Tag Archives: meditation

Cut short the funk

Id like to thank the universe for cutting short the funk I’ve been in these past few months. I knew something was about to happen. I could feel it building up over the past few weeks. Amid all the inner turmoil, I would catch glimpses of whatever “it” was…little glimmers of hope, of putting puzzle pieces together in my brain. I kept up with my “work”…meditating my ass off, writing in my journal, researching attachment types, abandonment issues and emotionally unavailable men. The other night, I tearfully sat in my friend’s driveway, telling her how desperate I was to change my attachment type, knowing full well the only way I was ever going to stop the pattern of only being drawn to emotionally unavailable men was to believe in my own self worth, and to make peace with the first emotionally unavailable relationship in my life… the one with my dad. Easier said than done, people. Easier said than done.

I spent another day soul-searching. Reading. Listening to podcasts. I knew I had all the answers in my possession, I just had to figure out how to make them work. I could feel an impending shift inside me. I went to dinner that night with my friends, still tearfully talking about the same thing, but telling them “something big is about to happen to me…I can feel it.” And wouldn’t you know it… I woke up the very next day, and the angst was gone. Just like that. It lifted. I exhaled. I smiled.  I thought about trying to figure just what it was that made it go away, but I stopped… No need to. I just wanted to enjoy it.

I felt like a damn rock star.  I kicked ass at work that day. I ended up finishing early because everything seem to line up just right. I noticed a lot of synchronicity throughout the day, and knew it was the universe falling into place for me.  I ended up completing a lot of tasks I had put  off for months. Every interaction I had was joyful and purposeful. I was mindful of everything. I was walking on air and felt unstoppable.

Are you waiting for me to tell you about when the other shoe fell? Well, I’m not going to. The synchronicity is still happening. I still feel no inner turmoil. It’s been days now, and I’m still a rock star.  Carry on.

 

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS Nov. 4/17

 

 

 

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Love breakthrough

Emotional roller-coaster. That’s the best way to describe my feelings this year. Ever since that one ugly marital fight a year ago in September, I’ve felt it all. Well, almost all. Frustration and resentment stemmed from that day, and lasted through couples therapy. It  transformed into sadness and longing as I transitioned into individual therapy to process my Mom/abandonment issues. After I peeled off that Mom layer, all hell broke loose as I processed the sexual, physical and emotional abuse that followed. Fear, shame, sadness, anger, disgust, guilt, depression…basically months of negative emotions. It seemed as though it might never end, but it did. Little by little, I started having happy moments, empowered moments, fun moments. Like a pendulum, I would swing back and forth between the highs and lows, though luckily I could see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. I kept up my “work”… therapy, writing, meditating, nurturing myself… trying to love myself.  Sometimes, I was just going through the motions, but that’s just part of the process. The positive moments eventually started to outnumber the negative ones, and I turned the corner.  I started believing in myself. I started to feel a little less unworthy. I shed a lot of that heavy guilt and began to learn, appreciate and accept…me. Though, throughout it all, one thing kept bothering me. I couldn’t feel love. Through my painful, exhausting work, I rewired my brain enough to believe that the people around me loved me. I knew it to be true, in my head. I just couldn’t feel it. So many times, I would find myself nervously admitting to my therapist that I couldn’t feel anyone’s love or caring for me, not even my children. I was ashamed of this. It made me feel ungrateful to admit it, like I was not appreciative of the people around me. Especially when I said I couldn’t feel the love from my children. What kind of mother says that? This type. This mother who is nothing but raw, open and honest sitting on that couch. I give therapy…I give me…my all. I’m not wasting time playing games or pretending. I want to be “normal” so desperately, so I tell Susan everything. Everything. Each time I told her this, I looked down in shame, imagining her thinking I’m ungrateful or selfish or whatever it is I’m thinking of myself when I say it. She didn’t.  Each time she reassured me, “It will happen in its own time”, smiling. Smiling, like she knows. I never believed her, because I knew I was different from her other clients. She thinks she knows, but she doesn’t know.

Well, she does know. I’ll be damned if there’s a thing about the human soul this woman does not know. I’ve been not feeling love since…well, since…hmm. I don’t know. I guess that’s a long time. I’m sure I’ve felt it at some point in my life, but right now, I can’t recall. I can remember feeling it, but with conditions. Knowing it was at risk if I didn’t play by the rules, and is that really love? Anyway, it happened. It happened at my butterfly party (see last post). I wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol, or maybe the song, or just that I was with a fun group of people, or I was tired. I felt like I had to blame it on something, because I was afraid to let myself think it really happened. If it really happened, something else would happen to make it not real, or go away, and I would be left feeling empty. Feeling loss. Feeling that hole inside my soul again. It’s much easier to just set myself up to not let the things I want to happen occur, then I won’t be disappointed. But you know what? It happened. And it wasn’t the booze. And it wasn’t the song. I know this because it happened Saturday night, and each day since then, I’ve thought about it…and cried. Oh sure, I cry all the time, but not this type of cry. This one is hard to describe…a feeling of love, joy and belonging, mixed with the sadness of knowing it’s something I’ve been missing for so many years. As I was surrounded by that circle of friends, as I looked into each of their eyes as they smiled and sang to me, I felt it. I felt love and I cried, because I honestly thought it was just never in the cards for me to feel that…to have people want to give me that. This is what I’ve been working on all year.  I went from a girl who felt she didn’t deserve a damn thing in life… not love, not kids, not attention, not even going to therapy, to a girl who felt she deserved to throw herself a birthday party. A party to acknowledge her freedom from the heavy shame she’d been carrying around from her childhood. A party to acknowledge her bravery in getting divorced so she could preserve her true self. I stood right in the middle of that freaking love circle and accepted it all. I felt no shame. That’s when I realized I had accomplished my greatest feat yet…I had learned to love me.

“People smile and tell me I’m the lucky one….”

love-circle

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45

Today I turn 45. I’ve never been one to regret growing older. I’m grateful to have made it this far. Since I was a teenager, I’ve always had this feeling that I was going to die young. I never really knew how young, but I knew I would never make it to grandparent age. I think I often pictured it to be in my 30s or 40s, so to make it to 45 is pretty good. Why? No idea. Just something I’ve always “known”. Not a suicidal thought, just regular old dying…like disease or accident or something out of my hands.  Kind of like how I’ve always known that living “happily ever after” was never in the cards for me. I grew up knowing I wasn’t the type of girl who was going to have someone fall madly in love with her and want nothing more than to spend the rest of his life with her.  Sometimes, I would imagine it, but inevitably scolded myself for dreaming about things I didn’t deserve. I was never quite sure why I didn’t deserve them, but I was smart enough to be aware of it. Like not living to be old, it was out of my hands. These are things I’ve just inherently known, like knowing I was female, or I was Native American, Italian and French…you are who you are and the things that are going to happen, well…they just happen.

 

Now that I’ve started on my journey this year, I think I’ve started to unravel the mystery of why I’ve always had those feelings. They seemed so normal my whole life, up until this year. Now I know they are not normal feelings…unless maybe you have unresolved childhood trauma. It makes sense for me to feel my life is not in my control. How could it be? It never has been.  At 9, I learned the first lesson: It just wasn’t in the cards for me to have my mom want to stay. At 13, I learned it wasn’t in the cards for me to choose with who and when I wanted to have sex for the first time (and second, third, fourth….15th…20th time….). At 14, I learned I could not control the anger of my stepmother, nor her impulsive rage towards me. It was out of my hands. Just how things were. At the same age, I learned it just wasn’t in the cards for me to have a dad that could protect me from her. Through the rest of my teen years, I kept on learning that first sexual lesson I received at 13. Actually, for the rest of my life I kept learning that lesson. I can’t remember at what age I figured out that it just wasn’t in the cards for me to ever know what real emotional intimacy felt like. It’s sad that this realization didn’t make me sad. It was something I accepted before I even realized it. I knew I wasn’t worthy. I even had come to the realization that it wasn’t in the cards for me to have kids, because really…how can that happen when no one is going to love me? Thank God I was wrong on that one…I have somehow been blessed with two of the most lovely, compassionate, amazing boys anyone could ever dream of having. I’m always surprised at how these two awe-inspiring human beings were created from the nothingness of me.  I knew I didn’t deserve them. I figured I must have slipped one past God, and was so terrified that he would realize the mistake and take them from me. So far, he hasn’t noticed, but the fear still exists.

 

I’ve come a long way in the past year. I’ve started to understand how I’ve become who I am. I understand why I have that hole inside my soul. Heck, even understanding there is a hole in my soul is pretty amazing. I always thought my feelings were normal. Just how I was. Now I know they are from trauma. Lots of trauma. So much trauma that I kept hidden in a box, deep down inside of me. The jagged edges of that box are what carved the hole inside my soul. That’s often how it works…one trauma sets you up for the next, and so on and so on. It’s a pattern that keeps repeating itself because it’s all you know. Since it’s all you know, as far as you can see, it’s normal. It is what it is. People can live and die without knowing any better. Luckily for me, I happened to stumble across a little glimmer of light while in couples therapy. It turns out, that little glimmer of light was a crack in that box I kept my trauma in. Amazing how a little bit of therapy with the right person, at the right time, using the right tools (writing in my journal, meditating) is powerful enough to crack open that box. I ended up spending the past year diving head first into that box. I saw the darkest parts of my existence and for a while, I thought I might suffocate and die in there. By the grace of God, I came out. I’m not all the way out…I think my feet are more often than not, still standing in the box, and sometimes, I get tired and just lie down in there, but other times I step out of it. I stepped out enough to realize that I actually have some control over what happens to me. The trick is to understand that I can’t control what others think or do, but I can control how I respond, how I act….what I’m willing to let happen to me.  It took me reaching the age of 45 to realize I control me. I control me. I could have just taped up that crack in the box and went about my business. I think that would have been a lot easier, but you know what? That just wasn’t in the cards for me.

glimmer

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Bully in my brain

bullyWhen I was first diagnosed with PTSD (and really, even now), I punished myself for having it.  I guess that’s pretty common for people like me. As I journaled through the influx of emotions and hyper-vigilance of those first overwhelming weeks, I wrote and said some pretty nasty things to myself. Stop being such a drama queen! You’re such an attention whore…these things happened YEARS ago! Get over it!” It was pretty ugly, but I was ugly, so it makes sense. I was a bully.  I shamed myself for needing to go to therapy twice a week. I shamed myself needing therapy at all. I shamed myself for being dramatic and sleeping with a knife by my bed and one eye on the door. I shamed myself for how I felt when I was faced with a trigger. I shamed myself for even having triggers. I shamed myself for my nightmares.  I shamed myself for not being a good enough wife. I shamed myself for spending so much time writing in my journal.  Yeah, I shamed myself for just about everything. That’s PTSD for you. It’s a self-centered bitch that likes to be in charge. Oh, you’re planning on spending time snuggling your husband on the couch tonight? I don’t THINK so! You’re going to have tachycardia and nausea instead, loser!”  My life was like a giant puzzle tossed in the air…pieces flying everywhere and nothing seemed to connect. I couldn’t put any of it together to see the bigger picture, or even a fragment of the picture. Pieces would fly right in front of me, and slip away before I could make any sense of them. Even a four year old can put together a puzzle. What the hell was wrong with me?

Somehow, I managed to keep it together enough to continue raising my kids and keep my business running. It took every ounce of energy and concentration I had, because what I really wanted to be doing was lying under my blanket in my locked bedroom. I spent most of this year like this: kids, therapy, journal, work, bed…kids, therapy, journal, work, bed.  Unfortunately for my husband, there was no room for him. Journaling was a tool my therapist gave me. She gives me the tools, and I have to figure out how to use them to fix my problems. At least, that’s the plan. Anyway, I just so happened to have signed up for a four week course to become a Certified Alzheimer’s Case Manager, right around the time all this PTSD shit hit the fan. “Great”, I thought. “I have to learn about dementia right now?!” She started the lecture by discussing the brain, specifically the limbic system. I dreaded where this was going, but once we started,  I actually found it to be a welcome distraction from my flashbacks and paranoia. But here’s where it gets exciting… I actually learned about something that was directly related to what I was going through…the amygdala.

In a nutshell, the amygdala ( pronounced “ah-MIG-dah-la”) is a section of the brain that is responsible for emotional responses, including detecting fear and preparing for emergency events. Any physical or psychological threat activates the amygdala. When this happens, the pre frontal cortex part of the brain activates. It assesses the situation and decides whether the threat is real and what to do about it, then shuts down the amygdala. Like when someone startles you…your amygdala reacts with fear, and the pre frontal cortex realizes it’s someone you know and shuts down that fear response. Pretty simple, right?  However, chemical and biological imbalances can present after trauma, resulting in an over-stimulated amygdala. So, instead of the quick “fight, flight or freeze” then relaxation, sufferers often find themselves without the relaxation part of that process. Basically, the amygdala holds on to that trauma…and won’t let go.

“Ahhh…so THAT’S why I feel this way”. It made sense. It was like I put at least 6 pieces of the corner section of my puzzle together. Validation! “So, I’m NOT a drama queen, after all…it’s just my amygdala”. I felt the heavy weight I’d been carrying around just lift from me. I felt…good.  I sort of skipped out there, humming U2’s “It’s a Beautiful Day” and replaced the word “beautiful” with “amygdala”. “It’s an amygdala dayyyyy…..” (yes, I’m that big of a dork). I felt free. Wow…I couldn’t believe an Alzheimer’s class cleared up my PTSD! So easy! Why didn’t my therapist know about this? We could have saved me so much angst…and so many co-pays!  I couldn’t wait to fill her in on the cure I’d just discovered. She was going to be so grateful to me!

Well, that’s kind of funny to read now, isn’t it? Yeah, that euphoria lasted a good 45 minutes or so, before I returned home to my trigger of a husband and learned my next lesson… just because you understand why you have these feelings, doesn’t mean you can control them. So, in perfect traumatized form, I beat myself up for singing that song… for thinking I was better. “You fool. There’s no fixing you. You’re damaged. The whole world doesn’t change just because you took a dumb class, you dumbass. You’re still scared. You’re still needy. You’re still worthless. What’s wrong with you?” God, I  hate that damn bully.

So here I am, 7 months later, still finding I’m beating myself up for my feelings, my needs, my expectations. Only now, since I’ve learned about why I’m such a bully, I’ve found I’m a little less mean. I’m slowly rewiring my brain to allow myself have these feelings and not judge them so harshly.  When I’m feeling sad or insecure, I allow myself to feel sad or insecure (well, sometimes). That in itself takes a boatload of work, but that’s what this journey is: work.  The rewiring work is a heck of a lot easier when you’ve got the right tools. Each therapy visit, each journal entry, each mediation, each yoga class…each one gives me a new tool. Now it’s up to me to remember to use them.

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Dare to dream

young-nana

This summer, as I was crawling out of the hole of PTSD and facing the brick wall of my husband not wanting to get divorced, I had a  dream. Calling it a dream feels like such an injustice. It was an experience…one that just so happened to occur while I was sound asleep. Yes, that sounds better.

It’s been four months, but I still remember it. You don’t normally remember dreams for this long, but like I said…I’m sure it wasn’t just a dream. Here’s how it went down: In between the hodge podge of me traveling to all sorts of places, staying in weird hotels, bringing the boys skiing, whatever (just a chaotic mix of running around), I come to see my Nana. My sweet Nana, my dad’s mom…the one who I stayed with every weekend after Mom moved away when I was 9.  The female caretaker who gave me the attachment bond I was craving after the bond with my mother was severed. In real life, I wear her wedding band. I have her rocking chair. I use her baking pans. I keep her memory alive in my daily routine as best I can. In the dream, she was there, right in front of me. Sitting at a picnic bench. So vivid. So real.  So beautiful.  I stop the chaotic running around and center myself to her presence. As it is in every single dream I’ve had about her since she died, I know it’s a dream. I know it’s not real, but I don’t care, because I’m just so happy I get to see her sweet face in front of me and not have it be a memory or photograph. Since I know it’s a dream,  I appreciate every second of it, and dread the end…the waking up. Every time I see her in my dreams, she doesn’t talk and I never touch her. That’s just the unspoken rule we both understand…until that night. I see her sitting at the table. She’s looking away from me, like she often does. I get up close to her and look at her face, her skin. It feels so good, so nostalgic, to be that close to her again. I’m absorbing every part of what I see…her cheeks, her neck, her mouth, her hands. She looks up at me. I’m standing next to her as she’s sitting, and she looks up at me, smiling. But unlike her other dream visits, she has tears in her eyes. At first, I can’t tell if she’s really sad or happy. As  I know it’s a dream,  I can appreciate that this is different than when I normally see her. Smiling,  I take her face and I cup it in my hands. I’ve never touched her in my dreams before. This was so special. I’m cupping her chin in my hands, with my fingers holding each cheek. I’m actually feeling my grandmother for the first time in 16 years. God, it felt so real.  Her eyes are welled with small puddles of tears, but she’s smiling. I know I can’t talk to her, nor she to me. That’s the rule.  Touching her grounded me. Amid all the turmoil in my life, touching her made everything bad stop for a few minutes and I felt lovable again. In my mind, I’m thinking “I miss you so much. What am I going to do when I wake up and you’re not here?” Wow, I’m crying as I typed that sentence. She looks at me, and doesn’t talk…but she thinks something, and I can hear it, in my brain. She thought “When you think about missing me, just think about the love you feel all around you. That’s me. That’s my love”. I could hear her think that in my head.I felt the emotion of what she was saying to me. I emerge from this dream hearing a sound emit from my body…like a start of a wail. I wake up to realize she’s gone. I’m in my bed, alone. Except, I don’t feel alone. I realize the magnitude of what just happened, and I feel lucky, because I know she just gave me such a powerful message, even though I’m not sure of what it is. I think that’s why she was crying. She’s sad for what I’m going through, because she loves me like no one has before, but she’s smiling to show me that love and to let me know that she knows I will pull through this and she knows I will be happy.   I’m not 100% sure, but I know it’s close to that. It has to be, because in just writing and remembering it, tears are flowing…and I feel  happy.

I often ask Nana to come to me in my dreams, because her unconditional love makes me feel safe. I want to wrap that love around me like a warm blanket and hibernate forever in it, but you can’t hibernate forever. That would mean you aren’t living.  She never comes when I ask, of course. She comes when it’s time. The week of that dream, I’d been using guided meditations of Lisa A. Romano on the Insight Timer app. They are all about healing the inner child, whether it’s from abuse or neglect or living with narcissistic parents. They are supposed to reprogram your brain to get rid of the thought processes that were created as a byproduct of the abuse. I think the dream was a direct result of  listening to those meditations.  Nana has probably been giving me messages in her dream visits all the time, but I never knew how to receive them or even notice them. I wasn’t open because my thought processes were all screwed up. I was in survival mode, except I wasn’t really surviving. I’ve spent my life sealed shut…my brain’s way of protecting me. But now I’m starting to open. Therapy,  yoga, meditation, exercise…nurturing myself and learning to love myself has cracked open my shell. Nana was crying because she loves me so much…I’m going through all this pain, and she’s feeling it. Except, she’s smiling, because she knows it’s only temporary. She knows. It’s funny how we always shielded her when she was alive. She was so pure, we didn’t want to taint her. “Don’t tell Nana, it would kill her”. She never knew of any troubles I had. Ha! We were so wrong! She knows…and she’s not tainted. She was a stronger woman than we gave her credit for. She was looking at me, though those tears, knowing…and smiling. And I get it now. I’m a stronger woman than I gave myself credit for. Now, I can look at myself, through my tears, knowing….and smiling.

 

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