Tag: PTSD

A Child without Edges

A Child without Edges

art by Molly Brett
Fairy Artwork by Molly Brett – click on image for more info.

A childhood of abuse or neglect sets the stage for an adult who does not know who they are. Healthy boundaries are either a mystery or non-existent. They are either too rigid or too fluid. When we don’t know who we are, we may unconsciously cling to the rules and belief systems that were imposed on us as children, or we borrowed them from an external belief system such as a religion, a political party, or a social group. It gives us a sense of identity and security. It gives us the edges we are unable to create from within as children.

Or, we may exist without edges and live the life of an emotional and psychological amoeba. In this case, we allow whoever or whatever is in our life at any given moment to take up residence within us. We live in a constant state of reaction to, rather than action toward. Never having learned to validate our own wants, needs and desires, we wander aimlessly through life falling victim over and over again to the whims, desires and manipulations of those who don’t hesitate to tell us what our boundaries should be. The child who is ignored, drowned out, or in any other way taught to ignore her own inner voice and guidance, is a child without edges and a child doomed to suffer as an adult.

These two different reactions to abuse are a match made in heaven. They attract one another like iron to a magnet, perpetuating the chain of abuse in an endless dance. The rigid must constantly remind themselves and all with whom they come in contact, of what they believe and who they are. Beneath this drive is the unconscious fear that without constant feedback and validation they would crumble and disintegrate. It’s a life or death activity that keeps the veneer in place.  What better way to do this than to seek out those with porous boundaries, who are looking for their edges, who are willing to be influenced, and who have learned not to question or challenge?

If, however, we have the opportunity to see, sense or become aware of the ember of our real self that still glows in the recesses of our heart and soul, we can begin the exciting, albeit terrifying journey of self-discovery. We must go back and raise ourselves, give ourselves the adult guidance and structure that allows our inner child to blossom.

We once had our very own responses to life. We once had our own thoughts, our own feelings, our own deep physical and emotional expression of all that we are. We can have it again.

The disassociation I experienced after the accident was the most extreme expression of my own disconnection from myself, though it began much earlier. It is an utterly terrifying feeling to be without boundaries, to feel utterly powerless and helpless. How many children feel this way every day of their lives? How many of these children grow up to be deeply troubled adults?

As a victim of abuse or trauma, finding a connection to oneself is an ongoing challenge, but one that is not only essential but worth the effort. When we heal our own suffering, we stop the cycle. It’s time to stop the cycle of abuse.

In Search of My Edges

Still Learning

My Safe Place

My Safe Place

3670679730_5c947acfb8As I began my healing work, I was guided ever so gently toward the discovery of my safe place. It did not come easily, nor was it anything like I expected it to be. I did not expect to go inside of myself and find an anchor, a lifeline, a living, breathing being that was at once me…and not me…that was a guide, a teacher, a lover and a friend.

I remember so clearly lying on the floor in the great room of my Lamaze instructor’s home. Propped up by the pillows I had dutifully carried, one under each arm, my belly leading the way from my house to hers each week, I lay in wait not only for the birth of my first child, but for the guidance I so desperately needed during the last months of my pregnancy. Her classes gave me an opportunity to literally and figuratively lay down my burden and be cared for just a bit.

The class was large. I was mostly silent, but I took it all in. Each lesson on one aspect or another of pregnancy and birth helped me feel a bit more prepared, though I instinctively knew that nothing could prepare me for the real experience.

At the end of each class, the instructor guided us through a relaxation and meditation exercise. “Your calmness will carry through to your child,” she would remind us. “Now, let’s get comfortable, close our eyes and breathe in peace.” She joined us on the floor and the room grew quiet except for the swish of air in and out in random bursts of good peace intentions. With each breath I took, I turned inward trying desperately to forget the drum beat of time that was catapulting me toward an unknown and terrifying experience.

Try as I might, I could not breathe in peace. I could not shut off my chattering mind and go inward to capture that peace everyone else seemed to be holding.  Each week, I’d place my hands on my tummy, trying to hold and love my beautiful unborn baby while my brain went to war with itself.  I wanted that peace she described and yet I remained saturated with fear and despair…and when I left her home I carried with me a layer of shame and guilt. I failed at bliss.

Decades later, at a very different time and in a very different place, I was handed another opportunity to enter in.  This time I was either ready to let go, or, more likely tricked into letting go. The universe had seen to it that I lost every battle I waged for thirty long years. Then, a young woman was placed in front of me, whose guidance I would have to make a conscious decision to accept. I had no more tricks up my sleeve, no more clever nuances of intellect or ego to help me escape.

Deeply traumatized and frightened beyond reason, my body and mind were ravaged by life. I would either take her hand or die. It was that simple.  I guess I wasn’t ready to die, though I wasn’t convinced of that when I closed my eyes and followed Crystal’s lead into our first guided imagery meditation.

Her gentle voice led me and I followed, breath by breath. It was if she knew exactly what I needed and exactly what to say. She held my spiritual hand and showed me how to allow the breath of peace to do its work.  Step by step, breath by breath she led me to the door of my soul. It was only the beginning. The merest start, and yet, it was huge.

That day, I came face to face with the door of my safe place.  A large, thick wooden door with decorative square panels and a large gold handle, its large brass knocker seemed to mock me. When Crystal suggested that I open the door I was overwhelmed with fear. Everything in my body resisted forward motion. I could not move my mind to allow myself to open the door. I stood frozen in place, shaking inside and out.

“What is keeping you from opening the door?”, she asked. What, or who, is taking your strength and blocking your path?” Eyes shut, tears running down my cheeks, I was one with my imaginary world. As I stood in that place in front of the door I told her what came to me in that moment, “I am terrified to go in alone”.

“Is there someone you would like to invite into the room with you? Someone who will hep you and support you? Remember, this is your space. You are the only one who can invite someone in and you can ask them to leave whenever you want.  Is there someone who you can ask to help you open the door? They can be real or imaginary.”

Immediately, my husband came to mind. He reached for my hand. As I took his hand, he pushed the door open, but he did not go in first. He held the door for me as I walked in. He stood behind me for a few moments and then gradually disappeared. I was safely inside. I knew I no longer needed him there with me.

I breathed in the sunshine and fresh air as I tentatively and  slowly explored the space in which I found myself.  Surrounded by beautiful, lush green gardens and soft, colorful flowers I sat down on a smooth, round, rock beside a small pond. I watched the birds flit from tree to tree and the bees buzz from flower to flower. I listened to the water trickle down a tiny waterfall at the edge of the pond as cool breezes washed over my skin and the sun warmed my shoulders. This was a peaceful place. This was the place where my soul lived. I had come home.

It was hard to leave that day,  but I learned quickly that it is always there for me when I choose to visit. Throughout the course of my healing journey from PTSD, and the continued healing of all of life’s woundings, I  find strength and guidance here in this place. My imagination, my soul self, is my guide and teacher. Through guided imagery meditation with Crystal and more and more frequently alone in quiet private meditation, I find strength, peace, guidance, answers, direction and healing.

Creating a New Life

A Grounding Place

 

Banish the Darkness

Banish the Darkness

Poem
“In the Middle of Nowhere”, A Poem by NARYABUTTERFLYLEAVE Click on picture to read.

I’ve come to see that when darkness resides in our soul it’s because we dare not look in the corners and crevices that contain our pain. We fear the darkness when we could choose to shine a light to banish it.  A self-protective mechanism no doubt. Still….

In recent years, I’ve more often chosen to shine a light in my dark places, when I see an opportunity.  They are so well hidden sometimes, so evasive and sneaky. I find it’s worth persisting. I poke and prod, track and wander until I am weary with the effort and then wonder if it is, in fact, worth the effort.

After a rest, at the dawn of a new day, I usually decide it is. Turning over one rock at a time, I have found a measure of freedom, a modicum of peace, a self-awareness that knows itself. What more can one ask? To stand firmer, and taller and more certain, and to have a little more of what it takes to tackle the uncertainties of life…and death…is a welcomed thing.

Caroline Myss, a modern-day mystic, sheds so much light on the workings of the soul and the energy and anatomy of the spirit.  This excerpt from her book was posted on her Facebook page today. I have found her words to be true.

“Every thought you have had has traveled through your biological system and activated a physiological response. Some thoughts are like depth charges, causing a reaction throughout the body. A fear, for instance, activates every system of your body: your stomach tightens, your heart rate increases, and you may break into a sweat. A loving thought can relax your entire body. Some thoughts are more subtle, and still others are unconscious. Many are meaningless and pass through the body like wind through a screen, requiring no conscious attention, and their influence upon our health is minimal. Yet each conscious thought—and many unconscious ones—does generate a physiological response.” Caroline Myss, Anatomy of the Spirit

I highly recommend Caroline Myss’ books to all who travel the path of healing.

Still Learning

Still Learning

HydrangeaWhen I stop and close my eyes and breathe in what peace I can find around me…in the breezes that blow, the hum of the chime as the air lifts it in song…I find fear when I want desperately to find comfort. It is a hard journey finding my way out of fear. It nips at my heals and haunts me at every turn. Just when I think I’ve escaped it, it’s back sitting beside me on a quiet evening.

I’m surrounded by beauty. Lush green trees, fields of grass, the sun low in the sky casting its golden touch across everything. The mountain air is fresh and the smell of boxwood lingers on the breeze. There’s everything to be grateful for and yet, I want to run away, to hide, to stop trying, to stop yearning to be something. I want to rest and be satisfied. I want to be enough just as I am.

But the fear awakens my fight or flight response and makes me want to move, to do, to try again, and yet, I know it won’t work this time either. Running frantically never does. The fear locks me in its trance and mounting desperation clings to my throat.

Fear, or more precisely, the feeling of not being safe takes over and when I look deeply into its eyes. I realize the feeling is more that I don’t know how to protect myself. The unknown is shapeless and threatening. My edge-less, boundary-less being seems only to be able to lie in wait, vulnerable to any attack, and there’s no way of knowing from which direction it will come.

I am still learning. Still defining myself and learning to live from within. Still seeking my edges, my truth, while standing in love. New lessons come almost every day, as long as I stand open to change and movement and learning.

Knowing where we begin and end, and where another begins and ends, is a lesson that most wounded children must learn. Wounding causes one to put up barriers of protection, to pull back within oneself, to create false facades to fool the oppressor, which once defined morphs into the planet at large. As children, we feared. I feared. I feared the utter alone-ness that became my constant companion.  Not known, not allowed to acknowledge what I saw in others. Isolation. Annihilation.  I learned to pretend that I was wrong and they were right so as not to feel alone.

To begin to speak one’s truth, to state clearly what one knows to be true is to begin to find our edges. To stand up for that truth as we grow stronger, to state ever more clearly what we see and know and experience and our edges stronger. It’s one thing to know oneself. It’s another entirely to bring it forth into the world.

And the process of healing continues. For a lifetime, or longer.

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