PTSD and a hairy dog belly.
What with the twitter nonsense, and the way that algorithms bury everything I want to see (and make it nearly impossible for me to keep folks informed about what I am doing/where I am appearing/what stories I have in press), I think I’m going to be moving more focus over here, with more frequent free and subscriber posts.
If you want the paid subscriber posts (and access to the subscriber Discord) you can get that here:
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So last Friday, Scott drove me out to a chronic pain clinic in scenic Woburn, MA, where I had a procedure (stellate ganglion block) performed that is supposed to help with PTSD symptoms and some chronic pain issues. And possibly even those perimenopausal vasovagal symptoms that have been making my life a challenge.
I’ve talked this over with my psychologist, and went in with her blessing.
Basically, the idea is that the doctor anesthetizes a sympathetic nerve bundle in the throat, which (more or less) turns off a chunk of your sympathetic nervous system and turns it back on again. The theory is that this allows some synaptic pruning to take place, so habituated neural pathways that can cause ongoing pain, anxiety, hypervigilance, and so forth get tidied away.
These are the people I used. I’ve been researching this for about ten years, honestly, since a friend did it—and I have two other friends who’ve done the process after I told them about it. So far everybody I know has had more or less good results—and the procedure as a pain treatment goes back almost a hundred years.
I opted not to go for the twilight sedation (after the cancer treatment a little ultrasound-guided needle in my throat didn’t scare me much, to be honest) and the whole procedure was in and out in 25 minutes. It was uncomfortable, and the popping sensation when they punch through your neck cartilage was really something, but no worse than a teeth cleaning or getting my nose pierced, honestly.
And I have to say that it seems to be working so far. I won’t really know until I find myself in a stressful or triggering situation, and I’ve had enough therapy and support over the years that I cope pretty well in terms of Being Functional, though not always Feeling Okay. I’m hoping that after the personal, medical, political, epidemiological, and social trauma of the past few years—compounding the damage from my, er, interesting childhood—this will help me do less “coping” and more “accomplishing things I want to do while using less mental energy to deal with monitoring and managing the PTSD symptoms.”
So far the weirdest bit has been the brief flirtation with Bell’s palsy (some of the facial nerves get rebooted, too because evolution just crams shit ANYWHERE) and the fact that while I was slicing strawberries last night, I had a whole moment when I noticed I wasn’t dissociated. Like, I was just slicing strawberries, not analyzing and monitoring myself slicing strawberries.
(One of the fun things about c-PTSD is that there are these levels of dissociation: there’s the normal everyday “I’m not really real, just kind of a construct” feelings, and then there’s the self-monitoring you learn to do so as not to be Too Weird In Public or take your trauma out on other people, and then there’s when stuff gets bad and you’re basically watching somebody else go through the motions of surviving from an insulated bubble a few inches up and to the left. And you may or may not be very successfully forming memories while all that is going on.)
Then, of course, I noticed that I was just slicing strawberries, and I was back to watching myself slice strawberries.
Anyway, I think I do feel less reactive and anxious. And there have been no physical ill effects beyond the initial Novocain Face and a tiny bit of soreness.
It’s curious, because I feel much more vulnerable about this whole process than I did about the cancer treatment, which is why I’ve been playing it a little closer to my chest… but it also occurred to me, once I knew it was working at least somewhat, that it would be kind to put the word out, because as a treatment modality this isn’t well-known.
Anyway, it seemed like it might be helpful to some folks, so feel free to pass the word around. The procedure isn’t cheap (about $1700) and my insurance didn’t cover it, but it will be tax-deductible, so that’s something. (And I think some insurance might cover it if you can get a referral for chronic pain instead of psych needs.)
Huh, it turns out that trauma causes physiological changes in the body and they might be reversible after all; who would have guessed that mental illness isn’t just caused by moral weakness or something.
Anyway, we’re also currently dogsitting for a friend (as you know if you have seen my twitter or instagram feeds recently and the algorithm didn’t bury the dog pictures) and as I type this I have an Irish Wolfhound on the couch with me. His name is Tolkien and he’s going home to his family on Wednesday. We’ll miss him, he makes a nice carpet.
We also went out to meet some puppies on Saturday. They are also wolfhound puppies, in a thrilling wolfhound-related coincidence!
This litter is all spoken for, but we may, if we are lucky, wind up with a dog from the next litter. It’s been almost four years since we lost Ace The Giant Ridiculous Dog, and we’re ready to start looking for another dog-friend.
My last several dogs have all been rescues of one sort or another and come with various issues. Given the cats and the horse, we need to start with a puppy this time so we can be sure everybody is safe and socialized together and nobody gets hurt.
Anyway, here are some adorable cuties.
Seven weeks old and already the size of your average beagle….
Hope this finds you well,