Search

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

Three

Today my daughter turned three years old. It’s overwhelming to think about how much has changed in the last three years. I feel like I was a single mom for most of them, since my husband worked in restaurants up until the last few months. But now, he and I are probably closer than we’ve ever been (at least this week).

My daughter brings so much joy into my life. Her smile and laughter is infectious, and her energy brightens up the room. However, her strong will and independence is often frustrating and more than I can handle. I like to have control, and I cannot have control over her… she’s so defiant most days. It stresses me out to no end. Most days I feel like a terrible mom, like all I do is yell and I’m just destroying the relationship I have with her. 

The reality is that I love her more than anything in the whole world. And the things that I tell her to do or not to do are really just my attempts at keeping her safe (don’t stand in the chair; don’t walk down the steps backwards; etc). Every time she gets hurt, I feel like I’ve failed at protecting her. Logically, I know that kids fall and get hurt; it’s part of growing up. However, seeing her hurting makes me feel like I’m not doing my job. 

Parenting is complicated. It is challenging and overwhelming and frustrating. It is also magical in the most unexpected ways. Today, I sat on the floor building “Santa’s house” out of Legos and watching Homeward Bound with my daughter. There was no arguing or yelling, just the two of us sharing enjoyment. 

I am not sure what this next year has in store for us, but right now I am happy with where we are in life. 💜

 

PS: if you read my previous posts, a brief update: I’m sick now with a cold. My anxiety is still present, but not quite as bad. 3 yoga classes in the last 4 days has helped.

Drowning 

Today the anxiety consumes me. 

I am anxious about so many things… I know that none of them even deserve my attention at this present moment. But I can’t get my body to understand that. My tummy hurts and I’m shaking and I can’t focus on anything. Every time I stop, I can feel my breath – shallow and rapid. I try to slow it down but it always goes right back to the way it was. 

Today my husband, who seems legitimately concerned, asked me how long I had been feeling this way. I said I didn’t know… He said he knows it’s been at least 7 days. He said that and I wanted to cry. He’s right. I need this to get better. 

I’ve used a variety of coping skills this week:

  • 3 yoga classes
  • Restorative yoga at home
  • Reaching out to friends
  • Doing nice things for myself
  • Writing about extending  compassion to myself
  • Breathing exercises and tip-tap fingers or whatever my shrink calls it
  • Blogging
  • Walking my dog
  • Focusing on the positives and the present moment
  • Trying to set up opportunities to go out with friends

I’d hate to see how bad the anxiety would be if I had used no coping skills. However, I feel completely defeated at this point. I don’t understand why I am so anxious and I can’t make it go away. Seriously it feels like I’m dying. I need to feel “normal;” but instead I literally feel like I’m drowning in anxiety 😩

The Universe Works In Amazing Ways

If you’ve been keeping up with my posts, you know that I’ve really been struggling with anxiety and trauma stuff this week. Since my therapist can’t squeeze me in at a time that works with my schedule tomorrow, I decided to go to my favorite restorative yoga class today. My anxiety was beyond overwhelming.

I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my friends from yoga teacher training at yoga! It seriously makes my whole life better when I get to see one of my fellow trainees outside of teacher training weekends. Just their presence provides me with a huge sense of support and relief. 

Yoga was, as usual, fantastic. It was difficult to slow my mind, but, like always, my favorite yoga teacher had all the right things to say to help keep me anchored to my breath. And after 3 sandbags (~35lbs) stacked on top of me, and 75 minutes of mindfulness and meditation, I was feeling better. 

While at one of my jobs today, I ran into another fellow trainee! I didn’t realize that her and I worked for the same company! Again, my whole world is better when I see my YTT friends. 

Tonight, I was struggling with anxiety and frustration again… particularly surrounding my soon-to-be 3 year old. My husband graciously took over the bedtime routine and I went on a 30 minute walk with my dog. During my walk, I called a friend who struggles with some of the same things I struggle with. Reaching out to her helped me reframe my week and feel more confident about my ability to handle the upcoming weekend. 

The universe works in amazing ways. This morning, I was struggling with so much anxiety. My day was filled with so much love and support in the most unexpected ways. It was exactly what I needed. I am grateful for all of my experiences today 💜 

#ineedmyshrink

My anxiety is so high right now. It’s actually been really high since sometime last week. I made a decision about a month ago to cut back on my therapy sessions due to money. I’m going once a week instead of twice a week. Last week was my first week with that and I did really well. This week, I’m struggling so much. I just want to break down and cry.

Tonight I buried myself under sandbags and got into a restorative child’s pose.


 My husband came in and said, “Don’t worry – you see your therapist in 2 days.” I replied: “No. I cut back sessions due to money, remember? No more therapy this week.” He said, “Well maybe you should schedule one.” I spent some time thinking about that. I mean, I really would like to be able to cut back on my therapy for a lot of reasons. However, the anxiety is still so bad that I figured sure…I’ll email my shrink and see if she’s available.

Of course she isn’t. Every other Friday that I go, I’m like the only person she has scheduled. But for whatever reason, she basically has no availability that fits my schedule this week. Now my anxiety is even higher than it was before. I didn’t even think that was possible. I don’t do well when I have high numbers for an extended period of time. I’m especially concerned because it has not been very long since my last big suicidal ideation episode (only about 5 weeks). High numbers for a long time usually leads to SI. And SI usually leads to self harm in some way, shape, or form.

I’m in a complete state of panic right now.

#ineedmyshrink

Day 500

Today is 500 days without cutting. 

501 days ago, I was making more than 20 cuts across my arm…several of which should have had stitches. 

The journey to getting to Day 500 was not “easy.” Getting to Day 500 required me to work harder than I’ve ever worked before. I had to learn to trust my therapist, be open and honest about the things that I’m thinking and feeling, and make a conscious effort to use healthy coping skills on a daily basis. 

In the last 500 days, I have worked through countless traumatic memories of childhood sexual abuse, I have worked on accepting these events and releasing the shame that goes along with them, and I have worked on learning to prevent dissociation and flashbacks. At times, I have had to learn to be stronger than I ever thought possible. 

One of the things that has helped me overcome the constant anxiety that I live in is yoga. Without yoga, there is no way I would have made it 500 days without cutting. When I had hard trauma sessions in therapy, yoga was there. When my husband got arrested, yoga was there. And when I was so anxious that the only “logical” solution I could come up with on my own was suicide, yoga was there. Yoga saves my life on a regular basis. 501 days ago, I did not think I would ever be going through yoga teacher training. But now, at 500 days, it seems only appropriate that I am in yoga teacher training. I am eternally grateful for yoga and the peace, strength, and hope that I am able to find within myself as a result of my practice. 

It is with so much gratitude that I celebrate 500 days without cutting. 

*Namaste*

Dissociation In Yoga

Earlier today, I went to a yoga class. My favorite instructor was teaching it – a flow class that I don’t normally attend. I walked in with high anxiety numbers – the result of a stressful weekend and trauma-related nightmares. My instructor must have noticed because she didn’t say much to me. A friend of mine arrived just before class and set up next to me. Her presence and surface chatter were a nice distraction. 

During class, I found myself working really hard to stay present. I kept dissociating when we held a pose for any length of time. My favorite instructor must have noticed because she kept making comments about quieting the mind chatter and letting go of what isn’t serving us. At one point, I was so disconnected that, when she praised me for my side plank, I was so startled that I almost fell. 

I have had a difficult time staying present for much of today. Every time I close my eyes, I see him hurting that little girl. I’ve had high anxiety all day, with the exception of immediately following yoga class. I know this is temporary. I know it won’t feel this way forever. I’m not sure why it’s so bad today. I do have a memory to work through in therapy this week, so maybe that’s part of it. I also think my mom’s comments yesterday brought up tons of emotions that I wasn’t expecting to deal with this weekend. I just want my anxiety numbers to drop… this is miserable

I Wasn’t A Bad Kid, I Was Just Dying

This weekend, my family was in town to help watch my daughter since I had to work on Friday even though daycare was closed. We decided to go ahead and throw my daughter’s birthday party this weekend since my family would be here, even though her actual birthday isn’t for another week.

I’m not good at things like this: throwing parties… entertaining guests… being social. Thankfully my family was a huge help at getting everything together. 

Last night during the party, my daughter had a small meltdown over losing a toy. All of the adults were gathered around the fire pit, me included. My mom started telling everyone how ages 5-7 were the worst years of my childhood. She told my friends and neighbors about how I used to cry nonstop. 

I wanted to say it; I wanted to justify my behavior during those difficult years. 

But I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell them that when I was 5, he started sexually abusing me. I didn’t know how to cope with it. I remember being so anxious and afraid when I was 5… 6… 7… I used to lay underneath my bed and pretend that I lived a different life. I would lay there for hours with my Barbies and Trolls and stuffed animals. Under my bed, I was safe. 

I wanted the people at my daughter’s party to know that I wasn’t a bad kid… I just didn’t know how to be ok when my whole world wasn’t. I didn’t know how to feel safe. When I was 7, I started wrist banging. I learned to numb the feelings and the pain. The tears stopped because I learned how to dissociate; I learned how to not feel. 

For about 6 years, I was severely sexually abused. I cried nonstop for the first 2 years. I cried because I didn’t know what else to do. I cried because every time he hurt me, I died a little bit more. And eventually, I quit crying because it didn’t change my situation. I wasn’t a bad kid… I was just dying.

When You Are Totally Ok

It’s Friday; but it’s not just any Friday…

Today is the first Friday in roughly 8 months that I haven’t had a biweekly therapy session with my therapist. In 2016, I saw my therapist no less than 75 times. I would have seen her more, but her travel schedule and mine didn’t allow that. In 2017, I have seen her twice a week except for when she’s been out of town. 

I was anxious about dropping back to weekly sessions. Financially, I need to drop back. I also got really upset with my therapist about a month ago and was planning on quitting therapy all together. Even though I wanted to cut back or quit, I was really worried that maybe I wasn’t ready. 

Well, here we are: my first Friday where I chose not to see my shrink. 

I feel remarkably good about my decision.

I am not anxious today. I have not emailed my therapist all week. I am not stressed out or worrying over how many more days until I see her. I am ok. 

I feel a huge sense of accomplishment and relief right now. I never really thought I would be ok only seeing her once a week. But I am — I am totally ok. 

I Didn’t Even Have To Take My Pants Off

I walked into my women’s wellness appointment today feeling anxious. When I checked in, the receptionist asked me when my last wellness exam was. “December of 2015,” I replied. She said, “Oh, well you only have to get them every 3 years…..did you need anything else done today?” I looked at her, confused. “Well the whole reason I am here is because my doctor won’t renew my birth control prescription until I have an exam.” The reception assured me that Planned Parenthood would likely renew it without the exam and to wait until the nurse came and got me. 

I was sitting in the waiting room, watching a mother take selfies with her daughter who was probably 8 years old. I didn’t realize Planned Parenthood was a prime selfie location 🤔 When I was finally called back, the nurse asked me if we were doing a full exam. I told her that I wasn’t sure if I needed to or not, but that I really just needed more birth control. She proceeded to ask me a series of questions.

During the questioning process, I found myself get distracted by the anatomically correct informational posters. I wonder if he knew what he was doing to me when we were kids, I thought. 

First question: “Have you been feeling down or lost interest in things you once enjoyed?” I don’t even know how to answer that… “No…” I can’t tell her that I’m chronically suicidal. 

A few more questions: “Have you ever been forced or participated in a sexual act that made you feel uncomfortable?” I stared blankly at the nurse… “In the past or currently?” The nurse wasn’t sure so she said how about ever? The images of him hurting that little girl flashed through my mind…. and the image of the 19 year old me being raped by my 46 year old co-worker…. “Yes, but not recently.” In this moment, it feels recent though.

Several more questions later: “Any recreational drug or alcohol use?” “No.” The nurse looked shocked. “You don’t ever drink sometimes?” With a smirk on my face, “No, I’m almost 5 years sober…. nothing good happens when I drink.” The nurse praised me.

And that was that. I got a new prescription for birth control and I didn’t even have to take my pants off! No one asked for more information regarding my “uncomfortable” sexual experiences. I was relieved. 

Therapy was productive. I recounted the blindfolding experience with my shrink and cried. I couldn’t help it – the experience for me was so terrifying that I am still crying about it 2 days later when I talk about it. It is so scary when you’re trying to tell yourself that it’s ok but your body is in a complete state of panic. I am working on reframing the experience in my mind though. All-in-all, it’s been a good day 💜

 

 

PS: this is not a picture of me 😉 


Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑