The Paradox of Sharing

I watched a travel show the other day where the host went to a country where I had also visited. The show was fabulous and I was completely engaged. Although about five minutes into the episode I noticed that there was also a part of me that was thoughtfully activated. Although I was enjoying the repartee the host was having with the locals, an uneasy quiet settled deep inside because the memories of what happened to me, were the opposite of what was being shown on screen as a happy tourist destination. For sure, the places that he was promoting ARE  happy tourist destinations, they just weren’t for me. I was forced to travel to that location, and that experience forever changed how I view the world.

As I watched the episode, I felt validated that the places I had remembered going to were the places he was also visiting. I would say aloud, “I was there, and there, and There! It felt like a shared experience. Except that my experiences were dark and I met people who did not have my best interest at heart or people who looked through me as if I was invisible.

This had me thinking about the paradox of sharing. The definition that I’m using for my thought process is, A situation or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities. 

As a trauma survivor, we learn pretty quick what we can share and not share with our family and friends. I have always been of the mind, that this is absolutely healthy, and I want my support to have good healthy boundaries. I want to keep a semblance of “normalcy” in my everyday life. I definitely share, but only tell the most intimate and shocking parts of my trauma to my therapist. I have a therapist to help me process, accept, and teach me the tools to live with the effects of my trauma.

But, sometimes its hard to not be able to really participate in a conversation about a shared travel destination, holiday traditions, past birthdays, or just childhood observations. I have traveled to many, many places in my life. When someone talks about taking a tour of the swamps of the south, I may have also gone to the exact same region. I didn’t see Alligators peeking their eyes above the water, I experienced other things. Let me tell you, that if I share even a bit of what I experienced there, it is an instant conversation stopper.  Where I find myself enjoying the persons’ vacation tales, they wind up feeling uncomfortable that the underbelly of what people are capable of, is darkening the joy of a fun-in-the-sun travel destination. It’s a paradox when it comes to sharing.

Now I have had a plethora of really good, priceless, life-changing, wonderful experiences in my life that I can freely share and relate to my friends, family, and people on the street. I really don’t have a shortage of those at all. What has me thinking about this, is that sometimes when I’m having a conversation with someone about birthdays or family of origin traditions, I would like to share my experiences too. Not for shock value, but because they are my experiences. That is the extent of it. To me, I would sometimes like to say, Oh yeah, I remember when I was sixteen and …, but that is simply not an appropriate share. For me, it was just my life, for others it is gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. There have been many appropriate times and places that I have shared, but it is usually not in the middle of a lighthearted walk down memory lane.

This is simply my observation the last few days after watching that travel show. Survivors of trauma, just like people who live with chronic pain and illness learn to adapt. I do believe that people who are in a friendship/relationship want to hear other’s experiences. The responsibility is on us to navigate our lives and share our stories. It helps those close to us understand the lens we look at the world through, and why we may respond to things the way we do. I know that the feedback I get from people, is, “Oh that makes a lot of sense now!”

I wonder, as I write this, that maybe this paradox in sharing is just human nature. Our different life experiences and how we feel about them may be what determines whether we share or stay silent. Are we afraid of being a “Debby Downer?” Or are do we say, “Wow, well you know what happened to me on my birthdays every year?” I don’t know the answer. I’m not sure what most people do. I’m curious, what do you do?

Photo by Korney Violin 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    

 

 

 

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Perspective in Minus 10 Degrees

This morning when I woke up, I thought about all the things I needed to get done today.  The list of chores, errands, and the title for a new book I am thinking about writing swirling into a nice time-managed schedule.

With my mind in full active mode, I tried to settle down and set an intention for the day. Setting an intention is something I usually do before I  get out of bed. I grabbed my phone to jot down my to-do list and to check the temperature to see how cold it was outside. I was greeted with negative 10 degrees.

That’s cold! Even for Minnesota, that’s cold! I live in the cities, not in the hinterlands.  My to-do list in my mind immediately quieted, and my intention for the day became clear. Just Be, Just Stop, Just Sit, Just Rest and Breathe!

I also gained some perspective:  My family and friends are all safe and sound living in homes with working furnaces. Our critters are indoor animals (although, I very much felt for my dog this morning when I let her out). It’s a clear day, the sun is shining bright and there is no wind. No Wind is a gift believe me!

It will do me a world of good to rest today. I have just begun to feel better after a three-month-long illness, and an Everest size mountain of stress. My Mantra since the beginning of the year is to listen to my inner self and to have trust and faith in the process. I have continued to learn not to react, but to sit, observe, and then respond. That’s a lot of introspection for 8:00 in the morning!

Minus 10 degrees can provide excellent perspective.

Disclaimer: Minnesotans tend to have a lot of chutzpah when it comes to weather. We are made of tough stuff living in the north. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few hours when I actually do decide to run an errand or two, I’ll  hear myself say, “Meh, it’s not too bad, at least there’s no wind, and look the sun is shining.”

Take a peek at the lows that are in store for us in the next few days! I yearn for summer to see the 90’s and a few 100’s.

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

The Story We Tell Ourselves

Am I enough? Am I worthy? Do I contribute to some greater good?   What impossibly high standard do I still hold myself compared to what I would think reasonable of another person?

What story am I telling myself? 

Will people like me if they really know me? Would they run away? Am I too opinionated or am I not judgmental enough? Am I engaged or is it okay to rest, retreat and just be? 

What kind of please others, what will they think of me kind of expectations do I have of myself? 

Am I aging gracefully, or do my forehead wrinkles and sagging parts make me unattractive? Am I keeping healthy enough or still feeding into the impossible societal standards of weight, exercise, and beauty? 

What kind of pressure am I still putting on myself? 

Am I letting myself rest? Am I finding contentment in my everyday lived life, Am I acknowledging the love I have and the love I give? 

The answer is Yes…

Those moments when I allow the old tapes and self-judgment to seep in, what kind of story am I still telling myself? 

What kind of story are you telling yourself? 

words and image: Alexis Rose

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

Triggers and Tools

Living with PTSD often means understanding that there are triggers, triggers everywhere. Coping with PTSD often means learning the tools to handle the triggers. 

Before I was diagnosed I had no idea what was wrong with me. I was quirky to my friends and family, but inside I felt out of control and crazy. I could tell that the people I was with didn’t react the same way I did to certain situations, but I couldn’t understand why.

People can sometimes sit down at a restaurant and marvel over the choices on the menu. I become anxious and lose my appetite because the choices are overwhelming. Walks in the woods typically are filled with deep breathing wonderment at the smells and sounds of leaves rustling and crunching. I would cringe and keep looking over my shoulder because the crunching meant someone was running behind me to catch me. 

The sound of distant fireworks is often a sound and a sign of summer festivals and fun. I bristle and remember a time when I heard guns or bombs. The beautiful full moons shining brightly in the sky brings a sense of awe.  I often feel left-over dread and fear for the rituals the solstices brought in a place long ago, but not so far away. 

These are just a few triggers that I have to manage to live with PTSD. 

I used to flounder and drown in the vortex of my symptoms, but now, I have the tools to help me cope. I understand that for me, there are triggers, triggers everywhere and I know the reasons why. Knowing the truth and understanding my past has been a huge help in managing my mental health. 

I understand what flashbacks are, and while they are terribly uncomfortable, I have the tools to cope with the aftermath. I have the tools to work through panic, anxiety, and fear. 

I have a plethora of distress tolerance tools and I have to employ them daily. There are days it feels like my full-time job is consciously finding something to ease the distress, but it is time well spent. 

I understand that going to a restaurant, grocery store, library, or a place with a lot of stimulation, brings some responsibility on my part. Perhaps I can look at the menu online and find something to eat before we get there. I may need to put a book on reserve and pick it up vs. wandering the shelves of the library and becoming overwhelmed by the choices. I have to communicate before my anxiety ramps up,  but I also need to remember and acknowledge if all is well, giving myself a mental pat-on-the-back. 

One of the tools that I’m appreciating the most right now, is that I’ve learned to enjoy the moments when I’m not symptomatic. I’m still hyper-vigilant and my startle response is off the hook sometimes, but I’m not necessarily waiting, or looking for someone or something to happen, and I can calm myself a lot quicker with my learned tools. 

Reminding myself I’m safe, understanding that my intense symptoms caused by triggers are time-limited and that I’m okay helps me live with PTSD. The tools help me cope and accept PTSD and all the symptoms that come with it. 

I was surprisingly triggered twice this week by separate events. One was a smell, and the other was a phone call from a long-ago friend. Somedays coping with triggers (especially if they come out of the blue) is a tricky dance and I find myself stunned by the experience. I feel clumsy and inept, but with continued practice Im hoping for a symbiotic relationship between triggers, triggers everywhere and the tools to calm and soothe. 

Image source: Pixabay

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

Happy 1st Birthday to If I Could Tell You How It Feels

One year ago today my second book, If I Could Tell You How It Feels was published. It has been a wonderful year of new connections, and opportunities. I have a tremendous feeling of satisfaction that my books have been a source of information, relatability, and comfort for survivors of trauma, someone living with a mental or chronic illness, a professional working within the mental health industry, or someone simply interested in learning more about the intricacies of living and thriving with PTSD.

If I could tell you how it feels was the internal mantra that I used in my early days of therapy. Even though I yearned to share with friends and family how it felt to live with a past full of abuse and neglect, I couldn’t say the words.

The painful memories and shame of my trauma were palpable. That shame kept me from exclaiming, “I’m a survivor!”

I felt the safest hiding behind the mask of what I thought was “normal.” One day, in answer to my friend’s question of how it felt to live with PTSD, I wrote a poem and risked the vulnerability of sharing it with family and close friends.

Soon writing became my way of expressing how it feels to try and cope with, relate to, and safely express my feelings. What I couldn’t verbalize, I found I could write. I can confidently say that writing was the light from the darkness of PTSD. It still is!

I never, in my wildest dreams knew the world of connection that awaited me from writing both my memoir, Untangled and If I Could Tell You How It Feels. Not only have I connected with survivors and mental health professionals, but I also have connected with many interesting people from all walks of life, and with varying interests from around the world. I’m a better person because of all these connections. There are some people I’ve met that have changed my life. I’m grateful and humbled every day when someone buys my books, reaches out to me through email, my blog, Facebook, or writes a positive review on Amazon.

To the wonderful followers of my blog, your support and encouragement for my writing have been amazing. You have definitely been instrumental in my book sales and in helping spread the word to your own blog followers.

Happy Birthday to If I Could Tell You How It Feels!

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

Transience

The past 3 1/2 years of blogging have been wonderful! I never imagined myself as a blogger. In fact, when I first began to blog I really thought blogging was largely about sharing recipes or travel pictures for family and friends. Wow, I was so wrong!  I absolutely enjoy bloggers who share recipes and travel adventures. I look forward to reading their posts and make a point to follow as many as I can. But the range of bloggers and endless topics is an amazing peek into worlds and connections that are priceless.

I didn’t think I would find myself in the niche of a mental health blogger. Maybe it’s not really a niche. Maybe my posts just fall into that category because, besides my poetry, that’s the part of my life I write about; I have the most passion to write about. The truth is, that the community here on WordPress has become a part of my healing journey.

Writing and connecting with so many other bloggers from around the world has opened my eyes to something I feel I know for sure: We want to feel happiness, we want to be seen, and we want to be heard. Whatever that looks like or feels like is completely individualized.

We have a community.  It’s open and it grows and it is inclusive. The country where we write from, the time of day or night, the topics from just a hello, to deep thoughts and feelings are welcome. People are interesting…we may not think we are, but we are! We are also transient.

I found myself thinking about that transience a lot the past few days. We weave in and out of each other’s lives by virtue of a post. We cheer each other’s victory’s, good recipes, beautiful pictures, job searches, and day-to-day musings. We provide support for our health issues, our fears, our struggles, and our disappointments. We write opinions and comments, and “likes’ when we want to make sure that someone knows that they have been seen and heard.

It doesn’t really matter to me if we have been following each other for three years or three days, I find I’m invested. I have a full life outside of blogging, and I’m also a blogger. If I didn’t find a connection, I wouldn’t be doing this. I take the time to read through the posts, as I hope people take the time to read through mine. Sometimes we find a solid connection, sometimes it’s fleeting, sometimes it’s just a respectful read.

I understand the transience of social media and blogging. I understand the impermanence of people coming in and out of our lives. Some of them become our teachers, some of them become cautionary tales, some of them we find are our neighbors and we become friends. It’s a strange and wonderful world.

As I find myself thinking the last few days of bloggers who have passed away or those who have simply moved on to other things in their lives, or the ones who have cried out for help and went silent, I feel a sense of peace. For a moment in time, we have provided each other (whether your following is 1 or 10,000) with a way to be seen, be heard, and to connect.

Thank You to all who take the time to follow me!

Photo by Slava Bowman 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    

 

Always in our Hearts

As the rain gently falls
we remember those who are 
with us in our hearts.
They will always be a part of us.
With a silent prayer, we honor
their heart, their soul, their essence
by tending to the flowers in the earth.

©Alexis Rose, image source: Pixabay

 

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