The Present needed the Past

The door heaved open

exposing the dark, dusty gloom of the past.

Walking into, and resting in each room

the light began to pour in

from all the love she feels in the present.

The past and the present began

to live together, sometimes contentious

but with a newly learned respect.

Intuitively, she knew her present

needed her past, so she could

learn, change and grow.

©Alexis Rose

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photo:pixabay

 

Thank you for reading my memoir, 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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The Secrets of 1,000 Lifetimes

The secrets of 1,000 lifetimes

lay within those deep dark eyes.

When she sits upon the water

she shares her burden

with the ancient ears of the sea.

Breathing in, she closes her eyes

feels the crest of a wave wash over her 

and is at peace.

©Alexis Rose

surfer girl

photo: from google images

 

Thank You for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

ww.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph-ebook/dp/B013XA4856

Mindfulness Practice and My PTSD

I titled this post, Mindfulness practice, and My PTSD because I think both a mindfulness practice and an illness can look different for each individual. While the list of symptoms may be similar when it comes to being diagnosed, I have come to find out that the severity of the symptoms, the severity of the trauma, and how each person experiences living with their PTSD can vary greatly. My therapist has taught me that, the wonderful group of survivors I have contact with taught me that, and the unrelenting chokehold of some of my symptoms have taught me that. I imagine it’s the same for most chronic illness’s but I can only speak to the one that I deal with on a daily basis.

I have had a very steady and intentional mindfulness practice for the last twenty years. I started it years ago when I needed to change the way I was dealing with tremendous stress and hopelessness. I had two very young children at the time and needed to find a way to stay present when all I wanted to do was run away physically, emotionally, and mentally. Twenty years ago, mindfulness was not mainstream, but that didn’t matter to me. I quietly sought out teachers, read books, and practiced what I learned. It became a way of life for me and I found in the silence of my struggle it kept me steady and fairly calm.

Eight years ago, when my brain/mind/body/soul could not hold in my repressed past any longer and I was diagnosed with complex PTSD my mindfulness practice went to hell. I could no longer sit for more than 1 or 2 minutes without my memories, distress, fear, and shame, kicking in and sending me into a panic. It seemed the more I told myself, breathe in-breathe out, I would follow that up with a panic attack that lasted much longer than a short meditation practice would have lasted. So I gave up the idea of meditating. I also had a strong yoga practice but felt a surge of anger course through me every time I tried to settle into a resting or restorative pose. I was fortunate to have a wonderful teacher at the time. He pulled me aside one day and told me that sometimes in life yoga tells you to take a break. It’s about listening to what your mind and body are telling you. He assured me that one day, I would be able to come back to it and that I hadn’t failed. He was right!

My task right now is to learn to live with my flashbacks, becoming overwhelmed, triggers, and sense of fear that still are very much part of my day. But, I also want to live mindfully and intentionally. This seems so incongruent and at odds sometimes, a paradox. I wonder if the desire of how I want to live will always be shadowed by how I have to cope day to day with my PTSD. Can the two of them find a middle ground?

I try to honor being awake. The connectedness we have to all things, the impermanence of the moments both perfect and non-perfect, the beauty and wonder and power of being present. Except that my symptoms bring me back to the past. It’s what PTSD does, it’s the nature of the illness. So trying to live in the present and being flashbacked to the past is quite uncomfortable and very frustrating.

Many  people have said to me, let it go, it’s in the past, you are safe now, etc.  I get it, I understand what they are saying, I understand the place from where those words of encouragement come from and still that isn’t what this is about.  The nature of PTSD, the nature of how the illness affects me, is that it won’t let me forget the past. In my mindfulness practice, my mind doesn’t  just acknowledge it and let it go. Although, I can let it go after I have experienced the symptom, but that’s after it causes quite a stir in mind.

When I try to ignore my symptoms, I often end up in a state of mind I would rather not participate in any longer. It brings me to the brink of crisis, which is a place I have worked hard and developed many skills and tools to avert. I’m trying to come to terms with working with my symptoms instead of fighting them and also living the mindful and intentional life I choose.

I feel that I’m finding my way, I’m working diligently to have both. I’m learning to acknowledge that this is not an either/or situation. I have relentless symptoms that I deal with on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean I can’t live in the present. Even if my present is uncomfortable, I’m not in a situation where I am physically in harms way any longer. My mind and body forget that sometimes, but if I continue to practice staying present and being mindful of my thoughts when I’m not being triggered I find it’s easier to come out of that out-of-control feeling when I do get triggered.

I will continue the practice of mindfulness and pay attention to the present. I will continue to learn and grow, but I’m also going to acknowledge that sometimes it’s a struggle to stay present when my illness catapults me to the past. Perhaps that’s part of being mindful…

 

 

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

 

 

 

Mystical Encouragement of Mountains

Surrounded by the mystical encouragement of the mountains

three generations of women

stand inside this house.

Lessons of strength, family, and laughter

resonate as the smoky sage of wisdom

encourages dreams to come true.

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©Alexis Rose

photo: pixabay

 

Thank you for reading my memoir, 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

Emerging from the Shadows

Over the weekend, my dear friend, who is also going through a healing journey, asked me if I was happier now than I was eight years ago when my PTSD took over my life. I was surprised when my answer without thought was, “no, I’m not happier.” The answer stopped me in my tracks. I have worked my ass off to find some semblance of health these past years. I have gone from having a repressed, all dark past, to a congruent timeline with all puzzle pieces filled in. I know the who, why, when, how-the-heck these things could happen, all of it. I know the big picture and the minutiae. But I had mistakenly thought that my PTSD would be gone, (like my cancer was gone after treatment) cured, and I would be skipping back to work with no lingering symptoms. No one put that in my head but me. My symptoms are still rampant and active, and that’s the way it is right now. PTSD has left me with a disability. Is it forever? I don’t know, but it’s right now, and that doesn’t make me feel happy.

But…I feel a sense of contentment! I emerged from the shadows.

Eight years ago, I had a life with no past. I was a high-functioning trauma victim whose symptoms were coming out sideways in the form of perfectionism, control, drama, being everyone’s friend, super-mom, super-worker, super-wife, super-happy, let’s go on a road-trip and never stop until I come down with some bizarre physical illness that puts me in the hospital person. Whew, I have to shake off the frenetic energy just writing that.

My life turned upside down because of my post-traumatic stress disorder and I had to decide, both consciously and unconsciously to heal, to change, or I would most probably die. It’s a sobering thought as I sit down to write this, but it was true. One day, very early on in therapy, my therapist and I were discussing the book The Alchemist, and he asked me to go home and think about what I wanted my personal legend to be and report back to him next session. I took that homework very seriously, and I decided that my personal legend was to know the entire truth of my past, live with my eyes wide open, blinders off. To continually operate in a place of self-discovery, growth, and change.

I know the definition of my life’s purpose is who I want to be. I know I’m the author of my own story, and I get to choose how I want to be in the world. At this point in my life, it’s about choices and being proactive rather than reactive. It’s about aligning my personal values and beliefs with my actions and words while maintaining my integrity.

At the beginning of my endeavor it often looked like a question/answer session. What does it mean to live life with my eyes wide open? Is it about knowing and accepting the past without forgetting it, so I can become my version of complete? Or is it a metamorphosis of who I was, who I am and who I will be? Maybe it’s all three. As I think about how I want to spend my life and who I want to be, I am guided by a more mature and spiritual self because of the time I spent in therapy, meditation, growth and self-reflection.

I love that we live in a time where self-discovery is an accepted way of life. I spent so much time in fear and hiding, squelching any dream of a life lived, only a life survived. Now, most times, I am able to live, speak, listen and learn from a place of safety and truth. Discovering the wonder and accepting of life and what it has to offer. Not getting in the way of who I am, and instead letting myself be who I am, without my ego reminding me of the should haves, did nots, or can nots.

Self-discovery also comes with the knowledge that the truth often hurts and is uncomfortable on many levels including physical, spiritual, emotional and mental. There were times when I would begin processing a memory and I had to fight not to ignore it, or repress it again. I learned that by repressing what I had painfully remembered was making a choice to live in fear. If I wanted to live my life’s purpose, I had to begin to learn to forget how to forget. It wasn’t an easy path or the path of least resistance, but it was the only way I could see to begin to create the life I wanted.

My PTSD was the catalyst of change for me. I had to face certain truths about myself and was forced to look at the direction my life was going. Was I going to continue to allow my perpetrators to define who I am and how I live my life? Or do I find the strength to uncover who I really am at my core and how I want to live my life moving forward?  My illness gave me the choice to put my foot down and say, “enough is enough. I am not going to ride the tide of fortune and misfortune anymore. I’m going to make different choices because I have the power to do so.”

It’s been a very painful, yet purposeful journey the past eight years. I am resolute on my goal of living with my eyes wide open, blinders off. To continually operate in a place of self-discovery, growth, and change.  Emerging from the shadows helped me create and restructure my life’s purpose. Choosing who I want to be is a life-long, ever changing, non-linear journey.

Did it leave me happy? Nope, I’m not happy that I’m still disabled by many symptoms that still have a firm chokehold on me.  But I’m content that I know the truth of my life. I’m content that I can choose to live my life with authentic feelings, have hopes, dreams, desires and less shame and fear. I’m content that I can feel  happiness and recognize the perfect moments in a day but I don’t get attached and crave their permanence.

I’m empowered that I emerged from the shadows. Maybe for me, that’s where I need to be right now. Content and Empowered.

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Thank you for reading my memoir, 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

photo:pixabay

Sitting in Peace; Oh no, a Flashback, Sitting in Peace

I’m sitting in this place of peace. Listening to the water splashing over the rocks, over  this mini rapids. The water sparkles like diamonds as the sun plays upon it. The eagles and other various birds are flying overhead and occasionally landing on the bare branched trees in pairs of two or three. Sometimes they rest on the rock and also seem to be gazing out over the restless water. Next to me in the tree, I watch a spider lord over her intricate web that is filled with little bugs trapped in her silk. Off in the distance, tall purple flowers are swaying just a bit in the breeze. My triggers are reset. I am at peace, not judging, not thinking, not talking, and just resting.

Then out of the blue, it happens. First, it comes as a sort of uneasiness in my stomach, and then the diamond reflections on the water became cartoonish, the bugs in the background are the noises of the forest in a different time and continent. A wave of emotion takes my breath away and my lungs seem to stop with fear as the world starts to morph. I can feel myself being pulled away.  In my distant mind, just before I’m lurched into the past, I can hear myself think just sit with it until it passes. I feel myself stand up, watching, reliving “it” happening. Whatever the “it” for this particular flashback brings. 

It passes. The water becomes fluid again, the breeze touches my ice cold skin in the burning sun, the muscles in my stomach, head, arms and lungs ache from being contracted and I am standing. I wonder what did I do wrong in this place where just moments ago, I felt wonderful, restful and safe. How did it turn into a place where I was no longer grounded, hurling through the past. Why wasn’t I still there with everyone else who is gazing at the rapids? How is it that I can turn a normal, beautiful moment into the ugliness of a flashback. I ask myself, what’s wrong with me?

 I want to turn and walk away. But, I don’t, instead, I look at this nature filled place I’m visiting, sit down and understand that I had a flashback, I was triggered by something (wind, sounds, the light hitting the water in a certain way, etc.) For me, this is how my PTSD manifests itself. That’s what my struggle looks like right now. It’s frustrating, but I’m not going to let it take the beauty out of the world around me. I’m not going to hide from the many, places of peace. 

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Thank you for reading my memoir, 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