Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I Hope You Dance

Today I just wanted to say..."thank you" stopping by to visit...

And I hope today you dance...


Please leave your feedback, share your own success' or ask your questions in the comments section...

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If you are looking for ideas on how to create you own best life try starting with the Resources tab at the top of this page. It's not an exhaustive collection by any means but a good place to start :)

I'm glad you stopped by today!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I DON'T Want to Talk About It: Going Through to Get Out of. Honoring the Pain of the Past


For the longest time I held onto resentments. I mean - really - how could I forgive those who had affected my life and changed me forever?

My life had been a nightmare. Trauma does that to a person.

Yet - it didn't have to stay that way.

But I didn't understand that by holding on to the quite justifiable anger that I was drawing out the pain, I was actually causing some of my own misery. I had slipped into the conundrum of post trauma stress as over time I struggled to avoid triggers and control my environment and those in it in an impotent effort to continue to avoid the emotional pain and feelings of helplessness that had become my "norm".

What changed that? What helped me to let go of the resentments that my life could have been different, that I could have been different had I not had the life experiences that I did?

First - it was learning to do the "hard work" of emotional healing - learning to recognize, and connect my emotions and start talking about how I felt about what happened to me instead of my past focus on what the perpetrators had done that had left me feeling helpless, hopeless.

To trust the process - the emotional healing process.

To stop focussing and thinking about what "they", "he", "she", "it" had done to me or on what had otherwise happened to me that I had no control over.

Doing this "instant replay" really served only one purpose and that was to support that "perpetual victimhood" I was experiencing by reliving the nightmare over and over; not just in my head, but in my conversations and relationships. In the beginning it was noticable that this was what I was doing but in time it unconsciouly permeated my life and who I had become.

This focus on external events perpetuated that feeling of helplessness that often comes with a trauma experience and circumvented the natural emotional process of healing.

Then to start talking about how I felt about what happened to me.

That I felt shamed, lost, lonely, confused. That I thought, as I had been told, that "it" was my fault, that I was bad, that I had feared for my life and well being.

But I didn't share this part of my journey with just anyone. Only a select few whom I knew would be able to sit with my pain and not try to "fix" it by offering suggestions that would serve only to once again place the focus on external "fixes" rather than the internal insight and awareness that brings change.

This part of the journey is not one to be openly shared with all the world but to be honored and respected amongst close and compassionate relationships. A trusted friend who is not doing their own trauma work, a qualified therapist that knows how to validate instead of dismiss this part of the healing process.

This is where the knowledge of the emotional healing process came into play. As I gradually moved from talking "story" and on to "processing" emotion - the darkness began to lift. The pain began to subside inside me.

Things that had been horrible triggersItalic for me began to be things I could experience with intention. I began to see how events and situations that in the past would send me off the deep end were identifying opportunities for healing, grieving - that here I could go through to get out of the connected avoidance and pain.

I no longer had to hide from the world because I could now become a part of the world.

I began to use my words as an indicator, a marker of sorts, that there was more grief to be had. That there was more to be let go of in order to set myself free. When I found myself again focussing on, talking about, complaining or feeling angry at something that had been done "to" me...this resentment was telling me there was more work to be done - and that I was ready to go through this healing process in order to get out of the pain of the past that had stolen my life from me.

And as I noted in my poem of recent "A Walk in Compassion" - letting go of my anger, resentments and deep inner wounds does not give those who harmed me a free pass in life for what they did that harmed me - but finding this place brings me closer to peace.


You Don't Have to be an Einstien: Knowledge is Empowerment (there is no "worse" than or comparing of trauma experiences...)

A Walk In Compassion

Photo Credit

I will live in compassion

I will walk a path of peace

no longer judging

I’m living free

I will live in compassion

I will be free

can you walk in compassion

can you let your soul free

can you reach out your hand

and say “follow me”

you’ll find your way

your truth and your light

when you’re able to lay down

when you give up that fight

then I'll walk in compassion

my soul will be free

torment no more

in my eyes they will see

the human condition 

such as it is

a walk in compassion

my heart open and free

loving the others

in spite of what they did to me

letting it go

won’t make them free

but it takes me

closer to peace

~Susan March 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America — a note from Robert Whitaker

Over at Bipolar Blast ask Beyond Meds, todays post is a note from Author Robert Whitaker regarding his book The Anatomy of An Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America. The link to view this book on Amazon is here.

The question...Could our drug based paradigm of care be fueling this epidemic?

Whitiker continues: To answer that question, I fleshed out what the scientific literature has to say about the long-term effects of psychiatric medications. I think an observation made by one of the many people I interviewed for the book aptly sums up the tale told in the scientific literature. She said:

“With psychiatric medications, you solve one problem for a period of time, but the next thing you know, you end up with two problems. The treatment turns a period of crisis into a chronic mental illness.”

After this tale of science is told (and the book basically relates a history of science that has unfolded since the 1950s), I look at why our society doesn’t know about the many studies that have documented the poor long-term outcomes. These study results never get reported in the newspapers, and the book explores the financial reasons why that is so.

You can read the rest of this note here.

You can see my earlier post on this issue here "Another rant...which came first? The Chicken or the Goose?"

So what's the purpose of posting this information? Because I believe that we as consumers are not getting all of our options, we are not being fully informed. Instead we are being sold on the idea that we are somehow biologically broken and that Big Pharma has the ONLY answer to the issue of mental health and wellness.

This is a subject not widely discussed yet and carries much of the similarities of the fraud carried out on consumers of tobacco product and even the most recent financial crisis where we were presented with the idea that the banks were operating in our best interest, yet their greed and offering only one side of the story - incomplete information - leads consumers to believe that as the "professionals" we can trust what they are telling us to be "truth" and in our best interest.

Each year, Big Pharma is being called on it's misuse of America's trust as they invent new ways of pushing their drugs, telling us that this is the only answer to our heartburn (try eating less junk) our "Fibromyalgia" (women are getting over this every day by excercising and managing stress healthier) or how this magic pill will "fix" us. And they have done a grand job at pulling the wool over the eyes of consumers as we staunchly defend that we are "chemically imbalanced". I know because I've lived it. To have done otherwise was unthinkable because this was my last hope at finding a solution to the emotional distress and faulty cognitions that kept me bound in self doubt and dependance on drugs to cope each day. After all, without being "mentally ill"...who was I and what the hell was "wrong" with me?

Today, the Government has finally stepped in and penalized Big Tobacco for the lies that we ate up when we bought in that tobacco was harmless and safe. Banks that have gouged Americans for years are being brought up short and held responsible for their mismanagement of America's resources. And each year Big Pharma pays millions in settlements to those their "medicines" have harmed and fines to the Government for their fraud in misleading consumers on various drugs.

This may not be your opinion, and my goal is not to change your mind about this but to encourage you to do your own reading and research on this message that somehow we are broken and drugs (not to mention the lifetime bill for never ending therapy that goes along with this assumption) are the only answer.

So here's what Big Pharma isn't telling us; that we can learn to manage our thoughts, our emotional instability and find our way out of the muck and mire of "mental illness". We can learn to develop rational thinking and emotional expression that heals instead of incapacitates us. We can learn the life skills to help us overcome those feelings of "less than" or "different".

Drugs? They may have a place and even benefit us short term to manage crisis and keep ourselves safe - but they also inhibit our ability to learn, to think, to recall and remember both short term and long term. But when they are heralded as the "only" solution to mental health issues the result can be painfully debilitating as our hope for a better outcome is reduced to simply "managing" and surviving.

Finding light in the darkness of mental illness requires the use of and access to our thoughts and emotions - the things that medication "numbs".

So while using medication may be helpful in the short term - the long term use of it inhibits and prevents us from accessing the natural solution of learning new ways of coping and how to trust the natural emotional process that we are working so diligently to avoid.

(Note:I am not a physician. This information should not be taken as medical directions. Do not discontinue any medications without first doing your own due diligence and making the decision that is best for you.)


If you are looking for ideas on how to create you own best life try starting with the Resources tab at the top of this page. It's not an exhaustive collection by any means but a good place to start :)

Please leave your feedback, share your own success or ask your questions in the comments section...

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I'm glad you stopped by today!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Listening in the Chaos of the Storm

Changing old patterns of behavior can be tough. It can be hard, difficult, feel unamanagable and in general this process can simply...suck.

It's that place where we stand in that fork in the road and feel totally naked, stripped of all common sense, shaking and shivering in the elements very similar to standing at the top of that mountain in a snowstorm.

We are afraid. Our teeth may be chattering, our limbs feel weak as we try to see through the blizzard, that place of chaos in our minds.

And we are not sure what to do about this mess that is our lives.

Well meaning folk-friends, doctors, therapists and so on, are telling us what to do and how to "fix" it. Suggestions are coming freely but solutions are beyond our reach.

And at some point as we stand in the storm, we choose. We choose to take our own action, find our own solutions, and find our peace at whatever the price may be.

And we step off the edge of the mountain, we lean forward into the winds of change....and we trust.

We begin to calm the noise all around us as we focus not so much on the pain of the past anymore but on the vision and hope of the future that lies at our feet waiting to be had.

And we listen.

We calm the storm within ourselves, we step away quietly from the chaos that has become our lives...and we listen, really listen to our "self".

We stand at that mountain top and calm the noise in our heads, the pain in our hearts, the raveged soul waiting to be set free.

And we listen. And in the calm we will find that which is holding us back, preventing our freedom.

And we let go.

And begin to trust the process of healing; to begin to grieve that which was....and that which will never be.

Sometimes in the beginning, the quiet is short lived and the noise and busyness of avoiding this grief takes over once again.

But in time, with practice, we find that when we are able to follow the grief into the wind that this is where we find freedom.

Because we listen. And we trust. Ourselves, the process.

And we begin to soar.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Once the Tears Have Dried

I have debated about publishing this post...but have chosen to do so because part of healing from the pain of the past can often include grieving how our own issues of "mental illness" or PTSd has affected others. Our friends, families and of course - the children.

Whatever label that we attach to our issues/symptoms in this journey the outcome is quite often similar for many of us. We have been changed from who we might have been had our life experiences been different.

The adult survivor of child hood issues struggles to develop and maintain the social connections that enhance our lives. A pervasive sense of powerlessness perpetuates a state of dependence and there is no hope that life will ever be more than surviving one day to the next.

The father who played with his daughter before he left for war becomes irritable, sullen, explosive. The mother who nursed her infant who is raped and is no longer kind and gentle but is lost in her own world where alcohol, drugs or cutting is the only relief from the torment of the noise in her head.

Today's post takes us to that place where we can talk about how our issues in those darkest places of our journey become manageable as we learn to embrace the pain of the past and live in today, creating the life we choose each day.

Trauma makes us different.

And that realization sucked when I woke up out of the fog and realized just how different.

Control issues. Irritability. Blowing up for no visible reason. Depressed to the point of wishing to be anywhere but here; I did not want to die, only to know how to live. Wild spending sprees that served to help me avoid my emotional pain but served no other purpose. A mind that seemed to race of it's own accord, distorted thoughts that left me feeling paranoid, delusional. Isolation became my refuge.

So guarded and cautious of the future, so stifled by stuffing the past - that I missed so many "now" moments with my children and not realizing that I was missing "life" as I fought to forget the past. Insomnia, sleep deprivation, flashbacks, nightmares and fighting demons that were no longer there. I had become a different person than the mother who cradled and rocked her infants to sleep.

I was hurting the ones I loved in order to protect myself from the pain that would have brought healing.

And this is part of the "hard work" of finding freedom from the past, of healing.

Being able to see the past for what it was. Being able to own how my "crazy" affected and injured my children. Innocents.

They are now grown. But the pain sometimes creeps in when I am reminded of the years lost to the demons of the darkness of a past forgotten but not gone, emotional pain avoided rather than embraced and experienced.

The price paid to live in denial and avoidance.

I didn't know that I could learn to be free of the pain that I fought so hard to control and avoid. I knew that I didn't like the person I was when I was lost in the fog of PTSd aka mental illness. I didn't see that I had any power to control or change my reactive state of being. And while I knew that something was not "right", I didn't know how to "fix" it.

But today I can feel the sadness, the loss of those years, the moments I missed.

Today instead of hiding in shame I can own how my past affected their future. I can grieve. I can cry. I can embrace the emotional pain of my own I can do this and stay present.

Grieving what was, what was lost and what will never be since I can't go back and have a "do over" and raise my children without the crazy's of PTSd aka "mental illness".

And once the tears have dried again, remembering what I do have today. The new relationship that we have created based on trust, respect and love. The hopes, the dreams, sharing the success' and challenges of life.

This is the reward for doing that "hard work" of taking back my life from the darkness that haunted - and hunted me - for so many years.

This is the payoff.

Finally being able to create and live the life of my choice today and every day... of the demons of the past.

See my related post...Today I cried


Thank you for stopping by today. Here is where I share my journey through the maze of "mental illness" by sharing parts of my story and some of the steps I have taken to be able to create and live best life each day.

It is possible to be free of the demons of the past. If you are looking for resources I've posted some links here. Not an exhaustive collection by any means but a good place to start :)

If you have any comments, feedback or questions I would like to invite you to leave them in the comments section...

If you would like to be notified of new content, please go to the sidebar to subscribe to the rss feed or email updates.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Trick Question! Pain? Or No Pain?

I posted this on my FaceBook page a few days ago: If you were given a choice to choose to be free of the pain of the past or choose an opporunity to learn to create your own best life - what would you choose? Exactly!

Trick question...or is it?

I think it is safe to assume that everyone - or most everyone - would like to be free of the pain of the past. To let go of the emotional distress and internal pain and conflict, to quiet the noise of a racing mind. To find peace from the cognitive distortions that can leave us feeling afraid and unsure. To quench the idea that suicide or other self harming/self destructive behavior is the only relief to be found from the torment of a mind that seems uncontrollable and a past that haunts us day and night.

But does everyone - or most everyone - know they have options and can learn to create their best life after being diagnosed with a mental illness? That it is possible to not simply survive day to day by managing symptoms and coping...but to live, to thrive, to dream and to reach for, to live each day to its fullest? To become all they are capable of being?

For a long time, I didn't.

But that changed when I met someone who had been there and done that - and was willing to shine and share their light on a new path in my journey. It was a path that had been there all along, but I hadn't seen it through the darkness and chaos of a racing mind and sense of hopelessness and helplessness that I could ever be and be "ok".

It was a path where I discovered that under the brush and weeds of the dark jungle in my mind, I found that I had had what I needed to find my way out of the darkest places within myself; that it had been there all along and I needed only to learn how to access this wisdom within myself.

I learned that I had the power to change my life - that I had a choice other than to continue to live at the mercy of racing thoughts and unstable emotions.

Here is the correction I posted on my FaceBook page: Lets revise that! A choice to STAY in the pain of the past or choose to be free of it - which would you choose?

"Managing" the symptoms of "mental illness" served only to help me survive another day, another night only to repeat that process the next day, week, month and eventually years; there was no freedom, I was prisoner to this torment. My life revolved around and was consumed by simply surviving, trying to hold the demons at bay.

Yet I have since found freedom. I discovered that I did not have to STAY in that pain and avoidance; that I could choose to be free of it. Free of the emotional instability, the cognitive distortions that colored my reality, the hopelessness that I could ever have more, the helplessness that kept me dependent on sources outside of myself to guide my life, the belief that to cope and survive was the best I could hope for.

I discovered that I could LEARN how to live in the self awareness and develop the insight that has allowed me to find freedom from the pain of the past and and create my best life - which is simply the life of my choosing each day.


If you are looking for resources I've posted some links here. Not an exhaustive collection by any means but a good place to start :)

If you would like to be notified of new content, please go to the sidebar to subscribe to the rss feed or email updates.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Another rant..was it the chicken or the goose?

Over at one of my fav sites, Bipolar Blast aka Beyond Meds I ran across another good article that can really get one thinking. Journalist Robert Whitacre brings up the history of how depression has been treated and asks a very valid question; is the model we have followed for the last generation or two actually causing the issue of chronic mental illness?

Think about it and take a gander at some of my recent archives. I mean - how is it that we were ok one day and then suddenly we aren't and will need lifetime medication and therapy?

Granted - hearing someone that can definitively say "you have an illness that is causing your depression/mania/paranoia/psychosis etc...and here is a pill that will fix it" is a whole lot different than taking the time and effort to learn how to cope with life in a healthier way....and it IS a lot easier and profitable to prescribe costly medications with guaranteed refills for life than to teach me how to express my emotions and go through the emotional healing process...

Ok, ok. I'll get off my soapbox but having lived this it's a bit hard for me to not spout off once in awhile.

So take a gander over at Psychology today and see what Mr. Whitacre has to say.

Another source you might find helpful is an article titled A tale of two boys.

And decide for yourself - did the chicken ("biology" and "genetics") come first or did the goose lay a golden egg....

Now I'll get down from my soapbox :)

Thanks for listening :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Blog Talk Radio: Michele and Cori share their personal stories of triumph

I can't think of a better way to start the week than sharing an interview on Blog Talk Radio with Michele Rosenthal and her call in guest Cori as they discuss their personal stories and the path they have followed to find freedom from past pain and are now creating and living their own best life today. Click here to listen to this amazing testimony of the struggle and triumph as Cori and Michele share their personal testimonies.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Choosing to Trust Life

let life unfold naturally...

The first time I heard this I had absolutely no idea what it meant.

"Let life unfold naturally"...yeah, right.

But as I committed myself to this new path of a life of insight and awareness - living life consciously - it began to make sense.

I began to notice just how much I had to control things - people and circumstances - in order to feel safe and validated.

I started noticing how often I tried to influence others lives and choices.

I became more aware of how easily I could become irritable when someone or something interfered with a carefully laid out plan that didn't go exactly the way I intended.

So, with gentle awareness of the many ways I was attempting to influence and orchestrate people and circumstances, I was able to begin to let go a little here...

and a little there...

And I also became aware of and was pleasantly surprised at how much less stressed I felt when I was able to relinquish control of situations and circumstances that were not mine to influence to begin with.

I realized...that I was learning to trust life, trust myself and to "let life unfold naturally".

Friday, March 19, 2010

Where the journey begins...choosing to be whole

Recently I posted here about how I began to live in a state of awareness and how this was a new path in my journey out of the "dark ages" where I lived in that chronic state of emotional and cognitive distress where my mind raced uncontrollably and my thoughts kept me in a twisted and tense state of being.

Well...I wanted to "be" better.

I wanted to not be afraid of my own shadow and "get a life". I wanted to not have nightmares and flashbacks. I wanted to know how to be in relationships and be ok, to speak up for myself without panicking that I would be hurt, ignored or abandoned. I wanted to learn how to live without addiction and avoidance running my life and stealing my days.

I was exhausted. The energy that it took to live in that constant and chronic state of anxiety and fear left me drained as I struggled to make it - to survive - another day.

I was tired of simply surviving; I wanted to live.

And it started with being aware and aware that I had a choice.

And it continued by being willing and open to hearing how I had the power within myself to create my best life today. That it was never too late.

And it began with one step; simply putting one foot in front of the other.

And in that awareness I had to let go of the idea that anyone else could give me the answers or fix me.

It came down to the fact that I was responsible for finding my way out of the darkness of what has come to be known as "mental illness" and all that goes with it; the panic attacks, the nightmares, the breakdown of my physical body and the constant chronic and disabling pain that I lived in.

I had to make a decision that I was willing to do the hard work of owning the state of my life and to stop playing the perpetual "victim" card where my focus was on anything and everything and everyone who had ever touched my life and how I was in such a bad place, I had no choice, no control...

That I could get better if......something would happen, someone would listen or help me, if I got a "break" like so and so did...

I had to choose to stop focussing on others and things outside myself and begin to be aware of what I was feeling behind that huge smokescreen of blame and anger at things outside of myself.

I learned to accept that my life just is and if I don't like the way my life is going...that I can change it by simply




Thursday, March 18, 2010

Knowledge is Power and Truth Sets Us Free

'You may not yet be able to bring your unconscious mind activity into awareness as thoughts, but it will always be reflected in the body as an emotion, and of this you can become aware." --Eckhart Tolle The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment Page 22

As I sat in the office of this new therapist, I wondered just what the hell I had gotten myself into. I wasn't sure about this person. She seemed a bit "new agey" and that didn't mesh well with the ideals of the religion I had submitted to for 10 years where pretty much anyone who didn't walk, talk, think, breath and do the way the leaders of the church did were to be shunned and said to be of the devil himself.

But I had left religion - not faith mind you, but RELIGION ie a faith based on "doing" over the spiritual connection that I found in simply being and accepting myself as I was without judgement - I had left that 15 years ago. Imagine that. After 15 years the brainwashing and judgement still crept into and affected my ability to have a mind and opinions of my own.

I don't recall the exact conversations of those first few months as I was still struggling with memory recall after being on potent psychotropic medications these past 15 years so while I was free of the religious conditioning I was still under the affect of the drugs I had been prescribed. Thankfully, over time my ability to remember, recall and attend, the psychosis and paranoia faded as my body and brain returned to their natural drug free state.

What I do recall of this day and conversation that was actually several weeks and perhaps a couple of months into this new therapy relationship was her saying "So just try being aware of those thoughts" as I told her how my head was spinning and I couldn't even leave my apartment to do laundry without a complete meltdown.

And this is where my journey turned down a new bend as I practiced with mindful awareness and began to learn how to listen to and trust my own thoughts, emotions/feelings and connect to my body and to my "self" after a lifetime of being defined by others.

So today...just try being aware of those thoughts. Without judgement or ridicule of yourself or anyone else. Just for a moment....listen

to you...

and just


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

That Long Road Home...

Is travelled by putting one foot in front of another.

I have been really enjoying fiddling with the photo's I took the other day! You probably noticed that I put one of them in the masthead here...although I haven't quite figured out how to do the sizing and placing of it, I kind of like having it there. If you have an opinion it or suggestion on sizing/placement to get it to fit across the frame... I'd sure like to hear it in the comments below...:)

I snapped this photo the other day at the railroad crossing near my apartment. I thought it was an interesting shot. After some brief (like a few seconds) of editing in my iphoto software I realized that this is such a good portrayal of this journey of self discovery and healing from trauma's past.

I don't know about you, but there were and have been plenty of times that I thought I should be done with this already...yet in hindsight, I can't believe just how far I have come in such a short amount of time.

And it all began with putting one foot in front of the other.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Whoops! I did it again! Using Creativity...

Whoops! I did it again!

Well - sort of!

Finding creativity after a lifetime of "stuffing" anything about me that expressed my individuality or and sense of “self” has not been the easiest part of this journey (you can see my bio here). But - I have taken some steps to do that through a variety of mediums throughout my journey.

One of the first that I posted online was my storyboard. There are 5 collage cards and the interesting thing is that when I set out to do this activity, I had no plan in mind. Yet - when it was finished, I realized that I had told my story in this series. The first I titled "Disconnected".

The second in this series portrays how I felt in the midst of the worst of this part of my journey. "A Shadow" of who I might have been - but in hindsight...I see that also was only a shadow of all that I could - and will - become.

"Fragmented" is an expression of how I felt I had no defined sense of self; no "me" to speak of. This is during the time when I made the choice to take my journey into my own hands as I stepped to the top of the mountain, my arms open to what may come, trusting the process as I stepped off the edge. I was ready to do the "hard work"...the emotionally wrenching grieving of a life I would never know. Little did I know that this healing process would take me to the life I never knew that I could have.

Grieving...what was...and wasn't is the process that I have followed to find my way out of the legacy of hopeless and helplessness that comes so often with trauma of any kind. It was a time of finding the "how" behind learning to "let go" of all that I could not change in my past or control in my future. It was where I began to find the peace that passed all of my understanding. The joy of living that comes with living in the truth that set me free.

"I Am Free" exhibits the freedom I have found as I have followed this simple although not easy process to claim my right to exist, to breath, to stand tall. And it all began because I believed that I would "find something to stand on...or learn how to fly" ...I am now in flight:).

My post, "Was it worth it?" is where I posted one of my first "self portraits" as I began to use charcoal drawing to begin to learn how to express what I was feeling. I drew this portrait near the beginning of a new leg of my journey as I entered that place of willingness to step out of my shame and begin to claim my world, my my own. This was that place within the process of my storyboard where I learned that it was safe...and I learned how to grieve the past and embrace rather than avoid the pain as my path to freedom from the darkness. This is what the "hard work" looked like for me...Today I cried...and was set free. This drawing is now in a frame on my wall where I am reminded each day of that sacred place where I found - and took - my freedom.

"Haiku" is my journey into poetry. This poem is the simplest and most beautiful description of the healing path that I have followed. Tears...wash the soul free.

I Believed is my version of the wonderful Patrick Overton poem that inspired me to keep moving forward when I thought I could not take one more step or endure one more moment of pain.

I have also done some writing of fiction based on my experiences as well as I have some non fiction things on the stove that are not quite ready to be served just yet:) And today...I wanted to post/share what I did yesterday with my iphone camara and the photo editing software on my mac. Nothing fancy schmancy - but it just goes to show that we all have some sort of creativity within us and it doesn’t have to be museum quality to qualify as “expressive”.

And, for me anyway, my creative expressions will typically connect me to whatever it is that I am focused on at the moment; whether I am consciously aware of it – or not. I can use my creative forms of expression to identify how I am feeling when I do not understand why I am being sullen, sad, irritable or even ecstatically happy. I can use my creative work to indicate and learn to identify an emotion or resolve a triggered situation that I cannot yet name.

So - yes; I guess I "did it again" as the story goes:) I used photo's to live in my now and build a bridge from my past pain to my present awareness and acceptance. 

What's the story behind these pics?

I have my story but you may have one too; what do you see when you look at these photos? What story from your own journey comes to your mind?

This is where your beginning may be. This is the story you might find a way to express today that will be your catalyst to finding your own freedom and creating your own new story.

And while we might hope and wish that doing this once or even twice might be the “end”…oftentimes each story takes us to the next and the next.

So how do I know I am done – or at least making some progress?

When my expression became less of pain and more of joy and peace and acceptance of what is instead of rumination over what never was or what “could” have been. When I could begin to sit with mine or another’s anguish instead of trying to “fix” things that are not broken but need only to be experienced and expressed. When my energy became my own, when I could claim my life power and create with intention my best day each day, even when it’s raining or storming around me. When I could think of the past…yet stay in the present.

It will be the truth that sets you free.

Monday, March 15, 2010

When the Student is ready, the Teacher will come

Mondays; argggg, I hate Mondays...

You can see the post I wrote a few months ago about Monday's here.

So what's this got to do with anything?'s Monday. :)

And for me it's back to basics day.

As I've been meandering around, meeting and greeting others and carrying on the discussion about healing from past trauma there's been something in the back of my mind. Couldn't put my finger on it before but I think I've found what I was looking for.

In the beginning this blog was based on a conversation that Michele (Heal My PTSD) and I were having on her blog post dated January 2009 titled How to Tap your Inner Hero. Our conversation was on the "how" behind learning to live in the moment and leave the past behind...

In This Moment is a post I wrote last year on that "lightbulb" moment when I realized that I could change my life...simply by changing my mind.

Giving Up is Not an Option is another earlier post on how I arrived at this insight and the awareness that living in the past held a price...

In the end, this journey is all about how we choose to spend our moments. The hard part is finding the path that will take us there.

The problem that I see and have seen over this journey of mine is not that we are an incapable population - in fact, quite the opposite - as survivors of trauma who have chosen to do the hard work of healing and finding our way out of that dark place, we are the most resourceful persons on the face of this earth I believe.

The problem in my mind is that we have been taught to focus on "doing" in this journey rather than learning how to "be" in our own time and space and to "be" ok. Unwittingly, we have been guided down a path that has taught us to avoid our pain in various ways rather than learn to embrace it and go through the process of emotional healing.

I spent years losing my "now" to attempting to "figure out" how to "do" whatever it was that I was supposed to be doing to "get better". I had the "diagnosis" - "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" - but the focus was never on learning how to go through the natural grief process to reclaim or find that part of me that was buried deep within the emotional distress and deep seated belief of helplessness to change my circumstances.

The focus was on "doing" to the exclusion of "being".

And this is where I find myself today. Returning to the original purpose of this blog. Finding a way to share the path I have taken to pull myself out of the mire of the past and beginning to live "in the moment". That only one true thing that exists; the "now".

Because that is where I have found the peace lies. Learning to live in "now" and how to "let go" of those thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are no longer bringing me a peaceful "now".

So today I decided to pay attention to the unrest I have been feeling instead of trying to avoid it or cover it up with more "busy work" or creating my own "daytime drama" as often happens when I get lost ruminating over solving problems that are not mine to begin with. I decide to get back to the basics of living in my now and trusting that by doing so, I am laying the foundation for my best life tomorrow.

And while it is easy for me to engage in the many life issues that come up each day - especially those surrounding the issues we face in our healing journey's, I find myself returning to Micheles orginial question to me from that post How to Tap Your Inner did I learn to live in the moment?

And still, nearly a full year later, the best answer that I have found to this question is that living in the moment is a simple concept although not always an easy one to apply.

It is not about "doing", although "doing" is a part of this process as we put one foot in front of the other and learn to walk in this new way. At the same time it is learning about "being". It is the path we are each on that will provide us our own answers in our own time.

In other long as we are searching, inquisitive and open...we will be ready to receive answers that will guide us down our chosen path where we can all create a live our best life each day.

And it started with simply becoming aware of the "story" behind the language I was using like telling myself that I loved Monday's. That Monday's were the best day of the week...that Monday's were a new start for another opportunity to create the life of my choosing. Another 1,400 minutes and opportunities to turn things around, to change my life and step back on my new path - the now.

And then as I became aware of those opportunities to change my story and language at the same time I changed that "backstory" in my mind of how "Monday"s sucked".

This is that place where I was the student that was ready - and willing to take the action - and my teacher always came.

Every time since.

And every time still.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I see hope

I wanted to write a happy post. To maybe talk about all the ways I've noticed again just how far I've come in this journey of self discovery; of finding my way.

But I can't right now. Instead I'm feeling angry at the injustice of this thing called PTSD and how it has not been handled.

You see, I've been reading about the struggles of the Military Vets and their families. The emotional pain, the nightmares. The suicide rates among vets.

For a long time I couldn't do that. Reading about others pain, I mean. It was all I could do to face my own so it was overwhelming to read of others journeys through this nightmare.

And what I see is again just how similar the experience of the Post Trauma Stress response is. And how varied our experiences can be that bring us to this place where the nightmares are different nightmares but the pain is as deep for each of us as the Grand Canyon is deep and wide.

While our stories are different; the soldiers coming home, the children raped, the accident in which all was lost but perhaps one life...

The results are common. The nightmares, the flashbacks, that feeling of crazy, the isolation from the world that doesn't understand, being on edge, not wanting to die but not knowing how to live beyond this...and the list that we all know goes on and on.

And this gives me hope.

Hope that as we speak up and find our voice, tell our stories, share our success - the secret shame of living with the PTS response will no longer be. That as we work and walk together our shared experiences and voices will be the catalyst for change.

And that all will be well.

So I guess in the end while I didn't write a happy post today, I wrote a reality post and one filled with that broad range of emotions that makes me feel alive and motivates me to find purpose and meaning from my life experiences.

And in the end...I see hope for us all.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Like the little engine that could...

It began with the idea that I could.

The very first lesson that I received on the idea of self empowered healing from "mental illness" was during that week in the hospital in September of 2007. (You can listen to this part of my story here on Blog Talk Radio with Michele Rosenthall of Heal My PTSD)

A Note: keep in mind, I had continued to read and study mental health issues for years but had been dismissed by my previous providers when I asked if I could ever live and function on my own, without "meds" and lifelong "talk therapy".

So while I had believed and hoped all the years in this system that I could find my way out of this dark place, like many others, I trusted and believed it when my doctor and therapist told me that this was something to be managed for the rest of my life.

Hint: if anyone is telling you "you can't"...this does 3 things. 1. it puts them in control and 2. it re-enforces that I am incapable and re enforces that false belief of helplessness to change or better my situation and 3. it creates an unhealthy dependency and re enforces that state of perpetual victimhood and hopelessness as we continue to believe that the power to heal lies with someone or something outside of myself. (more on this another time...)

For more information see Michele Rosenthal's post of March 8th 2010 on Knowing when to seek a different kind of help.

I was very literally going through withdrawals from all the medications that I had been dependent on to make it through each day. There had been a mood stabilizer, an antidepressant or two, the pain killers, muscle relaxers...etc).

Over time the medications were changed and dosages increased as my body developed a tolerance to them. I believe it was this tolerance that saved my life but that's another story...

I had become used to not sleeping years before as the racing thoughts and nightmares took their toll on my mind and ultimately my body as it began to break down from lving in the stress response for so many years without relief.

The doctor was asking me how I was sleeping. I told him I wasn't sleeping but that I would stare at something - a light through the crack in the door, a spot in the wallpaper, the frame of the door to make it through the long nights. I said that I was wishing for sleep...but sleep would not come. In other words, I was using dissociation to cope with my insomnia.

In one sentence he said something that changed my life, altered the course of my journey.

"You know that you don't have to go there, you don't have to follow those thoughts."

I was stunned. That had never occured to me before. That I could choose to not follow the racing thoughts?

My mind went back to the first time I told a "mental health professional" that I wasn't sleeping, that I was pacing my house like a caged lion, waiting for an attack from my abusive husband who had been stalking me for the past year. You can read more about my journey into the mental health system here.

The solution I was given was the beginning of my dependence on things outside myself to "fix" me; I was given an antidepressant.

I was told and I believed, trusted blindly the word of the "professionals"; that my brain was now broken and irreparable. That I would need "meds", psychiatrists and a therapist for the rest of my life to "manage" this "illness" that had cropped up out of nowhere.

That night in the hospital I still did not sleep. I knew that in stopping the meds it would take some time for my body and brain to adjust to functioning without drugs in my system. So I was patient.

But I practiced "not following" the racing thoughts, instead creating a picture in my mind where I felt safe and at peace. This is where I would direct my thoughts as I learned to become aware of and redirect the movies, pictures and voices that played out in my mind.

Just as in the beginning I was willing to do anything to get better, to make the nightmares and voices in my head stop, to not be so overreactive to normal everyday life stressors that could send me over the edge - I now had a new hope that I could truly "get better".

I took this one little idea - that I could choose where my thoughts went - and this became the foundation for this new path that I would follow in my journey to find myself and create the life of my choosing that I am living today.

For the rest of my stay in the hospital I did not sleep more that an hour here or there before the nightmares and racing thoughts would wake me and cause me to walk the halls of the psych ward as my body began to adjust to it's new drug free state. In fact it took nearly a year before I slept for more than a few hours at a time without waking.

It has now been 2 years and 6 months since that fateful turn in my life when this doctor told me those words that changed the power structure in my mind and provided me with a new hope that I had the power within myself to calm my mind and find peace.

Today - most nights I can sleep a full 8 or 9 hours uninterrupted. But this doesn't just "happen". It takes a conscious effort to live this new life each day. This doesn't happen just because I "wished" it or wanted it or someone told me to do it, but rather because I make a conscious effort each day to be aware of my whole self; what I'm thinking, what I'm feeling and making a choice as to what I will do with that information in my chosen actions.

"I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can."
— Little Engine That Could

DO NOT STOP YOUR MEDICATIONS ABRUPTLY. There are some serious side effects and withdrawal symptoms when psychiatric medications are discontinued even with tapering off over an extended period of time that can lead to an increase in both emotional instability and cognitive distress. Do your own research; talk to your doctor. Make a plan. But it is very dangerous to attempt to discontinue psychiatric medications abruptly. If you need more information on this topic please visit: for a really great library of info and resources. 

Each of us has our own path to walk. This is my journey. That does not mean it should be yours. My hope is that this blog will provide you some information that will help you to begin to ask your own questions, find your own answers and encourage you to live the life you choose for yourself each day.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Know and face thine enemy

Recently I was invited to join the Heal My PTSD discussion group on Facebook with Michele Rosenthal of the website Heal My PTSD.

And I have to say that I am honored to first have been invited and second to have received the warm welcome from the readers of Michele's blog and of this very valuable discussion/support group. I am amazed at what is going on there, the support and camaraderie is invaluable to those of us struggling to reclaim our lives post-trauma.

I've been reading there and other places about the nightmare of the Post Trauma Response and the struggle many of us face in our search for answers. So - I thought I would jump in this Monday morning with my own thoughts on this healing process - this journey in which we may all be walking our own paths, finding our own way, in the time that is right for each of us and our journey.

We all know and many of us have become quite familiar with the symptoms of PTSD so I'm not going to go into that part of the discussion today. If you need more information on learning to identify symptoms you may be experiencing, Michele has created the place for this kind of information on her blog here.

In the past, I avoided anything that could be a trigger...but have sincelearned that I can embrace and learn from the emotional stressors of the post trauma response - not all at once, but one step at a time, by putting one foot in front of the other.

Christine Blaire recently posted some insight about learning to listen to and respect the message given to her by her body and emotions rather than succumbing to the darkness of the depression that was trying to creep up on her. You can read more here. In this post Christine talks of the awareness that led her to discover the truth behind the depression and how she embraced it rather than avoiding it.

In her next post Christine shares how she chooses to have an attitude of being grateful for her experiences and how moving from "why" to this state of grace has freed her from the past bondage of that dark place. Read more about Radical Gratitude here.

The point that I made in my comments of Christine's post was how when we are able to begin to listen to our emotions they become the lighthouse that can lead us out of the darkness and free us from the fog of living in a chronic state of stress that occurs when we maintain avoidance over embracing our emotions as an internal guidance system that can lead us out of this heavy forest cover of the post trauma response.

For some of us who may have learned to ignore or stuff down or avoid our emotions for whatever reason, this becomes part of our journey;to learn to know what we are feeling.

We can do this by paying attention or developing an awareness of our thoughts, our behaviors and our physical responses. (Although some of us may also be at a place of learning to identify our bodies especially if we were physically violated as a part of our trauma experience).

And while I don't claim to have all the answers, I am hoping that perhaps we can open some discussion to becoming aware of the opportunity to begin toembrace rather than avoidour experiences and learn from the emotions that for many of us were not safe in the midst of a trauma experience.

This is not something that I was able to learn "in one shot". Rather, it became my process; the way I went through my day, catching a negative thought here. Identifying a trigger there. I used many tools as I walked and still walk this part of my journey as I learn more about myself, who I am choosing to be, creating the life of my choosing - my best life - each day.

Have you found some ways to learn how to recognize the enemy of ptsd symptoms in this battle? What steps can we take to no longer be victim to this nightmare and become more than a survivor?