Precieved vs Real

It’s been a long time since I’ve had to deal with extremely challenging PTSD symptoms. I have learned how to manage the everyday symptoms that just come with living with this mental health condition by employing a whole lot of tools from my self-care tool-box.

But since the attempted break-in of my home (read about it here: Don’t Open That Door )I have experienced an increase in some very distressing symptoms including; fear, panic, extreme hypervigilance, and sleep disturbances. All of these leave me exhausted, a bit confused, and rather lost at the moment.

So what is happening? Right after the perpetrator was arrested, I felt like I did what I needed to do for my body. I stayed present, I let myself shake, move, sit, shudder. Whatever my body needed to do right after the event, I honored that. I walked outside in the neighborhood so I knew I was safe and that this was My space, not some random thief’s space. I didn’t alter my routine as far as daily living. 

I spoke about the incident with family, friends, neighbors, my acupuncturist, and my therapist. I sought support, and even though this happened in the bright sunshine of the morning, we installed four new security lights. Importantly, I understood how random this was and that I was safe in my house.

About a week after the attempted break-in something felt amiss. I began to have hellacious, screaming nightmares every night. The same nightmare every night; sometimes multiple nightmares in one night. My anxiety is increasing and I notice I’ve become even more hyper-vigilant coupled with full-blown panic attacks or crippling fear.

I began to keep myself tuned in to the part of the house where he tried to break-in and my eating has become a bit disordered. Also, the comforting settling noises of my house have now become a constant ask of, “what was that noise?” These are huge, uncomfortable, and exhausting symptoms. I was totally caught off-guard by them and I could not figure out why after being so purposeful in getting good, solid support after the event that this was happening.

My therapist has been working with me to catch myself with my increasing avoidance behaviors. She is trying to encourage me to take back the parts of my house I’m now avoiding. We’re working on new sleep tools and she is working hard on having me acknowledge the fear, accepting it, hearing it, thanking it, and letting it know we are safe. Good, good things that are helping me find some control, self-compassion, and grounding.

Yesterday I was speaking with another survivor who had similar pervasive trauma like I did. She suggested that I have lived with the perceived threat of my perpetrators coming to hurt me (or insert threat here) for decades and that this attempted break-in with the drama and the intensity around it was indeed a real threat to my safety.

This was a real light-bulb moment for me. Real vs Perceived! It made absolute sense in my mind.

Most people would be upset and a bit traumatized by confronting a person actively trying to break into their house. For me, it had activated all the times in my past that I had felt scared, unsafe, violated, and feared for my life. Days after the event, I spoke with a woman who lived in the senior-living apartment building where he broke-in and vandalized before he came to our house. When  I heard how violent he was, and that he was indeed trying to find a place to hide, in my mind he became even more dangerous to me. A real threat in real life.

I know logically that this person will not be coming back to my house. I know that this was random and not personal, and I know that this triggered an avalanche of PTSD symptoms that had laid dormant for a long time.

All these things are true, and I will find my way back to the middle. But for right now-after all these years of learning and repeating that I’m safe and that my fear was because of a perceived threat, I have now (again) in my life felt the fear of a real threat. This may be a small part of the healing process of the intrusion, but to me it’s an explanation and a jumping-off point for understanding how my mind is working and why I am, again,  working through the oh-so-tangled web of PTSD.

Photo by Mathilda Khoo on Unsplash

Gently you, with Nature

From the dustiest of deserts
to the lush trees hanging heavy with Spanish moss
there is a feeling of reverence

The roar of the waves as they hit the cliffs and break
or the gentle lapping of the lake against the shore
the sun reflecting diamonds and colors against the water
bring tears of reverence

From red rock formations with the vortex of healing energy
to the tallest peak of the snow topped range.
Solid, ancient, awe-struck, reverence

Be gentle with yourself

Listen to the silence, the wind, the water
Stop talking, stop judging, just listen

Accept the beauty that surrounds you; envelops you
Become one, breathe deep, connect

The beauty is not asking anything from you
it doesn’t care how much you weigh, what your income is
or how many earthly possessions you own
It is simply nature

Be gentle with yourself in the silent reverence of nature

image by Pexels

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!

 

 

She Listens With More Than Her Ears

She listens with more than her ears.
The light from her soul
and the joy
in her heart
illuminate the world around her.

Silently saying a prayer
she feels the comfortable beat of her heart
as she flows to the music within.

 

©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      

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Desperation

That dark-haired little girl
wants to run away to the cliffs surrounding the ocean
washing the dirt from her feet and hands
watching as the dirt bubbles to the surface
emptying the soot from the bottom of the boxes

She wants to be free
free to see the stars, hear the crickets
smell the ocean waves
and listen to the call of the owl and
the songs of the loons

But she’s bent over holding herself in a ball
The pain in her chest, her heart, her biceps
and the hollowness of her soul
writhes in fuzzy fear and loneliness

She’s trying to grab a hand
a metaphorical lifeline
that provides the hope that this walk will not be alone

It’s not dead girl walking
it’s tiger slayer trying, once again
to navigate the world where her past
doesn’t define her

Fear keeps her from asking
the skeleton hands of the past in for tea

Can she ask them in
Can she ask them why they crawl up her spine
and try to pull her down the rope of the past
Can she ask them to release her – to set her free
Does she set them free with a thank you or a f**k you or both

She doesn’t want to fight them anymore ~ She’s tired
She wants to set them on a raft and send them down the river
free
She wants to set both self-doubt, and fear on a leaf
and watch them take flight with the wind
free
Or maybe put it all in a balloon and set it alight
to become stardust

And when that’s done
she’ll sit for a while
breathe, say thank you ~ and rest
free

©Alexis Rose

‘Tis the Season

For many ’tis the season
of
places to go
things to do
friends and family

For many ’tis the season
of
loneliness, painful memories
hunger, grief, and sadness

Breathe in joy, gratefulness, and thankfulness
breathe out compassion

Compassion for the many
who look at the calendar
and silently say Jan 2nd can not come soon enough

Joy for the many
who love everything about this season

Room to feel compassion, joy, and understanding
so the many, the few, and the silent
are seen, heard and understood

©Alexis Rose. Photo by Aaron Burden 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    

Until the Promise of Spring

The words dried up
and stuck deep in my throat
before they blew away

I watched them swirl
like the dry autumn leaves
before they were swept up
and dispersed by the winds

Maybe its the season
or a fluke
a phase, the moon
or a moment in time

I’m sure there’s more to say

But for now
the words lay quiet
silenced by blankets of snow
still, resting, waiting
until the sun shines warm with the promise of spring
©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    

My mind is tired of mindfulness

There was a moment a couple of weeks ago when I became extremely angry at mindfulness. Extreme stress had taken an emotional and physical toll on my body in a way that I hadn’t experienced before, alarming all the health-care professionals in my life, which in turn alarmed me. At first, I was concerned, scared and confused. Then I got angry!  I heard myself say sarcastically, “Well I’m glad I spent all these years in a mindfulness, yoga and meditation practice. Look where that got me!” Then I laughed at my venomous response to fear, and at the absurdity (and the truth) of those words.

I’ve had a very steady and intentional mindfulness practice for over twenty-five years. I started it years ago when I needed to change the way I was dealing with tremendous stress and hopelessness. I had two very young children at the time and needed to find a way to stay present when all I wanted to do was run away physically, emotionally, and mentally. Twenty-five years ago, mindfulness was not mainstream, but that didn’t matter to me. I quietly sought out teachers, read books, and practiced what I learned. It became a way of life for me and I found in the silence of my struggle it kept me steady and fairly calm.

It isn’t lost on me that I found myself weary and angry the other day towards the very thing that helped me find solace all those years ago.  Sometimes fear will do that.

Over the years as I’ve learned to live and find ways to manage the symptoms of complex PTSD, I found an important part of my healing was learning to live mindfully with intention. At times managing symptoms while living mindfully felt incongruent; a paradox. I wondered if my desire to live a life that was mindful and felt meaningful to me would always be shadowed by how I have to cope day-to-day with my PTSD? Could I find a middle ground? To my surprise, I could find a middle ground and I felt like I was able to carve out a purposeful life that I lived with intention.

Then I experienced what chronic, and pervasive stress can do to one’s health. It was more than just the platitude that stress does terrible things to your body. I am in the throes of living what unrelenting stress has done to my body. Some of it has resolved, but there is still some lingering damage. As I sit in silence and let the thoughts come, I realize that if I had not been practicing all these years, that I may not be here today, or I may be curled up in a corner rocking. I am both on the mend physically, and I’m definitely not in the corner.

I try to honor being awake. The connectedness we have to all things, the impermanence of the moments both perfect and non-perfect, the beauty, the wonder, and the power of being present. I believe that sometimes I will grow weary and tired, and maybe I’ll misdirect my fear towards the very thing that is helping me heal. Perhaps that is also part of the practice of mindfulness.

Photo by Ashley Batz 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      

 

The Brand New Day

I got trapped in the shadow-side
the clouds enveloping me
oozing fingers of the past
creeping along my spine

For months I couldn’t find
the brand new day ~ I drifted
feeling so alone and lonely
grasping white-knuckled
to the real-
to the right now truth of I am not alone

I knew that I was cared-for
as I wept tears of fear, pain & despair
even through the stony darkness, I felt the love
I could hear that I was missed and needed

In the dark, before the dawn, I hear
this will pass~it always does
the voice of a brand new day reassuring me
that it isn’t extinct

Today the dark shade went up, the sun pointed the way
bursting through the tangle of weeds
I entered the garden
which grew out of friendship
trust, and tender care

The delicate petals that hold my secrets
were gently and safely urging
let go, it’s over
breathe in
the colors of peace
It’s a brand new day

©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