Month: April 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole

Down the Rabbit Hole

Through-the-rabbit-holeLast week I fell down the rabbit hole. I’ve been working my out ever since. I wrote a blog post toward the end of the week and lost it! I don’t know about you, but sometimes my computer has a mind of its own and decides that what I’ve written doesn’t need to be read.

Crystal changed my supplements and I crashed hard. We’re still trying to figure it all out. I’m learning so much about the adrenal system and the ongoing effects of stress and trauma. The difficult thing is that we are treated differently depending on the type of treatment we seek or have available. It’s a source of great frustration for those of us who feel every ebb and flow that takes place in our bodies.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but depression has been a constant in my life, and I’ve pretty  much been a guinea pig for the changing face of treatment. I will be forever grateful for antidepressants and for what they did for me thirty years ago, but there have been consequences. Every day the growing body of knowledge regarding the body/mind connection gives us better and better alternatives or additions to treatment.

One of the consequences of who I am, my life experiences, and less than ideal medical treatment has been adrenal fatigue/adrenal burnout, a term that I throw around like it’s the answer without really having a firm grasp on the complexities of the adrenal system. It just makes some kind of sense to me, and one of these days I’ll get Crystal to explain it all here.

After caring for my mother, and getting through my husband’s heart attack and two hospitalizations, my kids’ high school graduations and college enrollment, 9/11, and my own stress induced health issues, I discovered “compassion fatigue”. It fit like a glove, and I began to take action to reduce the stress in my life. But, despite my efforts, it was the beginning of the collapse of my adrenal system and I was unaware of how exactly to give it the support it needed. Time went by and as did a level of stress, until the accident put me on my butt again.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that when we come to midlife from a stressful first fifty years, getting things right takes more effort and focus than I know I recognized.  And, we may never be able to recover the adrenal functioning we have lost, or the quality of life we had hoped for. That’s not to say that there isn’t hope, because I will always believe we can learn to do the best with the hand we’ve been dealt.

Crystal cut back on a supplement that contained thyroid support and I went into a deep depression. The one place I fight with every thing I have to avoid. It’s just too incredibly painful. The PTSD returned as well. However, in the process, I did learn how intricately connected our emotions are to our bodies and its proper functioning. I can’t help but ask, “Has my depression always been tied to my thyroid health?” Of course, I’ve had my thyroid tested regularly throughout my life because I’ve always struggled with my weight, and that’s one of the first places doctors go when you say “weight gain”.  A problem was never detected,  but there are so many variables that can be overlooked in a blood test.

She upped the thyroid support and I feel better but not as good as I did before. I’m trying not to feel discouraged. All I want is to be able to take the trip to see my boys in Missouri we tried to take a few weeks ago. That requires getting the PTSD under control, so I can manage the four days on the road without medication.

How has stress affected your life, and what do you do to counteract it?

Dorothy 2014

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A Deep Down Hunger

A Deep Down Hunger

Artist Denmark
The Seeker, by
Lykke Steenbach Josephsen

The face of hunger is different for each person. There are sadly still many on our planet who feel actual hunger-for-food hunger pangs. For most of us, however, our hunger comes from something deep inside of us.

For some of us, our hunger resembles a longing for acceptance, or love, perhaps; a desire for the perfect mate, a soul friend, a peaceful place. For others, it is something akin to an insatiable desire for power and control; the need to be surrounded by beautiful people and perfect children. Our desire for perfection may drive us to incredible accomplishments, while leaving us wondering why we still feel empty and alone.

Some of us feed our deep down hunger with frenetic activity and the perpetual seeking of greater and greater excitement, be it a new adventure, a new relationship, or the latest fashion or gadget.

Others grow weary and frustrated with a hunger that can, or will not be satisfied and choose to bury it beneath layers of defenses. We kill it with food, or alcohol, drugs or sex. We use brilliant mental trickery to avoid and evade its grip on us, walking through our days numbed, or asleep. We fool ourselves into thinking it is gone.

When we aren’t able to scratch the itch, or inclined to go inside and hide, we may turn on everything and everyone around us…blaming, cursing, raging against the world, politics, bureaucracy, spouses, children, social structures, bosses, drivers. We try to relieve the discomfort we feel by focusing our attention outside of ourselves.

What if instead of running away from this hunger, we turned toward it instead? What if we put our efforts into removing the layers of defenses, bit by bit, piece by piece to see what that hunger really looks like, what it is trying to tell us? What if we quit blaming the externals for our discomfort, and chose instead to make it a habit always to ask, “What is my part in this?”

The insatiable hunger that each of us carries within us is a powerful force. It is there for a reason. It is there for many reasons. From driving us to meet our daily food and rest requirements, to satisfying our curiosity, it draws us forward in life; it draws us into the world and, if we let it, towards a union with our purpose, and something bigger than ourselves.

Perhaps our real job in life is to figure out how to allow ourselves the freedom necessary to align ourselves with this force, to step into the flow, the process of life and allow ourselves to be shaped, molded, taught, and guided by it. What if instead of allowing our hunger to control us, or we it, we chose instead to live in cooperation with it…allowing its energy to feed us, to satiate us? Who would we become?

Dorothy Sander 2014 copyright

“Out of infinite longings rise
finite deeds like weak fountains,
falling back just in time and trembling.
And yet, what otherwise remains silent,
our happy energies—show themselves
in these dancing tears.”   ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

“Faith is the state of being ultimately concerned.”      Paul Tillich

Developing Resiliency

Developing Resiliency

Portland Maine
The Waves Came Crashing Full by Charlie Widdis

It’s hard to believe it’s been a week since I last wrote here. Time flies when you’re feeling good, and I’m feeling great! I didn’t think I could ever feel “young” again.  I not only feel younger than a did four weeks ago,  I feel better than I ever have in a body/mind/spirit. It’s been a hard-fought battle and I don’t pretend that there won’t be ups and downs, although wouldn’t it be great if there weren’t?

When we feel great, we always want to feel great. When we feel lousy, we think we’ll never feel good again. I continue to work on accepting the ebb and flow of life, in all its dimensions; to join forces with the rhythm of my body, my mind and my spirit as I live out my life; to pay attention to the signals each is sending me and to do what I can to cooperate with these signals, and to respond to their needs. My goal is to develop a resiliency that I have heretofore not had the good fortune to possess.

Rather than blocking  or ignoring the signals that are attempting to make themselves known to us, perhaps because they seem inconvenient or we fear what they might be trying to tell us, we might choose instead to turn toward them and to learn to trust that they are with us rather than against us. Our body is a gift, a friend, a beloved companion. It knows what we need.

It’s the little things that we do to tend and care for ourselves that fosters resiliency;  stopping often enough, and long enough to listen to what we know; to silence our minds and hear with our other senses. Most of us have lived in mental overdrive for so long, and the world around us is so very loud,  that it does indeed take a concerted effort to tune in to our bodies and to the voice of our spirit guide.

There are numerous ways to develop a practice of tuning in and each is as unique as the individual. An important first step of my healing journey was reconnecting with my body. PTSD, and trauma of any kind, can leave one feeling “outside” oneself, in a bubble, or a box.  I felt numb, detached, disconnected; I had no feelings, no sense of taste or smell, no appetites of any kind; I was unaware that my feet were even touching the floor when I sat. One of the first practices my healing guide suggested was the practice of mindfulness, tuning in to the sensations of my hands on the arm of a chair, my fingers as they gripped the arm’s edge, my feet where they connected with the ground beneath them. It was a slow process, but bit by bit, I began to let sensations back in. Eventually, I moved on to healing massage and chiropractic treatments. I was knotted, frozen, locked up from trauma.

It’s often not just a single traumatic incident that leads us into a state of numbness, but rather layers upon layers of traumas of all sizes, each compounding the one before. When we do not have resiliency, we reach a point where we can no longer ride the waves. That is why so many of us reach our breaking point at mid-life. We have held up the mountain we carried for as long as we could. It’s time to put it down.

Dorothy Sander 2014

A Word About Trauma

Along the Healing Path 




Along the Path of Healing

Along the Path of Healing

decorating style
Photo by Jermain Chastain from her lovely website French-Kissed. Click on image to visit.

I’m settling into life with my new food choices. As time goes on, what I eat has become less and less a part of my waking thoughts, and more just something I do at certain times of day. I have not allowed myself to “cheat” because it is in those gray areas that I know I can become quickly sidetracked and lost. If I give myself an inch, I will take a mile, or at least I fear that I will. Until I can put this fear to rest, and trust my inner knowing a wee bit more, it is just easier to keep myself safe. Self-care is a requirement for change.  I also find great comfort in having Crystal at my side, because I know she believes in me when I don’t believe in myself.  She is gentler with me than I am with myself, and I need that.

I continue to work emotionally and spiritually with the traumatic experiences that have shaped my life and choices; shadows that need to be brought into the light. Carolyn Myss defines trauma as, “something that has happened to you that your reason cannot comprehend; a cruelty, a betrayal that your reason can’t absorb.” (Transforming Trauma, A Seven Step Process for Healing Trauma, by Carolyn Myss and James Finley, Ph.D.)  The first time I listened to these words, I stopped dead in my tracks. It was profound for me. Eye opening. Oddly freeing.

Up until that point I could not see, nor accept, that my experiences were sufficiently “traumatic” to warrant attention. Therefore, I did not treat them as such, and they were not healed.

Myss goes on to say, “A trauma is…a cruelty, a betrayal that your reason can’t absorb. “Why are you hitting me….Mom…? Why are you molesting me….Dad…? Why are you doing this? What did I do? I’m only four. You’re the giant that’s supposed to protect me. I don’t understand this. How could you do this?”   You can see through extreme examples how one’s world is shattered by trauma, but it can also be shattered by less extreme events.

Who among us has not experienced something in our lives that was not only painful, but in some manner incomprehensible? Perhaps as a teen, a best friend turned against us and we became the object of ridicule rather than respect; or a boyfriend betrayed us by going out with someone else while we were out-of-town; or our husband had an affair; or our sister, who was once our best friend and confidant, decides we’re no longer a priority. There are traumas of all sizes, from violent crimes and horrific accidents, to social structures that we once trusted implicitly that let us down. The size of a trauma is not the size of the event itself, so much as it is the way we experience it. So called “small” traumas, layered one upon another, without recognition or treatment, can lead to a life of chronic emotional, physical and spiritual pain, leading to a life of quiet desperation.

When we are not aware that we have been traumatized, and when we do not have the tools to give ourselves the love and self-care we need to heal, we turn on ourselves, with self-blame, criticism and isolation, and/or, we turn on others.  We are thrown out of balance. We lose confidence. We become distrustful. We no longer live in the world with our hearts and minds open, but rather, we live in reaction to the world, carrying a heavy guard around hearts and gifts. It’s no wonder we cannot be and do the things we so desperately long to be and do.

There are many ways to begin to bring our trauma(s) into the light. Step by step we can bring them from the shadows, take a healthy, loving look at them and then enter into the healing process. It is often helpful to work with a therapist, a spiritual guide, or a holistic practitioner, someone who can guide and direct our path, and give us the tools we need to grow in resiliency and inner strength. Most of us should not try to do it alone.

When we struggle to give credence to the life experiences that may have traumatized us,  it may be useful to go through one’s life with Caroline Myss’ definition in mind. I found this exercise eye-opening. I began to see why certain past experiences had continued to make their presence known in the present. I understood the need for a different sort of healing. For me, this was not an exercise of rehashing how horrible life was, but rather to gain perspective and understanding. For those of us who are highly sensitive people, things may hurt us deeply that might barely phase another, and that’s okay. This very same sensitivity is a gift on the other side of trauma, but first we must heal.

When trauma shatters our reason, we become fragmented. The world no longer makes sense. Until we heal the trauma, we live in a house divided, struggling to find peace. Healing is not only possible, it is necessary. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to each other.

Dorothy Sander 2014 copyright

Day #1 – I’m a Coward

Day #2 – The Morning after the Night Before

Day #3 – There are No Words

Day #4 – Coming Full Circle

Day #5 & #6 – Hyped Up and Nowhere to Go

Day #7 – The Body, Mind, Spirit Connection

Day #8 & #9 – A Word About Trauma

Day #10 – Food for Fun

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Holistic Detoxification Process