The Emotional “Other Half”

Posted: January 18, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I’ve written about the physical problems I am having with the SCS and the possible need for surgery to correct the issues. I haven’t really said much about what’s going on in my head and heart regarding all of this. It is complicated. Easier to avoid, but not especially helpful to do so.

While it can really hold me back from growing when I need to open up and think through my problems, I also admit that it can be quite useful to be able to flip my emotional light switch and shut my emotions down to deal with the facts of a situation.

It’s like when I’m playing my flute for a funeral, even the funeral of a close friend. I have to have only enough emotion to feel the music. The rest I shut down with my ‘kill switch’ and block off so that I can get the task done and bless others through the music. I can flip the switch back on later, but I must turn it off to survive the hardest stuff.

Same here, just a different situation. Flipping the emotions off allows me to ask questions and get data, collect information, without employing a knee-jerk reaction. For better or for worse, the decisions I must make do require some “emotion mind” activation as well, without which I couldn’t really care for those around me simultaneously. “Wise mind,” they say in DBT, employs all three parts of our minds – physical/body mind, emotion mind, and rational/reason mind. Unfortunately, it leaves out the most important part – the Holy Spirit. Slight smile. That is my greatest advantage.

I’ve been very physically exhausted lately, but I think a lot of it stems from emotional exhaustion. Due to dysautonomia (Neurocardiogenic Syncope, in my case), I get very sick when I feel strong emotions, whether they are happy, sad, angry, or all of the above. My autonomic nervous system freaks out. Blood pressure, muscle and facial weakness, fainting, worsening sleep apnea, heart palpitations, GI problems, all those processes your body normally handles on its own go haywire for me and it takes a lot of effort to consciously control them by following the advice of my doctors and using medication, rest, diet, etc. It’s no surprise then that getting bad news about my SCS was a huge hit. That came on Monday.

On Tuesday I had friends over, a couple whose company I really enjoy and who have walked through the valley of infertility together. They are a humorous lot, and we had many laughs and discussion of daily life mixed with the more touchy topic of infertility…the conversation weaved in and out, which was great and seemed natural for a couple who has handled their struggles together for over 20 years. It was a very healing time, a time for me to express my heart and desires and get wise advice and hear their story. They really ministered to me and I felt less alone (and less crazy) because they didn’t judge. They understood that my feelings about the big “i” issue were natural, normal, and that I’d need to keep bringing my emotions to God and working through it now and in the future (in other words, it’s not one of those “oh, now I’m done grieving and it won’t come back again” kind of issues, if those even really exist). So on Tuesday I was still trying to turn off my SCS worries and emotions while turning myself on emotionally regarding infertility, just enough to interact well with and benefit from my friends’ company. It seems I have an emotional ‘kill switch’ for nearly everything painful in my life.

On Wednesday, I met with my GI psychologist, Dr. OE. I had not seen her since before my surgery, and obviously a lot has happened since then. We talked about the SCS and talked facts, and after a while she said, “I’m most concerned about how you’re managing this emotionally/mentally.” Yeah, there’s that. 😛

Getting into that stuff is exhausting. It is not bad. It’s just exhausting. Naps and early bedtimes (yesterday’s was 3:30pm) are needed. Today, after writing this blog post, I’ll be ready for a long afternoon nap. If I don’t sleep after emotions run high, dysautonomia will kick my butt from here to China. It is already doing so and I feel lucky that I haven’t passed out yet. The dysautonomia itself makes it hard to work through my emotions. I have to choose which will suffer more – my physical body or my emotional wellbeing.

I often say and think to myself, “I’ve got to shut these emotions down right now so I can handle all of this. I’ll turn myself back on later so I can think it through and get over it.” But that’s not very rational, as one of my friends pointed out to me yesterday. She told me that life just doesn’t work like that. We don’t get a break between the raindrops – a week to ruminate over some issue and then ‘move on’. “You ARE processing through this, Sarah. You are doing pretty well. I think Tuesday was really good for you. It made you put the SCS stuff on the shelf so you could give attention to something else and it was helpful for you to talk to someone who could be sensitive to your concerns.” I felt like Dr. OE thought I was doing pretty well with what I have on my plate too. Maybe I’m just too hard on myself? Maybe other people, if they were in my shoes, would have an equally challenging time getting through all of this. Who knows?

I’ve needed honest prayer times with God where I lay my emotions and thoughts out before Him. I always feel better when I’m done unbottling what has been so tightly corked. It comes with lots of tears, shed in private. And it might be that I have so much bottled up that I’m letting out at once and doing so is overwhelming…but if I did it more frequently and the list was kept relatively short, it would be easier? …Maybe?

I’ve needed healthy interactions with gracious friends who love me and help me put life into perspective. These are all good and helpful. The downside is that when they come in short succession, they don’t leave me with much time to wind down and filter things through before going on to the next one. Then again, that’s life, right? We rarely get such opportunities. When it rains, it pours, and you’ve suddenly got an ocean in your living room rather than a puddle. You’re swimming with Willie in a pool that’s too small! (I’m really enjoying that mental image. LOL. So true.) Forget the rain slickers – just bring out the scuba gear, why don’t ya!

There are times I may appear stoic or give answers to friends’ questions about how I’m doing with mostly facts and little emotion. It’s certainly not that the emotion doesn’t exist. I just wouldn’t want to express it and lose my cool. 🙂 Besides, if I laid it all out, my friends would be overwhelmed. I don’t have much of a middle-ground. I’m either clammed up or it’s all hanging out and dripping off my sleeves. Truth is…I’m never entirely removed from that pool filled with life issues, taking up my living room space. Willie the whale is like the purple elephant of my living room ocean – hard to forget. Read all the symbolism you can into that analogy. Be assured it is intended.

Last week my friend Mike decided to buy me a helium balloon while we were at the dollar store. The gesture was cute. I told him I didn’t need one – I was just fine. Anyhow, he went up to the balloons and (we were kind of holding up the line, so I was getting a bit anxious) he said loudly, “How about this one? It is pink!” and it read “It’s A Girl!” Lol. I wasn’t quite sure what to say….big smile. “Uhm, well, I think that’s for baby showers, Mike.” He didn’t miss a beat…or maybe he did. “Oh, so do you want that one?” he asked with enthusiasm (of course not thinking anything of it nor realizing its potential relevance…). “Uh…well…” I said, not sure what to say. It kind of plucked strings on a lot of different levels and left me nearly wordless, with a little cringe inside. He bravely tried again. “What about the bear?” “If you insist, I’ll go for the smiley face. That’s fun,” I said. So I became the owner of a very happy yellow smiley face helium balloon with a yellow string. 🙂

Well, a few days ago I decided to get creative. Sometimes I do things on a whim because if I don’t do them, they will just nag me. This was one of them. I took a marker and I drew three tears below one of the eyes on my smiley face balloon. It seemed so right to me, expressed exactly how I’m feeling these days. “Sorrowful yet always rejoicing”.

In many ways I am truly happy and joyful these days. I have more hope than I’ve had for along time and I’m grateful to God. In many ways I’ve also hardly been more heartbroken than I have ever been before. Both experiences are intensely genuine and true. And I felt like expressing that through a little “art” made me feel better. To me, the smiley just didn’t look “right” until I made my adjustments. Who knows…I might just buy another smiley balloon and make a similar adjustment, but keep it (airless) in my bedroom so that on one side of the smiley I can write down things that I’m happy or joyful about and on the other side I can write things that have been challenging and sad, and keep it as a 2013/2014 “visual journal”.

It fits my personality to do things like that, even though these things would have little to no understandable meaning to others. It’s for me, not them. Maybe in a few years I’d go get it filled with helium and let it fly away? I enjoy symbolism, music, analogies and poetry (can you tell?). They help me express and ‘get out’ what is gripping me inside, and I feel a release when I write or create something representative of what’s inside. I’m glad to have even just a few healthy means of emotional relief.

So, that’s the “other half” of me these days.

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Comments
  1. Mario says:

    Hi Sarah- I have been reading your blog and your battle with CRPS and wanted to reach out. Please email me when you can. Thank you.

  2. Jennie Boyer says:

    Well, I can agree with you on so many levels on this blog, but, you know that. We CRPS people, I think, move from one crisis to another. We just have to get the times in between to be nice and long. (This isn’t coming out as eloquently as I hoped it would, but, you get the point.) We are just very special people. 🙂 God created us that way, not just anyone can handle this disease, it takes a special person. You and me, and a few more “lucky” people. I hope that made you smile! 😉 Like I said in your previous blog, you are in my prayers! Feel free to contact me. I’m home from our trip.

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