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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. 

 

 

Image from Quotesgram.com

 

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2 Years: I Am Stronger Than A Razorblade

I have officially made it 2 full years without cutting.

I spent roughly 14 years cutting myself. I am 29 years old, almost 30 now. When I decided to quit cutting, I had been doing it for almost half of my life! My yoga instructor who does my Thai Massages pointed out that I have now spent more time in my life without cutting than with cutting 💜 She’s right. I have. And the further I get away from December 6, 2015, the less urges I have to cut.

This year, I wanted to make a list of the things that have helped me get to this point, in hopes that maybe it will help others:

1. Trauma Work: Even though it is sometimes difficult and triggering, I know that without working through those experiences and emotions, I would not be able to get through my life without needing to numb everything.

2. An Amazing Team Of Therapists: Yes; I have a team of therapists. None of them are psychiatrists, and I take no medications. I have my trauma therapist, that I have worked with for the past 2.5 years. I have my marriage counselor, who sometimes fills in for my trauma therapist, that I have worked with for the past 20 months. And, I have my “hometown shrink,” that I have seen for the past 13 years. Without these compassionate, caring, patient individuals, I would not be where I am today. Without a doubt, these amazing humans have gone above and beyond to teach me how to live without cutting.

3. Yoga: If you’ve read my blog, this should be obvious. Yoga has literally saved me from myself on multiple occasions. From meditation and restorative poses, to vinyasa and headstands, yoga helps me get through even the most difficult moments. Of course I can’t forget about yoga nidra! With yoga nidra, I am able to overcome nightmares and anxiety so that I can get a restful sleep, which impacts my entire wellbeing. In addition, yoga has given me a true connection to my breath. I have been able to carry those skills with me throughout my day, giving me the power to overcome even the most dysregulating situations without cutting.

4. Thai Massage: Again, if you’ve read my blog, this shouldn’t really come as a surprise. However, I still think it is important to note how this has helped me make it to this milestone. I started attending regular Thai Massage sessions in June 2017. In those sessions, I have been able to process through so many emotions and trauma memories. For me, Thai Massage has played a huge role in my ability to file away those trauma memories and move on with my life. It has also provided me with a safe place to work through emotions and receive support through positive, appropriate physical touch.

5. Self-Love: This was huge! It also has been something that I have struggled with until recently. For me, a combination of trauma work, Thai Massage, and yoga teacher training got me to a place of self-love. During the past two years, I have gained an incredible support system outside of therapy. These friends, co-workers, and yoga teachers have all given me so much love and care, that I started believing that I really did deserve to be loved. Because of the love they have given me, I now know how to love myself. I have value. Tonight, I have so much gratitude for where I am in life. I texted my hometown shrink to let her know I was celebrating 2 years. She said she remembered when I was younger, I used to always ask her if I would ever not need cutting. She’s so very proud of my accomplishment and happy to see me thriving without cutting. I no longer ask if I’ll ever survive without cutting: I know I will.

I am stronger than a razorblade.

P.S. The picture for this blog was posted on my Facebook when I celebrated 1 Year.

Two Years Since Destruction

Two years ago, I was having one of the worst weekends of my life. I was two months into my trauma work when I remembered all of the memory in the woods. I always had pieces of it, but I was never brave enough to put the pieces together. The first time he raped me. We were little – I was around 9 years old. We were playing outside in the woods, pretending to be Indians. This is what the Indians do. I still get anxious when I write about this one. I have yet to verbalize it without reading it word for word from my journal.

That weekend was awful. My therapist was amazing though. She responded to all of my emails, sometimes within minutes. She walked me through calm down strategies. She made herself available, even though she had other things planned that weekend.

I had almost gotten through it. I was almost ok. And then, my husband started an argument with me. He was furious. I can’t even remember why. He was yelling at me though and before I knew it, I was cutting myself with a knife in the kitchen. He and my daughter were outside putting up Christmas lights, and I can recall pressing the chef knife into my arm and sliding it horizontal until the little beads of crimson arose. Then, there is a period of time that I lost. To this day, I cannot remember anything that happened after that first cut. When I finally became present again, I was standing under hot water in the shower, a razorblade in my hand, with blood covering my arm. I made over 20 cuts. Some needed stitches. I was horrified. How could I have lost so much time? What happened?

I cleaned up my arm and put butterfly bandages on the cuts that were too deep. It took almost 6 weeks for some of those to heal. When I went to see my doctor at the beginning of January, she asked if she could look closer at them to make sure they were not getting infected. I was humiliated.

2 years seems like such a long time. In reality, that day, those emotions, still feel very real. There is a part of me that misses cutting. I miss the release. It’s something I can’t get anywhere else. But despite that romanticism, I know that I should never go back to it. No matter how nostalgic I get over cutting, nothing is worth going back to that. My body and mind deserve to be treated better 💜

Feeling Safe: Thai Massage Number 10

Today I had my tenth Thai Massage. It had been exactly 31 days since my last one. Given my typical schedule of Thai Massage sessions and the amount of stress I have been dealing with, 31 days was a very long time. I was eager for this session, but also anxious about it. My therapist is out of town this week, and while I do have an individual session set up with the therapist who was my marriage counselor, it’s not the same. I knew I needed to allow some things to come up during this Thai session, but I didn’t want things to get too overwhelming because it’s important that I feel at least semi-safe while my shrink is gone.

Our session began by discussing where I am right now with life. This discussion came at a perfect time really. Last night, I stayed at the house with my ex. He and I are not back together, but I needed to get some things done in that part of town this weekend and, truthfully, I really miss my bed. Despite my request, he refuses to sleep in the guest bed while I’m there. Last night, he rolled over in bed and wrapped his arm around me to cuddle…. but he never really wants to just cuddle. I shrugged him off and he got irritated. I said it makes things complicated and we shouldn’t have sex. His response took me by surprise (I get that it probably shouldn’t). He said that I shouldn’t spend the night anymore if I’m not going to allow him to have sex with me. Even though I pay $600 a month for the mortgage, he doesn’t think I should stay there since I won’t fuck him. There is so much wrong with this situation. He shouldn’t expect me to sleep with him, but especially given my trauma background and all I have been through in my life, where sex was not an option, it is wrong for anyone to use sex against me like that. I don’t think I would’ve recognized that a year ago, or even six months ago; but now, I see it. I understand it. I value myself more than I value pleasing him.

So, pre-Thai Massage, we got through that discussion, a discussion about my stressful job, and a discussion about dating.

When the massage started, my instructor began on my feet. This time, I did not have my usual trauma memories come up. There were no memories about the woods this time. This was relieving. However, instead I had a new memory surface. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a new memory – months, possibly even a year. All of my memories are essentially the same, so I know that it doesn’t change anything. Still, the idea of having yet another memory of abuse makes me feel physically sick; it makes my tummy hurt. I did not spend a lot of time with the snapshots of memory that I acquired today. I did not try to put the pieces together. When a new memory surfaces, it’s like someone dumps out a 1,000 piece puzzle onto a table, and just gives you a couple of pieces to look at. It can take me weeks to put it all together. The last new memory that surfaced, I chose not to put the pieces together. That is essentially what I have done today. When my therapist returns, I will probably work a little more on putting this one together, but for now, it’s better I leave all of the pieces on the table.

Throughout the session, my instructor helped me stay present. She talked to me about what I was feeling and cued my breath. This was so incredibly helpful. I would find myself drifting into a memory or into the angry thoughts and feelings I have been having. But before I drifted too far, her voice would bring me back. It made me concentrate on the present moment instead of getting lost in the past.

One of the things that I really noticed in this session is how completely disconnected my mind and body are when trauma stuff comes up. I had such a difficult time feeling my instructor pressing on my legs and arms when my trauma stuff was coming up. It makes sense, but I don’t know how to change it. I don’t know how to process through the trauma stuff during my Thai Sessions, but also stay connected to the present moment.

During arms, I felt myself getting sentimental about my scars. Even though I stayed present for this part of the massage (thanks to my instructor’s efforts), I felt an overwhelming sadness. There are so many scars. I had a difficult time feeling her hand on them. She is the only person I willingly allow to touch them. I will celebrate two years without cutting on December 7th. That’s 730 days. That’s such a long time. I miss it. I know that sounds crazy. But I do. I miss the release, the control, the numbness. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever do it again. I know that if I slip up, it will be bad. Historically, when I have gone a number of days without cutting and slipped up, the relapse is not just a couple of cuts, it’s my entire arm. I know that if I relapse this time, it will likely be the same. Even though I miss it, I love where I am in life right now; I love the person that I have become and the work that I have done to get here. I am proud of myself. I am proud of my accomplishments, my strength, and my willingness to keep growing.

While my instructor massaged my right arm, I asked her about the benefits of Thai Massage on the belly. I have had so many issues with control lately. This has transpired into me controlling things like food and bathroom. I mentioned this in this post, but it’s like “I need to _________(insert basic need here), but I don’t want to, so I’m not going to.” My therapist says it’s like the same type of regression she sees in small children. I know that this is bad. It’s bad for my digestive system. I feel it. So, I allowed my instructor to massage my belly today. It was different. I didn’t have any flashbacks or anything. I tried to just focus on what she was touching. There was one point where the palm of her hand was nestled in a space between my ribs and belly button. All of the pressure she applied was so grounding. I could’ve stayed like that forever.

After having my belly massaged, it was time for chimes. I had requested to just do them once this session because I didn’t think I could handle doing them twice. I was right. As soon as they started, my body filled with fear and anger. I was laying on my stomach and my instructor was pressing on my back. I knew she was there but I couldn’t feel her. I wanted more. More weight. She could’ve laid on top of me and it still wouldn’t have been enough. I wanted enough weight to keep me from breathing. It must have been obvious that my breath was nonexistent. My instructor cued me to breathe with her throughout the remainder of the chimes track. The whole room was fuzzy. I couldn’t talk. I wanted to. I wanted to tell her how scared I was and how much I didn’t want her to leave me. Looking back, that’s an irrational fear. I know she wouldn’t turn the chimes on and leave me. And if she did, I know I could turn them off. But rational thoughts didn’t matter in that moment. In that moment, I was so little again. Six. And I was terrified. I watch as he puts something inside of her for the very first time. Instantly my mind goes to all of the other memories. The dinosaurs and nightlight and woods. It’s like a flood of memories coming in all at once. And then it’s time for child’s pose. And in my head I’m pleading her not to leave me. She doesn’t. I can feel her pressing on my back. I’m shaking so much that the tears refuse to fall. I need to cry but I can’t figure out how to make it happen. And for a split second, I could see the six year old me laying on the bolster in child’s pose having her back rubbed. I could see my instructor touching her back with so much care and compassion. No child deserves to go through bad things; they all deserve to be touched the way that my instructor touches me. And then it stopped. The chimes stopped. My instructor went to the bathroom. I don’t know how much time passed. When she returned, she sat down next to me and said she was just going to breathe with me. And then the tears came. I could feel the anger and shame and hurt release in all of my tears. For a moment, I thought my instructor had her hands on my back again, but I couldn’t feel her to know for sure. I was so disconnected from the present moment, but as the release happened, I gradually became more aware. It’s not fair. What I went through, what so many other kids go through, it’s not ok; it’s not fair. I have to work so hard every day to function. It makes me angry. It makes me angry that he hurt me like that. It makes me angry that no one stopped it. It makes me angry that it took me until I was 29 years old to learn what compassionate touch looks and feel like.

When I sat up, finally ready to move on from those memories and emotions, it was time for shoulders. Shoulders and savasana. I was still struggling to stay present. I felt numb: emotionally and physically numb. My body was still processing the experience with chimes and the memories and feelings that had come up. And even now, 4 hours later, my body is still processing it.

Our session ended with namaste and a hug. I felt little again. As my instructor wrapped her arms around me, it was like she was hugging the six year old Little Jen – the girl who needed so much support but was completely on her own. There is a level of healing that I get from Thai Massage that I can’t get from my therapist. There is a true connection between past and present. While I know that it will take me time to process what came up today, I feel like there has been at least some release, some shift in my healing process. Tonight, I feel safe from my past for the first time in weeks. As always, I have so much gratitude for my instructor. Without that level of trust, care, and compassion, this work would not be possible.

When You Think It Can’t Get Worse…

It can. And usually does.

For five years, I have taught part time as an adjunct professor. I have loved every minute of it. My students have loved me. I bring real experiences, lots of knowledge, great assignments, and engaging lessons. Teaching college has been one of my favorite parts of life. It has also given me extra money to afford things like therapy.

This morning I received a phone call to let me know that the new president of the university has decided that, due to budget issues, they are no longer going to hire adjuncts.

After five years, I just lost my job.

Hello, Anxiety. I’ve Not Missed You.

Today I need to write.

I need to get out all of the yuck that has been consuming my mind and body this week.

Over the weekend, my husband whom I have separated from tried to convince me to move back in with him. This has weighed heavily all week. I can’t trust that he is really going to change. I also can’t put myself back in a situation where I am anxious and stressed out all the time. I am not ready to move back in… or even date him again at this point. My daughter keeps asking me when I will stay at her dad’s house again. Today, that answer looks like never.

This week during therapy, we discussed my issues with attachment. I have an anxious-avoidant attachment style. This is rare apparently. It causes so many issues in my relationships. I finished reading the book Attached this week and it was very eye-opening about why my husband and I couldn’t make our relationship work. It also gave me some insight on what to look for if I ever decide to have a serious relationship again.

I also worked in my sandtray this week. I found myself sobbing. It’s not fair. Alice was on one end of the sandtray and all of the things that are scary were across from her. There are all of these scary things and then there’s just Alice and it’s not enough… it’s not fair… she’s alone. I cried so much. And I felt little again. Little and afraid. It was a hard session that left me overwhelmed and exhausted.

A couple days ago, I reached out to a specialist about starting neurofeedback. It is the same guy that my therapist is working with. My therapist will actually attend training next week to become certified to facilitate neurofeedback. However, she wants me to go ahead and start with this guy who has more experience. I am anxious about it. Of course, I’ve sent an email requesting an appointment and, 3 days later, I still haven’t heard back. This only heightens my anxiety about it and makes it even more difficult for me to trust this guy.

In addition to all of the above, I am having huge issues with control right now. The house has been for sale for almost 3 weeks. I need it to sell. I have a place lined up to move into, but I need our home to sell first. I have no control over that. Instead, I have been exercising control over things in an unhealthy way. My therapist says it’s like a child who shows regression. Apparently this is just another result of my childhood trauma stuff. Even though I need to eat, I don’t want to, so therefore I don’t. This goes the same for other basic needs. I know I need to, I just don’t want to, so I’m not going to.

I have therapy again tomorrow; it will be my last session for 11 days. I contemplated scheduling an individual session with my marriage counselor for next week while my trauma therapist is out of town. I seem to be having a harder time with life than usual this week. I have Thai Massage on Sunday and I am looking forward to processing the trauma stuff that has come up recently. When I just sit with the trauma stuff like I’ve done these past couple weeks, I can literally feel it killing me from the inside out, eating away at my soul. My entire body needs to process the emotions that have surfaced surrounding my abuse, and that is really only accomplished in yoga and Thai Massage. I think until that happens, I will continue to be anxious.

Next week, I will celebrate two years without cutting. I have mixed emotions about it. I’m sure I’ll write more on this as the date gets closer. For now, I will say that even though this week has had challenges, I am grateful for where I am in life and all of the supports that surround me. 💜

First Holiday As A Separated, Single Mom

I haven’t written in five days.

This week, I traveled to visit my family for Thanksgiving. It was my first Thanksgiving without my husband in 10 years. For me, Thanksgiving is primarily about hanging out with my sisters and shopping. There is also this internal piece where I focus on gratitude. However, because of my intentions surrounding this particular holiday, I did not feel concerned about tackling it as a newly separated, single mom. Instead, the week began with excitement and relief: for the first time in 10 years, I wouldn’t be stressed out or worried about what my spouse might say in front of my family.

This week also marked the longest my spouse and I had been apart since 2007. I did miss him. I know that sounds crazy, but I did. I missed his hugs, his smile, and his company. It’s one of the only times I’ve missed him in the roughly 10 weeks we’ve been separated.

My sister who has a chronic illness was in Las Vegas visiting her husband’s family for the week, but ended up getting hospitalized out there because her husband couldn’t get her to wake up. She spent a couple days in ICU before being released on Thanksgiving. That was, by far, the most stressful part of the week.

Thanksgiving Day for us consisted of watching the parade and dog show, and cooking. There were 16 people at my mom’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. It got very loud and overwhelming for me at times. My daughter, who is only 3, took it upon herself to go upstairs, close the bedroom door, and watch tv – she didn’t like the noise either 🙂 I empathized with her. One day, I hope get to a point where the noise and chaos doesn’t dysregulate me anymore.

I’ve spent a little bit of time reflecting on my last two therapy sessions with my sand tray. In both sessions, I got angry. In the first, I destroyed my sand tray. In the second, I put the girl who looks like me and the dog in between Alice and the things that are scary. I’m trying not to analyze it, but I do think I was attempting to protect my younger self… possibly protecting her from the anger. I have therapy again on Monday and I am eager to be back in my sand tray. I don’t want to immerse myself back in trauma work, but I think sand tray gives me an outlet for my trauma stuff without getting stuck in the memories.

Overall, I am doing ok this week. I enjoyed my time with my family and my daughter. I enjoyed my time away from work and my cousin’s house. These next four weeks before Christmas, I’m hoping we get an offer on the house. I am so ready to get into my own place and find a new normal. 💜

Breathe Deep and Trust the Process: Private Restorative Yoga

Today I had a private restorative yoga session with my favorite yoga teacher. I had been looking forward to it for several weeks now. When I scheduled it, I wasn’t sure what my life would look like on November 19th. I wasn’t sure if things would be better between my husband and I, if I would still be living with my cousin, if my house would be sold, or if I would have any trauma stuff to work through. Turns out, my private restorative session could not have come at a better time.

This past week was rough, to say the least. I spent much of my weekend feeling anxious. I woke up at 5am today, sweating and anxious – partially due to being hot, but also a result of a trauma nightmare. I don’t have them nearly as often as I used to, but they’re still dysregulating when they do occur. I drifted in and out of sleep for a few more hours this morning before going to get coffee and heading to my yoga session.

The studio was crowded when I arrived. When everyone cleared out, my yoga instructor began by telling me an overview of what we would be working on today. I started in a grounding pose: belly down on my mat with a blanket underneath and a sandbag on top. Within minutes, it was the calmest I had been in weeks. She cued me to breathe deep and to do a body scan, letting go of everything. I felt myself melting into my mat.

Next, she had me get into a restorative twist. With my belly draped over the bolster, and a sandbag weighing down my back, I felt the overwhelming grief of losing the life that I had worked so hard to build. My instructor talked about feeling the supports underneath: the ground, the bolster… The tears came. I am so incredibly fortunate to have the support system that I have. Amidst all of the chaos and fear, I am safe, loved, and supported. When I was little, I was not supported. I was completely alone. Even though losing my husband and house and the life that we built together is so much harder than I ever anticipated, I do not feel alone. I am supported. There were so many tears. I cried through virtually the entire pose. In restorative yoga, that’s roughly five minutes or more. I let the tears fall. I didn’t try to stop them. I didn’t wipe them away. I let the grief come and I let go of it, feeling grateful for the supports that I have.

My yoga teacher brought me tissues and gave me a choice of what to do next. I like that. I like having a choice. Actually, I like that I know how to make a choice; I like that I know how to listen to my body and make a decision about what would feel good in my body. Two years ago, I couldn’t do that. It is only because of yoga that I have that power now; that connection between my mind and body. I chose to do the twist on the other side before moving on. This time, I did not cry; instead, I felt at ease.

Throughout the remainder of the session, I could feel my body working through the trauma stuff that had come up for me throughout the week. I could see my sand tray from my therapy session, I could feel the anger radiating through my veins, and I could see him hurting me. I prevented the flashbacks by tapping my fingers and counting my breath. I heard my instructor continuously cue me to breathe deep. I don’t think I have breathed that deeply in such a long time. It was like filling my entire body with life again. My instructor also gave me numerous mantras to hold onto. And while they were all great, the one I repeated over and over wasn’t one she had listed. Breathing in: I am safe. Breathing out: I am loved. This is perhaps my favorite mantra because it is the two things that I did not feel when I was little.

An hour goes by quickly. I could have easily spent another hour in restorative poses listening to my teacher cue mindfulness. It was such a good refresher of those skills for me. At the end, she read a passage that really resonated with me. As she was reading about the scattered pieces of our lives, I thought about all of the things that make up the person that I am: my traumatic experiences, my career, my daughter, my failed marriage, yoga, my drug and alcohol problems, self injury and suicide, my sisters, my friends, my family, etc. All of the things that I have been through and am currently going through have shaped who I am today. They will shape my future experiences. They all work together beautifully. Even though what I am currently going through is terrifying, I know that it too will be another piece that gets strung alongside the other pieces. I believe that one day it won’t hurt so much. The pieces from this will eventually but put together to create something new and beautiful. In the mean time, I need to breathe deep into my core and trust the process.

Namaste.

Anxious Today

Today I feel like the anxiety is eating me away. I feel it rushing through my veins, destroying me from the inside out. It started yesterday after an incident at work and has been building since. I’ve gone through my healthy coping skills, including a headstand at 6:30 this morning. My healthy skills aren’t helping yet. I need weight. I need my sandbags to push the anxiety out and ground me. There still isn’t heat at the house where I am living, so I don’t have my sandbags today. Tomorrow I have a private restorative yoga session with my favorite yoga teacher. Originally it was for self-care. Now, it will be about regulating my anxiety. If I can just make it through today, tomorrow should get better.

Anger During Sand Tray

I haven’t  really blogged about sand tray and trauma work lately because there hasn’t been much to write about. On Sunday, during restorative yoga, I had this intense urge to work in my sand tray. I didn’t really know why, but for whatever reason, I felt like I needed my sand tray. 

Yesterday in therapy I requested to use my sand tray. At first, I was really distraught. I couldn’t find Alice. I have used an Alice character from Alice in Wonderland to represent my younger self. But yesterday, Alice was missing! This forced me to select another figurine to represent myself. I picked out the girl with brown hair, overalls, and a baby bottle. I didn’t like it. Having her made my sand tray more real.

As I was selecting my pieces, I chose a boy with dark hair like my abuser. I put him in the sand tray next to me. I felt myself getting agitated. I put the other pieces in that I often use to represent my trauma and I got mad. I picked up the dog, a figurine that I think may represent my therapist. I couldn’t make the dog fit in the scene. I got angry. So angry. I was furious. 

In my head, I was screaming. The dog doesn’t fucking fit. The dog can’t fucking save you. He hurts you so much. He hurts you so many times. No one fucking cares. Fuck him. He got away with hurting you, with taking everything good and innocent away from you. And he still controls you now. You have no control. He is the reason you’re crazy.

I couldn’t take the screaming anymore. I felt my hand push away all of the pieces, destroying what I created in sand tray. I was so angry. I slammed my fist into the floor and cried. I cried so much. I forgot where I was. I forgot that my therapist was in the room. She didn’t speak. Or if she did, I didn’t hear her. After several minutes, I found myself tapping my fingers and breathing. It’s the only coping skill that works consistently. 

I had a hard time staying present. I went to the bathroom. I banged my wrists together, I counted, I ran my hands under the water – as hot as I could get it. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was suffocating. I forgot that I was in therapy. I’m not supposed to get that mad in therapy. I’ve only ever gotten that mad one other time in therapy: the day my shrink announced that she wasn’t reading my blog anymore. This anger was different though. It still consumed me, but it was different. This anger was about my abuse and my abuser. Feeling it feels wrong. It’s sameful. 

Today I am sick. I have a cold. I feel miserable. I also feel exhausted from therapy. I’m drained – drained and confused. Feeling angry feels wrong. I don’t know what to do with the anger or how to make it go away. I don’t want to sit with it anymore. I want to cut it all away. I’m hoping for better sleep tonight than I got last night. I’m hoping tomorrow is better than today was. I just want to feel normal.

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