Today, I'm writing today is to reflect on how healing from trauma feels and is experienced over time - at least for me- because when I was in the crisis stage of PTSD (which felt like it lasted DECADES) - I never thought I'd get here. I didn't believe peace was possible for me and I hoped only for being able to tolerate my suffering better. Luckily, there's so much more than a tolerable life available for those of us who are post-traumatically stressed.
Here's what HERE feels like now. I share it because the "healing" sticks and is still available despite my current and extreme medical stressors. It feels nothing short of miraculous.
This free-writing is based on the following quote and prompt from Laura Davis:
If you want quotes and prompts emailed to you (for free) check out her website and sign up.
This free-write is for those who are in crisis (and/or those who love us when we are) and who don't believe it's possible to ever feel calm, well, or rested. I feared that for so long as well and I was wrong. And when people told me things might or could get better, and they hadn't experienced what I had (in the past or while in crisis) it was hard to believe or trust them. So, I'm sharing as a survivor hoping you might believe me.
When I Rest.....
When I rest the world unfolds.
When I rest I unfold.
When I unfold I crawl, cry, and stay close to the bone.
When I unfold it is not a sultry stretch, an elegant extension of arm or leg, a huge exhale of breath - at least not at first.
At first, I must cajole myself to stop, to simmer down, to slow.
At first, I must remind myself rest is good, good for me, remind myself hurried is harried and harried is hard on my too-taxed nervous system.
I used to bully myself into rest and the part of me that hates to be bullied resisted.
I didn’t know how to invite rest.
I didn’t know how to entice rest.
I didn’t know how to seduce rest.
I didn't know the gifts I might get if I could release into rest.
I had just letters and syllables for rest, but not words, experience, or language. Rest was an abstract concept not strong enough to cut through my defenses.
Now, when I rest, I unfold.
I walk outside. I notice the puff of clouds, the leftover animal hair of something wild stuck to a bush, the strange fluff of a feather from a plant that I can’t name, don’t know, but still notice.
I observe how lush and green the marsh water is on the right and how dry and stiff and hay like foliage on my left. I notice what’s in the dirt, the foot steps, the debris, the remnants of the tide. I notice my own footsteps, appreciate the strength of the legs that carry me. Mine.
I see the joy of my dog and she bounds to the water, looks back, as if to invite me in.
When I unfold I hurry into stillness.
When I unfold, I hurry into sweetness.
Sweet stillness remembers me now, knows my name, welcomes me with a warm blanket around the shoulders, a cool drink to touch my lips, a chair to sit while I catch my breath.
And finally I can be tended to, nurtured, and
accept each and all of these gifts in a way I couldn’t before when I didn’t believe rest.
I didn't trust rest.
I didn't like rest.
I couldn’t be with rest.
When I unfold I find myself - but never at first. It's still a process. I have been bound so tight so much of my life, I’d feel tears three weeks down and deep and inside. I’d have to coax them out with songs, with poetry, by picking a fight.
I'd feel like a phantom in my skin, like a sculpture, half-done, messy, half inanimate -hinting at something more/deeper that I couldn’t reach, feel, or form but was trying to create.
Dissociation always felt like numbness but not a benign form. It wasn't neutral. It was like an ear filled with water, making everything muffled, muted, and keeping me off balance. It was hard to notice much of anything else.
It was a way of being the skewed everything. Anxiety was worse. Like a nest of bees let loose under my skin, like a flu I couldn't soothe, medicate, sleep off, or sweat out. It was the ache of unease but also bone-deep pain impossible to massage and impossible to ignore.
For so long it seemed like "it" was just me - all of me:
Who I was
How I was
How I'd always be and feel.
I didn’t know there was another way. I’d read Rilke's words on folding and unfolding, memorized the lines:
"I want to unfold. I don’t want to stay folded anywhere because where I am folded, there I am a lie.” Rainer Maria Rilke
I'd witnessed friends who had meditation, yoga, or other practices and prioritized deep stillness. I trusted the concept but not the process. The process seemed like a country I didn't know how to get to or navigate around.
I didn’t know how to make rest work for my body, in my body, with my body.
I’d stay stuck, rigid, leaning into the rhythm of my mundane routine long long long long long long long long long long long long long after it no longer served me.
I didn’t know how to get free.
I didn’t know how to get free
I didn't know how to get free.
I kept repeating the same old thing I knew.
Now though, today....
Sometimes I cry in the same day or week or minute I feel or experience something. Now, sometimes tears sneak up on me. And now that tears are welcome I’m so much less sad. Now that anxiety is not forbidden it seems to have disappeared.
It feels like magic.
It feels like luck.
It feels like a blessing.
Sometimes I'm still suspicious, superstitious, knocking twice on wood as if peace is a check I should hold on to rather than cash in case I need it more later. Sometimes, I still fear it will go away, disappear, and I’ll go back to how I was in crisis, in survival mode.
Sometimes, for a short time, I forget it is abundance, a renewable source of respite.
Sometimes I forget who I am now.
How I now am - SAFE.
There's no need to be defended or afraid of my own sensations.
Concepts turned to process, then practice, then a repeated experience I can recall, remember, and repeat.
I'm secure in my own skin, safe in my own being.
It feels miraculous, victorious, and astounding. I call it #joystalking but I think it's just feeling of and in the world, aware, awake, and safe enough from intrusive symptoms to rest and be.
P.S. I still can't believe some people are born into this feeling, and have access to it most of their lives, especially while growing up. Now, at last, I feel whole and human in a way that lasts even when life I'm stressed or when life is hard. I wish it for all human beings as it's something that gets stolen from too many so early on and has to be learned slowly as adults.