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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

 

Featured post

Dear Mom, Where Are You?

My biological dad called me last night. I was getting into bed and chose not to answer. This morning, as I was listening to his drunken voicemail, I found myself getting agitated. I wasn’t agitated with him or the voicemail though. 

The agitating part of this situation is that I have not had a real conversation with my mom on the phone since probably the beginning of April. She doesn’t call me. When I call her, she acts as if she either doesn’t care or doesn’t have time to listen to what is going on in my life. Yet my biological dad, who is a heavy alcoholic and sometimes drug addict, makes the time to call me on a pretty regular basis. 

I’ll never understand why my mom acts like this. I don’t understand why she doesn’t care. I don’t understand what I have done to make this relationship the way that it is. It would be different if she acted this way towards my sisters, but no – she talks to them almost daily. It’s just me. 

Alone and Afraid

Today was full of ups and downs. 

It started with not wanting to get out of bed. When I finally got up, I went to yoga and had a great class. Then I went to work, which was productive and gratifying. After those ups, it went down hill fast.

I had marriage counseling today. When we talked about money, my husband got pissed off, shut down, and basically was an ass. Then we moved on to sex. This topic went surprisingly well. My marriage counselor pointed out how much progress I have made, particularly with communication. The session ended on a positive note and, despite the money conversation, I was feeling good about things. 

Then I had therapy with my own shrink…

This went so much worse than I had anticipated. Nothing got thoroughly addressed. I feel like my head was in a million places and we never could stick to a topic. I’m also feeling incredibly pressured to go do neurofeedback. I’m not sure where I stand on it yet, but I do know that the more pressure I feel to do something, the less likely I am to do it. 

In therapy today, we briefly talked about my food issues. I’m currently heavily restricting my diet in an attempt to lose weight. My shrink has already told me that she doesn’t treat eating disorders but could refer me to a nutritionist when I was ready. I desperately need to lose weight. I hate everything about the way I look. However, I don’t want to go see someone else; I don’t want a nutritionist. It’s all fear-driven. What if I don’t lose weight with them either? What if I can’t commit to their diet or exercise plan? What if I fail? It is easier to not eat anything than to try to follow a plan. I want help. I really do. But I’m so afraid. And now, I’m afraid to even ask for it. 

I feel alone tonight. Alone in everything that’s going on in my life. My dog must sense it because she’s been wrapped around my arm for the last 30 mins or so 💜

I Need To Feel Freedom

The anxiety consumes me today. 

It started last night. My husband kept asking me what was wrong, but I didn’t know. The only answer I could give was “I miss yoga.” I haven’t been to a class since Monday, and I haven’t been to my home studio in 4 days. I know that isn’t the reason that I am anxious though. 

My youngest sister has been in town this week and we have had a really good time together. Today she was supposed to come to yoga with me. She’s started a new medication this week because she has some sort of heart issue where her heart could just spontaneously stop working. The medication is making her not feel well. She decided it would be better to just go home. I support her decision, but it’s still tough. Both of my sisters now have pretty serious health issues. I think the reality of that is sinking in this week. 

I think I’m also anxious because I have marriage counseling and trauma therapy tomorrow. My husband is still doing a super shitty job managing money. We still fight all the time. And I still don’t know if I want to stay or leave. 

I know that I need to work through some stuff with my trauma therapist. I need to talk about this anger piece – or my lack of anger. I need to figure out how to handle sex without dissociating. I need to feel freedom

I am hopeful that spending my morning in yoga helps me feel better. I need to feel better. Being anxious for the last 17 hours has been difficult. My wrist is burning, begging me to cut it. Here’s to day 565 without cutting 😏

 

 

I would love to give credit to the artist of this image, but I couldn’t find a link for it in my google search 😕 This picture is amazing though 💜

My Bolster Is My Lifeline

Today I drove several hours from home to visit a yoga studio. This isn’t just any yoga studio. The teacher I took class from this morning makes the bolsters that I use! For me, it was like meeting a celebrity. 

The class that I took this morning was good; challenging but good. It was a Ropes Wall Yoga Class, which I had never done before. My favorite part was hanging upside down from the ropes. Being inverted is the best thing ever in my opinion. Why? Because you can’t think about killing yourself when you’re doing cool yoga shit. When’s the last time you’ve made a plan to kill yourself while hanging upside down? Yeah. That’s what I thought. 

What I wanted to tell this yoga teacher was that her bolsters literally save my life. I have one at home and then I typically use the same one at the studio I attend. When things become emotionally stressful for me, I curl up onto my bolster in a restorative child’s pose and cry. It is really the only time I feel 100% safe when I cry. I know that my bolster is there to support me. People are unreliable. My bolster is not. When I am suicidal, I often find relief and comfort in my bolster. It allows me to process through all of the yuck that clouds my mind. My bolster is my lifeline.

Today has been a long and exhausting day, but worth it. I have one more yoga class before I head home. 💜

A Question For Other Survivors

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish what is real and what isn’t. I am afraid that my mind is making things up to prevent me from being angry at my abuser. In these moments, I feel completely insane. I don’t know what to trust and what not to trust. 

I know that I should be angry at my abuser. I should have resentment towards him the way that I have resentment towards my mom and dad for not keeping me safe. But I can’t. It’s so complicated. He was like my big brother. He was like my best friend. I don’t want to hate him. And part of me is so afraid of the anger that I could potentially feel. I don’t do well with anger. Being angry makes me want to hurt myself. 

How do you allow yourself to feel the anger that you have towards your abuser?

Fuck You, Father’s Day

My husband has, historically, always worked on Father’s Day (and Mother’s Day). This is the first year he is home for Father’s Day. I asked him a few days ago what he wanted to do, and he said nothing. He quickly followed up with “No you can’t go to yoga!” I was crushed. I wanted to at least make one class. 

Yesterday I told him if I could just go to one class, he could do whatever he wanted for the day. He said I could go to my 9:30 gentle class this morning if he could spend the afternoon at Hooters watching the race 🙄 Fine. Whatever. I know that I’ll never look like those girls. 

I think it’s shit that I do the majority of care taking for our daughter, yet because it’s Father’s Day, he gets to do whatever he wants. For Mother’s Day, he spent 3 hours doing what he wanted to do and I ended up making French Toast for my daughter and I for dinner because he wasn’t around to eat with us, let alone cook. 

Perhaps I have negative feelings towards this “holiday” because of my own issues with my father. Because for my entire childhood, I was sexually abused at my dad’s house while he worked or drank. I’ve seen my dad beat the absolute shit out of women. I’ve seen him lose everything he owns due to a drug addiction. I don’t like this holiday because it’s another day where I am reminded of the shitty situation of my childhood. It’s another day where I’m supposed to buy some generic “You’re the best dad ever” card, put a smile on my face, and act like I give a shit. But in reality, I’m just waiting for this day to be over. 

I will say that I love my stepdad more than any parental figure in my life. He is always there for me. And, he chose to be my dad and treat me like I’m his biological child. I don’t need a holiday to tell him that though. I regularly tell him how grateful I am to have him as my dad. 

In my opinion, Father’s Day is just one of those days that makes me feel bad about myself for wanting to do what I want to do. It’s another day where we bow down to men who really don’t deserve it. And it’s a reminder that no matter how big of a fake smile I put on, the pain is still very much present.

Fuck you, Father’s Day. 

Savoring The Positives

I went to a positive psychology workshop today at my favorite yoga studio. While I don’t know that I got as much out of this as I had hoped, there is one thing that really stuck. 

Savor

I have been working on staying with the positives for longer periods of time. It feels like my life is a constant roller coaster of extremes: extremely bad and extremely good. I never really see the in-between. Today we talked briefly about the word “savor.” People who are happy savor each moment, even the little things. 

I have followed through on my goals for 2017 so far and am making good progress on all of them. After today’s workshop, I have decided to add one more to the list. I want to work on savoring the positives, not just sticking with them. I want to truly acknowledge and appreciate them. I want to savor the positives.

What A Day

Today went like this:

  • Restorative yoga class: cried
  • Marriage counseling: cried and wanted to kill myself
  • Restorative yoga at home: cried and slept
  • Conversation with husband: cried and wanted to kill myself

I see a pattern…. 

Despite all of the tears and suicide ideation today, there were some good things:

  1. For starters, I communicated in marriage counseling that I needed a break. I went to the bathroom and took several cleansing breaths and then focused on my three part breath. I calmed myself down enough to return to the session and even explained why I had to leave. 
  2. I also communicated with my marriage counselor that I wanted to kill myself. That was also huge because I don’t exactly trust her in that department yet and in general, I don’t always do a good job of telling people when I feel that way.
  3. I did restorative yoga in class and at home
  4. I fell asleep in savasana at home and ended up sleeping for 30 minutes
  5. My nap was interrupted by a phone call where I learned that I was approved for a debt consolidating loan that I had applied for
  6. My husband replaced the brakes on my car, so my car isn’t making weird noises anymore.

In this present moment, I am mostly ok. Still slightly suicidal, but not like I was earlier. I’m feeling slightly better about the world right this minute.

A Retreat For My Mind

Well today I paid $500 of the $3600 that I have agreed to pay for my husband’s bankruptcy. I also took the initiative to go through all of the bills and write out who he owes money to, their address, and how much he owes. Necessary paperwork that my husband didn’t take the time to do.

I worked for most of today. I also met with the bank about a loan to consolidate my own debt. I gave a cranky three year old a shower. I did the dishes. And I attempted to have a rational conversation with my husband about money. Of course that last part didn’t go so well. I offered to give him $40 a week in cash and the only thing he would use our joint account for would be gas for his car. He argued that $40 a week wasn’t enough and he would only agree if I gave him $60 a week. Right now, it’s all I can do to come up with $40 a week to give him, let alone $60! The evening ended with my inlaws arriving for a two-day visit. Ugh – words cannot express my displeasure.

In all of this stress and chaos today, when I found myself getting anxious, I brought myself back to the moments of release that I felt in my Thai Massage yesterday. I closed my eyes and thought of how at ease my entire body felt in those moments. It helped so much to have that feeling to go back to. It’s like a miniature retreat for my mind in periods of stress and anxiety. I can envision myself, laying on the floor, having the stress gently and carefully pressed out of my body. And when I close my eyes and pretend that I’m there, in that moment, I can feel the tension dissipate. I am courageous; I am safe; I am love; I am ok

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