hard work you have put into healing. It is so great to hear.

You have definitely been busy!! I'm in awe at all you have managed to accomplish. I don't think it's a bad thing that there has been some huge panics. The fact that you were able to manage them and continue on despite them is a great sign of healing. I personally believe that a huge part of healing is learn to deal with the panic and fear in a healthy manner so that we can continue with our everyday lives with very little disruption. You seem to be managing this, but you are also seeming to recognise when you do need a break and not push it too far. That is really important, and I am so happy for you.

I agree that even when things are going well we still need to take time out for ourselves to assess what is happening on the inside and keep track of things. It doesn't really seem fair but I guess it's important for maintaining a healthy life and thus a small trade off.

I was wondering, I know when things are going well for me that I get scared things are going to crash again and so I do not connect as much as I probably could. Could this be a small part of your disconnection?

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Kylie:

Thanks Kylie, for all your kind words. I will get to reading the blogs soon! I find it odd to get notes from people and not know what's going on for them. Reading the blogs is important to me. It's just not been possible lately. No, for me the disconnection I felt was more about thinking that if I really paid attention, that my life would slow down or stop. It was not about crashing.

Kylie replied to Paul:

I definitely understand about the blogs, I haven't been able to keep up with them until recently and I am only just going back and catching up. Reading them is important to me too.

It seems you are even more connected since you wrote this post, which is wonderful. I find it interesting that you said "for me the disconnection I felt was more about thinking that if I really paid attention, that my life would slow down or stop."

While I recognise stopping is a bad thing, why would slowing down be bad? I think it is wonderful that you are able to be doing so much at the moment and the best part is how involved with your family you are. However I have never believed that slowing down as bad, the way you word this makes me think you feel it would be?

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Kylie:

Slowing down is definitely not a bad thing Kylie. It's just that when it feels like slowing down equates with letting your guard down and you get hurt, that's a problem.

castorgirl said:

When reading this what struck me was your ability to maintain the need for connections. It's easy to be busy, lose all sense of connection; but keep on going regardless. It's that sort of thing that can lead to the crashes, due to things getting out of balance.

It's also interesting the voice you have within this post...

Still smiling at the image of you dancing in a penguin mascot outfit! I'm glad the children enjoyed the show.

Take care,

Paul Author Profile Page replied to castorgirl:

CG, Thanks! Yes, connections are critical for a more fluid life (with DID). Yes, it's not been about busy busy and losing the fundamental connection. I don't think I have to do it like that anymore. I thought that to do big things, I had to do it that way. That was the old way. That eventually led to crashes. The new way allows me to accomplish big things without the crash. Sounds like this could be good wording for a commercial! Anyway, if enough people ask, I may post the penguin dance! But don't hold your breath.

Evan said:

It does sound like you have developed some big time resilience. Congratulations.

Learning to tolerate pain is a good thing when we need to handle big stuff. It can be a bit of a problem other times. It can mean that we allow things to build up. Someone I know used to just put their hands into a sink full of hot water when doing the washing up because they had (their words) 'asbestos hands'. They have since learned to not tolerate pain when they don't need to (most of the time anyway).

It is possible that you are experiencing some elation - Which is a kind of dissociation in one sense.

Great to hear that things are going so well for you.

Nansie said:

Haha...CG you got him on the penguin dance!! Now he's on the hook to all of us to post that dance!
Paul I gotta ask...what do you thing opened this all up for you? All the awareness, connectedness and here's to being present! A big dam just seemed to let go within me-a bunch of awareness about the present stuff I dissociate from-it all just seems to open up. Kind of like my horizon expanded. But I have been dissociating some harsh realities about my marriage for years now. There were some triggering events but all kinds of lights went on and I am still in the process of accepting what I am seeing and the pain that comes with it.
Your experience though is so much more positive than mine. I am so excited for you. I want to know if this just happened or if some good stuff triggered it? Just curious...and happy for you!

OneSurvivor said:

OK... I wanna see the Penguin dance. LOL

It sure sounds like you have been making some giant leaps forward in your healing journey. Actually... what I think it looks more like is that things kind of accumulate. Each time you move forward, you handle things differently. That different handling adds to the moving forward. Each step keeps adding until you reach the point where you are doing things... responding to things way differently than you did.

I guess what I am trying to say is that the farther forward you go... the faster you go... as if you picking up momentum... if that makes sense. It is what comes to mind for me.

I wonder... do you think the "disconnect" that you wrote about at the end could be more along the lines of simply experiencing something new and different because your healing has brought you to that place? In other words... you are "disconnected" from the old and familiar stuff. However, the old and familiar stuff are no longer working for you... you do not need them. You are moving into a healthier new "normal" which feels unfamiliar and you are interpreting that to be "disconnect".

I don't know. Did ANY of that just make sense? LOL Sometimes...I sense things and it is hard to put them into words.

tai0316 said:

It made my heart gald to read about you dancing. That was very positive. :)

I don't have much to add to what everyone has already said. I think it's good that you are aware of when connections aren't present. If we keep going and going and we don't realize what's going on that can lead to trouble. It's good to take time to assess the situation without obsessing to the point that we can't accomplish what we need to. You've done really well being there for your family and everything else while realizing what was going on inside. That's so great.

Paul Author Profile Page said:

Thank you Nansie, Evan, OneSurvivor, Tai. I don't know what to say. All of this is true, what I wrote and what you all wrote. Yet, still, I will share that I had an event of serious self harm today. So, I'm trying to make sense of things. I don't quite understand it yet, but I am trying.

OneSurvivor replied to Paul:

Offering hugs! I know how hard it can be to realize how you have grown and then to find yourself doing something you recognize as negative. Don't be hard on yourself, Paul. Tomorrow is another day.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to OneSurvivor:

Thank you OneSurvivor. You know, tomorrow is today. And I did okay.

OneSurvivor replied to Paul:


Nansie said:

Be careful Paul....I am sorry you experienced this kind of low after such growth. Maybe part of you panicked is all I can think of. Because I know when I experience the strength of a taste of "wholeness" sometimes some panic will follow.

Remember when we were victimized and there was no one there to protect us? Remember how when we were young and all this was going on the bottom kept dropping out on us in our lives? I know I feared being happy when I was little because it never turned out to be real. Well now we're building strong and happier lives and there may be little parts in us that get scared and panic... kinda like waiting for the bottom to drop out? I don't know but these are just some thoughts I get about it all. I hope your ok and try to take some deep breaths and recollect your bearings!! Sending you good thoughts and safe hugs!

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Nansie:

Thanks Nansie. Yes, I will be careful. Yes, I got my bearings. What happened has not derailed me and I made a good effort today at making sense of it all.

wantstorun said:


I'm pretty new to reading your blog, so can't necessarily comment on how you were some time ago versus now. What I can say, though, is that you are inspirational in your healing. I also appreciate your objectivity - when you state you recognize some of the progress you've made, but don't necessarily understand the 'how' or 'why' of it; and that the success doesn't necessarily feel connected. I kinda get that, w/o being able to explain why (heh, irony).

Glad to hear you are okay after the SI today. For me, sometimes I get overwhelmed with 'feeling too good,' and so I will self-sabotage w/ a bit of SI. Not trying to suggest that is what occurred for you, just sharing a perspective.

Thanks for all you do.


Paul Author Profile Page replied to wantstorun:

Thank you wantstorun. It's hard to think that anything about me is inspirational, especially when I do something that I'm not at all proud of. That kind of puts a kink in any of that. Yes, I'm pretty adamant that while it's important to try to figure things out, sometimes it's not always possible. I talked in a post a while ago about uncertainty. While this is maybe not so relevant to this, I rather like this post of mine. It's here: Uncertainty.

tai0316 said:

Paul, I just wanted to say that it made sense to me that after all of the progress and success you had, this would happen. It made a lot of sense. I'm glad you don't feel it derailed you and I'm glad you're making sense of it. Please be safe and you're in my thoughts.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to tai0316:

Tai, yes, I do get this on some level (i.e., that there would be something bad happen). But I don't really find comfort in that. I was stunned by it actually. Yes, I'm not derailed. But I'm not at all happy about it. I spent a good deal of effort at trying to make sense of it. I think I've learned some things that I should put in writing here (I already have it written in my private journal). But I think some of it would be helpful to people. Thanks for the warm thoughts!

tai0316 replied to Paul:

I feel the need to say that I found it difficult to find an appropriate way to comment about what happened originally (after the self-harm happened, not my first reply to this post). I hate platitudes, but I wanted to be positive. Part of me felt like I was being fake in my response but I was more worried about overstepping boundaries and making assumptions that would offend you. I wanted to sound upbeat but I think my comment didn't really express my thoughts. I still think that what happened is a reasonable reaction, but I too would not take comfort in that logic. It doesn't change the feelings that were at the root of it and it doesn't change the feelings or consequences afterwards. And knowing how I feel when that happens to me, I know that I am never anywhere near happy about it. So I'll just say: That really sucks! And I'm sorry. I look forward to whatever you choose to write about and I appreciate you thinking about helping others despite what's going on with you.

Hmmm...I hope I didn't mess up my own comment by making it completely confusing and hard to follow...

Paul Author Profile Page replied to tai0316:

Tai, What you wrote originally was fine. I know that nobody knows the details, so I understand that it's only from your own perspective that you can write. Sadly, I know that it's not all smooth sailing. I didn't at all see what you wrote as fake and I wasn't at all offended by anything you wrote. This is precisely the attitude I try to have: Yes, that it sucks. And yes, that it's not good for me to get hurt. Yes, I will make sense of it. But, no, I will not let it derail me (at least if I can help it). I found your comment helpful to be honest and took it as positive.

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This page contains a single entry published on March 22, 2011 11:24 PM.

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