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Courageous Yoga Chick

Overcoming PTSD and Self-Injury Through Yoga

Day 777: Who Are You?

Today, I celebrated 777 days without cutting. It was my therapist’s idea to celebrate this milestone. I think she was just trying to help me make it through the weekend without hurting myself; she’s sometimes amazing like that. Looking forward to celebrating today did help me get through a difficult weekend. She brought cupcakes to our session and, for the first few minutes, the entire world felt perfect.

Life is not always cupcakes though.

I knew that today’s session would need to be spent on the “tough stuff;” the stuff that I didn’t want to talk about but needed to. There are parts of my childhood that I don’t talk about. There are things that only my therapist knows. Terrible things. And it doesn’t matter how many times someone tells me it’s not my fault; it doesn’t matter how many times I tell myself it’s not my fault; deep down, there is a piece of me that doesn’t believe that. There is a part of me that wants to extend grace to my younger self. I want to embrace her with compassion and forgiveness. But tonight in therapy, I had a really difficult time accomplishing that. I hated my younger self. She deserved ever bit of pain that she suffered. 

And then I went to yoga.

When I arrived at yoga, I was struggling to stay present, and overwhelmed by the noise, lights, and people the moment I stepped into the studio. I instantly regretted coming to class. I should’ve just gone home. I set up my mat and, as the room filled up and the noise became more than I could handle, I folded over into a child’s pose – cutting myself off from the chaos in the studio and in my head.

I rarely blog about yoga classes anymore, but the theme of this class beautifully tied into my therapy session and trauma work. The instructor, the same teacher who works with me in Thai Massage sessions, talked about how we sometimes stray from or forget who we are. If we go back to our core, though, we can find our true selves again.

Who are you? asked the caterpillar. I hardly know, replied Alice.

I want to stop letting the abuse define me. I am so much more than what I went through as a child. Last week, I had my very first reiki session. It actually brought up so much more than I had expected that I couldn’t blog about it; I couldn’t bring myself to write about the triggers. But, one thing stood out to me from that session: The reiki master said that at my core, I am love. Everything about me says Love. 

In my trauma memories, there is not love. There is fear and hate and submission. There is anger and sadness and defeat. But there isn’t love. And today, I have a hard time loving the little girl that I used to be in those memories. Disgusting. Bad. Gross. When I have weeks where I am stuck in the world of trauma memories, weeks like this week, I forget who I am at my core. I forget Love. Tonight’s yoga class helped me remember that my trauma memories do not define me. It helped me remember that at my core, I am Love… and I am worthy of treating myself with love; I am worthy of living; I am worthy of kindness and compassion and all of the things that I didn’t get when I was little. I am hoping to take even a little bit of that with me into this week. I am hoping that maybe this week will be easier than last week. And maybe, just maybe, the memories will go away for a little while.

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Goodbye, House

Today we closed on the house. You’d think that walking away with a smidge more than 30 grand would make me smile, but instead I left in tears. Knowing that my ex did not value our marriage and our life together enough to change hurts. It makes me feel like I don’t matter. I’m not worth it.

I left the attorney’s office and went to my neurofeedback appointment. I needed neurofeedback today. My neurofeedback specialist guy says that I’m unique in that I can tell almost instantly if a frequency is or isn’t working for me. On days like today, that is definitely a good thing; I can’t handle any more anxiety. When the session ended, I was no longer having urges to self-injure. Even though I was sad, I felt safe.

I had set myself up for success today by making plans to have dinner with one of my closest friends. We discussed our weeks and caught up on current events. The evening was exactly what I needed: friendship, laughter, and support.

Today, I am grateful for all of the supports that I have in place to help keep me safe. I am anxious about the future, but I know my supports will help me through it 💜

50 Minutes Left

Day 772.

In 64 mins I will make it to Day 773 without cutting. I am trying so hard to make it there. I can feel the world shifting in and out of focus. Present one minute and not the next. I need to make it stop.

I look at my DBT cards. They tell me what I’m supposed to do when I want to cut. I don’t want to do any of the things on the list. I just want to cut. But clearly part of me doesn’t want to give up 772 days, or else I wouldn’t be writing this.

So much has happened this week. I can’t even process it all. The whole world feels so overwhelming right now.

55 minutes until Day 773.

18.5 hours until neurofeedback

20 hours until I see my friend

40 hours until I see my therapist

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change.

Please Take The Hurt Away

As I sit alone in my empty house, having just gotten the last of my belongings out, I feel every ounce of grief consume me. I have now been in every room; said goodbye to every memory and feeling; but the tears don’t stop. The pain doesn’t stop.

I’ve resorted to sitting on the bathroom floor – the place I used to sit to feel safe. It’s where I sat when I cut myself. It’s where I sat when my ex scared me. It’s where I sat when I didn’t feel safe. There’s nothing left in the house for me to cut with. But still, I am sitting here. I desperately want to feel safe. I want the pain to go away. I want numb it all. I don’t want to sit with it anymore.

Losing a marriage hurts. It hurts more than I ever anticipated. And even though I know it’s a good thing, I still can’t make the hurt go away.

I Matter: January 14th Thai Massage

Last week was hard. It was one of the hardest weeks I’ve had in months. There is something about walking away from everything you’ve worked to build that just rips you to pieces. Saying goodbye to my house, husband, family… “Struggling” is an understatement.

On Friday morning, I was awoken at 3:30am from a dream about my failed marriage. I spent the next 2 hours crying and wanting to kill myself. Yep; suicide ideation is still present. It’s the first time in a while that I’ve felt like I needed to cut. I emailed my therapist to let her know. I didn’t really want or need her response; I knew what her reply would be and I knew that it would just agitate me more. I decided to book a Thai Massage. When I think of self-care, Thai Massage takes the cake. For me, there isn’t a greater form of self-care at this point in my life. And when given the choice of dragging a razor blade across my arm or having someone massage my arm, I chose the gentler of the two options. Of course booking the session didn’t magically take away my pain and problems. I spent my weekend contemplating all of the ways I could make myself stop feeling, including my therapist’s personal favorite of hanging myself with my yoga strap. I did not follow through with any of those thoughts, obviously.

On Sunday afternoon, only a week since my last Thai session, I laid down on the mat to have all of the bad thoughts smushed out of me. The purpose of this session was not trauma work. I wouldn’t be working chimes or anything else. Instead, I would just be focusing on feeling better. I would be focusing on taking care.

This session was different than most of my others. I wasn’t even the slightest bit anxious for this session. In fact, I was really looking forward to it. The session occurred in a new location, a block away from my favorite yoga studio. It felt safe and familiar. It felt like home.

My instructor and I talked about a variety of things, but we primarily stuck to my recent separation from my ex. As we get ready to officially sell the house and go our separate ways (or as separate as they can get when you’re co-parenting a three year old), I find myself experiencing more pain than I ever could have imagined. It is devastating that he and I could not make things work. I tried so hard. I wanted it to work more than anything in the world. And I truly gave everything I had, mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially; but he never seemed to appreciate my efforts.

As my instructor massaged my belly, I found myself caught in a whirlwind of emotions. My sister, who was back in the hospital, weighed heavily on my heart, as did my failed marriage. The two combined was so overwhelming that it was all I could do to lay there and allow my instructor to touch me. I wanted to curl up in a ball and sob. And when she finished smushing my belly, that was exactly what I did.

One of the things I have learned from my Thai sessions is that it is better to cry with someone than to cry alone. My entire life, I was told not to cry. When I was little, my mom used to hit me when I cried. She said “I’ll give you something to cry about!” I can still feel her palm connecting with my damp cheek. I learned early on that tears are bad, We can only cry where no one can see us, like our bedroom or bathroom. Crying in Thai is different though. It’s the only time I have ever really felt supported and safe when I cry. Usually, if I roll onto my side and cry, my instructor places her hand on my back and sits with me. In those moments, I feel like she is in it with me; I am not alone.

When the tears stopped, we moved on to arms. During arms, I tried so hard to feel my instructor’s hand pressing into my scars. I could see it, and I knew what it was supposed to feel like, but I just couldn’t make the pressure register with my body and mind. Then, I did feel her. Just for a brief moment; I could feel her pushing into my forearm. That small moment of accomplishment made me feel like all of my hard work is helping.

My favorite thing from the session, aside from all of the care I received, was when my instructor laid her entire body across my back while I was in child’s pose. It probably looked similar to this (with shirts on):

It was, by far, one of the best feelings in the world. The amount of weight and pressure was so grounding and just perfect. But the other thing that I liked about this pose was that I could feel my instructor breathing. It gave me something to anchor to, and it also provided another reminder that I am not alone in this world; I have a whole bunch of people supporting me, breathing with me, and helping me through the difficult moments. My instructor says that I matter. Some days I believe that, but other days I do not. This session helped me feel like I do actually matter, though. It reminded me that life is worth living.

The hardest part of this session, aside from the grief that I experienced, was my view from the mat. This session was not about trauma work, and I made sure to shove those things back down when they came up. However, in the new space, I have a clear view from the mat of the sky and a tree. The sky is so blue as he hurts her. I’m on my back in the woods and I see the trees. The leaves crunch under my hands. I stopped myself. I could not go there. This session wasn’t about him or the little girl that I used to be; this session was about taking care of the person that I am today; the 29 year old me who is grieving the loss of the life I thought I wanted. I know that in the future, I will need to work on this during Thai. I will need to work through the trauma memories that come up when I can see the sky and the trees. But for right now, all I am focused on is taking care.

This session came at the perfect time. I’m quite proud of myself for making the choice to seek care and positive touch in a time of distress instead of harming myself. Aside from a brief moment of wrist banging, there wasn’t any other self injury during my difficult moments. That’s such a huge accomplishment for me! As I go into the rest of the week, I have tried to set myself up for success. I have therapy twice this week and neurofeedback once. I have yoga on Sunday. And maybe I’ll try to connect with some of my friends over the weekend. As difficult as things are right now, today I believe that I matter; today I believe that I’m going to be ok.

Just Right: Neurofeedback Session 5

My last two neurofeedback sessions have been good. I can tell it is helping with my anxiety. This morning, even though we were running late, I didn’t snap at my daughter or get frustrated with her. That was my whole reason for agreeing to go to neurofeedback: to be a better mom.

There is research that supports the idea that children who have parents with developmental trauma often show symptoms of ptsd. This is absolutely the case for my daughter. She started therapy the day before her 3rd birthday for anxiety – a recommendation her pediatrician made. Knowing that my issues, and the abuse I experienced 20 years ago, is negatively impacting my daughter…. there aren’t words to describe how terrible that feels. It makes me feel like my abuser is still winning. Neurofeedback is supposed to help with the anxiety and reactivity. It is supposed to help with my ptsd symptoms so that I can be a better mom. I am hopeful this progress will continue.

Hello 2018: New Year, New Life

I went into 2017 with the following goals:

  • Be a better mommy – manage my anger and frustration better
  • Tell at least one person about my trauma stuff
  • Actively seek opportunities to further my career
  • Get through yoga teacher training

In addition, some of the things I wanted to see happen this year were to no longer need marriage counseling, decrease my debt, and for my husband to get a better job with benefits and consistent pay.

I can proudly say that I accomplished all of my goals for 2017, and, with the exception of decreasing my debt, everything that I wanted to see happen did happen. I think it is important to point out that things did not necessarily happen the way that I wanted them to happen. For example, I thought that in 2017, I would not need marriage counseling anymore because my marriage would be better. Turns out, I don’t need marriage counseling anymore because my husband and I separated.

Overall, 2017 goes in the books as being one of the worst years of my adult life. It was a year of tremendous loss. In 2017, I lost my marriage, my house, and my daughter for half of the week. The world lost great people like Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell, and Tom Petty. And a dear friend of mine lost her significant other – a loss that impacted my life and my views of suicide.

In the beginning of 2017, I pushed people away. I pushed away my therapist, I pushed away my friends, and I pushed away my husband. I don’t know that this was so much because I needed independence, but more or less because I was tired of people telling me what to do, bringing me down, and not living up to my unrealistic expectations. By the end of 2017, I had rebuilt a support system. I had new friends who have more similar world-views to my own. I still see my therapist weekly and, to my knowledge, we have no issues. And I am learning to live life as a single mom.

My sister was sick more than usual in 2017. She had multiple emergency surgeries for various reasons, two shunt replacements, and more ICU stays than I care to count. Those moments were scary. There were several times in 2017 where I truly believed she was not going to make it to 2018.

Despite the complete shittiness of 2017, there were some really incredible, unique, and beautiful things about this year. The first thing that stands out to me is yoga teacher training. I started 2017 being very anxious about beginning my 200-hour yoga teacher training. In February, I spent my first of nine weekends with a group of 15 other beautiful souls. This community of compassionate, warm, empathetic individuals helped support me through my journey this year. Throughout the experience, I opened up and shared about my traumatic experiences and the work that I have done. It is the first time I have told someone other than my therapists about what I have been through. That was a huge accomplishment for me, and it speaks volumes about the type of people I attended training with.

In 2017, I learned how to rely on other people other than my therapist to fulfill my needs for emotional support. The friends that I made in yoga teacher training are “the real deal.” They are the friends that I can count on to support me through all of the stress that life may throw my way. I don’t know that I’ve ever really had that before. And, because my friends fill that role for me, I do not depend on my therapist as much.

Another huge accomplishment for me was attending Thai Massage Sessions. For someone who does not like to be touched due to years of traumatic experiences, spending two hours in a Thai Massage can be very overwhelming. However, I completed 11 sessions in 2017. It has been a crucial component to my journey in healing. I have learned to not be quite so afraid of touch. Actually, I often welcome touch from my Thai instructor because I trust that it is safe. In Thai Massage, I have been able to achieve a level of healing that is truly indescribable. There is this connection between my younger self and present-day self that I just can’t explain. If you haven’t read my blog posts about my experiences in Thai Massage, you can find them here.

In therapy, I was able to make growth in my trauma work and sand tray. I was able to find anger towards my abuser, the people who should have protected me, and the events that I went through. This was a big milestone, and one that I had been trying to reach for years. In 2017, I also found grief for my younger self; I grieved the loss of my childhood; I grieved the loss of protection; I grieved the loss of safety. I wrote a letter to my mom about how much her actions, words, and total disregard for my wellbeing hurt me. I also did some work in a free mini life coaching session on embracing my badass self. This was helpful in motivating me to view situations from a different perspective.

2017 was hard, yes, but it could have been worse. Overall, I gained more power over my trauma triggers, I embraced yoga, and I grew. There were fewer thoughts about suicide and self-injury, and more thoughts about how I can best take care of Me. I made the life-changing decision to end my marriage and move in with my cousin, a decision that still carries a lot of grief and heartache; however, the decision has ultimately made me a happier person. At the very end of 2017, I started neurofeedback. This, I’m sure, will impact my road to healing in 2018. As I go into this new year, I am looking forward to more growth, possibly a career change, even more yoga, deeper connections with friends, and finding joy in experiences. I have high expectations of 2018, but I know it will only be as good as I make it. I plan on making it the best year yet.

Below are my top three posts from 2017. These posts got more hits than any other blog post on my site in 2017. Happy reading!

  1. When Your Shrink Tells You To Kill Yourself
  2. Frustrated With Life
  3. First Night Alone

I Am Powerful: January 7th Thai Massage

If you read my post yesterday morning, you know that the day began with feeling immense grief. Even though I moved out almost 4 months ago, losing my marriage hurts. It has been so much harder than I ever imagined.

Yesterday afternoon I had Thai Massage. Considering I had spent most of the morning crying, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that I was in tears before the massage even began. Talking with my instructor about the grief that I am currently working through meant instant waterworks. Everyone who knows me (along with several of my blog readers) have commented on how strong I am. When I’m crying over my marriage ending though, I do not feel very strong.

As my instructor began to massage my feet, the tears fell involuntarily, streaming down my cheeks and wetting my hair. The pain from losing my marriage and my house, and the family I had worked so hard to build, radiated through my body. I don’t know that I’ve ever hurt like this before. 

I rolled onto my side. My instructor was massaging my legs and I had finally gotten the tears under control. The pain dulled. My instructor and I talked about a variety of things, including our upcoming yoga retreat, my recent physical fitness activities, and small businesses. At some point though, I was lost in chaos. There wasn’t one specific trauma memory this time, there were multiple. This was different for me. The flashback was a mix of “ok” memories and “scary” memories. One minute I was playing Darkwing Duck on Sega with my abuser in the den, and the next minute I was in our room being hurt. I have no idea if those memories occurred on the same day or not. There was a mix of other jumbled memories in there, some ok and some scary. My instructor must have noticed that I wasn’t present because she asked me what I was feeling. I couldn’t feel her, but the cue was enough to bring me out of the chaos.

To help with my grieving process, my instructor suggested she do some work on my belly today. The first couple of times she massaged my belly, it didn’t really make a huge impact on me. I liked the pressure and found it grounding, but that’s about it. This time, though, it felt different. It was grounding; yes. However, it also felt like a huge release of all of the pain I had walked in with. Again, the tears flowed freely, staining my cheeks and dampening my hair. I worked so hard to build this family with a person that I thought I would be with forever; with someone whom I truly loved more than anything in the world. And now, that is gone. Destroyed. I cried. I cried more in this session than probably any other session we’ve had. But when my instructor massaged my belly, along with those tears, I felt some relief. I am going to be ok. I am going to rebuild from this. I am going to thrive. 

Next, it was time for arms. I didn’t feel anything monumental this time. There were no flashbacks of suicide attempts or cutting or drug use. There were no trauma memories. Instead, what I felt was cared for. I felt like my instructor was taking care of my emotional needs in that moment. Perhaps it is because, for so long, my initial response when I had any intense emotion (such as grief) was to numb it by cutting… I don’t know. But for some reason, when my instructor massages my arms, I feel like she is showing me compassion; she cares and wants me to be safe. In this session, having my arms massaged was essentially like sealing off the grief that I had just worked through, storing it away for a later date.

Finally, it was time for chimes. This was session number 6 of working on chimes. I laid on my belly and prepared for my instructor to massage my back. As she worked up my legs, I realized I wasn’t as anxious for chimes this time. When she got to my back, the chimes started. I could feel myself starting to drift at first, but then something different happened. The chimes faded. Typically when we work chimes, I can only hear the chimes. They are usually so loud – they consume me. This time though, I could hear more than just the chimes. I could hear the heater; I could hear the cars on the street outside; I could hear my instructor’s hands gliding across the blanket as she pressed firmly on my back. I could feel her. I could feel each time she pressed on my back, and I could articulate where she was pressing. I kept waiting for the room to change. I kept waiting to see the little girl that he hurts. But none of that happened this time. I felt my body relax. I wasn’t numb; I wasn’t afraid; I wasn’t holding my breath. This time I was safe. 

I took a moment at the end of chimes to sit in child’s pose. I tried to process what had just happened. The corners of my mouth curled up. I did it. I didn’t just “get through” chimes; I conquered them. I sat up and hugged my instructor. I couldn’t find the words to describe how amazing it felt to hear chimes and not have a flashback. But in that moment, I didn’t need words. She knew.  

I am so proud of myself and my hard work. I am also grateful for my instructor’s hard work and support through this process. As we were moving into savasana, my instructor told me that I am powerful. In my 16 years of therapy, I have had to create a variety of lists of positive words to describe myself. The word “powerful” has never crossed my mind. However, in that moment, I did feel powerful; I have power over my trauma memories. 

It’s been a while since I have had a breakthrough in therapy. Actually, I feel really stagnant in my progress right now. Most of my work in therapy has been “put on hold” as I get through neurofeedback. The thing is, at the end of the day, the memories are still there. Neurofeedback might make me less anxious about them and it might help me sleep better at night, but it doesn’t actually heal the pain or make me feel powerful. There is something amazing about Thai Massage and the way that it helps me heal. By creating a safe space to process through memories and pair them with positive touch and compassion, I have been able to heal in ways I never imagined. I have so much gratitude for where I am today, and the community of support that embraces me.

Grief and Heartache

I’ve been through a lot in my life. And for the past 2 years, I thought that trauma work was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I had ever done. However, that is no longer the case. To date, the hardest thing I’ve ever done is choose to end my marriage. As I stood in my virtually empty house today, looking around at the rooms, a wave of grief crashed over me. I thought about all of my memories in that house. I thought about our first Christmas in that house, our New Years Eve parties, and summers in the back yard. I remembered laying in my daughter’s room during my struggles with infertility, praying for the chance to be a mommy. I remembered decorating that same room for my daughter when I finally got pregnant. I thought about my baby shower, and all of the people who came over to show their support. I thought about my daughter’s birthdays that we celebrated in that house: decorating her door, having friends and family over, opening presents. And then I thought about my husband. The man that I thought I would be with forever. I will never understand how he turned into this mean, bitter, verbally abusive person that he has become. I try not to blame myself, but it’s hard. I don’t understand why he doesn’t see how his behavior is what ultimately led to me leaving. While yoga and therapy has increased my self-worth, giving me the ability to see how bad the situation was and find the strength to leave it, ultimately it is his actions that led me to leave. My heart hurts. It hurts so much more than I ever thought possible. I wish things were different. I have Thai Massage in 30 minutes and I am struggling to find the motivation to go, even though I need to. I know going will likely help with this grief process. The rest of the day will be spent catching up on work, grocery shopping, and probably taking my car to get fixed.Today, I am grateful for my dog, who has curled up next to me and refuses to leave my side. She makes the whole world a better place.

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