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      

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Okay Universe, I’m listening!

It’s finally Spring and gorgeous where I live. We endured a brutal winter, and a snowstorm in April, but now there is a definite shift and it’s Spring. Yesterday, to celebrate the warmth, I took my dog for a car ride.  Besides noticing all the other dogs smiling with their heads hanging out of their car windows, I took note of all the people out for a walk. As I passed a certain intersection I said aloud, “I hope you’re doing okay!” It was a shout-out to someone I haven’t consciously thought about in quite some time. He is always in my heart, but I haven’t seen or talked to him in over ten years.

This morning, I bounded out of bed and was compelled to go for a walk. Right now, right then, no waiting until after morning coffee or breakfast, I just needed to go for a walk. I grabbed the dog and out the door, we went. As we were rounding the corner a truck stopped on the side of the road. A man got out, and said, “Alexis, is that you?” I was stunned! The person who got out of the truck was the good Samaritan who helped my daughter after she was hit by a car while crossing the street eleven years ago. The person I was thinking about yesterday, the one I sent out the message of,  “I hope you’re doing okay.”

Was this just a bizarre coincidence? Maybe! We both live in the same city so perhaps it was bound to happen. But it hadn’t happened in all these years until this morning.

I’ve had a trying and unsettling two weeks. Feelings and emotions that I had continued to minimize throughout my healing process have found their way to the surface leaving me with a choice. Continue to repress, or begin to honor what is bubbling to the surface. It may sound like an easy decision, but it wasn’t for me.

I knew I wouldn’t be retraumatizing myself or opening old wounds, but I would be revisiting some feelings and emotions at a much deeper level. That’s not a comfortable exercise. The result is more healing, but it’s never easy for me to work through the truth of my past.

Part of healing from PTSD is being able to tell your story as much as you need to and want too. That takes a tremendous amount of trust in the person you are talking too. I have a lot of attachment issues as a result of my trauma. Trust is hard; even with a wonderful therapist.

I kept questioning, why is this happening now? Why am I having these feelings? Why do I want to share my story? I already shared it, processed it, shared it again and processed more. Then I stopped.

I’ve written a couple of posts lately, wondering if  I was shaming myself into silence again. My therapist kept reassuring me that it’s okay. I’ll know if and when I need to go deeper. I didn’t think I would ever want to go deeper. But apparently, my mind and body are ready. My PTSD symptoms have left me feeling terrible and I don’t want to feel this way anymore.

The other day, my therapist asked me, “do you trust me?” I didn’t even hesitate, I answered, “Yes, yes I completely trust you.” She then said,” I was safe, she was safe, the people I know and love are safe, and that it’s okay.”  I believe her. I know the nature of PTSD. Sometimes symptoms will be greater than other times. But, I also know that some of my symptoms will lessen if I do a little more work.

I don’t know why now is the time to work on these emotions and beliefs. But, I do know this: When my daughter got hit by the car, that was the “event” that broke the illusion that I could control my snow-globe world I had created. When I hung up the phone after talking to her in the ambulance, that is when I heard the sound of glass breaking in my head and had the most intense flashback of myself sitting alone at a tiny airport. When I got to the hospital 20 minutes later to be with my daughter, I met the person who ran across four lanes of traffic to help her. When my daughter recovered from her injuries that is when I could no longer repress my past and I began to heal. I have healed a lot, and I live the best life I can with complex PTSD. Yet, some things are bubbling to the surface.

Maybe the why now doesn’t matter. Maybe what matters, is that its time. My body, mind, and spirit are telling me that it will be okay.  That all conspiring universe knew ten years ago, that I was ready and it was time to begin to heal, and I trust that it knows now.

So, Okay Universe, I’m listening!

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

Moon

I believe the moon holds the secrets
of the trees whispering in the night

When I was younger
I knew it held
wishes and dreams, terror and screams

At times I’d look away
when reminded that its fullness
provided excuses for others to inflict pain

As if that rock in the sky
could provide permission; proclaim an edict
that on these nights as the season’s turn…

Then I learned that if it held the secrets in the night
It also held the truth
It’s deep craters holding the truth
safe and protected

Today when I heard the pull of the tides
and felt the expansion of emotions
I looked up at the big rock in the sky
and said
the moon is just the moon, and it is beautiful!

©Alexis Rose, photographer: Shelley Bauer from the collaboration: Of Earth and Sky

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

 

 

The Dance of Acceptance

Here I go again; the dance of acceptance. I have a pattern of every so often “forgetting” that I live with PTSD. I’m not sure if it’s mental gymnastics that I perform with gold medal perfection, or that it’s normal when living with a chronic illness to experience fluidity of acceptance.

I deal with and know how to ride the waves of triggers, and day-to-day symptoms; that is part of my everyday life. I manage that as I manage my household chores.  It isn’t until I come face-to-face in a serious way with something I would like to do, but I’m unable to do because of my current abilities, that I remember that it’s because I have PTSD.

Recently I had to revisit my vocational abilities. That was extremely disappointing. I was the only one surprised by the same results. My family and friends watched me go through the stress inducing exercise knowing what the result would be, but they understood why I felt I had to go through it once again.   I would like to say that now I fully accept what my limitations are,  but I can’t be sure.

Last night, I had a conversation with my friend who takes me deep-woods camping once a year over the 4th of July week. We go into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area where there are few people and no sounds of fireworks. I’m super motivated and excited each year and in my head, I’m a great remote camper. But, the reality is, that I am triggered a lot of the time because of what happened to me in my past. I can work through the triggers, and I absolutely love being in the outdoors, but the PTSD affects my experiences.

As we were talking last night, I asked if we could try a trip where we portage more than once and go deeper into the remote areas. He said, “there is no way we can do that!” He explained whenever we have tried going deeper into the woods I get really triggered. We went on to talk about the other ways my symptoms come out during the camping trips.

Last summer, on a camping trip to the mountains of Colorado, I developed altitude sickness and we had to get off the mountain. We were exhausted by the time we got down to a low enough altitude and we wound up throwing our sleeping bags next to a river and sleeping outside under the stars. Sounds beautiful, and it was. Except for all the flashbacks I was having. I didn’t know if it was because I was tired, crabby, and just wanted to be in a bed, or if it was because of my PTSD. My illness is not my automatic go-to for explanations on why I can’t do something. Part of the dance of acceptance!

I began to have an awareness that what I wanted to experience while taking these trips, was not happening in a positive way for me. I wasn’t saying anything out loud; instead, I was doing a lot of negative self-talk about bucking-up, figuring it out, and stop being such a baby.

It wasn’t until we were talking about it last night, that I really accepted that even with my limitations I can still have a wonderful experience camping. As long as I’m with someone who understands PTSD and how to react (or not react) when I get triggered I can still experience and recognize the fabulously healing reset of being in nature. I can also find meaningful ways to earn a bit of money (and I have) while being mindful and respectful of what is healthy for me.

I have some long-lasting effects from the trauma I endured. Because of the extent of my trauma, I have PTSD. Maybe this is not a forever illness, I don’t know what the future will hold. Most days, I’ve accepted that I’m still going to suffer from symptoms and live with some deficits.

When I lose sight of this, I find myself getting very angry at my PTSD.  When the anger and frustration well up, and starts to boil over, I make myself stop, sit down, reflect, rest, and try to focus on the goal of what I want for my life.

And I’m sure, as it seems it has become a pattern, that there will be times that I am going to do the slow dance of acceptance.

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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    

“We Got This!”

“We got this,” were the most important, comforting and powerful words I have heard in a long time.  Right before they were spoken to me, I was feeling panicked. Wondering how I was going to have the strength, to get through the next moment, let alone the next day. I didn’t know how I was going to muster up the courage to face the pain of an original wound, while at the same time deciding if it’s safe for me to break the code of silence that is still deeply ingrained in my psyche.

On that cold and snowy afternoon,  as I was getting ready to leave my therapist’s office, a sense of panic overwhelmed me. Not only panic of what I was facing but the panic of attachment. I feared I would be too much for her, that she would bail, that she would panic and become frightened by what she was hearing. But then something completely unexpected happened. In a calm and reassuring voice, my therapist said, “We Got This!” Those words landed layers deep and made all the negative self-talk dissipate. Those three little words hit me with the softness of the kindest hug and the safety of the bravest shield and I believed her the moment she said them to me.

I still feel like I have to fight for my life, my mental health, and for the freedom from the skeleton hands of the past that keep trying to pull me down. I understand that the hard work of healing happens when I get home; between therapy sessions. Processing what was talked about, incorporating the tools for distress tolerance, trying to feel safe enough to just-sit with it all, while also managing my symptoms of PTSD often feels like a full-time job. That’s okay! I’m more than willing to do the things I need to do so I can live the life I want to live.

Since that day, I have been able to trust that I can handle this new step on my journey. Even though I feel like the ground beneath me is a bit wobbly, I can walk with my head up, eyes forward. I know if I stumble, panic, or feel the sour breath of the monsters, that, with help, I will keep moving forward.

I don’t know what sort of challenges I will be facing as I work to heal this wound that’s ready to be acknowledged. But I do know that with acceptance, self-compassion, and support, I will be able to work through whatever is next. How do I know? Because “We Got This!”

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

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