Archives

The Power of Your Story

So much has changed since my memoir was published five years ago. Before I wrote the book, my entire life was focused on keeping quiet, not telling, protecting those I loved, or who loved me. It took me a long time to understand that by keeping quiet, I was actually protecting the people who hurt me in my life. Writing Untangled was a way to announce in a really big way, that I will not keep quiet any longer.

In the past two years, I began to fully understand the power of telling your story. Everyone has a story, and all stories are powerful. But many who have been through trauma cleave off their past, minimize their past, or live in fear of their perpetrators. Not acknowledging your story (even if its to yourself) can stunt a person’s state of being; keeping a person from living the life as a survivor/thriver.

The other day someone said to me, “I like your writing because it comes from an emotional place, it’s about the feelings.” That is exactly how I would describe my style of writing and speaking. I know that feelings are universal and relatable. Our stories may differ but feelings are relatable no matter what city, state, or country we live in. Those feelings of love, pain, joy, sadness, loneliness, fear, abandonment, hope, and sorrow to name a few are what connect us, empowers us, and gives us the ability to empathize with others.

Recently, I took a program to earn my peer support specialist certification. Part of passing the class was having to tell our story. We had 10 minutes to share our story. It was over Zoom and everyone had to have their cameras on. It was frightening to look out and see 16 people staring back at such a close range as I told my story. I usually take a wide brush stroke and focus on my healing journey without much context. This was a situation when I had to give more background. My other classmates also had to share, so I felt out of respect for their authenticity and vulnerability I had to share too.

My story was quite a bit different from my classmates, but I kept reminding myself to keep going, we all shared the same human feelings and emotions. When I was finished and took that final exhale, I felt empowered. I know that my story has power. It has power because each time I tell it I own my right to live, survive, and thrive. I lived, despite the efforts to silence me.

I’ve learned not to be ashamed of my past or my story. It is the truth of what happened to me. I didn’t choose it; the people in my life made those choices to traumatize me. My passion, my mission in life is to destigmatize PTSD and other mental health issues. I’m real and honest about what it’s like to live with the symptoms and the effects that prolonged and pervasive trauma still has on my everyday life.

There are times and places to tell your story. Not everyone has earned the right to hear it and you get to pick and choose what and how much you share. That’s the beauty of your story ~it’s yours!

In the last five years, I have become more vulnerable when speaking and writing. I’m able to celebrate my bravery and resilience. I know that my writing and speaking engagements will be a lot richer if  I’m not inadvertently shaming myself into silence. I’m grateful for all the healing I’ve done. It’s enabled me to share with others that a person can not only survive, but thrive in spite of a horrific past, and  PTSD.  As I become more involved with survivors and lend an ear and a supportive shoulder I want to instill in them that there is Power in Sharing Your Story.

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

Hello! Where Were You?

Hello! Where have you been?

That’s a question that I have asked myself many times the past seven months. Just like most people, my life changed dramatically during the quarantine, the unrest in the spring, and the continuing effects of the pandemic. One of the biggest questions (and there were many) I had asked myself during this time was, why did I stop writing? For over five years, writing has been my link to sanity, and connection; a critical part of my healing journey.

I write under a pen name, which at the beginning was to protect me, my family, and my perpetrators. That was the safest way I could share my story. My kids always said my pen name and my real name were the worst kept secrets, especially when my books began to sell and I was doing more and more local speaking. I love my pen name-Alexis is very much who I am. I don’t hide behind the name, I love that name~it wasn’t a random choice; there is great meaning behind it for me. I believe when quarantine hit our family and all the implications of what could happen to my husband if he caught COVID that fear led me to a full stop. I didn’t want anything to do with Alexis or writing.

That period of time was quite difficult. All the tools and distractions I used to manage my PTSD was suddenly gone. The stress of not knowing how to learn new tools as well as the hypervigilance of paying attention to the unfolding science took its toll. My extreme extraverted self needed to find a way to hunker down, settle in, and get some help. Apparently, my writing needed a quarantine too.  

I live in the Twin Cities, MN. In the spring, after the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests and unrest, I knew that I had to learn what it meant to be anti-racist. I have 14 nieces and nephews who are multi-racial. I thought I had it figured out, but I didn’t.

Between COVID and the unrest this Spring, I have had many uncomfortable conversations with people who are close to me. I have always been a person who gave others the space to be just who they were, without much judgment. That no longer serves me in this changing world. So what do I do with that information? I’m not sure! It’s a many-layered challenge and not something that comes with an easy answer. 

Then, despite my diligence-I got COVID-19! I was very sick for one month and then it took another couple of weeks to actually begin to feel like the illness was behind me and I could trust I was getting better. 

So a lot has happened existentially and physically to me in the last seven months. But where was I? Well, I believe I was right here. At least in spirit. 

I am very involved in a non-profit organization called EmpowerSurvivors.  http://www.empowersurvivors.net/ EmpowerSurvivors is a peer-led support organization for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Since the pandemic and ensuing quarantine guidelines, we began to offer on-line support. Which has been fabulous. Because now, through Zoom survivors from all over the U.S. and the world can participate in peer-led support groups and classes. It’s been wonderful!

I’ve also been writing. Well, that comment is a bit of a stretch. I have a story in my head that has its first lines and the very last line with no middle. To me, that is fascinating as I know the story will unfurl and find a way to my blog for all of you to read.

I have also been learning new ways to cope. Not being able to hug, touch hands, and hang out with my friends and kids has been lonely and excruciating. It’s been quite a challenge, but this week, I could tell that things are starting to come together on the self-care end and I’m in more of an acceptance mode.  Just in time for winter to hit MN.

I knew this morning that I was ready to come back to the wonderful WordPress community. I knew that when my fingers were itching to get back to the keyboard, and words were bursting out of me that I am ready to write again.

Where was I? Well, all over the place inside~figuring out where I stand and what is important and how I will move forward as a person in this world. I will continue to use my voice and write about mental health, particularly living with PTSD, and as always there will be a  little bit of poetry sprinkled in along the way.

Thanks for all your fabulous support for the past five years. Without the wonderful community here, I would not have had the courage to come back and say, Hello!

 

 

Sunday Desperation

That dark-haired little girl
wants to run away to the cliffs surrounding the ocean
washing the dirt from her feet and hands
watching as the dirt bubbles to the surface
emptying the soot from the bottom of the boxes

She wants to be free
free to see the stars, hear the crickets
smell the ocean waves
and listen to the call of the owl and
the songs of the loons

But she’s bent over holding herself in a ball
The pain in her chest, her heart, her biceps
and the hollowness of her soul
writhes in fuzzy fear and loneliness

She’s trying to grab a hand
a metaphorical lifeline
that provides the hope that this walk will not be alone

It’s not dead girl walking
it’s tiger slayer trying, once again
to navigate the world where her past
doesn’t define her

Fear keeps her from asking
the skeleton hands of the past in for tea

Can she ask them in
Can she ask them why they crawl up her spine
and try to pull her down the rope of the past
Can she ask them to release her – to set her free
Does she set them free with a thank you or a f**k you or both

She doesn’t want to fight them anymore ~ She’s tired
She wants to set them on a raft and send them down the river
free
She wants to set both self-doubt, and fear on a leaf
and watch them take flight with the wind
free
Or maybe put it all in a balloon and set it alight
to become stardust

And when that’s done
she’ll sit for a while
breathe, say thank you ~ and rest
free

©Alexis Rose

Until the Promise of Spring

The words dried up
and stuck deep in my throat
before they blew away

I watched them swirl
like the dry autumn leaves
before they were swept up
and dispersed by the winds

Maybe its the season
or a fluke
a phase, the moon
or a moment in time

I’m sure there’s more to say

But for now
the words lay quiet
silenced by blankets of snow
still, resting, waiting
until the sun shines warm with the promise of spring
©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    

Behind the Glass

A quick glance to the right
triggered the shiver from the deepest
part of my soul

Like a whisper in the night
bringing memory into focus
I’m stopped in my tracks
and enshrouded
in a dark and heavy fog

A series of photographs
posed, and etched deep inside my mind
play quickly, vividly
like a silent filmstrip
then fades
leaving muted color
and vague felt-sense memory

Lodged behind a scrim
and never completely melting away
I walk along, wondering
what happened on that day
what happened behind the glass when I glanced to the right

Will, it ever be okay
Will, it ever go away


©Alexis Rose; photographer: 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    

 

 

 

 

The Whispering Dark Shadows

Dark shadows once quiet
whisper
come with me

Tempting me
with safe corners
in darkened rooms

Shadows playing on the wind
then falling
deep into silence
tempting me to follow

I learned long ago
to listen to the shadows
to feel the yin
to acknowledge the damp, deep cold

I’ll settle in
with the softest of down
and multi-layers of love
until the whispering dark shadows
are quiet once again

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

Check out this new book – Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis! — Mental Health @ Home

I’m honored to be one of the contributors to Ashley Peterson’s new book: Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis, Understanding the DSM-5.  Follow the link to find out more information, including how to order your copy. Thank You, Ashley, for including me along with the other amazing contributors. https://mentalhealthathome.org/2019/09/09/release-making-sense-diagnosis/

 

Making Sense of Diagnosis: Understanding the DSM-5 Available today! Available on: Amazon as an ebook or paperback Apple Books Barnes & Noble Google Play Kobo Mental Health @ Home Store (at a discounted price) The ebook version is available on all of these sites. 40 more words

via Released today – Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis! — Mental Health @ Home

Thank-you symptoms, but I’ve got this!

The past few days during moments of exasperation, I’ve said out loud to myself, “You’re being so weird, just stop it!” In reality, I haven’t been weird, I have been feeling off, and instead of sitting with the feelings, and letting them surf on through, I’ve been running the other way in a grand state of denial.

There is a saying: “PTSD: It’s not the person refusing to let go of the past, but the past refusing to let go of the person.” That saying is a simple way for me to understand that try as I might, there are reasons my PTSD symptoms sometimes still have a firm chokehold on me. The list can be long depending on the time of year and triggers.

Autumn is beautiful and just started here in the Midwest. Blue skies and Vermillion colored trees often coexist with 70 degrees temperatures. This time of year, from late August until it snows represents trigger, after trigger for me. While I can appreciate the wonderful weather, the long season can be challenging with prolonged symptoms and what can seem like constant symptom management. They don’t just amplify on certain calendar dates, they simmer,  just under my skin in both the Fall and Spring seasons.

There are days when the triggers and symptom management leave me exhausted and feeling like I’m a burden to my family and close friends. I spend most of the time finding ways to work on distress tolerance and grounding when the autumn winds blow.

Lately, I have been able to tolerate some of the triggers that in years past, would send me hiding in the house. I noticed I was able to name what the trigger was without flashbacks or much anxiety. That felt great, and I made sure to acknowledge how far I’ve come in my healing journey. But, as the weather has changed and we entered September, my body memories and reptilian mind have been fighting for a seat at the table.

I’m pretty good at accepting, and having compassion for my lizard brain and body responses by telling them, “Thank you for doing what you are meant to do, but we are safe now, and I’ve got this.” Most of the time that works, but sometimes as the skeleton hands of the past slowly edge up my spine and try to pull me down, some deep feelings get stirred up. If I don’t acknowledge the feelings and sit with them even for a short amount of time, they come out sideways. I get emotional, irritable, and I start demanding an impossible perfection from myself. If I’m not careful those feelings can inadvertently push play on the negative self-talk and doubt.

This morning, when I caught myself again saying, “You’re being so weird, just stop it” it made me pause. Instead of running to the next distraction I sat down to reflect, on what was really going on. With reflection, I stopped denying that the change of season is having an effect on me. It’s not me refusing to let go of the past, it’s an internal response to the trauma I survived.

Now that I’ve accepted what is going on, and forgiven myself for how I’ve been feeling, I say to my symptoms, “Thank-you, I see you, and I’ve got this!

PTSD

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

Getting Triggered by the News

I make a conscious effort to be careful about what I read and listen to on the news.  It’s a tricky line to walk sometimes because I’m inherently curious and interested in what is happening in current events around the world. I don’t want to live in a bubble. I want to know what’s happening, I want to be able to critically think about things so I can form my own opinions and have thoughtful conversations.

When my symptoms were at their worst, and I was going through the throes of processing my memories, my therapist had me follow the “puppy and kitten rule,” meaning I could watch anything as long as it included cute puppies and kittens.  That “rule” helped me minimize being triggered at a time when most of my days were spent experiencing flashbacks, anxiety, panic, and fear.

I stayed away from intense news and was mindful of what I watched on tv and what movies I saw. Most of the time, I watched lots of comedy. Admittedly, there were times when I broke the rule. I sometimes sought out programs with violence that in some way mirrored my own abuse. Or I would pay attention to sensationalized cases in the media that were hard to avoid. Inevitably I would get triggered.

As I began to manage my symptoms and felt some sense of safety the puppy/kitten rule was lifted. Because I had been so careful about what I ingested from media outlets for so long, I developed an avoidance for watching or seeking out certain information because I knew it may be triggering.

Recently, there was a news story that I had done my best to avoid. When it first came out, people were outraged, and then the news cycle changed. I understand why that happens. There is so much out there every day, and each event is shocking and sad, and sometimes incomprehensible.  But because my trauma is sort-of similar to the aforementioned news story, I was on high alert when I scrolled past it. I had a definite curiosity about the details but hadn’t read anything besides the headlines.

Until the other day!

The other day the headline changed and I knew that the very thing I feared when I first heard the story did, in fact, come true. I knew this person would never be convicted.  I felt sick that even with awareness, this kind of trafficking still goes on, and in my mind, will probably continue to exist.

Then I got triggered.

I’m not used to those kinds of triggers any longer. There is plenty for me to navigate in my daily life, and anniversary times of the year, and I thought I was far enough along in my healing journey that I would be okay. But PTSD doesn’t operate that way. It doesn’t care that I was just reading an article, and it doesn’t care that this person had absolutely nothing to do with me. I had never heard of him. PTSD simply understands that my sense of safety and trust is altered because of the trauma I experienced, and my brain and body will go into the memory and protection mode automatically.

After reading the article, I could tell that something was awry in my body/mind/spirit. I could tell things were stirred up in a way that I could spiral down the cycle of panic, fear, and shame. I closed the computer, went to yoga, had lunch with a friend, and remembered that today is a day when I’m fighting the tiger.  Any shame over being triggered dissipated as I repeated my metaphorical mantra of support to myself.

Seeing things written, or in movies, tv, or media can bring a sort of validation. A sense of see? I’m not making this up!  When you are a trauma survivor you look for validation. My trauma seems so “out of the ordinary” that it’s extremely rare that I felt validation. But, my job on my healing journey is knowing that my truth is validation enough.

I suspect there will be other times when I get triggered by the news. The intensity of my response will probably vary depending on what the triggers are, time of year, and the present stressors in my life. I know what to do when the skeleton hands of the past pull at me, and I’m confident that I’ll remember that I will fight the tiger and win.

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

image source:  ashley-batz

Reflection in the Mid-afternoon of Life

I have a habit of making three or four big goals when I reach a new decade in age. I tend to do a lot of reflecting, and anticipate what kind of adventure I can write for myself for the next ten years. I started doing this when I turned 30. I believe it is because the first twenty years of my life were controlled by others in terrible, sad, and tragic ways. When I broke free of my perpetrators, I understood that I own my life, and I get to decide who I want to be. That revelation and freedom have been an intense/unrelenting driving force for my life since the age of 22.

With this most recent birthday, I’m now (as my friend beautifully described it the other day) in the mid-afternoon of my life. So, with that mid-afternoon sun shining gently on my face, I began to reflect: Did my passion for writing, speaking and trying to destigmatize living with PTSD help others? What was the impact on myself for learning, growth, and change? How can I continue to be a support to this community of survivors as I venture down a different fork in the road?

As I was reflecting, I recalled a wonderful talk given by Arthur Brooks at the Aspen Ideas Festival, titled: Strategies for happiness in life.  In very brief summary, his four points were, “don’t rage against change, teach others what you know, take away the parts of you that aren’t really you, and surround yourself with love.”

I’ve stopped raging against change a long time ago. l respect that change is life. Everything is impermanent, including the feelings I encounter when change happens. I have taken away the parts of me that weren’t authentic, and definitely surround myself with love. My children want me to rest more; to relax, to not be so driven and hard on myself. I heard them; it landed, and I will be more mindful about the message I’m giving myself when the negative self-talk tries to sneak in.

As I hang out and look deep inside in my spirit mirror, I believe this will be a time of deep personal growth, a bit more rest, and a lot of self-acceptance. I’m looking forward to reflection in the mid-afternoon. There is a lot of daylight left, and the evening is still decades away.

photo: 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