Tag Archive | dissociation

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

The Gifts of Writing a Memoir, Happy 3rd Birthday Untangled!

Three years ago today, I anxiously waited for my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph to go live on Amazon. What a wonderful, unexpected and humbling three years this has been.

I took a huge risk by writing and publishing my memoir. 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 literally went from telling no one but my therapist about my past to throwing my arms up, and saying, okay….what the heck, let’s go for it, and tell everyone at once. My husband and children read the book before it was released to the public, but close friends, acquaintances, and long-lost friends learned the truth of my past when they read the book.  Were there big reactions? You bet there were! Of course, they reacted. The biggest reaction was sadness that they didn’t know what was happening at the time, and that helpless feeling that if they knew, they could have helped. I understand that reaction, I would probably have felt the same way upon hearing of a friend’s brutal past. But, they couldn’t have helped me, and it was imperative to my safety that I kept quiet. I used to feel guilty that I somehow hurt my friend’s feelings that I didn’t share my past, but I’ve learned to let go of that.

In the book, I talk about my life and some of the trauma I experienced.  I write about how I repressed my memories and how I managed to raise a family and live a life where I mistakenly convinced myself, that my hidden past had no effect or impact on my life. The last part of the book is what my healing journey looked like at the time. Untangled isn’t about naming names or the horrific specifics of what happened to me. I don’t feel people, especially those of us who have been through trauma need to read and be triggered by another’s specific tales of horror.

I do, however, explain in detail the feelings that went along with being hurt, traumatized, abandoned, neglected. I don’t shy away from feeling words such as fear, emptiness, loneliness, embarrassment, shame, etc.  One of the most humbling gifts I experience from Untangled is when people read the book, and they find it is relatable. The events that happened to me may not be relatable, but the effects, the feelings, the sense of no-self is something that a lot of people experience, or they know and love someone who has experienced those things.

We all have feelings, but we may not all be able to articulate them, we may doubt or judge our feelings, or experience that lonely feeling that no one else could possibly understand this kind of emotional pain. I lived with that terrible alone feeling until three years ago. Now, from the feedback from the readers of Untangled, I know that I am not alone. Admittedly, the validation is a bit of a paradox..I’m so relieved to be validated by relatability and so sad to be validated by relatability.

One of the questions I get asked the most is why did I write my memoir?  At first, I was writing as a way to incorporate another healing tool. For me, using the keyboard as a way to write, instead of using paper and pencil, provided a way to get down my feelings, thoughts, and emotions without becoming overwhelmed. I was taught that for some people, using the keyboard was a way to incorporate bi-lateral stimulation. This method provided a way to create a bit of distance from the subject matter I was writing about. The first gift was while writing, I began to discern the difference between the truth vs my truth. For some, they are the same, but for me, being able to say My truth had a profound and healing impact on me.

Writing gave me the courage I needed to address the pain I was feeling. I would write even when I thought I had nothing to write about. I began to notice that I was able to write down what I couldn’t say aloud.  It provided distance from having to use my voice. What I discovered was that writing actually gave me a voice.  When I still couldn’t speak a truth, I found, if I read what I wrote out loud to my therapist, that I WAS speaking the truth. The bonus for me as that He didn’t freak out or go away. The gift of Untangled is that people also don’t freak out and run away. The book has been a tool for conversation.

I am frequently asked if I was afraid for my safety when I released the book?  To be honest, I felt a lot of fear for my safety and took as many precautions as I could, but in the end, I just really wanted to share my story. I wanted to share what it looks like to live through unimaginable circumstances for twenty-plus years, with continued threats to stay silent, and still, be determined to be live not just survive.  I knew that this was my truth, and by publishing my story and continue to talk about the effects of trauma and the resulting PTSD that no one could ever take my past, my truth away from me again.

There are so many gifts from Untangled. The gift of writing, the gift of remembering, the gift of a congruent past, the gift of trying to remove the stigma of living with an illness. I wouldn’t have started writing a blog if I hadn’t written my memoir. I was told that I had to start a blog in order to market a book. I never, in my wildest dreams knew the world of connection that awaited me when I wrote my first post. Not only have I connected with survivors and mental health professionals, but I also have connected with poets, authors, thinkers, travelers, photographers, fun-loving lets blog for the heck of it people all over the world. I’m a better person because of all these connections. There are some people I’ve met that have changed my life. I’m grateful every day for my blog.

Even though I released another book last January, I’m not ready to leave Untangled behind. I’m excited every time someone purchases the book, I wish I could personally thank every person. I don’t ever take it for granted. I love getting good reviews on Amazon, I love hearing the feedback. I hope that the readership continues to grow each month.

I’ve been hurt, I’ve been threatened, I’ve been abandoned, but I wasn’t going to let the effects of what happened to me keep me from trying to have the life I wanted. I know what my goals are…to live with my past, live in the truth, and recognize and relish in the feelings of internal contentment. I didn’t realize that sharing my story with so many people would propel the trajectory of my healing in such a profound and sometimes ineffable way. Never does a day go by that I’m not grateful for the experice.

Happy 3rd birthday, and thank you for reading, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

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

Feeling Fragmented

This is a fantastic post from a wonderful mental health blogger. Check out this post and give I Walk with a Limp a follow. https://iwalkwithalimp.com/

I Walk with a Limp

Feeling Fragmented peter-sjo

How can I describe the feeling of being fragmented to people who have always felt whole? Perhaps none of us feel completely whole. Perhaps we all feel that we have lost a part of ourselves along the way.

As a victim of violence, incest, and rape it took a while for me to become truly lost. My survival instincts were strong. But, over time, the damage inflicted upon me pushed me further away from myself, until I found that I was drowning in a sea of alcoholism and despair, staring at a stranger in the mirror.

It’s as if I had been a beautiful, vibrantly colored stained-glass vase, and my perpetrators a chisel. Each punch, each belt lashing, each touch of violation, tapped a crack in the delicate glass of Light and innocence until, finally, it shattered into a thousand tiny shards. Their razor-sharp edges cut deep wounds into my…

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Silence

Dedicated to all the survivors I’ve met and the ones I’ve yet to meet along the way. For those who have found their voice and those who are still working on finding it. Silence can mean so many things…this is my interpretation of how the silence felt. 

The silence was the worst sometimes.

That moment when an abusive event ends.

The silence is sometimes the most uncomfortable part of being hurt.  It’s a strange feeling to see someone who has just hurt you in ways that are abhorrent just turn around and walk away.

Watching them leave. It felt as if they were also taking a little piece of my spirit with them leaving another tatter, another rip in my already shredded soul.

It wasn’t very often that my abusers would say anything when they are finished.

The feeling of invisibility was palpable.

No yelling, crying, blaming, scolding; they just simply finish and leave. It’s a rather powerless feeling because they don’t acknowledge me, or what they did.

That spirit shredding powerlessness left me with a dark heaviness.

I’m sure sometimes I was crying as they left.  I know I was certainly in enough pain physically, emotionally and psychologically to cry. But often I would just stare at them as they walked away.

Watching them go, I sometimes asked myself, why did that happen to me?

But other times, I silently observed as they moved away from me as if I didn’t exist.

As if what just happened didn’t really happen at all.

Their demeanor towards me was complete neutrality. It was as if I was a stranger who was just in their airspace, detached in a way, that if they saw me on the street in five minutes, they wouldn’t even remember who I was.

There was always that little while, no matter the place, the who, or the when something happened, that the “after” was accompanied by a thick silence.

Alone, with my mind now telling me, “okay, it’s over; stand up, clean up, unconsciously compartmentalize what just happened, and move on to survive whatever comes next.

The silence can be the worst sometimes.

image source: Pixabay

Thank you for reading my new book, If I Could Tell You How It Feels, available in both ebook and paperback from Amazon.

A Wonderful Podcast Interview Experience

I had the wonderful opportunity to be interviewed by Matt Papas of Surviving My Past. (https://www.survivingmypast.net/tools-and-insight-on-living-with-ptsd-with-author-and-survivor-alexis-rose/) I have been listening to Matt’s podcasts for a while, and find his interview style very interactive, relatable, and real.  He has a wonderful way of putting you at ease, and the conversation flows.

Surviving My Past exists to validate and encourage all who have survived the trauma of abuse. Matt is a survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse, Narcissistic Abuse, and Bullying.

On his site, you will find blog posts written not only by Matt but also guest bloggers who have decided to share their story and let the world know that they are not ashamed! You’ll also find podcasts where he interviews Therapists, Life Coaches, Mental Health Advocates, Bloggers, and others who have a passion to help raise awareness and do their part to help erase the stigma of mental health challenges and survivors of trauma.

Check out his website and when you have some time, I would love it if you listen to my interview with Matt.  You will definitely be able to hear my very Minnesotan accent come through loud and clear.  https://www.survivingmypast.net/tools-and-insight-on-living-with-ptsd-with-author-and-survivor-alexis-rose/

 

Thank you for reading my new book, If I Could Tell You How It Feels, available in both ebook and paperback from Amazon.

 

 

 

Parenting with PTSD

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PTSD Awareness Month

 

My PTSD

It doesn’t matter if it is cold, hot, sunny, snowing or raining.

There is no telling when it is 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 today would be the day I am free.

I look like everyone else.

I know the difference between right and wrong.                                                                                              

Yet sometimes in my head, I 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, and birds?

Or is 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 hand 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.

That is all I can ask of myself if I am going to have a future.

©Alexis Rose

 

image source: google images

Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

Why I Write

It’s an unusually warm, long and beautiful Autumn here in the Midwest, which has afforded me precious time to sit on my deck and reflect over the whirlwind of the past year. Releasing Untangled, emerging from the shadows of silence, a year of blogging, speaking to groups and now preparing to collaborate on an exciting project has me asking myself, Why do I write?

When I speak to groups and open it up for questions, I’m almost always asked, what made you write a book, or have you always been a writer? The answer to both is, “no!” I never wrote anything beyond copy for ads, or random newsletter articles for my jobs before 2011. I didn’t keep a journal, never was a huge letter writer, I really never gave writing a thought.

When I began therapy my therapist suggested that I journal. Most of us have been told by our therapist’s to journal our thoughts and feelings. I despised journaling. I would become so emotional, because often, the pages looked like one big opus for wanting to end my life. I would literally tear up the pages after I wrote them, despondent because I couldn’t separate my feelings from what I wanted to write about. It was all emotion and no substance, no thoughts, no depth and it felt destructive. So I refused to continue to journal.

But, I found myself writing emails to my therapist and we would talk about them at our next session. It was becoming evident that I was looking for a way to write down my thoughts. My therapist went to a conference on PTSD. At the conference, he learned that when clients journaled on a keyboard, (not pen and paper) that it was easier for them to keep journaling. The act of using a keyboard was incorporating bilateral stimulation which helped put some distance between the terrible trauma and intense feelings and they were able to keep writing longer. That made perfect sense to me, so I began to use writing as a healing tool.

Writing gave me the courage I needed to address the pain I was feeling. I would write even when I thought I had nothing to write about. At first, I strictly used it for bilateral stimulation. I would write and send what I wrote off to my therapist. I started to find that I was able to write down what I couldn’t say aloud.  At first, I think it provided distance from having to use my voice, but then I found it actually gave me a voice.  When I still couldn’t speak a truth, I found if I read it out loud to my therapist, that I was speaking the truth. 

The courage to share my writing with others happened because a friend wanted to understand what was happening to me. She knew I had just been diagnosed with PTSD and wanted to know what it felt like, so she could understand and be supportive. I had always been the master of wearing many masks, and deflecting any conversation away from me, all with a supportive smile for everyone else. But when I couldn’t hide my illness any longer my friends reached out. They wanted to be there, but I couldn’t verbalize it. I was confused, ashamed, scared and thought everyone who loved me would run away if they knew the real me. Since I couldn’t really explain it,  I wrote a poem (My PTSD) and began sharing it with people who asked what it felt like to have PTSD.

Seven years after that first assignment to journal on a keyboard, I have written four books, had a number of published articles and just celebrated a year on my wonderful blog. I reflect on writing from a different perspective. Now, I write because I love to share what I’m thinking, feeling or musing over. I write because I’ve had feedback from others, to help give them a voice, to put feelings into words that they may be unable to describe. Writing is a way to be seen and heard, especially by a group who suffers from mental illness and are often marginalized.

I write because I will no longer be shamed into silence. But, I also control the volume of my voice. I want to be effective in destigmatizing mental illness, invisible illness, for me, PTSD. I know that I’m a quiet word of mouth writer. It fits my personality. I love the writers who are more vocal, and speak with confidence and often, they know the volume of their voice and can reach a much wider audience.

I write because it fills my cup, it satisfies my creativity and it keeps me connected to the world. I care deeply about what I write and share, hoping that the connection between us continues to grow. Sometimes that starts with a simple written word.

Why do you write?

 

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Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

http://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph/dp/1514213222

https://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph-ebook/dp/B013XA4856

 

The Woods

At an early age, I began collecting odd things like rocks, a bag of dirt, a lock of hair, a cuff-link, or anything that I thought would provide proof of my existence. I hid these things in safe places all over my room. I didn’t keep too many of them in one place for fear that someone would find my cache and I would lose my whole collection.

I thought these artifacts could prove where I was, what was happening to me, and who was with me. In my mind, these were my smoking guns.  I was already trying to gain control over my young life and circumstances. I couldn’t have known that years later, these would be precious breadcrumbs for me to follow as I began recovering my repressed childhood memories.

I was living in a world of secrets. I was born into a family with a strong European bloodline. I was indoctrinated into the family rules at a very young age, at the hands of my grandparents, uncle, aunt, and father. The secrets involved inter-generational abuse, incest, and seasonal secret society rituals.

At a very early age, I’d learned to disconnect from myself and either watch what was happening to me from afar or try to project the pain outside of my body. When I was abused at night, I would find a window in the bedroom and imagine the house next door on fire. I saw the flames shooting up the sides of the house in vivid orange and red; the heat and the spiky flames consuming the house. I found a way to externalize and dissociate from the pain and humiliation.

That fire raged outside my window most nights until we moved to Sheridan the summer I was nine.   That fire and my dream of living alone on the lake were my golden thread of survival. That thread kept the pieces of my shattered soul together and gave me the strength I needed to wake up and face another day. My raging fires were imaginary, but there were countless times in my young years that I had witnessed real and frightening rituals. These took place in the fall and spring with a group of six men, five others and my father.

They took place in temple basements, houses, or the woods and once, even in a mausoleum. They were held in the fall and spring of each year around full moons or holidays. They seemed very elaborate in my young mind. The men were dressed in robes, with candles burning and someone holding a staff with an ornate gold medallion on the top. In shadows cast by the candles, they chanted, sometimes handled snakes, and engaged in ritualistic child abuse.

The fall rituals were held in the woods. I may have been taken to the woods before the age of seven, but that year was a turning point for me. I began to understand how dire my situation was becoming. It was a sunny but cool autumn day with brightly colored leaves on the trees. I was sitting next to a teenage girl who told me her name was Jennifer. She looked beautiful to me, with long blond hair that would blow back from her face with the wind. She was wearing a plaid shirt and jeans. She looked to me like a free spirit who belonged at a folk concert singing and dancing, but instead, she was on edge. Just like me, she was a frightened child watching the men in the clearing.

Without warning, Jennifer got up and started running onto the trails to the left of us.  My only thought was to run after her. She veered to the right and I stayed straight. From the sounds of leaves crunching behind me, I knew someone was closing in on me. Before I had time to think, one of the men caught up with me, grabbing me from behind.

He pulled me along the path to meet up with the others who had run after Jennifer. I saw the men standing in a semi-circle. Jennifer was on the ground in front of them. She was lying quiet and still, her pretty blond hair covering her eyes. I don’t know how long I stood there but I do remember one of the men saying to me, “This is what happens to girls who run away.”  As a man led me away from the clearing, I remember wishing that I could have pushed Jennifer’s hair away from her face. I didn’t want her pretty hair to be so messy in front of those men, and I wondered how could she see what was happening to her, with her hair over her eyes.

That thought and her image haunted me into my adulthood. I don’t know for sure what happened to Jennifer that day.  She may have just been knocked out or something more sinister may have befallen her. The men weren’t done with their rituals for the day. They built a fire, carried in a tiny goat that made sounds like a baby, cut its throat and did more ceremony. I remember watching the men with the smoke rising and the smell of burning animal flesh and blood. I remember feeling terrified. Everything seemed to happen so fast that day. What horrified me was that Jennifer was lying in a clearing in the woods, and the men never stopped their perverse festivities.

A few days after the incident in the woods, I took the chance to stray from the safety of my backyard.  I was sitting on my neighbor’s front steps looking at a little mirror with a red plastic case. I looked up and saw my mother storming down the street yelling at me. I panicked when I saw her, dropped the mirror and ran; but not before I heard it shatter on the concrete. My mother shrieked at me as she followed me back to our house. She came in and stood in the kitchen with my father, and I lost it. I started screaming at them that I knew what happened in the woods and that they had killed Jennifer.

My parents became enraged. My mother started toward me and I instinctively turned to run down the two steps leading to the back door, not thinking about the basement steps to the right of me.  I thought I felt a push and the gut-wrenching surprise of losing my balance and falling down the basement stairs. I grabbed the railing to stop myself and felt my hip come down hard as I tugged in the other direction to stop my fall. I groped my way to the bottom of the stairs, hurt and stunned only to look up to see my parents standing on the steps.

My father looked down at me and said, “You are dead to us, and you will never talk about what happened the other day.” I was in pain, confused and terrified but I knew they were serious. They had looks of utter disgust on their faces. I vowed to myself that I would never talk about what happened in the woods and I believed I was dead to them. After what I had witnessed in those woods, I had every reason to believe anything they said. I only was seven years old.

Excerpt from Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

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Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

 

As the Seasons Change, Life with PTSD

For many, the beauty of Autumn is a season of crisp air and beautiful changing colors of  trees set against a bright blue sky. Apples, everything pumpkin and spice and bonfires in the backyard. For me, the Fall brings triggers, triggers everywhere. I can appreciate the beauty of the season, but if the wind blows a certain way, or the leaves rustle on the ground it can hurl me into a world of pain. It’s the nature of the illness I live with every day.

Last night during therapy, my therapist, with great empathy stated, he hates PTSD because it brings me back to the past when I would rather live in the present. That felt extremely validating to me. I don’t try to get triggered and I’m always surprised when it happens. Then that old tape starts playing, what am I doing wrong that I keep getting triggered. Admittedly it’s different now as I’m learning to cope with my trauma, but it’s still awful.  So to honor my feelings and not slink away in embarrassment I decided to write about what it’s like to live daily with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I received the diagnosis of PTSD about eight years ago, after a family tragedy. My daughter was hit by a van at 30 miles an hour as she was crossing the street on her way to school. She sustained major injuries, and her life has been altered, but she is with us and thriving.

The year following Aria’s accident I was busy with tending to her health, taking her to appointments, trying to work full time, and keep our household running as normal as possible. And at the same time, I kept having these experiences that were making me feel crazy. I had worked so hard to keep my life, my family and their world so protected that the instant Aria got hit, my controlled snow globe world came crashing down. In fact ,when my son and I were talking the day of the accident, he looked at me and innocently said, “things will never be the same again.”  Extremely prophetic words, that at the time myself nor my family had any idea what they would come to mean.

I was becoming anxious. I started losing time, I was called into meetings at work because my performance was terribly erratic. I was physically sick all the time and kept having these bizarre memories leaving me feeling crazy.  I knew something was seriously wrong with me so I made a call to a psychologist who agreed to see me the next day.

 

When I first started seeing my therapist I was dissociated most of the time. I was in crisis, I was anxious, confused, and convinced I was going crazy. After a couple of sessions, it became apparent to him that we had to get some safety plans in place. Once that was in place we could begin the process of working on and processing my trauma.

I (sort-of) started to come to terms with the idea that my erupting memories, were in fact, true. I was so overwhelmed by my memories and what we would process during my session that I would remember, forget, remember, forget; until I started to turn a corner and forget how to forget. That’s when I found I could really start taking the baby-steps towards health.  

Not only was my therapy about processing the memories, I also had to start accepting that there were some pretty intense effects of the trauma and that influenced how I saw and reacted to the world.  I knew I had some pretty deep-rooted trust issues. I had large, thick, almost impenetrable walls holding back any feeling or emotions that I was willing to let the world see. 

I also had to face down how my trauma affected my relationships with my family, friends, parenting style, and career. In the midst of dealing and coping with the trauma, there were a lot of AHA moments, when I saw how my behavior and ways of coping with life, had been a direct result of my trauma and not because I was a bad person.

Eight years later and one of the biggest reasons I write is because my PTSD symptoms still have a pretty good choke-hold on me. As with many mental illnesses, PTSD can be invisible on the outside. I had always been the master of wearing many masks, and deflecting any conversation away from me, all with a supportive smile for everyone else. But when I couldn’t hide my illness any longer my friends began to ask me, what does it feel like inside. I couldn’t really explain it, so I wrote a poem and shared it with my friends and family. I found that by writing I found a way to share with others and begin to understand what PTSD means for me, and find a way to cope with my fear that I would be plagued by the symptoms forever.

My symptoms include (not limited too) flashbacks, concentration issues, becoming overwhelmed and my brain shutting down, not being able to make choices, anxiety/depression, and sensitive to the triggers that start the whole shebang of symptoms. We use the term, triggers, triggers everywhere. The wind can blow a certain way, or fireworks, or a car backfiring, even the moon can bring on flashbacks.

Unfortunately, my symptoms have left me with the inability to work. I went from having a wonderful career with the fringe benefits that provided me with some comfort for the future and the ability to provide for my family. I’m only able to work about 2 hours a day…on a good day.

It seems as if my symptoms (depending on the time of year) can start a chain reaction, so I needed to learn to work within my deficits. This isn’t easy or comfortable for me and I can find myself becoming frustrated and angry at my PTSD. Actually, most days, if I’m being honest, I am very angry at my PTSD. But then I settle down and think about what I want for my life and try to rest and reset. 

The inability to concentrate can be over-whelming for me. I know what I want to do, what I want my brain to do but I simply am unable to do it. Making choices at the grocery store, or a restaurant can be so uncomfortable that I will just simply lose my interest in eating and shut down. Sometimes as night approaches it feels overwhelming because I know that it’s highly likely that sometime during the night I will have nightmares. Even practicing good sleep hygiene listening to podcasts, all the tricks can’t stop the nightmares sometimes and it gets overwhelming. And sometimes I’m overwhelmed because I’m a survivor of trauma and have PTSD and that’s just the way it is, even though I wish it was different.

Writing gave me the courage I needed to address the pain I was feeling. I would write even when I thought I had nothing to write about. At first, I strictly used it for bilateral stimulation. I would write and send what I wrote off to my therapist. I started to find that I was able to write down what I couldn’t say aloud.  It provided distance from having to use my voice at first, but then I found it actually gave me a voice.

I’ve been hurt, I’ve been abandoned, I’ve been threatened, but I’m not going to let the effects of what happened to me keep me from trying to have the life I want. I never lose sight of my goals. They are to live with my past, live in the truth, and recognize and relish in the feelings of internal contentment. Somedays those goals seem as far away as the furthest star, and other days I can see them just through the clutter, almost there. I’m motivated to keep moving forward, spurred on by the hope for a better life. A life where I am living, not just surviving.  The seasons can make it difficult, and seemingly daunting, but being honest and out from the shadows helps make my life matter in the midst of the clutter. 

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Thank you for reading my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

http://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph/dp/1514213222

https://www.amazon.com/Untangled-story-resilience-courage-triumph-ebook/dp/B013XA4856