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….