Courageous Yoga Chick

Overcoming PTSD and Self-Injury Through Yoga

Life Before Yoga – Read This First

“My name is Jennifer, and I’m an alcoholic.” The words rolled off my tongue so smoothly, you would’ve thought I had been sitting in AA meetings for years. The truth was, it was my very first meeting, and I was so scared that I was literally shaking. It was August 1, 2012. It is a date that will forever be engrained into my mind.

I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to be “sober” at that moment, but I also knew that I had to do something to escape the hell that was in my head. I had spent the previous year trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, fighting with my husband, and drinking. Now drinking wasn’t anything new in my life. I drank for the first time at the ripe old age of 12 and that phenomena of craving that they talk about in AA meetings was instant. Sitting in the Virgin Islands with my parents, waiting for them to walk away so I could have “just one more sip” of my mom’s daiquiri. Ha! If you have ever spent time with an alcoholic, you know that there is no such thing as “just one more sip.”

As I sat in that very first AA meeting (12 years after taking my first sip of alcohol), I reflected on my drinking. I had spent most of my teenage years drinking and drugging, but once I went to college, I tried to keep things mostly together and only drank occasionally. Of course every time I drank, it was always excessive. Gradually I drank more and more frequently and by 24, I was sitting in the rooms of AA wondering if I really needed to be sitting in this circle of crazy women. But I ended up having a lot more in common with those crazy women than I originally thought, and they told me to keep coming back….so I did.

Unfortunately, drinking wasn’t my only addiction. Believe it or not, most people in AA don’t fall into that “pure alcoholic” category – many of us have other addictions. Mine just happens to be one of the most taboo topics out there, even in 2016! Self-injury. Yep. That’s right. I’m a “cutter.” Ugh – “cutter” – a word that makes me cringe. It isn’t who I am, it’s what I do (or did) to cope with the emotions that I don’t want to feel. In all honesty, I’ve been self-injuring since I was just a kid, maybe 7 or 8 years old. It started with wrist-banging and hitting myself, and by the time I was 14 I had started cutting when life became too overwhelming. 14 years later, it’s still an addiction that I struggle with. But every day I go without it gets a little bit easier. Today is day 217 by the way…but who’s counting?

There are a number of reasons that people self-injure or drink or use drugs. For me, it is about numbing. It has always been about numbing. The things that I have been through in my life were truly tragic. I am a survivor of severe sexual abuse that lasted from the time I was about 5 years old until I was 11; sexual abuse that I never really disclosed to anyone until I was 27. In addition to that, I witnessed some pretty intense domestic violence growing up. Alcoholism runs in my family. I also grew up in a household with minimal to no emotional support. I am not writing this to get your sympathy. I am writing this because all of these circumstances and experiences factor into why I have “Complex” PTSD. This blog will hopefully help other people who have had similar experiences.

I have spent the last 15 years of my life in and out of therapy (and done some pretty intensive dialectical behavior therapy); I’ve been on various medications for depression and anxiety;  and I’ve used a variety of coping skills, healthy and unhealthy. In 2015, I started seeing a therapist whom I would disclose all of the details of my traumatic experiences to. In order to help me through the process, she suggested we incorporate yoga into our work (she was going through yoga teacher training at the time). Through yoga, I have learned to thrive. I have learned what it means to truly find inner-peace, love myself, and show compassion. I am different today because of yoga. I want this blog to showcase my experiences and help others who struggle with PTSD. 



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Words Hurt

For the second night in a row, my daughter told me that she doesn’t want me to be her mom anymore. She says she wants to just stay with her dad. The difference between his house and mine is that I have rules and he doesn’t. I know her words are logical for a three year old. And maybe if I hadn’t gone two weeks without neurofeedback, I wouldn’t be this emotionally dysregulated over it. But instead, I am a mess. I was already struggling these last two days. Maybe my daughter’s right… maybe she would be better off without me.


I went 14 days without neurofeedback. At first, I wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about this. I was going to be in Mexico, enjoying time with my friends and practicing yoga. What was there to worry about?

I did great without neurofeedback… for 9 days. At Day 9, my birthday, I started to feel a little anxious. By Day 11, I could no longer close my eyes during yoga. I was having flashbacks and nightmares again. The anxiety was back in full force.

And then yesterday, I found myself getting angry. I was angry that I felt like I needed neurofeedback. For a brief period of time, I truly believed that I was doing things on my own; that I was getting better on my own. The realization that I am not doing it on my own was a crushing blow. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was truly getting better without depending on someone or something else. Having that ripped away from me was devastating.

Neurofeedback tonight was exactly what I needed. My anxiety is so much better. However, it doesn’t change my feelings about needing neurofeedback. I don’t want to depend on something. And now that I realize how much I depend on neurofeedback, I want to quit.

Goodbye, Magical Tulum

I am officially back in the United States, where I can drink water from the faucet, flush toilet paper, and eat excessive quantities of carbs. While I am excited about seeing my daughter, I am anxious about coming home.

This yoga retreat has been such an incredible experience for me. I have processed through some things, managed my PTSD symptoms without my therapist, and grown spiritually. I feel a sense of peace about my life right now that I don’t think I’ve really had before. I know that I am meant to be alive, on this Earth, soaking in and giving back all of the love that I can.

During my trip, I laughed more than I ever thought possible. I cherished my time with my friends and taking two yoga classes a day. I thrived in an environment where I could sit in the sunshine, quietly meditating to the sounds of the ocean, breathing in the aliveness of everything around me.

I am worried about what happens next though. I set an intention to just stay in the present moment while in Tulum, and not project to what will happen when I return to my typical life. However, now that I am back in the States, I can feel the anxiety racing through my body.

I haven’t had neurofeedback in 13 days. After 9, my PTSD symptoms started returning. By Day 11, I was having nightmares and flashbacks. It was easy to manage them when I had no other stressors. But now, I will have all of the stress of working two jobs, single-momming it, an ex husband, and a sister with a chronic illness. Managing my PTSD symptoms seems so overwhelming when I have to do it with all of those other things going on.

As I prepare to resume a life of potential chaos, I am thinking of ways to take a piece of Tulum with me. On this trip, I learned the importance of daily quiet time for meditation. Carving that out for myself every single day will be crucial. I was also reminded of the benefits of yoga classes. I am going to make it a priority to go to more classes. And finally, CONNECTION. It is easy to isolate myself when my PTSD symptoms become overwhelming. When I return to my typical life, I am going to reach out more and actively seek connection when I need it.

The experience of Tulum was miraculously magical. It was unlike anything else I’ve ever had. I am sad to leave, but I know I have learned so much in this journey. I cannot wait to go back one day 🌴

Trusting The Universe

The last morning yoga practice of our Tulum yoga retreat focused on sahasrara: the crown chakra. The crown chakra is about connecting with the Devine. Throughout the practice, our instructor shared quotes about this connection; about our connection with the Universe, God, and the Devine within ourselves.

During my yoga classes this week, I have been working through the meaning of my life. What is my purpose? There have been so many days where I haven’t wanted to continue living. Now that I am truly embracing aliveness, how do I find meaning in my journey?

Today’s practice was good closure for my meditations on the purpose of my life. I just need to trust my higher power. I need to trust myself, the people who support me, and the Universe to lead me in a way that will emphasize my strengths. I need to trust that when the opportunity arises, I will recognize it, and have the courage to run with it instead of away from it.

Finding meaning in the things I have been through is often difficult for me. No one should have to endure what I have been through. After today’s practice though, I am setting an intention to trust that, in some way, there is good that has come out of it, even if I don’t know what that is.

I am setting an intention to trust that my life has meaning.

Why Am I Still Here: Intuition and the Miracle of the Cenote

It’s my second to last day in Tulum.

This morning’s yoga practice was all about the third eye, ajna. My instructor talked about intuition. She read a quote about being present in our body with certainty and pride. This tied right in with everything else I have been meditating on and processing through this week. As we started to move with our breath, we were instructed to ask ourselves one question to intuitively seek the answer.

Why am I still here?

That was the question I asked myself. I know that sounds a bit like playing with fire… what if I can’t find the answer? What if I have no purpose? What if I don’t actually matter at all. The world is so vast and great; my existence, in the big scheme of the world, means little.

As I practiced, I found myself staring out to the ocean. The world is so much bigger than me.What is my purpose here?

I thought about the good that I do in the world, particularly with my job. But then I thought about my trauma experiences. I still need more work on post traumatic growth. I want to use those experiences to help others, but I don’t know how. Maybe that’s my purpose. Or maybe there is no purpose to those experiences at all. People say that “everything happens for a reason.” I believe that to an extent. However, it is often difficult for me to see the reasoning behind long-term pain and suffering.

The entire practice, as I spun around on my mat like a mandala, my head spun with the thoughts above. I found myself getting frustrated. I don’t know the purpose of my life.

Later in the day, we went to snorkel in a cenote with mangrove trees. It was such an incredible experience to see the ancient ecosystems, with all of the organisms living and thriving together. As I was snorkeling through the cenote, I noticed rays of sunlight glistening through the water, shining all the way down to the craters at the bottom. It was miraculous.

There wasn’t a word to describe it other than miraculous.

I slowed down. I examined every inch of my body in this miraculous light. I am here for a purpose, even if I don’t know what that is yet. My life has so much meaning. It is miraculous that my body is swimming through a cenote in this very moment, illuminated by the sunlight. My life, while not always easy, is most definitely precious. As I breathe in aliveness today, I reflect on the miracle of where I am, how much growth I have made, and who I have become. Intuitively, I know that I am right where I am meant to be: Alive.

Breathing In The Vulnerability Of Aliveness

Day 3 in Tulum, Mexico.

The yoga practice this morning was all about the heart and throat chakras. For some reason, I love practices that center around backbends and heart-opening. I’m not sure why I’m so drawn to them. Maybe it’s because it allows me to be vulnerable and seen without actually having to share my story.

Throughout the practice today, I thought about the deep stretch class that I took last night. I thought about turning 30. I thought about all of the vulnerability that I have embraced in this past year. I thought about how it feels to be 30, knowing that I tried to kill myself more than a decade before. I wasn’t supposed to live this long.

Instead of dying though, I’ve committed to breathing aliveness into my heart.

At the end of the practice, as I processed through all of the things that I had come up; as I thought about my past suicide attempts and my current goal of aliveness, I found the heart-opening of savasana to be too much. I curled into a ball, closing off my heart. At some point, it quit feeling safe to be so vulnerable in a room full of people, even if it was just in my thoughts.

Healing Sound Meditation

I participated in my first healing sounds meditation tonight. Initially, I was not going to sign up for it, but then my friends were going and I didn’t really want to eat my birthday dinner without them. I was anxious though. I was anxious because I didn’t want to be triggered by chime sounds for an entire hour. Getting through 6 minutes of chimes in Thai massage sessions is hard enough.

As I stood outside the meditation room with my friends, in line behind my Thai massage instructor, fear filled my entire body. What if I’m not ok. My instructor wrapped her arm around me and told me that it would be ok, and that I could always leave if it was too much. It’s so easy to forget that I have that option now; for so many years I did not.

As I settled onto a blanket between my friends, I could see my instructor across the room from me. It’s ok; I’m going to be ok; She won’t let bad things happen to me. The meditation started with some breathwork. My body started to relax. I laid down on my blanket. The chimes started. I could feel all of the fear engulf me. I’m not ok.I’m little. Six. I’m on the porch. I could feel my body shake. As abruptly as the chimes began, they ended.

New music was playing. And there was singing this time. This continued for the majority of the meditation, and I was relieved that chimes were minimal. However, that didn’t prevent a whirlwind of trauma memories and feelings from surfacing.

There was a point towards the beginning where the Shaman’s assistants came around and placed a gong-like object on my belly and chest, making it ring throughout my body. In that moment, I felt all of my younger self curl up into a ball. The chimes are a part of her. The memories that followed are a part of her. It doesn’t matter what I do, they will always be there.

I tried to fight back the tears, but I could not. I felt them roll down my cheeks and dampen my hair.

One of the assistants came back and pressed on my shoulders. She stayed with me until the tears stopped. However, when she walked away, I could still feel her grounding me. It was as if her entire body was weighing me down. My clinched palms opened up, filling with the transparent weight. I took a cleansing breath. I’m ok.

For the remainder of the session, I could see the six-year-old me laying on the blanket. I was six. Throughout the rest of the session, it felt as if I were being rocked… like a mother does to comfort her small child. The music continued and so did my tears.

The women came by and placed hands on my heart and belly. They massaged my scalp and my forehead. And, as one woman sung about La Niña (the little girl), her hand cupped my cheek, catching my tears. She stroked my hair until my tears paused. In that moment, I felt completely protected and cared for. Both my younger self and present-day self felt safe.

An image of my sandtray arose, depicting Alice surrounded by the adults who were supposed to take care of her. Instead of having their backs turned like they normally do, the figurines were circling around Alice; they were protecting her. I always felt like the adults who were supposed to protect Alice, or my younger self, included my mom, my dad, and my dad’s girlfriend. I also have spent years struggling with this on-going issue of feeling shame around not being able to protect myself. The epiphany that I had in this meditation is that I am protected.

My younger self is still very much a part of me, and so are my trauma memories. However, there are so many people protecting her and caring for her. The first person who came to mind was my Thai massage instructor. She works hard to protect me and my younger self in yoga classes and Thai sessions. Next, I thought about my therapist. She also works incredibly hard to keep me safe. My friends support and protect me as best as they can, offering to listen, hold my hand, and just be with me when I need them to. And finally, I protect myself. I keep my younger self safe every time I run through my five senses, tap my fingers together, focus on my breath, and practice yoga. I also keep myself safe by working hard every day to conquer the trauma memories. Without that hard work, my younger self wouldn’t even know what safety is.

Despite all of the tears, I truly feel that this was a healing experience for me. It is the first time that I’ve been able to identify how my present-day actions and journey towards healing serves as protection for my younger self. It is the first time that I’ve recognized how the actions of those around me actually serve to protect the little girl that I used to be. I cannot change what happened to me; I cannot take the memories away. However, I can (and do) work hard to grow into the best person that I can be, with the support of the amazing souls who love me through the process.

Transformation, Kapalabhati, and Chimes

It’s my second full day in Tulum.

This morning’s yoga practice began with everyone singing happy birthday to me as I celebrate turning 30 today. The practice itself was a challenging one. It focused on the sacral and solar plexus chakras. Throughout the practice, we did a lot of kapalabhati breath work: breath of fire.

During the practice, my instructor talked about Kapalabhati being a catalyst for transformation. I reflected on the last 3 decades:

  • Ages 0-10 consisted of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and fear… it was about survival
  • Ages 11-20 were all about numbing the pain
  • Ages 21-30 really centered around working through my past and figuring out who I am

As I yoga’d into a new decade this morning, I felt overwhelming gratitude and hope for what this next decade would hold. Each one seems to be better than the one before. When it was finally time for savasana, with my body aching from fire and exhaustion, the sound of chimes filled the room. Fear instantly took over all other sensations. I couldn’t tell if the chimes were real or in my head. My instructor’s footsteps echoed across the room. She turned off the music and the chimes ended. I am safe.

Three cleansing breaths led me into a blissful savasana.

In this next decade, I hope the chimes will play a little softer. I envision the little girl that he hurts transforming into the beautiful butterfly that she was meant to be. I imagine my life complete: free from the fear and pain that controlled the first three decades. The hot tears stung beneath my eyelids during savasana. In this decade, I hope I don’t stop working so hard for myself.

Good Night 20s

As I sit on the beach of Tulum, under a pitch black sky, speckled with stars, I am filled with a sense of peace.

Tomorrow I will turn 30. It’s not just a new year, it’s a new decade.

My twentieth birthday was spent in Disney World, with my ex husband and his parents. My plans for my twenties was to get married, start a family, and move to the suburbs. I did all of those things. I accomplished what I thought I wanted to accomplish at that time.

My twenties were spent figuring out who I am, and some days, I’m still not entirely sure. In my twenties, I started drinking heavily again. I got married. I got a slew of higher ed degrees. I worked… a lot. I dealt with infertility. I got sober. I started dealing with my traumatic experiences and stopped cutting. I raised an amazing, intelligent, strong-willed, daughter who is almost four now. I completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training program that changed my life. I made amazing friends. And I made a decision to leave my husband.

Going into my thirties, I would rather not have a set plan. I am going into my thirties truly believing that I am going to be ok. I would like to do more with teaching yoga. I would like to travel the world. I want to be present for my daughter as she continues to grow into the human that she is meant to be. I want to continue to build relationships, connections, and friendships. In my thirties, I want to continue to strive to be my very best self.

So, with that, I am saying good night, Bloggers. In my next post, I will be in a whole new decade. I am grateful for your support during these past couple of years of my twenties. You are all uniquely amazing. 💜

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