How Confusing!

It’s common for survivors to feel confused when traumatic events take place. Also, we can experience extreme confusion during the healing process as we learn to make sense of our past and live in the present. 

I typically don’t use the word confusion when I think about my symptoms.  What I manage is fear, triggers, anxiety, trouble with concentration, and hypervigilance. 

Recently, one of my perpetrators shared some information with me that caught me off guard. Unconsciously, I pressed “play” on an old tape and started to feel protective over this person. That’s when the confusion began.

Thankfully, It didn’t take long for me to catch the antiquated messages I was telling myself. I stopped believing that this person needed my protection.  I assumed that because I stopped listening to the old programming of, “protect your perpetrators” that I was fine.

But, I wasn’t fine. My footing was off. I became dysregulated in my thoughts and feelings. I was becoming fearful that I was losing control of my mental health. How confusing!

For six days, I was becoming increasingly agitated. Because I hadn’t told anybody, I wasn’t able to name what was bothering me. I started to notice the cold, dark, skeleton hands of the past begin to crawl up my spine, and a sense of hopelessness was starting to take hold. It was very confusing!

After disclosing what had happened to my therapist, she (as always) helped give me perspective; the root of why I was feeling so off. As we were talking, I experienced an initial A-ha moment, then confusion set in.

I was confused that I could be caught so off-guard by this person. I was also shocked (as I always am) at how my brain and body can often go spiraling in a myriad of ways when the past sneaks in. 

I’ve regained most of my footing, and the icy cold hands of the past that were crawling up my spine have retreated once again. I know there may be times when I feel those metaphorical hands again. That is the nature of what I manage and I’m learning to take it all in stride with an open heart and self-compassion. 

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, Pexels

Parenting with PTSD

Would you like to be a guest speaker?

I’m involved with a non-profit organization called EmpowerSurvivors that supports survivors of childhood sexual abuse and trauma.

EmpowerSurvivors is a peer-run nonprofit organization operated by survivors of childhood sexual abuse for victims of childhood sexual abuse.

We support survivors through individual peer support meetings, classes, workshops and since the pandemic began, we now offer Zoom meetings on Monday evenings at 6:00 pm central time called, Conversations With Evey & Elizabeth.

These interactive conversations focus on topics of interest to survivors of trauma and sexual abuse, no matter where they are on their healing journey.

Our hope is to periodically have a special guest that will volunteer their time to discuss topics such as childhood sexual abuse, healing trauma, types of therapy, what to expect in therapy, suggestions on how to find good therapists, survivor stories of hope & healing, adverse childhood experiences & resilience, victim laws, mindfulness, grounding, PTSD, mental health diagnosis, healing strategies, etc.

We would love to have professionals and survivors of childhood sexual abuse to lead conversations that help survivors better understand themselves, the healing journey, and subjects pertaining to early childhood sexual abuse and healing.

If you are someone with a heart for survivors, helping others heal, or have a skill set that you would like to share please consider being our guest via Zoom.

Together we can help people find hope & healing.

If you are interested in leading a conversation or have any questions, email Elizabeth Sullivan of EmpowerSurvivors at EmpowerSurvivors@gmail.com

Find out more about EmpowerSurvivors at http://www.empowersurvivors.net/

And of course if you are interested in joining the conversations on Monday evenings via Zoom, you are welcome to log on. All we ask is that you keep your camera on since these support meetings are designed to be interactive.

Conversations with Evey and Elizabeth

Don’t Open That Door!

How many scary movies, thrillers, and mysteries have we seen where we find ourselves saying out loud, “don’t open that door!” And then joke because of course, they were always going to open that door, answer the phone, or look under the bed.  Often after we scolded the protagonist, we would add,  “I would never do that!” And then real life happened, and I Opened The Door. 

This past Monday morning at 7:15 with the sun shining brightly, someone was actively trying to break into our house.

I heard a noise and was walking to look out the window, thinking that something was going on across the street. As I was walking towards the window, my dog bolted past me to the locked deck door, where I saw the screen was open and a man was peering in the bedroom window where my husband was sleeping.

It was as if something went primal in me. Without any thought, I unlocked and opened the deck door, went out, and started screaming at this robber. I was yelling, “Who the f**k are you, and What the f**k do you think you’re doing?” I was wild and aggressive, approaching him with so much anger and fear that I didn’t even realize what I was doing. This was not smart for So many reasons.  

First, I opened a locked door and entered a small space where this perpetrator was leering into my house after trying to get into the door. As I’m yelling, I put myself within six inches of him, with the door wide open behind me.  I’m not even 5 feet tall and the only thing I had on at the time was a sleep shirt. No shoes on the snowy, icy deck just me in a t-shirt yelling and becoming more verbally aggressive. I must have scared him because he turned around and started going back down the stairs. He said something to me, and I mom-scolded him, wagging my finger yelling “I’m calling 911.”

I went into the house and called 911. Almost immediately two squad cars pulled up in front of my house. The person was standing there taking off his jacket and dropping all his stolen goods as the police pulled up. Apparently, this person had gone on a robbery spree at some senior-living apartments and the police were down the street when I called 911. I watched him get arrested and taken away.

One of the police officers checked our house and cars and made sure we were ok. I told him how I confronted him, how I just didn’t even think about calling 911 at the moment when I saw him on the deck. I told him that I was so shocked because I acted exactly the opposite of what we are all taught to do and I understood how much danger I put myself and my family in. 

The officer listened and then sternly said to me, “Don’t ever do that again. This guy is so high he doesn’t even know what planet he’s on and that could have turned out very badly.”

I understand that he could have had a weapon, or he could have easily moved me aside and walk through the door that was now wide open which would have put us in a potentially very dangerous situation. I’m so grateful and relieved things turned out okay.

So whoa! The after-effects of that event has been a roller coaster of processing. First, the physical and emotional dump of adrenaline was exhausting and confusing. I made sure on Monday to take lots of walks around my neighborhood so I understood that it’s a safe place to live and that this is the first incident we’ve had in 22 years.

I reached out to people to get some good support. I needed to tell people what happened; to talk about it. I knew my PTSD triggers were activated but didn’t quite know which symptoms or memories were going to come oozing out.

And ooze out they did. Every fear of being hurt again was front and center on Tuesday and Wednesday. That feeling of not being safe anywhere in the world was right there; front and center. My hyper-vigilance, fear, nightmares, anxiety were all front and center for two days after the event. 

Today is three days after the incident. I’ve settled down, we installed 4 more security lights, I’ve received wonderful help processing this with my therapist who had some good ideas and grounding tools for symptom management, and I have wonderful support from friends and family. 

Unlike those first twenty years where there was no support and no resolution, this incident had both. Although still feeling violated, I do hope that person gets the help he needs and perhaps chooses a life of no drugs and no crime.

For me, I learned that I had the capacity to fight-not just flee or freeze. I could never fight any of my perpetrators in my past. It wasn’t an option-ever! It appears now I can and will. There were many lessons on Monday morning, and the ability to fight for my safety was one of the takeaways. But by far,  the biggest lesson I learned is, Don’t Open That Door!!!

photo image: Pexels

ILLUMINATING THE UN-ILLUMINATED (A Guest Post)

One of the wonderful gifts of WordPress is the community of bloggers that support, encourage and accept each other exactly for who they are. I have found this to be especially true in the mental health community. Five years ago I had the pleasure of meeting my survivor-sister. She’s a brilliant writer who has agreed to illuminate what for many of us survivors is hard to talk and write about. Ritual Abuse. Although we live on separate continents and we are decades apart in age, our bond, our stories and trauma are very similar. I’m humbled to get to introduce her bravery to you. It is with great pleasure and an honor to share with you, Illuminating the Un-illuminated!

The very best way to counter darkness is illumination, and how do you illuminate something? You drag it out of the shadows, and you shine the brightest of spotlights right on it. Light is the opposite to darkness so any time darkness is the dominant force, the best antidote is always light.

For any survivor of childhood trauma, while there is rarely any definite and distinct end point to your healing, the beginning of that healing process almost always begins on that first brave day you speak your truth out loud for the first time.

Darkness is abuse. Truth is light.

Darkness is secrecy. Truth telling is the illuminator; shining a spotlight on that darkness.

So what is illumination? Illumination begins the day you defy all the threats you heard whispered a hair’s breadth from your ear, and shoulders back, head held high, with an exhaled breath of determined, task-oriented, tunnel vision, you decide you might just finally be ready to talk about your trauma. Fighting through lumps in your throat as jagged and vast as boulders, you scan your brain for words (all of which seem entirely inadequate) and sputter segments out of some of the mess inside your head, in breathless and exhausting bursts. It hurts, it all really hurts. It aches, the wounds start to weep and bleed and your body feels heavy, oh so heavy. For moments the pain threatens to completely engulf you and you panic and cry, but nonetheless, despite the difficulty of those words, so impossible to say, you persist, and little by little you paint pictures in words for whoever it is privileged enough to be hearing you voice your story; something that was once entirely hidden.

When voicing your trauma testimony to others you inevitably re-experience what you went through but from a safer distance this time. You are one step removed. You are the observer now, not the participant. Never have you been more relieved of anything in your entire life. During the re-tell, you hear the sounds, you smell the smells, see the sights, and once again you trace the textures through nervous shaky fingertips. In titrated bursts, all over again, you feel the feels. It hurts. It really hurts, but you persist because you feel braver than brave and prouder than proud of yourself, because your pain is not just your pain anymore. You do not sit behind bars with your pain in a private prison. Your pain is now a shared pain. Your distress has been seen, felt, and heard. Your story exists somewhere outside of your own body. That story has a life now.

When a survivor describes their testimony to any human witness, describing some of what you went though, that witness (if they have any empathic capacity at all) will begin to see and feel and hear and touch and sense a teeny tiny proportion of some of the traumas you went through. They will never truly ‘get it’. Of course they won’t. They will *never* know how it felt to be you, but at least there is some building block there, some foundation to build understanding and raise awareness; something to help you internally construct an image of something you may well never ever have heard of before. This is why sharing your trauma, if you can possibly find the strength and guts to do it, is probably one of the best and most liberating things you can do to both raise awareness, and liberate yourself, kickstarting your healing process.

Sharing has a ripple effect. One single survivor’s testimony can be so powerful. You could be that one person who inspires another to share their trauma testimony, who in turn tell others, and before you know it, more and more and more of humanity are now waking up and beginning to see an image of that thing that was once entirely un-illuminated, secretly festering in the depths of the very darkest of shadows.

So what is the shadow I’m talking about here?….the shadow is organised ritual abuse.

There is no sub-category of abuse lesser known about or more taboo than ritual abuse (also known as organised abuse, satanic abuse, or satanic ritual abuse). We have all heard of abuse going on with family members and those known to the family, as well as the concept of stranger danger, but organised ritual abuse is another thing un-entirely. The public domain contains so little accurate and reliable information about ritual abuse, and that is one of the key factors that actually keeps ritual abuse un-illuminated in the shadows. This collective un-illumination about the goings on of ritual abuse only serves to protect the perpetrators of the abuse, allowing them to continue on with their abusing.

THIS is why I am writing about Ritual Abuse, and not only that, I’m writing this so near Halloween….a day so significant for survivors of this type of abuse across the globe.

Ritual abuse is an abuse of extremes. Ritual abuse is organised, planned, hierarchical, structured, deliberate, extreme, sadistic, brutal, intentional, callous, torturous, manipulative, control-driven, exploitative (and those are the nicer descriptions). Other more emotive but equally accurate words I could use to describe ritual abuse is animalistic, monstrous, twisted, sick and evil. Evil is a strong word, and arguably, no form of child abuse is exempt from the category marked evil, but there is something so shockingly and unbelievably extreme about the nature of the rituals involved in this type of organised abuse, that evil is the most appropriate over-arching word I can think of to describe it.

Secrecy is another concept closely tied with ritual abuse. There is no form of abuse that is lesser known about than ritual abuse. The secrecy and deliberate hiddenness of it all ensures public awareness is not much more significant than zero. The secrecy means awareness is prevented from building, and the secrecy is cultivated by the perpetrators by the way they conduct and plan the systems of abuse, as well as the way they suppress media and police activity. Coupled with that, victims are threatened in a way that is far more believable for them to fear might be true, than your usual class of perpetrators threats. This isn’t to say ritual abuse perpetrators are ‘better’ at threatening and scaring victims, but to say that because their threats are paired with visible actions that make the threats more credible and believable in the eyes of the child victim, the threats are more effective at preventing survivors from disclosing to anyone, particularly as anti-therapy mind control systems are deliberately installed in the mind’s of child victims, causing those parts of the psyche to greatly fear authority, and struggle to trust professional therapists.

I have thought long and hard about what I wanted to share in this written piece, and since I don’t want to risk sharing any content that would be triggering to other ritual abuse survivors…I will end with two last statements. One is a letter to ritual abuse survivors (as well as all survivors of extreme trauma) The second is a statement to the public…..what I would want you to know and take home from reading this ritual abuse blog……Both statements are written from my heart, from someone who has personally experienced this form of organised childhood abuse.

To the public…

What I want to illuminate here is this. Ritual abuse, organized abuse, satanic abuse (whatever your preferred term) is REAL. It happens. It isn’t made up. It isn’t the figment of a child or adult’s imagination. Reporting ritual abuse is not a means of seeking notoriety or attention (believe me, there’s nothing nice about it). It happens everywhere, worldwide, in every county, country, region, or state. It spans the whole economic spectrum of society, with many RA groups being comprised of wealthy and powerful members who on the surface appear to be pillars of the community. It is inter-generational, starting in the family. Children are often introduced to ritual abuse groups by one or both parents. It is highly possible that the parent who involved you in the group was ritually abused themselves when they were a child, and that is how they first became linked with the group. Not only is ritual abuse systematic and varied, involving physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, and spiritual abuse, but mind control and programming is a key part that differentiates organized ritual abuse from other forms of abuse. Mind control techniques, drugging, trafficking, tricks, threats, and lies are combined along with sensory deprivation and other hypnotic techniques to induce a dissociative state in the child victims, meaning they lack conscious memory of the abuse they endured, often well into adulthood. It is possible to deliberately induce amnesia in a child forced to participate in rituals, and create dissociative alter identities to hold memories of the abuse, using proven, high-level, complex psychological techniques. Just because you struggle to believe something like this could happen, and you not know about it, it doesn’t mean survivor accounts of ritual abuse are not believable or true. The false memory syndrome movement was started by a small team of powerful male perpetrators, themselves accused of ritual abuse by their own daughters. The concept of ‘False memory syndrome’ is the perfect tool to cover ritual abuse up and aim to discredit survivors who bravely speak out and report their abuse memories to professionals and members of the police. Child victims usually only become free from the abuse when they get to an age where their brains can not be mind-controlled anymore, and they cease to be of use to the group leaders in serving the needs of the perpetrators. Either that or a child victim defies the perpetrators and refuses to participate, or someone new, such as a partner, enters the world of the victim, leading the perpetrators to disengage that victim from being a part of the group anymore, for fear of getting caught. If someone tells you they were ritually abused, you don’t get to decide that they didn’t. If someone discloses ritual abuse (or what sounds like ritual abuse) to you, believe them. Disclosing RA is difficult enough, without being met with skepticism, rejection, and dismissal. Learn about what RA is. Learn about ways RA survivors can be triggered, and with kindness and gentleness, attempt to minimize any behavior with that person that you know to be triggering. We have been hurt enough in our lives….rejection, skepticism, and a refusal to believe us only adds to that hurt, reinforcing what was drummed into us by perpetrators…that if we ever told, no-one would believe us.

To the survivors…..

What you went through was NOT your fault, not one bit of it. I am so saddened that you experienced what you experienced. My hurt is your hurt. I know how you feel as I’ve felt it. No matter the lies you were told, or the ways the group members tried to trick you into believing horrible things about yourself as though they were fact, NONE of that stuff was true, not one bit of it. They just told you lies as a means of control and manipulation, and you cannot continue to feel ashamed or like you have failed in some way for falling for those lies. You did not deserve to be hurt. You did not ever bring in on yourself. You are NOT weak. You are NOT evil, just because you knew people who were. I am sorry you were unlucky enough to have been born into a family that linked you in with a group. I am sorry you had parents and significant adults in your life who failed to love, nurture and protect you, as you so badly wanted and needed and deserved. I am sorry they frightened you. I am sorry they hurt you. I am sorry you feared for your life. I am sorry you weren’t rescued. I am sorry you had to endure it, night after night, as you grew up, believing that was what happened to all children. I am sad you lost the joy and innocence of your childhood, and that you had to expend all that energy on the basics of survival, rather than thriving or developing and feeling safe to explore who you were as a person, in safety. Please don’t feel bad for anything you did or didn’t do. Please don’t continue to bully yourself, using the abusers as an example of how you deserve to be treated. You deserve so much more than what you had. And most of all you deserved kindness, compassion, protection, care, empathy, and safety. I am sad for all they did to your body. Please know your body can and will heal, maybe not entirely, but enough to live a meaningful life where you experience large swathes of contentment, in-between the tricky trauma trigger stuff. When something or someone triggers your trauma memories, or activates pain belonging to those wounded trauma-holding parts of you, understand and accept you have been triggered, and be as kind as you possibly can to yourself. After all the hurt you have held, no one deserves kindness and patience more than you. If kindness, patience and empathy is not forthcoming from others, you can give some of that love you are craving to yourself. You can be kind, instead of beating yourself up. You can trust it will pass, while acknowledging it hurts like hell in that very moment. One day you will look back at the person you are here today, in the head space you are in while reading this blog, and you will recognise progress. You will see the ways you have grown. You will notice the pain is still very much there, but you can handle it better. You will speak your truth out loud, even if your voice wobbles and shakes. Maybe you can start by speaking your truth into a mirror, telling your secrets to your reflection. Over time you may want to build up to writing about it, or telling another human being about it. However that person reacts, they cannot take your truth away. They cannot diminish your bravery, even if they try to. If you tell someone and they don’t believe you, that is on them. That is their prejudice. That is their filtering. They have only shown you where their blinkers lie. If people reject your truth, or the truth your parts hold, they are not your people. Seek out others who will believe you, who will be kind, who will accept you, and will love you, including your trauma story, as well as everything about you that is not about your trauma story. People won’t always know what to say, but you always have your own strength. No perpetrator can ever fully break you, even if it very much feels that that is what they’ve done. You are not broken, and I promise you, if you commit to it, and not make excuses to avoid doing it, you WILL heal.

Thank you for reading this. Thank you for opening your mind. Thank you for inviting me to have this space on your blog Alexis, to speak directly to your friends and followers.

Thank you for helping to facilitate me in taking my power back. In writing and publishing this, I hope for the dark truth of ritual abuse to be a little more illuminated.

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      

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

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

Fireworks and PTSD

We are heading into the week of 4th of July.  The holiday lands on a Thursday this year. The firework store billboards are now up, looming huge on the side of the road, and the fireworks-stands seem to pop up out of nowhere in the parking lot of strip malls. Business must be pretty good, because already many, many people are shooting off fireworks and firecrackers at all hours of the day and night.

I understand the fun and enjoyment some people may have from setting off fireworks. Although there are many legal fireworks for sale in the state where I live, there is a never-ending supply of both legal and illegal varieties lying in wait for the excited revelers to buy just across our state-line. There you can purchase the big ones, the percussion of which shakes the houses in the neighborhood.

We have become accustomed to many of our local county fairs shooting off a fireworks display at the end of the night before they close down for the day. But over the last few years, people are shooting them off at random times during the day, and the night. Sometimes at midnight or later, we will hear a loud percussive blast coming from somewhere in the neighborhood. Just one, loud blast that jolts you from sleep, and can cause great distress for animals, and young children.

Unfortunately for some of our combat veterans, the random fireworks/firecrackers going off can be extremely anxiety provoking and be triggering. For some vets with post-traumatic stress disorder, that string of firecrackers may sound like automatic weapons fire, and the big explosions may sound like the IEDs that threatened so many of their lives.

Flashbacks are a horrible reliving of past traumatic events. When you are setting off these illegal fireworks, chances are there is someone hearing them who are struggling with their combat-related trauma.  If you are unable to resist the urge to set-off those huge explosions, then please consider driving out somewhere that is less populated.

For many dogs, the sounds reverberating off the other houses can often make them disoriented and traumatized.  Their stress level becomes unbearable and some of our animals run away or get lost. There are numerous stories about the many dogs winding up in shelters, especially during the days right before and after the 4th of July.

If this is happening in your neighborhood, try talking to your neighbors who are setting off the big ones, or write them a letter. Often people don’t know that they may be causing harming to some of our vets, scaring our little children, or making our animals shake with fear.

In many neighborhoods where I live, the 4th of July has gone from, the ooh and ahh of fireworks displays at the local parks, to almost every house having their own sunup to sundown fireworks/firecrackers celebrations.

People who suffer from PTSD, (whether it is combat-induced or trauma-related) will try to do what they can to take care of themselves over the next week. Typically, I would escape to the secluded boundary waters canoe area for four days, coming back after the 4th. This year, I need to stay home and care for my dog who is becoming more and more agoraphobic the past few weeks with the increasing lighting of firecrackers at all hours of the day and night.

Please be courteous when setting off your fireworks and firecrackers at your home. Be thoughtful not only of our veterans but also the small children, the elderly, pets, and others who may suffer from illness and startle easily.

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

My mind is tired of mindfulness

There was a moment a couple of weeks ago when I became extremely angry at mindfulness. Extreme stress had taken an emotional and physical toll on my body in a way that I hadn’t experienced before, alarming all the health-care professionals in my life, which in turn alarmed me. At first, I was concerned, scared and confused. Then I got angry!  I heard myself say sarcastically, “Well I’m glad I spent all these years in a mindfulness, yoga and meditation practice. Look where that got me!” Then I laughed at my venomous response to fear, and at the absurdity (and the truth) of those words.

I’ve had a very steady and intentional mindfulness practice for over twenty-five years. I started it years ago when I needed to change the way I was dealing with tremendous stress and hopelessness. I had two very young children at the time and needed to find a way to stay present when all I wanted to do was run away physically, emotionally, and mentally. Twenty-five years ago, mindfulness was not mainstream, but that didn’t matter to me. I quietly sought out teachers, read books, and practiced what I learned. It became a way of life for me and I found in the silence of my struggle it kept me steady and fairly calm.

It isn’t lost on me that I found myself weary and angry the other day towards the very thing that helped me find solace all those years ago.  Sometimes fear will do that.

Over the years as I’ve learned to live and find ways to manage the symptoms of complex PTSD, I found an important part of my healing was learning to live mindfully with intention. At times managing symptoms while living mindfully felt incongruent; a paradox. I wondered if my desire to live a life that was mindful and felt meaningful to me would always be shadowed by how I have to cope day-to-day with my PTSD? Could I find a middle ground? To my surprise, I could find a middle ground and I felt like I was able to carve out a purposeful life that I lived with intention.

Then I experienced what chronic, and pervasive stress can do to one’s health. It was more than just the platitude that stress does terrible things to your body. I am in the throes of living what unrelenting stress has done to my body. Some of it has resolved, but there is still some lingering damage. As I sit in silence and let the thoughts come, I realize that if I had not been practicing all these years, that I may not be here today, or I may be curled up in a corner rocking. I am both on the mend physically, and I’m definitely not in the corner.

I try to honor being awake. The connectedness we have to all things, the impermanence of the moments both perfect and non-perfect, the beauty, the wonder, and the power of being present. I believe that sometimes I will grow weary and tired, and maybe I’ll misdirect my fear towards the very thing that is helping me heal. Perhaps that is also part of the practice of mindfulness.

Photo by Ashley Batz 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