Shaming myself into silence?

I have been in a contemplative place lately. I’ve stepped back from a lot of things to organize my thoughts, needs, wants, and realities. Part of it was an intentional rest from years of writing and marketing my books, part of it was because I found myself falling into old patterns of not having good boundaries by not speaking up for myself when it was appropriate. And part of it was because I was trying to figure out how I wanted to continue to use my voice to de-stigmatize living with PTSD.

I have been in a poetic place. It’s been easier for me to express myself in poetry vs journaling style. It’s a way to get at the meat of my feelings. I absolutely love the creativity of poetry. It feeds my soul, it takes me to places where I say to myself, “If I could paint a picture, this is what it would look like.” But, I found that I was holding my feelings at a bit of a distance, and it caused me to pause.

I wondered if I was falling into a place of shaming myself into silence. If I was becoming fearful that some of the messages of  (let go of the past, it happened a long time ago, can’t you just get over it, you can decide to be happyyou don’t look sick) were beginning to seep in, and I was pushing play on my tape of shame that I live with complex PTSD.

I’m not ashamed of my past. I’m not ashamed of my story. It is the truth of what happened in my life, to me. I didn’t choose it; the people in my life made those choices to traumatize me. 

What I find I struggle with, is living with the effects of the trauma. It manifested in ways that affect my life, probably for the rest of my life. I have found the past four years when I began to speak publicly that I am not alone. A lot of people struggle with mental health issues directly related to trauma.

The good thing is that there is a tremendous amount of research being done to help trauma survivors right now. There have been some fantastic treatment options to help alleviate or extinguish symptoms. But, not all symptoms can be extinguished. They can be managed, and quality of life can improve to a level that wasn’t thought possible even five years ago. Some people depending on their symptoms of PTSD can absolutely be cured. Some of us may struggle for many more years to come. 

I had to re-evaluate that if I’m one of the people who have persistent and pervasive symptoms do I stay silent?  Do I watch as I see people struggling, repeating the lines and trying to live up to the many memes of, just do (or think) this and your life will be better? No, I just can’t do that. It goes against my nature because of all the survivors I’ve met along the way. Yes, there is a place for the feel-good memes, but it can shame us into silence if we don’t self-regulate.

I’m the most obnoxiously optimistic person I know. I love affirmations, I love mindfulness, I love yoga, meditation, dharma talks, and I really do get out of bed and say, “Today is a brand new day.” But I also have to make sure I am living with my feet firmly on the ground. When I’m sick, I’m sick. When I have symptoms I need to talk to my support system about them. I do not want to shame myself or watch others feel shamed into silence.

The other day one of my most trusted friends said to me, “You seem to be very calm about everything unless you aren’t telling me what’s really going on inside.” The reality was, I was calm and at the same time, I wasn’t being completely honest about how I felt. I was calm, I was numb! I didn’t realize it until I went home and thought about how I was feeling. Right now, numb is an okay place to be. My brain and body are resting after being very ill, and experiencing a recent trauma.

I will continue to use my voice to bring awareness and help de-stigmatize living with PTSD. I think it’s extremely important to create a community where people can relate instead of hiding and feel ashamed for having an illness. I continue to work on creating boundaries and will keep learning to speak up for myself, and I will not allow myself, to shame myself into becoming silent again. I’m grateful and acknowledge how far I’ve come in my healing that I recognized that may be happening and reaffirm my tenacity to stay the course on the long, winding road of healing.

Thank you for reading my books:  If I Could Tell You How It Feels,  and  Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

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Those Days

Those days
when
you know you are
okay
but you don’t feel
okay

those are the hardest
days
to navigate.

Nothing is wrong
but
everything feels
overwhelming
exhausting
scary
unsettled.

Those days
are the hardest
to just breathe.

Just be…
Just be what?
calm?
relaxed?
grounded?
trusting?

How in the present moment
when there is nothing wrong
can
I exist in a state
of uncomfortable
wobbliness?

Because those days happen!

Because that is the nature of my PTSD.
©Alexis Rose, Photo by Duangphorn Wiriya on Unsplash

Thank you for reading my books:  If I Could Tell You How It Feels,  and  Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

Whether it’s Daisy’s or Weeds it’s Still Your Life

There is a common expression that explains what it’s like to live with PTSD.  “PTSD: It’s not the person refusing to let go of the past, but the past refusing to let go of the person.”

One of the questions that people often ask is, “Are you sure you want to remember your past?” Or a common statement is, “Just let the past go.” Both of these are said and/or asked without malice.  I understand both the question and the statement. Most trauma survivors understand the intention behind these statements. They are meant to protect the person from suffering and bad memories which can be re-traumatizing. Also to remind survivors that it is okay to live in the present moment.

Going through trauma therapy, we work very hard to understand our symptoms so we can live in the present. We often have safety plans, distress tolerance tools, and grounding techniques that bring us back to the here-and-now. We learn to hear the birds singing, children playing, feel our feet on the ground, and though we may not feel safe, we begin to understand that we are safe, and no one can hurt us (like that) again.

We are empowered by the fact that we are survivors and celebrate resilience. And yet, with all that knowledge, and practice, and bringing ourselves back to the present moment, PTSD has skeleton hands that grab you and pull you into the past. It is the nature of the illness.

When I’m asked, “Are you sure you want to remember your past?” I say to myself, and sometimes to the person (depending on my mood), “How would you feel if you had big swatches of your life missing?” I’m not talking about little memories of places, or people that come and go, I’m talking sometimes years and years, blacked out. Imagine the feeling of knowing that you are alive because you are here, but you have no real congruent memories to make sense of yourself, your wholeness as a person. And, often when you do have flashes of the past, your emotions,  feelings, and a very protective mind stop you from remembering.

My mind wouldn’t let me repress my memories any longer. I knew intuitively that I needed to know my past. I needed a timeline of my life. I didn’t want darkness any longer. I wanted to live, not just survive.  I understood the truth would be painful. Traumatic memories are painful. But for me, in order to get some control over some of my most severe symptoms (flashbacks, fear, anxiety, hypervigilance, helplessness, and hopelessness) I needed to uncover my past, my truth.

It was hard, excruciatingly painful at times, but worth it! I still have symptoms, but now I can name them. I understand where they come from, and why they are happening and I can use the tools I have to cope and move through the waves. Sometimes, it’s easier than other times.

What I have now is awareness. That awareness makes it easier for me to stay in the present.  I don’t live in the past, but just like everyone else, I am partly who I am because of my past experiences. What I choose to do with that information is up to me.

I maintain that now, I live in the present because I know my truth. Before, I was too busy both consciously and unconsciously trying to bury, forget, and believe that I wasn’t worthy enough to have a lived life, whatever it looked like.

So when people care, and with love and affection innocently ask, “Are You sure you want to remember your past?” I can say back, with equal love and affection, “Yes, I do want to remember, because, Whether it Daisy’s or Weeds it’s still my life.”

 

Thank you for reading my books:  If I Could Tell You How It Feels,  and  Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

The Message

Meandering through
the crystallized mountains
my spirit awakens
with the message
of those who lived long ago
yet still, walk among us

They spoke to me of
kindness, respect
and the resolve to
stay steadfast
in hope and optimism

They showed me the
ability to ride
the tiger to battle
and to surf the waves
of emotions

I tasted the
tears of fear
of loss, of joy

I felt moments
that seemed unbearable
yet, still remained perfect

Hearing the laughter
Tasting the sweet kiss
Smelling the land
Touching the stars
Seeing the sun-rise
and set

Knowing
every day
every night
the times I fail
or falter
or act in the most human of ways
if I keep my heart open
and listen
the message remains the same

©Alexis Rose, Image source Pexels

Thank you for reading my books:  If I Could Tell You How It Feels,  and  Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

 

 

I’m Not Flying Solo

It may look as if I’m flying solo
but I’m remembering
to lean
into the wind
find comfort

in the safety of the clouds
and soar
into the shadow light of the sky

30

 

 

 

 

 

 

©From the Collaboration, Of Earth and Sky, by Alexis Rose, and photographer, Shelley Bauer

Thank you for reading my books:  If I Could Tell You How It Feels,  and  Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph available in both ebook and paperback from Amazon.

Self Doubt: My Unwanted (but invited) House Guest

A familiar knock on my self-esteem’s door seems to happen when I’m making a big change, taking a risk, sharing my writing, speaking in front of groups, or accepting another layer of learning to live with the limitations of PTSD.

I would like to say that self-doubt comes uninvited to my self-esteem’s house during these transition times, but that wouldn’t be honest. I don’t believe Mr. Doubt (as I call it) would come calling unless it was invited. It may be unwanted, but since it arrived with hat in hand, I ask it to come in for tea and tell me what it thinks of me.

Outwardly, to others, it appears I have no problems learning, growing, changing, taking risks, writing books, writing articles, speaking in front of groups about living with PTSD, and working very, very hard on living with the deficits that often plague my mental health. Outwardly, I look strong and determined.

I am strong and determined; But as self-doubt sips its tea and begins to play the old tapes and drones the familiar chants of, “You’re not good enough, not worthy, not well enough, smart enough, you’re a poser,” and lists all the reasons I shouldn’t try or that I should give up, the smell of fear and rejection hang in the air between us.

Somedays I listen with respect, compassion, and a loving ear because I know self-doubt doesn’t come uninvited. But, there are other days when I’m tired or triggered and have a lot of symptoms. I can feel the sinister dark-dread begin to blacken and shred the self-esteem I have worked so hard to foster. The grasp of my thinly held mantra, that my inner beauty, strength, and talent, far outweigh any deficits I may have, begins to fade as self-doubt tries to extend tea time into a meal and a nap.

I’ve eventually heard enough, felt enough, and acknowledge that this is a pattern. Self-doubt comes when I’m on a precipice, and I can choose to entertain it longer or thank it for the visit. It usually doesn’t take me too long before I  tell Mr. Doubt that, “We’re done” and show it the door.

As soon as it’s gone, it’s easier to take control of my internal thoughts about myself and how I’m navigating the world around me. I give myself room to breathe, change, grow, share my experiences with others, and emerge from the shadows of the shame of living with PTSD. It’s often not very comfortable, but that isn’t because I’m the terrible (fill in the old-tapes) person. It is simply because that is where I am at this time in my life, this day, or even for this moment.

As this bout of self-doubt fades onto a distant shore, I understand that I may hear this familiar knock on my door again, and if I do I’ll invite it in for a cup of tea and listen with a loving, compassionate ear. Because I know, self-doubt does not come uninvited.

Artwork: Janet Rosauer

Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph      

 

 

Fearless Butterfly

Across the decades
she lived fearlessly
with silent
fear

She trusted that the dry
strong muscles
of her wings
would keep her safe
as long as
she looked over her shoulder

Until the day
she decided
that the words
Fearless Butterfly
was a title of strength

A badge to print over
her heart
A re-frame for
peace of mind, body, soul

The Willow provided
a feathered nest of safety
to breathe
A landing pad for practice flights

And on those cold and windy days
when the sky is grey
and the Willow settles
under winter’s embrace

The butterfly
quietly grows
stronger
loved
free
fearless

©Alexis Rose, Photo by Luca Huter on Unsplash

Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph