Tag Archive | flashbacks

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    

Getting Triggered by the News

I make a conscious effort to try and stay off certain news outlets and watch what kind of posts I read on social media. 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.

While 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.  My symptoms were at their worst. I was in and out flashbacks, my anxiety was almost constant, along with panic, fear, and a complete lack of feeling safe.

I stayed away from the intense news, was mindful of what I watched on tv and what movies I saw. I watched lots of comedy. There were times when I broke the rule. I watched a movie with violence that in some way mirrored my own abuse, or there were sensationalized cases in the media that I couldn’t avoid, and I would get triggered.

As I began to manage my symptoms, felt some sense of safety and was not living in a constant state of panic, 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 has been a story in my newsfeeds that I have done my best to avoid. No one around me is talking about it, because in reality, this story would not be on their radar. It wouldn’t interest them. But because my trauma is sort-of similar to this continuing story, I am on high alert when I scroll past it. I have a definite curiosity about the details but haven’t read anything besides the headline.

Until today!

Today when I logged on to check my email, the headline had changed. It caught my attention and I read it. Because I haven’t read any other details I was kind of lost in the information, but I got the gist of it. I understood and could relate to what happened to the victim that was speaking out. I felt sick that this kind of trafficking still goes on, and in my mind, will probably continue to exist in the underbelly of our society.

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 organization had absolutely nothing to do with me. I have never heard of it, and don’t know anything about it. 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 also reached out to my therapist, who helped me understand that today I fought the tiger. Making sure I understood that not only did I fight the tiger, but that I won. Any shame I was feeling dissipated with that fabulous metaphorical support.

I know I can’t just forget about what I read. I am trying to stay with the feelings, gain perspective, and use my tools to stay grounded. It’s been a difficult day. I’m irritable as I fight the flashbacks, and I’m upset with myself that I read the article. I’m also forgiving myself for having a natural curiosity, and an interest in the subject matter because it hits so close to home for me.

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 is so “out of the ordinary” and so unrelatable that it’s extremely rare that I feel validation. It’s part of acceptance and knowing that my truth is validation enough. But that doesn’t come easy, and it ebbs and flows.

Today was validation that I can still be triggered by the news. With this information, I know I need to remember the puppy/kitten rule when it comes to specific topics, take good self-care and keep scrolling. I also need to remember to give myself validation daily, that I continue to fight the tiger and win.

Anatomy of a Flashback

Time of year, breaking news, the wind blowing a certain way…whatever the trigger

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 feels like I’m being held hostage by my mind

Doesn’t matter what day, time, or year it is…the anatomy of my flashbacks

Are those smells real or is that a smell from a place and time

when I was being held against my will?

Am I really hearing the sounds of helicopters, planes, cicadas or birds?

Or it that the sound coming from a place that no longer exists and

should never be talked about?

Then it passes and I pull myself up the rope

Out of the clutches of PTSD and the skeleton hands of the past

that keep trying to pull me down

The anatomy of my flashbacks

my PTSD

image source: pixabay

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

Whispers in the Night

Whispers in the night bring memory
into full focus.
A series of never-ending still photographs
posed and etched onto and into the mind.
Perhaps fading a bit in color, smell, taste, and touch
but never completely melting away.

©words and photo: Alexis Rose

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

 

 

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

Sitting in a place of peace; Oh no a flashback; Sitting in a place of peace.

I’m sitting in this place of peace. Listening to the water splashing over the rocks, over this mini rapids. The water sparkles like diamonds as the sun plays upon it. The eagles and other various birds are flying overhead and occasionally landing on the bare branched trees in pairs of two or three. Sometimes they rest on the rock and also seem to be gazing out over the restless water. Next to me in the tree, I watch a spider lord over her intricate web that is filled with little bugs trapped in her silk. Off in the distance, tall purple flowers are swaying just a bit in the breeze. My triggers are reset. I am at peace, not judging, not thinking, not talking, and just resting.

Then out of the blue, it happens. First, it comes as a sort of uneasiness in my stomach, and then the diamond reflections on the water became cartoonish, the bugs in the background are the noises of the forest in a different time and continent. A wave of emotion takes my breath away and my lungs seem to stop with fear as the world starts to morph. I can feel myself being pulled away.  In my distant mind, just before I’m hurled into the past, I can hear myself think just sit with it until it passes. I feel myself stand up, watching, reliving “it” happening. Whatever the “it” for this particular flashback brings. 

It passes. The water becomes fluid again, the breeze touches my ice cold skin in the burning sun, the muscles in my stomach, head, arms and lungs ache from being contracted and I am standing. I wonder what did I do wrong in this place where just moments ago, I felt wonderful, restful and safe. How did it turn into a place where I was no longer grounded, hurling through the past. Why wasn’t I still there with everyone else who is gazing at the rapids? How is it that I can turn a normal, beautiful moment into the ugliness of a flashback. I ask myself, what’s wrong with me?

 I want to turn and walk away. But, I don’t, instead, I look at this nature filled place I’m visiting, sit down and understand that I had a flashback, I was triggered by something (the wind, sounds, the light hitting the water in a certain way, etc.) For me, this is how my PTSD manifests itself. That’s what my struggle looks like right now. It’s frustrating, but I’m not going to let it take the beauty out of the world around me. I’m not going to hide from the many, places of peace and remember the feeling of contentment, calmness, a perfect moment. 

IMG_3736

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

Then I Remembered

Then I remembered!

I opened my eyes this morning to the sound of the birds happily singing, the leaves gently swaying on the tree outside my window and the heavy smell of morning dew. I took a breath, a perfect moment, Spring is here!

The reason I know that’s how I woke up is because as quick as that, my brain kicked in and the fight began. For a moment in time, I forgot this was the anniversary date of trauma.

Then I remembered!

Now I am struggling to hear the birds singing for what they are, simply birds. I put food in my mouth and swallowed it hoping the feeling of dread, sorrow, pain, grief, fear, humiliation and hopelessness won’t churn it up into globs of nausea and make me wish I had never tried to eat. I go to the gym and work-out hoping the adrenaline kicks in and the feel of my feet on the treadmill will keep me grounded into the here and now.

The f*ing struggle!

My body memories have been reminding me of this upcoming anniversary for about a week now. I know I’m safe, I know I’m okay, I know it won’t happen again. But my body doesn’t realize it. My mind sniffs in the beautiful spring air and my body instantly recoils of the long ago memory of that same air.

So frustrating!

I want to go into the woods and just be with the birds, and the leaves and the nature noises. I don’t want to be with the flashback noises. I know the demons of my past are sometimes still stuck inside of me no matter what the backdrop is, and its manifests itself as PTSD. Even though I know I’m in a different and safe environment those demons still eek out…strong, virulent, sometimes unrelenting.

I know I’m healing and my truth, my words set me free. The truth of my words frees up space so the beauty of nature can fill me up and continue to heal me.

But then, I remember!

I know it’s better to always remember what I survived, but it feels so wonderful when I forget.

For now, I will have to be ok with hearing nature noises and accept that sometimes those same noises will trigger a flashback. It’s part of this illness, it’s part of PTSD.

 

I woke up this morning looking out the window hearing the birds, seeing the sun, smelling the spring air…Then I remembered!

 

Symptoms, Symptoms go Away, You’re Not Welcome Back, Ever!

PTSD

I like the simplicity of this picture I borrowed from Google images. It’s a simple way for me to understand that try as I might, there are reasons those PTSD symptoms still have a firm chokehold on me. The list can be long depending on the time of year and triggers. Today I’m going to write about the three most frustrating for me. I’m still in the process of managing my symptoms, and I understand how they look today may not be how they look in the future.

Flashbacks-The fiercest of my symptoms. They can come at any time, although I can pretty much guarantee that certain things will bring them on. Especially if I need to process something (yet again) that is nagging at me. Could be the time of year, anniversary dates of trauma, or being triggered. I know I need to be patient with my flashbacks. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I understood that I had been having flashbacks for about 30 years. I was casually telling my therapist about an incident I witnessed every night after going to bed. I was telling him how I would wake up each night and witness and event happening outside my window. I was telling him this because I thought it was so unusual that my boyfriend and roommate slept through this every night. He looked at me quizzically and said, “you were having a flashback.” I lived in a very quiet, safe area and what I was describing couldn’t possibly go unnoticed by others. Especially if it happened more than once. I was stunned. I just never thought I was having flashbacks, I just thought it was extraordinary that I had such heavy sleepers every night in my house. So I learned that I since I have been experiencing flashbacks for about 30 years I need to be patient. Ugh! Flashbacks. Ugh! Patience.

Work-Unfortunately the severity of my symptoms have left me with the inability to work full-time, well really even part-time. I’m cleared to work 2 hours a day if I’m having a good day. I simply can’t concentrate. My brain shuts down. I went from having a wonderful job, with stellar benefits to disability. I was in the marketing and recruiting industry. The nice thing is, that I have been able to freelance a bit and help business’s with marketing ideas. But I can’t be in an office setting. My startle response is off the hook sometimes. I was doing some work in a wellness center. When someone would walk in for a massage I would startle and yelp! Talk about feeling unprofessional. And the poor customers who are coming in for a relaxing massage are starting their wellness experience by apologizing for scaring me. Awkward for both of us. Granted I live in the mid-west and we apologize for everything, but still it was awkward. If I push my brain and don’t listen as it starts to shut down, and do just that one more thing it can start a chain reaction of symptoms and send me down for the count for a couple of days.  Writing and marketing Untangled, and writing on this blog has been wonderful. I am able to write, which is a skill I developed because I used writing as a healing tool. Writing for me is the light from the dark.

Overwhelmed: The inability to concentrate can be over-whelming for me. I know what I want to and what I want my brain to do but I’m simply unable to do it. I’m too overwhelmed. Making choices at the grocery store, menu choices from a restaurant, even jumping in the car to run errands can feel daunting. Just too many moving pieces. Sometimes as night approaches it feels overwhelming because I know it’s highly probable that sometime during the night I will have nightmares. I practice good sleep hygiene. I’m mindful about what I read or watch on t.v. I set my intentions, find and acknowledge the perfect moments I had during the day, all my bag of tricks, but the nightmares still come.

And sometimes it’s nothing….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.

I had to learn and keep reminding myself that I am working hard to heal and it is not anything I did or am doing to cause these symptoms. I’m not perpetuating them, I am living with them. When I lose sight of this I find myself getting very angry at my PTSD. Well, to be honest, I’m often angry at my PTSD, which detracts from the reasons I have it and can interrupt the healing process. So when that happens, I make myself stop, sit down, reflect, rest and try to focus on the goal of what I want for my life.

 

A bit of poetry on PTSD

 

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I just returned from presenting at a conference over the weekend. It was an amazing and vulnerable experience to tell my story, and what it’s like to live with PTSD everyday. The group that came to my session was amazing. In fact, all the people were amazing. No matter where we are on our individual paths, just the fact that we are committed to growth and change and, for many the difficult process of healing, I applaud the tremendous courage it takes.  This poem is the first thing I had ever written to share what it feels like. It seems like eons ago that I showed it to my very understanding friend, who encouraged me to keep writing. Years ago, but the words still hold true today.

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

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

I’m Falling Apart! (re-frame) I’m Falling Together!

8 years ago in October, I got the phone call that no parent wants to receive. I was settling in to work, after another difficult morning of trying to get my then 16-year-old daughter out of bed for school when I received a call from the police department saying that my daughter was hit by a car while walking across the street to school and they were patching me into the ambulance to talk to her. As soon as I hung up the phone, I stood up heard myself make a strange sound and heard the sound of glass breaking in my mind and then I experienced the most intense flashback (although I didn’t know what it was at the time) of a girl sitting in an airport, alone broken and bruised. Just like that, the flashback went away and I spent the next year caring for my daughter as she recovered.

 The year following my daughter’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 my daughter 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 that meant.

I started to become really anxious, I started losing track of time, I was called into meetings at work because my performance was becoming sub-par, to say the least. Which is totally not who I am. I’m one of those people pleasing rule followers, who gave 100% at work all the time. Need a project done? I’m your go-to person! Over the course of a year, my behavior totally changed. I was always upset, over the top emotional, taking everything personally and suddenly unable to hide behind that “I’m okay, I’m fine” mask that I brilliantly wore each and every day of my adult life. My physical health began to decline, and I was recalling memories, that was blowing away my dark past, that I worked really hard both consciously and unconsciously to repress. I knew something was seriously wrong with me, or that I was going crazy, or both, so I made a call to a psychologist who agreed to see me the next day.

That’s a very edited version of how the slow unraveling of my psyche began, or  now as I re-frame it, that’s how the slow knitting together of my psyche began.

Flash forward seven years: I have been getting help and dealing with complex post-traumatic stress disorder….that darn PTSD!  I’ve written many posts on this illness, and the effects it has on myself, my family and my friends. In fact, that is really the main focus of my blog. I want to honest about what it feels like to live with PTSD. I also know that I am very much in the middle of my healing journey and understand that how it feels today will not be the way it or I feel six months, a year, seven years from now.

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 (My PTSD) and that was the beginning of sharing some of my writing, but more importantly, I found that sharing with others helped me begin to understand what living with this illness means for me.

I used to fear that if people knew the “real me” they would run away. That simply wasn’t the case. Being more authentic and vulnerable actually enriched my closest relationships. Yes, there were some people in my life, who couldn’t tolerate the changes. I was now a person who had moods, who felt, who wasn’t always happy and there for them. I no longer tolerated anything anyone said, no matter how unkind without defending myself. Those people went away….and really, did I ever really want people like that in my life? I thought I did, but I’ve learned that people like that don’t deserve to be in my life.

Another reason I continue to write and share is because my symptoms still have a pretty good choke-hold on me. As with many mental illnesses, PTSD can be pretty invisible on the outside. Some of my symptoms include flashbacks, concentration issues, becoming overwhelmed, 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.  Like a lot of people, I’m triggered by anniversary dates and things like that, but because of what happened to me, regular outside noises can initiate a flashback. The wind can blow a certain way, or fireworks, or a car backfiring, even the moon can bring on flashbacks.

 

As I have been healing I try to remember these specific things: I work to notice those perfect moments in every day. Even though I’m plagued by symptoms I have learned that in the course of the day there are in fact perfect moments and it helps when I acknowledge them. I don’t necessarily notice them when they are happening, but I can reflect back on them at the end of my day. I also learned that I need to celebrate each step on the path towards health. I know that it’s a long and never linear process and that it really is just one foot in front of the other. I need to do a lot of resting, a lot of just sitting and metabolizing.  And even though healing can feel like be a lonely process, I don’t have to do it alone.

I’ve been hurt, I’ve been threatened, I’ve been abandoned, 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 know what my goals 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.

And even though it feels like I fell apart, and if I’m being honest lots of times I feel like I’m falling apart; I try to re-frame it and say No, no wait, I’m actually falling together.