Meet Anthie, My New Plantie

I heard a knock on our door last week and opened it to find our upstairs neighbor holding out a Spirit Anthurium. She was giving us a gift for no other reason than to be wonderful. God bless her. I looked down at Anthie and said, “Hello Anthie!” She was positively bursting with joy.

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I never had an anthurium before. I looked it up and they represent new beginnings and celebration. How perfect for us with Jack getting better (“Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music”) and the beginning of our new life here in AZ.

We couldn’t bring any of our plants from Chicago. They would’ve died in the mover’s truck. It was hard for us to let them go, but we found them good homes. I’d done their portraits in colored pencil before we left and immediately hung them in our new place.

***

I read my first book by a shaman about eight years ago. He said plants (along with trees and stones and everything in nature) have spirits. Not only that, but he said the spirits of plants want to help us if only we’d ask. I’d never heard of this worldview, but it resonated.

Not long after, I was up in the wee hours buzzing with hypervigilance, buckling under from a bad tummy and buried-trauma-energy manifesting in pain every which way. I wandered from window to window in the dark of our high-rise apartment and finally stood in the kitchen where we had several plants on a ledge. I’d bought one of them at a grocery store a couple months before and it was not doing well. I repotted her, gave her fresh soil, misted daily, trimmed the dying parts, but she was fading fast. It was upsetting. She was clearly dying. I couldn’t think of anything more I could do to save her.

I remembered what the shaman said and, even though I felt a little foolish, kneeled down and whispered to her, “If you can heal, so can I.”

Within two days, that plant turned around. Her leaves turned dark green and she multiplied so fast I had to buy a larger planter. I couldn’t believe it. I also began to get better through various non-traditional means. (See PTSD: Frozen in Time.)

img_1315-2(Healing plantie third from right.)

***

When I got off the meds years ago, I was utterly discombobulated by incredible physical pain and energy shooting through my arms and legs every day. I meditated a lot, not just for stillness at the center, but for answers and help.

One day, I’d gone deep into a feeling of relaxed floating inside of a wave. Many times, when I was in that state, a sort of screenshot would open up in my head, startling me out of the trance mode. The screenshots were always helpful or epiphanic. So this day, I’d been in a kind of despair, needing comfort and assurance I wasn’t dying. (All my pain and bizarre symptoms made me feel like I was dying, even though the doctors could find nothing.) I floated in a deep relaxed blank when a screenshot slowly appeared. It was of the leaves of the first plant I’d ever gotten. They were around me in a gentle embrace. There was so much love. My eyes quickly opened. I was incredulous.

***

I read a book about plant spirits and the author suggested you invite the spirit of a plant to join you on a walk. Since they’re grounded all the time, they appreciate the opportunity to move. It was my habit at that time to dance to music in the living room when Jack went out. I walked over to Little Mama (see below), the plantie that held me in meditation, and invited her spirit to hop on mine and dance with me. I started the music and let loose. I was swinging around and doing my thing. I lifted my arms up and out and suddenly felt long tendrils reaching beyond my fingers into the air. I kept dancing, but I have to tell you, it freaked me out! It’s one thing to read this stuff, but when you experience non-ordinary reality happening, it really blows your mind. At least it did mine.

 

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My dancing partner, Little Mama.

***

A wonderful book called The Secret Lives of Plants details one scientific case study after another showing plants have some kind of consciousness. The more you bond with a plant, the more love you show it, the more it is connected to you. I love that stuff.

I’ve been getting back to meditating again now that Jack is better and free time is opening up. I laid me down the other day, thinking of Anthie and wishing my ability to meditate and blank my mind was better developed so I could communicate with her. I fell into one of my old-time deep floats and, lo and behold, I got a screen shot of her. She was sitting next to our dining table and beside her stood what I think was her spirit–a soft, misty, yellow energy emanating light in a sort of stalk-like shape.

***

I am glad my worldview changed ten years ago. I’d been cynical all my life after losing my faith in a loving, interventionist Supreme Being because of genocide, molestation and slavery, not to mention what felt like a complete lack of response to my prayers as a child.

It’s true there are horrible things that happen in the world and sometimes no one intervenes, or what interventions there are appear fruitless, at least temporarily. There are also wonderful, miraculous things that happen that give me a sense of awe and wonder. As I always say, it’s a great mystery

I want to take action, if I’m able, when bad things happen. I also want to focus on those phenomena that give me a sense of awe and wonder.

Welcome Anthie!

P.S. Check out the coolest blog with gorgeous pictures of the faces of flowers. Don’t they look like they’re smiling and posing? From My Garden – Patricia Grace

 

PTSD: The Long and Winding Road

I’ve felt so tired lately, and for good reason. In addition to unpredictable trouble sleeping, IBS-related stomach discomfort, the hangovers of cortisol flooding (after fight-or-flight triggers), and hypervigilance, there have been major health crises in my primary family since last September. I won’t go into all the tedious details, but these events included three life-threatening operations with complications and attendant caretaking.

And then, my dear husband, Jack, and I decided a couple months ago to relocate from Chicago to Arizona at the end of this summer.

We are super excited to move, but because of my husband’s heart condition and other health issues (he’s decades older than me), I’m doing a significant portion of the preparatory work (packing, scouting for homes, streamlining finances, finding homes for our planties and the furniture we won’t need, researching and interviewing movers, etc.).

Doing all this suits me fine really. I like to organize. Also, as an adult child of an alcoholic, one of the roles I unconsciously took on long ago was “caretaker” and it’s still second nature to watch over others and manage complex situations, especially emergencies. (I think a lot of us PTSD’ers are great in emergencies when, at last, our insides match our outsides!)

So originally, I was going to write a blog solely focused on the issue of PTSD and fatigue.

But then I thought about where I was at when I got off the meds three and a half years ago, (and was shocked to discover myself riddled with all the symptoms I’d had twenty-five years before, pre-meds) and instead decided to contemplate how far I’ve come.

(I write in detail about this in my book Frozen in Time: Adventures in Releasing Buried Energy and all I did to alleviate or get rid of PTSD symptoms.)

I wouldn’t have been able to take care of my beloved uncle, brother and husband during their health crises or even go alone on a scouting expedition to Arizona a couple weeks ago, if I hadn’t found ways of alleviating or getting rid of debilitating PTSD symptoms.

The most disabling symptom to reemerge off the meds was physical pain. First, it was in my feet, then my right gluteal muscle and lower back, then it spread in sciatica down the back of my left leg, then pain hit my neck. There was a time I couldn’t sit due to pain. I could only lie down, knees up, feet flat or stand, leaning on one leg. And then there was this incredible, indescribable pain in my solar plexus, unrelated to my digestive cycle.

I was so sure I was dying, so positive, not just from the mystery pain (the doctors could not definitively find anything organically wrong with me), but from the surging energy that woke me, speeding up and down my arms like mice running as fast as they could from my biceps to my hands, the terrifying overwhelming nausea that would bring me to my knees and had no relation to stomach acidity, and the feeling of imminent physical collapse that would strike out of nowhere.

I began reading books on PTSD like crazy. (I list a lot of them in my blog post on Recommended Books on Healing.)

I discovered Peter Levine and Somatic Therapy and came to understand all about trauma energy–the original trauma energy mobilized to deal with the threat of annihilation or equivalent that essentially froze in my system when I couldn’t fight or run or later shake out and release, which is the body’s natural response after trauma and would have rebalanced my system and prevented PTSD symptoms.

I realized that for decades I’d also buried most strong emotions that my survival brain, meds, and later narcotics, were unable to block. I can only remember crying a few times between my twenties and fifties. (On occasion, I did feel overwhelming anger and rage beginning in my early-twenties, and released it, most successfully, through work-outs.)

I had so much inside of me that needed to come out and until I found ways to release it all, I was apparently going to feel it as manifested in physical pain, nausea, near-faints, and feelings of bizarre energy manically buzzing through my body.

I discovered all this talk about buried energy and pain was true one morning, when my feet woke me with burning pain. I went into the bathroom to give my poor little feeties a sea salt soak. I put my earbuds on and began listening to a new sixties playlist I’d created, and suddenly began sobbing like a baby. I couldn’t believe how much I was crying–and without any idea what exactly I was crying about. When I was done, to my surprise and delight, I realized my feet didn’t hurt anymore. And I hadn’t put them in the sea salt bath!

I think the Other Side gave me the paradigm for my future healing that morning. I had to begin releasing the sadness–the feelings of anguish, abandonment, loneliness, and grief from my childhood, and in response to the sad waste of numb and despairing decades alone that followed.

In the last three and a half years, some of the things I did to release that old buried trauma and emotional energy included Somatic Therapy, soul retrieval with a shaman, Trauma Releasing Exercises, mindful meditation, and sessions with an energy healer and chiropractor.

And I cried.

I cried me a river day after day after day. Then one day, all the physical pain was gone, all the nausea, near faints and bizarre buzzing energy were gone, and the sadness became very faint.

And man, it was just in time! As soon as I got rid of all those symptoms, the family emergencies hit the fan. And, of course, we made our decision to move cross-country.

So I am tired. There’s no doubt about it. I still have sleep issues, but they’re better. I usually sleep every night now. I am frequently hypervigilant, but it’s not as bad as it used to be. And although I have digestive-related discomfort, that seems to be improving rapidly, too.

Today I feel so grateful for how far I’ve come. I like this new feeling of hope for the future.

Hooray!!

 

PTSD and Stress and Cortisol, Oh My!

I’ve been dealing with a lot of stress lately. Not life-or-death stress or flashbacks, thank God, but relocating-across-the-country stress.

Fundamentally, everything is going well. The third bid by a mover came in nearly 25% less than the other two, and all three had equal qualifications so that made for an easy choice. (Just FYI, if you ever get bids from movers, know that they will meet the lowest bidder’s bid to get your business.)

Anyhoo, a few days ago, I tried to apply a United Airlines credit towards our August flight to Phoenix. I won’t go into all the tedious details, but suffice it to say I was on the phone with Customer Care an hour and a half, was disconnected twice, given incorrect or contradictory information multiple times, and at the end, somehow came away without any tickets. It was like The Twilight Zone.

Later that night, I went into my American Express account and saw United had charged me $200 four times and $1 four times. And I had no tickets!! When I called Customer Care again, they couldn’t find me in the system and denied this ever happened.

Talk about denial of reality! I was looking at the charges online.

Oh. My. God.

You’d think a tiger bounded into my room the way I instantly flooded with stress hormones. My heart pounded like crazy. I was covered in sweat inside a minute.

I immediately called American Express, told them the charges were not legitimate, and requested a new card. I don’t know what the heck was wrong with the personnel I spoke with at United, but I sure wasn’t going to take any chances in case a scammer was in their midst.

Man, did I wake up feeling awful the next day.

Cortisol is one of the stress hormones which flood in a fight-or-flight response. Too much cortisol leaves a person feeling hung-over–wired and tired. It makes a person’s system acidic, too, which means less oxygen coursing through the body.

Over the years, I’ve discovered a couple quick remedies to help get rid of inflammation.

One is baking soda and water. I drink a quarter-teaspoon with water 3X a day.

I also make a high-alkaline drink made of the juice of one lemon (lemons are acidic until they hit your metabolism, where they are rendered alkaline), three tablespoons apple cider vinegar (only apple cider vinegar, this, too, metabolizes as alkaline), two teaspoons of maple syrup and 8 oz. water. Mix well and down the hatch!! Not only will this make you feel good quickly, your skin will turn luminous and your hair shiny.

I’ve seen tears referred to as “acid dumps” because of the amount of cortisol they contain. That’s another good reason to cry.

Meditation, Trauma Releasing Exercises and work-outs are great for relieving my stress, but I like to do nutritional things, too. When my body feels good, my mind follows.

I ended up charging my United tickets online with my Visa (without applying the credit.) I sure wasn’t going to call Customer Care back a fourth time (I supposedly spoke with a supervisor the last time, but he was so impolite and plain wrong about their credit policy, I don’t believe it was the supervisor). I wrote the head of Customer Care telling him what happened. I hope he writes back and provides some kind of solution so I don’t lose that $400-plus credit come September. (You can only use a United Airlines credit within a year of purchase.) I haven’t heard anything back yet.

It would be great if I wouldn’t unpredictably freak out over stuff, but I haven’t perfected my Serenity Now! ability. (Remember that on Seinfeld?)

In the meantime, I’ll continue with my daily deep-breathing sessions, TRE, meditation and anti-inflammatory drinks.

Cheers!

PTSD Frozen in Time

PTSD and the Consequences of Feeling Nothing

In the spring of 1970, I was thirteen years old. One night, I was washing dishes after dinner. The window above the sink was open and a gentle wind billowed the curtains, bringing in the smell of damp earth and budding trees. Dionne Warwick sang “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” on the record player. It was a forty-five I had on repeat. I sang along, my hands deep in warm, soapy water.

My father came into the kitchen and growled something in my ear before walking away. I said nothing, continuing my work, but inside I reeled in anguish and terror as I had so many times in the previous four years.

And then, for some reason I’ve never understood, in a moment–everything changed.

That soft, vulnerable place inside me, awash in agony, shut down and was replaced with something like steel.

I suddenly felt nothing. No fear, no anguish, no sadness.

Nothing.

And I knew my dad would never again have the power to make me feel bad. I wouldn’t allow it. Neither would I allow anyone else in the world to make me feel bad the rest of my life. I would never love anyone either. Other people might love me, I thought, but I will never love them in return. I was done with pain. I felt strong, powerful, invulnerable–though I somehow knew this was a horrible strength.

In the years that followed, whatever my survival brain didn’t freeze and compartmentalize on its own, I easily blocked out.

But eventually, emotional pain, intrusive thoughts and flashbacks emerged stronger and stronger. I turned to drinking and drugs to shut it all down.

When I was twenty-nine, my psychiatrist prescribed meds that numbed me pretty well for twenty years. I was able to sleep at night and make a living, but eventually they stopped working and all the emotional and trauma energy I thought I blocked and deleted long before came pouring out, manifesting in excruciating physical pain and nearly unbearable sadness, as detailed in my book PTSD Frozen in Time.

I didn’t know how to get the sadness out of me. I’d spent a lifetime not crying. Music helped immensely in the beginning, but then my tears dried up and even the very saddest songs didn’t help. I couldn’t stand feeling the sadness!! I had to find a way to release it or I was overwhelmed with fatigue, nausea and pain. Trauma Releasing Exercises helped unlock my ability to cry and I was grateful for that, but how I hated it! Every single day for a year and a half, sometimes three times a day, I had these weeping jags. Just sobbing like a baby. I couldn’t stand it. I’d ask Spirit, “How long? How long?” 

And yet…and yet…I was so thankful. I knew it was healing my heart, cleansing my soul, and, without a doubt, getting rid of my debilitating physical pain, fatigue, and nausea.

In my opinion, before I came into this life, I agreed to have a human experience and learn certain lessons. Therefore, I can’t imagine I was going to get away with a lifetime of picking and choosing what I’d feel and what I wouldn’t with impunity. I suppose I could’ve tried to continue shutting down everything as best I could until the very end–what with free will and all–but then I’d have to come back and do this all over again in another life.

No way.

At the end of my book, I was cautiously optimistic that I was all cried out and the daily weeping sessions were over.

That’s pretty much been the case. I still cry sometimes, but just a few tears maybe once or twice every week or two.

When I look back at the me I was in the spring of 1970, tortured and without protection, I’m glad I found a way to stop the bleeding, take a stand, and find power, but it led to unintended and unpleasant consequences down the road. I had no idea that when you cut out emotional pain, you also end up cutting out pleasant emotions, too. I stopped feeling anything. The world became gray and lifeless, and so did I.

I often feel a deep sadness at my core now, but I also get to feel joy, too.

And love. Yes, love.

Yay!!