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Courageous Yoga Chick

Overcoming PTSD and Self-Injury Through Yoga

Heartbroken

If you read my blog post last week about how I wanted to move back in with my husband, you know that I was really hopeful that we could work things out. On Saturday, I tried to talk to him about us moving back in together once the house sold. I got one sentence out before he went off on me. He said that for us to get back together, I would need to stop belittling him and undermining him. He said I would need to stop walking around like I’m better than him because I have all of these degrees and a better job than him. I tried to end the conversation but he continued, saying that I always have to get everything I want. He said I pout and bitch until I get my way. 

Needless to say: we will not be getting back together.

The conversation went terrible. It essentially ruined any hope I had of us getting back together. I wanted so badly for things to change. I was heartbroken. For the first time in this process, I truly felt my heart breaking. 

Today is Wednesday. The house went on the market Monday. I have no heat at my cousin’s house so I’m staying with my husband for now. Things are semi civil but I think it’s safe to say that neither of us want to get back together. I’m just ready to get the house sold at this point so that I can find my new normal.

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Gratitude: Healing From Childhood Sexual Abuse

Last night I went to a yoga class to benefit Veteran’s Yoga Project. The theme for the class was gratitude. The instructor encouraged us to think of one thing that we are grateful for. I instantly thought I am grateful for my breath. Typically I think of my daughter and my dog. However, given everything that’s going on right now, I’m really thankful for my breath – I am thankful for life. 

When I first started trauma work, my therapist used to always tell me to breathe. I thought it was dumb. I thought that she clearly didn’t understand the crisis I was in and that my breath was not going to fix things. I’ve since learned that your breath isn’t intended to fix things. The point of your breath is to help you sustain, to help you survive, the things that are uncomfortable. 

This morning, as I was walking my dog, gratitude presented itself again. This is what my street looks like right now:


Two years ago, I would have walked in the street to avoid the leaves on the sidewalk. I would have had high anxiety numbers, and likely dissociated. I would not have been able to walk through the leaves without feeling the fear, panic, and shame that I felt at 9 years old.

Today, I have gratitude for the hard work I have done in therapy and through Thai Massage. Because of the work that I have done on this memory, I am able to walk on my sidewalks right now. Leaves are no longer a trigger; they are not dysregulating. I have endless gratitude today for being able to walk through a pile of leaves without having high anxiety or unwanted memories. It is possible to heal. 

One Last Shot

I am seriously contemplating getting back with my husband. I know; I know! 

A lot of our issues stem from finances. If we sell the house, move into a rental, pay off our debt, etc., that could alleviate some of that conflict. And if that conflict no longer exists, then maybe we will be able to work on the attachment issues. I know that he genuinely loves me and cares about me. And I don’t want my daughter to grow up with divorced parents if we can make it work. 

If we move into a rental together, and the rental is in my name, then I can always kick him out if things don’t work for me. But at least then I would have some clarity about whether or not separation is what’s best. Right now, I really am just confused. Every day is more confusing than the day before. And that confusion is becoming more stress than I can handle. 

So, on Saturday I plan on talking to my husband about moving back in together once the house sells. There will be some guidelines surrounding us moving in together, including financial and sexual boundaries. There will also be a lengthy discussion about the way we treat each other, the way we parent, and the way we talk to each other. 

I am cautiously optimistic. However, I am preparing myself to be ready if this doesn’t work. I am preparing myself to kick him out if I need to. I am also preparing myself for the negative comments I will get from my friends, family, therapist, and blog readers 🙂 I don’t know of anyone who wants my husband and I to work things out. However, I have to at least give it one last shot. 

Selfish vs Self-Care

The other day, I had the opportunity to attend an AA meeting. It was a women’s meeting close to where I am currently living that I had not yet attended. The meeting started off a little differently than I am used to and the topic was on “selfishness.” Several people talked about how when they were out drinking, they were selfish, and even now that they are sober, they still struggle not to be selfish.

I found myself thinking of my current situation: separated from my husband. I have recently began wondering if this was a “selfish” decision. Am I being selfish for not sticking to my vows, filing for separation, moving out, and dating? Perhaps. But as the the meeting continued, I realized there is a big difference between selfish and self-care. 

It took me several years of sobriety to realize how my actions impacted others when I was drinking. Actually, it wasn’t until recently, when a friend of mine was dealing with some issues with her daughter, that I realized what a negative impact my decisions had on my mother. It is easier to blame everyone else than to acknowledge, accept, and take ownership over how your selfish actions impact those you love. When I was drinking, I was selfish. 

When I first got sober, I went to between 3 and 5 meetings every week. I signed up for service work. I met weekly with my sponsor. I dedicated time to working the steps. I was selfish with my sobriety. Nothing in the world was more important to me than staying sober. I think that is a big part of why I am still sober 5 years later. Putting my sobriety first is important for continued sobriety. 

In the past 2 years, I have felt selfish when it comes to my mental health issues. I have put therapy first, even ahead of AA. It wasn’t a choice if I wanted to get better. Part of my treatment for PTSD includes yoga. I take zero medications, not even for sleep. That isn’t because I’m “all natural” or whatever, it’s because I struggle with addiction and suicide ideation. Medication isn’t an option for me. 

Putting myself and my recovery first feels selfish. It feels like I am the reason my marriage is ending and my daughter is growing up in a broken home. I am regularly trying to remind myself that there is a difference between selfish and self-care. Without self-care, I cannot be a loving, supportive mom. Without self-care, I become selfish. 

Transformation: Thai Massage Number 9

Today I had my 9th Thai Massage. It’s hard to believe I’ve already had nine sessions! During today’s session, I found myself reflecting on the difference between my first couple of sessions and this one. In my first sessions, the memories felt so intense when they came up. Now that I’m almost 10 sessions in, that usually isn’t the case. Those really difficult memories that came up in my first few sessions still come up now, but not as frequently and not nearly as intense. Even if I dissociate now during those memories in Thai Massage, I can easily bring myself back or be brought back by my instructor. There were definitely parts of today’s session where I found myself just enjoying the massage. This is pretty amazing. I remember when I first started, I was worried about never being able to just enjoy positive touch.

Not all of today’s session was easy though. The session began with my instructor massaging my feet while a track of wind chimes played in the background. I was anxious about this prior to the session. I have been having such a difficult time with this memory. The memory came up as she was massaging my feet. I felt my chest get tight and it was difficult to breathe. I tried to focus on the pressure on my feet. I tried to lengthen my exhales and relax from the crown of my head to my toes. It was difficult, but for the most part, I remained present.

When she was finished with my feet, my instructor changed the music to our typical playlist and worked her way up my legs. As she massaged the bottom half of my legs, I felt the calm take over. I am ok. I laid on the mat, in awe of how relaxed I was.

Then the session shifted for me again. My instructor moved up between my legs to massage my quads. I know that my instructor is safe. I know that she isn’t going to hurt me. But it doesn’t matter. My body automatically reacts:  I’m in the woods. Pants off. He’s so heavy. It’s cold out but the sun is warm. The memory played in my head and I felt numb. My instructor tried to cue me back to the present moment, but I knew that what I was feeling was not what was actually happening to my body. Eventually, the memory passed. Even though I struggled to stay present when the memory came up, I know it wasn’t as dysregulating as it was in my first couple of Thai Massage sessions.

I did mostly ok as my instructor worked into my IT band and other parts of my legs. When we got to the stretches that cause that “opening sensation,” I did a good job of staying present at first. However, as the stretch continued, I found it too exhausting to prevent the memory from coming up. I felt my entire body give in all at once. I felt the shaking and the pain. I saw my younger self sitting by the nightlight with my abuser. I’m so little. What happens next in this memory is too terrible for me to ever share anywhere other than my therapist’s office. But when my instructor asked me what I was feeling at that moment, I felt this internal struggle of needing to get out the words to describe the memory and also needing to suppress the shame, pain, and fear. I fought back tears and tried to focus just on the present. What I was feeling was not what was actually happening to my body at that moment.

The memory passed and it was time for arms. This week, as I was going through some of my things and moving them to my cousin’s house, I came across some letters and cards that were written to me by my “adoptive mom.” No; I wasn’t really adopted. When I was a senior in high school, enrolled in a 9-month long DBT course, coming off of a serious drug addiction, and trying to overcome self-injury and anorexia, this middle-aged lady with a huge heart decided that she was going to become my “adoptive mom.” She cared about me; truly, genuinely cared about me. She fed me, took me to church, held my hand when I cried, and hugged me when I fucked up and got high or cut. My “adoptive mom” worked hard to make me feel like I deserved to be loved; she valued my life, and it is because of her (and God) that I am not dead or still using. Today as my instructor worked on my arms, those memories came up. The ones of my “adoptive mom” hugging me and telling me how precious I am. Unfortunately, they were accompanied by not so great memories – ones filled with pain and shame. I felt numb again. I couldn’t feel my instructor touching me anymore. I felt stuck in between the past and the present. I couldn’t bring myself back. I couldn’t find the words and I couldn’t find my breath. It took my instructor changing the way she was massaging my arms for me to feel like I was present again.

After some work on my neck (which apparently was super fucked up), it was time to revisit chimes. I laid on belly as my instructor massaged my feet and legs. When she got to my back, the chimes played. I did ok at first. I was shaking, but still mostly present. I could feel the pressure of my instructor’s palms pushing into my back. I could feel my belly being compressed under the weight. And for a little while, I felt ok. As time progressed though, I felt that sense of security slip away. I distinctly remember one chime playing and then being lost in the memory. It was as if that one sound engulfed the entire room. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t even try. The world became a blur. I see her. She’s so little 6 maybe. They’re on the porch and she’s scared. Everything feels icky. I want to keep her safe but I can’t. My instructor started talking to me. I don’t remember what she said, but eventually it was time to go back into child’s pose. I felt my entire body physically release the memory. I wasn’t tense and shaking anymore. I felt ok again. I am safe. 

The session ended with savasana. At first, I couldn’t feel anything. I knew my instructor was touching the back of my neck and head, but I couldn’t feel it. As she moved around to my forehead, I became more present and aware. I am safe. The savasana evolved into the type of resting pose that you don’t ever want to leave. Truthfully, I could’ve stayed there for hours, letting my body digest what had happened during the session.

I am not sure I can say that I am 100% better with chimes now, but I do feel like there has been some improvement over the past several weeks. Tonight, I feel lighter. Physically and emotionally lighter. I have so much gratitude for the these sessions. It is pretty incredible to reflect on my transformation from Session 1 to Session 9. With the holidays coming up, I am not sure when my next session will be. However, I am already looking forward to it.

Pre-Massage Anxiety

I have Thai Massage this evening. I am nervous. We are working on chimes again. I know I will benefit from the exposure. Earlier this week I was at a friend’s house and there were wind chimes outside that kept clanging together. I found myself pausing in conversation, snapshots of the 6 year old me flashing through my mind, making it impossible to stay present. If I could take all of her pain away, I would. In those memories, I see all of the pain and fear. I watch as her world is forever changed. My hope is that Thai Massage today can bring comfort, healing the wounds that go deep to my core. I want to feel ok.

Happily Ever After

This weekend, I feel depressed. I am tired, tearful, and apathetic. The reality of losing my house and marriage is hitting hard. I emailed my therapist yesterday in an attempt to feel better. She suggested I journal about the reasons I left my husband. Since my journal is in the car, it’s going on my blog. 

  1. He doesn’t respect boundaries. This includes sexual boundaries, financial boundaries, and communication boundaries
  2. He is verbally and emotionally abusive, particularly when we are around my family
  3. I feel like he uses me… for money and blowjobs 
  4. His financial problems cause me to have high anxiety numbers
  5. I don’t feel like we have anything in common
  6. I am tired of being criticized for the positive changes I have made
  7. He says he’s fine with me doing things for myself, but then constantly uses it against me or goes out and spends money we don’t have on something he wants (usually substantially more than what I spent)
  8. He is immature and inconsiderate
  9. We have vastly different world views
  10. I don’t feel like he appreciates me

Ok. I feel a little better now. It’s hard because I so want for us to work and keep our house and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, I don’t think happily ever after exists for us. 

The Impacts Of Separation

My daughter started therapy again this morning.

She’s 3.5 years old and already on her second round of child centered play therapy.

I took her to see a therapist back in April. Her pediatrician recommended it because my daughter has such an intense fear of all things that are loud. She perseverates on them, worries about them, and cries. This got a little better after 8 weeks of therapy, so we quit going. 

Last week, my daughter’s teacher informed me that she is having issues in school. Difficulty focusing, tired all the time, having a hard time listening, etc. I broke down in tears. I hate knowing that my decision to leave my husband is having a negative impact on my daughter. I immediately called her therapist though to get her back in. I don’t know if it will help, but it certainly can’t hurt to try.

I think my daughter feels like I’ve abandoned her. Because her dad still lives in the home, and I moved in with my cousin, it’s difficult for her to understand why I don’t stay in the house anymore. I think this confusion is exacerbated by the fact that sometimes, usually a couple nights a week, I stay at the house with them to get things done or be closer to her school. That makes the nights when I’m not with her even more difficult I believe. 

Separating from my husband has been so overwhelming. More and more I am wondering if it was indeed the “right” thing to do. It feels selfish. I just can’t live the way we were living anymore. Nothing has really changed much in the 6 weeks since I’ve been out of the house, or in the 8 or 9 weeks since we first discussed separating. The relationship is still strained for a variety of reasons. 

As we head into the holiday season, I feel an overwhelming sense of sadness. The heartache of having to share my daughter, not being together as a couple, and not living in my own house is worse than I ever imagined. It feels like I have lost everything all at once. I feel alone.

The Answer Lies Inside You

One of my favorite yoga teachers plays this song on a regular basis:

Bal Shem Tov – Live by Matisyahu

It has always been very triggering for me. The lyrics “Sublime love cuts like a razor; Burning up your fear and pain,” hit home for me in all the worst ways. Regardless of what the rest of the song is about, I have always gotten stuck on that part.

Having used self-injury in the form of cutting with razor blades for almost 14 years of my life, it’s hard not to be transported to the past when I hear a song about anything cutting like a razor. It’s true, you know: nothing cuts as well as a razorblade. 

The second part, which references burning away fear and pain, takes me to another level: suicidal ideation. If I were to attempt suicide again, it would not be with pills. Not that I have a “plan,” but I know that if I were to try again, it would be with fire. I would burn away all of the shame and imperfections stored away in me.

It’s difficult to concentrate in a yoga class when this song plays. All of the above comes up and I dissociate. I don’t even try to prevent it anymore because it’s easier to just not feel. However, on Monday night, this song came on in yoga and I was so into my practice that I didn’t notice. Instead of the parts that typically throw me into a panic, I heard this:

The answer lies inside you;
You know it won’t come easy;
You’ve got to find your own truth;
It’s your life to live;
I can’t live it for you

Instead of being stuck in a wave of negative emotions and memories, I felt at peace. My last 8 weeks or so have been a challenge. I feel like I am still questioning my decision to leave my husband. I worry about the future, and whether or not I’ll ever find someone else who loves me. I worry that I won’t find someone who appreciates me for who I am. I worry that I am not enough. The lyrics that have stayed stuck in my head this week have been reassuring. The answer lies inside me. It’s that same question that my therapist asked me 8 weeks ago: “What does your gut tell you?” I broke into tears when I answered her. I should leave. And now I have. Even though it is scary and I often question it, it was the right decision. I am living my life, not the life that someone else wants me to live. I needed that reminder this week 😊💜

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