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

 

 

 

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15 thoughts on “Mindfulness Practice and My PTSD

  1. Alexis Rose August 29, 2016 / 11:05 am

    Thank You so much!!! This was a wonderful comment to wake up to this morning. I appreciate you reading Untangled. It means a lot to me. 🙂 Alexis

    Like

  2. she August 29, 2016 / 10:19 am

    I enjoyed reading your memoir.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alexis Rose August 28, 2016 / 3:47 pm

    Thank You!😃❤️ Im terrible at follow through for doing what Im supoosed to do for these, but I greatly and sincerely appreciate this. Especially because I adore Lottie.

    Like

  4. Alexis Rose August 28, 2016 / 3:47 am

    Thank You…Im so glad its relateable because I was nervous to publish it. At the same time Im so sorry that you too have flashbacks. I absolutely understand wanting to go there with the memories. Its a painful process, but in the end for me it was healthier to know the truth. At least thats what I keep telling myself. 😀 Thank you so much for commenting. Have a good rest of your weekend! Alexis

    Liked by 1 person

  5. courageousyogachick August 28, 2016 / 3:15 am

    I can relate to so much of this. Until recently, I thought everyone’s trauma experiences were like mine. I have been working on mindfulness for the last 12 years, but just started working through my severe childhood sexual abuse a year ago. I often feel torn between wanting to avoid the memories and flashbacks and knowing that I need to work through them to feel better. Some weeks are easier than others. These last few weeks have been super challenging and I’m clinging to the hope that it will get better and level out again soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Alexis Rose August 26, 2016 / 10:27 pm

    Thank You. That really means a lot to me. It is something I have been trying to come terms with for a while and trying to figure out how to live with my symptoms and still have a meaningful life. Have a wonderful weekend! 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  7. grace to survive August 26, 2016 / 10:03 pm

    This is so well written and useful. It reminds me how difficult it is and not to be too hard on myself. It is also describes the effects of PTSD in way that others who don’t deal with it would be able to understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Alexis Rose August 26, 2016 / 9:16 pm

    Flashbacks are awful thats for sure! Very discombobulating and frustrating. I think flashbacks and getting overwhelmed are the two symptoms that most that are the most frustrating to manage.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. dbest1ishere August 26, 2016 / 8:14 pm

    I struggle with mindfullness on a daily basis. My therapist has shown me so many thing to try but I just cant seem to do it. I literally just told her yesterday in an intense session how mad I am at myself because I cant stop any of this. The flashbacks and nightmares are the worst. They start my day and ruin my nights. I just cant get it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Alexis Rose August 26, 2016 / 3:20 pm

    A minfulnes practice can be transforming. I love the way you expressed it, the only way out is in. Learning to just be in ourselves is a huge step in a practice. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Wanda Luthman August 26, 2016 / 3:13 pm

    I had started a mindfulness practice about 4 years ago. I find it difficult to be present and let me thoughts go and I don’t suffer from PTSD. I really admire you for sticking with the practice and being present with what you have to deal with. You are an inspiration to me. I believe in mindfulness and I believe it can bring healing. It has brought me healing, although, what I experience is way less that you. I believe the only way out, is in.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Alexis Rose August 26, 2016 / 1:56 pm

    Thank You Caroline. I always love when you share your experiences and what has helped. Things are so much better than they used to be for me and I always remember to say, “look how far you’ve come the last year.” I think EMDR is a wonderful and effective tool. Thank You for your good wishes, I am holding them close today. Have a wonderful weekend! Alexis

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  13. carolineturriff August 26, 2016 / 1:47 pm

    I can only imagine the terrible things you have gone through that cause the flashbacks as I also have PTSD but less severe than yours. It does keep you stuck in the past viewing the present through a distorted lens of the past. I found EMDR helped massively with my PTSD and reduced the symptoms of the PTSD which was crazy out of control OCD from almost 10 hours a day to 10 minutes. Have you tried EMDR – I found it a revelation? Sending you good wishes for your recovery.

    Liked by 2 people

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