• Val

The 365 Day Journal - Day 0



The 365 Day Journal - Day 0

This is my online journal for health and wellbeing. I want to blog about my own wellbeing journey over the next 365 days. You are more than welcome to follow along or even join in as and where you want to.


I may not write every day, but I will update on the days where I am unable to post.

I wanted to do something to ensure I kept myself safe whilst navigating some really challenging emotions and feelings.


I have been drinking alcohol-free beer as a substitute for alcohol in social contexts, but I had wanted to give this up to become fully teetotal.


Originally, I was very naive and didn’t realise alcohol-free beer had alcohol in it as the brands I chose were 0.0%. I didn’t know they had less than 0.05% alcohol still in them!


I used alcohol-free beer as a bit of a crutch at times if I was feeling anxious. Recently when I began experiencing extreme distress, I used alcohol-free beer to help me get through. I realise it’s probably a bit of the placebo effect in play, however, last night as my anxiety kicked in I reached out for alcohol-free beer. The particular brand I bought last night is the less than 0.5% variety (I never knew this was a thing either when I first started drinking alcohol-free beer - it seems alcohol-free drinks either fall into the less than 0.05% or less than 0.5%). It was still labelled as alcohol-free though, however I think this is misleading. With one drink I felt the effects of alcohol in my head, as one might after a few weeks or months off drinking and then consuming a regular strength beer or wine.


I was very surprised. It made me realise that even though the reported amount of alcohol is very low, alcohol is still present and still affected my body.


I now want to make sure that I become fully teetotal and do not drink any alcohol-free beer, or any alcohol for that matter!


This journal will detail my success in becoming fully teetotal.


It will also detail my commitment to healthy living including fitness, nutrition and mindset over the next 365 days.


My goal with fitness and nutrition has always been grounded in wanting to live a long and full life. I believe that by properly fuelling and looking after the body it is possible to minimise the risk of certain common diseases and illness. There is plenty of research backs this theory up and hence I want to live as healthily as I possibly can.


I will deem the things I do as either Life Enhancing or Life Robbing and the goal is to achieve more Life Enhancing behaviours on a daily basis.


Please feel free to join me in my health quest, or at least watch the process as it unfolds.


Background

Since the end of December 2020 I have been plagued by my PTSD symptom (I detail the symptom in another blog – click here for info.). It’s an overwhelming feeling that gets triggered by my maladaptive stress response. The thing that triggered it in December was deeply upsetting and so at the moment I have no control over it and can’t get it to switch off once it’s been triggered. I just have to wait until it subsides which, at the moment, is anywhere between 4-10 days.


When the feeling first got triggered in December I was taking my counsellor’s advice and letting myself feel the feeling. I like this approach and it is one that is embedded within mindfulness practice. Mindfulness was what helped me through the PTSD symptom the first time I experienced it some years ago.


I think we are often taught to ignore our feelings and emotions but I believe wholeheartedly that we cannot process such feelings and emotions unless we acknowledge them and allow them to be present within us.


I was very hopeful that this would help me be able to process the feeling and become free of it in a relatively short time. But as time went on and I continued to be triggered I realised that it was a sign that I have some deeper work to do on myself in order to process this stress response more fully than I ever have before.


The trouble with a PTSD stress response is that the rational mind has no input. The emotional mind interprets the trigger as a warning sign of danger and kicks the flight/fight/freeze response into action. This is the normal operation of the brain’s stress response. However, often a PTSD response will be embedded within an emotional memory. Memories can be held emotionally in the body and so can manifest in ways other than a clear mind memory. Mine presents itself as a physical feeling.

“Long after a traumatic experience is over, it may be reactivated at the slightest hint of danger and mobilize disturbed brain circuits and secrete massive amounts of stress hormones.”

Bessel van der Kolk

In a PTSD stress response you have the ‘normal’ stress response and all of the hormones associated with that plus an emotional memory that has not been fully processed. It is this emotional memory which makes the brain believe it is in imminent danger right now when often it is not. This is the maladaptive part of the PTSD stress response. It is this memory of the original event (or the lack of appropriate processing of it) that inhibits the rational mind to be called into action to help accurately assess the perceived danger. Without this connection between the rational and emotional mind it can be exceedingly difficult to switch off the stress response even if the rational brain knows it is safe to do so.


My emotional memory presents itself as a nasty feeling, so once I have been triggered I spend the next 4-10 days being awash with stress hormones and anxiety as well as a rather unpleasant physical feeling.


I can distract myself for a while whilst doing things like exercise or speaking with friends, but it never goes away until it decides to. I have tried therapy after therapy to help me manage it and unfortunately since December I have not yet found anything that helps it to subside.


If you know of anything healthy that may help me, please do get in touch.

“We have learned that trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain, and body. This imprint has ongoing consequences for how the human organism manages to survive in the present.”

Bessel van der Kolk

I experienced this stress response for 5 years on-and-off from 2008. The original trigger at that time was a sergeant in the police when I was working as a PCSO. The sergeant would often speak with mild sexually sexist remarks in team meetings and other interactions. Then one evening I came back into the office after being out in a police vehicle alone, he began talking very explicitly with me and inferred I had been using a blow-up sex doll whilst out in the police vehicle. He inferred that I had been carrying out sexual acts on this imagined blow-up sex doll. I was stunned and also felt violated just with the way that he spoke to me.


Luckily there was one other male officer in the office at the time and he interjected and called the sergeant out on his behaviour.


I had been told that the sergeant had kissed one of the female officers on the neck one night uninvited and that he was physically inappropriate with another female officer in the locker room.


This set my stress response into overdrive where I had an intense period experiencing the PTSD symptom, nightmares and panic attacks.


I sought many different therapies during this time to help me through. Unfortunately, none of the therapies helped the PTSD symptom to ease. In the end I turned to alcohol as this was the only thing that got the feeling to subside. I could drink a small amount before bedtime and wake the next day with the feeling gone. Sadly, since alcohol is an addictive neurotoxin, I then became addicted to alcohol.


The emotional brain’s response to alcohol plus the response in respect of my PTSD symptom meant that this was a recipe for disaster in respect of addiction.


I used to feel incredibly ashamed of getting into a pickle with alcohol. But the more I understand about the way in which the brain works, I now see that it was a ticking time bomb and something was bound to draw me in so that I could try and cope with my PTSD response.


It seems that I have some more deep work to do to further understand and process this response.


As I embark on this journey to do so I need to keep myself safe. I do not want to succumb to any harmful substances to help me through.


This journal is my pact to myself and my accountability system to ensure I can navigate my past with minimal negative consequence to my present and future.

I ask all readers to be respectful. This is an honest and heart-felt account of my life.


I thank you in advance for your respect and kindness and I encourage you to sign up to my mailing list so I can notify you about new blog updates.


If you are struggling with any of the subjects in my blogs, please get in touch. Your conversations with me will remain confidential. Please note that I am not a therapist but I can support you to find a way to address any issues you may be dealing with.



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