Monday, April 3, 2017

MAKING FRIENDS WITH UNCERTAINTY

A couple of days before I left for Paris, my subconscious demons beat me up: I convinced myself I'd somehow messed up my chances of attending my 'Paris Métro' audition - all in anticipation of the chance I might be about to have a happy time in Paris. I told my demons to shut the fuck up!

On arrival in Bagneux, Paris, I immediately felt overwhelmed and my PTSD was triggered by the crowds of people and all the different noises and smells. Despite this, however, I managed to resist writing down any reassurances to myself and needing to calm down, focused on my breathing during a yoga practice: Knowing that I'm capable of controlling the intensity of my obsessive-compulsive behaviour and intrusive thoughts simply through using my breath, reassured me.

The following morning I felt anxious after having had a nightmare about my neighbour back home chastising me for laughing with his kids and labeling me "nothing." A 'Kundalini Yoga Flow to Detox your Kidneys' helped to bring all of my attention back to the present moment and my body.

The lovely aparthotel I stayed at for three weeks had the use of a gym included in the price and I made the most of it; spinning almost daily for between 10 and 20 miles. Although throughout my stay I experienced intrusive images of men attacking, contaminating or raping me every time I had accidental physical contact with them, or if I was, for example, alone in a lift with a man, I was able to trust myself and stay rooted in reality enough, not to immediately write down that I hadn't been raped, contaminated or attacked - and to actually relax and enjoy male company for the first time in about 12 years. 

There were a few instances, for example when a man coming off a métro train shoved me in the arm, that my PTSD was triggered so badly I had to reassure myself by writing down that I hadn't been hurt, but with the help of grounding techniques and yoga, I quickly recovered from these incidents.

This all felt like a massive achievement - especially given that in Paris I was out of my comfort zone, and I even found myself studying forensic psychology as I was spinning on an exercise bike in the gym with a lone man on the running machine beside me!  I still asked my partner, Jan, for reassurance at the end of each day that I hadn't been hurt or contaminated, but so what?

I also further cut down on my general writing activities, such as my diary writing; finding quicker ways to document my experiences. This meant that I was able to leave the hotel earlier to get on with my day.

As if to counterbalance this new-found confidence, though (as often happens with OCD, I've found), my 'checking the pavement for contaminated needles' OCD returned with a vengeance - especially when I was tired or had PMT: I found myself constantly having to look behind me just in case I'd trodden on a needle contaminated with a fatal disease. I knew I was behaving completely irrationally, but I just had to keep looking behind me in order to continue on my journey (even if it wasn't at the pavement). 

At one point this became chronic and distressing, but then I thought back to all the ERP on myself I'd done a while back in order to rein this OCD in: I had a 'flash' that I'm constantly scanning the pavement as I'm walking, so I wouldn't have trodden on a needle, and if I had done, it'd be there in front of me. This helped for a while, but by the time I left for England, this OCD was out of control (but not as out of control as it has been in the past). It's got easier now I'm back in England, again, though, thanks goodness!

My 'appliance checking' compulsion was bad, but not as debilitating as it was the last time I stayed alone in Paris (almost a year ago): Last year I not only felt the need to check each light, electric hob, heater was off about 20 times before leaving the room, but the compulsion was so bad I'd dread this daily hell and would have to write down a reassurance to myself that I hadn't left anything on (that could cause a fire and potentially kill someone). I'd then have to ask my partner, Jan for reassurance on top of that. 

This time I still had to ask Jan for reassurance that I'd left everything in a safe state, but I didn't feel the need to write down a reassurance to myself, too. On a few occasions I almost felt strong enough to not seek reassurance at all, but I know I'm not quite there yet.

During my stay I took lots of beautiful photographs: I consciously sought out beauty, which forced the 'ugliness' that goes on in my head, into the background. That's not to say I denied the existence of this troubled part of myself; more that I'm getting better at making friends with uncertainty.