The Juxtaposition

Breathe in
Breathe out
Surrender and release

Illness led me to rest
But I forgot to breathe

Triggers led me to
grounding techniques
But I forgot to exhale

Life situations led me
to worry
take action
then anxiously wait
exhausted, but whole

Wisdom reminded me this will pass
Just Breathe
Just Be

I
breathed in
breathed out
surrendered and released

The after comes as it always does

I rest confused by the intensity; the crescendo
of symptoms, of noise, and of fear

Fear of the illness
because I know it will strike again
often without warning

It lifts
leaving behind fogginess, relief
fatigue and acceptance

The mindfulness of acceptance
The exhaustion of acceptance

For me, living with PTSD
is the juxtaposition between
illness and health
danger and safety
surrender and release

©Alexis Rose, image source: Pexels.com

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 Going Down Easy

You can swarm my dreams
You can mimic those long ago days
by the sound of the wind.

The calendar can read the same date
making me look over my shoulder
in shades of black and white.

Year after Year
you can remind me that I never
received the memo that it’s over.
That I was released from twenty years of tyranny.

Go ahead and remind me that I’m still waiting.
That all the IQ points don’t matter
when it comes to stored fear in the body.

You hold me in a grip of fear for Now? Then? When?
You make me want to crawl out of
this anxiety-ridden body and mind
and watch it crumple on the floor.

Fighting the messages, programming designed
to keep the illness safely tucked in the cells
of my body and mind.
Alert, ready for the next time.

You’ll have your way with me.
You’ll make my life uncomfortable
for days and weeks at a time.

Pawing at, and choking as the skeleton hands of the past rise up;
Those bony cold hands gripping tight around my neck.

You make me question all reality
You, you nasty PTSD
You try, and sometimes succeed
at chipping away at my health for days and weeks at a time
leaving me wobbly, unsteady, and questioning.

But
As I’ve told you before, I’m telling you again
with the same resolve as the fiercest warrior
“Go ahead and try to swallow me, you nasty PTSD
I will never go down without a fight.”

The storm will pass
My illness and I will again find a way to cohabitate.
It will lurk quietly; resting, retreated
And I’ll find comfort in the knowledge that when it emerges again
and the cold begins to ooze up my spine
that I’ll never go down easy.

©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      

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      

 

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      

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      

Moon

I believe the moon holds the secrets
of the trees whispering in the night

When I was younger
I knew it held
wishes and dreams, terror and screams

At times I’d look away
when reminded that its fullness
provided excuses for others to inflict pain

As if that rock in the sky
could provide permission; proclaim an edict
that on these nights as the season’s turn…

Then I learned that if it held the secrets in the night
It also held the truth
It’s deep craters holding the truth
safe and protected

Today when I heard the pull of the tides
and felt the expansion of emotions
I looked up at the big rock in the sky
and said
the moon is just the moon, and it is beautiful!

©Alexis Rose, photographer: Shelley Bauer from the collaboration: Of Earth and Sky

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

 

 

Plasticine Arms and Butterfly Wings

Made of wire
covered by plasticine
she moves through the world
with awkward grace.

For decades, inside the sturdy sculpture
sits the child; head down, hands wrapped around her knees
she begins to awaken.

The scar tissue that solidly formed
and held her in place
weakens and gives way.

Lifting her head
she unfurls her arms from her knees
and sees that translucent butterfly wings
have taken the place of limbs
that atrophied long ago.

On wobbly legs, the child stands
and breaks all but one of the sinewy tendrils that were holding her down.

Moving to the edge of the wire
she calls and gently flaps her wings
capturing the attention of the figure
made of wire.

Plasticine arms instintively
touch the spot where the dormant child
lived in dark solitude.

Both fear, and confusion begin to emanate
off the plastic arms and beautiful wings.

A sense of hope further weakens the wire
fueling the possibility of
wholeness, worthiness, and love.

Can the two become one?
Can the wire and plastic melt
into the flesh of humanness?

The child held down by that
last remaining chain
quietly sighs.

But, something has changed
There is a shift
and both the fearless child butterfly
and the awkwardly graceful plasticine adult
know that it is only a matter of time
before they are transformed and become one.

Like a phoenix, they will sit upon their tiger
let the hot sun melt away even more of yesterday’s pain
and live harmoniously, seamlessly, together as one.
©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    

 

The Story We Tell Ourselves

Am I enough? Am I worthy? Do I contribute to some greater good?   What impossibly high standard do I still hold myself compared to what I would think reasonable of another person?

What story am I telling myself? 

Will people like me if they really know me? Would they run away? Am I too opinionated or am I not judgmental enough? Am I engaged or is it okay to rest, retreat and just be? 

What kind of please others, what will they think of me kind of expectations do I have of myself? 

Am I aging gracefully, or do my forehead wrinkles and sagging parts make me unattractive? Am I keeping healthy enough or still feeding into the impossible societal standards of weight, exercise, and beauty? 

What kind of pressure am I still putting on myself? 

Am I letting myself rest? Am I finding contentment in my everyday lived life, Am I acknowledging the love I have and the love I give? 

The answer is Yes…

Those moments when I allow the old tapes and self-judgment to seep in, what kind of story am I still telling myself? 

What kind of story are you telling yourself? 

words and image: 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    

Triggers and Tools

Living with PTSD often means understanding that there are triggers, triggers everywhere. Coping with PTSD often means learning the tools to handle the triggers. 

Before I was diagnosed I had no idea what was wrong with me. I was quirky to my friends and family, but inside I felt out of control and crazy. I could tell that the people I was with didn’t react the same way I did to certain situations, but I couldn’t understand why.

People can sometimes sit down at a restaurant and marvel over the choices on the menu. I become anxious and lose my appetite because the choices are overwhelming. Walks in the woods typically are filled with deep breathing wonderment at the smells and sounds of leaves rustling and crunching. I would cringe and keep looking over my shoulder because the crunching meant someone was running behind me to catch me. 

The sound of distant fireworks is often a sound and a sign of summer festivals and fun. I bristle and remember a time when I heard guns or bombs. The beautiful full moons shining brightly in the sky brings a sense of awe.  I often feel left-over dread and fear for the rituals the solstices brought in a place long ago, but not so far away. 

These are just a few triggers that I have to manage to live with PTSD. 

I used to flounder and drown in the vortex of my symptoms, but now, I have the tools to help me cope. I understand that for me, there are triggers, triggers everywhere and I know the reasons why. Knowing the truth and understanding my past has been a huge help in managing my mental health. 

I understand what flashbacks are, and while they are terribly uncomfortable, I have the tools to cope with the aftermath. I have the tools to work through panic, anxiety, and fear. 

I have a plethora of distress tolerance tools and I have to employ them daily. There are days it feels like my full-time job is consciously finding something to ease the distress, but it is time well spent. 

I understand that going to a restaurant, grocery store, library, or a place with a lot of stimulation, brings some responsibility on my part. Perhaps I can look at the menu online and find something to eat before we get there. I may need to put a book on reserve and pick it up vs. wandering the shelves of the library and becoming overwhelmed by the choices. I have to communicate before my anxiety ramps up,  but I also need to remember and acknowledge if all is well, giving myself a mental pat-on-the-back. 

One of the tools that I’m appreciating the most right now, is that I’ve learned to enjoy the moments when I’m not symptomatic. I’m still hyper-vigilant and my startle response is off the hook sometimes, but I’m not necessarily waiting, or looking for someone or something to happen, and I can calm myself a lot quicker with my learned tools. 

Reminding myself I’m safe, understanding that my intense symptoms caused by triggers are time-limited and that I’m okay helps me live with PTSD. The tools help me cope and accept PTSD and all the symptoms that come with it. 

I was surprisingly triggered twice this week by separate events. One was a smell, and the other was a phone call from a long-ago friend. Somedays coping with triggers (especially if they come out of the blue) is a tricky dance and I find myself stunned by the experience. I feel clumsy and inept, but with continued practice Im hoping for a symbiotic relationship between triggers, triggers everywhere and the tools to calm and soothe. 

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    

So I was at a coffee shop the other day…

Last Sunday morning, I arrived early to meet a friend at a quiet suburban coffee shop. As I stepped inside, I stood face-to-face with a large man standing there with a pistol strapped to his belt in plain sight. Besides the workers, he and I were the only ones in the shop at that moment.

The way he was wearing his shirt he was obviously trying to show off his weapon. He had on a button down shirt that could easily cover both sides of his belt. One side was down, the other side was tucked precariously so his gun was showing in plain sight.

Two things struck me right away. The first was, why is this man standing here at 8:30 am with a gun hanging off his belt, and two, is he going to shoot us?  I have seen plenty of plainclothes police officers with their department-issued weapons and badges on their belts in plain sight, and my instincts told me this person is not an officer.

We live in a conceal and carry state. I don’t personally know anyone who walks around with a gun, so I’m not sure what that looks like, nor do I know the laws, but I was sure concealed meant out of sight. But to be honest with you, I’m not positive what the word “conceal” means when it comes to having a gun in public.

I am very triggered by guns. I have gun violence in my past and the mere sight of them causes me to experience increased anxiety and fear. I stood there frozen for a few seconds, and locked eyes with the guy then scanned the exits. I also noticed the workers were all laughing, singing, talking and relaxed. Just a group of young people working their shift and bonding with each other. I was confused and stood rooted in place until he sat down in the corner by the window.

Because I look at the world through a trauma-related lens, I sometimes need to know what is socially acceptable behavior and what is just extreme distrust in strangers. I honestly didn’t know what to do. In my mind, this person was either a bad-guy and we were all about to get shot, or I was going to ask him if he was a cop and that’s why his weapon was showing.

Intuitively, I thought there could be other possibilities and before I confronted this stranger with a gun, I texted a friend who often suggests other ways for me to look at things (probably the way most people look at social situations) and has saved me a lot of embarrassment throughout the years.  I asked him why a person would be sitting here with a pistol hanging off his belt. He told me to be aware, but most likely it’s just some guy who wants to prove that he can carry a gun. When my friend arrived she looked over at him and made the same determination.

It never occurred to me that I suggest to my friend that we go to another coffee shop because I felt uncomfortable sitting in the same place as this person who was openly carrying a gun. The point is, it didn’t matter why he was there or why he choose to have his weapon out in the open. He has the right to carry it, and he was exercising that right. This is not about him or his right to carry a gun. This is about me, and my feelings of internal safety.

I used to put myself in unsafe situations because I knew how to navigate the behavior around certain kinds of people. I stopped doing that a long, long time ago. I have learned the difference between perceived safety and real safety.  But when I came face-to-face with that guy a few days ago, I immediately got triggered into old patterns of fight/flight/freeze and responded by staying in a place where I didn’t feel safe.

This has all been very interesting to me. I now have it firmly ingrained my mind that I have the right to leave any situation where I don’t feel safe. That is not unreasonable and I don’t have to justify it to anyone. I feel like this was an important lesson for me to learn, and I definitely learned it.

Some people may not have even noticed or cared that this person had a pistol hanging off his belt. I did, but that’s just me. I wonder, What would you do in the same situation?

 

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