Tag: healing trauma

In Search of My Edges

In Search of My Edges

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I’m trying to find my edges. The perfect unfolding of a new beginning, a new drama that is directed only by me.  As daft an attempt as this might be, it quickens my spirit and draws me forward. The edges of me, the beginnings, the ends, the boundaries of my soul  lend shape and substance to an otherwise chaotic world.

I came with edges and boundaries. I gave them away, bit by bit, piece by piece, in order to live. I made a bargain. Let me live and I will pretend I don’t have yeses and nos, definition or substance, thoughts, ideas or places to be. Let me live. Just let me live, and I will pretend I am you.

The driving force to live trumps all else, at least for me. I didn’t realize when I made the deal what a dark morass of pain and emptiness could roll in behind such an agreement.  The suffocating despair of giving up one’s soul for an opportunity to breathe the air. I wonder now if I would make such an agreement again. Sadly, I think I would. There’s so much beauty in the world, to see, to touch, to feel, to taste…even in silence…even in utter darkness. There is light…an ember…warm, smoldering love…even in darkness.

I’m looking for my edges. So I can stand again and know the name that lives in me and I in it. I’m carving a path toward definition, toward understand, toward peace, where truth is me and I am it.  Truth knows my edges. My edges know the truth. It’s holding on that’s difficult. It’s not allowing porosity to perplex me.

I have known what it is like to feel the weight of myself, the certain, unencumbered definition of me, no questions, only answers. But, like the magnificent loblolly pine, I know that enough wind will bend and even break me in two, sheer off a branch, or topple me entirely.  My roots are shallow too, and I’m never certain that I can withstand a storm of a certain magnitude. Unlike the loblolly, I find it difficult to bear the scars and still stand tall and proud, as if I were invincible.

The fortitude that is required to find and sustain my edges has yet to be determined. I suppose we can’t ever know how much of a thing we will need until we need it.  I stand in awe of the complexity of human nature , the knotted, tangle of nerve endings that propel a man like Robin Williams to make the choice he did. Was it a dialogue not dissimilar from those that often play in the far reaches of my own mind? Or is it just as simple as, enough is enough. Perhaps one can be defeated by a pain that finds its source in the mind, or a sickness of the soul that defies diagnosis and treatment.

I wish he’d chosen to dig deeper,  to hang on, to look for hope, to create a happy ending. It’s a selfish wish, but it would make it easier for those of us who live on the edge of darkness to believe we can make it too, especially since we can’t imagine being as magnificent , or strong, or as fully human as he was to us. And yet, maybe he knew his edges better than I know my own. He chose his precise limits, his very own no, in the most potent of ways. Perhaps it was the boldest statement he ever made. The truest truth for him. An absolute line in the sand. This…is me. Maybe it was the very first time he ever said yes to Robin.

I want my yes to be different. I want to find my own happy ending and I want it to be more like what I imagined for him. Still I honor his freedom to make his choice. My fear is that he really did not have a choice and that he really was not free. It is the same fear I have for myself.

Yes-sand-line

Creating a New Life

Creating a New Life

tumblr_lv3pwlJfzo1qm3oero1_400Writing is one of my best defenses against the darkness that can lay in wait as I go about working to live a life free of PTSD symptoms.   Too often I allow things to get in the way, like a computer with an issue, or the recent holiday weekend that gave both my husband and myself plenty of opportunity to visit with trauma inducing relatives. There was no way to avoid facing the very great temptation to sink back into old ineffective ways of dealing with such things.

As I step back and look at my recovery over the last three plus years, and his, it’s clearer every day that it is a process that moves forward a little bit at a time. Step by step, day by day, we get stronger, more resilient, more solid within ourselves, more solid in our relationship. Always, however, there are, what I like to consider as opportunities to strengthen our resilience, to go deeper and unearth any lingering misconceptions or to heal those not-quite-yet-healed broken places.

Over the last weeks I have discover that,  indeed, I have become more resilient. I bend when the wind blows, sometimes so far to the ground that I think I’m going to break…but I don’t.  I have tools now. I know what to do when the craziness threatens to overtake me. I no longer live on the edge of hysteria with that feeling that any minute I’m going to lose it somehow, break into tiny pieces, or curl up in a ball and die.

Instead, I go inside of myself. I breathe in the quiet place I have discovered there. No matter where my body is, it is there, waiting, ready to take me in, comfort and restore me and keep me safe. I always find strength and comfort in this place where my soul lives. Always. I need no thing from outside of myself when I am there. I need only to rest, to stay, to breathe and know that there is enough strength within me to survive anything.

After I have rested in my inner sanctuary for a time, when I can, I carry it forward in another way. I might run a hot bath, for instance, pour some Epsom salts in the hot steamy water, light a few candles, plug-in one of my favorite audios (usually something by Clarissa Pinkola Estes) and climb in. I run the hot water just enough to keep the bath comfortable and I sink down into the arms of one of nature’s greatest gifts and as I do I consciously continue to breathe deeply and slowly,  aware of the warm moist air as it washes over, around and through me.  I close my eyes and listen to the loving lilt of Dr. E’s voice as she weaves her words into my hurting places. When it is time, I climb out of the tub, dry myself off and slowly move back into the world.

Every day I become a little more certain, and trusting, about the necessity of creating a new life in order to let go of the old one. It doesn’t seem that it’s necessary, or even possible, to go back and fix the person we became as a result of the past. I’ve spent way too much of my life trying to understand how I got to the places I found myself. It all seemed such a mystery in spite of the years of research and therapy. I’ve come to understand that the underlying impetus for my desperate attempts to understand, was not just that I wanted to rid myself of the pain, though of course I did, but I believed I needed to fix myself.  My basic, fundamental belief was that there was something very wrong with me. I was flawed, broken, not right somehow, and I needed to do something about that.

But, I am not broken. At my core I am whole and perfectly imperfect like every other human being on this planet. I never needed to “fix” myself. I needed to love and accept myself. The need to fix oneself carries with it a sense of shame and embarrassment that siphons life and courage from us like a giant vacuum cleaner. We do not become cleaner and more acceptable to ourselves and the world, we become depleted, empty and vacant.

Though my mind continues to look for understanding and knowledge of the ways of the mind and the psyche, my sense of self no longer rests in that place. It belongs to another dimension entirely, and always has.

Dorothy Sander July 2014

 

 

Getting to Know Our Body

Getting to Know Our Body

Holly Sierra
La Paloma – The Yogi Goddess Of Peace by Holly Sierra Click on image for more information.

I have learned so much from working with Crystal on the dietary dimension of my healing process. We have completed our work together for now. I will touch base with her in August, and of course before if needed. Here’s a few things I’ve learned:

1. Our dietary habits have an enormous impact on all areas of our lives, from energy level, mood, severity of the symptoms of PTSD, mental focus and clarity, weight control and overall sense of well-being and health.  Equally important is the health of our emotions and our spirit.

2. We can learn to live in a cooperative relationship with our body. When we learn what our body needs to function efficiently and happily, and cooperate with what we learn, we feel better. As we feel better, it becomes easier to recognize the ups and downs of our body, mind and spirit and figure out which is which; then we can learn what we need to do to auto-correct before things go too far in the wrong direction.

3. Most health and diet plans create an adversarial relationship with the body. Rather than getting to know our body and its unique needs and characteristics, we too often force an external plan upon it, one that may actually end up sabotaging the very thing we’re trying to achieve.

4. What’s healthy for me is not necessarily healthy for you. What works for you may not work for me. Health is in the details and one size does not fit all.

5. Physical health cannot be separated from emotional and spiritual health. They must all work together in unison. When they do not, one can sabotage the other.

A few examples:

I learned while working with Crystal that dairy and sugar in large quantities are detrimental to my health. Prior to beginning our work together I routinely had plain Greek Yogurt with fresh fruit for lunch thinking that this was a very “healthy” meal. For some people it may very well be. For me, it led to afternoon crashes, an inability to lose weight, and fogginess. Now I generally have either a large salad with chicken or chick peas or vegetable/beef soup. I’m satisfied. I no longer have the afternoon crash and all the symptoms I was experiencing that went along with too much dairy and sugar have dissipated. I do not feel in any way deprived, in fact, I feel more focused than ever and energized.

In the past I lived for my bowl of cereal and milk in the evening before bed. I always ate sugar-free cereal and skim milk. I was trying to lose weight and stay healthy. This, however, is not a good choice for my body. Now, I have either an apple and almond butter and maybe a square of dark chocolate or left over oatmeal with walnuts and almond milk (I know that’s weird but I like it!), or a handful of walnuts or almonds and a square of chocolate. Calorie content is probably about the same, but for me the new foods keep my sugar in check and I’ve lost 15 pounds. Again, I don’t feel deprived.

Getting to know ourselves is crucial in achieving wellness. This means getting to know our body, as well as understanding our emotions and habit of thought and uncovering and expanding a deep connection to our spiritual center.  This is a process that takes time and attention, but one well worth undertaking.

Where are you on your path toward healing and wholeness? What is helping you? What is tripping you up?

Dorothy Sander 2014 copyright

FINDING YOUR INNER GUIDE

 

A Reason to Journey On

A Reason to Journey On

Friday Flowers

Catawba rhododendron along the Craggy Pinnacle Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains – photo by Bill Swindaman

Since last writing, I have been on a journey, both an exterior one and an interior one. We are all, everyday, journeying somewhere, whether we leave our home or not. There is so very much to learn about the nature of life, the gift of living, and our reason for being here. It is a very personal adventure if we choose to embrace it, and a universal one.  It’s both riveting and terrifying and sometimes, we must dig deep to find the courage and the wisdom to stay the course.

My husband and I drove 2,070 miles to see our sons and bring them a truck full of their belongings. It was the first road trip we have taken since our accident 3 1/2 years ago. Reaching this point has required a strength and courage very different from any that has been required of me before, and one I’m still not always sure I have, but it is a strength that is not without fear, but one that trembles and trusts simultaneously. Living long, living wise, and living full requires a letting go of ordinariness and embracing the extra-ordinariness that is the true substance and foundation of life for every one of us.

There is a reason that each of us is here, even if we do not yet know what it is. We have our part to play, our truth to speak.  We must find the courage to embrace it, to own it, to allow it to transform us in ways we may not be able to imagine beforehand. Every day in this way we must choose to turn our attention away from the blood curdling cries of a world that cannot see the truth and reach out to the hand that is reaching out to us.

There are those who have their ear to the spiritual ground swell and who are guiding, directing, discovering, embracing and describing its unfolding to the best of their ability. Caroline Myss speaks to me in this regard, as does Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and James Finley. There are others who may speak to you more. Find a mentor and tune in, often. We all need guidance along this path.  Here is Caroline Myss’ message today:

“Pray beyond petitioning for the stuff you want for yourself. Learn to be present to the grace of the sacred. Open yourself to the mystic that you are by nature. Your intuition is not a skill to be honed so that you can figure out how to stay safe and avoid losing money. If you think that, you will never develop more than your gut instincts. You need to challenge your fear of life becoming unreasonable – because it is already unreasonable. In truth, your life has never been reasonable, it’s just that you keep hoping tomorrow will be different and that you will find a way to bring more control into your world.

Prayer and trust and your capacity to reason as a mystic give you the wisdom to recognize that life will always be full of challenges and crisis. The wise way is not to attempt to find one path that promises you will never have to endure the pain of loss and illness, but instead to learn how to endure and transcend when unreasonable events come your way. Learning to defy gravity in your world – to think, perceive, and act at the mystical level of consciousness – is the greatest gift you can give yourself, because it is the gift of truth. And as we are bound to learn again and again in this life, the truth does indeed set us free.

Caroline Myss

A Grounding Place

A Grounding Place

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Winter Birch and Grasses, Southern Upland Way, Near Yair Bridge, Scottish Borders by Iaian MacClean

I remember so clearly the first day I sat in the therapist’s office after the accident. I think it was almost a year later, and it was my husband’s therapist, not mine. We needed to work on our marriage. He was working on it. I was there trying to work on it. All i remember was telling her I felt like I was dreaming most of the time. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to engage with therapy, I couldn’t seem to find a way to do so. I had no feelings, no emotions, no desire for forward motion…about anything!

Numbness is a common symptom of PTSD. When we can’t handle the pain, the stress, the fear, the anguish, our body, mind and spirit does what it can to protect us. It shuts down. Smart therapist that she is, Dr. B simply suggested that I close my eyes and focus my attention on my feet. “Feel the weight of your feet against the floor…the sensation of the firm, flatness of the surface holding them up, pushing back against them,” she said. “When you have a clear sense of this, move on to feel your thighs against the chair, your arms against the arm rests, your back against the back of the chair. Feel the weight of yourself being supported by the chair.”

The exercise calmed me that day.  It also surprised me. I had not realized how physically  and emotionally disconnected I had become.  This is known as “dissociation” in the world of psychology  and often accompanies trauma. Depending on the degree and severity of the trauma, dissociation can be as mild as staring mindlessly out of a window or forgetting what you just did,  to isolating a part of yourself from yourself and others and withdrawal, such as amnesia, or flashbacks. Learn more.

There was no “therapy” to be done that day.  I did not feel safe enough to begin the hard work of uncovering, unearthing, revealing, exposing. I was barely able to breathe, let alone trust the world with my hurting places.  I remember thinking, “I can’t. I won’t. There is no safe place.”  What lay just beyond those fleeting thoughts, and as yet unspoken was, “I am terrified and this is all I know how to do right now to take care of myself.”  Dr. B. sent me home with instructions to do this little exercise every day, several times a day if possible and come back in a week. That I could do.

Recovering from trauma is not a simple task, nor does it follow a desired timetable.  The healing process takes place only when we show up and cooperate with it. It must be undertaken at a pace that feels manageable to the individual, in a manner that is unique to each individual. It may proceed from the inside out or the outside in. We may learn to feel anchored again by feeling our feet against the floor, or structuring our days in a way that minimizes stress, or by finding a safe place inside of ourselves. For me this came later through guided imagery. First I had to reconnect myself at a very conscious level to the world.

The healing process cannot be accelerated by will, it can only be facilitated by cooperation, by learning to hear the signals the body and spirit are sending to us and following their lead. It is an intuitive, groping in the dark sort of process that we can learn to trust a little more every day.  When we are wounded we must first and foremost learn, perhaps for the very first time,  to be kind and decent and good to ourselves.

Dorothy Sander 2014 copyright

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