Precieved vs Real

It’s been a long time since I’ve had to deal with extremely challenging PTSD symptoms. I have learned how to manage the everyday symptoms that just come with living with this mental health condition by employing a whole lot of tools from my self-care tool-box.

But since the attempted break-in of my home (read about it here: Don’t Open That Door )I have experienced an increase in some very distressing symptoms including; fear, panic, extreme hypervigilance, and sleep disturbances. All of these leave me exhausted, a bit confused, and rather lost at the moment.

So what is happening? Right after the perpetrator was arrested, I felt like I did what I needed to do for my body. I stayed present, I let myself shake, move, sit, shudder. Whatever my body needed to do right after the event, I honored that. I walked outside in the neighborhood so I knew I was safe and that this was My space, not some random thief’s space. I didn’t alter my routine as far as daily living. 

I spoke about the incident with family, friends, neighbors, my acupuncturist, and my therapist. I sought support, and even though this happened in the bright sunshine of the morning, we installed four new security lights. Importantly, I understood how random this was and that I was safe in my house.

About a week after the attempted break-in something felt amiss. I began to have hellacious, screaming nightmares every night. The same nightmare every night; sometimes multiple nightmares in one night. My anxiety is increasing and I notice I’ve become even more hyper-vigilant coupled with full-blown panic attacks or crippling fear.

I began to keep myself tuned in to the part of the house where he tried to break-in and my eating has become a bit disordered. Also, the comforting settling noises of my house have now become a constant ask of, “what was that noise?” These are huge, uncomfortable, and exhausting symptoms. I was totally caught off-guard by them and I could not figure out why after being so purposeful in getting good, solid support after the event that this was happening.

My therapist has been working with me to catch myself with my increasing avoidance behaviors. She is trying to encourage me to take back the parts of my house I’m now avoiding. We’re working on new sleep tools and she is working hard on having me acknowledge the fear, accepting it, hearing it, thanking it, and letting it know we are safe. Good, good things that are helping me find some control, self-compassion, and grounding.

Yesterday I was speaking with another survivor who had similar pervasive trauma like I did. She suggested that I have lived with the perceived threat of my perpetrators coming to hurt me (or insert threat here) for decades and that this attempted break-in with the drama and the intensity around it was indeed a real threat to my safety.

This was a real light-bulb moment for me. Real vs Perceived! It made absolute sense in my mind.

Most people would be upset and a bit traumatized by confronting a person actively trying to break into their house. For me, it had activated all the times in my past that I had felt scared, unsafe, violated, and feared for my life. Days after the event, I spoke with a woman who lived in the senior-living apartment building where he broke-in and vandalized before he came to our house. When  I heard how violent he was, and that he was indeed trying to find a place to hide, in my mind he became even more dangerous to me. A real threat in real life.

I know logically that this person will not be coming back to my house. I know that this was random and not personal, and I know that this triggered an avalanche of PTSD symptoms that had laid dormant for a long time.

All these things are true, and I will find my way back to the middle. But for right now-after all these years of learning and repeating that I’m safe and that my fear was because of a perceived threat, I have now (again) in my life felt the fear of a real threat. This may be a small part of the healing process of the intrusion, but to me it’s an explanation and a jumping-off point for understanding how my mind is working and why I am, again,  working through the oh-so-tangled web of PTSD.

Photo by Mathilda Khoo on Unsplash

Hey Symptoms~Thanks, but I got this!

The past few days during moments of exasperation, I’ve said out loud to myself, “what is wrong with you, just stop it!” In reality, there is nothing wrong with me. I’ve 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.

This time of year represents trigger, after trigger for me. While I can appreciate all the beauty of nature, 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.

I’ve noticed that as I continue to heal I’ve been able to tolerate some of the triggers that in years past, would send me hiding in the house. I’m able to name what the trigger is without flashbacks or much anxiety. But, sometimes my body memories and reptilian mind fight 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, “What’s wrong with you, 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 can say, Hey symptoms, Thanks but I 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    

She Listens With More Than Her Ears

She listens with more than her ears.
The light from her soul
and the joy
in her heart
illuminate the world around her.

Silently saying a prayer
she feels the comfortable beat of her heart
as she flows to the music within.

 

©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      

 

 

 

 

 

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    

Farewell, Bad-memory Lane

I took a drive down bad memory lane
and saw you looming on the street
You looked much smaller than I remembered
standing there alone and unfamiliar

When I turned my head to pass you by
I thought I heard you shutter and sway
quickly trying to shake the ghosts awake
saying, look, look who’s back

Did I take a wrong turn
or did I need to see that the power is gone
and the ghosts have long passed

I wasn’t back; I had to be sure

With a wry smile
I headed north on a twisted road
the air turning clean and crisp
north, where the sun dances with the sky
and the stars are thick with wonder
far, far away from bad memory lane

©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      

Evolution

I could longer
run
hide
deny
because it ate away my soul

I could longer
fight
pretend
act invisible
because it eroded my identity

So I learned to
see My-self
accept who I am
have self-compassion
embrace growth and change

I slowly evolved

Now, even on those darkest days
there is light in my soul
dancing in the sun
and hope in my heart
©Alexis Rose, image: Pixabay
Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph      

 

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    

Breathless ~ Gratitude

Grateful I learned
to stand up for myself
practiced the concept that “no” is a complete sentence
that spending time alone is okay
and to acknowledge the huge trajectory of health and wellbeing

Grateful I saw
changes in myself
the benefit of setting firm boundaries
and the deep greens, and sky blues of the seasons

Grateful I experienced
the power of saying, “no more”
the stillness of my mind
the ground, firm under my feet
and contagious laughter

With blinders off
every day is a brand new day
hope…on the darkest days
hope…on the brightest days

Grateful
that when that bolt of loneliness
hits my soul and all I want to do is run
I remain patient, watchful
and resolute in the waves of impermanence

On this cloudy morning
I’m calm with the steady knowing that I’m okay
at peace, enveloped with goosebumps ~ breathless ~ gratitude

©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