My Autobiographical Elevator Speech

I thought last October that I was done with needing such intense support and therapy. I had a congruent past, I had processed my memories (as much as I was willing to go) and my “tool-box” was full of ways to cope, stay grounded, employ distraction, understand that emotions and feelings are like waves to be surfed and are time limited, etc.

I knew, I still had a few big truths, hidden in my inner file cabinets labeled classified and heavily guarded by the same worn out threats, of never talk about this. I knew they should also be processed and they were pretty key to my successful mental health, but I had this intense desire to be finished with therapy and be rid of PTSD. My book had just come out, and I wanted that momentous event to shake my brain into being fixed. I was ready to wake up and be cured of all symptoms. So I started to talk to my therapist about transitioning to less support, starting immediately.

If you have dealt with mental illness yourself, are a therapist of any kind, or are just casually reading, you can probably see the flawed thinking in every word of the above paragraph. A kind of…well that doesn’t sound like a good idea.

It wasn’t a good idea. All along, I had this intense desire to find out my past, makes sense of it, deal with the repressed memories as best I could and just live in the truth. Even though it was terrible, I knew my goal for my life was to live blinders off, eyes wide open. It’s at my core, it’s the reason I went through this misery the past seven years. I wanted a life, my life. The dissonance of only going 90% and my ultimate goal of truth was making me internally feel crazy, which exasperated my symptoms, so the last of those locked down file cabinets busted open with an explosion.

We worked through the memories. It made a whole lot more sense in the big picture of my life, and it was scary. It didn’t change things, it just helped explain some loose ends. It wasn’t a new story, it was just part of my story. We spent a few months sorting through this information, processing it, not forgetting it, and finally metabolizing it as part of my past.

Part of my therapeutic process was that I wouldn’t search the internet and books while I was remembering and recounting my story. I didn’t want to put anything in my head that wasn’t there. It was my therapists’ job to research what I was saying, and he never shared with me what he learned. In the seven years we worked together, I never renigged on this agreement. But now with ALL my story told and processed, I was given permission to read some books to fill in the minutiae of the big picture on the people who had controlled my life.

I learned from my monthly writer’s group that I attend, that I needed an elevator speech. I had never heard of this term and had no idea what that meant. I was taught, it is part of a pitch to sell your books, get interviews, etc. I was reluctant to create this for myself because I always stumbled around when people ask me about my past.  My therapist had worked with me throughout the years on words to say when people ask, “What happened to you? or, Why can’t you work full time? But the term elevator speech was a whole new concept for me.  This past May, I had my autobiographical elevator speech. If/when someone asks me now, what happened to you or why did you write your book, I have my verbal paragraph summarized in a way that’s congruent, honest and not too traumatizing for a listener to hear.

I’m a first generation American born into a family, where there was an uninterrupted bloodline on my mother’s side. My mother was the first to marry outside her extended European family; most probably an arranged marriage. My father had ties to a country (that I will always keep private) that had worked hard for their independence after WWII and he traveled there often with his job.  There was inter-generational abuse that was practiced in my childhood home and at the hands of other’s who were part of the “society” that my father belonged to. When I was 19 I was sent overseas, where some people thought I was going to follow in my father’s footsteps. Clearly, they were mistaken in my abilities and after many months, I was sent home with threats that I will never talk about anything that had to do with my past, to anyone for the rest of my life. The threats continued until I was 37 years old. I repressed my past and made a life for myself until one day my mind could no longer keep the secrets of my life under lock and key. I developed and have lived with a severe case of complex PTSD ever since. It has left me disabled on many levels, but the underscore of my story is one of hope, and survival. It’s an intriguing and horrific past, but with determination I found there is life after becoming emotionally Untangled.

I realize that may be a long elevator speech, but a person’s life is hopefully a long elevator ride, and I speak fairly fast 🙂

I’m in a place where I can again think about stepping down the level of support I need at the moment. I have learned that I most probably will endure the symptoms of PTSD for a long time. And really with what I lived through, it makes complete and total sense. These are the effects of my trauma. But now, I have some even greater tools, one of the most grounding of them all is knowing the truth. There is something calming about the truth, it’s a place where for me, all healing can take strong root.

 

 

Thank you for reading Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

http://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph/dp/1514213222

https://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph-ebook/dp/B013XA4856

 

 

 

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Dance to the Music of the Earth

Dance to the music of the earth
Move to the flow of the leaves
Close your eyes and sway with the wind
We are rooted as one. 

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©Alexis Rose, photo: Shelley Bauer

 

 

 

Thank you for reading Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

http://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph/dp/1514213222

https://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph-ebook/dp/B013XA4856

As I Travel Along Life’s Path

While resting atop a snowy ledge
I watch a bird soar high above.
Drawing from his strength
I take a deep breath
and commit this landscape to memory.
I feel free, strong and can conquer
whatever awaits me as I 
travel along life’s path. 

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©words and photo: Alexis Rose

 

Thank you for reading Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

http://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph/dp/1514213222

https://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph-ebook/dp/B013XA4856

 

 

Defining Moments

I describe a defining moment as an event or series of events that affects us to the core of our being and can be a catalyst for change. It’s a time in our life when we are ready to face certain truths about ourselves and the direction our lives are going. It may be a time when we put our foot down and say, “Enough is enough. I am not going to ride these waves that I’ve attached myself to any longer. I’m going to make different choices because I have the power to so.”

One of my most defining, life changings moments came on a nondescript day in October. My daughter called me at work to tell me she had overslept and missed the bus. Losing my patience because this was becoming a recurring event, I angrily told her to, “get out of bed and walk to school.” Thirty minutes later my cell phone rang. It was the police telling me that a car had hit my child as she was walking across the street. They patched me through to the ambulance, and I heard this tiny little voice saying to me, “Mommy, I’m hurt.” This wasn’t the snarky 16-year-old girl I talked to earlier in the morning. This was my little girl; scared, injured and being whisked away to a trauma hospital because the closest hospital could not attend to the injuries she sustained. I told her I loved her, and the paramedics tell me to get to the hospital right way.

The police led me to the emergency room. I couldn’t believe that the young girl lying there was my daughter. Her face was swollen almost beyond recognition, her front teeth were missing and she was bound to a board by her head to she couldn’t move. My husband and son arrived about the same time I did, and thankfully the hospital let all of us stay in the room with her during the long and exhausting series of tests and exams. This is all I will share about Aria’s accident. Her life has been altered but she is a thriving and happy 24-year-old, living a purposeful life.

Why do I share this vague account of my daughter’s accident? Because of a defining moment, that happened simultaneously upon getting the news of Aria’s accident. When I received the phone call from the police, I remember, I stood up and heard something crack in my brain; the sound of breaking glass. The shock of my daughter’s accident triggered an intense flashback of a life long ago forgotten. Just for a split second I saw a girl of twenty sitting at an airport, broken and bruised waiting to get on a plane.

I realized that just as walking across the street had altered the life of my precious child, my life was altered by the sound of breaking glass in my brain. I began to realize that my very repressed memories were trying to explode out all at once. When my impossible to maintain snow-globe world was shattered I began untangling the truth about my life.

I have a rather debilitating case of complex PTSD. I’m quite positive that I have always had PTSD because of the life I was living and the choices I’ve made because I was in survival mode. But the defining moment of being diagnosed, propelled me to process my past, get help and continue to heal. It’s been both a painful, yet purposeful journey the past eight years. Sometimes it’s hard to feel the benefit because of the pain. But that is also part of the journey.

Yesterday, I had another very profound defining moment. I awoke to the wisdom, that I am going to waver and sometimes feed into my construct, but I realized that I can be compassionate towards my truth and pain. I’m going to try and allow myself to feel the feelings as they come up and not smush them down. I’m trying to understand that I was never a “person” to anyone, ever, those first twenty years, just a means to many people’s end. Although that may sound terrible, because it is terrible. It is the truth. I always rest calmer in the truth.

The compassion I will feel towards my truth and pain is what I’ve taken away from my defining moment yesterday. It’s not going to be easy, and I will need a lot of reassurance along the way, but from another noticed defining moment I realized that I have the power to make this choice.

 

Thank you for reading Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

 

We Possess the Courage

We possess the courage to climb

the summit, sail the sea

look into the sands of the vast desert

wish on a star twinkling

in the summer night sky

and run through the field of flowers

with abandon. 

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©Alexis Rose, photo: Shelley Bauer

 

Thank you for reading Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

http://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph/dp/1514213222

https://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph-ebook/dp/B013XA4856

Lessons from a real and metaphorical mountain climb

I always used the metaphor of climbing a mountain to describe my healing journey. Then I was able to experience a real mountain climb. These are the lessons from a real and metaphorical mountain climb

  • The road to the trailhead is wrought with bumps, divots, potholes, and dusty uneven terrain. It is hot, cold, sunny, cloudy, ever changing but it’s possible to start the hike by crossing a wooden bridge at the trailhead, or climb the stairs to the safety of my therapists’ office.
  • The air at the trailhead is cleaner, crisper, and alive with possibility and excitement. As I breathe in, my lungs are fill with clean air and I want to take deep cleansing breaths. As I begin to climb into unfamiliar altitude my lungs keep me from moving too fast and I find I gasping for air. I have to remind myself to breathe. I listen to how my Sherpa breathes and try to follow what he is doing and take slow deep breaths. When I listen to him and remember to breathe and take rest stops I am able to keep walking up the mountain.
  • I know there is a rocky, snow-streaked tall foreboding mountain peak just around the corner but I haven’t had the chance to get a glimpse of it yet. Then, as I round the corner I am at once awestruck by the beauty of the two mountain peaks and overwhelmed by the enormity of what I am looking at. I am determined to climb this mountain that is in front of me, to conquer my past, while keeping brave and optimistic while climbing towards the summit.
  • As I turn around I see a breathtaking, almost indescribable scene and I am in the middle of a cirque. Surrounded by mountains on all sides of me. A place to rest, and restore, to reflect and take the time to notice the here and now. I notice the beauty, the critters, the flora, the fauna the many obstacles that I have already overcome just hiking up this far in life and on this trail.
  • I start to notice the wonderful people we encounter along the way. These people are climbing for their own personal reasons but each person has goals and each person is there to help along the way. Support from others in the form of a friendly hello, or a smile or a vote of confidence to keep going. We are all on the same trail and when the terrain gets too steep or when my Sherpa needs to consult with others, he finds the right person to help along our journey.
  • The altitude is starting to get to me now. It has been hard work and I am starting to feel the effects of my journey. I am getting sicker with each step, but I keep telling myself, “take 10 more steps.”  I am starting to lose sight of the reason I am climbing this mountain and focusing instead on just reaching the summit.  I find I am slowly losing my ability to see the beauty around me and all I think about is taking 10 more steps and the reward will come at the top.
  • The rocks are so hard to climb, the switchbacks look confusing to me. I’m scared I will make a wrong turn and fall off this mountain. I am deep in the throws and committed to continue to climbing the mountain, but self-doubt seeps in with each step.  I’m scared and getting sick like I felt while facing the absolute truth of my past but I am determined to keep going.
  • I am starting to fade quickly and then I hear the wonderful words from my Sherpa, “This is your summit.” I thought we made it to the very top. When I realize we didn’t, I felt so upset inside. I felt as if I failed myself, my Sherpa and my family. Then I hear that negative voice inside that  suggests this is punishment and I would never reach the summit so I began to bargain and plead to keep going, feeling like my ability to conquer “them” was climbing those last 200 feet. Then I realized that this Was my summit. It was beautiful and quiet and wondrous and rocky and very high. I was sitting on top of the world and the view was the same here as it would be 200 ft higher.
  • I was beginning to feel my head get sick but I was overcome with what I accomplished in reality and metaphorically. For me, the metaphor did not break down. For me, it lived up to everything I had worked so hard to accomplish. I climbed up the rope out of the skeleton hands that have tried to keep me down!
  • Then I am sick! I can’t think straight; my legs won’t work the way I want them to and something deep inside of me says get down. I see the look of fear on my Sherpa’s face, I hear the tone in my daughter’s voice, who had climbed the mountain with us, and I feel the urgency as I am being led down the mountain towards safety. Along the way, climbing up the mountain I got sick, coming down the mountain there were moments I wasn’t quite sure I was going to make it. But just as the journey off the mountain is sometimes wrought with sickness and safety concerns, perhaps descending down a mountain pose some challenges too.
  • I was emotionally disoriented for days following the climb. I was scared because I had developed such severe altitude sickness, but I was also proud of my accomplishment. I was scared because I realized how many summits there would be in reality to accomplish before I could feel healthy. I lost sight of the fact, that I had accomplished so much already, and that each summit is a victory, no matter how high the climb. I had to fight to keep my sense of accomplishment. But fight, I did and now I understand just how many summits’ I have accomplished these past seven years. 

Some of the lessons my mountain climb has taught me are that it’s the beauty, fear, wonder, excitement, tears, and help that constitutes being able to say I climbed a real 14,000-foot mountain and a metaphorical unyielding mountain range. 

 

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Thank you for reading Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph