I struggle with deep shame over my mental illness. Though I'm very clear it is not my fault, though I know that this is a response common to trauma survivors--the shame is very real, very persistent, and very convincing. It tells me that I am too powerless, too broken, that I will never recover or experience healthy love. I am so afraid that these things are true, I'm tempted to stay silent in...
I sit huddled into the corner of the couch at home, surrounded by pillows, wearing my oldest ugliest yoga pants and a mismatched flannel. My eyes are twitching so hard I can hear it, my head throbs and every so often I break into great, gasping sobs. I try working; I have to fix my … Continue reading A Bad Day, Kindness and Grace
Reverend Brett greets the congregation and we do it all again. This time the order of service changes slightly and the last thing that happens is LeLaina singing. "Courage is not being hard. It's time to peel back all of the layers You put between who you're meant to be And who you are And … Continue reading A Healing Relationship: Music and Community (3/3)
I always did arrive extra super neurotically early to prepare for performances, so I show up at 7:45 for an 8:15 call time. Only Kevin the choir director is there ahead of me setting up microphones. I say hello to him and perch on the piano bench to hunt for a part in the music … Continue reading A Healing Relationship: Music and Community (2/3)
content warning: suicidal ideation I arrive at ERUUF early for my final pre-membership classes. The sky is dull and gray like my mood. Inside the door is a stand of name tags; my eyes immediately find Kevin's name. My lips press tightly together and I stop breathing. Holy shit, I miss him. I stand there … Continue reading A Healing Relationship: Music and Community (1/3)
content warning: suicidal ideation, self-harm I hear the voice of my therapist saying, "Can you honor your anger? You've described a man who gave every indication of skillfulness and emotional maturity. You've also described some really hurtful behavior. Have you seen that skillfulness and emotional maturity from him when it really counts?" Get angry, I … Continue reading A Healing Relationship: An Apology From My Therapist
content warning: suicidal ideation I am getting a massage. My bank account balance is so low I've transferred money out of savings for this because my body feels horribly dysregulated and I can't fix it myself. All the post-concussive symptoms are back in full force--the nausea and dizziness, the light sensitivity, the eye strain and … Continue reading A Healing Relationship: Bodywork as Resuscitation
I go to morning service at ERUUF. Arriving late, I don't see my friends so I sit alone and it is brutal. Afterward my friends hold me while I cry and they try to reassure me. One of them tells me she knows I love him and that she's sorry, but that shutting me out … Continue reading Morning Struggle, Afternoon Loneliness and Night Terror
It's Saturday morning. I've turned my alarm off because I'm sad and tired and don't care. I lie in bed and note that it's raining--hard--and think how maybe I've slept enough to actually do sort of a long run. I go open the shades and scowl at the rain pouring down. I think about runners … Continue reading A Remarkable Day; Long Run and Flip Turns
Before he stopped responding to me, I had one last good phone conversation with Kevin*. We talked about my housing situation. I have been without a permanent home ever since leaving my abuser--it's coming up on two years. My mailing address is with one friend, most of my things are in storage, and what I … Continue reading The Comfort of Home and the Fundamental Truth Of Love
I'd be pissed that it's Thanksgiving morning, but I'm too tired and and defeated to be pissed. I'm foregoing one of my most beloved and gratifying personal traditions this year because I'm simply too depressed and exhausted; I can't. I'm really sad about it and I've gotten another night of terrible, fragmented sleep so basically … Continue reading Training Failure and Small Comforts
content warning: suicidal ideation I sit with my therapist and tell her how I came to end what felt like the healthiest relationship of my life in a way that was so out of character. I tell her about the paralyzing grief and anxiety, the confusion, my inability to focus on anything else. She digs … Continue reading The Decidedly-Not-A-Miracle Power Of Therapy
I prepare to teach class the day before Thanksgiving after more nightmares and very little sleep. I'm so tired and anguished I can barely think straight, the drive to the studio is brutal, and I go to the door full with dread and precariously low on self-confidence. There are out of town guests and students … Continue reading Reverence For the Innate Perfection of All People
I send a volley of emails back and forth with the concussion specialist that amounts to; "I can't do this anymore. Please prescribe all the drugs, I am desperate." He doubles the Prozosin that's supposed to help with the nightmares. I take my new dose--and Advil for the headache I have most of the time … Continue reading Disappointing Pharmaceuticals, Nightmares and Another Missed Run
Last year around this time I was at the tail end of a brief relationship with my old favorite training partner. I wasn't even a year out from leaving my abuser, I hadn't been dating; I was terrified of male attention. Scott and I had known each other for years. We ran together all the … Continue reading Repetition Compulsion and the Heart’s Quest for Home
It's Saturday night and I am alone. All I can think of is how much I miss him. I don't feel well. I do the only thing that will keep my attention; I write for hours. Finally I've filled some ten plus pages of paper and it's just late enough for sleep and I want … Continue reading Psych Meds, Sleeplessness and Existential Dread
(...continued) content warning: suicidal ideation I love Kevin*. I think he is a miracle, but he is treating me like I don't matter and our relationship isn't worth the effort--and I am letting him. I kneel on the floor and re-read our text exchange from yesterday for maybe the thousandth time. I begin to type … Continue reading The Barometric Pressure of Unresolved Trauma (2/2)
content warning: drug abuse, suicidal ideation I miss him and haven't heard from him so I send tender, vulnerable text messages. His responses are terse and defeated. In the language of marriage research, we've played out the demand/withdraw dynamic--except that I've set aside my defenses in hopes of helping my partner feel safe, and when … Continue reading The Barometric Pressure of Unresolved Trauma (1/2)
Sometimes life sucks crap. It happens to the best of us Once, or perhaps several times; Life comes as the schoolyard bully, Punches us in the face until we stagger back, And with no rhyme or reason, No regarding good or bad, No discernible sense for justice or deservability-- Life fells us where we stood. … Continue reading A Benediction for When Life Sucks Crap
I am on the phone with a local radio host for an interview about yoga and wellness for entrepreneurs. She tells me she always prays before the show to center herself, so I am silent as she thanks the almighty for the opportunity to help people, humbly asking that others be moved toward healing. Finally … Continue reading Emotional Triage and My Own Emerging Wisdom
We talked on Friday and didn’t begin speaking for a long time. As he held me in his arms, as I took in his heartbeat and the scent of his skin and my own sense of homecoming, I let go of so many words I’d thought of to say. I finally offered simply, “I was … Continue reading Sprinting, Self-Care and the Myth of Mara
I run and I miss him. I notice that I'm running when I've already been at it a couple miles; I'm neither enjoying nor struggling with it. I'm merely hurtling my body through space in an accustomed way while my brain runs and runs; attachment theory, core wounds, one-sided conversations and conversations we've had already. … Continue reading Comfortable With Uncertainty; The Grace I Give Myself
All I have with me are my purse and the clothes I'm wearing. I open the Prazosin and take one, then crawl into bed beneath a tapestry of woodland creatures. When I wake it is early morning, before my alarm. There is a sense of increased well-being waking up in Margy's home. I have indeed … Continue reading An Unusual Apology from Darth Vader
(...continued) content warning: suicidal ideation, self harm My burst of motive power is short-lived; it disintegrates when I go back outside to falling rain, just like during my car accident. Kevin* helped me with some of that fear. He won't be helping me any more. Devastated, I sit in my car and let my eyes … Continue reading Attachment Avoidance, Love, Death and Dignity (3/3)
(...continued) content warning: suicidal ideation, graphic imagery I don't want this life; a life that's difficult and lonely. I don't want to keep on with my impotent love, struggling for something I can't have. I was so stupid and naive with my hope for this relationship and my own healing. I want to die. I … Continue reading Attachment Avoidance, Love, Death and Dignity (2/3)
It's Friday afternoon. I have one more class to teach and Kevin* said he'd call me. My head hurts, both eyes are twitching. I'm exhausted, anxious and nauseous, unable to think about anything else. I tried to look at some emails; I didn't care and my eyes twitched harder. I barely kept it together to … Continue reading Attachment Avoidance, Love, Death and Dignity (1/3)
It's Tuesday. I'm finally going to talk with Kevin* an entire week after this started. I can think of nothing else all day. Though I do work at the computer, I stop and cry several times. I keep getting confused mid-task, and I'm terrified I'm going to make a mistake. Finally I finish the time-sensitive … Continue reading Getting To Yes/Hold Me Tight
It's pitch dark again when I wake in the middle of the night. After a good day full of support and love from friends, I'm disappointed to find my thoughts racing and breathing shallow--again. But I'm not surprised. I place my hand over my heart and try to breathe more deeply, which takes a great … Continue reading Birthday Gifts and the Simple Power of Human Connection
It is Sunday morning, the day I was supposed to attend an event with Kevin*. We've been talking about it for over a month. We haven’t spoken in almost a week--a week of panic and grief, confusion and anger. A week of troubled sleep and half-eaten food that tastes like dirt. Christian is meeting me … Continue reading Sanctuary; Where Is My Safe Place to Fall?
I wake up in the middle of the night, anxious again. Remnants of nightmares swirl through my head--something about my abuser and something about my boyfriend. Sleeping on a park bench. I don’t remember. My brain starts in on pointless one-sided conversations. I turn onto my side and try to calm down--I'm not breathing right … Continue reading Deflated Determination and the Edge of a Panic Attack
Exhausted, frightened and overwhelmed, I walk up to Christian's door lugging a bag of groceries, a plant, and the suitcase I'm still living out of. I open the door with my key and he looks surprised to see me; after not sleeping last night I guess I forgot to tell him. I explain that we … Continue reading DUSA Progression Run as Emotional Support
I'm ready to fall asleep and he is not, so I lie down with an eye mask and close my eyes. I drift off for a while and then I hear the running shower. I drift off again, and this time he's coming to check on me. I'm tired and I groan. He teases me … Continue reading Attachment Trauma, Misattunement, and a Sleepless Night
I keep feeling this sense of unease, and I've been judging myself for it. Anxious attachment, I notice when Kevin* pulls away slightly in bed and I grow distraught. Or when he isn't holding my hand quite as much as I think he did last week. Or when I think he's giving me just a … Continue reading Anxious Attachment and Failure to Communicate
A few days after I rediscover my handstand, Kevin* sits working with his morning coffee at the kitchen table while I meet the morning sunshine with Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutations). I feel safe and confident. Later I drive to a meeting with other healers. These women are kindred spirits. Nobody in this room talks credentials … Continue reading Accidental Exposure Therapy and Breakthrough Moments
My ability to invert fully has not been a high priority in my recovery; it's been months since I even bothered trying. One effect of my post-concussive syndrome is that while I retain my ability to handstand, an attempt results in nausea, dizziness, disorientation--or a crazy-feeling bout of crying just because I feel weird. I … Continue reading Startling Power and Perspective From Upside-Down
I sleep fitfully on the cot at my friend's house. I dream that I am lying in bed with Kevin*, relaxed, my hand on his chest. Except rather than his solid, muscular body I'm feeling the thin frame of my abuser. Somehow I wake up annoyed--but unusually unruffled. I roll my eyes. Not today, motherfucker. … Continue reading Sunrise With Steadiness and the Promise of Flight
The week of the Kavanaugh hearings I have flashbacks. I'm lying on my yoga mat in my boyfriend's bedroom while he works downstairs. I'm driving as I catch sight of my abuser strolling toward me near the courthouse. Bile rises in my throat, my knuckles turn white, and my heart is pounding so loudly it … Continue reading Bad Memories and The Power Of Secure Attachment
I remember vividly how it felt after my car accident when I was finally cleared to drive. I got in my new car, turned the key in the ignition, and shook violently with fear. There was no choice but to drive on busy roadways. I was terrified, but drove myself to my friend's house. Since … Continue reading Fear and Attachment, Signaling a Lane Change
content warning: abuse, assault, rape Between Cosby and Kavanaugh, it's been a shit week for women. I've attempted to personally minimize the effect on me--after all, I've been feeling better lately. I don't want to go back. I don't like feeling all the ugly feelings that fester, unresolved and unwanted, somewhere in my subconscious. I've … Continue reading Women Get Raped, Men Get Presumed Innocent
Usually I wake a few times at night, blankets askew, irritated. I've either had a really troubling nightmare or heard some bump in the night; likely both. So I lay there, exhausted, frustrated, needing and wanting sleep that doesn't come. Eventually the alarm goes off and I rise, grudging. Some time later I'll unroll my … Continue reading Sensational, Asinine Things Like “Blossom Your Heart Open”
My abuser used to joke about me being a shitty kisser. He'd needle me about how he put up with it on our first date. We met for coffee, which turned into hours of talking and then dinner. He wore a leather jacket and gave me his arm when we walked. He made sure to … Continue reading Sticks, Stones and Perspective on First Date Kisses
content warning: domestic violence, sexual assault I wake in my friend Erin's beautiful Lakewood house before morning's first light. Her dog doesn't even stir from his spot next to me in bed. I brush my hair and teeth, put some clothes on and meditate, and we walk around the neighborhood with the first flickering of … Continue reading Sexual Abuse/Assault/Violence; Does The Label Matter?
I deliberated over the prescription question with a few trusted friends. When I sat down with Marty, who is a nurse, we brainstormed about alternatives to psych drugs over brunch. I reminded her that I already meditate daily, that my anxiety is beyond what I can slow down with mindfulness practices an alarming amount of … Continue reading Remarkable New Friends, A Sleepover, And Cannabinoids
I remember how I felt as a child after I was lucky enough to have a friend over to play. I would say goodbye at the door. Invariably, the moment I was alone would feel like all the air had left the room. Though I was a bright, articulate little girl I'm quite sure I … Continue reading The Truth About Anxiety: I’m Afraid of Everything
On Saturday morning I wake from disturbing dreams: of my abuser coming after me--and of my cat purring in my arms while I rub my face against her silky neck and say to my friend "I know she's died, but she feels real." Of course, Kira did die and I'm awake only a few moments … Continue reading Healing and Unconditional Positive Regard
It's my last morning at Danielle's house. I wake, meditate and go for one last run along the Eno River, slower than I'd like. I do pull-ups in the master bedroom. I feel heavy and weak and irritable, but I am determined and I get them done. Pixie the cat paces around me while I … Continue reading Healing In Community: I Am Safe Here
I've been invited to audit a workshop on boundary setting for entrepreneurs that involves equine assisted therapy. It sounds fascinating. Working with animals often helps trauma survivors like me--those of us with massive attachment trauma often feel safer with animals. Also I haven't seen a horse up close in a long time, so I drive … Continue reading Safari: A Quest for Love and Connection
It's Friday night, and I walk away from my evening class alone, with no plans. I am exhausted and frustrated to need to drive before I can rest. I don't want to cook for myself; I'm too tired. I don't want to drive; it's stressful. I walk across Greensboro St and get pizza from the … Continue reading Friday Night: Bath Time and Benzodiazepines
I’m driving home from a long day. The road is busy and my body is stiff with fear. Still, there’s something different in my countenance. I’m afraid, but full of determination. I turn over some of the words that have been spoken to me this week—the validation, the affirmation, the support and the love. I … Continue reading I Honor the Light Within Me; I Am Unstoppable
I take a deep breath and direct myself onto highway 40 going West. I carefully manage the space cushion around me the whole drive, except for once when a big Jeep speeds up too close behind me. I begin to hyperventilate, my heart racing, and as it pulls into the next lane I see spots. … Continue reading A Brutal Catharsis, and the Victory of Whipping Cream
Maddie arrives well after nightfall--after work and grocery shopping and the long drive to spend a night in the woods with me. Maddie, my old favorite sparring partner from Muay Thai, is full of adventure and hope. She's stood by me, though I know she doesn't always understand and I'm afraid of asking too much … Continue reading Friendship and Nature: A Beautiful Morning
It’s my abuser’s birthday and I am pissed. I’m pissed that I married a manipulative, lying shitbag who ruined my life. I’m pissed that I’m still struggling with the many, varied and terrible repercussions of living with and loving a person who figured my worth lay in propping up his fragile self-esteem. I’m pissed at … Continue reading My Abuser’s Birthday: Camping and Existential Dread
I am staying at a friend's house while she's away. It is a beautiful, spacious place. It is quiet. I love it here. But after I drop off another friend who can't keep me company all day, I am indescribably miserable. It hits me the moment he's out of the car and I wail all … Continue reading On Suicide, Shame, and Small Acts of Courage
content warning: domestic violence "Do you want an order of protection?" asks my advocate at the Compass Center after I spend some time ranting about how a year should be enough time for my abuser to calm down and leave me alone. Of course I want an order of protection. Of course, after everything I've … Continue reading Do you want an order of protection?
I'm in the studio with friends, colleagues, and a photographer for a photo shoot. When I walk to the front of the room to teach my segment, it feels odd transitioning from student to teacher. Before long I settle into my own teaching rhythm and get everyone rolling around on the floor, preparing to rest. … Continue reading PTSD, Yoga, and Why I Hate the F*cking Gong
I had an odd midday meeting between classes, and now I have an hour before I need to be at Durham VA to teach. Coffeeshops make me uneasy now, so I figure I'll get some work done in my car. I park in the lot facing traffic--I can't tolerate the sound of it behind me, … Continue reading Why Showing Up Early Is Terrible and Wonderful
As I prepare to leave in the semi-dark, my friend continues to sleep in the other room. I strap on my running watch and consider whether to conceal my stun gun, just in case. He doesn't even wake up this early, I remind myself. He doesn't know where I'm staying now or which trail I'm … Continue reading Approaching peril, do I trust my feet?
In the morning, I startle out of a dead sleep and feel immediate dread. I arm myself before leaving with a pair of scissors. He has guns, I have scissors. Still, I hold them inverted, poised like a dagger, livid as I...
I only get twenty minutes and I have to go slow. My closest friend goes with me. I'm occupied chattering with him and then there are these girls running the trail ahead of us. They're slow. I'm supposed to be running slow--I should stay behind them. I try to...
I'm pretty sure I will lose my shit if people are walking back and forth behind me on the treadmill; hyper-vigilance is tricky that way. But this is what's standing between me and running, so I stalk across the main floor looking for...
How am I having flashbacks now from a trigger hours ago? Why are pull-ups triggering me? This never happened before. I start to hyperventilate and then...
"Regular dreams or PTSD nightmares?" And then I burst into tears. I don't even know what regular dreams would be like. Maybe some of my dreams are regular dreams--but they still terrify me. I dream that I'm in a shower stall...
What is it, then, that makes me hyper-vigilant with a hug from Scott or a smile from the guy in the grocery store? What makes me shudder when I get a stray...
Ray hands me my computer, some papers. I take my pillow from the bed and we try to move to the next room. He's too close as I try to pass. "You need to step away from me," I bark out in a strained voice. I shouldn't have told him...
I told my husband our marriage was over last night. I lope back toward the house, and daffodils line the roadside. It is the first time I've seen them. The daffodils mean...
Coming back to teaching after the accident is a little like taking a sea kayak out beyond the breakers. First, I have to...
After a few minutes, I begin to feel the pain of longing for the home studio I left when I fled my marriage. My head throbs slightly, and tears pour down my face into my ears and hair. Breathe, I exhort myself, and lie there with my sorrow and resentment. I breathe and remind myself...
I feel valued now. How much compassionate human touch have I given, and how much have I received in turn? I remember being soothed by the touch of Ariel, my own yoga teacher who I haven't practiced with in years. I remember how...
I hit the trail as the sun is setting; with the entire wood seemingly to myself, I push my toes aggressively into the dirt as I walk. I do not limp. I pick up pace. I feel the toes of my right foot a little tighter, a little weaker, but they comply. The remaining sunlight...
I remember the little goat, but I can't quite re-experience it. Instead I'm aware of the present moment body sensations; tense and headachey. I ultimately lay on the floor for the rest of the session where at least...
Oh my god. That's really bad. I've just broken up with him. I can't engage with him over his choices. I stand in the kitchen, my chest tight, swimming in grief and agony. It's Valentines' Day. There is nobody I can call, nobody I can talk to, nothing...
Sitting down in the room, I felt sick and anxious. My heart was pounding. I stared intently at my right quadricep covered in brightly colored yoga pants, reminding myself to breathe. I told them...
My vision blurs again. I shake my head and push my toes into the pool floor. I'm getting disoriented. My breathing is shallow. I can feel my eyes wide and my lips trembling. My chest feels tight. When I look up...
After sitting for some time, I can feel what I need--it's a nagging, insistent ache. I hadn't planned this, and I'm not certain it's a good idea, but...
Not long ago, I held that white box again. Almost everything I own has been in storage these 11 months since I left. I held that box and cried again at that relic of once great hope now lost forever. What on earth could I do with it? I couldn't stand the idea of...
I remember teaching that class, lying on the hospital floor with my students, noting with growing alarm while cueing them to observe the sensations in their bodies that my own body was clenching and that I couldn't stop it. I began to panic. I wasn't ready to talk about it. I asked them to lie on their bellies with their foreheads on their hands--a position I'd always noticed this particular class loved. I told them I would be silent for about a minute. I struggled not to cry...
That's not an unusual morning--some ugly dream and then I wake up feeling awful. Naturally, I want to go back to sleep and try again--maybe I won't feel so tired and desperate. I understand that each choice I make will either take me deeper into that black pit of despair--or out of it. The coming out won't be fast, it won't be painless...
Running is like breathing to me--as natural, as simple, and as necessary. Without it I often feel like I can't breathe--a great deal of my best coping happens as my feet beat a steady rhythm on the trails. In the woods, I feel powerful and fast--that pushes back against the anxiety and fear. I've let out a lot of anguish in the shelter of the trees. I've passed so much joyful time...
I ran my marathon in November--and my community helped me exceed my fundraising goal well ahead of schedule. It was really moving for me. The thing is, I wanted that to be the end of my lesson in asking for help and trusting the universe. Asking for that money was uncomfortable, and vulnerable--but initially, I couldn't even admit...