The Dirt Underneath My Nails

The bright flowing energy of life
that courses through
those oft talked about chakras
aligning my body, mind, and soul
sometimes feel clogged.

They say it’s normal
to have places that are stuck.
Let’s start there!
Let’s open it up so you can breathe, unfold, flow, feel whole.

But it’s clogged…with dirt.

Those life-force channels
sometimes get mired in the sludge of messages and beliefs
from a long ago past.
Enmeshed in the lies that were told to my soul.

The truth of their lies evidenced in the
dirt underneath my nails.

Wait; This is a triggering time of year
I’m being pulled into a vortex of memory and shame.
Name it
Feel it
Change the narrative
Get help!

My life-force begins to circulate again
with bright colors and free-flowing qi
I feel the power of being in the now ~
the wind, sun, heat and throat clearing water.

Looking down, scanning, grounding
I see the dirt of the earth underneath my nails
and go and wash my hands.
©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      

 

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The Shadow-Side

The shadow cocoons us
with the promise
of flat light and invisible details.

Sometimes looming ahead
sidled up next to us, stretching behind
living inside us all; The Shadow-side

It’s not necessarily a dark, dank
scary place to be ignored.
It is simply the Yin to our Yang.

A place where peace is felt from
the adventures of yesterdays
or a spark is ignited
for the risks of tomorrows.

The whispers of things we think
we don’t want to do or hear.
Patiently waiting for the light
so we can hear the things we need to know.

It can cloak us in a protective incubator
or feel as if it will swallow us
in the depths of grief, and despair.

Bending, changing, pulling, letting go, dissipating.
Its fluidity is as impermanent as all the other quirks
and talents that make up the whole of who we are.

We can learn to befriend, listen and hear
the messages whispered from our shadow-side.
Listen
Can you hear?
It’s time to turn your face towards the sun.

©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      

 

 

Okay Universe, I’m listening!

It’s finally Spring and gorgeous where I live. We endured a brutal winter, and a snowstorm in April, but now there is a definite shift and it’s Spring. Yesterday, to celebrate the warmth, I took my dog for a car ride.  Besides noticing all the other dogs smiling with their heads hanging out of their car windows, I took note of all the people out for a walk. As I passed a certain intersection I said aloud, “I hope you’re doing okay!” It was a shout-out to someone I haven’t consciously thought about in quite some time. He is always in my heart, but I haven’t seen or talked to him in over ten years.

This morning, I bounded out of bed and was compelled to go for a walk. Right now, right then, no waiting until after morning coffee or breakfast, I just needed to go for a walk. I grabbed the dog and out the door, we went. As we were rounding the corner a truck stopped on the side of the road. A man got out, and said, “Alexis, is that you?” I was stunned! The person who got out of the truck was the good Samaritan who helped my daughter after she was hit by a car while crossing the street eleven years ago. The person I was thinking about yesterday, the one I sent out the message of,  “I hope you’re doing okay.”

Was this just a bizarre coincidence? Maybe! We both live in the same city so perhaps it was bound to happen. But it hadn’t happened in all these years until this morning.

I’ve had a trying and unsettling two weeks. Feelings and emotions that I had continued to minimize throughout my healing process have found their way to the surface leaving me with a choice. Continue to repress, or begin to honor what is bubbling to the surface. It may sound like an easy decision, but it wasn’t for me.

I knew I wouldn’t be retraumatizing myself or opening old wounds, but I would be revisiting some feelings and emotions at a much deeper level. That’s not a comfortable exercise. The result is more healing, but it’s never easy for me to work through the truth of my past.

Part of healing from PTSD is being able to tell your story as much as you need to and want too. That takes a tremendous amount of trust in the person you are talking too. I have a lot of attachment issues as a result of my trauma. Trust is hard; even with a wonderful therapist.

I kept questioning, why is this happening now? Why am I having these feelings? Why do I want to share my story? I already shared it, processed it, shared it again and processed more. Then I stopped.

I’ve written a couple of posts lately, wondering if  I was shaming myself into silence again. My therapist kept reassuring me that it’s okay. I’ll know if and when I need to go deeper. I didn’t think I would ever want to go deeper. But apparently, my mind and body are ready. My PTSD symptoms have left me feeling terrible and I don’t want to feel this way anymore.

The other day, my therapist asked me, “do you trust me?” I didn’t even hesitate, I answered, “Yes, yes I completely trust you.” She then said,” I was safe, she was safe, the people I know and love are safe, and that it’s okay.”  I believe her. I know the nature of PTSD. Sometimes symptoms will be greater than other times. But, I also know that some of my symptoms will lessen if I do a little more work.

I don’t know why now is the time to work on these emotions and beliefs. But, I do know this: When my daughter got hit by the car, that was the “event” that broke the illusion that I could control my snow-globe world I had created. When I hung up the phone after talking to her in the ambulance, that is when I heard the sound of glass breaking in my head and had the most intense flashback of myself sitting alone at a tiny airport. When I got to the hospital 20 minutes later to be with my daughter, I met the person who ran across four lanes of traffic to help her. When my daughter recovered from her injuries that is when I could no longer repress my past and I began to heal. I have healed a lot, and I live the best life I can with complex PTSD. Yet, some things are bubbling to the surface.

Maybe the why now doesn’t matter. Maybe what matters, is that its time. My body, mind, and spirit are telling me that it will be okay.  That all conspiring universe knew ten years ago, that I was ready and it was time to begin to heal, and I trust that it knows now.

So, Okay Universe, I’m listening!

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

Even With The Daisy’s and Weeds, It’s Still My Life

I went to the doctor the other day because I was hoping she would tell me I was suffering from some sort of vitamin deficiency or a thyroid problem. I made the appointment after some revelations I had in therapy the past few weeks. Not new memories, just a new awareness of how much I minimized, squashed down and refused to process some pretty epic feelings.  In a vague attempt to sidestep working through this, and to find a comfortable state denial, I went to the doctor wanting to hear I would feel better with a regimen of vitamins.

My doctor is fabulous. I’m extremely lucky to have a medical doctor and a therapist who understand the nuances of PTSD. She listened calmly as I anxiously rattled off all the reasons I thought I was sick. She agreed that it’s better to come in and make sure everything is okay, but she really didn’t think anything was wrong. To be sure, she ran the blood tests anyway. Good news, everything came back normal. All my numbers were nicely in the middle range. That was actually a huge relief, although there was a tiny part of me, that wished that everything I was feeling could be resolved with a boost of vitamins each morning.

There is a common expression that explains what it’s like to live with PTSD.  “PTSD: It’s not the person refusing to let go of the past, but the past refusing to let go of the person.”

One of the questions that people often ask is, “Are you sure you want to remember your past?” Or a common statement is, “Just let the past go.” Both of these are said and/or asked without malice.  I understand both the question and the statement. Most trauma survivors understand the intention behind these statements. They are meant to protect the person from suffering and bad memories which can be re-traumatizing. Also to remind survivors that it is okay to live in the present moment.

Going through trauma therapy, we work very hard to understand our symptoms so we can live in the present. We often have safety plans, distress tolerance tools, and grounding techniques that bring us back to the here-and-now. We learn to hear the birds singing, children playing, feel our feet on the ground, and though we may not feel safe, we begin to understand that we are safe, and no one can hurt us (like that) again.

We are empowered by the fact that we are survivors and celebrate resilience. And yet, with all that knowledge, and practice, and bringing ourselves back to the present moment, PTSD has skeleton hands that grab you and pull you into the past. It is the nature of the illness.

When I’m asked, “Are you sure you want to remember your past?” I say to myself, and sometimes to the person (depending on my mood), “How would you feel if you had big swatches of your life missing?” I’m not talking about little memories of places, or people that come and go, I’m talking sometimes years and years, blacked out. Imagine the feeling of knowing that you are alive because you are here, but you have no real congruent memories to make sense of yourself, your wholeness as a person. And, often when you do have flashes of the past, your emotions,  feelings, and a very protective mind stop you from remembering.

My mind wouldn’t let me repress my memories any longer. I knew intuitively that I needed to know my past. I needed a timeline of my life. I didn’t want darkness any longer. I wanted to live, not just survive.  I understood the truth would be painful. Traumatic memories are painful. But for me, in order to get some control over some of my most severe symptoms I needed to uncover my past, my truth.

It was hard, excruciatingly painful at times, but worth it! I still have symptoms, but now I can name them. And it turns out that I also have some feelings that I wasn’t ready to process before now. I understand where they come from, and why they are happening. I feel confident in the tools I’ve acquired and know I will be able to move through the current waves.

But in all honesty,  I took some time after I went to the doctor and asked myself, “Are You sure you want to delve into these feelings and emotions?  To poke around healing the inner child? And I say back, to myself with  love and affection (and a dash of denial), “Yes, I do want to do this work, and remember, because, Whether it Daisy’s or Weeds it’s still my life.”

 

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

Hope from the Flowers

Buried
feeling as if I’m suffocating
thinking that it’s just a season
it’s long, it’s hard
but time-limited, like the seasons.

On guard from the howling, swirling wind
sounding like echos of the past
sinister laughs
then silence
dark, deep silence.

It could be worse
It’s only weather…weather the storm
I’ll forget the destruction
bury it deep, make it smaller
Until I discover it wasn’t
a storm that passed
it was me!

Invisible to the pain
the ruination of a person
a body, mind, soul
a girl, a woman
who wasn’t allowed to own her body.

Anxious, panicked
crying to myself, and asking
What do I do?
Why won’t this go away?
Why must the skeleton hands of the past
grab me and keep trying to pull me down?

Suddenly; it’s quiet
a lull in the blizzard winds
a pause in the crackling trees.

Looking down I see
bits of green making their way
through the snow.

The crocus and tulips
know to bloom again
they are determined to ignore
the storms, the cold, the wind
It is their purpose to bloom and grow.

I realize that I can take this lesson from the flowers.

I can persevere and grow
to speak, and speak again
to feel
to heal
to breathe in the gift, this gift of hope
hope from the flowers.

©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      

Metamorphosis of a Healing Journey

The topic of transformation, metamorphosis, growth, change, (insert whatever word works for your personal journey) has been front and center for me lately. Most of us want to grow and change.  It’s hard; no one said it was going to be easy. But rarely do people talk about the absolute pain one feels when emotional wounds get ripped open in order to process, heal and grow.

It’s a lonely journey because no one else can go inside of you and heal those wounds or take away the rawness. You have to be the one to walk through it.

However, it certainly doesn’t have to be an “alone” journey. We can find therapists, support groups, friends, family, books, even blogs so we are surrounded by the support we need. In fact, I think it’s imperative to find people who absolutely “get it” and can relate with empathy when we are in the process of transforming, and becoming the person we want to be.

It doesn’t have to be a shattered past that motivates a person to grow and change. Growth and change are important to continue to do for the rest of our lives. Some people may find themselves at a spiritual crossroads, others may find themselves feeling empty after dedicating years to a career, and some people are simply unable to feel content, knowing that there is some road not yet taken that is calling for them to explore. Whatever the motivation, the transformation to a new way of being from the inside can be painful and sometimes scary.

I have said to a few people, that I believe if we could interview a caterpillar as they transform into a butterfly and ask them, how it feels, they would tell us it is excruciatingly painful. They are completely changing from the inside out. The end result is beautiful; Butterflies are beautiful!

I knew what I had to do in order to heal the wounds of my past. I knew what I wanted my internal life to look like, and I made a commitment to myself that I was going to do whatever it took to heal; continue healing. But I wasn’t prepared for the loneliness of the journey. Now I understand that without self-compassion, acceptance, and support it would be impossible to continue healing and growing.

When I feel that pain of loneliness, I remember why I chose to face the past, process what happened, understand my PTSD, find others who are also on a healing journey, and remind myself, the metamorphosis of a personal legend begins when you accept who you were, who you are now, and who you will be.

alexis-rose-1

Image from the collaboration: Of Earth and Sky by 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      

You’ll know when it’s time to share your story

So much has changed since my memoir was published nearly four years ago. Before I wrote the book, my entire life was focused on keeping quiet, not telling, protecting those I loved, or who loved me. It took me a long time to understand that by keeping quiet, I was actually protecting the people who hurt me in my life. Writing Untangled was a way to announce in a really big way, that I will not keep quiet any longer.

I have been in a poetic place with my writing lately. It’s been easier for me to express myself in poetry. It’s a way to get to the meat of my feelings. I absolutely love the creativity of poetry. It feeds my soul, it takes me to places where I say to myself, “If I could paint a picture, this is what it would look like.”

The other day someone said to me, “I like your writing because it comes from an emotional place, it’s about the feelings. That is exactly how I would describe my style of writing and speaking. I know that feelings are universal and relatable.

When I have speaking engagements, I focus on feelings, and how I’ve learned to live a purposeful life while struggling with PTSD. But, aside from my typical sentence of, “I’m a survivor of unimaginable abuse and neglect for the first 20 years of my life, followed by threats to stay silent for the next 17 years,” I have not shared much of my story while speaking in public.

I’m not ashamed of my past. I’m not ashamed of my story. It is the truth of what happened in my life, to me. I didn’t choose it; the people in my life made those choices to traumatize me. What I believed was, if I shared my story, maybe the audience would compare their trauma to mine. I was fearful that they would minimize what happened to them and how the effects of their trauma impacted their lives.  If I kept the conversation about feelings, emotions, and symptoms then survivors of trauma could relate to myself and each other. 

I’m real and honest when it comes to sharing what it’s like to live with my symptoms and the effects of my trauma, but that comes without much back-story. My PTSD is from prolonged and pervasive trauma. That’s as deep I get when doing presentations.

Recently, I began to ask myself, am I shaming myself back into silence because I feel my story is so unrelatable? Am I sharing enough of myself?

A few weeks ago, I heard a speaker at my son’s school talk to the kids about the choices he made in his life. His past was the stuff of movies.  I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, he’s so resilient and brave.” The audience was listening with respect. I keep in perspective that there may have been plenty of times in that speaker’s life where people have doubted his story. People have openly disbelieved me.

Tomorrow, I have an amazing opportunity to speak to a group at EmpowerSurvivors which is a peer-led organization of healing support and education for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and trauma. Elizabeth Sullivan, founder of the organization came to hear me speak to a college class a couple of weeks ago. At the end of my talk, the instructor asked Elizabeth if she would be willing to tell the class about her organization. With no notice, and nothing prepared Elizabeth got up, shared her personal story and told the class why she founded EmpowerSurvivors.  Just like the speaker at my son’s school, I had tremendous respect for her resilience and bravery, and for sharing her story to this large group of people.

Then it hit me! I’m in a place where I am ready to share. I’m ready to be vulnerable and celebrate my bravery and resilience. I know that my presentations, interviews, and events will be a lot richer if  I’m not inadvertently shaming myself into silence. I’m grateful for all the healing I’ve done. It’s enabled me to share with others that a person can not only survive, but thrive in spite of a horrific past, and  PTSD.  I instinctively know that tomorrow as I prepare to speak with a group of survivors that it’s time to share my story.

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