Plasticine Arms and Butterfly Wings

Made of wire
covered by plasticine
she moves through the world
with awkward grace.

For decades, inside the sturdy sculpture
sits the child; head down, hands wrapped around her knees
she begins to awaken.

The scar tissue that solidly formed
and held her in place
weakens and gives way.

Lifting her head
she unfurls her arms from her knees
and sees that translucent butterfly wings
have taken the place of limbs
that atrophied long ago.

On wobbly legs, the child stands
and breaks all but one of the sinewy tendrils that were holding her down.

Moving to the edge of the wire
she calls and gently flaps her wings
capturing the attention of the figure
made of wire.

Plasticine arms instintively
touch the spot where the dormant child
lived in dark solitude.

Both fear, and confusion begin to emanate
off the plastic arms and beautiful wings.

A sense of hope further weakens the wire
fueling the possibility of
wholeness, worthiness, and love.

Can the two become one?
Can the wire and plastic melt
into the flesh of humanness?

The child held down by that
last remaining chain
quietly sighs.

But, something has changed
There is a shift
and both the fearless child butterfly
and the awkwardly graceful plasticine adult
know that it is only a matter of time
before they are transformed and become one.

Like a phoenix, they will sit upon their tiger
let the hot sun melt away even more of yesterday’s pain
and live harmoniously, seamlessly, together as one.
©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    

 

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My PTSD – A Poem

Like so many others who live with PTSD or other chronic illness, people often ask me, “What does it feel like?”

My PTSD 

It doesn’t matter if it’s cold, hot, sunny, snowing  or raining

There is no telling when it’s going to strike.

Are they alive or dead?

Is that pain real or echoes from pain long ago that

Resurface with a memory?

It’s like being held hostage by your mind

Thinking that today would be the day I am free.

I look like everyone else

I know the difference between right and wrong.

Yet in my head, I sometimes can’t remember

The last ten minutes of my life, or what day, year or time it is.

Are those smells real or is that a smell from a place and time

when I was being held against my will.

Am I really hearing the sounds of helicopters, planes, cicadas or birds

Or it that the sound coming from a place that no longer exists and

Should never be talked about?

I want so much to be like everyone else.

So I will keep pulling myself up the rope,

Out of the clutches of PTSD and all the skeleton hands of the past that

Keep trying to pull me down.

I am like everyone else only my job is to live so I can live.

For now, that’s all I can ask of myself if I am going to have a future.

my PTSD

©Alexis Rose, photo: pixabay

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

 

Parenting with PTSD

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    

 

 

 

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    

The Quiet Descent to Tender Ground

Eight years of muscle straining, oxygen deprived, mind exploding, grief-laden work to manage the grip of the skeleton hands of the past.

The rocky terrain and deep crevasses that held the traps of programmed words ready to pull me down into oblivion were navigated at a snail’s pace of impatient mindfulness.

Deafening winds and echoes of the past kept knocking me down, pushing me sideways, making it hard to grip the rope.

After every storm passed
I took the time to rest in the snow caves of acceptance.

So many times, wanting to give up, give in to the beast of symptoms.
But trusting, knowing, that my Sherpa would guide me through the sharpest peaks and deepest valleys.

Summiting many times, thinking there were no more hidden mountains.
Then catching glimpse of the last, gnarly climb looming just around the bend.

Everything inside me screams, “No, leave it!”
I intuitively understood that climbing all but that last steep incline would leave me stuck, and breathless. Allowing space for the blinders to slowly creep back into place.

I push through. One last climb to release the locked, cold grip of the past.

Then quietly, I make a gentle descent.
The thick, foreboding, dangerously tricky mountain range emerging steadfastly behind me.

Scar tissue replaces open wounds.
I work to try and accept my abilities in the wake of my past.

A sense of accomplishment for not giving in to the siren call of hopelessness fills my fragile, resiliently strong whole self.

Committed to finishing that arduous climb and having trust in a committed therapist gave way to a quiet, gentle descent.

With calloused feet on the tender ground
I exhale gratitude every day.

Today, with the mountain range in the distance
I continue to heal on flat land with a warrior tiger as my teacher.

The quiet descent to tender ground holds fast and strong with truth,
with acceptance, and unwavering commitment to living in the light even on the darkest days.


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

©words and photo: Alexis Rose