Owl’s of the Past

A little fiction…

Looking back, she realized it may have been her secret intention to leave her known world behind all along. She had been dreaming of the ocean. The diamond-glinted turquoise waters, and the sound of waves comforting her restless soul. She wanted to find some peace, some quiet, some insight into why her life had unfolded into the daily grind of never-ending responsibility.

Knowing that an ocean adventure was well out of her budget, she set her sights closer to home, and thought a little weekend away at a cabin in the woods was just what she needed.

The advertisement for the cabin had been benign, but enticing. North woods rustic cabin with expansive views of Owl Lake. Firewood included. That was the draw, she was willing to go without indoor plumbing, but cut and available firewood was the luxury item that sparked her interest. There were photos of nearby labyrinths to walk, and a telescope ensconced in a grand old gazeebo pointing to the stars that called to her desire to connect with nature.

The name of the lake also caught her attention. She felt at peace with the sound of the owls. They brought her comfort. Never quite knowing why she was drawn to them, just knowing that the call of the owl always relaxed her and made her feel safe. She began dreaming of sitting by the fireplace; reading, writing in her journal, snacking on simple meals and resting. She made reservations and was on the road the following week.

The drive was uneventful. Miles of cows, forest, big blue sky, and puffy white clouds. The radio-gods were with her, playing song after song of beloved classic hits of her teens and twenty’s.  Each song bringing back memories of unabashed fun with long-ago friends. The time of life when she was invincible; a free and easy spirit. For just a moment, before the next song played, she began to think about how it all went sideways. How did she end up, in a life that was unfulfilling and stagnant? She shuddered and left the thought behind as she belted out the next song.

Her GPS indicated that her turn off was a mile away. As she drove the twisty turny dusty roads she noticed how thick and foggy the woods were becoming. Not the thick impenetrable fog that you can’t see through, this was different. This fog felt almost enchanted, full of dancing colors of green and blue. She laughed to herself, thinking that she must really need a vacation.

At last, she arrived at the long narrow driveway. Parking her car and looking around she felt a sense of electricity in the air. The trees were a dense dark green, the ground was lush and moist with the dew that hadn’t dried off from the morning sun. But there was something else that had caught her eye. The sparkle of Owl Lake that expanded from the back of the cabin was stunning. It almost looked like the ocean she had been dreaming about the past few weeks. Closing her eyes for a moment, she thought she heard the sound of waves crashing against the shore. Shaking her head, she got her bearings, grabbed her backpack and unlocked the door to the cabin.

Immediately she was drawn to the sliding back door. Drawn to the deck as if a siren song was playing in the distance; as if she was being called to the aft of a ship to look for mermaids. Dropping her backpack on the floor she slid the heavy door open, stepping onto a thickly wooded platform she found she was suddenly floating on a vast ocean.

Stunned at the sudden jolt of being adrift on the high seas, she began to scream for help. She was steady on the deck, but as she turned around the woods had disappeared, there was nothing behind her but ocean. Not knowing what to do, she threw open the sliding glass door, and stepped back into the cabin, hoping that she had just experienced the most intense hallucination of her life.

Back inside, she closed her eyes tight and said a quick prayer that this was all a dream. She prayed that when she opened her eyes she would see the dense woods through the front door and her car at the end of the driveway.  But all she saw was the waves of a turquoise sea lapping against the cabin that had suddenly transformed into a boat.

The realization that this wasn’t a dream brought her to her knees. She sat down and with her head in her hands wondering if she had died. Was she in heaven or hell? Was she dreaming? What was happening?

The boat seemed to be on a course, somehow steering itself. Was she on a ghost ship? As fear overtook her, she curled tight against the wall and fell into a dreamless sleep.

She woke up to the rhythmic rocking of the cabin on the sea. A bit disoriented, but with steady sea-legs she opened the deck door and stood in the clear starlit sky. Breathing in the sea air she suddenly developed a knowing and trusting awareness. She decided to quell her fear and not think about what was happening until the morning.

As the pink sky appeared over the horizon she noticed the unmistakable outline of land. Her heart quickening, she found that the fear that had overtaken her when the cabin became a boat was again tightening her chest and constricting her throat. Where was she landing and who would be on that island?

The current brought the cabin to rest on the island. In front of her lay a beautiful white sandy beach and a green, steep mountain range. Getting off the boat and nervously looking around she felt a strange sensation; electric shivers coursing through her body. Looking up towards the highest mountain peak, she noticed a black owl totem, with piles of firewood neatly stacked in front of it.

Hugging herself, she looked back towards the turquoise sea, the sun glinting like diamonds upon the water. Behind her the call of an owl high on the mountain reminded her she was home. Walking up the mountain, she turned around once again, and remembered!

garden-948927_1280

photo:pixabay

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

 

Enter the Garden

Enter the garden
which grew out of friendship
trust, and tender care
The delicate petals hold our secrets
gently and safely urging
us to let go, grow, and breathe
the colors of peace

©Alexis Rose, 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      

Thank-you symptoms, but I’ve got this!

The past few days during moments of exasperation, I’ve said out loud to myself, “You’re being so weird, just stop it!” In reality, I haven’t been weird, I have been feeling off, and instead of sitting with the feelings, and letting them surf on through, I’ve been running the other way in a grand state of denial.

There is a saying: “PTSD: It’s not the person refusing to let go of the past, but the past refusing to let go of the person.” That saying is a simple way for me to understand that try as I might, there are reasons my PTSD symptoms sometimes still have a firm chokehold on me. The list can be long depending on the time of year and triggers.

Autumn is beautiful and just started here in the Midwest. Blue skies and Vermillion colored trees often coexist with 70 degrees temperatures. This time of year, from late August until it snows represents trigger, after trigger for me. While I can appreciate the wonderful weather, the long season can be challenging with prolonged symptoms and what can seem like constant symptom management. They don’t just amplify on certain calendar dates, they simmer,  just under my skin in both the Fall and Spring seasons.

There are days when the triggers and symptom management leave me exhausted and feeling like I’m a burden to my family and close friends. I spend most of the time finding ways to work on distress tolerance and grounding when the autumn winds blow.

Lately, I have been able to tolerate some of the triggers that in years past, would send me hiding in the house. I noticed I was able to name what the trigger was without flashbacks or much anxiety. That felt great, and I made sure to acknowledge how far I’ve come in my healing journey. But, as the weather has changed and we entered September, my body memories and reptilian mind have been fighting for a seat at the table.

I’m pretty good at accepting, and having compassion for my lizard brain and body responses by telling them, “Thank you for doing what you are meant to do, but we are safe now, and I’ve got this.” Most of the time that works, but sometimes as the skeleton hands of the past slowly edge up my spine and try to pull me down, some deep feelings get stirred up. If I don’t acknowledge the feelings and sit with them even for a short amount of time, they come out sideways. I get emotional, irritable, and I start demanding an impossible perfection from myself. If I’m not careful those feelings can inadvertently push play on the negative self-talk and doubt.

This morning, when I caught myself again saying, “You’re being so weird, just stop it” it made me pause. Instead of running to the next distraction I sat down to reflect, on what was really going on. With reflection, I stopped denying that the change of season is having an effect on me. It’s not me refusing to let go of the past, it’s an internal response to the trauma I survived.

Now that I’ve accepted what is going on, and forgiven myself for how I’ve been feeling, I say to my symptoms, “Thank-you, I see you, and I’ve got this!

PTSD

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

Breathless ~ Gratitude

Grateful I learned
to stand up for myself
practiced the concept that “no” is a complete sentence
that spending time alone is okay
and to acknowledge the huge trajectory of health and wellbeing

Grateful I saw
changes in myself
the benefit of setting firm boundaries
and the deep greens, and sky blues of the seasons

Grateful I experienced
the power of saying, “no more”
the stillness of my mind
the ground, firm under my feet
and contagious laughter

With blinders off
every day is a brand new day
hope…on the darkest days
hope…on the brightest days

Grateful
that when that bolt of loneliness
hits my soul and all I want to do is run
I remain patient, watchful
and resolute in the waves of impermanence

On this cloudy morning
I’m calm with the steady knowing that I’m okay
at peace, enveloped with goosebumps ~ breathless ~ gratitude

©Alexis Rose, photographer, 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    

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

Road Tripping with PTSD

As summer begins to wane and the occasional cool breeze brings a hint of fall in the evenings,  I find myself packing to hit the road to participate in an art and authors festival in Northern Minnesota. It’s been planned since last winter, but I gave it zero thoughts until this week. I’m excited because I will be traveling with my bestie and we have always wanted to take a road trip together, but the driver is someone I don’t know. I’m a bit anxious about that part of it because it’s not easy for me to travel and manage my symptoms, especially around strangers. I don’t want to be the person who appears nervous, edgy or aloof as I navigate new places and different surroundings.

Traveling with PTSD takes a lot of planning on my part, and I have to be aware that this time of year can bring about triggers as the evenings turn a bit fall-like. I have to make sure I have some plans firmly in place so my fun little road trip doesn’t become a series of frightening flashbacks or anxiety-riddled days of being overwhelmed and hypervigilant.

I absolutely love the freedom of hitting the road. I love the spontaneity of it, and the possibilities of  “let’s take this road and see where it leads” adventure. I love to explore, I love new places, I love new people! These things appeal to my carefree nature but unless I’m planful, these experiences of joy can often be squashed by PTSD symptoms that lie just below the surface.

My trauma occurred over a 20-year period in many different places throughout the world. I can be triggered by certain smells, sounds, the way the wind blows, dialect, and many other things. Sometimes, that can start a flashback. Sometimes, I get disoriented and anxious, and sometimes it’s just a general feeling of knowing something’s off. When I’m at home, I can figure out ways to ground myself, get support or use one of my distress tolerance tools to ride out the wave. When I travel, things are unfamiliar and it takes longer to come out of a trigger.

Another symptom of my PTSD is that I become overwhelmed in busy, loud, places — restaurants, for example. It’s very easy for me to get flooded by too many menu choices and a voracious appetite can become non-existent. Before PTSD, I loved trying new food and going to restaurants that I wouldn’t have visited while in my hometown.

Busy roads while not necessarily triggering, can be overwhelming for me. The speed and crowded freeways can be overstimulating, and I tend to get anxious.  The same anxiety I used to feel in gridlock or driving at night with 18-wheelers whizzing by is now more pronounced for me. My anxiety is ramped up because my perpetrators often drove me to places across the country.

My support system is different when I travel. For my family, it’s often a good respite for them when I go out of town for a few days. It’s not an easy decision for them to let me go off without one of them accompanying me. So, a lot of moving parts must happen before I leave. My support works together to provide regual check-ins and remains available if I need to reach out. It feels uncomfortable for me to know that I require this support, but I’m grateful that I have this in place so I can do the things I would like to do and experience new adventures.

Road Trippin’ with PTSD is certainly a challenge, but not impossible. In fact, with a bit of planning and the agreement to tell my travel companion if I’m having any symptoms and their willingness to be fluid with plans this adventure is not only possible, it’s happening!

Photo by Madhu Shesharam 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