Everything is more challenging with PTSD: 5 steps to meet the challenge

This blog has been a way to creatively express myself. My teacher used to say that creativity is the most important thing we have, and that its expression is the pinnacle of living. While what I write is not fiction, the process of writing is yet another way of connecting to life amidst everything – including PTSD.

Notice that I didn’t say that PTSD makes my life harder – I try choose my words in a way that moves me forward in the direction of healing. By saying that PTSD makes life more challenging, I step into a mode of considering what shifts will help me.

It eventually became clear that I had to plan around PTSD to move through life. Pretending that I will have energy in the evenings, social interactions are easy, and leaving the house is just a matter of crossing the threshold was not realistic.

Here are 5 steps I’ve been taking to meet my challenges.

1. Rest and reflect

While I can’t control my work hours and kids’ and my appointments, I can choose my time to rest and reflect. For me, this starts at about 9:30 pm – I need lots of sleep.

Throughout the day, PTSD causes stress to build up in my body as I flow through triggers, flashbacks, and anxiety. So, when I lay in bed in the most comfortable position, I reflect on the sensations in my body that were accumulated during the day. This is my time to meditate.

I breathe, commune, and surrender everything – daily. This helps me to process most things while I’m awake so that I don’t burden myself with disruptive dreams.

2. Prepare for leaving the house

Many people who have PTSD also have agoraphobia.

To help me with the anxiety that comes with leaving the house, I -first – limit how often I have to leave the house. With PTSD, I learned that I don’t need to wage war on all of my anxieties because they are not necessarily going to get better with increased exposure.

It’s actually a misconception that increased exposure to things that makes us anxious is always the right way to go – especially if the resulting anxiety feels like trauma. The outcomes are not always going to be positive. So, to limit the amount of stress hormones running through my body, I try to limit how often I get stressed.

If I have to go somewhere, I take time to prepare myself for the exit. It’s not like I can just run out – I need to rest, reflect, and anticipate exiting the house for an hour or so prior to leaving. If I do run out, I end up looking like that indoor cat that just escaped from the house and now isn’t sure what to do!

I need to have most things ready the night before to offload my work mornings, and then I just focus on getting out the door. It’s a process – lots of deep breathing, a protein breakfast, and fruits to give me some natural sugars.

3. Prepare for people

The most powerful triggers I experience that result in flashbacks and panick attacks are due to interactions with people. I no longer come to work or social events casually “showing up.” Instead, I prepare before entering work by breathing deeply and imagining a buffer between me and others – an enormous lavender field.

People like to work with someone who is competent and consistently calm, always moving about with grace and poise. Even when others are spastic, they want an anchor that brings them back to feeling steady. So, I need to proactively prepare to be that anchor by separating my PTSD lens on events from being available to people in a positive way. Ultimately, it is the people with poise, grace, and calm assertiveness who help to glue an organization together.

4. Focus my time on what’s important

We all tend to react to things that seem urgent but may not be important. I know this well, having a long history of spreading myself too thin and doing too much. With PTSD, energy is a valuable commodity! PTSD people get exhausted just managing anxiety daily.

This year, I did an exercise where I tracked how I spent my time and how these activities aligned to what I considered important. To my surprise, I spent a greater portion of time dealing with situations that did nothing to support the greater shifts taking place in my life.

For example, I decided I wanted to work in the private sector again, but I wasn’t doing any training or updating my resume to prepare myself for the transition. Instead, I was still sinking time into tutoring clients after my teaching day job! Well, I stopped tutoring and signed up for affordable courses on Udemy to brush up on some skills. I also met with a friend to go over and update my resume.

There are countless other examples where I was doing things simply because I could do them, and not considering whether they were in alignment with my overall life direction.

Now, I try to distribute my energy consciously into activities that feel like they are going to support me – PTSD and all. If I am supported, then I have that much more to offer to those around me. Focus is truly something that I’ve neglected for too long – but no more!

5. Build in breaks throughout the day

Anxiety has a cumulative effect throughout the day. Various stressors come at us and we may do our best with these, but the body just gradually shifts into fight/flight response with each additional hour. I’d be going along and then realize too late how much stress I accumulated. Then, I would get hit by exhaustion and need extensive time to recover.

Instead of reacting to the inevitable realization that I waited too long to pause and regroup, I now have an alarm on my phone for built in breaks during the day. During these breaks, I need to get up, walk around, and connect with the world.

The building where I work is on a wooded campus – I step outside and breathe the air while feeling the sunshine on my face. I bring myself back to that poise and equilibrium that will later serve others.

Recently, a friend labeled PTSD as a mental illness. I reflected on that for some time, wondering why that label felt so inaccurate to me. Sure, a PTSD body is ridden with a level of stress hormones that one can’t just correct by “snapping out of it” – there is a lack of inherent control and our responses must be managed moment to moment. So, in that sense PTSD does need to be treated and managed like any other chronic condition. However, the inherent stigma of mental illness implies that one is going to act “crazy” no matter what. This is simply not true, and living with PTSD requires lifestyle changes that truly support us where we are.

Cosmic Freedom

Transcendence is both an idea and a process that is unique to the humanoid species. We sense mystery – something beyond the apparent existence of daily life – and we know that this mystery is real.

Apocalypse comes from a Greek word that means to uncover or to unveil, and not simply to destroy. Revelation demands transcendence and our rising up to fully meet a newly discovered truth. By simply being available to the stirrings that are the lifting of the veil, we are also gifted a challenge to learn to navigate reality. It is easy to affirm that there is only one life on this planet and to speak about the intricate web of life as our interconnection. It is much more challenging to embody this truth and move about in Its service.

After the “upward” momentum to dissolve in the Divine, I began to descend with Its realization deeper into matter. It became clear that humanity has so much work to do to understand the idea of relationship. This is such a profound concept, but simple when it is simply lived. What occurs is that one’s field opens to receive from the Divine, and to automatically give at all scales of existence. The mastery of this is to simultaneously recognize the life spark – from human to animal to plant to rock to atoms to subatoms, and relate to it all in one swift swoop. This must be practiced.

The lifting of the veil, or apocalypse, does feel like surgery at times. I remember reading Choagyam Trungpa, who vividly described a spiritual teacher (or the awakening process itself) as a skilled surgeon who cuts into impacted illusion. How this translates to real life during the enlightenment process is experiencing excruciating pain. Emotions run amuck. The body presents with illnesses, which appear to be mostly autoimmune in nature and not curable. And the mind tries to think its way out of the dilemma, but fails. What’s even more annoying is that you have no idea when the shitstorm will end – every new day feels agonizing.

As the veil is lifted, the resistance to this change is experienced as pain and depression. The more baggage one carries, the more painful the awakening process. I can’t even count the number of times I sincerely wanted to end it all. Even after awakening, the deep-cleanse continues and you start wondering if you were even enlightened at all – why is all this crap still here after you reach enlightenment? Because initual awakening is a transformation of being that accelerates the removal of deepseated barriers. Without enlightenment, there is actually no way to remove these impacted barriers in one lifetime. Enlightenment makes the most of one lifetime.

Eventually, one has integrated the Divine to the degree that the pain lessens. A bit later, the pain ceases entirely. The time it takes to align one’s being with the energy that is awakening depends on the person. What’s most important is that it’s possible to reach and to stabilize in the enlightened state within one lifetime.

After enlightenment, there is this great urge to “teach” and share the clarity that comes with awakening. I know it well because I went through this phase. However, it’s actually not the right thing to do for most people. Instead, it is more productive to dedicate oneself to shifting oneself and making the necessary adjustments and learn from the light. Of course, one still has ego after initial enlightenment so it’s no surprise that it’s tempting to celebrate the “victory” of awakening by giving inspired talks and leading workshops.

Anyway, that passes too. For me, it was a relief when the debris from my pre-enlightenment years (lifetimes?) started to noticeably lift, release, and burn up and my life accomodated the much-needed alone time. I steeped in the Divine until it was true that there was no difference between who I was and the Divine – the difference was only in the degree of absorption in the Divine while still participating in the Earth plane.

The thing is, one need not be at the forefront and in front of lots of people to contribute to their learning and awakening. By living the truth that we are all one, we can bring spark into life and it will emanate throughout reality. This truly requires an egoless state because no one will come and point their finger at such a being and attribute great deeds to them. One becomes anonymous and unseen, working quietly in a way that is not separate from life but is one’s life.

I work in a corporation, dress professionally, and handle everyday details of work and parenting and paying bills. I completely blend in and will keep it this way. The initial desire to openly stand in front of people as someone who has discovered a long-forgotten truth is a thing of the past. In fact, it is not the path of most enlightened beings to make claims about their enlightenment openly. It’s simply not what is necessary to serve and help.

At this time, enlightenment is an exceptionally difficult process. Those who teach relaxation, mindfulness, and life skills are doing the necessary work to help people heal, but they are not teaching enlightenment. Why bother saying this? Maybe to set the record straight about people walking around and claiming enlightenment when they have not transceded or transformed at all. In my experience, even those who claim to want enlightenment, decide quickly that they just want a “normal life” after they encounter their first challenges. There is no point in confronting anyone because their belief in a false enlightenment is part of their learning process – they’ll figure things out on their own without any additional discussion.

These blogs are currently part of my expression, but even these will not be written for the rest of my life. I will keep listening to the Divine and keep evolving and learning. There is truly no end to growth – that much is clear.

The Life Spiral with PTSD

My teacher talked about life being a spiral, where we periodically seem to end up in similar situations but we are no longer the same. This speaks to the opportunities we have to heal, over and over, the way we relate to life – the spiral always ascends.

Recently I found myself at a noticeable point in my life spiral. In the past, I became a single mom and left teaching to work in the private sector. Now, I am a single mom again and about to leave teaching for the private sector. The situation feels similar but not the same as before. What has changed?

When I first entered the private sector I was ambitious and focused on single-mindedly climbing the ladder of “success.” I was intelligent and ruthless. And, underneath it all, I had no idea that I had PTSD and perceived threats around every corner. My desire for success was, in reality, the desire to control my life so that I would be safe and not hungry, unlike in my childhood.

Now, I am about to enter the corporate world again. However, this time, I value relationships with people above all else. There is not a ruthless bone left in my body! I am humbled, curious, and sensitive to the bigger picture in which I will play a role. I am also excited to be solving puzzles again, which I didn’t really get to do as a teacher very much. After teaching for five years, I realized that I missed interacting with teams around real-world problems and tapping my creativity. I thought teaching would be a creative outlet for me, but it was eventually deadening to me.

After having applied to a number of jobs, I was rejected. The experience gap didn’t look good on the newly-polished resume. I lay in bed one night and felt the currents of life running through my body-mind. This inspired me to feel and become aware of where they plug into in the larger picture – where do I connect? Which relationships await me? I felt the magic of that morphing through me and as me into an intricate map. I just lay there and was in awe as I allowed this awareness to occur.

The next day, I was meeting an old colleague for lunch. He helped me spice up my resume and I wanted to thank him for his help. As I waited for him to arrive to the restaurant, I got a call from an agent about a potential position 15 minutes away from my home. She said it would be a way for me to show my skills and get my foot in the door after the experience hiatus. In addition, I was contacted by a second company looking to train me for a very specific role and pay me to train – regardless if I was hired in the end. Furthermore, I got invited to an interview to a teaching position at a lovely school that is also a short drive from my home. All this in one day.

Since that day, I have attended to the life stream linking me to the intricate web of life and just following Its lead. Throughout, I had to face my anxiety and PTSD flashbacks – overcoming each and every challenge. Now, here I am.

During this process, I got a very strong insight that eventually my PTSD will heal and the body chemistry will readjust to normal. That would be wonderful! It’s hard to navigate life in a vehicle that is conditioned for threat and does not easily maneuver.

I’ve learned that many people do not understand PTSD – they think one should just be able to “snap out of it.” Often, those with PTSD get misdiagnosed until the trauma aspect becomes obvious and no other diagnosis makes sense. Then, everything falls into place. If someone wants to learn what PTSD is like, I would ask them to imagine that they are being brutally attacked. Really, imagine how that would feel. Then, take away the specifics of the attack and just keep the feeling of it. Then, imagine having that feeling wax and wane but never go away while living your life. And this feeling is hardwired into the body mind. Finally, add to that the periodic vivid visuals of the attack occurring unpredictably throughout the day – a lot like having a nightmare while being awake and trying to function in life.

Now, many PTSD people may not even have the awareness of having flashbacks or that they are seeing everything through a PTSD lens – they think that’s just how life is! It takes a lot of work for these people to build awareness and start to manage their symptoms. Most have no sex drive – especially those with sexual trauma. Most have neverending anxiety even in fairly benign situations. Most do not want to leave their house and avoid socializing. This is “normal” for PTSD.

So, I went through losing a job and finding a job (a fairly grueling process) with PTSD. I can’t just “get rid of it,” so I had to take it with me every time I sent a resume or attended an interview. There were frequent panic attacks just leaving my home to go to an interview, and I was aware of it all.

I am seeing more clearly how the spiritual process, when interwoven with everyday life challenges, elicits deeper connection to life. Even as I feel the PTSD symptoms, I also feel other things – like excitement, curiousity, caring, and creativity. Even though my body mind is still under the PTSD influence, I know that this is not who I am.

As I gradually ventured away from looking for teaching jobs, I began to experience more ease and excitement. This was a reminder to always align myself with whatever makes me feel creative and to recognize quickly when I no longer feel that. For some reason (well, I know the reasons!), I decided that I had to make teaching work for myself even while it was literally killing me with dullness. As soon as I freed myself from feeling obligated to make it work, new opportunities showed up – seemingly out of nowhere. But I had to be ready. I had to be free first.

In supporting my family, there was always the thought of having to do whatever it takes to provide. I was ok with sacrificing myself for them. It took me awhile to realize that I can support my family while also honoring my creativity and life force. This was not obvious at all, even though it sounds completely reasonable. To live that takes a lot of courage to let go. I let go just a little bit more with the help of the light.

Self-Care and Healing the Body-Mind

I’ve started to take a closer look at self-care and trying to understand what that means for me in terms of embracing my body and mind.

What started to emerge for me as primary is a feeling of compassion for my body-mind, which is a switch from wanting to escape it. When I made the decision to dive deeper into my physical form, I resisted the memories and the sensations. But then, I noticed that compassion was possible and inevitable.

Only a few people in this world felt sincere compassion for me. True compassion requires a kindness that transcends requirements for personal gain. Most relationships are tacit agreements about give and take, but compassion only radiates outward. I reengaged the relationship with my body-mind from a space of compassion and it became easier to explore the memories and the sensations. I discovered that I am a living library.

As I felt compassion catalyze union of spirit and body-mind, I began to have insights about something as basic as food. I used to not care what I ate, but now I am starting to recognize which foods are best for my body. For whatever reason, I can only eat fruits, vegetables, and lean meats – with lots of water and almond milk. And, I learned that I don’t tolerate dairy or bread or nuts. Now my body feels calmer. I rarely feel hungry too. The pain that I used to feel continuously (fybromyalgia) has quieted down. On several days of the week, it feels great to do an intermittent fast – not eat after lunch until the next day, and my mind feels clearer.

I am paying attention to the muscles in my body – are they relaxed or tense? The trauma and PTSD make it very difficult to relax the muscles – the chemistry of fight/flight is deeply programmed into the body, always ready for some threat. I started noticing my shoulders – they were always rising up to my ears! When I practice releasing them and relaxing, I noticed something surprising – the body is actually uncomfortable with relaxing because it feels unsafe. Nevertheless, I persevere and continue to practice releasing tension throughout the day – with all of the uncomfortable feeling this brings up.

The ability to feel compassion for myself has opened new doors for relating to how I can lovingly work with my body to let go, release the trauma, and to integrate spirit. It’s the healthiest relationship I had in my life.

My job search has also gone beyond just looking for a paycheck. As I look for jobs and apply, I try to find something that I would find interesting. I think teaching was quickly very boring and tedious for me, except for the times I was directly interacting with the students. Unfortunately, the way that job is structured now is there is too much overhead – teachers are not expected just to teach but to do many extra things, and the work pace is not sustainable. Besides, the material I taught in high school was at such a basic level that it was boring for me – I began to lose interest, but felt compelled to continue for a paycheck.

Now, I feel differently about my relationship to work – I have to enjoy it and I no longer feel the need to overwork. I would also like to be surrounded by intelligent, creative people who are fun to talk to. In school systems, all you hear is mostly gossip, which I find both boring and draining. I feel relieved that I was laid off because it gave me the opportunity to align my life with something new and different. Of course, I am facing some serious challenges returning to the private sector at my location and the experience gap. But, somehow, I just keep trying and acquiring new skills and applying.

I am noticing positive changes in my worldly life as I bring spirit into the body. I am understanding what I am more holistically. It’s becoming clear that enlightenment without integration with the body-mind is incomplete. Once the being is whole and ran from the vantage point of spirit, the body and the mind follow easily. Then, life is more deeply felt and appreciated, even when situations are uncertain.

I’ve talked to enough people to know that uncertainty and change are frightening. Fear can be paralyzing and a person feels stuck, unable to take key steps to follow one’s dreams, interests, and passions. Often, complacency sets in, and one becomes convinced that it’s not necessary to try harder or to discover, express, and hone the outpouring of our unique being.

Living from spirit makes it easier to be patient while moving in a new direction, to try new things – even unsuccessfully, and to keep adjusting without self-criticism.

I was told by someone recently that I am the most resilient person they have ever met – that I’ve been through so much and still am able to function, explore new pathways, and move toward healing. I hadn’t considered myself resilient. However, now I can see that I kept going where possibly some may have completely collapsed. A hard life is difficult to understand for those who did not have the experiences – even the people closest to me did not understand what I had survived. I came close to collapse many times, but somehow I would pull up.

My children see me model this resilience, as I take steps to make the best of what I am given – right in front of their eyes. They’ve seen me go through rough patches, and then they’ve seen me rise up with even greater strength while also encouraging and guiding them through their struggles.

Self-care is only possible when spirit stops avoiding the body-mind and embraces it with profound love and compassion. The body ceases to be a burden or a chore and is ignited and propelled into a whole new level of discovery and expression. I understand that now….

Spirit and World

When I started this blog, I was mostly reveling in my existence as spirit. What I learned since then is that it really matters how you enter enlightenment to how this state unfolds.

I came into enlightenment from a deepseated desire to leave the world behind. So, after realizing this state, my connection with the world was rapidly dissolving. My physical existence was shutting down and I was fine with that. The body and the dynamics of life seemed loud and disturbed, and I just wanted to feel existence as spirit.

Maybe some would have left their bodies at that point and moved on. I, on some level, made the decision to dive fully into my body-mind and into the world. It was tempting to move beyond, but it was not what I came here to do.

When people say “what I came here to do,” I often hear some grandiose plans to impact the world on a large scale. That’s not what I mean when I say it. Our very life, in itself, has value and is meaningful aside from our interconnections and perceived impact on other lives. If this were not true, then the lives of people who isolate from others due to medical conditions or preference would be invalid, and – of course – that’s absurd.

So, what I came here to do is to weave my awareness as spirit with my body-mind, and move that union-in-progress into the world. This means raising two children, working a job, cleaning the house, cooking, participating in friendships, and taking care of my body – and everything this entails. Now, for someone with a generally normal upbringing, these things are a given. In my case, coming from years of childhood trauma that only resurfaced later in life, very few things in life are “a given.” I have to work harder to participate with a body-mind that has lived through its past.

I dove into it all with full awareness…. You may know that childhood trauma resets the body/brain chemistry to be in continuous fight-flight mode. Being with PTSD in my body is not easy – there is a constant burning in my chest that is anxiety and the brain-stem replays visual and emotional flashbacks. I have been witnessing these, feeling these as deeply as I can, and allowing whatever comes up to release. I guess what I am doing people call Mindfulness, but it’s just natural for awareness to be aware without judgment or blocking out whatever is there.

Here is my body, with all of its impacted processes set in motion. The effects were cumulative over the years and compounded by my inability to cope with whatever “present” came thereafter. According to my doctor, I have a “disability.” However, I choose to see it as a challenge.

The trauma precipitated my fybromyalgia – there is research to support that having fybromyalgia is common for trauma victims. As a result, my body gets tired easily and is in some level of pain 24/7. During flareups, the pain gets beyond the point where medication can help. Also, when my PTSD really flared up, I had “psychosomatic seizures,” which caused me to lose consciousness even at work.

Certainly, my body needs more rest than most people and a quieter lifestyle. I have to consciously ration my energy because, if I overdo it, it may take me days to recover. I’ve also discovered that fasting helps me a lot, as well as eating only fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. I can’t eat any breads or processed foods, not do I crave these anymore.

Due to budget cuts, I’ve been recently laid off from my teaching job. I am also still going through the process of my divorce. The only way through to being a single mom for me is returning to the private sector and leaving teaching. Given that I am constrained to live in my current area for the stability of my kids, where there are no careers for my previous experience, I have to retrain and start from scratch. This is the “world” part of “spirit and world.” This is the reality of my life.

Contrary to common beliefs in spiritual circles that “you can manifest your life to be whatever you want” – usually health, wealth, and soul mates – this is not how real life typically works. We are all interconnected at the deepest levels and it is impossible to wish a private haven for oneself – we are all in the arena together with whatever hand we are dealt. The most profound gift of spirit to world is resilience, grit, and the uncanny ability to keep getting back up.

So, I’m getting back up yet again, but maybe more slowly and with lots of breaks. I’ve signed up for courses to retrain for a different career, got in touch with colleagues from previous jobs to network, and overhauled my resume for three potential career tracks (with teaching as a last resort, in case nothing else comes up in a couple of months). Teaching is a very tiring job for me and I’d rather not do it, given my condition. That’s “world” guided by spirit.

Amidst all of this, I am ever at peace. I have no idea what life will bring my way next. It’s possible everything will be swept away like a sandcastle in the rising tide, or I may land on my feet world-wise and continue to support my children. All I know is that I am not sitting on my ass and waiting – I am taking the best actions I can with what I’ve got and still living as spirit.

It would have been easier to drop my damaged body-mind and move forward – surrender to the indescribable bliss of being. But, my life has not been about doing what’s easy for me. That’s not a judgement about a better or worse way to live, but simply a statement about my own life. I know I came here to break the mould that spiritual life is all about meditation, yoga, essential oils, and self-pampering – although these things are nice. If that view of spirituality were true, a spiritual life would only be for a very tiny percentage of the world!

Spirit is everyone, and it is this spirit that is moving more deeply into the physicality of the world – regardless of how the mind chooses to judge our circumstances. Spirit elevates life. To spirit, circumstances are irrelevant – it doesn’t rate life with “Like” emojis. What the body and mind call pain, sadness, misfortune, and suffering, spirit sees with compassion (which is not the same as “sympathy”).

However, it is non-trivial to weave spirit and body-mind together – it requires intention and perseverance. For me, continuing my deep-dive into life – into my body-mind, for which I feel much compassion – will probably be the most difficult thing I do with my brief life spark. And yet, I know it is the right thing – to embrace all of existence in my being while simultaneously transcending.

PTSD and Rebuilding My Body-Mind

How can enlightenment and a condition like PTSD coexist? One can be enlightened within a fractured body-mind that needs healing. Some of us will go through the awakening process even after profound trauma had occurred. Not all of us will come from healthy childhoods with nurturing and supportive parents. Not all of us will have been safe as children or even as adults.

I have been studying PTSD ever since my recent diagnosis. I have learned that wanting isolation, irritability, anxiety, avoiding intimacy, work obsession, and constant triggers are all typical of the PTSD condition. During stressors, it is natural to start seeing and living life through a lens of the past.

I have become very aware of my flashbacks in a short period of time. Flashbacks are like film loops that replay the traumatic experience and feel as if they are happening now. Flashbacks also replay the feelings of those past moments (panick, dissociation, pain, or humiliation) as if the trauma is happening now. I learned to untangle these feelings from what is currently going on, which was not easy – flashbacks feel completely blended with the body-mind experience of the present. I draw upon the light to see what It will do with these film loops.

Ever since more of my past memories flooded in several weeks ago, I’ve been bombarded with sights, smells, textures, and feeling of my trauma as if it is happening to me in the present. All of this information is stored in the bioprocess of my body-mind. I must separate from these memories and old energies, and then allow my body-mind to rebuild from scratch. It is clear that all of this is ready to be healed.

This week, I learned that I lost my job due to budget cuts – I was the newest and the first to go. Also, they eliminated the course I was teaching and there wasn’t anything else for me to teach because they have more senior physics teachers. This was another blow to my already-tenuous situation of going through a divorce and trying to finance my son’s college and dealing with PTSD. I realized I was going through a great deal of grieving for my life changes. Trying to unravel trauma and grieving is not easy.

This weekend, I allowed myself to shut down for two days. I entered my grief and trauma and was literally paralyzed by all of it. I felt only intense pain and almost no other brain activity.

By the end of the second day, I felt the light flood my brain and my body felt more alive. There was a feeling of happiness and compassion toward myself. I know that many trauma survivors have difficulty feeling love and compassion toward themselves, and – instead – feel ashamed and worthless. Although my past wrecked my life, so to speak, I understood that this is the hand I was dealt and I have to play it. Accepting my state is not a small thing – it is not easy to go from being successful and functioning to having to completely rebuild oneself from ashes.

How quickly will I heal? What does all of this mean for my ability to function in the world while I heal? I have a solid support system consisting of friends, doctors, therapists, and other people who have had trauma. I have my two boys who look up to me and call on me to be strong. I try to be. I am grateful.

So much of my life makes sense to me now. I can clearly see which triggers caused me to be defensive and offensive in the past – I was stuck in my film loops of imminent danger (even if there was none) and pain, and my anger was the only way to bypass deep depression. I was not always successful and often relived the terror of a small child which felt like I was dying. One of my biggest triggers was the pressure I felt to take care of others while reliving my trauma and feeling like I was going to completely fall apart. Of course, I didn’t really understand this at the time.

It is normal for PTSD people to lose relationships, isolate from people, be reactive, and become paralyzed by flashbacks. This is my body-mind at this time. I know that this is not who I really am, but it is my responsibility to do the work to heal and rebuild my vehicle for optimum expression. It is strange to be “in it” and also observing and studying it as if I am “outside of it.” I am both a participant and an observer.

Of course, I will be doing the work alone. All such deep healing work must ultimately be done without any safety nets to muddy the waters of personal responsibility. I didn’t come to Earth for comforts and props. I came here to embody the light. At this time, most people are interested in finding soulmates and building a sense of belonging or seeking status and belongings. While there is nothing wrong with that, it is not the only way to be alive. Some of us will grieve our lifetimes of relating to the Earth-plane as pleasure-seekers, and then choose the fires of purification and freedom. If you are such a being, please leave a comment and share your story. I’d love to hear from you.

From Healing to Happiness

What amazes me about our body-minds is how much we are buikt to heal and to restore our balance. Often it’s not clear what the issues are or how to address them, but things become clear as we persevere and work with the body-mind.

I don’t believe that the purpose of life can be just healing. It seems insane that certain situations may happen to us, break us, and then we just live out our lives to heal what has been broken. While sometimes it may be necessary to dedicate portions of our time here to healing, it is unreasonable to accept that this is all our lives will be about. It is more likely that healing (self-discovery and recovery) and expression will happen in parallel, one process supporting and enriching the other.

I found it astounding, with everything that we know, how little we teach kids about coping skills. There are very few schools with a social-emotional (SEL) curriculum specifically designed to help kids learn about processing and managing their emotions. These kids grow up to be adults who harbor various powerful baggage – often operating unconsciously, which will spill over into every aspect of their lives. Then, these adults will parent their kids. The cycle of ignorance continues and, as a result, many people will lead unfulfilled and reactive lives.

As a teacher, I watch kids daily struggle with anxiety about almost every aspect of their lives with hardly any guidance about how to relate to themselves and others. Schools say it’s their jobs to teach kids academically, but I believe we are all missing the mark about teaching kids basic emotional intelligence skills, which could tremendously elevate our quality of living all over the world. Often I see kids learn these skills ftom a therapist after they already had some form of a serious breakdown, but not before. Kids who manage to quietly hang in there through various trials and tribulations may never learn these skills at all. As adults, they will start browsing self-help books or maybe resort to drinking, drugs, or medications.

As I work on myself and on healing my past trauma, I am also noticing how no one has ever empowered me with basic tools for balancing body and mind through various life events. Even if I didn’t have trauma, I could have benefited from someone teaching me in my childhood how to interact with others, how to listen, how to respond, how to be aware of myself and to self-regulate, and how to balance my needs with the needs of others. I had to learn these things haphazardly throughout life, and usually at points where I felt already broken or have participated in irreparably breaking a relationship.

Healing is a continuum – stuff is always happening, and even the little things must be processed and managed on an ongoing basis. Healing and rebalancing is really a just a normal part of living.

I watched a documentary about anxiety, and it was interesting to learn how many people in our society are at a point where they think that all discomfort in life can and should be avoided. We now often resort to meditation when what is also needed is learning how to adjust our lifestyles and identify/process what we feel.

Trauma gets embedded in the body and proactively suppressed by defense mechanisms, such as depression and anxiety. I didn’t realize this and believed that depression and anxiety were conditions in themselves – not as defense mechanisms for an inability to process and rebalance responses. Interestingly, the first step to healing trauma is strengthening one’s awareness in the present. Because I am not identified with the mind, it turns out to be a simple shift for me to just be here. I was concerned that if I didn’t keep processing my past, I would repress it again, but that’s not the case. It took someone else to tell me that it’s OK to put all that stuff on hold – I won’t forget it again and I don’t have to overtax myself by letting it all flood through me.

I am finding myself feeling such gratitude for the people in my life who have helped me to see what I’ve spent so much energy burying and trying to forget. There is a clear path now to what I need to integrate. We talk a lot about what we need to let go – these can only be things, people, and situations. However, what remains is our responses – and these we must integrate.

I watched another documentary about empathy. What I found interesting there was the research about how kids are naturally predisposed to helping someone in need. Some believe that kids want to be helpful because they get praise or because of some other selfish motive. However, the research showed that even when a child saw someone else help the person in need, and didn’t help directly, that child felt satisfaction.

There is so much that is known about human behavior and motivations. I sincerely hope that more of this information begins to make its way into mainstream school curriculum to proactively teach kids healthy responses to life, and before these kids grow up to be confused and dysfunctional adults.

Inevitably, life happens with all of its ups and downs, and kids need to understand and set appropriate expectations about how to deal with life and relationships in healthy ways. It is easier to feel happiness while being grounded in the present and proactively looking for ways to express our innate creativity. Healing then becomes an ongoing and integrated response, which allows us to braid life as it comes in. Healing, then, does not consume a life as its primary goal.

I look forward to the day when society values life enough to make global lifestyle changes that allow all of us to flow both as individuals and in concert with each other. Then, all children will be educated about the many things we already know about being human and interacting. Then, maybe, people will stop trying to reinvent the wheel about the basics and engage with happiness sooner and continuously.

Savage T and Cultivating Gentleness

At the high school school where I teach, my students call me “Savage T.” The nickname came from a simple physics formula for distance, which is average speed (Savg) multiplied by time (t). When I free-style rap during lessons or make jokes, I hear my nickname and wonder who it is they see. Nothing is casual when cleaning up one’s game. Not even fun nicknames…. Another nickname I had was “Miss G.” I know I can “spit fire” all too easily.

As part of healing my PTSD, I’ve returned to actively cultivating gentleness. Gentleness is the first to go when feeling small, afraid, and threatened, which is the unconscious undertoe for those with PTSD. Now that I’m aware when I am in a flashback, I am also aware of how my ability to be gentle fizzles. Frankly, I’m amazed that I’ve demonstrated as much gentleness as I have in my life – thankfully with my own children and students – given that my own sense of safety had been compromised at a young age.

I’ve only met one person in my life who has been consistently gentle. I have studied her tone, her choice of words, and her ability to pause and listen with full attention. She also pauses before speaking. She asks if it is OK to bring something up. She often says “I don’t have any answers, just some thoughts…”. She “sends hugs” and cries at sad stories. She is the opposite of force, and is a calming breeze and a soothing balm.

There is nothing more irritating than people with “answers” for someone struggling – probably because such people make too many assumptions and turn complex situations into trite suggestions. Answer-givers are condescending, especially when their assumptions – due to lack of listening and understanding – are wrong. Know-it-alls are ignorant of others and only see themselves, and are thus really always talking to themselves. A minute of someone listening is more precious than an hour of someone spirting advice. However, it is easy to listen when there’s no personal investment in what someone has to say.

In my case, what can be an issue is my response to people. The perception of threat has given me an edge since my teenage years. While I was mostly quiet as a child, I gradually became more vocal – especially when kids attacked me after school after I first arrived in America.

I was different and a target. Although I was small, I realized that, to my surprise, I had an uncanny force latent in my scrawny body. I stood up for myself in broken English, colored by street slang and intonations. I studied Martial arts for at least two decades total, and started as soon as I began “winning” after-school fights, which took place just outside the tall wire fence of a New York City public school. I was not gentle. I was vicious – defending myself in real-time and was also, unknowingly, triggered into flashbacks.

When my flashbacks began to dominate my life again, about six years ago, I became aggressive to anything that even mildly resembled a threat. It was not conscious and I could not control my response. I got better at choosing my moments of when I shot flames, but I had made no progress distinguishing real threat from perception. I began to fail in diffusing situations which was actually a skill I had used often at work.

Now, I am practicing gentleness as my default. This requires conscious effort while sorting through the mess of flashbacks nipping at my heals. I must assume first that someone means me no harm. I must tell myself that. I must connect with their humanity and vulnerability to turn on my own gentle response. It is easier to do this when I feel no personal investment in what anyone is doing and am not bothered by their agendas. All of this takes effort on my part because I am in the thick of healing. The default is to feel imminent attack, but this must transform to offering service. This is something I can do.

If I notice myself reliving pain, which is frequent these days, I pause and practice PTSD grounding techniques I was taught by a therapist. I put myself in the present by looking, noticing, describing, and touching. I sooth myself by visualizing images that are calming to me. I distance myself from the flashbacks. Now, I am also adding a feeling of deep care to my interactions – to permeate my affect and words with the calm, quiet kindness I am more than capable of offering. As difficult as all of this feels now, I know I can do this.

Progress Healing PTSD

Where there is a will, there is a way. Or maybe, when the time is right, things just fall into place.

I tried some exercises today to be more aware of my environment and less focused on the flashbacks. I paid attention to the objects in a room, the colors and texture of objects, and the rug on the floor. I was practicing noticing what was around me and describing it aloud. It helped me to realize how my flashbacks sucked me up to back in time, and how easy it is to not notice when that happend. I could be convinced that I am in the present, but am really in the past looking at the present as if the present were the memory. Body-mind perception is tricky.

Smells help me to stay in the present and associate positive feelings with the present. I stocked up on my favorite scent from Bath and Body Works. I applied my favorite essential oil that has gardenia in it. I remember that smell from when I was in an ashram, chanting the Guru Gita in the early mornings. I want to be here and now.

Most importantly, I realized that there was no need to relive my past to heal from it. Perhaps that’s obvious to those who are on the other side of healing from PTSD, but it’s all new to me. I was only diagnosed with it this year, after the second wave of repressed memories. Surprisingly it is possible to believe that one is OK with trauma while being completely accustomed to the shock – like the frog that dies in a pot of water, where the temperature was gradually increased. No wonder I was fainting at work only last year and having strange seizures that had no physical cause. One doctor suggested trauma and panic attacks, but I didn’t know what he was talking about.

More important than the PTSD diagnosis for me was me finally connecting with the understanding that trauma leaves a lasting impression on the body-mind that must be healed. I had no idea what the trauma had done to make me want to avoid being here. Metaphysical journeys are so much easier that being aware through the body!

As much as I dislike the Mindfulness franchise hype, it is in fact what I am practicing. In fact, why do I dislike the mindfulness movement? Maybe because I so often see it parody authentic connection. People are parroting something about focusing on the present, but I’ve learned how tricky our psyche is and how we can hypnotize ourselves without ever being present at all.

I practiced imagining a safe place. I have to imagine that because no place feels safe through the lens of trauma right now. My safe place is near the ocean and on a beach, where the waters are turquoise and the sand is white. I put on ocean sounds to ground myself into feeling safe and soothe the raw feelings that were dredged up. I was having trouble functioning when I started to relive the past abuse. Soothing is another way to help me be here and in the body.

Grounding in the present and learning to associate the feeling of being safe with body-attention turned out to be a powerful catalyst for me in realizing that I have to retrain my body-mind to stop flinching. It’s not easy and it’s necessary.

I feel like I made so much progress in becoming conscious of the unconscious. That’s half the battle right there! The next step is to practice connecting with people even while the flashbacks are ongoing. I understand that all of this is a process and not a one-shot deal-and-heal.

I imagined my memories being placed in a box. I can’t tell you how many times I used this technique with the teens I teach…. But I had never done this myself. Then, I imagined putting distance between me and the box – an enormous lavender field! I studied if doing this was “detachment” that was healthy, versus an unhealthy dissociation and repression. I don’t want to repress my memories again! It felt OK this time to put distance between my attention and memory – I wasn’t forgetting a thing – it was still all there, but inside a box – and miles away, with a buffer of a gorgeous lavender field.

I am learning how to live in this body with all that it has been through. It is easy to escape the body, but that’s not what’s needed. I have to get deeper into being and functioning in the body to integrate my awakening. I can see why I avoided my body for so long – who wants to be in a home that was demolished. I am now reclaiming my body. This is huge for me….

My teacher used to say that 51% is needed to become enlightened. 51% of being available to the light and just enough self love to not push the light away. Now there’s the 49% that needs attention. It’s been a decade of healing and integrating. I am working on the truly deep stuff now that has kept me from fusing with my body-mind for, well, all of my life….

A Case Of Mistaken Resilience

People told me that I was resilient. When things got tough, I persevered. When situations knocked me down, I found ways to get back up. Life turned me to ash at a very young age, and somehow I came back. Over and over, there would be perceived failure, pain, rejection, and abandonment, but I just continued to redefine and redirect myself.

Moments of strength emerged from seeming eons of weakness, until I realized what was really happening. What appeared to be resilience was actually me outrunning my pain, getting ahead of ever feeling it, and escaping a deepseated conviction of being irreparably broken.

As a child, I learned to escape abuse by studying. Even as I cried and quietly begged to be erased from existence, I buried myself in books. Whatever potential I had I turned exclusively to training and honing my ability to think. When in pain, I resorted to solving math and physics problems. I became incredibly adept at feeling everything and nothing while lost in mental puzzles.

My resilience was a farce. I didn’t have the guts to face what happened to me. Instead, I learned how to dull my pain, detach from feeling, and even dissociate from heartbreak. I was a skinny runt, raped and beaten for years. When I got older and my brother was born, I was simply forgotten and abandoned. To be noticed, which felt like love to me, I had to do extraordinary things. I had to be a superhero, a mountain mover, and unbreakable. So, I trained myself to excel with no tolerance for failure.

What began as a coping mechanism turned into an obsession. I effectively internalized being “faulty” and unlovable, and invested all of my energy into cultivating performance – competitive piano, martial arts, yoga, math and physics, technological expertise, writing, public speaking, and innovating stale processes in corporate settings. I was compensating. I was faking success. Until I began to break down. It was inevitable.

My first repressed memories tore through their cocoons in my early twenties. Reliving my past put me in shock. After coming to, I doubled my efforts to hide my true ugliness. I must have been horrible to have had such horrible things done to me. Memories and flashbacks continued to bleed through even as I fought harder to keep them at bay.

This past year, another wave of repressed memories engulfed me. But this time, I knew what was happening and was onto my tried-and-true methods of escape. This time, I didn’t want to run or hide or distract myself. I just gave into the reality of my past. My previous ways of coping helped me to survive an untenable situation, but they would not help me to heal. This much was clear.

So, I gave up trying to hide and deny the brutality of my past. Looking back, I can now recognize the times in my life where I responded to life in flashback mode. I didn’t know that I was having flashbacks at the time, but I can see it now. I was seeing the present through the narrow lens of the past – small, terrified, and ashamed. I was “back there” without realizing it. This is PTSD….

For several months now, I have been studying my flashbacks and reliving old pain. The light is there to support me. Some days it feels like I may drown in this ocean of pain, but I know I won’t. I threw myself into the kiln once again and fully conscious of what used to lie beneath.

It occurred to me a number of times that I could feel sorry for myself and just give up. However, I don’t feel that it’s really possible for me. Something keeps me going even when I want to just…stop. Maybe it’s different this time because I no longer feel like my life belongs to me. Maybe it’s because I am not attached to any self-image. Maybe I know full-bodily that the only way is through.

I admit that it’s pretty rough right now. I’m not quite sure how I am managing a job, two kids, and my Masters program while also doing this healing work. I want to get through this and have no idea how long it will take.

I know things are improving because I find myself happily being a nobody. No ambition. No need to excel or move mountains. It’s quiet in the eye of the storm. I feel a quiet love even as I am being dismantled at the atomic level.

A Life of Transformation and Enlightenment