The gift of finding my voice; Happy 4th birthday Untangled!

Four years ago today, I anxiously waited for my memoir, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph to go live on Amazon. What a wonderful, unexpected and humbling four years this has been.

I took a huge risk by writing and publishing my memoir. 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.

In my book, I talk about my life and some of the trauma I experienced.  I write about how I repressed my memories and how I managed to raise a family and live a life where I mistakenly convinced myself, that my hidden past had no effect or impact on my life.

Although I don’t go into graphic detail of the trauma I survived, I do describe in detail the feelings that went along with being hurt, traumatized, abandoned, and neglected. I don’t shy away from feeling words such as fear, emptiness, loneliness, embarrassment, shame, etc.  One of the most humbling gifts I experience from Untangled is when people read the book, and they find it is relatable. The events that happened to me may not be relatable, but the effects, the feelings, the sense of no-self is something that a lot of people experience, or they know and love someone who has experienced those things.

We all have feelings, but we may not all be able to articulate them, we may doubt or judge our feelings, or experience that lonely/isolated feeling that no one else could possibly understand this kind of emotional pain. Up until the past four years, I lived with that terrible ache of aloneness. Now, because I’ve connected with so many survivors, I know that I am not alone. We are not alone!

Writing gave me the courage I needed to address the pain I was feeling. I would write even when I thought I had nothing to write about. I began to notice that I was able to write down what I couldn’t say aloud.  I thought it was providing distance from having to use my voice, but the reality was that writing was giving me the confidence to speak, to no longer hide in the shadows. Writing taught me to use my voice.

I discovered that writing was the gift that gave me a voice

Once I emerged from the shadow of silence, I found I became passionate about bringing awareness to help end the stigma of living with PTSD. I needed to find ways to best channel that passion. I had to decide how loud I wanted the volume of my voice to be when I write, do presentations, or speak one-on-one with survivors.

I’m comfortable with the steady quietness of my voice right now.  I feel that my low, steady volume is what suits me the best. I’m a believer that a ripple is what affects change. I want to continue to be a ripple. I want to grow and change with the opportunities that are presented to me, or that I seek out. I’m interested in exploring new ways to affect change, including becoming more involved with peer-to-peer support for trauma survivors.

I have experienced innumerable gifts since Untangled was published fours years ago. The gift of writing, the gift of remembering, the gift of a congruent past, the gift of trying to remove the stigma of living with an illness. I wouldn’t have started writing a blog if I hadn’t written my memoir. Never, in my wildest dreams could I imagine the world of connection that awaited me when I wrote my first post. Not only have I connected with survivors and mental health professionals, but I also have connected with poets, authors, thinkers, travelers, photographers, and fun-loving lets blog for the heck of it people all over the world. I’m a better person because of all these connections. There are some people I’ve met that have changed my life. I’m grateful every day for my blog.

I’ve been hurt, I’ve been threatened, I’ve been abandoned, but I wasn’t going to let the effects of what happened to me keep me from trying to have the life I wanted. I know what my goals are…to live with my past, live in the truth, and recognize and relish in the feelings of internal contentment. I didn’t realize that sharing my story with so many people would propel the trajectory of my healing in such a profound and sometimes ineffable way. Never does a day go by that I’m not grateful for the experience.

Happy 4th birthday, and thank you for reading, Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

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

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My PTSD – A Poem

Like so many others who live with PTSD or other chronic illness, people often ask me, “What does it feel like?”

My PTSD 

It doesn’t matter if it’s cold, hot, sunny, snowing  or raining

There is no telling when it’s going to strike.

Are they alive or dead?

Is that pain real or echoes from pain long ago that

Resurface with a memory?

It’s like being held hostage by your mind

Thinking that today would be the day I am free.

I look like everyone else

I know the difference between right and wrong.

Yet in my head, I sometimes can’t remember

The last ten minutes of my life, or what day, year or time it is.

Are those smells real or is that a smell from a place and time

when I was being held against my will.

Am I really hearing the sounds of helicopters, planes, cicadas or birds

Or it that the sound coming from a place that no longer exists and

Should never be talked about?

I want so much to be like everyone else.

So I will keep pulling myself up the rope,

Out of the clutches of PTSD and all the skeleton hands of the past that

Keep trying to pull me down.

I am like everyone else only my job is to live so I can live.

For now, that’s all I can ask of myself if I am going to have a future.

my PTSD

©Alexis Rose, 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    

 

Transience

The past 3 1/2 years of blogging have been wonderful! I never imagined myself as a blogger. In fact, when I first began to blog I really thought blogging was largely about sharing recipes or travel pictures for family and friends. Wow, I was so wrong!  I absolutely enjoy bloggers who share recipes and travel adventures. I look forward to reading their posts and make a point to follow as many as I can. But the range of bloggers and endless topics is an amazing peek into worlds and connections that are priceless.

I didn’t think I would find myself in the niche of a mental health blogger. Maybe it’s not really a niche. Maybe my posts just fall into that category because, besides my poetry, that’s the part of my life I write about; I have the most passion to write about. The truth is, that the community here on WordPress has become a part of my healing journey.

Writing and connecting with so many other bloggers from around the world has opened my eyes to something I feel I know for sure: We want to feel happiness, we want to be seen, and we want to be heard. Whatever that looks like or feels like is completely individualized.

We have a community.  It’s open and it grows and it is inclusive. The country where we write from, the time of day or night, the topics from just a hello, to deep thoughts and feelings are welcome. People are interesting…we may not think we are, but we are! We are also transient.

I found myself thinking about that transience a lot the past few days. We weave in and out of each other’s lives by virtue of a post. We cheer each other’s victory’s, good recipes, beautiful pictures, job searches, and day-to-day musings. We provide support for our health issues, our fears, our struggles, and our disappointments. We write opinions and comments, and “likes’ when we want to make sure that someone knows that they have been seen and heard.

It doesn’t really matter to me if we have been following each other for three years or three days, I find I’m invested. I have a full life outside of blogging, and I’m also a blogger. If I didn’t find a connection, I wouldn’t be doing this. I take the time to read through the posts, as I hope people take the time to read through mine. Sometimes we find a solid connection, sometimes it’s fleeting, sometimes it’s just a respectful read.

I understand the transience of social media and blogging. I understand the impermanence of people coming in and out of our lives. Some of them become our teachers, some of them become cautionary tales, some of them we find are our neighbors and we become friends. It’s a strange and wonderful world.

As I find myself thinking the last few days of bloggers who have passed away or those who have simply moved on to other things in their lives, or the ones who have cried out for help and went silent, I feel a sense of peace. For a moment in time, we have provided each other (whether your following is 1 or 10,000) with a way to be seen, be heard, and to connect.

Thank You to all who take the time to follow me!

Photo by Slava Bowman 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 Quiet Descent to Tender Ground

Eight years of muscle straining, oxygen deprived, mind exploding, grief-laden work to manage the grip of the skeleton hands of the past.

The rocky terrain and deep crevasses that held the traps of programmed words ready to pull me down into oblivion were navigated at a snail’s pace of impatient mindfulness.

Deafening winds and echoes of the past kept knocking me down, pushing me sideways, making it hard to grip the rope.

After every storm passed
I took the time to rest in the snow caves of acceptance.

So many times, wanting to give up, give in to the beast of symptoms.
But trusting, knowing, that my Sherpa would guide me through the sharpest peaks and deepest valleys.

Summiting many times, thinking there were no more hidden mountains.
Then catching glimpse of the last, gnarly climb looming just around the bend.

Everything inside me screams, “No, leave it!”
I intuitively understood that climbing all but that last steep incline would leave me stuck, and breathless. Allowing space for the blinders to slowly creep back into place.

I push through. One last climb to release the locked, cold grip of the past.

Then quietly, I make a gentle descent.
The thick, foreboding, dangerously tricky mountain range emerging steadfastly behind me.

Scar tissue replaces open wounds.
I work to try and accept my abilities in the wake of my past.

A sense of accomplishment for not giving in to the siren call of hopelessness fills my fragile, resiliently strong whole self.

Committed to finishing that arduous climb and having trust in a committed therapist gave way to a quiet, gentle descent.

With calloused feet on the tender ground
I exhale gratitude every day.

Today, with the mountain range in the distance
I continue to heal on flat land with a warrior tiger as my teacher.

The quiet descent to tender ground holds fast and strong with truth,
with acceptance, and unwavering commitment to living in the light even on the darkest days.


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

©words and photo: Alexis Rose

“Wow, I had No idea!”

I spent a lovely evening with a couple of friends who I see, maybe, once every 5 or 6 months. The last time the three of us got together was the beginning of August. Our lives are very different, our day-to-day support system is separate, and we don’t stay in touch unless one of us sends out an email suggesting we gather for dinner and a chat.

Because we hadn’t seen each other for so long we spent the first two hours just catching up on what’s been happening. There has been illness, surgery’s, births, deaths, sold homes, new homes, and some other big life events to catch up on. Even though we are all probably FB friends, none of us really use social media for anything except to post occasional pictures of our families.

As we were catching up, there was a lot of exclamations of:

Wow, I had No idea!

I have written about friendship in the past. It’s a very interesting topic to me. The past few days, as I’ve been reflecting on the tumultuous year I’ve had, and the year of transition and change for many people I know, I found myself again re-visiting the topic.

When I think of friendships, I ponder four questions: What is friendship? How do friendships endure? What’s the difference between an acquaintance and a friend? And how much do we need to protect our hearts from the risks of true friendship?

The last ten years as I have been healing, growing, and changing, I have had to ponder the question of friendship more than once. Sometimes, I was trying to discern who was no longer healthy for me. I can be attracted to people who feed my tendency to be taken advantage of, or who belittle me. I know how to deal with that because of the way I grew up, so I’ve had to learn to catch myself when falling into that kind of relationship.  Other times, I was un-friended by those couldn’t deal with the fact that I was suffering from PTSD. They just couldn’t handle it.

When those relationships ended I felt a sense of loss, but I also knew the decision was a healthy one. I don’t do a lot of blaming on either side, because I understand that these things sometimes happen.

When I really love someone as a friend and we become part of each other’s inner-circle, I do not protect my heart. I believe if  I feel I have to protect my heart, that means I’m not giving freely of myself. When I commit to a friendship, I share my thoughts, hopes, desires, and (most) secrets without reservation. My friendships are based on honesty. My friends and I know the difference between telling each other what we need to hear rather than saying what we want to hear.

I also believe that a healthy friendship is symmetrical. In other words, both parties are equally committed to the relationship. I’m committed to supporting and encouraging my friends and being there as they grow and change. I’m committed to seeing them through the minutiae of life. And hopefully, I can do that without judgment. The symmetry is, I know my friends will do the same for me. That doesn’t mean that there are times when people need time, and space because of life circumstances, ill health, or whatever life happens to bring, but the underlying commitment is never wavering, no matter how much time or distance passes between us.

My circle of friends is small, which I love. I thrive on more intimate relationships with a deep emotional connection.  I may not see one friend for years, some I see once a month, some weekly, some I communicate via text several times a week. It doesn’t matter how often we see each other, as we have unbreakable loyalty and complete trust in each other.

There are some people in my lives who are more like acquaintances rather than friends. These are people that I sometimes meet for a meal or activities. They may be a constant person in my life, but I keep them at arm’s length. My conversation may be little more than scratching the surface, the idea of sharing something intensely personal causes me some anxiety, and I typically never bring up the fact that I struggle with PTSD.

Even though I know these people are going to be in and out of my life, they are still just as precious to me. Besides just hanging out and having fun, they have taught me quite a few lessons along the way. My acquaintances tend to look and react to the world through a different lens. I like that, it’s interesting.

As I pondered the way I interacted with people in the past, I would say, I behaved more like an acquaintance than a friend. I shut myself off from showing any feeling and wouldn’t let anyone get close to me. I was always the smiling, tell me anything, kind of friend who had no needs, just let me be there for You.  I have learned to show my vulnerability, and have learned to set healthy boundaries most of the time.

I’m going to gather with another group of acquaintances this evening. Some of these people I haven’t seen or talked to in over a year. That’s okay, it will be a pleasant evening with engaging conversation, and most probably a lot of exclaiming, “Wow, I had no idea!”

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

My Tender Circadian Rhythm

My tender circadian rhythm
does not like to Fall back
or Spring forward.
It feels confused and lost
in the fog.
My usual disturbed and restless
sleep now has an assistant of
early a.m. risings; 3,4,5,6
oh, forget it, I’ll just get up!
I know it’s just for a few days
and mine is not the only complaint.
But it’s 3 a.m. and I’m wide awake
feeling that irritability song rising
to a crescendo.
I’ll stumble as I wait for my
tender circadian rhythm to remember
that it’s all okay
and part of this is
the November gray.

©Alexis Rose, image source Pinterest, visualizeuscom

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

A Reverse Poem

I wrote a poem
It was full of sadness
fear, frustration, and pain.
I couched it with flowery words
thinking it would soften the sting.

It didn’t!

I read that same poem
Only this time
I read it from
your perspective
as if it was You
who had written
the words on that page
as a message to me.

It was full of sadness
fear, frustration, and pain.
The flowery words
couldn’t hide the loneliness.
The need to be seen and heard.

A reverse poem.

A way to see that what is true for one
is very often true for another.

New perspectives that bring acceptance
that we cannot change another person
all we can do is change ourselves.

Be the best self we can be.

Taking a leap of faith that
if I ever write another poem
that can be read in reverse
that our voices will be
united in prose
celebrating contentment
respect, and a restful peace.

I can’t say for sure
but if I was to guess
I would say that I just wrote another reverse poem.

©Alexis Rose, Photo by Annie Spratt 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