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Rest, Healing, & Hope for Trauma Survivors

 
Note: I've not posted in a while. I can't believe it's been almost three years since I was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. I miss this community and I miss work. But I am doing well at the moment and I'm SO grateful to still be here (meaning alive and on the planet). It's been A LOT of treatment and quite a roller coaster of medical and other experiences, but that's not why I'm here and posting today.

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:
When I rest

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.

Walk Rest

Walk Rest Ella

I see the joy of my dog and she bounds to the water, looks back, as if to invite me in.

Walk Rest Ella ParkWhen 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.

Liz at rest

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.

I rest into unfolding.
I fold into rest.
I fold into my own skin and bones and soul.
I fold into myself.
It is familiar now.

I am at home.
animalsElla Rest

poli home

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.

Attachments

Images (9)
  • Liz at rest: Image: Black cat stretched out across pink blanket on a mattress with eyes closed.
  • Walk Rest Ella Park: Image: Picture of a Golden-Doodle mix running an a dirt path between green grass.
  • Walk Rest Ella: Image: Water, with small dog in it, near tide and large branch across a large patch of beige earth with grass.
  • Walk Rest: Image: Light heart-shaped rock on dirt path.
  • Ella Rest: Image: tired half-aslep beige dog lying on wood floor with sunlight coming through blinds.
  • When I rest: Image: When I Rest/by Laura Davis "Too many people, too many demands, too much to do; competent, busy, hurrying people - it just isn't living at all." Anne Morrow Lindberg.  What becomes available to me when I rest? Begin with the words, "When I rest..."
  • hay and green
  • poli home: Image: Mostly white cat with black around ears on a mattress resting with front right paw stretched over edge on top of grey and white floral sheet.
  • animals: Image: living room with chair, fireplace, window, and radiator and a beige small, golden-doodle mix on left and a white and black and grey multi-colored cat both lying down and resting on a blue, maroon, beige rug on top of a wood floor.

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Comments (11)

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Oh Cissy! I miss you so much. Your questions and ability to keep going back to what is real, important, not necessarily welcomed.

I remember three years ago going through the news with you from afar, and watching as your proximal friends encircled you with love and support, their time, energies, beings. I remember your posts about being blown away by the support you were receiving — and needed; your survival depended on it — and watching you and speaking with you some, and witnessing the unfolding that comes from allowing people to be there for you. To sit with you for long hours during treatments. To bring food for you and yours and leave treasures but mostly just be with you as you travelled to treatments and sat, unwell, for hours as poisons that would help you by killing the bad cells would weaken and nauseate you. But you stalked joy even then sharing about the dear friends who were still with you. And STILL with you. People who would sit while you intentionally suffered to heal.

Your allowing those gifts of the presence of people who weren’t like we were — jacked up by undigested trauma, made heavy and spikey by long-standing issues in our tissues, made a little too untrusting of rest to NOT kinda sleep with one eye open. We let folks sit with us, do things to us. Be with us. Regulate us. Still us.

You have such amazing friends and I know allowing them to do for you was hard and then made easy because you had no choice. AND I believe your unfolding happened alone and with the steady breathing and being with you of your amazing friends and family. A brother and sister-in-law who would move into your neighborhood to be nearby. ❤️ And countless others who rode trains with you through a world masked and terrified of the Damndemic threats. Wowza. That must be so hard, must have been so hard to be building muscles to unfold and keep the ability to unfold when immersed in a sea of humanity that can be laid low or wiped from earth by an airborne killer that could have taken you and your traveling mates down in a few heartbeats. The early days of the Damndemic, and the now part of it were and still are terrifying. For you, immunity shot in efforts to save you, it must have been so so so harrowing. Every trip for treatment made all the more complicated and folded-in by the threat of Covid.

And you kept on keeping on with those good friends and family members — your community — supporting you with the food and companionship and absolutely necessary help to get to treatments and hospital stays to heal from the treatments.  I am so glad you had those origami masters with you who could help you fold up and in to protect yourself from those endemic threats: Covid, gaslighting, feeling hard sadness over what we saw in the early days after George Floyd  all of that weighing like an earth-sized paperweight on our collective traumatized circle of friends facing all those new traumas with all those old traumas causing the new ones to fold us even more tightly. I watched in wonder as you dressed in hats and wigs and wigs that were hats and masked and wore your F*ck Cancer t-shirt as an added layer of protection through a sea of potentially deadly humanity on the way to get your toxic fill of more chemicals that were just toxic enough to help while at the same time being so toxic they made you feel like folding in, in, in.  And I would be so grateful, always, to see the posts showing your dear friend Beth going with you to your treatments, taking you the smoothies or whatever drinks would quell the nausea and give you sustenance without too much sugar, because we know it’s bad fuel fueling bad things.  And when you would thank Beth and others who traveled with you, I would thank them too.  I would really look at your friends in MA and be so so so grateful for them. Because you looked happy with them, and I know they were happy to be with you. Being with you is such joy!

I am glad you are unfolding, allowed it, welcomed the help of your little healing community, as I bet some of them healed along with you, healed some wounds they hadn’t even realized they had.

Thanks for sharing your invitation to rest. I accept it. Am going to go and be it with my sweet daughter and I am with her in MT this weekend. It’s still a little early here as she picked me up from a delayed flight late and we didn’t go to sleep until the weeeeee hours.

We’re so blessed to have these daughters who help us unfold, too!

I love you, Friend, and am delighted to catch up with you en masse! And rest with you, even from 2300 miles or so away!

Carey:
Thank you for your exuberant and open-hearted response!!! It touched me. I'm going to make sure to share your comment with the friends, family,  and loved ones who have been by my side. I have been so fortunate and so well cared for and how healing and lovely (and yes, humbling and also hard) it has been. Thank you. I know I've been out of touch and conserving my energy but please know your kindness, concern, and support and witnessing are so appreciated. You have an enormous and loving heart! And yes, it's true that we can also see new ways of being and keep being challenged to grow by our daughters - no matter what age they (or we) are! And how wonderful is that? I love you too and I hope you had a spectacular rest! Warmly, Cis

Oh Cissy! I miss you so much. Your questions and ability to keep going back to what is real, important, not necessarily welcomed.

I remember three years ago going through the news with you from afar, and watching as your proximal friends encircled you with love and support, their time, energies, beings. I remember your posts about being blown away by the support you were receiving — and needed; your survival depended on it — and watching you and speaking with you some, and witnessing the unfolding that comes from allowing people to be there for you. To sit with you for long hours during treatments. To bring food for you and yours and leave treasures but mostly just be with you as you travelled to treatments and sat, unwell, for hours as poisons that would help you by killing the bad cells would weaken and nauseate you. But you stalked joy even then sharing about the dear friends who were still with you. And STILL with you. People who would sit while you intentionally suffered to heal.

Your allowing those gifts of the presence of people who weren’t like we were — jacked up by undigested trauma, made heavy and spikey by long-standing issues in our tissues, made a little too untrusting of rest to NOT kinda sleep with one eye open. We let folks sit with us, do things to us. Be with us. Regulate us. Still us.

You have such amazing friends and I know allowing them to do for you was hard and then made easy because you had no choice. AND I believe your unfolding happened alone and with the steady breathing and being with you of your amazing friends and family. A brother and sister-in-law who would move into your neighborhood to be nearby. ❤️ And countless others who rode trains with you through a world masked and terrified of the Damndemic threats. Wowza. That must be so hard, must have been so hard to be building muscles to unfold and keep the ability to unfold when immersed in a sea of humanity that can be laid low or wiped from earth by an airborne killer that could have taken you and your traveling mates down in a few heartbeats. The early days of the Damndemic, and the now part of it were and still are terrifying. For you, immunity shot in efforts to save you, it must have been so so so harrowing. Every trip for treatment made all the more complicated and folded-in by the threat of Covid.

And you kept on keeping on with those good friends and family members — your community — supporting you with the food and companionship and absolutely necessary help to get to treatments and hospital stays to heal from the treatments.  I am so glad you had those origami masters with you who could help you fold up and in to protect yourself from those endemic threats: Covid, gaslighting, feeling hard sadness over what we saw in the early days after George Floyd  all of that weighing like an earth-sized paperweight on our collective traumatized circle of friends facing all those new traumas with all those old traumas causing the new ones to fold us even more tightly. I watched in wonder as you dressed in hats and wigs and wigs that were hats and masked and wore your F*ck Cancer t-shirt as an added layer of protection through a sea of potentially deadly humanity on the way to get your toxic fill of more chemicals that were just toxic enough to help while at the same time being so toxic they made you feel like folding in, in, in.  And I would be so grateful, always, to see the posts showing your dear friend Beth going with you to your treatments, taking you the smoothies or whatever drinks would quell the nausea and give you sustenance without too much sugar, because we know it’s bad fuel fueling bad things.  And when you would thank Beth and others who traveled with you, I would thank them too.  I would really look at your friends in MA and be so so so grateful for them. Because you looked happy with them, and I know they were happy to be with you. Being with you is such joy!

I am glad you are unfolding, allowed it, welcomed the help of your little healing community, as I bet some of them healed along with you, healed some wounds they hadn’t even realized they had.

Thanks for sharing your invitation to rest. I accept it. Am going to go and be it with my sweet daughter and I am with her in MT this weekend. It’s still a little early here as she picked me up from a delayed flight late and we didn’t go to sleep until the weeeeee hours.

We’re so blessed to have these daughters who help us unfold, too!

I love you, Friend, and am delighted to catch up with you en masse! And rest with you, even from 2300 miles or so away!

Last edited by Carey Sipp (PACEs Connection Staff)

Who is born into this feeling??! No one I've ever met. Not in Hustle Culture USA at least!

(I keep asking, who are the ones that weren't emotionally neglected?? No one can find them.)

Thanks for this, Cissy. Really needed this one today. 🙏🏻 Your writing is such a gift.

Cissy! It's so good to see you on here. I have missed you, you beautiful soul who GETS IT. You SO get it. And boy is this free-write eerily timely for me. Thank you for this gift, and for the gift of you.

Laura!!!!!!!!!
So good to see your name and comment. I miss you as well. It's so nice to connect. It was always hard for me to take support (even when it was really excellent) from people who hadn't been there or didn't get it and that's exactly why I wanted to share. I don't think everyone is like this - but I was - especially when in angst.  I only believed people who had been on the same path or had been at some point. It's why I think peer & mutual support can be so effective and powerful.
Warmly,
Cis

Who is born into this feeling??! No one I've ever met. Not in Hustle Culture USA at least!

(I keep asking, who are the ones that weren't emotionally neglected?? No one can find them.)

Thanks for this, Cissy. Really needed this one today. 🙏🏻 Your writing is such a gift.

Alison:
I know people with no or low ACEs. I'm not saying they've had a perfect life, and faced no trials, loss, or pain but they were routinely cared for throughout childhood and it's actually a thing. I have one friend, 12 years older than me, and I always went to her for parenting advice to "check myself" and my responses and reactions. It was super helpful and I was NOT a perfect mother but if I managed to be a "good enough" one it was in large part because of her, and trying to copy, emulate, and learn from her. That said, she was also super curious about trauma, traumatic stress, and the stress response so she felt like she was learning things as well. We taught each other a lot.

And I'm so glad this found on you on a "needed it" day. That's awesome. Thanks for letting me know!
Warmly, Cis

Dear Cissy,

I've always enjoyed reading what you write....your honesty, candor and courage inspire hope...hope leads to healing.

Regarding this - "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."

I never cease to be amazed when I see folks that are genuinely happy, kids at play without the haunting, sad, vacant eyes and the interactions of loving parents with their kids. I believe we are all born into this world with the feeling[s] you address. The trauma and abuse of life snuffs it out for so many...thus the need for more advocacy, education, awareness and writers/activists like yourself to make sure that the world of the future has a majority of people with these feelings of bliss, contentment and peace.

Take care, Michael

Agree with what everyone has said here, Cissy. Your writing captures what is in my soul - sometimes it helps me identify what is in my soul. Thank you!!!

Here is of your beautiful words that really moved me:
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.

I want to hold those words with me when I feel myself speeding up and wanting to value the speed versus the stillness...
Thank you Cissy!
With much love and admiration, Gail

Thanks so much for your words, Gail. I'm glad we are still connected sharing words, stories, sorrows, joys, writing, and the soul stuff! Love, Cis

Agree with what everyone has said here, Cissy. Your writing captures what is in my soul - sometimes it helps me identify what is in my soul. Thank you!!!

Here is of your beautiful words that really moved me:
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.

I want to hold those words with me when I feel myself speeding up and wanting to value the speed versus the stillness... 
Thank you Cissy!
With much love and admiration, Gail

Thanks for posting this, Cissy. We've missed you!! This is so appropriate for we who have a difficult time resting. The cats and dog, who obviously live in a safe place, make it look so easy. And your words make it so enticing.

Jane: Our animals are EXPERTS at rest, aren't they? I know yours are as well!!! No apologies, no "but first I must be productive," and they don't save it up for certain days of the week. They give love and exist - and seem to feel entitled to all the food, love, play, walks, etc. they receive. I learn lots from them!

I hope you are well and getting lots of glorious rest, writing, and adventures in! Warmly, Cissy

Thanks for posting this, Cissy. We've missed you!! This is so appropriate for we who have a difficult time resting. The cats and dog, who obviously live in a safe place, make it look so easy. And your words make it so enticing.

Cissy! It's so good to see you on here. I have missed you, you beautiful soul who GETS IT. You SO get it. And boy is this free-write eerily timely for me. Thank you for this gift, and for the gift of you.

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