Fireworks and PTSD

We are heading into the week of 4th of July.  The holiday lands on a Thursday this year. The firework store billboards are now up, looming huge on the side of the road, and the fireworks-stands seem to pop up out of nowhere in the parking lot of strip malls. Business must be pretty good, because already many, many people are shooting off fireworks and firecrackers at all hours of the day and night.

I understand the fun and enjoyment some people may have from setting off fireworks. Although there are many legal fireworks for sale in the state where I live, there is a never-ending supply of both legal and illegal varieties lying in wait for the excited revelers to buy just across our state-line. There you can purchase the big ones, the percussion of which shakes the houses in the neighborhood.

We have become accustomed to many of our local county fairs shooting off a fireworks display at the end of the night before they close down for the day. But over the last few years, people are shooting them off at random times during the day, and the night. Sometimes at midnight or later, we will hear a loud percussive blast coming from somewhere in the neighborhood. Just one, loud blast that jolts you from sleep, and can cause great distress for animals, and young children.

Unfortunately for some of our combat veterans, the random fireworks/firecrackers going off can be extremely anxiety provoking and be triggering. For some vets with post-traumatic stress disorder, that string of firecrackers may sound like automatic weapons fire, and the big explosions may sound like the IEDs that threatened so many of their lives.

Flashbacks are a horrible reliving of past traumatic events. When you are setting off these illegal fireworks, chances are there is someone hearing them who are struggling with their combat-related trauma.  If you are unable to resist the urge to set-off those huge explosions, then please consider driving out somewhere that is less populated.

For many dogs, the sounds reverberating off the other houses can often make them disoriented and traumatized.  Their stress level becomes unbearable and some of our animals run away or get lost. There are numerous stories about the many dogs winding up in shelters, especially during the days right before and after the 4th of July.

If this is happening in your neighborhood, try talking to your neighbors who are setting off the big ones, or write them a letter. Often people don’t know that they may be causing harming to some of our vets, scaring our little children, or making our animals shake with fear.

In many neighborhoods where I live, the 4th of July has gone from, the ooh and ahh of fireworks displays at the local parks, to almost every house having their own sunup to sundown fireworks/firecrackers celebrations.

People who suffer from PTSD, (whether it is combat-induced or trauma-related) will try to do what they can to take care of themselves over the next week. Typically, I would escape to the secluded boundary waters canoe area for four days, coming back after the 4th. This year, I need to stay home and care for my dog who is becoming more and more agoraphobic the past few weeks with the increasing lighting of firecrackers at all hours of the day and night.

Please be courteous when setting off your fireworks and firecrackers at your home. Be thoughtful not only of our veterans but also the small children, the elderly, pets, and others who may suffer from illness and startle easily.

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

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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      

Doubt

I see you standing, lurking behind the tree
I feel your presence, hear the shallow breaths
whispers that are prickly on my arm and neck hair

I smell the over-ripe coat and hat as you approach
and I think, it doesn’t seem that long ago that I last saw you
Then I hear that familiar knock on my self-esteem’s door

I would like to say that self-doubt comes uninvited
but that would not  be honest
most definitely unwanted
but I believe unconsciously invited

I open the door, and with its hat in hand
I invite doubt in for a cup of tea
and listen as it tells me what it thinks of me

Outwardly, to others, it appears ” I’m fine”
Outwardly, I look strong and determined

I am strong and determined

But as self-doubt sips its tea
it slyly presses play; spinning old tapes
that drone familiar chants of, “You’re not good enough
not worthy, not well enough, not smart enough, give up”
the smell of fear and rejection hang in the air between us
I feel a sinister dark-dread
creep up my spine trying to blacken and shred my self-esteem

The grasp of my thinly held mantra
that my inner beauty, strength, and talent
far outweigh any deficits that I have
begins to fade as self-doubt asks to extend tea time
into a meal and a nice nap

I’ve heard enough, felt enough, spiraled enough
I can’t entertain it any longer, I’m done
I clear the tea, thank it for its visit and show self-doubt the door

As soon as it’s gone the air is clear, fresh
and I take control of internal thoughts about myself
and how I’m navigating the world around me

I give myself room to breathe, change, and grow
emerging once again from the shadows of the shame of  PTSD

As this bout of self-doubt fades onto a distant shore
I understand that I may again, hear this familiar knock on my door
and when I do, I’ll invite it in for a cup of tea
and listen with a loving, compassionate ear

These days the visits are shorter, and farther between
but I know that although unwanted, self-doubt does not come uninvited

Artwork: 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      

 

I’m Not Flying Solo…

It may look as if I’m flying solo
but I’m remembering to lean
into the wind, find comfort
in the safety of the clouds
and soar into the shadow light of the sky. 

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©From the Collaboration, Of Earth and Sky, Alexis Rose, photographer, Shelley Bauer

Thank you for reading my books:  If I Could Tell You How It Feels,  and  Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph available in both ebook and paperback from Amazon.

My Unchained Hands

They took my innocence at such a young age that I dreamed of climbing an apple tree and live like the squirrels.

They took my safety at such a young age that I wanted to live alone by a lake surrounded by cliffs so no one could find me, ever!

They took my choice to have my own interests at such a young age that I cringed when it came time for learning.  

They took my esteem and infused it with shame, humiliation, and embarrassment at such a young age that I wanted to become, and often felt invisible.

They took all those innate things away at such a young age that my ability to have trust, faith, security, self-esteem, hope or “person-ness” was stripped away.

Until it wasn’t!

Now “They” don’t have power over me.

Yes, there are effects from the trauma, but I prevail.

I no longer dream of living like a squirrel hidden high in a tree.
I’m open and free, dreaming of the turquoise sea
wave after gentle wave rocking me to sleep.

The more I heal the happier I am.

And when I lose my footing and start to fall
I reach out and grip the strong hands
of the many who share their strength and love
with a “chin-up girlfriend, we’ll get through this!”

I believe it, I trust it, yes, trust.

My person-ness is in tack
never to be stripped away again.

“They” took me away, I took me back
and when I nod good-night to the stars
and wake to the brand new day
I look at my hands, unchained
and know that I have prevailed.

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©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

When Darkness Calls

When the darkness makes it hard to breathe
hope is the involuntary breath I take to live

The call of the loon reaches my heart
the ray’s of the sun heats up my soul
hold on, hold on, have hope, faith, and trust

Encountering obstacles
knowing it’s a moment, it’s sometimes
hold on, have faith, and trust

Digging into emotional reserves
my fascia tight, begging to be stretched
I pull and loosen, standing tall
holding on, trusting

The obstacle seems the same
I’ve been here before
I wonder, have we all?

Knowing that this is the path
It’s okay…it’s fleeting…it’s life…for now
holding hope, having faith, feeling unabashed trust

When the darkness cries at morning light
I close my eyes and deeply breathe
and gently say, hold on, hold on
breathe deep, hold on
©Alexis Rose, Photo by Michael Shannon 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