After the Story

A few years ago, I conquered my metaphorical mountain. It was hard. The pain was emotionally, physically, and spiritually excruciating at times. Because survival was my imperative; my beacon, I didn’t give much thought to how I would feel once I processed my repressed memories. Intuitively, I knew that in order to live, I had to discover and accept the congruent timeline of a dark and deeply buried past, and then learn how to manage the triggers that sometimes rendered me feeling helpless and hopeless.

At times, I wondered, when my story is told and I am standing in my truth…What will happen next? How will I feel? How would I incorporate living with the effects of my trauma, and the resulting PTSD? Would I go from a person with “no past” to a person who was just a mental illness?

I knew I wanted to live my life with my eyes wide open, to let go of the person I was not! I had a desire to own my story, my truth; to work through the torture and come out with a thick gnarly scar that proved to my inner child, my soul, my mind that I made it through.

I learned to reach out and ask for help. I learned to be vulnerable, and attach. I learned that my life will probably be learning and relearning coming back to the present when the ice-cold skeleton hands begin to creep up my spine and rock my sense of safety. It was all about healing, surviving, and distress tolerance tools.

I’m deeply proud of the courage it took me to conquer my mountain. I white-knuckled it to the top and back down. But didn’t learn the soft skills I needed to comfort and love my inner child, my soul, and my mind. I found that I was in the place of, After the Story-Now What?

In the initial phase of my healing journey, I was working on letting go of who I wasn’t, but it did not help me discover who I am? I was in the throes of survival and didn’t have the capacity at the time to leave room for hopes, dreams, maybe’s, affirmations, peace, and contentment at the deep soul level.

Today, I was reminded of a wonderful talk by Arthur Brooks at the Aspen Ideas Festival, titled: Strategies for happiness in life. I remember feeling so inspired by the points he made in his talk. In summary, Don’t rage against change, teach others what you know, take away the parts of you that aren’t really you, and surround yourself with love.”

After the Story, while standing in my truth I can incorporate the wise suggestions of those who I look to for support, I can trust the difference I can make in the world around me, with the hope it has a ripple effect. I can live a content life, knowing that strong feelings and emotions about my past will come and that they will also go. I can surround myself with a like-minded and loving family and friends. Most importantly for me (presently) is that I can continue to learn and practice compassion and enjoy my insatiable curiosity about life, people, and how we’re all connected.

I don’t have to turn away from the mirror ~ I don’t have to run away from the mirror that is held up to me by others.

Before I shared my story and lived in my truth, I courageously survived. After sharing my story, I courageously live, and dream, and hope, and affirm that the statement, “I am ____,” is fluid with growth, change, and resilience.

photo: Janet Rosauer

Hello! Where Were You?

Hello! Where have you been?

That’s a question that I have asked myself many times the past seven months. Just like most people, my life changed dramatically during the quarantine, the unrest in the spring, and the continuing effects of the pandemic. One of the biggest questions (and there were many) I had asked myself during this time was, why did I stop writing? For over five years, writing has been my link to sanity, and connection; a critical part of my healing journey.

I write under a pen name, which at the beginning was to protect me, my family, and my perpetrators. That was the safest way I could share my story. My kids always said my pen name and my real name were the worst kept secrets, especially when my books began to sell and I was doing more and more local speaking. I love my pen name-Alexis is very much who I am. I don’t hide behind the name, I love that name~it wasn’t a random choice; there is great meaning behind it for me. I believe when quarantine hit our family and all the implications of what could happen to my husband if he caught COVID that fear led me to a full stop. I didn’t want anything to do with Alexis or writing.

That period of time was quite difficult. All the tools and distractions I used to manage my PTSD was suddenly gone. The stress of not knowing how to learn new tools as well as the hypervigilance of paying attention to the unfolding science took its toll. My extreme extraverted self needed to find a way to hunker down, settle in, and get some help. Apparently, my writing needed a quarantine too.  

I live in the Twin Cities, MN. In the spring, after the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests and unrest, I knew that I had to learn what it meant to be anti-racist. I have 14 nieces and nephews who are multi-racial. I thought I had it figured out, but I didn’t.

Between COVID and the unrest this Spring, I have had many uncomfortable conversations with people who are close to me. I have always been a person who gave others the space to be just who they were, without much judgment. That no longer serves me in this changing world. So what do I do with that information? I’m not sure! It’s a many-layered challenge and not something that comes with an easy answer. 

Then, despite my diligence-I got COVID-19! I was very sick for one month and then it took another couple of weeks to actually begin to feel like the illness was behind me and I could trust I was getting better. 

So a lot has happened existentially and physically to me in the last seven months. But where was I? Well, I believe I was right here. At least in spirit. 

I am very involved in a non-profit organization called EmpowerSurvivors.  http://www.empowersurvivors.net/ EmpowerSurvivors is a peer-led support organization for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Since the pandemic and ensuing quarantine guidelines, we began to offer on-line support. Which has been fabulous. Because now, through Zoom survivors from all over the U.S. and the world can participate in peer-led support groups and classes. It’s been wonderful!

I’ve also been writing. Well, that comment is a bit of a stretch. I have a story in my head that has its first lines and the very last line with no middle. To me, that is fascinating as I know the story will unfurl and find a way to my blog for all of you to read.

I have also been learning new ways to cope. Not being able to hug, touch hands, and hang out with my friends and kids has been lonely and excruciating. It’s been quite a challenge, but this week, I could tell that things are starting to come together on the self-care end and I’m in more of an acceptance mode.  Just in time for winter to hit MN.

I knew this morning that I was ready to come back to the wonderful WordPress community. I knew that when my fingers were itching to get back to the keyboard, and words were bursting out of me that I am ready to write again.

Where was I? Well, all over the place inside~figuring out where I stand and what is important and how I will move forward as a person in this world. I will continue to use my voice and write about mental health, particularly living with PTSD, and as always there will be a  little bit of poetry sprinkled in along the way.

Thanks for all your fabulous support for the past five years. Without the wonderful community here, I would not have had the courage to come back and say, Hello!

 

 

Two Roses

Two roses stand strong
within their protective thorns

Entwined by years of friendship 
they share secrets, thoughts, laughter, and tears

They sway with the whispering breeze
as they bloom and grow
mesmerizing all with the wisdom of their ageless beauty

 

2-roses

©Alexis Rose; image: pexels.com

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      

 

Farewell, Bad-memory Lane

I took a drive down bad memory lane
and saw you looming on the street
You looked much smaller than I remembered
standing there alone and unfamiliar

When I turned my head to pass you by
I thought I heard you shutter and sway
quickly trying to shake the ghosts awake
saying, look, look who’s back

Did I take a wrong turn
or did I need to see that the power is gone
and the ghosts have long passed

I wasn’t back; I had to be sure

With a wry smile
I headed north on a twisted road
the air turning clean and crisp
north, where the sun dances with the sky
and the stars are thick with wonder
far, far away from bad memory lane

©Alexis Rose, Image source: Pexels

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

Evolution

I could longer
run
hide
deny
because it ate away my soul

I could longer
fight
pretend
act invisible
because it eroded my identity

So I learned to
see My-self
accept who I am
have self-compassion
embrace growth and change

I slowly evolved

Now, even on those darkest days
there is light in my soul
dancing in the sun
and hope in my heart
©Alexis Rose, image: 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    

Reflection in the Mid-afternoon of Life

I have a habit of making three or four big goals when I reach a new decade in age. I tend to do a lot of reflecting, and anticipate what kind of adventure I can write for myself for the next ten years. I started doing this when I turned 30. I believe it is because the first twenty years of my life were controlled by others in terrible, sad, and tragic ways. When I broke free of my perpetrators, I understood that I own my life, and I get to decide who I want to be. That revelation and freedom have been an intense/unrelenting driving force for my life since the age of 22.

With this most recent birthday, I’m now (as my friend beautifully described it the other day) in the mid-afternoon of my life. So, with that mid-afternoon sun shining gently on my face, I began to reflect: Did my passion for writing, speaking and trying to destigmatize living with PTSD help others? What was the impact on myself for learning, growth, and change? How can I continue to be a support to this community of survivors as I venture down a different fork in the road?

As I was reflecting, I recalled a wonderful talk given by Arthur Brooks at the Aspen Ideas Festival, titled: Strategies for happiness in life.  In very brief summary, his four points were, “don’t rage against change, teach others what you know, take away the parts of you that aren’t really you, and surround yourself with love.”

I’ve stopped raging against change a long time ago. l respect that change is life. Everything is impermanent, including the feelings I encounter when change happens. I have taken away the parts of me that weren’t authentic, and definitely surround myself with love. My children want me to rest more; to relax, to not be so driven and hard on myself. I heard them; it landed, and I will be more mindful about the message I’m giving myself when the negative self-talk tries to sneak in.

As I hang out and look deep inside in my spirit mirror, I believe this will be a time of deep personal growth, a bit more rest, and a lot of self-acceptance. I’m looking forward to reflection in the mid-afternoon. There is a lot of daylight left, and the evening is still decades away.

photo: Alexis Rose

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

Fly free little bird; Remember the lessons of the flowers

Stretching and flapping her strong wings
this is the eve of our youngest bird
preparing to fly far from the nest.
Across the country
the hallowed halls of law are ready to take our bird
on her chosen path; her next life steps.

I know that as she embarks
on this  journey that our little bird will
take with her the lessons from the flowers.
She will persevere and grow
Silently displaying her inner beauty and strength
She will reach towards the sun, hold fast during storms
and live life fully in bloom.

Fly free little bird. Enjoy, and remember the lessons from the flowers.
©Alexis Rose, Photo by Chloe Si 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