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Courageous Yoga Chick

Overcoming PTSD and Self-Injury Through Yoga

The Residual Effects Of Thai Yoga Therapy

I was on Cloud 9 yesterday following my Thai Massage. My entire body felt so tranquil – a huge change from my norm. I was worried that today would feel the way that it always feels: stressful and chaotic. However, that is not the case.

Some of my regular readers may remember back in October when I wrote a lengthy letter to my dad addressing his role in the occurrence of my traumatic childhood. If not, here’s the post. In that letter, I gave a chunk of the blame to him for the sexual abuse that I endured. In the days following, I literally “felt lighter.” There was a knot that had disappeared from my stomach that had always been there.

I have that same feeling today. It is like Thai Massage literally removed knots of anxiety that were stuck inside of my body. I feel it in my stomach. I literally feel “thinner” or “lighter.” I know this is because the body holds traumatic experiences inside. This lighter feeling is an indication to me that the massage I received yesterday did exactly what I was hoping it would do.

I am so looking forward to another one in the near future. I’ve just got to come up with the money to make it happen. Ugh money is stressful 😦

Actively Unstuck

On April 20th, I decided that I was going to try Thai Massage. The decision came about after talking to a friend about the anxiety that I feel rushing through my body for no apparent reason other than “I’m just anxious.” I told her that I understand where the anxiety comes from when I am actively doing trauma work, or when things at home are really stressful, or work is really stressful. However, in that moment, none of those things were going on. Yet I couldn’t get my body to quit being anxious. It had gotten to the point of feeling like I needed to cut in order to make the anxiety go away. She recommended I set up an appointment for a Thai Massage with one of my yoga instructors. I started looking into it and decided that yes, perhaps this could be beneficial.

Well, seven and a half weeks later, I finally went through with my very first Thai Massage!

The process leading up to it looked like a lot of conversations with my therapist and my yoga instructor. My therapist thought it would be good for me to tell my yoga instructor some basics about my trauma and my history. While as awkward as it was for me to share even the basics, I also felt it necessary. I think anytime there is potential for someone to play a huge role in my healing process, I think it’s important for them to know what I am healing from. While they may not necessarily have to know, I think it is courteous to let them know. If the roles were reversed, I would want to know.

My day started with anxiety as I was abruptly awaken by a dream that turned into a nightmare. Trauma stuff is on the surface again. The anxiety consumed me this morning as I tried to get my paperwork together for the bankruptcy attorney. And then it was time to go.

As I drove to the studio, my heart raced. I recounted several traumatic experiences. Nothing that happens today will be worse than that, I reminded myself. It’s going to be ok. I’m going to be ok. I am safe. She will not torment me. It’s ok. 

I arrived a few minutes early, because I am early to everything. I got out one of my journals and opened it up to a random page. Deep breaths. It was the letter I had written to my younger self last Fall. The letter where I tell that little girl that what happened is not her fault; that she is so very brave; and even though she doesn’t feel it, she is loved. I am courageous; I am safe; I am loved. I repeated the words several times, closed the journal, and got out of the car. My yoga instructor was walking over to greet me.

When we got into the studio, I tried not to have that “wounded puppy look” that my shrink says I get when I’m anxious. The yoga instructor and I talked briefly about the process of Thai Massage, my intention for the process, and (ironically) how nothing that happens today will be worse than what I’ve already been through. Ok. I’m ready.

She started with my feet. She massaged them gently and I could tell that each touch had an intention, and each movement was made with so much care. And then it started….the PTSD symptoms. The feet that she’s touching… those feet are the same feet that run through the woods, trying not to be caught. Those feet that she is so graciously taking care of right now have been fueled by so much fear in the past. I could see the girl, running through the woods; breathing is heavy; fear overtakes; leaves beneath her hands. Make it stop. The tears came. The way that my body was treated on that day is so very different than the way that my body is being treated in this moment, I thought.

As she worked her way up to my calves, I felt more memories surfacing. We’re pretending to be Indians. This is what the Indians do. The leaves crunch. His hands on my thighs. Please make him stop. 

And then it was gone. As her fingers danced along my legs, I felt the memories surface and drift away. It would be several minutes before another memory would surface, and just like the one before it, after a few moments, it would vanish. The tears came with the relief of not feeling stuck in the memories. There was a time when this wasn’t possible, I thought; When I would be stuck in the memory for minutes, hours, or days. I have grown so much since then. 

In my preparation for this session, I realized that the instructor would be spending a decent amount of time massaging my arms at close range. Depending on the lighting, you can see a lot of my scars on my left arm from the 14 years that I spent cutting myself. I gave her a heads up about this earlier in the week and tried to remind myself that it was ok if she touched them. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may remember when my scars were touched during savasana in a yoga class. If not, here’s the post.  The same teacher who touched them that day would be touching them again today.

When she moved to my left arm, I felt the tension radiating through my body. She held my hand… I’m pretty sure this is just some Thai Massage thing, but in that moment, all I could think was I’m ok. She’s supporting me. I’m safe. I’m not alone. With my arm exposed and her hands pressing gently into my scars, I saw the images of a razor blade pressing into my arm. I saw the 17-year-old me, laying on my bedroom floor with more than 50 crimson lines zigzagging across my pale skin. And the tears came. I am so sorry. The shame wins every time here. I am so, so sorry. I know I should have handled it differently. As she continued to work on my left arm, I felt the shame release. And with that release came so many more tears. My scars are a symbol of the pain that I have endured. Sharing that pain with someone else is scary; it is vulnerable, shameful, and scary. Today, I trusted someone else to take on that pain with me. That is huge. As she worked her way to my right arm, I felt the tension subside. I am ok; I am safe; I am loved. 

One of my favorite parts about Thai Massage today was all of the work she did on my back and neck. I forget just how much day-to-day tension gets stored there. I forget that lugging around a 37lb three year old who “can’t walk because her knees hurt” does a number on your back (side note: her knees hurt because she rolls around on the carpet and gets rug burn). There is so much stress in my day-to-day life with my threenager, my marriage, my job, money issues….I feel all of that stress and tension trapped in my back, shoulders, and neck. Feeling that release today was truly a phenomenal sensation.

When everything was over, the instructor and I talked briefly. Of course I cried…because well that seems to be the theme in this. I had no idea I would cry this much. I know that unless you are in my body and feeling what I am feeling on a daily basis, there is no way to adequately comprehend how amazing Thai Massage was for me. As someone who has had so much anxiety and trauma trapped inside for so many years, I can tell you that even the smallest releases during Thai Massage were monumental for me. My goal was to find 5% more healing and growth in this process. Based on the physical and emotional releases that I had during this first session, I would say I vastly exceeded that number.

I know that the world does not stop being fucked up because I did one Thai Massage. I know that my trauma memories and sensations, my PTSD symptoms, won’t just magically go away and never return. And I am very much aware that my marriage is still rough and raising a threenager is still the hardest job ever. However, what I have gained is a sense of contentment, “santosha.” In those moments of release, there was a physical sense of peace that I don’t think I have ever felt before. I have learned that my body deserves to be treated the way that my yoga instructor treated it today: with compassion and kindness, and an intent for healing. I have learned that I can open up and share a little bit of my pain; I don’t have to keep it all stuck inside of me forever. And, I have learned that my body can tolerate, accept, and enjoy two hours of positive touch. All good things.

Yoga has played such a key role in my healing from severe childhood sexual abuse. Adding Thai Massage to that gives me another outlet. This afternoon, I am filled with so much gratitude for the people who have helped me through this process; gratitude for their compassion, kindness, and acceptance. I don’t want to be seen just as “the girl with PTSD.” There is so much more to who am than that. Today, I truly believed that my yoga instructor saw the PTSD, but knew that those symptoms do not fully encompass who I am. That is compassion.

I am courageous. And today, I am actively unstuck.

A Much Needed Good Day

My day today was so much better than the last several. 

I spoke to the bankruptcy attorney and I feel like I have a better understanding of my role in the process of my husband’s filing.

I cleaned my house. Much needed. 

My kid was good today. Her and I actually had a really fun day together. We snuggled, went roller skating, and took a 2 hour nap. We kept it low-key and just enjoyed being in the present moment.

I’m about to go to yoga for the next 2.5 hours. I am trying to mentally prepare myself for my first Thai Massage session tomorrow 😬 More on that later.

Today was exactly what I needed.

You Can’t Think About Killing Yourself When You’re Doing Cool Yoga Shit

I’m pretty sure I already have a blog with this title, but I don’t care. 

Here’s where I am tonight: practicing headstands and handstands. 

Because you can’t think about killing yourself when you’re doing cool yoga shit. 

It’s pretty much impossible. 

These require all of my attention. I can’t research ways to commit suicide while I’m in a headstand…. or try to find the lighter fluid. And now, I’m so excited about my headstand progress, that I need to share it with the world, which also means I’m not actively trying to kill myself. And then I’m going to bed. 

One more day of life in the books ✔️

Here’s to hoping tomorrow is better 💜

It’s Like I Don’t Even Fucking Matter

The best part of today was restorative yoga class. The second best part was the 30 minute nap I took before yoga class….and maybe the email I got from my therapist, which coincidentally came at just the right moment. 

The rest of the day? 

Well it fucking sucked. 

My daughter was in rare Threenager form today…worse than usual. She refused to nap, which didn’t help things. And tonight, after she refused to go upstairs to get ready for bed, and instead chose to lay in the floor and said her legs hurt and she couldn’t walk (bullshit), I broke down and popped her butt. I feel like the worst mom ever. I always try not to spank her. I try so hard. And sometimes she goes weeks and weeks without a spanking; but today, I had just had enough. I didn’t spank her hard, but it was enough to motivate her to get up and walk.

Prior to that, I had gotten home from yoga to find my husband unloading grocery bags from Walmart. What the actual fuck?!?! Yesterday we had a whole conversation about money and how there was not any money for him to spend until Wednesday when he got paid. I talked to him at length about what money needed to come out of the account between now and then. I had purchased enough food to last until Wednesday, including chicken. We had burgers and hot dogs already in the house. But apparently it wasn’t what he wanted. So I come home from yoga to him unpacking body wash, spaghetti o’s, ramen noodles, and gas for the lawn mower. He says he only spent about $30. Well there goes the money I needed in order to pay my therapist! He won’t even have time to mow the lawn until Thursday!!!! Why he had to spend money on that is beyond me! 

I am so angry. I feel like he has reverted right back to where he was last summer. I’m fucking done. I want to just say fuck this and move out. I’m tired of his inconsiderate remarks and actions. I’m so fucking sick of his lack of responsibility. And most of all, I am done with feeling like nothing I say or do matters – I am not appreciated. 

I can’t get my anxiety numbers down. Things are so bad right now. For the first time in a months, I need to cut. I need to feel numb.

Like the floor of my car (as shown in the picture), my whole life is a fucking mess.

My Shrink Wants Me To Write A Gratitude List

I know I need to make one…even though I wrote one on Friday. Things are so incredibly bad with my marriage that it is difficult to see the good in anything else. There are good things though:

  • My Nana gave me her Old Navy Cash that she had and because of that, my daughter was able to pick out a purple “princess” dress last night. We went to try it on and she just lit up – she was so excited
  • I’ve got awesome support from my yoga community – even if I don’t reach out to them, knowing that they are there and seeing their smiling faces at class makes my life better
  • My house has air conditioning and it’s working right now
  • So much gratitude for my sobriety and the length of time I’ve had without self-injury. If I didn’t have the amount of time that I have, it would be difficult to get through moments like this without it
  • My shrink: I did need to make a gratitude list…. it helped some

Keep Coming Back

I went to an AA meeting today. In August, I’ll be celebrating 5 years sober. Since having my daughter, it’s been difficult to make meetings. When I first had her, I felt abandoned by my AA family. One person came to visit me. Knowing I had an absentee husband and no family close by, not a single member of my homegroup offered to come over, hold a meeting at my house, bring me food, etc. Actually, no one even called me. And the week that I delivered my daughter, my friend in the program announced at the end of the meeting that I had my baby and gave the stats. Someone commented, “This time is only for AA related announcements.” That’s my homegroup! 

I have finally started taking my daughter to my homegroup’s Saturday meeting because they have childcare. I took her once before when she was younger and the lady watching her left her in a poop filled diaper while I was in the meeting – never came to get me so I could change her. The next day, my daughter was sick with a stomach virus. Now that she’s older, potty trained, talking, and has built up her immune system, I feel better about bringing her with me.

The AA system seems a bit flawed to me. It is true that I would not be where I am today without my AA sobriety. However, for me, it takes more than sitting in meetings, working the steps, and doing service work. For me, I need a community. Some people would argue that AA is a community. In today’s meeting, 3 out of 38 women were in this homegroup when I got sober almost 5 years ago. It’s hard to find community when the door constantly revolves. 

I find my community in yoga. The smiles, hugs, and words of encouragement that I get from my yoga friends are so much more sincere than what I have found in the rooms of AA. My experiences with AA are hopefully not like everyone else’s. My experiences are cold and even a little harsh. And in recovery, sometimes we just need compassion.

Inner Strength

I’m in a not so good place tonight. It’s not as bad as it was in March… at least not yet. Things with my husband are bad again. And in therapy tonight, when my shrink talked about how I essentially have post traumatic stress surrounding this business that he opened behind my back that then failed, I lost it. I am so fucking tired of having post traumatic stress. I don’t want to live like this anymore. My therapist wants me to find and cling to my inner strength, but I just want to curl up and die.

When I get in these places, I know that I need to make a gratitude list. So, here is mine for tonight:

  • My yoga family – and all of the interactions that I had with them today
  • Flowers: planting flowers this afternoon helped me stay in the present moment
  • My daughter – her smile and genuine kindness make the world a better place 
  • My experiences and the impact I’ve had on others
  • My therapist – I know that there is nothing I can give her to repay all that she has given me these past 23 months. 

In the picture, you can see the flowers I planted today. 

Does The “Eating Disordered Brain” Ever Really Go Away?

I’ve been eating “normally” … or relatively normally… for almost 10 years. I was anorexic from the time I was 14 until I was about 20 years old. After all of these years of “eating like a normal person,” I am reminded that I actually never really eat “normally.” I still eat super slow. I still don’t like to eat in front of people. And I still pick my food apart. The muffin in the picture… yeah I’ve been eating for 15 minutes now and all I’ve really done is mutilate the muffin. It’s good. But there are so many people in here that I don’t want to actually eat it. I’m not even hungry anymore. 

It leaves me wondering if this part of my brain will ever change….

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