PTSD and Staying Grounded While Moving

Last weekend, I moved again. Third time in two years.

After Jack died, I moved three hours away to live near my uncle (who was in assisted living). He passed away at the age of 100 in September. How I miss him!

With my uncle gone, I decided to move to a bigger town and here I am four days in. My new locale is a few minutes from the mountains—but also a few minutes from great shopping, bookstores, tennis courts, yoga classes and so on.

This morning I felt uncoordinated and a little paralyzed. I’m used to feeling like I can’t move. It’s just a feeling. All I have to do is put on music, get in the shower and I’m good to go. But not knowing what direction I’m facing and having no familiarity with the neighborhood exacerbates this kind of stiffness.

I did improv in Chicago in my early twenties. It was a lot of fun and briefly gave me an uncharacteristic sense of well-being and connection to people. Unfortunately, I didn’t know I had PTSD and was baffled and depressed when I’d unpredictably wake up dissociated, numb, encapsulated, or triggered–and couldn’t snap out of it on demand. I eventually dropped out of the show–it’s hard to perform when you can’t feel–but it was great for a while.

This morning, I remembered my improv teacher advising me to walk all over the stage every night before the audience came in. He said it would improve my confidence and give me a sense of the stage as my territory. He was right. It made a big difference.

That’s what I need to do here. Walk, hike, run and drive around my new “stage” to make it my own.

I feel pretty grounded, though, which is fantastic. Someone recently brought up ways of getting grounded. I’ve often come across the idea of sitting and visualizing your spine rooted into the earth, but that never worked for me. I’ve always had to see myself as ready to move at a moment’s notice (fight or take flight as needed!) Someday, I may change and will really dig that kind of grounding imagery, but for now it’s not for me.

I feel grounded when I’m in touch with how I feel physically and emotionally. I was numb for decades. It felt like my body was shot through with Novocain. That changed, particularly after my meds stopped working. (I write about it in my book PTSD: Frozen in Time. See links below.) Doing a mindful body scan from my toes on up calms me down. When I do that, I’m checking out the territory, walking the stage, taking ownership, taking charge–and action when necessary.

If I push away feeling where I’m at, physically or emotionally, I get very anxious–and the more anxious I feel, the more frozen I feel.

When I put on music and dance, I’m glad to inhabit my body. If I’m not sure how I’m feeling emotionally, I can tell by how I respond to different songs.

Speaking of music, driving from the old place to the new on Friday, I heard Burt Bacharach’s “Nikki”. Oh my gosh, it gave me such a sense of where I was at in 1969. It was used as a theme song for one of the big three stations back then. I soaked it up unconsciously, so that when I heard it again fifty years later, I felt a tapestry of emotions I thought were permanently buried.

Music is miraculous and magical. Even though trauma may have shoved us out of a continuous sense of self and we lost time and a sense of safety, sometimes music gives us back what we thought was gone forever–ourselves.


Amazon: PTSD:Frozen in Time





2 thoughts on “PTSD and Staying Grounded While Moving

  1. How cool that you did improv! I honestly feel like it has helped with my dissociation, possibly more than most other things :-p Though, ugh, my teachers have hit the nail right on the head in how other PTSD symptoms show up in my performances…


    1. Improv can be so healing! And fun. (And terrifying!) That’s so cool it helped your dissociation.

      Before I had many classes in improv, I was invited to join a troupe that performed every weekend. I didn’t know the rules yet, like you are not supposed to say “no” or deny anyone’s reality on stage–but I grew up in a family that denied reality every day, particularly when something inappropriate happened, so it was second nature for me to deny other people’s reality on stage. Man, was I corrected fast! I learned so much with improv.

      I’m psyched you are doing it!

      Liked by 1 person

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