Bringing Peace to Anxiety

After a long break in writing this blog I began to wonder why am I writing this or who am I writing it for. I started writing this to tell some of my stories and to just feel like maybe there was someone out there that this could help. Maybe there was someone who just needed to know that they were not alone in their suffering and healing. I never intended this to be a forum on my trauma. What I really wanted was to tell my story in small chunks and talk about how I was moving through the process so that maybe someone else would not feel alone. I hope that in some small measure I have done that. Thanks for reading.

Since the last time I went to the hospital my anxiety level has increased. I was very blessed with caretakers who tried to make sure that through all of the procedures I felt safe. I knew that I was safe. Feeling safe when many of the practices in the hospital trigger traumatic memories of the torture that I endured is different.

For one of the procedures they needed to anesthetize me and put very deep under. I was terrified at the thought of not having any conscious control of my body. The doctors let me hold the mask over my face and I was in control for as much as I was able to be. As I was coming out of the anesthesia I could hear myself talking. Some of the things I said were trauma stories that I have told no one. That was very disconcerting.

Through the hospital stay I did my meditation everyday. It was sometimes for only five minutes. There were a few times that I was able to meditate for longer periods of time. It is very hard to focus on the breathing when you are in the middle of panic and anxiety so I often used guided meditation. When the meditation did not work I tried to listen to a piece of classical music that seems to work as though it is magic for my anxiety. I have this particular piece in three or four variations. I put them all onto a playlist and hit repeat. With ear buds in I was able to fall a sleep and rest for a few hours.

Flashbacks and dissociation happen very seldom these days. I have been working for a long time to process through a lot of the trauma. Years and Years of working through the trauma. And yet there still seems so much still to work through. I have found that the old adage that for every bad person there are hundreds of good people you can turn toward to help and to heal.

The anxiety seems to be harder to face and to work through. And it always scares me because my first thought is that my heart is misbehaving again. I do a body check of where is the pain. When I slow down long enough to actually put my hands over the painful spots it is never my heart. I can then stop and breathe and slow things down and put them into perspective. This means slowly reviewing what just happened in the last half hour. Sometimes there is a delay on the anxiety and the cause could have been anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour before. Finding the trigger and working forward to a better place helps.

The meditation seems to be the best course for me at this time. Though I now have to augment the meditation with medication to get me to a point that the meditation helps. Primarily I use the Calm.com app for meditation. It has soothing sounds as well as a timer or a peaceful voice that leads the meditation for a set length of time. Lately I have been taking advantage of the gratefulness.org resources. What ever format the meditation comes in I hope that it helps.

https://www.calm.com/

http://gratefulness.org/resource/great-bell-chant/

Finding Forgiveness in the Power of Kindness

I attended a self-care workshop last summer. One of the books that the presenter suggested was The Power of Kindness by Piero Ferrucci. I dutifully found the book and purchased it. I put it on my shelf and thought about reading it. This is the way it goes with a lot of books with me. I buy it and put it on my shelf, fully intending to read it. I have an entire shelf of books I fully intend to read.

I started a book challenge for myself this year. 100 books to be read this year. Of that 100 books 60 of those are fiction, 25 are non fiction, and 15 are spiritually inspiring. The Power of Kindness got put onto the shelf of books I could read for the challenge. Which is how I finally started to read it.

I have struggled with a huge burden for many years. I may not be very judgemental but I do seem to hold on to resentment and anger. There are a number of instances in my life where I have withheld forgiveness. As I sat reading the section on forgiveness I realized how very much I have held on to. The hardest thing for me to forgive has been betrayal. Betrayal can take many forms. But the hardest one is when I give friendship and have that person turn on me or betray my confidence. As well as the feelings of betrayal that come from the abuse.

Ferrucci points out that forgiveness can make us feel very vulnerable because we are letting go of the anger or resentment that has become part of our identity. As I move through and heal so much of the trauma damage I noticed that I had a bag hidden in the corner. Something that I carry around with me everyday. This very heavy bag I noticed was filled with all the hurt, anger, resentment and withheld forgiveness. In some cases it was anger over something that I should have let go of a long time ago.

I will say that having a life changing experience with an illness helps to put things into perspective much more quickly than I had previously been able. I began to open the bag and take things out and examine them one at a time. Some of the things I took out of the bag made me wonder what I had thought putting them in there in the first place. Others I had to put to one side because they needed a little more effort and work to release.

As I lightened the bag I felt lighter. The less things that I had to worry about maintaining. I also realized that letting them go did not mean that I in any way opened myself up to have a repeat occurrence. I am very mindful of what and who I trust or let into my life. But the events of the past don’t need to weigh me down in the present. Forgiveness can be a slow process or it can happen quickly.

The thing that I learned from reading and then applying it to my own life is that forgiving and letting go empowers me. And ultimately it does not have any effect on the person I am forgiving but has huge life altering changes for me.

Pain Box

Pain Box: a place where you put pain when you are not in a place or position to be able to allow others know that you are experiencing pain.

When I was younger and having to go from day to day with varying amounts of pain depending on the level of abuse, I developed a pain box. It was a place in my mind that I could put the pain so that I could get through the day. It made it possible to walk on feet that had been battered and dealing with bruises that were developing in places people could not see.

That was a long time ago and I don’t often have a need to use my pain box the way I sis before. Since I got sick I have rediscovered it. While I was in the hospital I was offered various medication for the pain I was in. Sometimes I would take it and sometimes I wouldn’t. I am not a martyr I just don’t like taking pills. I also had begun to use my pain box again.

Now that I am home and recovering for what seems like an eternity, apparently you cannot hurry your heart to heal, I sometimes need to use the box. Mostly because I don’t have anything that I can take for the pain I am feeling. The box also makes it easier for me to navigate the world right now and get things done.

While I spend so much time hiding pain, whether it is psychological, emotional, or physical I forget that I don’t always have to hide. I am out of practice showing when things hurt. Because of this I don’t know if I am showing too much or not enough. I have always envied people who can show how they are feeling. When I do it seems as though all the pain I have dammed up behind my box comes out at the same time. It is either feast or famine.

I have always been grateful to my friends who have seen me flood with pain and stayed with me till the flood had past. These same friends are still with me, still stalwart and still brave enough to ask how I am doing and expect a real answer.

Through mindfulness meditation practice, which I am still trying to get in the habit of, I have been able to try to move beyond my box. There are a lot of things that I am learning to not put in the box, but to actually allow myself to feel and allow others to see. The box has gotten me through many painful moments and helped to keep me safe. Now, though, I think it is time to let the box work when I really need it and to otherwise let myself experience life.

The box helps in a crisis but not all life is a crisis. Sometimes life just wants to be felt, acknowledged, and lived.

Being Alive and Living

A few weeks ago I was faced with a serious health issue. One that required me to go to the hospital and receive emergency assistance. But before I made the decision to go to the hospital I had to make a choice.

For the last several months I have been weighted down with deep exhaustion. It was not just my body that was tired but my mind and my soul. I had decided that I would never take my own life. However I had also decided that I would not fight nature if my body became seriously ill. That time had come. I spent a week in this condition.My body was seriously struggling to do what it needed to do. My resting heart rate was 184 and I was becoming more tired each day.

It was at this time that I decided that I needed to fight and stay alive. For my family and my young children. So I went to the hospital and spent several days in ICU while they brought my heart back to a more stable pace. It is not healed and I have a struggle still ahead of me to get better. I chose to live.

There is a difference however between being alive and living. I am alive when I breathe and my heart beats. But what does it mean to live to be truly living? To want to be here and to experience all that I can. To do that I have to change things. I have to work toward living. Taking care of myself physically, spiritually, and psychologically. Not just getting through each day but finding and enjoying something about each day. Not just stuffing all the hard things into a closet so that it bulges while I ignore that those things exist. But working out ways to make peace with the hard things.

Each day is still filled with pain. But this pain reminds me to fight and to live. It reminds me that to be alive is just not enough anymore. I need to find joy in being alive and also bring living back into my world.

 

What I have to offer

Sometimes my insecurity overcomes me and I wonder what I have to offer. I can usually work my way around that thought because I do in fact have a lot to offer. I have some very important skills of empathy and knowledge that I have developed because of what I have been through in my life.

At one low point however my husband read something to me that reinforced how I have been feeling lately and in a way it was also very empowering. He read this quote by Martin Prechtel from The Smell of Rain on Dust:

“Those who lose what they cherish most, whether they are warriors or housewives, must become our blessers. This means we must seek them out and kindly petition them for their blessings. It has always been that way in village life the world over. But this has been lost. We must relearn how to be blessed by those have lost the most, for their blessing really are the best kind. That means we might have to respectfully approach people we’ve been mistakenly warned to stay away from. Not accepting the blessing of those who have fought and lost, loved and lost- those who have lost a lot and then taken the courage to again learn to live- is the same as endorsing war as a good way to forget to whom and what we owe the blessings of being alive in the first place.” (p. 101-102)l

Now, when I think about what I have to offer I think about what I have been through, lived through, and learned from as the gift that I have to offer to others. I am learning to embrace all that I am and all that I have to offer, finally.

Relearning Self-Care

One should never underestimate the importance of self care. Those words make a very important statement. It is something that I have been failing to do for some months now. I have not taken time to do things that are healing or nurturing for myself in a very long time. As result I have slowly stopped being there for people.

In my internship I show up and I am actually the most present with people that I am anywhere. But home life and personal life have been in a fog. I have dreaded getting up in the morning. And I have struggled to try to find some joy in the world. Things have been bleak. The funny thing is that I have also been thinking that it was not very obvious to others. My family however have been very much aware of how I have been unavailable.
Letting my self get into this state has also opened up old trauma wounds and anxiety. The anxiety attacks seem to get stronger and more frequent the less self-care I do.

Things are doing better. I have started to remind myself to stop and enjoy small things. Starting the process of self care with small things is important. Otherwise the act of caring for yourself becomes almost a herculean task. Little steps do the most. Recently I was told that I needed to take small things that give me joy and do them until they are large parts of my life.

I have been taking more time to spend with my children. I have been giving and receiving longer and more meaningful hugs. I have been petting and talking to my dog ( who has also felt my distance from others). Listening to music that makes me dance. I have been coloring in an amazingly detailed coloring book. And eating with more meaning and not just trying to fill some unattainable need. I have also begun to realize that I have a deep need to keep doing this. I am feeling the stirrings of peacefulness again.

So, today’s goal is to enjoy the day, the people I am with, and the time I can spend with my family.

What does it feel like to have PTSD

Someone once asked me what it felt like to have PTSD. They asked me what it was like and how did I handle the things that came up because of the PTSD. I don’t remember what it was that I said or if I was able to give an accurate assessment of what it feels like. But I was asked this question again recently. And though I have a better handle on life, my depression and the triggers that set off the terrors, panic and anxiety this is what it is like.

It is waking up at night for no real reason with sweat pouring off you and your heart racing with no way to calm yourself. It is walking into a room and having a door shut to loudly and feeling like someone just hit you with a mega dose of adrenaline and you have no where to run and depending on where you are, no way to release it. It is walking through a room and a certain smell hits you and you find that you are not in the room but reliving some of the most horrific things that have ever happened. It is going to work in the morning and leaving as much of the PTSD as you can outside the door so that you can function and get through the day. It is walking back out to your car where you try to put all the pieces back together and come down from the amazing job you did of holding things together in spite of the panic.

It is learning how to draw on the things that you have learned as a survivor so that you can help someone else through their own hard times. It is trying really hard to not judge people about how they respond to you because they have no idea you are struggling to keep it together. It is realizing that for the last however many years you have lived in a fog just to get through and that you have missed so much of your life. It is living with a sense of impending doom and panic when there is nothing to be afraid of anywhere near you. It is about being terrified of losing everything that is good in your life because for the first time you don’t feel alone.

It is also about waking up and realizing that you are still alive. It is about remembering to breathe. It is about relearning to open your heart. Relearning to trust. Relearning that the world is not as dangerous or as bad as you thought. It is about being in this moment right now and knowing that I am safe. It is about remembering to feel the snow as it hits my face and not thinking about any other thing that may have happened in the snow. It is about an amazing act of courage that gets you out of bed, through the day, through the large groups of people, and safely back home. It is about trusting that you are not the things that happened to you. It is about releasing the past at whatever speed you can. Even if it can only be measured in nanos.

Having PTSD is feeling like everything from yesterday is involved in today and making it though anyway. It is about being courageous and remembering to breathe.