I'm not allowed to relax

LinEar

Registrant
I've been here for a while. Haven't posted too much lately. I'm having a hard time. The summer is especially difficult. I think for multiple reasons. Each time I was abused, as a child, and later once as an 'adult', it was in the summer heat. I hate hate hate the heat and humidity. In day-to-day life, I hold everything inside. I see a therapist, and I don't hold too much back, and I trust her -- I usually feel at least a bit better after, but I go right back to shutdown mode when I leave. She has been working on me with letting go, detaching from the feelings associated with 'feeling hot', being a curious observer, and that sort of thing. But I don't think I'm making any progress there. I was diagnosed with dysautonomia nearly 20 years ago, and about 15 years before memories of abuse began surfacing. One of the symptoms is heat intolerance. When I step into air conditioning, I'm shivering. Very sensitive to the environment, always aware when a storm is coming and the air pressure is dropping, that sort of thing. Now I'm not so sure that all of my physical issues (fatigue, tight muscles/neck, etc.) aren't more abuse related. I never turned to alcohol, or drugs, or abusive relationships (I'm generally relationship-avoidant) or any other 'addictions' -- not that that makes me superior in any way, but the point is, the hurt, pain, and tension have to go somewhere. In my case, inward, physically held onto. I've read plenty of books (The Body Keeps The Score etc.) and sites with info, and I definitely believe in the clear connection. When I told my brother about everything, several years ago, I was able to cry for so hard and so long that I felt physically relaxed and free and amazing for a solid week afterward. It was incredible. It didn't last, though. Now I'm debating telling my senior citizen parents and my T and I have been talking about the pros and cons. Looking back and from what I've read as an adult, I gave off so many signs and symptoms of abuse when I was a kid, and nobody helped. I got in trouble for crying "for no reason." I was totally amnesic of what happened at the time -- from ages 8 to about 33, so even I believe then that I was just "messed up" and "looking for attention" or "making a scene" even though deep down I knew something was very wrong. That's primarily what's holding me back.

I regularly take a bit of melatonin and ZMA to help me sleep. The other night, my neck was very tight, and I gave valerian root a try after my T had suggested it (I had it in my cabinet since January but never worked up the nerve to try it). I emptied about 1/3 of one capsule into some water and it definitely caused some muscle relaxation. Last night I was up at 3:30 AM, couldn't sleep, so decided to take an entire capsule. It ended up being a mistake, and I guess the point of my post. It worked really well to relax my muscles, but not the brain/racing thoughts. So I became anxious that if I let go and go to sleep, I was going to stop breathing. Relaxing feels "wrong" to me. Not morally wrong, but very, very dangerous. So I stayed awake about 2 hours, fighting it, before finally falling asleep for another hour or two at some point. I feel like it did exactly what it was supposed to for me, and even that wasn't right or helpful. Being unable to relax is partially general hypervigilance and partially avoidance, particularly of the adult abuse experience. I'm almost certain that, if there wasn't some sort of drug involved, I was at a minimum not used to the red wine he gave me (I'm a lightweight, as far as a non-drinker/minimal tolerance, and physically on the lowest end of healthy BMI). So whenever I feel like something is "forcing" me to relax or sleep, I experience it as a threat, and not a welcome feeling.

Not sure where I'm going with all this. Just wanted to get it out.
 
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Sprinter

Registrant
Relaxing feels "wrong" to me. Not morally wrong, but very, very dangerous.
@LinEar Thanks for the post. I get what you mean. Took a long time, but I have made some progress in being able to relax. People used to tell me to relax (including clueless Ts) because I looked so tense. I would tell them, "Being relaxed makes me nervous." I don't know whether anyone ever understood, but it felt good to speak my truth. I still feel proud of my little statement.
 
Thanks for sharing this LinEar. Even knowing that the "body keeps the score" doesn't mean we're any good a reading the score. I often speak about "carrying" the residue of trauma... fear, shame, anger and grief. I was shocked when doing neurofeedback therapy earlier this year at how intense is my hypervigilance. Talk about a recipe for anxiety! I saw how I was reading every movement of my therapist's face, interpreting the words and tone of everything he said. Yes, I was previously aware of my startle reflex. My former wife would put her hand on my shoulder from behind and I'd flinch.

It definitely is telling that after speaking with your brother the tears erupted... doubtless tears carried just below the surface... which is where all the feeling related to past abuse reside. It is good you have a therapist with whom to share all of this. I think it is good you can write about it here. Even though our experiences of trauma are different we all know what it is like to carry the residue in the years and decades following the events.

I wonder if you've done any journaling about your experience. I found that very helpful... just between me and a blank piece of paper. It has been surprising what comes up. Be gentle with yourself LinEar... you're among kindred spirits here.
 

LinEar

Registrant
@LinEar Thanks for the post. I get what you mean. Took a long time, but I have made some progress in being able to relax. People used to tell me to relax (including clueless Ts) because I looked so tense. I would tell them, "Being relaxed makes me nervous." I don't know whether anyone ever understood, but it felt good to speak my truth. I still feel proud of my little statement.
Thank you Sprinter, it's good to know that I'm not alone with the "relaxing makes me more nervous" that hardly anyone else seems to understand.

I was shocked when doing neurofeedback therapy earlier this year at how intense is my hypervigilance. Talk about a recipe for anxiety! I saw how I was reading every movement of my therapist's face, interpreting the words and tone of everything he said. Yes, I was previously aware of my startle reflex. My former wife would put her hand on my shoulder from behind and I'd flinch.

...

I wonder if you've done any journaling about your experience. I found that very helpful... just between me and a blank piece of paper. It has been surprising what comes up. Be gentle with yourself LinEar... you're among kindred spirits here.
Thanks Visitor. I did neurofeedback with this T a few years ago, and it was definitely helpful. Not so much with the hypervigilance in my case, but more with rumination & endlessly replaying conversations in my head. It 'cured' both of those almost entirely.

I've done a little journaling; in fact, several years ago I found a Word document file that I'd written way back in 2005 and totally forgotten about, where I vaguely referenced being abused (but it was clear when re-reading it years later) -- and that was during the amnesic time, as things really didn't become at all more clear until late 2013. It's very interesting and a bit disturbing as to how the mind works to protect you like that.

I'd never done the 'write a letter to the abuser'-type of journaling and I gave that a shot last night. After just a few short paragraphs, I was exhausted, totally drained, but my ribs and back especially were able to relax quite a bit. Had my T session today and, as we're doing parts work, worked with one of the protector parts who tenses, specifically on identifying the similar feeling but different causes of natural/healthy relaxation vs alcohol/drug-induced "forced sleep" relaxation. I was pretty dissociated during the first half hour or so, before we got to talking about relaxation, but was able to relax and regain mental clarity as we did that work -- so I'm hopeful that it's another path to walk down further.
 
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I see a therapist, and I don't hold too much back, and I trust her -- I usually feel at least a bit better after, but I go right back to shutdown mode when I leave.
Same here. My T has told me how she finds me interesting in how logical and analytical I am in session but yet I am this different person to others as far as how I present myself all happy and confident. To be honest it sort of bothers me she told me that. I feel like a freak.

Not sure where I'm going with all this. Just wanted to get it out.
I get that and for me it helps when I read what others are going through so I don’t feel alone. Thank you.
 

Koko Joe

Registrant
Please be careful with the Valerian root. I abused it and it caused problems when it started to wear off.

One capsule a day is probably fine though.
 

Dan99

Registrant
This hypervigilence and inability to relax is something I also struggle with, though my story is a little different.

One of the sickest parts of my abuse involved my brother. The perp started out molesting us together, but gradually shifted most of his focus on my brother. He would take him into a back room and make me keep watch out the front window to warn him if someone came. I was 6, 7, 8 at the time. Sometimes he would sneak out and surprise me, to make sure I didn't do anything other than keep watch. If he caught me reading, even, he'd fly into a rage. I can't really descrbe the fear and adrenaline that was always pumping through my body. It just started to feel normal.

I still feel like I'm at red alert most of the time. And to top it off I'm so ashamed of it I can barely even talk about it here. But it is good to talk. I know what you mean that it's good to let this stuff out. I know people notice and tell me i should learn to relax. It freezes me up because I'd rather they just think I'm uptight than know the whole story.

Good luck. Sounds like you've got a good therapist.
 
I'd never done the 'write a letter to the abuser'-type of journaling and I gave that a shot last night. After just a few short paragraphs, I was exhausted, totally drained, but my ribs and back especially were able to relax quite a bit.
It's great to hear that journaling has helped with that! I've found writing very useful for dealing with those times when the feelings get especially intense. It is easy for me to imagine that putting something on the page is somehow getting it out of my head and body, and it works. Alas in my case muscle relaxation hasn't come along with it.

I'm all about tension in the upper back and neck. Have been for as long as I can remember. I've found Yoga to be a help, when I can calm down enough to make time to do it. I used to go to weekly classes, but Covid has put an end to that. In their absence, I find Yoga with Adriene on Youtube to be surprisingly good. She has various routines on her channel targeted at different areas, and they do the job.
 
Hi LinEar

Now I'm not so sure that all of my physical issues (fatigue, tight muscles/neck, etc.) aren't more abuse related.
I have had many injuries in my life and the pain and tightness in my back and neck. I use heat packs depending on where my pains are I have many different Heat bags. I use them on my neck back and feet, they usually help me to relax and get to sleep.

Take good care
 

LinEar

Registrant
I get that and for me it helps when I read what others are going through so I don’t feel alone. Thank you.
You got it.

Please be careful with the Valerian root. I abused it and it caused problems when it started to wear off.
Good to know, didn't realize it could be addictive. I'm much too put off from it for now, but may try some again in the future.

I still feel like I'm at red alert most of the time. And to top it off I'm so ashamed of it I can barely even talk about it here. But it is good to talk. I know what you mean that it's good to let this stuff out. I know people notice and tell me i should learn to relax. It freezes me up because I'd rather they just think I'm uptight than know the whole story.

Good luck. Sounds like you've got a good therapist.
I know it's hard to talk about. I try so hard to relax, which is a bit antithetical to relaxing, I know -- I agree that it feels too dangerous/close when someone notices physical tightness and you know why, and they don't. I feel very luck to have this T, my first one wasn't horrible, but not a match, mostly because it seemed like she definitely hadn't worked through her own issues enough.


It's great to hear that journaling has helped with that! I've found writing very useful for dealing with those times when the feelings get especially intense. It is easy for me to imagine that putting something on the page is somehow getting it out of my head and body, and it works. Alas in my case muscle relaxation hasn't come along with it.

I'm all about tension in the upper back and neck. Have been for as long as I can remember. I've found Yoga to be a help, when I can calm down enough to make time to do it. I used to go to weekly classes, but Covid has put an end to that. In their absence, I find Yoga with Adriene on Youtube to be surprisingly good. She has various routines on her channel targeted at different areas, and they do the job.
Writing helps, and from a detached perspective, it's interesting as to how much I avoid it. I'm doing that a bit right now. :) But I'll get to it again and see how it goes. As much as I want to be relaxed and free, rushing things is never a good idea. I don't think I mentioned that I see an osteopath regularly (interrupted by the pandemic as well), and he's helped me quite a bit. The frustration with that is that the relaxed treatment feeling never lasts more than a few hours, and I don't think it's anything he's doing wrong. For me, it's just more evidence that it's emotionally/psychologically driven. I'll take a look at that channel.

Hi LinEar

I have had many injuries in my life and the pain and tightness in my back and neck. I use heat packs depending on where my pains are I have many different Heat bags. I use them on my neck back and feet, they usually help me to relax and get to sleep.

Take good care
Thanks Esterio. Definitely one of my go-tos!
 
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