My Spirit Awakens

Meandering through the crystallized mountains

my spirit awakens in the message

of those who lived long ago

yet still walk among us. 









©Alexis Rose

photo: thank you pixabay



Untangled (The Foreward)

On a cool Colorado morning in June, I guided Alexis and her daughter up the switchbacks leading to the summit of a 14,000-foot peak. With the tree line below us, I watched the two extraordinary women in front of me scramble up the rocks and obstacles that stood in their way. The air was thin, especially for us flatlanders, requiring frequent rests and breaks. Near the apex, we sat and reflected upon the remarkable journey that Alexis had been on. On that day, she showed the same courage and tenacity that she had shown through our years of therapy together. She made it evident that nothing would deter her from summiting. It was the literal realization of the metaphorical journey that we had been on.

Climbing a mountain. This was the early metaphor that we adopted to describe the healing process. My role was that of Sherpa; I was there to guide the way, keep her safe, and help carry some of her burdens. Her job was to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to trust the process, and to honor my requests for her to slow down and rest along the way.

Over the course of our time together, Alexis has taught me a great deal about the human capacity for growth and change. That tenacity helped mediate the incredible sadness, sorrow, and horror that came with my bearing witness to the abuse and torture she endured during the first half of her life.

As serendipity would have it, we share some common beliefs. We have a mutual respect for one another, a shared love for all the ways the F-word can be used in the English language, similar humor, and spiritual beliefs. All of these things have been a gift as we worked to untangle the extraordinary mess that trauma left behind.

I am indebted to her in so many ways. She has been a steadfast example of the parent I aspire to be. She has broadened my awareness of world politics and the unfortunate path the intelligence community has at times followed. She is the embodiment of courage, and I have stolen many of her mantras along the way. She has made me a better psychologist and a better human being, and for this, I am eternally grateful.


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Inner Landscapes

An inner landscape is a life you lead inside of yourself; a place no one else can go unless invited. Although it looks different for each of us, all inner landscapes have this in common: they are a place of refuge. If you look deep enough, you will be able to find the images in your mind of your inner landscape; your own place of power and peace.

My inner landscape is multi-dimensional and serves more than one purpose depending on how I need to restore, rest, empower and breathe. One part of my inner landscape is a field of flowers. That’s where I go when I need to feel at peace. It’s a place where I can rest and restore my inner resources because I feel safe and protected there, with very little noise coming from my busy monkey-mind that tends to nag at me during the day.

Mostly my inner landscape is peaceful, warm and sunny; although, I also have a cliff I go to that is rugged and barren. There in one leaf-less tree there with a few wisps of grass growing up around it, but otherwise it is bare. The cliff is jagged, gray and very rocky with the sound of a turbulent sea splashing thunderous waves against the rocks. That’s the inner landscape I go to when my life is stormy and I’m dealing with challenges that I’m not quite ready to confront.

When I’m there, I hear my inner voice of self-doubt, self-judgement, and shame. It’s a place I go to when I know I need to look at things about myself that are comfortably uncomfortable but I’m not yet ready to change. I sit on the edge of my cliff and listen to the water crashing up against the rocks. Even though it is a place I go to when my life is  stormy, I love my rocky cliffs and the crashing water that surrounds me.

My inner landscape is different from my happy place. My happy place is where I go to help me face the typical stresses of daily life. Sitting in a traffic jam, going to the dentist, standing in a long line sends me to my happy place. That quick take a deep breath to stave off the frustration place that we go to. My inner landscape is a place I go to for reflection. A place where I go deep inside of myself.

What would your inner landscape look like if you could describe it?










PTSD and Travel

I love the ocean. The sound of it feeds my soul and grounds me. I can sit and watch the ocean for hours. It’s huge, sometimes angry and wavy, sometimes calm and clear. I love the taste and feel of the salt water on my skin and lips. It’s different and well, oceany. Also, I love the smell of the salt air. It touches something deep, deep inside of me. A knowing, a presence, a connectedness.

I live in MN which is nowhere near the ocean. When I get close to the ocean, and my senses begin to come alive, I know I’m now on vacation. Ahhh, vacation! I was once that person who worked to go on vacation. Road trip? Yep, I was the first person to raise my hand and jump in the car. I love to explore, I love new places, I love new people. I understand that my little corner of the world is not the be all, end all and I want to see the world.

Then I was struck with PTSD and my whole world turned upside down. The things I did without thought have suddenly become a big production. I’m plagued with flashbacks. I’m easily triggered. Not only by the typical anniversary dates but sometimes the wind can blow a certain way and BAM, I’m triggered which can quickly spiral into a flashback.

My trauma occurred over a 20 year period in many different places throughout the world. I can be triggered by certain smells, sounds, the way the wind blows, a dialect, and many other things. Sometimes, that can start a flashback, sometimes, I can get disoriented and anxious and sometimes it is just a general feeling of WTF is happening to me. When I’m at home, I can figure out ways to ground myself, get support or use one of my many tools in my distress tolerance tool-box to ride out the wave. When I travel, things are unfamiliar and it takes longer to come out of a trigger.  I love being in new and different places. That is part of the travel experience.

Another symptom of my PTSD it that I become very overwhelmed in busy, loud, places. Restaurants are one example. It’s really easy for me to get overwhelmed by too many choices. Menus can be a PTSD nightmare. There are so many coices and I can’t decide, my brain starts to shut down. At home, I can go to the same restaurants and figure out what to order. If it’s a new restaurant, my support system will nonchalantly offer me a few choices that they have scoped out on the menu and know what I will eat. If I’m with someone I don’t know very well, I will do that thing that I do, “what are you having? That sounds great, I’ll have that too.” When I travel, most places are unfamiliar, so I’m overwhelmed just by virtue of being somewhere new and different.  I love trying new food and going to restaurants that I wouldn’t have in my hometown. That is part of the travel experience.

Airports are triggering for me. The noise, the crowds, the upheaval, the lines. The anticipation of sitting in a tiny chair for a four-hour flight. The same anxiety that most other’s feel at airports are really pronounced for me. My anxiety is ramped up because my perpetrators often put me on a plane and me sent all over the world. So just by virtue of walking into an airport, it’s triggering.  I love the speediness of getting to your vacation destination by flying, and how wonderful to be in this machine that flies in the sky. That is part of the travel experience.

My support system is different when I travel. For my family, it’s often a good respite for them when I go out of town for a few days. They get a break. I don’t feel bad about that, and they don’t feel bad about that fact either. It’s a necessary part of caring for someone who has an illness. It’s not an easy decision for them to let me go off without one of them with me. So a lot of moving parts has to happen before I can hop on the plane. My support works together to provide text support, phone or facetime calls with regular check-ins. I have to be mindful and respect the times that they are available for support, especially with a time change. It feels uncomfortable for me to know that I have to have this support. I want to just jump on a plane, hide out at a beach for a few days and think, write, read, relax. It’s part of my fantasy travel experience. But that is what is part of the give and take if I’m to travel right now and I’m grateful for the opportunity and the support.

Today, I am going to get on a plane and visit my friend who is sharing her beach house with me for a few days. I’m excited and know we are going to have a great time. I had to promise my support team that I wouldn’t wander around California alone and had to make sure my friend was going to be with me during the days. I had to promise to eat, and let my friend know that if I get overwhelmed at a restaurant that I need help choosing something. My tendency would be to not eat, and that’s not acceptable.  I have to make sure I’m in contact with the people here who support me.

I understand that traveling with all my PTSD symptoms front and center is a huge challenge. But, I’m determined to have a great time, get my spirit renewed at the ocean, and spend some wonderful girl-time with my good friend. I got the all clear to go after a dicey few days dealing with triggers. This evening I intend to look at the beautiful palm trees and have my senses filled with the healing ocean air.

Traveling with PTSD is certainly a challenge, but not impossible.













My PTSD (a poem)

It doesn’t matter if it is cold, hot, sunny, snowing or raining.

There is no telling when it’s going to strike.


Are they alive or dead?

Is that pain real or echoes from pain long ago that

Resurface with a memory?

It’s like being held hostage by your mind.

Is today the day I am set free?


I look like everyone else.

I know the difference between right and wrong.

Yet in my head I sometimes can’t remember

The last ten minutes of my life, or what day, year or time it is.


Are those smells read or is that a smell from a place and time when I

Was being held against my will?

Am I really hearing the sounds of helicopters, planes,

Cicadas, and birds?

Or is that the sound coming from a place that no longer exists and

Should never be talked about?


I want so much to be like everyone else.

So I will keep pulling myself up the rope.

Out of the clutches of PTSD and all the skeleton hands of the past that

Keep trying to pull me down.

My job is to live, so I can live.

That’s all I can ask of myself if I am going to have a future.

©Alexis Rose