Today has been lousy. There’s no other way to say it. Its lousiness has stemmed primarily from two causes: dysautonomia and C-PTSD. (I will write dysautonomia and C-PTSD officially, but I could just as easily have claimed dysautonomia and office politics. The two are kind of synonymous when C-PTSD views any perturbations in power dynamics that result in strong words being exchanged as an existential threat. The bully-in-my-brain helpfully comforts me while triggered with the alternative idea that office drama doesn’t always have to mean that I’m not safe. It could just simply mean that I am safe but suck.)
I’ve been in a dysautonomia flare the past three days. (Have we established yet if it’s appropriate to call an uptick in autonomic nervous system symptoms a “flare” when it’s not necessarily an inflammatory response?) I’ve been cycling rapidly between blood pressure extremes for the past couple of days. Today, I started out borderline high and watched it tumble after completing the rather physically demanding requirements – aka getting up and walking around for fifteen minutes as a break after a couple of hours on the computer – of my job. I usually don’t faint until I dip below 90 systolic, which fortunately is relatively rare with my meds now, but tumbling from 145/70 down to 92/54 in about fifteen minutes isn’t fun even if I do somehow manage to stay upright. (Also, yes, for those asking, I do keep a wrist blood pressure cuff at work. Those are real numbers. Not my worst, by a long shot, either. One of the two final numbers was technically in the human normal range, after all!)
I also got to listen to my boss tell me how I managed to simultaneously do more work than I should have on a project deliverable and still fail to produce what was actually needed. This controlled anger came after a tense past two weeks at the office wherein the air has been thick with politics for reasons I can’t quite parse, and no one has known where the inevitable disappointment was going to land. I do not do well in environments where you can cut the tension with a knife. I am very rarely classicaly hypervigilant with my particular expression of PTSD. I tend more towards emotional numbing, but create an environment where everyone is tensed to see how to preserve themselves from future blame – especially the blame of someone in authority – and I will sense it sooner than anyone and react ten times as strongly. Relational trauma, you know? Angry people in power are the only danger that will ever register to my otherwise ADHD-oblivious brain.
I was followed out the door – I had to leave early because of the aforementioned blood pressure nosedive not too long after the meeting with my boss – by an email to most of the team about how we’ve all been dropping the ball lately. We need to “talk” next week as a team to get things back on track. I was, it turns out, not the only member who got some unhappy feedback today. Objectively, given the ambiance recently, I think I may even have gotten off comparatively easy in some ways. I was, however, still almost grateful that my later low blood pressure was enough to give me a legitimate need to leave early. I had been nearly in tears heading home between the dizziness and triggering when that email came in.
I am probably also the only member of the team who felt better after seeing that email. RSD and C-PTSD both seemed oddly comforted by the idea that if we’re all equally screwed, there is at least some safely in numbers. However, dysautonomia could care less. My blood pressure still isn’t okay to do anything beyond exist in my chair, where I am only able to write this post at all because my chair back conveniently supports my head so that my body doesn’t have to. I still haven’t fainted. I’ve become strangely adept at staying able to talk at blood pressure readings that really should have me out like a light. You can adapt to anything, I guess, so long as you don’t have to walk while you do it? (But apologies in advance if this post doesn’t make sense anyway.) Also, though C-PTSD may have decided the group dressing down paradoxically made me safer than when I thought I alone was in the dog house, that doesn’t mean it will let me calm down and move on or anything like that.
An old proverb tells how a King asked his daughters to prove why they should succeed him on the throne. One daughter exclaimed how she loved her father more than all the gold and jewels in the royal treasury. Another explained how she loved her father more than all the acres of land and sea he commanded. The third daughter, the King’s favorite, initially infuriated him when she only stated that she loved him more than salt, and he banished her. It took famine and plague to finally make him see truth: she had been the most devoted all along. She loved him more than salt, the very preserver of life itself.
I joke that I love my Partner more than salt – and that’s saying something especially for me – but even though I know I need an extra helping of it tonight with my physical symptoms, I don’t actually like the taste of it in isolation. It’s hard to find foods with the grams of salt in them it takes to be a physical pick-me-up that also qualify as an emotional one on days like today. I could use some emotional comfort today. American fast food isn’t the kind I crave, though. (Well, except for In-n-Out, but I’m 3,000 miles away from it and Amazon won’t Priority mail it like it does everything else.) It just tastes like salt, nothing more and nothing less.
I’ve always had a soft spot for boxed macaroni and cheese as my comfort food of choice. I think part of that was that it had all the salt of fast food, but a flavor beyond that (even if it was an artificial one.) I probably was partially self-medicating when eating it, but like any self medication, it also wasn’t great for me in other ways. I think the worst part of learning that I was allergic to wheat was realizing that my previous “comfort food” was actually making things worse for my tummy later. Those symptoms later weren’t all stress related, if you know what I mean! Gluten-free boxed macaroni and cheese exists; however, having gluten free mac n’ cheese on a bad day just makes me sadder at what it should have been instead.
Thank heavens I travel alot and humanity has spent millenia building cheaper and more efficient ways to supplement “life itself” with a bunch of tastier accoutrements for it. The silk road and the spice trade were the arteries of exploration, but they basically originated because princes were willing to spend the wealth of nations to find tasty new ways to dress up what was in their bowl. I’d have done the same if I was born a spoiled aristocrat back then.
If you have dysautonomia and crave a delicious comfort food, try tamago gohan. The original is already pretty salty, including soy sauce and a bit of dashi. Because I live in a time of wonder with the entire world at my finger tips, I further supplement it with vegeta and various spices from around the world. It’s a simple comfort food that satisfies my need for a creamy texture, carb loading, and loads of salt. It isn’t quite low-FODMAP or migraine friendly – there are garlic and onions in them (and msg unless you buy the specifically msg-free options) – but you could substitute them if those bother your stomach. Try it – especially on a day when you don’t have the spoons to do anything but push the “on” button on a rice cooker and crack an egg – and you’ll hopefully thank me.
In the meantime, speaking of ways that travel and exploration have made the world a more accessible space – even when I personally can’t move enough to make it to the kitchen – now that I have both finished a bowl of egg rice and waxed poetic about it online, I’m about to go run away from the world. I have a cup of hibiscus tea from, well, wherever I learned about that from, and some of the Scandinavian operatic goth rock that I alluded to in my second-ever post (without being yet brave enough to be so specific about the flavor of emo given I was new to online anonymity). I’m going to have my tea and fall asleep to angsty voices singing about global cataclysms and human folly.
Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.