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: 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!!

 

How Being Involuntarily Committed Led to Incredible Happiness

In my late twenties, my PTSD symptoms were getting worse and worse. I hadn’t been diagnosed yet and kept looking for solutions outside myself—a better job, a new love, new friends, enjoyable hobbies, and any recognition that I was somehow of value.

I knew I enjoyed performing and thought that might pull me out of my unpredictable states of hyperarousal, numbness and/or despair. I began trying out for shows and succeeded in landing roles, but to my baffled dismay, I found that although some nights I felt great and was able to put on entertaining performances, other nights, I felt like the walking dead, unable to act my way out of a paperback.

It didn’t matter if there was a packed house in front of me. I’d stand on stage feeling absolutely nothing and my performances reflected it.

I didn’t understand I was dissociating and ultimately blamed my numbness and apathy on the material.

So I wrote a one-woman show, figuring I’d always feel enthusiastic about performing that since the content would always come from a deeply-felt place in my heart.

Unfortunately, that didn’t prove to be the case. I continued to dissociate and got terrible reviews.

Man, did I go down fast.

The show ended and, over the course of the next year, I went into a very dark place.

Growing up, my reality was denied daily. I survived by living in accordance with other people’s version of reality. (Ironically, my show was about the consequences of denying reality.)

In adulthood, unbeknownst to me, I still depended on other people to determine my reality. Therefore, if theater critics thought my show a failure, it was a failure—and, of course, so was I.

It wasn’t true, but that’s how I felt.

About nine months after the show closed, I was in such torpid despair, I couldn’t make it to work much anymore and, though I didn’t have any money saved, I quit my job.

My boyfriend suggested we move in together. I didn’t have much choice since I couldn’t pay my rent, so I picked out a nice place and moved in, asking him to wait a bit before he also moved in. I needed a little time to myself.

I found a doctor through my therapist who prescribed a medication I never heard of and can’t remember to this day.

Alone in the new apartment, I hoped for relief with the meds.

They knocked me out like you wouldn’t believe, which I loved.

But every time I woke, I felt just as terrible as I did before.

So I’d take four or five or six more pills and go back to bed because I couldn’t stand being conscious.

I did this every few hours for a few days.

One morning, I woke and, as usual, immediately took some more pills. (I had a lot of them. I’d already filled the refill.)

I laid back down on my bed and the weirdest thing happened.

As I felt myself dropping into oblivion, I heard an almost eardrum-shattering prehistoric roar under my bed.

It was so loud and terrifying, I jumped up on the mattress, leaped across the room, ran into the living room and called my boyfriend, telling him he could move in immediately. Then I went outside and sat on the steps, waiting for him. I wasn’t going back in there alone!

(In hindsight, I believe that roar came from The Other Side. They knew I would die shortly if I continued taking those pills. That’s the only thing that makes sense.)

The next thing I remember was waking up in the emergency room five days later.

Words are inadequate to describe the terror I felt waking up there with no memory of the preceding days.

I froze in fear when the doctor said he had no choice but to commit me because I‘d overdosed. It didn’t matter me telling him it was accidental. I was being committed.

I had no insurance and was afraid I’d have to go to one of Illinois’ infamous state hospitals. My brother made some calls, though, and got me a “welfare bed” in a prominent hospital in an affluent suburb nearby.

You can imagine my state of hypervigilance in the eleven days I stayed in the psychiatric ward. I was terrified knowing I’d almost accidentally killed myself and that I’d lost my freedom. My immediate future was to be determined by strangers.

I’d read a book once called Women and Madness and remembered the author saying that staff in mental hospitals think female patients are getting better if they take showers every day and put on make-up. You can bet that’s what I did first thing every morning.

When I got out of the hospital, I was still in despair. Nothing had changed, except I now owed the hospital over $7,000.

I realized I could not afford the luxury of one negative thought because it would lead me to greater despair and drugs and possibly another overdose, voluntary or involuntary, and I never ever wanted to end up committed to a mental ward again.

So I cut out the negative thinking one minute at a time.

It was HARD.

Sometimes, I’d literally narrate what I was doing in the here-and-now to avoid negative thinking. I’d walk to the bus stop to go to work (I’d gotten another job–selling light fixtures!) and would think, Now I’m walking down the steps. I see a wet leaf on the sidewalk. The leaves are beginning to bud on the trees. There’s a cat in that window. The sidewalk buckles here. I’m coming to the stop sign now….

And so on.

At work, I’d focus on nothing but work.

I made sure to always have a good book on hand and an entertaining VCR movie at home. (Remember those?)

It was really difficult to sustain positive or neutral thinking at first, but day by day I got better at it and at some point, it became second nature.

I began to feel good, really good, because I was succeeding at controlling what went on in my mind and I also felt so much better because I wasn’t castigating myself anymore or going over and over every lousy thing that ever happened to me.

Sometimes a painful subject might light upon the wire, but I wouldn’t let it build a nest there. I’d stay calm and get back in the moment.

I did have one terrible flashback in that period, but flashbacks are totally different than negative thoughts.

By the time spring came around, I was feeling pretty darn good even though the only thing that had changed was my thinking.

I kept looking for a job that would pay more money and give me more responsibility, and finally found one.

I was thrilled.

I saved money and moved out of my boyfriend’s apartment into the tiniest living space that ever existed.

But I LOVED it.

It was the cutest little efficiency you ever saw. It was a studio in the back of a huge mansion in Chicago’s Gold Coast. (It had been a servant’s living quarters in the olden days.)

I began to wake every morning with the most wonderful feeling in my body. It actually vibrated with wellbeing.

I never experienced anything like it.

I felt fantastic every single day. I was incredibly happy.

I loved my new job. I was a manager and a proposal writer and, at long last, being paid enough to live a little.

I connected with an old friend and we started hanging out and having adventures.

I began dating again.

And then, I can’t remember the circumstances anymore, but one day I got a hold of some painkillers, which kick-started my obsessive addict-self. (I quit tranquilizers at nineteen and drinking at twenty-four.)

I also started dating my boss.

I think you can guess how this all turned out.

I became obsessed with getting more pain pills.

I stopped being vigilant in my positive thinking.

When I tried to break up with my boss, he became cruel and manipulative.

Little by little, I lost my physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.

Eventually, I got another job, but it took a long time, and it was years before I got off the painkillers.

I know from experience that watching my thoughts and keeping them neutral, positive or constructive can be accomplished with sustained effort, and lead to fabulous wellbeing, but when I am dealing with PTSD pain and discomfort, I find it more difficult to do compared to how it was when I was in my early thirties and my anti-depressants were effective in masking a lot of my physical symptoms.

As detailed in my book, PTSD Frozen in Time, when I got off the meds three and a half years ago, all the symptoms from my twenties came back, but through a number of techniques, I released most of the buried energy causing me pain and discomfort in my feet, legs, back and stomach.

Lately, I’m dealing with uncomfortable density, constriction and/or vibrations above my chest. (I do not have a heart condition. I check that regularly since it’s in the family.)

If I’m not mindful of these sensations and don’t take action to alleviate them, I find myself smoking like crazy and running around doing errand after errand, going faster and faster, in an unconscious effort to escape my body.

Sometimes, by the end of the night or in the wee hours, I’ve become totally hypervigilant and feel trapped and immobilized. When I feel that old paralysis, I’m least likely to do TRE or The Tapping Solution or mindful meditation or dance, although I know these methods would help me break out of it.

Last night, I read a fabulous memoir called Heart of Miracles by Karen Henson Jones. It’s a beautifully-written narrative of her experience after a heart surgery gone wrong, the two or three years of debilitating pain and illness that followed, and her efforts at healing. At one time, she was consulting with twenty-four doctors. Then one day, she took up Kundalini Yoga and within a month found her health significantly improved.

She also begins a spiritual quest that takes her to India and Bhutan and…oh gosh, there’s so much to this book. It’s really inspiring.

What leaped off the page for me last night was the pranic breathing aspect of Kundalini. I’d been doing some of that on and off for a few years (the breathing, not the yoga), but not daily. It brought to mind what my chiropractor said to me two years ago, in response to the fact that I was still smoking, “Well, that’s one way of breathing deeply on a regular basis.”

I said to Jack today, “I’m going to try to do extended periods of pranic breathing three times a day for a while. I know I smoke more when my chest feels constricted or dense or like it’s vibrating wildly. Maybe this will help.”

Today is Day One. When I finish this blog post, I’m going to do my third period of deep pranic breathing in an effort to break up that area of density above my chest. Maybe if I do it throughout the day, I won’t end my nights so hypervigilant and tense. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Allow me to introduce Little Mama.

Little Mama is the very first plantie I ever bought. I call her Little Mama because she’s brought six other planties into the world (with her cuttings and a little help from me).

Little Mama is very nurturing and kind. Her aura is pink. Her favorite song is “Day by Day” from Godspell. She is very quiet inside and full of wisdom and patience. I asked the Powers That Be (spirit guides, spirit animals, angels and so on) to give me a sign of support one day before I laid down to do my mindful meditation. I fell into a Theta Brain Wave State and right before I resurfaced to normal consciousness, a screen shot of Little Mama presented itself to me in my head. She was so close, sending a message of love and healing support.

I love Little Mama.

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Little Mama in Real Life

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What Gives You a Sense of Wellbeing?

I watched a documentary online last week called The Sacred Science. The filmmakers followed the journey of eight people with serious health conditions who traveled to the Amazon Rainforest to be treated by indigenous healers (after Western Medicine proved ineffective). One of these people was a woman who’d been sexually abused as a child. By the time she left the rainforest, she had such a tangible sense of wellbeing, you could feel it. She was practically luminous. That was my perception anyway.

For most of my life, I have not felt very relaxed or peaceful inside. Neither have I had much of a sense of wellbeing. This is understandable since I have PTSD and one of my main symptoms has been hypervigilance. My body/brain has rarely felt safe enough for me to feel at peace.

Drinking gave me a synthetic sense of wellbeing in my teen years. After I quit drinking, I got into tranquilizers. They certainly gave me a peaceful, easy feeling, but I bottomed out on them fast. In my late 30’s, early 40’s, painkillers were my “solution”. They made me feel just dandy for maybe two years. I quit a daily habit after five.

Anti-depressants and anti-psychotics never gave me a sense of wellbeing. Imipramine and Zyprexa made me sleepy at night, though, which was helpful when I had a career. I needed my sleep. They stopped working eventually, too.

For a while now, I’ve been thinking, If only we could win Little Lotto, we could go on a trip to C__ B__ in Wisconsin. Every time we’ve gone to this gorgeous resort, I’ve felt so wonderfully relaxed, at peace, filled with wellbeing. It’s a marvelous place in the middle of 300 acres of forest. There are lakes and streams and wildlife, a fabulously stocked library, the dinners are out of this world and the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired cabins are beautiful. But it’s terribly expensive and I don’t know when we’ll have that kind of dough again.

Going someplace like I described might make it more conducive for me to relax and feel good, but in the end–it’s an inside job really. Theoretically, I don’t have to go anywhere to change the way I feel.

But with my crazy hypervigilance, unpredictable fight-or-flight surges and sleep issues, feeling peaceful has been somewhat of an elusive state of being for me.

The last two nights, as I closed my eyes to fall asleep, I asked myself, What relaxes me? What gives me a sense of wellbeing?

I sometimes feel relaxed after vigorous exercise.

I used to find the still point within with mindful meditation, but when I got off the meds three years ago, my buried trauma energy came pouring out like nobody’s business. The result was when I got quiet and focused on mindfully meditating, I’d usually sob like a baby or fall asleep due to sleep deprivation. But as a rule, mindful meditation increases my sense of wellbeing.

Sometimes I relax when I color. Although I’ve seen adult coloring books in the drugstore, I prefer the old fashioned kids’ kind. I love the big box of Crayolas.

Although I am not naturally gifted at drawing, I get really focused and quiet when I draw and color something simple. When I drew and colored my plant “Basie” late one night, I noticed she had the cutest face on one of her leaves—two eyes and a big smile. When my husband woke the next morning, I told him he had to see this. But the face was gone! Maybe Basie was smiling posing for the picture. I’ve read a couple books on plant spirits. The shamans say plants and trees are here to help us if we’d only ask politely.

I wrote a couple novels under a different name. They’re sort of urban fairy tales. I definitely went into solid Alpha Brain Wave states writing them, if not full-blown Theta.

When I’d finish that day’s writing and take a walk afterwards, I’d put on my iPod and be lost for an hour or two imagining what would happen next in the fantasy world I created. That was super enjoyable and made me dreamy.

I asked my husband when he’s seen me relax. He reminded me of a period when I’d spend hours every day arranging and gluing little pictures I’d cut out of magazines onto paper, trying to make beautiful designs.

What I notice about these things which quiet me down, make me feel good or peaceful or relaxed, is that they are activities in which I focus on something in the here and now, engage in some activity enjoyable in and of itself.

What works for you?

Here is Basie (pronounced BAY-zee). She is a basil plant. Her favorite song is “Corner Pocket” by Count Basie. When I play it for her, I see her dancing out of the corner of my eye—but if I look directly at her, she stops due to shyness. She loves to soak up the sun and enjoys frequent misting. She’s very loving, kind and perceptive. Even though she is tiny, she’s very strong. I sometimes sing “Bicycle Built for Two” to her, substituting “Basie” for “Daisy”.

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My Favorite Books on Healing

I’ve been crazy about books all my life. Loved fiction when I was little through to my early thirties. Then I started reading a lot of non-fiction: biographies, memoirs, history.

Since I got off PTSD meds in 2012 and all the symptoms I had in my twenties came back, I’ve been mostly reading books related to healing.

I usually avoid memoirs detailing trauma because I get triggered too easily, but I downloaded Untangled by Alexis Rose on my Kindle yesterday and was riveted. This is one engrossing book. What a spirit she has. And what a story! Written beautifully, I could not put it down.

Next on my list to read is Peter Levine’s Trauma and Memory. I only hesitate because of the price ($16.99 on Kindle), but since his books have been vitally important to my understanding of PTSD, I’ll no doubt buy it.

Anyhoo, please add any books you’ve found helpful in healing. It doesn’t have to be literally about healing PTSD. Just books that have helped for whatever reason. I’m always looking for recommendations. Thank you.

Anatomy of the Spirit—Caroline Myss, Ph.D

Best book on chakras I’ve read.

Believe and It Is True—Deborah K. Lloyd

Inspiring. The author gets post-polio syndrome in middle-age. She tries alternative methods of healing with Reiki and a shaman and has surprising results.

The Body RemembersThe Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment—Babette Rothschild

Fantastic and illuminating. Case studies of PTSD clients, written by the therapist author. I loved how she kept her patients safe as they released trauma.

Buddha’s BrainThe Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom—Rich Hanson, Ph.D. with Richard Mendius, MD

How to stimulate, strengthen and rewire your brain for greater wellbeing.

Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation—Boon, Steele, Van der Hart

Revelatory. Includes workbook material. Very helpful.

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse—Ellen Bass, Laura Davis

Although I am not an incest survivor, this book gave me one epiphany after another when I first read it in my thirties.

Dance of the Four WindsSecrets of the Inca Medicine Wheel—Villoldo, Jendresen

All the books I list by Villoldo have to do with shamanism and healing. He frequently explains how the brain responds to trauma and the involuntary fragmentation of the self/soul in order to survive.

DenialA Memoir—Jessica Stern

Riveting. How normal a dangerous life feels to the survivor of trauma! Our body/mind will recreate scenarios of potential trauma again and again in order to release the energy trapped in our nervous systems.

Energy Medicine—Donna Eden

The “bible” of energy medicine. Lots of techniques and simple healing exercises.

Energy Work: The Secrets of Healing and Spiritual Development—Robert Bruce

A good book about moving energy through your body to heal your body. Lots of exercises. The narrative isn’t a laugh a minute, but the book is thorough and informative.

Focusing—Eugene T. Gendlin, Ph.D.

Incredibly powerful healing technique. To me, focusing is sort of a deep, focused mindful meditation of the body’s felt-sense leading to all sorts of amazing experiences, including revelations and release of pain. Warning: Body memories came up so quickly for me that I advise anyone with missing blocks of time to approach this method with caution. You may not remember, but your body does. You can always slow down or stop it if it gets too intense. Also, keep in mind some things might feel like body memories, but may instead be metaphors for what happened in lost time.

The Gift of Shamanism—Itzhak Beery and John Perkins

Absolutely fascinating account of Mr. Beery becoming a shaman and his adventures as a shaman. A lifelong atheist born on a kibbutz, he picked up a book by Hank Wesselman to read on a flight from Manhattan to Hawaii and it changed his life. He writes beautifully and the vignettes of healing are awe-inspiring.

Eight Keys to Safe Trauma Recovery—Babette Rothschild

Good basic information.

Healing Back Pain—John E. Sarno, MD

Dr. Sarno discovered that most of his patients’ back pain was unexpressed emotion.

Healing StatesA Journey into the World of Spiritual Healing and Shamanism Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D.

Companion to the 12-part documentary. Visits with different kinds of healers and shamans in South America. Details experiences apprenticing to Peruvian shaman.

Healing the Folks Who Live Inside—Esly Regina Carvalho, Ph.D.

Explains EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Therapy. Thought provoking.

IlluminationThe Shaman Way of Healing—Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D.

He sees crises as initiations giving us the opportunity to become illuminated or awakened to our divine nature. Includes shamanic healing techniques and related discoveries in neurobiology. Talks about trauma and the brain.

Invisible HeroesSurvivors of Trauma and How They Heal—Belleruth Naparstek

A must-read. So inspiring. So illuminating. Simply wonderful.

In an Unspoken VoiceHow the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness Peter A. Levine, Ph.D.

He wrote this after his classic Waking the Tiger so it has updated and additional material. Great book.

Many Lives, Many Masters—Brian L. Weiss, MD

Fascinating account of skeptical Yale-educated psychiatrist stumbling upon the reality of reincarnation. A lot of healing stories, ideas and wisdom to contemplate as to the mystery of tragedy in human life.

PTSD Frozen in Time (Adventures in Releasing Buried Energy)—Ann E. Laurie

That’s me! I’m sneaking my book in here. Details what I did to heal my PTSD when the meds stopped working and all hell broke loose. Plus musings on PTSD.

The Power of Now—Eckhardt Tolle

Inspiring reading for living in the moment. Since the original trauma energy continually cycles through our bodies, it cannot be found in the past. Dealing with it in the now is the only way out. Gives helpful, easy-to-do techniques.

Shaman, Healer, Sage—Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D.

Well-written book detailing techniques to heal the imprints of disease and trauma in our energy field. Fascinating true accounts.

Soul Retrieval—Mending the Fragmented Self—Sandra Ingerman

I read this cover-to-cover in one sitting. This is the book that first inspired me to meet with a shaman for soul retrieval.

The Tapping Solution—Nick Ortner

Excellent explanation and clear directions for this simple healing practice with many inspiring case studies.

Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—from Domestic Abuse to Political TerrorJudith Herman

A classic.

Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma—Peter A. Levine, Ph.D.

If you read only one book on PTSD, I vote this be the one.

What Every Body Is Saying—An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People—Joe Navarro

Mr. Navarro interprets body language based on his knowledge of the survival brain and how it involuntarily controls body movement and positioning. Fascinating.

PTSD Pain Buries Deep

In 2012, I got off all the PTSD meds I’d been on for twenty-five years.

I didn’t do it to be virtuous! They just didn’t work anymore — hadn’t for a few years – so it was like throwing money out the window.

Because I lowered my dose slowly over time with impunity, I was shocked to find all the symptoms I had in my twenties rush back when I got off the drugs completely. The worst of it was physical pain.

For me, the physical pain turned out to be buried emotional and/or trauma energy and I tried all sorts of things to get rid of it (which I wrote about in my book PTSD: FROZEN IN TIME Adventures in Releasing Energy). I pretty much cried the pain away over the course of three years. Trauma Releasing Exercises were vital in helping me jumpstart the tears since I’d been unable to cry for decades.

Not long after publishing my book, I downloaded Healing Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno. He explains how he came to the conclusion that unexpressed emotion, particularly anger and anxiety, was usually the cause of his patients’ chronic pain. He called it Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS). This kind of pain primarily manifests in the muscles of the neck, shoulders, back and buttocks. Sometimes arms and legs are effected and the patient feels pins and needles, tingling and/or numbness and weakness. 88% of his patients also had histories of migraine, heartburn, ulcers, IBS, eczema and other conditions. He even tied chest pain to TMS.

He noticed that when one area seemed to heal, pain showed up in another because the brain continued its conditioned method of finding physical areas to manifest emotional pain.

I was blown away by this book. His description of the neck, back, butt and leg pain was almost exactly like what I experienced. Even the weakness, numbness, and pins and needles feelings. I haven’t often come across an M.D. acknowledging that diverted, blocked or buried emotional energy can cause severe, disabling physical pain and debilitating conditions. (According to his theory, pain is caused by a lack of oxygen in the trouble area.)

He said that with 95% of his patients, simple awareness that the physical pain was actually anger or anxiety was enough to get rid of it.

I guess I’m in the 5% he acknowledged might need additional help. Awareness alone did not make my pain go away. I had to find a way to release the emotional energy.

Anyhoo, back in January, I’d just come out of four months of major stress, caretaking three family members in crises — and this was after a summer of stomach pain so intense, I could barely put two hours of sleep together in any twenty-four hour period.

I was pretty burned out. It had been only a few weeks since my husband had heart surgery, so I was still doing most of the domestic work and all outside errands. Late one cold, dark winter afternoon, I was on my way to Whole Foods and felt pain in my lower back. It was just in one tiny area, but still – who needed it?

It wasn’t disabling, though, so I went about my business. But I did take note in the days that followed when the pain came and when it went away to see if there was any pattern.

To my surprise, I discovered it came when I had to do something I didn’t want to do and it disappeared when I did something enjoyable.

I couldn’t believe it.

My body was actually telling me what made me happy and what didn’t.

The next time I felt that back pain (on the way to the laundry room), I said to my body, “The jig is up. I know you don’t want to do laundry right now, but we gotta do it. I promise we’ll do something fun later.”

That little pain in my back went away.

This is the only experience I’ve had where awareness alone was enough to get rid of the pain, but it did no good whatsoever in the three previous years when I suffered from sciatica, butt pain, back pain, foot pain, and neck pain.

All that pain did go away, thank God, but it took a lot of work to release it.

PTSD pain buries deep.