The Juxtaposition

Breathe in
Breathe out
Surrender and release

Illness led me to rest
But I forgot to breathe

Triggers led me to
grounding techniques
But I forgot to exhale

Life situations led me
to worry
take action
then anxiously wait
exhausted, but whole

Wisdom reminded me this will pass
Just Breathe
Just Be

I
breathed in
breathed out
surrendered and released

The after comes as it always does

I rest confused by the intensity; the crescendo
of symptoms, of noise, and of fear

Fear of the illness
because I know it will strike again
often without warning

It lifts
leaving behind fogginess, relief
fatigue and acceptance

The mindfulness of acceptance
The exhaustion of acceptance

For me, living with PTSD
is the juxtaposition between
illness and health
danger and safety
surrender and release

©Alexis Rose, image source: Pexels.com

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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I’m Not Going Down Easy

You can swarm my dreams
You can mimic those long ago days
by the sound of the wind.

The calendar can read the same date
making me look over my shoulder
in shades of black and white.

Year after Year
you can remind me that I never
received the memo that it’s over.
That I was released from twenty years of tyranny.

Go ahead and remind me that I’m still waiting.
That all the IQ points don’t matter
when it comes to stored fear in the body.

You hold me in a grip of fear for Now? Then? When?
You make me want to crawl out of
this anxiety-ridden body and mind
and watch it crumple on the floor.

Fighting the messages, programming designed
to keep the illness safely tucked in the cells
of my body and mind.
Alert, ready for the next time.

You’ll have your way with me.
You’ll make my life uncomfortable
for days and weeks at a time.

Pawing at, and choking as the skeleton hands of the past rise up;
Those bony cold hands gripping tight around my neck.

You make me question all reality
You, you nasty PTSD
You try, and sometimes succeed
at chipping away at my health for days and weeks at a time
leaving me wobbly, unsteady, and questioning.

But
As I’ve told you before, I’m telling you again
with the same resolve as the fiercest warrior
“Go ahead and try to swallow me, you nasty PTSD
I will never go down without a fight.”

The storm will pass
My illness and I will again find a way to cohabitate.
It will lurk quietly; resting, retreated
And I’ll find comfort in the knowledge that when it emerges again
and the cold begins to ooze up my spine
that I’ll never go down easy.

©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      

The Dirt Underneath My Nails

The bright flowing energy of life
that courses through
those oft talked about chakras
aligning my body, mind, and soul
sometimes feel clogged.

They say it’s normal
to have places that are stuck.
Let’s start there!
Let’s open it up so you can breathe, unfold, flow, feel whole.

But it’s clogged…with dirt.

Those life-force channels
sometimes get mired in the sludge of messages and beliefs
from a long ago past.
Enmeshed in the lies that were told to my soul.

The truth of their lies evidenced in the
dirt underneath my nails.

Wait; This is a triggering time of year
I’m being pulled into a vortex of memory and shame.
Name it
Feel it
Change the narrative
Get help!

My life-force begins to circulate again
with bright colors and free-flowing qi
I feel the power of being in the now ~
the wind, sun, heat and throat clearing water.

Looking down, scanning, grounding
I see the dirt of the earth underneath my nails
and go and wash my hands.
©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      

 

Even With The Daisy’s and Weeds, It’s Still My Life

I went to the doctor the other day because I was hoping she would tell me I was suffering from some sort of vitamin deficiency or a thyroid problem. I made the appointment after some revelations I had in therapy the past few weeks. Not new memories, just a new awareness of how much I minimized, squashed down and refused to process some pretty epic feelings.  In a vague attempt to sidestep working through this, and to find a comfortable state denial, I went to the doctor wanting to hear I would feel better with a regimen of vitamins.

My doctor is fabulous. I’m extremely lucky to have a medical doctor and a therapist who understand the nuances of PTSD. She listened calmly as I anxiously rattled off all the reasons I thought I was sick. She agreed that it’s better to come in and make sure everything is okay, but she really didn’t think anything was wrong. To be sure, she ran the blood tests anyway. Good news, everything came back normal. All my numbers were nicely in the middle range. That was actually a huge relief, although there was a tiny part of me, that wished that everything I was feeling could be resolved with a boost of vitamins each morning.

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 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. And it turns out that I also have some feelings that I wasn’t ready to process before now. I understand where they come from, and why they are happening. I feel confident in the tools I’ve acquired and know I will be able to move through the current waves.

But in all honesty,  I took some time after I went to the doctor and asked myself, “Are You sure you want to delve into these feelings and emotions?  To poke around healing the inner child? And I say back, to myself with  love and affection (and a dash of denial), “Yes, I do want to do this work, and 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

Hope from the Flowers

Buried
feeling as if I’m suffocating
thinking that it’s just a season
it’s long, it’s hard
but time-limited, like the seasons.

On guard from the howling, swirling wind
sounding like echos of the past
sinister laughs
then silence
dark, deep silence.

It could be worse
It’s only weather…weather the storm
I’ll forget the destruction
bury it deep, make it smaller
Until I discover it wasn’t
a storm that passed
it was me!

Invisible to the pain
the ruination of a person
a body, mind, soul
a girl, a woman
who wasn’t allowed to own her body.

Anxious, panicked
crying to myself, and asking
What do I do?
Why won’t this go away?
Why must the skeleton hands of the past
grab me and keep trying to pull me down?

Suddenly; it’s quiet
a lull in the blizzard winds
a pause in the crackling trees.

Looking down I see
bits of green making their way
through the snow.

The crocus and tulips
know to bloom again
they are determined to ignore
the storms, the cold, the wind
It is their purpose to bloom and grow.

I realize that I can take this lesson from the flowers.

I can persevere and grow
to speak, and speak again
to feel
to heal
to breathe in the gift, this gift of hope
hope from the flowers.

©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      

You’ll know when it’s time to share your story

So much has changed since my memoir was published nearly four 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.

I have been in a poetic place with my writing lately. It’s been easier for me to express myself in poetry. It’s a way to get to 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.”

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.

When I have speaking engagements, I focus on feelings, and how I’ve learned to live a purposeful life while struggling with PTSD. But, aside from my typical sentence of, “I’m a survivor of unimaginable abuse and neglect for the first 20 years of my life, followed by threats to stay silent for the next 17 years,” I have not shared much of my story while speaking in public.

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 believed was, if I shared my story, maybe the audience would compare their trauma to mine. I was fearful that they would minimize what happened to them and how the effects of their trauma impacted their lives.  If I kept the conversation about feelings, emotions, and symptoms then survivors of trauma could relate to myself and each other. 

I’m real and honest when it comes to sharing what it’s like to live with my symptoms and the effects of my trauma, but that comes without much back-story. My PTSD is from prolonged and pervasive trauma. That’s as deep I get when doing presentations.

Recently, I began to ask myself, am I shaming myself back into silence because I feel my story is so unrelatable? Am I sharing enough of myself?

A few weeks ago, I heard a speaker at my son’s school talk to the kids about the choices he made in his life. His past was the stuff of movies.  I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, he’s so resilient and brave.” The audience was listening with respect. I keep in perspective that there may have been plenty of times in that speaker’s life where people have doubted his story. People have openly disbelieved me.

Tomorrow, I have an amazing opportunity to speak to a group at EmpowerSurvivors which is a peer-led organization of healing support and education for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and trauma. Elizabeth Sullivan, founder of the organization came to hear me speak to a college class a couple of weeks ago. At the end of my talk, the instructor asked Elizabeth if she would be willing to tell the class about her organization. With no notice, and nothing prepared Elizabeth got up, shared her personal story and told the class why she founded EmpowerSurvivors.  Just like the speaker at my son’s school, I had tremendous respect for her resilience and bravery, and for sharing her story to this large group of people.

Then it hit me! I’m in a place where I am ready to share. I’m ready to be vulnerable and celebrate my bravery and resilience. I know that my presentations, interviews, and events 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.  I instinctively know that tomorrow as I prepare to speak with a group of survivors that it’s time to share my story.

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 and Be Free, My Insecurities

I packed my bag of insecurities
and sent it floating down the river

I watched it hit the rocks
and get caught up in the swirling current
clinging; begging to stay
for just one more day
one more week
a few more years

I gently called to the baggage
“let go, move with the current
find open water
and be free”

My insecurities
have served their purpose
keeping me cocooned
in a place of quiet and fear

Until the day
I began to practice
setting boundaries
and showing my strength to others
instead of silently resisting
the fear of being alone

Then came the day
when I trusted; I knew
that I could take
those insecurities
those fears of saying, “no”
and send them down the river

I started with a few silent
notes on the current
until I grew stronger

Today with feet firmly
rooted on the ground
I packed those insecurities and thanked them
for all the ways they protected me
and brought them to the river

With an open heart, I watched as my baggage
let go of that last craggy branch
and floated gently on the current
to the open sea

I may run into that baggage again
as I move with the current of life

We’ll have a chat
and then just as old friends do
who live on different and distant shores
we’ll bid each other farewell
until we meet again

©Alexis Rose, Photo by Nathan Anderson 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