She Becomes A Lotus

Rising from the mud
Shaken by the moon that shines behind the shadow trees
She tenses and listens.

Hearing the leaves rustle in the wind
the cicadas hum, and the birds
flapping their goodnight wings
her mind feels tricked by the sounds of the night.

The humidity in the air creates
a slow-motion dance of fog
circling the dark shapes on the ground.
A chill, a shudder, and it’s over.
The night is over.

Now the sun hits her face, drying the mud.
Slowly, she turns around and walks away
knowing that without the mud
a lotus would never rise.

©Alexis Rose, Photo by Christopher Campbell 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    

“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      

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    

Too Much On My Plate

A large (un)balanced platter filled with

stress
worry
money
kids
work
health
sick family
sick animal
doctors
lawyers
triggers
car(s) repairs
creating healthy boundaries
navigating PTSD symptoms
holidays
an unrelenting month-long illness

This plate just crashed

I think I’ll reach for a new and balanced smaller plate

©Alexis Rose, Image source: Google Images from source

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

 

Whether it’s Daisy’s or Weeds it’s Still Your Life

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 (flashbacks, fear, anxiety, hypervigilance, helplessness, and hopelessness) 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. I understand where they come from, and why they are happening and I can use the tools I have to cope and move through the waves. Sometimes, it’s easier than other times.

What I have now is awareness. That awareness makes it easier for me to stay in the present.  I don’t live in the past, but just like everyone else, I am partly who I am because of my past experiences. What I choose to do with that information is up to me.

I maintain that now, I live in the present because I know my truth. Before, I was too busy both consciously and unconsciously trying to bury, forget, and believe that I wasn’t worthy enough to have a lived life, whatever it looked like.

So when people care, and with love and affection innocently ask, “Are You sure you want to remember your past?” I can say back, with equal love and affection, “Yes, I do want to 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

I’m Not Flying Solo

It may look as if I’m flying solo
but I’m remembering
to lean
into the wind
find comfort

in the safety of the clouds
and soar
into the shadow light of the sky

30

 

 

 

 

 

 

©From the Collaboration, Of Earth and Sky, by Alexis Rose, and photographer, Shelley Bauer

Thank you for reading my books:  If I Could Tell You How It Feels,  and  Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph available in both ebook and paperback from Amazon.

Self Doubt: My Unwanted (but invited) House Guest

A familiar knock on my self-esteem’s door seems to happen when I’m making a big change, taking a risk, sharing my writing, speaking in front of groups, or accepting another layer of learning to live with the limitations of PTSD.

I would like to say that self-doubt comes uninvited to my self-esteem’s house during these transition times, but that wouldn’t be honest. I don’t believe Mr. Doubt (as I call it) would come calling unless it was invited. It may be unwanted, but since it arrived with hat in hand, I ask it to come in for tea and tell me what it thinks of me.

Outwardly, to others, it appears I have no problems learning, growing, changing, taking risks, writing books, writing articles, speaking in front of groups about living with PTSD, and working very, very hard on living with the deficits that often plague my mental health. Outwardly, I look strong and determined.

I am strong and determined; But as self-doubt sips its tea and begins to play the old tapes and drones the familiar chants of, “You’re not good enough, not worthy, not well enough, smart enough, you’re a poser,” and lists all the reasons I shouldn’t try or that I should give up, the smell of fear and rejection hang in the air between us.

Somedays I listen with respect, compassion, and a loving ear because I know self-doubt doesn’t come uninvited. But, there are other days when I’m tired or triggered and have a lot of symptoms. I can feel the sinister dark-dread begin to blacken and shred the self-esteem I have worked so hard to foster. The grasp of my thinly held mantra, that my inner beauty, strength, and talent, far outweigh any deficits I may have, begins to fade as self-doubt tries to extend tea time into a meal and a nap.

I’ve eventually heard enough, felt enough, and acknowledge that this is a pattern. Self-doubt comes when I’m on a precipice, and I can choose to entertain it longer or thank it for the visit. It usually doesn’t take me too long before I  tell Mr. Doubt that, “We’re done” and show it the door.

As soon as it’s gone, it’s easier to take control of my internal thoughts about myself and how I’m navigating the world around me. I give myself room to breathe, change, grow, share my experiences with others, and emerge from the shadows of the shame of living with PTSD. It’s often not very comfortable, but that isn’t because I’m the terrible (fill in the old-tapes) person. It is simply because that is where I am at this time in my life, this day, or even for this moment.

As this bout of self-doubt fades onto a distant shore, I understand that I may hear this familiar knock on my door again, and if I do I’ll invite it in for a cup of tea and listen with a loving, compassionate ear. Because I know, self-doubt does not come uninvited.

Artwork: 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      

 

 

I See You ~

Did you sit across from me on purpose?
Yes, yes I did!

I was afraid you were going to see me
I do see you, you are a beautiful light!

I feel like I’m invisible, I want to be invisible
I see you. You are worthy of being seen, being heard!

Do I have to stay strong? Do I have to stay silent?
Your strength is in speaking your truth!

Will it ever get better, will the pain stop?
It does get better, the pain changes. It ebbs and flows!

Is it okay to ask for help?
Yes, it’s important to ask for help. You’re important!

Will I be okay?
Yes, you will be okay…you Are okay!

As I drive away, I spend the day thinking, that one of the most important gifts we can give another person is to be their mirror.

To understand that to be a mirror for someone is not just a concept, but that sometimes a person’s reflection is non-existent. That sometimes our own reflections may be non-existent.

To be lucky enough to engage with a person who at that moment needs to see the essence of who they truly are, to be their mirror so they can see themselves.

Yesterday, a lesson was etched deep into my soul. It is a true gift to be able to say to another person, “I see you, I hear you, you deserve to be here, you matter!”

Photo by Jovis Aloor 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      

From Protection to Art

Over an eight-year time span, I unpacked secrets hidden deep in my mind. Some secrets were repressed and some were just sitting in storage, never meant to be unpacked to see the light of day. But for me, I had to make the choice to face, process, accept, and resolve my past so I could continue to heal.

Throughout those eight years, I had given my therapist many, many things that I had saved from my childhood. Some of the items were pictures, a baggie of dirt, rocks, pieces of jewelry, gifts that identified places I had been, and a wooden baseball bat.

I saved all these things because I thought they were proof of what happened to me. I thought they were my smoking guns. My therapist described them as my breadcrumbs. He believed I unconsciously (and consciously) kept these mementos to help lead me back to my repressed past. When I would bring my “breadcrumbs” to him we would talk about them in detail. I got to a point with each one that I no longer needed them in my house. 

One day I brought him a heavy, professional grade bat that had been in my childhood home since the 70’s. This bat was my protection against the people I thought would come for me in the middle of the night. From the time I was young and for many decades since then, that bat lay under my bed.

The day I brought the bat to my therapist’s office I felt ready to relinquish it. I knew I had to learn to trust that I was safe in my home from past perpetrators. We talked a lot about the bat, and that day, feeling extreme anxiety, I left it with him and successfully learned how to fall asleep without that professional Brooks Robinson bat under my bed.

That was four years ago…

Last night I met with my former therapist for a quick post-therapeutic check-in. After 8 1/2 years of intense therapy, I still reach out from time to time. When we met he said, “I have something for you.” He handed me a piece of that old bat that he has sculpted into a wonderful and practical piece of art.

I was stunned! I just assumed he got rid of it. I didn’t think I would ever see any of my breadcrumbs again. They had met their purpose. I was able to give them to someone who completely “witnessed” my story and taught me the tools to feel safe.

Also, one day after giving him the last of my hidden items, (not the bat) he said, calmy but very assured, “There is your smoking gun.” That was the moment I felt free from needing anything to prove the what, where, who and how of my past.

Even though I felt immense relief when I gave up my squirreled away mementos, there were a couple of items that I still thought about every now and then. The things that I felt had empowered me. The bat was definitely one of them. I knew I needed to give these things up to release the hold they had on me, and their association with the past, but every now and then I had a bit of nostalgia for some of the things that helped me feel safe.

Holding this beautiful piece of polished wood in my hand yesterday I felt so many emotions. I felt cared about, I felt a safe connection to someone who knows my whole story, I felt elated that I could see this transformed bat for its new purpose, and I felt a little like I got a piece of my warrior super-power armor back. I don’t need it to protect me any longer, but it’s a wonderful feeling to look back with pride for how far I’ve come and to also acknowledge all the fabulous ways my mind helped me create a sense of safety during decades of living in fear.

From a hurt child’s object of protection into a practical piece of art, my professional Brookes Robinson wooden bat will continue to provide me with a sense of peace.

 

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

 

 

What Would You Suggest?

I have the privilege of presenting to a  Human Services class at a local college in a couple of weeks.  I’m extremely grateful and also honored to be asked to talk to these students, because some of them may become (or already are) professionals in the mental health field. I’m determined to help destigmatize mental illness, particularly PTSD, by speaking and writing openly about living with this disorder.

I’ll be talking about the definition of PTSD, some common symptoms, how I’m able to live a full, and purposeful life, even though I sometimes still struggle with multiple symptoms, resources, etc.

I’m really excited about two topics that I have been asked to address during my presentation.

  • What to say and/or not to say to someone with PTSD (or mental illness)?
  • How professionals can better help people who they work with? 

I definitely have my ideas, but I thought about how wonderfully interactive and positive the blogging community is when it comes to comments. I would love to know how you would answer these questions. Either of the questions.

Your input is greatly appreciated!

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