I just spent four wonderful days in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Words can’t describe the beauty, tranquility, and uniqueness of this vast and pristine wilderness. There were times when I was just so overcome with the ineffable beauty that I found myself tearing up. We went to the boundary waters last week because I’m so triggered by the sound of fireworks and firecrackers that it’s nearly impossible for me to function or manage my PTSD symptoms.
The meditative pace of canoeing on the lakes, with no other people in sight, gave me plenty of time for reflection. There were times when I wasn’t thinking or reflecting at all, and there were times when the safety of my two camping/canoeing mates and a wonderful dog named Rocket (who became my fill-in therapy dog) had me feeling so relaxed and safe that I could go deep and accept another layer of the truth. The safety and nonjudgemental impact of my environment let me explore the even bigger picture of what happened to me and how I fit into it.
Unfortunately, the first night we arrived, I had to go into the woods to brush my teeth and find a latrine and I had a terrible flashback. My travel mates and I didn’t think that this would be an issue on the trip. But going into the woods at night triggered an extremely intense three-dimensional flashback.
Reflecting on it the next day, while paddling, I started to ask myself some questions as I continue to come to terms with what happened to me in my past. I didn’t let the night before ruin my experience, it opened my mind to the possibility to some greater depth of healing. I became resolute that I didn’t want certain triggers to ruin the rest of my life, and I would try to find a way to express this to my therapist so we could actively work on it. Today I read an article talking about moral injury and PTSD. How it can leave a person feeling trapped and isolated , and that moral injury is the wound that is the slowest to be healed. Because I’m an eternal optimist, I understood that even though it is the slowest wound, it can still be healed.
I have a series of mantras that I say to myself. The mantra that was given to me by my most valued teacher who is now transitioning to my friend is, “Your beauty, your strengths, and your talent far outweigh any deficits you may have.” I kept saying that mantra to myself over and over the four days of our trip. Right now in my life, I have a lot of deficits that I have to work around, and I try to do with grace, a good sense of humor, and a strong command of the f-word.
I’m not a sweet, innocent, naive about the world woman. I wish I was, but I’m not. My history makes those descriptors impossible when describing me. I am a person who is kind, loving, deeply compassionate, philosophical, with an insatiable need to constantly learn and stretch my brain and grow. My trip to the boundary waters really brought to the forefront who I was as a person because of, and in spite of my past. I’m not interested in trying to be who I’m not any longer, to fit into what I perceive is the “normal” attractive, have a big circle of friends woman. I found I’m even more resolute in my stance to employ another gift of a mantra, given to me one evening in a sage green office long ago: ” Let go of the strings that hold you hostage. Take the step to free yourself and look towards the unknown.”
Thank you for reading Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph