Not so lady-like lumps

I have a lumpy head. Or, rather, I had a lumpy head. I just had the last couple removed earlier today. It’s the third time I’ve been in to Doctor Proctor’s minor surgery clinic. He’s a lovely man; very personable, humble and curious. I always feel a bit egotistical during our chats as he cuts open my scalp and pries out sacs of gunk, because he asks me considerate questions and responds so warmly to my responses, and I never really ask anything back because I’m a bit scared to interrupt his work by talking when he didn’t specifically prompt it. And not even because it might impact my scalp, just because I don’t like to interrupt people when they’re working.

By the time it came to today’s appointment, I half wondered what the point was, because I’ve barely noticed these remaining offenders since having the last two removed. They were, of course, removed in order of severity, with the biggest and most painful going first in the most traumatic of the de-cysting procedures, where I even got to enjoy the thrills of cauterisation when I was a bit too bleedy. There’s really nothing quite like the bubbling, hissing, crackling sound of your flesh burning, vibrating against your skull. Now that we were down to the least troublesome, I wondered if removing them was worth the trouble.

I’m not particularly squeamish and, adequately numbed, it’s not like I find the removals especially perturbing. Each time, however, I have found myself with shaky, sweaty hands by the time the stitches are in. It always feels disproportionate to the amount I suffered during the procedure. I mentioned it the first time, in case it was a side effect of the anaesthetic, but it didn’t seem to have a neat explanation. I’ve been trying to dredge up the parts of my degree that taught me about the biological response to pain, so I can speculate on whether, if the pain receptors are blocked, the body still has other ways of knowing it’s been hurt that may result in me having this kind of reaction. Maybe I’m just bluffing myself into thinking I’m fine and the shaking is a manifestation of how fine I’m not.

I’d become quite self-conscious about my lumpy head. Specifically, the idea of a romantic interest feeling them during a moment of intimacy made me squirm. My ex teased me about them and, while I don’t think his intention was to make me feel bad, it pushed on some tender spots around feeling unfeminine and thus unattractive, and created a problem where once there hadn’t been one. Beautiful women don’t have lumpy heads. I was surprised to find myself so affected by an ugly idea like this. It wasn’t the kind of person I thought I was, and it led me to unearthing a bunch of other ugly ideas that I’d pushed down and papered over.

While the lumps were objectively causing pain and discomfort, the blight on my self-esteem was probably the main reason I wanted them gone. It feels like a nice bit of closure to realise that, at the same time as I was going through the process to have these blemishes upon the silhouette of my scalp removed, I was also doing the inner work that disentangled their existence there from my sense of worthiness.

So I guess now all the loose ends have been nicely stitched up.

A mild quarrel

I had plenty of sleep last night, and woke up feeling lively. My son and I danced, and made stamp pictures, and talked about Pokemon, and were out earlier than usual to get some things to supplement our breakfast from the local shop, which we then enjoyed as a sort of mini morning picnic on our picnic step close to where I alarmed some passers-by the other day. I was having a lovely time.

And then it all changed. And not because something terrible happened. But because I was involved in what was, probably, from the outside, a mild quarrel, but what my brain perceived as me being accused of being such a terrible mother and all round person that it was barely believable.

I won’t be so uncouth as to go into further detail, but it’s fair to say that, while my brain had plenty of fodder saved up to fuel that interpretation for me, it probably wasn’t what was actually happening, and even if it was, my body did not need to take it so personally.

I always feel ashamed when my trigger gets pulled. For being so weak as to allow it. Giving someone that kind of power over me is a deeply troubling occurrence. But I also get inarticulate and kind of stupid; I lose all the faculties that my most primitive sense of self-worth is attributed to.

The shame is compounded when my son is a witness. Yuck, I never want him to see me like that. Disempowered. Reactive. Defensive. Small. I want to be able to lead him by example through difficult conversations with equanimity, compassion, curiosity, and integrity. In those moments, I fall woefully short of the standards I strive towards. I worry that all the good work I have done will be somehow undone in a moment of weakness.

I am fairly confident this shame spiral is an over-reaction. I am fairly confident that – based on everything I know about trauma, shame, people – if I was an outsider looking in, I would deem it a gross over-reaction. But I’m not an outsider looking in.

I have spent the day trying to recover from this fucking mild quarrel where nothing particularly bad happened. Luckily (or maybe unluckily), it happened on a Sunday, when my only expectations of myself were to run and to write. There was plenty of time to dig in.

I can always tell when I’ve been thrown out of myself because I roam the house looking for anything and nothing. I also do this when I’m excited, but when I’m excited the roaming is an attempt to regulate the surge of energy coursing through me. When the gun’s been fired I’m looking for something to fill the void where the bullet once was. I caught myself doing this within minutes of being left to my own devices, at about half eleven this morning. It took me until half nine tonight to get myself back.

And I am back. I’m good. If that’s what it took then that’s what it took. It used to take longer. Be nice if it didn’t take anything.

Roar.

Earlier today, I had been for a run, because I’m still doing that, and stopped by the local shop to get something for lunch. After I left the shop I took the shortcut round the side of the building. The shortcut involves going through a few trees and jumping over a wall and, while I’ve never seen anyone else go that way, I’m well-acquainted with it because for some reason it’s one of my son’s favourite hangout spots.

So that’s how I came to be leaping down from the darkness of the foliage onto the pavement, nonchalantly clutching a meal deal at chest height in a t-shirt with a t-rex and the text ‘ROAR!’ across it, to a small audience of slightly alarmed pedestrians.

I felt that quiet satisfaction and amusement I get having done something adequately weird without having priorly realised it was going to be weird. Hmm, yes, look at me in bemusement and secret admiration, oh meek onlookers, for I am not one of you.

And then my right foot decided that was a good time to just trip over nothing and put me back in my place.

Like watching paint dry

I’ll be honest; I’m a bit disappointed by my life at the moment. I thought something exciting would have happened by now. I like exciting things. Bolts from the blue. Severe weather warnings and any halts to business as usual.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we had the pandemic. Yeah, yeah, yeah, careful what you wish for. I’ve been wishing for exciting things ever since I learned to wish; you’re not gonna stop me now.

I know I can make exciting things happen. And I intend to. But it’s not the same. I want something to happen to me. I want something to happen for me. I want something to just breeze into my life with no warning and turn everything a little bit upside down.

Come on already! What’s taking so long?

One and the same

I learned fairly recently from a source I now can’t place that emotional trauma and physical trauma are essentially one and the same to the body. Which, I mean, I already knew in the context of understanding and dealing with trauma, but what I hadn’t considered up to that point was the implications for, for instance, exercise and recovery. Because if you experience emotional trauma and then do a workout, your body is now going to have two things to recover from. If something really bad happens in your life, it’s probably not a brilliant idea to push yourself too hard physically, even though that’s a fairly common reaction for people to have.

But it’s a tricky line, because exercise is often a healthy coping strategy for all kinds of psychological ailments and burdens. So the fact that they are equatable doesn’t mean they are necessarily additive. Does physical recovery train your body to deal better with emotional recovery? Does the low-grade physical trauma of exertion give your body something it knows how to do, providing some relief from what can be very mysterious psychological chaos? Does healing one heal the other?

This is on my mind because, late last night, I broke through into a little nugget of trauma I’d been unknowingly holding onto for the last five years. And, although it was an altogether positive experience, and I processed the revelation well, and then I even let myself sleep a little later; today I have felt very tired and flat. And I wondered, is my body recovering from a hefty emotional workout? Because there isn’t any other obvious reason for my low energy.

I don’t think it’s my exercise regime, because day four of daily running has seen an easing of the leg aches and I felt great striding out today.

I am too tired to dig into this further, but I have many speculations swirling in my head to make manifest another day.