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

 

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PTSD and the Rain

It’s a cold, windy, rainy night here in Arizona. I go out onto the covered patio often because I love to hear the sound of the rain. I love the smell in the air. I love to feel the cool mist and feel the breeze on my skin and see the glistening light on the trees.

I don’t know what the architects were thinking when they designed the Chicago high-rise we used to live in. It was as if they forgot the windows and at the last minute added tiny two-inch openings at the bottoms of each, which allowed very little air through. I couldn’t hear the rain at all and if I went downstairs on the deck to watch it, I’d have to run half a block to the cabanas for shelter.

I’m so grateful to be out here and have Jack recuperating in what is normally gorgeous weather. I shudder at the thought of us back in downtown Chicago, boxed in by high-rises, unable to take leisurely walks over the wintry, rushing, crowded sidewalks, and navigating icy cement every time we’d go to see a doctor.

But I LOVED it for many years. It’s a great place when you’re young.

Jack, by the way, gets better and better. We go outside for walks every day. He’s off the rolling-cart and today walked without a cane. I know his echocardiogram will show improvement next month. He had a vivid dream with two angel mechanics restoring the left side of his heart!

As for me, surprise: I still have PTSD! But I feel I’ve healed so much with all I’ve done to release the trauma energy (described at length in my book: PTSD: Frozen in Time.)

My symptoms are much better. I sleep every night, for one. That’s huge.

But I still unconsciously bury feelings. The good thing is I’m aware of it now versus decades of being completely oblivious to what went on inside me.

When Jack asks me how I am in the morning and I say, “I don’t know. I can’t feel anything”, that always means I’m blocking something. Lately, it’s been frustration and anger. Understandable with the stress of the last few months when I didn’t know if Jack would live or die. With me as the sole caretaker, I felt a lot of pressure.

The fastest fix for me is doing Trauma Releasing Exercises, which literally always brings up tears. It’s vital I do this daily because if I go a few days without letting out what’s inside, I can go from calm to rage in an instant over something trivial. I catch it fast and apologize immediately, but then comes the remorse. It’s like I lose my mind for a few seconds. I hate when I do that.

Working out helps, too, but lately taking care of Jack, plus shopping and outside errands, my days are pretty full. I’d love to get back to work-outs again. And meditation.

I’ve been reading an interesting book called Stumbling Down the Shamanic Path by Michele Burdet. It’s a well-written, sometimes fascinating, memoir of, well, stumbling into shamanism. She starts out with meditation and had such fabulous results, it’s re-inspired me to get back into it. She also writes a lot about traveling internationally, dowsing and climbing mountains. I’m at the point where she (at the age of 70-something!) was climbing the Alps, (which she had been doing for years,) slipped and began sliding to the edge of a cliff and certain death when a companion grabbed the strap of her backpack and saved her. Once pulled to safety, she felt a “towering rage”, but in ten minutes, was back climbing the mountain feeling fine. Shortly thereafter, she’s in America visiting a friend on the East Coast when she wakes up feeling utterly depressed. This is so uncharacteristic of her. She’s a dynamo, always on the go, in great physical shape, filled with enthusiasm, passion and fire.

My first thought was she didn’t release the trauma energy when she nearly died. She felt the towering rage and the flood of stress hormones afterwards, but they were almost immediately buried.

In recent years, she’d discovered Sedona, Arizona and met a shaman there who performed soul retrieval on her. I suspect a bit of her soul slipped out on the Alps. Maybe the shaman will help her or maybe what was pressed down (depressed) in her comes out. We’ll see what happens.

I began reading an interesting book about PTSD a couple weeks ago. It was called The Evil Hours by David J. Morris. I didn’t get very far, just read the Kindle sample, but he mentioned how PTSD people talk about the before and after of trauma, how the quality and experience of life is never the same again.

How true that was for me.

When I remember my earliest years, it’s as if I looked at the world with something of the eyes I had in heaven, before I came into this life. Everything was beautiful to me, the sublime and the prosaic—unforgettably gorgeous. I was in love with life, thrilled to see a grasshopper, a seedling struggling out of the earth in spring, to run down the block, jump fences, eat a Popsicle. I loved the trees and bushes and flowers, the rain and snow, the clouds and sun. I loved the ice cold water out of the city fountain across the street, the side of our building where my cousin and I were digging a hole to China. I loved the library and music and paper and pens and our apartment and the church and every building on our street. Sunsets stopped me in my tracks. I felt God in the stars at night. I loved books and school, my family, my aunts and uncles and cousins. So many times, I’d lay on my bed with my arms behind my head and think I was the luckiest girl in the world. I was so happy. The world was beautiful. I was in love with life.

And then, of course, it all changed with trauma and I never again saw the world as I once did.

Though we moved to a beautiful home with a backyard full of cottonwood trees and rose bushes and all kinds of extraordinary foliage, I didn’t feel safe enough to relax and absorb it. I didn’t stop to look at the night sky. There was no space and time for reverie or dreaming. I was focused only on survival and all that entailed. When it was all over, it was as if I didn’t have the means of experiencing life anymore. I was so far removed. That little girl I once was had gone so far inside of me, she was a infinitesimal speck.

But when I was forty-nine and the meds stopped working, I began to feel again. And though it was often terribly painful and I cried almost every day for years, I also began to feel joy, and safe enough to relax and see and experience life a little like I did long ago.

Think I’ll go back outside and see what the rain is doing.

His Heart Broke Open

Jack has had one health issue after another since we got out here to Arizona last August. The most recent hospitalization was four weeks ago when he got a blood clot in his leg. They performed surgery and he eventually went to rehab.

He was in tremendous pain at first (there were complications to his recovery) and sometimes he was in despair, but as time went by he got a little better, so much so that one day he was able to walk (on a rolling walker) to the small lunchroom where the other rehab patients had their meal.

A lovely nurse named Theresa took him that first day. They stood at the entrance of the room. She said with her beautiful Irish accent, “Where would you like to sit, Jack?”

Jack looked around the room and saw a great big bear of a man sitting alone at a table. He was in his late sixties, early seventies with white hair. He had his head down and he wasn’t eating.

Jack said, “I’d like to sit with him.”

Theresa took him over to the table and Jack sat down. He said, “Hi, my name is Jack.”

The big man didn’t look up. He mumbled low, “I’m Ray, but I don’t talk much.”

Jack said, “That’s no problem.”

Theresa started asking Jack questions about his life, what he’d done for a living and so on. Jack began talking and, after a little while, started telling funny stories. Pretty soon, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ray’s head shaking. He looked over and Ray, though he still had his head down, was laughing.

And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Ray grew up on an Indian Reservation in Arizona and became a physician’s assistant. He’d had brain surgery and was having trouble learning to walk again. The reason he was so down was because the only person he ever loved (besides his grandmother who brought him up) was his wife and she was in another hospital with a blood disorder. He didn’t know when he’d be able to see her again, or even if they’d ever be able to live together again.

After lunch, when Jack returned to his room, he told me this story and how Ray put his big mitt of a hand on his shoulder before he left and said how much Jack helped him that day.

When Jack told me this, he cried.

I cried, too, not just from the story but because Jack never cries.

Every day at lunch, Jack and Ray talked about their lives and connected. Ray told Jack stories from his youth–how his grandmother taught him to revere the spirit in everything: the trees, the earth, a stone, a bird, how, once upon a time, his hair was black and so long it fell to his waist.

Sometimes Ray wasn’t there and Jack would sit with another patient, Margaret, and he’d make her laugh, too. She told him that he was helping her with his positive attitude and funny stories.

When Jack told me that, he cried again.

Jack has cried every single day since that first day with Ray—for any number of reasons: when touched by a person or a story or a kindness.

He said he’s never felt so much love for others, whether strangers, friends or family, as he does now.

It’s the most amazing thing. He never cried before. Never talked about loving people. He was always so macho, so tough: a Chicago firefighter and Teamster from the South Side of Chicago.

And he still is macho and tough—but now, it’s as if his heart has broken open in the most magical, wonderful way.

I love that he cries and encourage him to continue letting it out whenever the tears well up. Not only does it cleanse the soul and release cortisol, but maybe, just maybe, it might help heal his Congestive Heart Failure—if by any chance one reason he has it is because he kept a lifetime of tears locked inside his heart.

I can’t believe such a wonderful thing came from such a long stretch of darkness and suffering.

Now that’s a real Christmas gift!!

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Be Like the Hummingbird

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Be Like the Hummingbird. Find a source of nectar and places to rest.

Meet one of the two hummingbirds who come throughout the day to feed in our little patio.

There’s a male and a female. After they drink their nectar, they have such royal posture as they sit on the Bird of Paradise outside our patio wall—as if surveying their kingdom–that I think of them as a prince and princess.

I read somewhere that because of their incredible metabolism, they have to rest 85% of the time.

I can identify, especially lately. Jack is hospitalized now for the fourth time—after getting a blood clot removed from his leg. He’s in rehab at the moment.

I am EXHAUSTED.

But—for the first time in my life—I have been asking for help. His daughter has been out to AZ twice, my sister-in-law came last week, my brother is coming next week, my cousins the week after. I put a request on our apartment complex site for a cleaning lady and people who would hang out in our den for a couple hours while I go for a run or to the store (paid sitting) when Jack is back and got a lot of responses.

I am trying to conserve energy. It’s so easy for people with PTSD to burn out. I’ve burned out twice in my life—at 22 after taking care of my mom before she died of cancer and at 49 due to years of workaholism. I bounced back pretty quickly at 22. Not so much at 49. Now I’m 60.

I do not want to risk it again.

I will conserve energy as much as I can like the hummingbird.

What is my nectar?

Driving to and from the hospital, I blast tunes—everything from Louis Armstrong to Santana to Tony Bennett to The Doors.

I’ve been eating pretty good. I drink my anti-inflammatory drink every day.

The last few days, I’ve been able to take a run by the mountains. Today an eagle soared above me and a hawk landed close by underneath a tree. Butterflies everywhere.

I’ve been reading some great books. (Just finished the fantastic Trials of this Earth by Mary Hamilton. Memoir: Part Dickens, Part Laura Ingalls Wilder, Part Mark Twain and all true.)

I cry whenever I can. That’s huge for me.

I do Trauma Release Exercises most every day.

But I am beat.

Interestingly, before all this happened, Jack had a dream. He saw himself changing vehicles while they were both moving. He said it was an awful dream–terrifying and painful. And sure enough, his body has changed and it’s been scary and painful.

What a mystery life is.

 

 

Moving to AZ, PTSD and a Can of Fanta Orange

As of Tuesday, we’ll have been in Arizona two months…and what a two months it’s been!

OMG!! We’re still so exhausted.

We arrived in Phoenix near midnight on August 11th. We’d hired a driver to pick us up at the airport and take us into the Tucson area. (Long story as to why we flew to Phoenix instead of Tucson.)

While Jack and the driver waited for our luggage, I stepped outside for a few minutes. I clutched a big white 3-hole binder notebook tightly to my chest. It held every single password to every single account we had: banks, charge cards, ATM’s, online sites. It also contained three years of taxes, birth certificates, our new lease, directions to our temporary house and so on. I remember sitting down a moment in the glorious Arizona night and taking a deep breath. We made it! We finally made it!

It was kind of warm so I put my purse and notebook down on the ground and took off my jacket. After a few minutes, I went back inside the terminal.

You know what’s coming, right?

As we approached Tucson an hour and a half later, I looked around the car and said to Jack, “Honey, did you see me put the white notebook in the trunk?”

AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Oh the sinking feeling in my stomach!

Need I say, I was up until dawn changing passwords.

The good news: the next day, some lovely honest soul handed the notebook into the Phoenix airport and they Fed Ex’d it to our new place. God bless you honest soul, wherever you are!!

For the next two weeks, while waiting for our furniture to arrive, we stayed in a gorgeous home in the mountains in Saddlebrooke. I saw four shooting stars the first night. It was very dark in the evening in that area so when I’d go outside to look at the sky, I’d see billions of stars. I’d been dreaming of that for months.

In the daytime, the mountains reminded me of The Sound of Music, one of my favorite movies, so you just know I was singing “The Lonely Goatherd”, “The Sound of Music”, and “Climb Every Mountain” all the time.

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I also met this cactus.

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Can you see his face? He didn’t have the happiest expression, but he felt so kind. I talked to him a lot.

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Sometimes I felt like I was in heaven.

Speaking of heaven, there was a soul nearby taking a break from there. He kept slamming the door of the second bedroom of our temporary house. As soon as we acknowledged him, he stopped doing it. He was actually quite debonair, smelling of a delicious after-shave. When I went into a deep meditative state, I could see he was tall, middle-aged, with dark hair and glasses. I didn’t get any telepathic message, but my impression was he was related to the owner and just checking us out. He left after the first few nights.

I have to tell you, this move was pretty stressful what with Jack being 88 and me having PTSD.

The altitude hit him hard and he felt dizzy for a couple weeks. He had and continues to have balance issues that understandably undermine his wellbeing. I had trouble breathing for a week, then got sick as a dog with a horrible cold.

With the exception of twice last September, I hadn’t driven in 35 years (Jack doesn’t drive anymore), so between trying to get my sea-legs again and not knowing where we were and our iPhone GPS voice sometimes working, sometimes not—finding our way around was extremely stressful.

I bought a car for the first time. That was an experience.

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I unpacked fifty boxes at our new place and hung about 40 paintings/pictures/posters.

I stocked our new kitchen.

AT&T didn’t work at all out here, so I had to switch to Verizon and buy new phones. (They didn’t do iPhone 5s.)

I had to find all new doctors for Jack. And a barber. Why do they all want to give him a buzz cut? For years now, I keep asking for the Cary Grant look, circa 1966, and they nod their heads and then make him look like he’s in boot camp.

Someone left the patio door in our new apartment open before we moved in, so we had lots of leaping, many-legged bugs as well as moths to clear out in the weeks that followed. Quite gross.

Jack’s computer died so that was a bummer. I finally reset it to factory settings, but still can’t figure out how to enable his video mode so he can do his flight simulator. One thing at a time, though, right?

None of this would have been such a big deal if it weren’t for that fact that I was EXHAUSTED and Jack was dizzy and/or lightheaded and/or off-balance most of the time and I surreptitiously watched him like a hawk practically every minute of the day, unless he was sleeping.

Need I say, I was in a near-constant state of hypervigilance. Startle effect returned. My tummy began to twist and shout. My eye began twitching. And then I started waking up with a disconcerting physical symptom of stress I thought I’d left behind two years ago. Portions of my arms buzzed with energy as if a zillion, trillion, kazillion cells had condensed in small areas and begun expanding and contracting at top speed.

I don’t like waking up with those buzzing arms, but I’m grateful my body gives me messages. This particular message means: BURN OUT APPROACHING!! Slow down, rest, do Trauma Release Exercises (TRE).

Thank God for TRE. It’s still my number one go-to when I find myself in a state of overwhelm. As I wrote in my book, PTSD: Frozen in Time, Trauma Release Exercises relax the psoas muscle—the first muscle activated when fight or flight hits. When I relax the psoas, I’m able to cry and release the cortisol build-up (stress chemicals). Then my fatigue lifts, my stress symptoms abate, I get perspective back and I feel pretty good again.

***

Mid-September, we visited my 99-year-old uncle Roy outside Phoenix. He used to live in his dream home on a golf course until last winter when his physical needs required 24/7 medical care. Even though his facility is very nice, it was still tough to see him there and I know it’s very tough for him to be there.

Driving home, I felt very sad. After an hour and a half on the highway, I pulled over to a rest stop. It was clean, quiet and empty. Just restrooms and vending machines. We decided to get something to drink and sit a few minutes before getting back on the road.

Although I’ve been drinking Coca Cola since high school, for some reason, I decided to get a Fanta Orange. I hadn’t had one of them since I was nine.

The sun was shining and it was hot, but we were comfortable sitting at a table in the shade.

Everything was strangely still and quiet. Wonderfully still and quiet.

I took a swig of the Fanta.

It was ice-cold and delicious.

I took another drink.

And then, out of nowhere, I felt joy.

 

 

PTSD, Releasing Trauma Energy and “The Gypsy Rover”

I continue to be exhausted, but again—for good reason!

Besides the usual PTSD fatigue from interrupted sleep, hypervigilance and digestive issues, we are relocating to Arizona and gosh, there are a lot of details that go into such a venture.

I can’t believe in less than six weeks, I’ll be leaving Chicago. Except for eight years in the North Shore, I’ve lived in Chicago all my life–originally on the South Shore, and then downtown by the lake. I always loved Chicago and I love it still.

When we moved from the suburbs down here in 1974, the noise and traffic and crowds were exciting. But it’s not quite the same nearing sixty (and eighty-eight for Jack). Plus, when my meds stopped working ten years ago, and particularly getting off them completely three and a half years ago, my senses all became ultra-sensitive–almost insanely so for a while–especially to sound, smells and energy. Sometimes I find the teeming city streets so oppressive, I don’t want to walk out the door anymore. And dear Jack…he can’t navigate the out-of-doors as well he used to.

So we’re going somewhere quiet with wide open spaces and I can’t wait.

***

My stomach was bad last night. I couldn’t figure out if it was emotion and/or related to digestive issues. I Googled PTSD and stomach problems. There are a whole slew of fantastic articles explaining why we have difficulties related to our tummies. I won’t try to translate the complexities, but suffice it to say–those of us in fight or flight or hypervigilance have activated sympathetic systems, which means the marvelous rest-and-digest world of the parasympathetic system is often elusive.

I tend to be excellent in an emergency, and crash when it’s over. Yesterday, there was a possibility my husband had a new heart issue, but it didn’t turn out to be so. Everything is alright. Hooray! But I felt the fatigue of the high-cortisol hangover today.

I had myself a good cry tonight and my tummy pain cleared straight away, so I guess stress was manifesting as pain in my stomach this time, which it not infrequently has done in the past.

***

In my book, Frozen in Time (Adventures in Releasing Trauma Energy), I wrote about my experience releasing trauma and emotional energy after I got off the meds. Everything I buried in childhood (and later years) came up to be felt and released. To say it was sometimes overwhelming is an understatement.

The first year, I experienced a lot of involuntary trembling or shivering when I released. I’d always know when it was coming because I’d get very cold in the center of my chest (the freeze state!). I used to wonder if I’d ever learn to release that kind of energy in a timely fashion or if it would always get stuck for years somewhere in the system of my body-mind.

When my brother had heart surgery this winter, I stayed with him the first night in his room in the ICU. The major concern of the staff, besides keeping him stable, was to keep him from vomiting. He was effectively tied down with tubes, particularly the one in his neck, which didn’t allow significant movement.

My brother felt so nauseous. The nurse would ask him if he was in pain. He’d say no, he just felt nauseous—but she kept giving him more pain medicine. I told her I was concerned she was giving him too much. He never had much tolerance for it. He used to feel sick on one codeine.

Well, you know where this story is going. About two in the morning, he vomited and was choking. I watched his blood pressure go to nothing as the doctors and nurses came running into the room. I kept yelling his name, telling him to stay with me, hold on, hold on.

It was awful. I saw the life drain from his body leaving a crumpled shell.

Someone said, “Get the suction.”

I watched the nurse go for the device and then turn, holding it up, saying, “It’s not working.”

I was praying like you wouldn’t believe. Talk about powerless.

The next thing I knew, he was coming back. I couldn’t see how they cleared his throat, (they were surrounding his bed), but he could breathe again—albeit weakly.

How fragile, dear and helpless he looked. I held onto his hand until I saw he was stabilized. Pretty soon everyone left, except for the ICU nurse.

All was quiet and dark again and I sat down in the chair.

But I had an odd feeling from time to time. A kind of sixth sense. So all night long, I’d get up off the chair, stand next to his bed and take his hand. He’d open his eyes and I’d say, “What’s happening?” and we’d talk a bit. Rather, I’d talk and he’d smile and say a little something.

I wanted to make sure he was still there with me, that he was okay, that the pain meds weren’t taking him away or slowly shutting down his breathing, which they can unpredictably do.

I remember softly singing “The Gypsy Rover” to him. I’d been listening to The Greatest Hits of The Highwaymen that December. My brother and I used to sing songs like those in grade school talent shows, he with his guitar and me beside him harmonizing. He smiled to remember.

When at last morning came, I had an overwhelming sense my brother was going to be alright. The danger was past.

I came home around ten a.m. after his son, my nephew, arrived. I stood in the kitchen and told Jack what had happened in the ICU. And while I was telling him, the most marvelous thing happened.

I started shaking. I was naturally releasing the emotional energy of the night before.

I felt like I’d come a long way in the healing of my PTSD to finally, in a timely fashion (not thirty or forty years later), feel safe enough in my body-mind to shake out trauma or stress energy close to the event that inspired it.

***

About a month ago, my brother called and asked me about that night. He’d started having fragmented, hazy memories emerge. He remembered he kept feeling like he was drowning. And every time it happened, every time he thought he was going under for good, he felt my hand grab onto his and pull him back up out of the depths.

That made me feel great. I did something good.

Not to mention I trusted my instincts and they were on target.

I spent so much of my life alone, not doing anything for anyone else, just trying to survive. I didn’t have children. I didn’t have a network of friends. With the exception of the five years I took narcotics, I mostly spent my life working and my weekends alone, trying to rest enough to get through another week.

I hope I have the opportunity to do more good in the world now that I’m so much better, now that my body-mind knows that, essentially, I’m safe.

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!!