I'm Back!

I know I haven’t been keeping you updated on here the last month and I have a good reason for it. I was busy enjoying vacation with my family.  Occupied with backyard barbecues, pushing overfilled beach carts down the street with my treasures in tow, enjoying time with family and friends, and savoring peace – all in our happy place, Cape Cod.    This time away was important for us to reconnect as a family but was also a significant step in my healing process because last year when I was on this same trip I was very sick and uncomfortable. I suffered thorough it only to be hospitalized when I came home. 

So now I am home and have so much to share with you!

I worked hard for weeks leading up to the trip as I was focused on setting myself up for success. Now, having made it through the last month so well I firmly believe that success isn’t possible without preparation. Still, I was nervous in the weeks leading up to leaving and my trauma therapist was able to help me identify what was triggering my stress about the trip and make a plan.  For example, one of the things I struggled with last summer was going to restaurants.  I experienced several panic attacks in restaurants last year, some even resulted in my family having to leave mid-meal.  My therapist helped me build a coping checklist that included the following steps if I started to feel anxious; first, look around and notice that everyone else is eating and enjoying their time and no one is worried about their safety so therefore I shouldn’t either. Second, keep it cool by smiling and focusing on my breath because I don’t want to upset my family, especially my kiddos. Third, if I really can’t sit there I can go to the bathroom and run cold water through my hands. Fourth, and most important, I had to go out to eat in the first few days I was there, during a busy time, and test myself. 

My therapist also wanted me to envision how I wanted my trip to go and consciously set my intentions. She wanted me to keep what I wrote down with me as a reminder if I needed it. I wrote the following, “As I step on the plane tonight I am choosing to bring peace with me. I am leaving behind the things that don’t serve me and my trip will be restful and peaceful.  I will have a wonderful time and will be too busy making memories with my family to focus on anything else.”

This exercise helped me to leave behind the feelings I had about going by choosing to step forward in my healing process. By consciously deciding that I would not let anxiety consume me on my trip I was able to focus on only “packing” peace with me. It also helped me to remember all of the tools I do have that help me every day and that really boosted my self-confidence.

Two days after we arrived my family and I attended a BBQ for the Boston Marathon survivors that was organized by Strength to Strength which is a non-profit that focuses on bringing together the families and victims of terrorism around the world.  I was really looking forward to going and being with my new survivor family.  I can’t tell you how healing it is to be in a room with people who get me. Without having to utter a word, these amazing people understand me, my fight, and what my family has endured and this is an experience I can’t get anywhere else. It’s effortless. At one point in the day I found myself in the kitchen with a group of survivors and we were each sharing our experiences with various medications and therapies. I know I am never alone but I have felt loneliness in my fight at times. My supportive family and friends I have around me can’t relate sometimes to what I am feeling and experiencing, but these amazing people do and I treasure each and every one of them.  God truly worked a miracle when He put them in my life.  I want to thank Sarri Singer, who through her own experience and pain as a survivor, built an invaluable resource founded on peace and healing. You, Sarri, are an inspiration!

The remainder of my trip was wonderful. I continued my acupuncture treatments with a specialist I found nearby and remained dedicated to my supplements.  I made an effort to walk on the days when the weather was nice and used this time as a way to escape when I was overwhelmed with my kids, our company, or when I just needed a break and time to pray.  Taking this time to recharge helped me stay present, focused on my breathing, it helped calm my mind, and gave me space to concentrate on myself. 

I also want to acknowledge that I have now surpassed my one year mark without alcohol and caffeine in my life.  It’s not something I tried to do. It just happened. I never abused either substance but when I would consume them it would aggravate my PTSD symptoms so I stopped using them.  I do miss the social aspect of drinking and don’t think this arrangement will be forever but in the meantime it’s where I am at.  My goal is to be off my last medication by the end of this year and once I am then maybe I’ll re-evaluate my decision to stop drinking. Either way, my health comes first and I am proud that I have focused on healthy coping mechanisms during my healing crisis.

I hope in the future I can enjoy more spontaneity in my life and by that I mean, being able to go places without requiring so much preparation but for now I am proud of the progress I have made.  I am living a more peace-filled life which is the one thing I have prayed most for this past year. I have several big anniversaries coming up in the next month and I pray that through these milestones God will continue to grant me continued peace and healing.

This Game Called Life

Lately my kids have been obsessed with playing board games which is fun for Jeff and I because we all end up laughing — and it keeps us from overloading on television.  One game they love in particular is the game of Life.  It got me thinking yesterday as I took the responsible college route, began a career in sales with an annual salary of $30,000, scooped up a husband, son, and dilapidated beach house along the way, that there where spaces missing.  Where are the spaces that include the challenges we face in real life? There aren’t even speed bumps.  I never landed on the space that said, “You just witnessed a terrorist attack, skip your next turn and head straight to therapy”.  If only I could be so lucky in my real life.

It’s becoming hard for me to remember how my life was before PTSD and sometimes that makes me sad.  I used to go through life so easily. I could go to restaurants without the music, lights, tv’s, and people overstimulating me. Crowds didn’t scare me.  I didn’t have to live by the schedule of supplements I take and make sure I always have my anxiety arsenal with me. I could handle multiple tasks at once.  I was a sharp lady. I was a happy lady.  Yet, I didn’t realize what a blessed lady I was and I think that is where having PTSD has made a difference in my life. It has given me a different lens to view my life through. I see the blessings I used to take for granted. I see the relationship and trust I have built with God.  I am certain if PTSD wasn’t going to bring me to this place that something down my life’s path certainly would eventually.  But here I am now — blessed by God’s plan for my life, sharing my journey with you, and trusting that I will heal myself gracefully.

Not too long ago I was having a deep conversation with my dad’s best friend.  He is a deeply faithful man and someone who has prayed for me and shown my family so much love during this difficult past year.  He shared with me how when someone breaks a bone it heals stronger in that place than it was before the fracture.  Interesting concept but it is true.  That conversation has stuck with me.

My prayers, hopes, and dreams have been that I heal stronger than I ever was before.  I certainly do all the work and am focused on finding a cure for myself.  It doesn’t mean I don’t get discouraged or frustrated and that is where my faith comes in.  I have faith that I WILL be healed and that one day when I look back on my life that these difficult times will be a small blip on my path.  To me, that would be the perfect way to win at this game called Life.  

As I write this we are preparing for a trip to the Cape and I am excited because our travels kick-off with a Boston Marathon Survivor’s BBQ this coming weekend so I get to see my new family and spend some time healing with them. I also want to ask for your prayers while we are gone because last year’s trip was very hard for me as that is where I was triggered and was ultimately hospitalized when we returned home.  I have better tools and coping skills now but I am still leaving my safety net of therapists and my doctor.  They have all expressed love and faith in me this week that I will do well and be fine — I have faith I will be fine too but it doesn’t hurt to ask for prayers.

 

Gratitude

How do you find gratitude during difficult times? As I write this I am going on my seventh night in a row of very little sleep. My heart has been racing for just as long. I am exhausted, anxious, restless, and hopeful. Hopeful that this is the last day I will spend feeling this way and grateful for God’s promise to grant me peace.  

A few months back when I was going through a similar transition with my medication and supplements I met with my hypnotherapist.  It was a powerful session. One she had to eventually shake me out of.  Not remembering it I asked her to remind me about where my subconscious mind had just taken me.  She said that she led me to a place where I met Jesus and He told me that when I am having a hard time that He will lift me up and carry me in His arms and that when I look back on my life’s path, I will see times where my footsteps are there, and others were His footsteps are only visible.  

I know that when I look back on this past year one day I will mostly see His footsteps. What I will also see are the faces of the amazing people who have given me their love, friendship, care, faith and prayers.  

As I drove home from my therapy session that day I had a moment of revelation. I suddenly felt that God is using these difficult moments on my path to lead me closer to Him and that I should be grateful for the chance to trust in His embrace.  Immediately I was flooded with a feeling of peace and understanding. 

I hope for that peace and understanding today.

On the heels of the terrorist attack in Manchester, I think it is important to remember that God is with us in those moments of terror and trauma. That He is with us while we grieve those who were lost.  He is with us while we search for understanding and closure.  He is with those of us who are re-triggered when we hear of another senseless act.  He is with us even when we can’t see him though the darkness.  He is so faithful to us through it all — and we can jump into His arms anytime we need for Him to carry us for awhile.  

I Have Confidence In Me

My trip back to Boston was filled with tremendous blessings and something I had hoped for most; peace.  Boston is where I experienced my trauma, our Cape house was where I was triggered last summer, and it became the place where I endured the most paralyzing anxiety that led to my hospitalization. I hadn’t been back there since and so this trip wasn’t just about meeting the other survivors, it was about me going back to the place I was most uncomfortable. I wondered if it would still be my “happy” place. Would I feel the peace there that I had always had before?

In order to prepare for the trip I spent the week leading up to leaving seeing my therapist, going for acupuncture, and floating.  All of this extra work really set me up for success. Even as our red-eye approached I found myself calmly packing, moving through security, and getting through the flight. I stepped off the plane in Massachusetts proud of myself.  Once we made it to the house and I opened the door I was met with the cheerful energy that had always filled that space for me. I told Jeff that night how relived I was that I was happy there again.

On Friday morning we drove into Boston for a meeting with Dr. Crawford at the Massachusetts Resiliency Center.  The kids, Jeff and I sat with him for over an hour. This man is one of the many angels I have met on my journey towards healing. He has dedicated his life to helping survivors of terrorist attacks and understood everything I was describing to him.  As I proceeded to go through a box of tissue in his office, he comforted me with his tender words, his belief that I would pull through this, and the reassurance that I was not alone. I left there wishing I would have known about him sooner and the services the center offers. Last summer could have been so different had I found that comfort an hour drive away from me.  I know I can’t look back on my journey now with regrets and so I am grateful to have found him now. 

From there we spent some time in the city with the kids and stayed at our best friend’s apartment that night. Ironically it’s the same place Jeff and I had stayed the night before and after the bombing.  I had a difficult time sleeping that night which my therapist had prepared me for.  The city sounds and thoughts about the next morning left me hanging in between sleep and rest and yet when my alarm went off I hopped right out of bed and into the shower. 

As I walked the three blocks to the finish line, a certain song came out of nowhere and got stuck in my head.  It’s a funny song but it made total sense. I was subconsciously giving myself an internal pep talk.  Any Sound of Music fan will probably start singing it as they read this. “I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain, I have confidence that spring will come again, besides which you see I have confidence in me.”

Retracing the same steps I had made that day 4 years ago, all by myself, was a huge stride for me.   When I got to Marathon Sports, the site of the first bomb, I scanned the crowd to find Manya. Her warm hug is just what I needed and we stood together and watched the father and brother of Krystle Campbell, one of the victims who lost her life that day, hang a beautiful wreath of white roses in her honor – bagpipes played in the background. It was very emotional for me and soon I felt the arms and hands of other survivors around me consoling me. Without even knowing me they were extending their love and it filled me with peace and comfort. Soon we were all making our way down the steps of the Boston Public Library to the survivor’s breakfast and as we walked Manya began introducing me to amazing people who were all so happy that I was there and that I had found them.  Wow! I felt so blessed. Most conversations started with, “Tell me where you were?” and somewhere in the middle I would start crying and they would hug me and offer their support and reassurance.  I cried the whole morning really and they weren’t sad tears -- they were healing tears. Tears that I have needed to cry. Tears that only these wonderful survivors before me could understand. Tears that felt good to release.  I left that breakfast with a whole new family who understands me and who chooses to share in the journey I’ve been on. 

As I made my way back to the apartment I found a skip in my step and a sense of confidence that I’d lost somewhere during the past year. I felt physically lighter as years of loneliness seemed to melt away.  Soon I was met with the cheers of my family from the apartment balcony. I danced across the crosswalk as they yelled, “Go Mommy! Go Mommy!”  It felt good to have them cheering me on, just as they’ve always done, as I made this huge leap forward in my journey to find healing. 

 

Divine Timing

I feel like the past month has been full of beautifully timed blessings.  On Monday, March 27th, my husband sent me a link to an article in the Boston Globe that highlighted the stories of two survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings who have struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder like me.  I was elated; not that they had PTSD but that I had found them! They existed and were sharing their story too.  I had spent months searching for them.  I quickly googled Manya Chylinski, one of the women featured in the article, and there was her website right before my eyes. I watched her video. Tears streamed down my face. She was in the bleachers that day too. I could have been standing next to her. Our stories were the same. I quickly sent her an email and mentioned I would be in Boston in the coming weeks and asked if we could meet.  To my surprise she wrote me right back and shared a number of tools for survivors that I had no clue of including the Massachusetts Resiliency Center, a support hub for survivors of the Boston Marathon attacks.  I hadn’t realized it when I emailed her the dates that I would be in Massachusetts during the anniversary of the bombing but Manya did and invited me to join her at the breakfast for survivors. I was blown away. How could I miss it? 

The next day I contacted the Resiliency Center and spoke with one of the doctors who helps run the facility. She so sweetly encouraged me to visit them when I was in town. Done! I made plans to meet with them the day before the breakfast. 

All of this excitement was taking over the beginning of our week. I felt blessed. I was genuinely excited to have made these connections and felt that a huge milestone in my healing journey was just before me.

Two days later a very important email came my way. As the result of my pro-activity reaching out to a number of websites and blogs that I read for inspiration, the one I never dreamed of hearing from was reaching back out to me! Maria Shriver’s editor Lindsay had emailed me in hopes of featuring my story on their website. I was floored! Before I could even read her email in its entirety I picked up my phone and called my husband. He started laughing in disbelief.  I could hear the pride in his voice and it touched me in a way that I can't quite describe.  

YES, was my answer!! 1000 words - no problem. I got to work straight away which is partly why you all haven’t heard from me in a while – I was busy writing for Maria.

Within one week, in a matter of days, God had blessed me with amazing opportunities to heal and share my story. The two things I have wanted the most from this horrible experience I’ve endured.  I feel like these experiences have inspired me to keep writing, to keep working towards healing, to keep championing my efforts to be a positive voice for those with mental illness, and most importantly, to keep trusting God and His plan for me.  After all, He has pretty good timing.

Maria Shriver - Powered By Inspiration - My Marathon Towards Healing  

Fighting

Have you ever fought for something? Truly and with all your might fought so hard for something, for someone, for yourself?  You would know if you have or not because the fighting takes on a life of it’s own.  You can’t hide it from your loved ones. You can’t hide it from strangers because it’s written all over your face and body language.  The worst part is you can’t hide from the reason you are fighting to begin with.

I have learned something very valuable from this fight I have taken on recently – that fighting teaches you not only what you are made of but what those around you are made of too. It highlights the people who are on your team. The one's who will climb in bed with you and tell you it is going to be okay, even if they themselves don't know if it will.

I never considered myself a fighter before my life was threatened by ptsd.  The funny thing is I was taught at a very formative age not to fight.  My freshman year of high school a very charismatic and lovable nun proclaimed during our first week of physical education class that, “Xavier girls don’t fight, they run.” We all laughed then but it was a mantra that was en-grained in us for the remainder of our high school days.  I wouldn’t say it was a bad thing either because there is plenty of drama to be had when you are in an all-girls school. Perhaps that mantra served me well many years later when I ran in the aftermath of the two bombs, or maybe it was just the sheer terror I witnessed.  Either way this funny little lesson that Sister taught me so many years ago inspires me again today – as I fight.

I have decided I am not running anymore. I won’t sit back and let the actions of other’s have power over me. I won’t let fear in my house as a welcomed guest. I will not say yes to things that don’t serve the best interest of my family, myself or our health. These are non-negotiables.

I choose to wear my ptsd proudly on my sleeve like a badge because it has given me strength I never knew I had.  

I will say yes to those who loyally stood by my side and fought for me when I couldn’t. I will say yes gratefully to God’s faithfulness and love. I will take on this fight and be a voice for others like me who survived something terrible and are trying to grow despite the pain.  This is my new reality and it feels good and comfy like a worn in pair of black yoga pants… a closet staple for any 30-ish mom like myself.

This Xavier girl is a fighter.

 

Hard Work

I am sorry I have been absent for a couple of weeks. I have been working hard on healing and learning.

A few weeks ago there was a festival in our town. I have been going to it since I was a kid and I have always had fun, hopped on a ride or two, bumped into friends, and indulged in the fair food. This year was different. Out of nowhere, while watching my kids ride the caterpillar roller-coaster; I felt my arms start to go numb, felt faint and the sudden race of my pulse, and soon realized I was beginning to have a panic attack.  My vision tunneled and every loud noise, bright color, and crowd around me became amplified in a horrifying way. The worst part was I had left the house without my anxiety arsenal (huge fail) and we had just arrived there.  My kids were having fun, my husband was enjoying himself too, and there I was dying inside and searching for a way out.

I was able to get through the next two hours using coping tools from EMDR. Identifying sounds, picking a color and finding as many things as I could that color, holding ice cubes in my hands until they melted, and praying – not for me, but for each person that was passed me.

This panic attack, though not as serious as my others, took several days to recover from. My anxiety was crippling the rest of that day, I was up multiple times through the night, and I had to chaperon ballet rehearsals and didn’t want to break breakfast plans with my best friend who was in town for a few hours – so life had to go on. I had to navigate through it. All of that junk under the surface that no one around me can see. A silent illness that makes me feel nuts on the inside as I put on my lipstick and try and move forward.

My husband was traveling this week so I was on my own to manage the kids and their activities and my therapy schedule. I floated, had EMDR, went to hypnotherapy, worked, packed lunches, shuttled kids between baseball and ballet; all while fighting through my PTSD wave.  It takes an incredible amount of energy and faith for me to get through days when I feel this way.

Finally, I felt a break-through during a moment when I found myself alone in my car.  It was sent straight from heaven.  I found myself wondering if all of this; the bombing, last year’s hospitalization, my on-going battle with PTSD, is all God’s way of bringing me closer to Him. I felt myself thanking God for giving this all to me because I now truly know that He is by my side every moment, guiding me with His love.

It might seem crazy to the average person that I be thankful for all of these struggles but I think if it leads me closer to God or inspires me to help others, then my life will be full of purpose and grace.  As I continue my hard work to recover and heal, I know that God is right beside me and carrying me when I need Him to.

 

Trying Something New

After a couple of weeks of unending insomnia and anxiety I’ve decided to try some new things.  I recognized after a week had passed that this wasn’t just one of my PTSD waves.  After a visit with my Naturopath it seems that my liver and spleen have been taxed with my stress hormones and were not processing them properly which was making me feel awful. So now I am sporting some lovely acupressure ear buds, detoxing when I can, and I’m back in therapy.

I have a new therapist. I like her. I have nothing against her at all. I am just frustrated with the process of having to get to know someone again, trust someone new with my feelings, and resume my EMDR process.  I had been making great progress and feeling like I was “good to go” when my previous therapist informed me she was leaving the practice and wouldn’t be seeing client’s anymore in her new role.  I tested the waters of life on my own for a bit but it seems my brain isn’t there yet.  All of this work, everything I do to stay balanced and well, is wearing on me.  I told my husband a few weeks ago that I am so ready to be able to go out again and not have to consider 101 things before I walk into my destination.  Will it be too loud? Do I have enough of my anxiety arsenal items to get me through it? Will I be home in time to take my medication? If I am not home in time, what will my next few days feel like? Will I sleep okay? You get the idea…it’s a rabbit hole I go down each time a social event gets placed on our calendar.  I am missing some of the “old” me.

I say “some” because I don’t miss all of her and that’s for sure.  I was a mess! Constant debilitating anxiety, depression, insomnia, trying to cope with unhealthy tools, my skin was wrecked, my issues affected relationships I might never get back and miss, I was tired all the time, I had forgotten my faith, and most importantly, I was too sick to use my real gifts. Having realized all of that now, I still want to be able to enjoy an adult beverage again with a girlfriend or spend time in social settings with people I love and feel safe.  And of course, I miss my Skinnygirl margaritas!!

So, as I add some new modalities to my line-up; like acupuncture, dry-brushing, new supplements, and the aforementioned new therapist, I am asking you for prayers.  Prayers for peace and guidance from God.  I believe in His plan now more than ever and trust that He will be faithful to me as I navigate this hiccup in my healing process. 

 

“I love the person I’ve become, because I fought to become her.”

-Kaci Diane

Smiling Through The Pain

Since this space went live for the world to see I have had many people reach out to me with incredible stories about the traumas they have suffered and how it has affected them.  Without giving energy to all the bad symptoms that accompany PTSD; the common thread I found between my experience and theirs is the strength we each found in those moments to save our own lives.

I want to tell you a true story about an incredible man I met in the hospital.  His name is Manny. He was the kind of man who would hand out everyone’s meal trays, refill our drinks, push a fellow patient’s wheelchair; he was a man focused on serving others. Even in this awful place he had found a way to look out for everyone around him. He had been in the hospital for over a month and everyone kind of looked to this man as the leader of our psych ward pack and we were an interesting crew let me tell you.  My second morning there I sat down to eat breakfast and as I began crying into my oatmeal he came over and sat across from me. He asked me why I was there in that sort of way you see play out in the movies about prison. Anyway, I shared my trauma and that I had been recently re-triggered.  He listened and comforted me the best he could.  Me, being the curious empathetic person I am, I turned the question back on him. Why was he here?

He began to tell me the most unbearable story. I am going to share it with you here. Unselfishly and so that those of you reading might take a moment to remember this man and his family in your prayers tonight. 

Manny had paid coyotes $15,000 to bring his wife, teenage son, 2 year old daughter, and father-in-law over from Mexico. It was all the money he had and he had worked for months to save it. When he went down to the Rio Grande (this happened along the Texas/Mexico border) to collect his loved ones the coyotes began demanding more money from him. Unable to pay them he stood along the banks of the river and watched as those men shot and killed his precious family and threw their bodies into the water. Naturally, as any of us would, Manny ended up needing extreme psych help and that’s why he was sitting before me.

As Manny told me his story I couldn’t believe he had made it.  He was still alive and sharing his pain with me. I don’t know if I could be so brave.  He was smiling remembering them. He had lost his life before his eyes and he was consoling me! 

This incredible story reminds me all the time that the pain could be worse. That I could be Manny. 

The day he left the hospital; he left with nothing but the clothes on his back. He was moving into a half-way house till he could get back on his feet and he left happy for his new chance at life. 

We all have a story. We all have pain. We all have a choice to keep living with these demons hanging over us or we can choose to be like Manny and keep our chin up, walk with our head held high, and smile. 

Thank you Manny for changing my outlook that day, for helping me count my blessings, and for inspiring me to keep living for my family.

My Personal Anxiety Arsenal

I was so focused on getting out of town last week that I missed sharing my personal anxiety remedies with you. Here is my follow-up on last week’s post and tools I use on a daily basis to combat my anxiety and ultimately to help me move through my life better.

First, I start every day with meditation and prayer.

Insight Timer is the best meditation app.  I have tried them all and I keep going back to this one so I said goodbye to several others.  There are meditations from practitioners from all over the world, meditations for every ailment under the sun (including one’s for kids that I use daily with my treasures), and meditations for even the busiest of people. If you only have five minutes to give yourself then Insight Timer can help you. If you have an hour or anything in between, Insight Timer can help you.  I have had people tell me that they don’t feel meditation is their “thing” before and I can’t imagine how getting comfy, popping some ear buds in, and focusing on your breath wouldn’t be your thing.  These are guided meditations that help you redirect your focus and train of thought. It’s very simple!  You can meditate with me and look through the sessions I use most by searching for Still Blooming Me. Don’t be shy and send me a friend request! This is a snapshot of my profile.

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You Version Bible is a new app for me that a dear friend recommended.  What I love most about this app are the guided devotional plans you can use.  I just finished a seven day plan about overcoming anxiety and each devotional was spot on with what I needed to hear that day and gave me scripture to apply to my journey too.  If you have been following me then you know that I read Jesus Calling each day as well. It’s funny because last week I noticed that in both resources the same words were being spoken to me and that was to call on Jesus when I need his help and just say “Help me Jesus” out loud.  I believe that whatever faith you come from, God is not far away and hears your call. Invite Him on this journey with you. You will be relieved by the peace you will find in His presence.

As I move through my day I use other remedies. Some require you see a Naturopath and Psychiatrist so I won’t mention those tools by name. What I will say is that anxiety is created and perpetuated by an imbalance in your neurotransmitters. My personal naturopath is working on a piece that will explain this further in a blog that is coming up.  In the meantime, I can suggest a supplement I lean on quite a bit. L-Theanine tablets help get me through sleepless nights and anxious moments.  I have taken many different forms of it but I like these the best.

 

Part of my anxiety is really fueled by my sleep patterns and so I have noticed that I really need to quiet myself down at night and this includes some rituals I have developed over the past six months as I have learned what helps me and what doesn’t.  So here is my sleep prep routine; I eat an earlier dinner because I notice when I eat too late that my digestion keeps me up longer, I take my supplements and medication by 7pm, I drink Bedtime tea, I read a book instead of looking at my phone because the blue light our phones and televisions emit disrupt our circadian rhythms, and remember that Insight Timer app I mentioned up above?  I love to snooze away to the Yoga Nidra for Sleep meditation.

I hope some of these tools help you get to feeling better soon! I’d love to hear what you have in your own anxiety arsenal! Comment below or contact me.

 

Be Gentle With Yourself

This week I want to focus on some coping mechanisms I use that have brought me tremendous healing since August and tools I use on a day-to day basis depending on how I am feeling.  The reason why I felt compelled to write about this is because last week I was approached by two dear friends who are struggling with anxiety in their daily lives. Each described their fears, whether it is driving on a busy highway, sitting in a movie theater, enjoying a kid’s soccer game, or just social anxiety in general.  The common thread for me between the conversations was compelling.  These are two healthy women who have wonderful lives, people who love them and support them, and who have nothing to be afraid of; yet they are living in fear. 

What I have learned in my healing process is that anxiety is created when there is an imbalance with our neurotransmitters, which is something we can correct over time with the proper guidance and doctor.  It can be perpetuated by the things we consume, whether dietary or environmental. And furthermore, anxiety exists in our lives because we give it energy and permission to do so through our actions and inaction.  Now that I know this it’s easier for me to get through my anxious times but if you don’t have these tools, anxiety can cripple you to the point where you can’t find hope in anything.

I think the greatest piece of advice that I have received from each of my therapists and doctors has been to be gentle with myself.  Whether I was trying to find the cure to my sleepless nights, appetite loss, anxiety, or depression – I was to be gentle with myself.  This isn’t an easy thing to do and I had to make some difficult decisions in order to claim some peace.

Over the past 6 months, my focus shifted to the things I could control in my world and less about what was happening outside of that and slowly my mindset changed. For example, the world news was responsible for my trigger in July. So I don’t watch the news anymore and haven’t since, I don’t scroll the Facebook news feed, and I don’t watch violent shows or movies that could re-trigger me. Wow did this bring me peace! During a time in our history when the world has been so chaotic, I have been focused 100% on what happens within the walls of my own home.

Being gentle with myself has included eliminating alcohol, caffeine, most social media, and toxic relationships; and on the flip-side it has included doing more of the things I love like sewing with my aunts, taking baths, really playing with my treasures, focusing on the health of the relationships that matter to me, praying and meditating, and building this positive resource for others.  Staying grounded has become my priority, not my social calendar.

I am not advising you make all of these changes overnight but I am encouraging you to examine what changes you can make that will create a small impact on your life right now. How can you honor yourself better? How can you show yourself true love? How can you be gentler with yourself?

Below is a link to a guide my therapist shared with me that includes some great tools for coping with anxiety.  I hope you find it useful and share it with your loved ones who need it today.

Self Help Tips for Coping with Anxiety

 

Floating Through My Wave

Last week I rode what I call my “PTSD wave”.  It starts with a stressful event or stress in general, followed by a sleepless night, then my anxiety sets in for a day or two, and I top all of that off with depression. It’s usually about 3-5 days long and the best way I can describe it is painful, a constant agitation under my skin, uncomfortable, and exhausting.  I have a hard time eating, focusing, breathing, and stopping the tears…so I just go with it.  Like a wave that comes and goes.

It might seem ironic then that this particular wave I rode out by floating.   

I had been reading about this therapy modality and its benefits for those suffering with PTSD for a few months and was so excited when my dad agreed to try it with me.  He has been so supportive of everything I do, even the most unconventional things I come up with so this was our chance to enjoy a long overdue father/daughter date and relax. We both agreed that our time in the float pods was wonderful!

 

I love that floating is called “effortless” therapy because so much of the therapy I do takes so much energy and leaves me feeling drained and tired. So this was a treat as far as therapy goes!

I have been using Epsom baths during my recovery because of the mental health benefits that the magnesium sulfate offers, but this experience was completely different. These pods are filled with 1000 pounds of Epsom salt and 180 gallons of water which creates a 30% salt solution that enables your body to float effortlessly while you releases toxins, lactic acid, and cortisone (our wonderful stress hormone).  What I loved most about this experience was the weightless feeling I had as I floated because I felt I was able to finally release the last bit of tension that I was enduring from my “wave” and I slept better than a baby that night. Answered prayers for sure!

If you experience chronic pain, stress, insomnia, muscle soreness or just want to try something new – I can’t recommend floating more! Visit True Rest Float Spa to find a location near you and tell them I sent you. 

My Scripture Prescription

The second day I was in the hospital I was visited by Chaplin Fred. I am convinced God dropped him straight from heaven and into my world that day because that day, in particular, was my worst. I had woken up in the clothes I arrived there in because the techs hadn’t searched the belongings my sister had brought for me yet, I hadn’t seen the doctor, I had cried through breakfast, and I was the “new girl” and didn’t know the psych hospital rules yet.  I was feeling very neglected. All of this combined with my obvious mental breakdown and exhaustion left me completely lost and here is where both he and He found me.

I grew up in a faith filled home. I attended church every week. I attended Catholic school and send my own children to Catholic school. I thought I knew my faith and believed that God was with me but somewhere between the PTSD and anxiety, the outside world, various pressures, and demands of my own family, I had forgotten really how God is with me. 

After this experience, I will never forget.

Chaplin Fred prayed with me, listened to my story, reminded me of the love God has always had for me and he did one more thing for me – he offered me a scripture prescription.  I have leaned on those words each day since.

Psalm 23: 1-8

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

If I ever see Chaplin Fred again I will thank him for the hope he filled me with, for the love he showed me in some of my darkest times, and for sharing these words for me to live by.

 

My pageant response to what the world needs most…

From my daily devotional on the day I wrote this entry. I realize it seems a bit outdated (2 months ago), but I felt the message is still relevant today. Maybe more than ever...

From my daily devotional on the day I wrote this entry. I realize it seems a bit outdated (2 months ago), but I felt the message is still relevant today. Maybe more than ever...

Maybe it’s inner peace that we all need most?  Then maybe we would finally enjoy some peace in this world.  During my struggle with PTSD I have begged and pleaded with myself and with God to help me find peace.  Not just a moment of peace, I want to fill my life with it. I want to feel it in my bones. I walk to carry it with me like a precious diamond and reflect rainbows of peace onto everyone and everything when the light hits me. I want my kids to feel my peace and wrap themselves in it. I want to be this huge beacon of peace that runs over and spreads throughout my home, community and the world.  When you meet this new me, I want you to think, “Wow, that lady is peaceful.”

Inner peace takes practice.  It hasn’t been easy to find and I’m still searching for it, but I have discovered some ways for me to live more peacefully. First and foremost I have had to identify my triggers and eliminate them. As I write this on 11/29/2016, I can tell you that I haven’t watched the news since July 14th (the Bastille Day attack which re-triggered my PTSD).  I don’t miss it either and that’s a whole other post that is coming.  I said goodbye to Facebook (even though now I do maintain a page for Still Blooming Me through a host site). The news feed is just as bad as watching the news and while I do miss out on an occasional birthday, birth announcement or baby picture, I see now how much time I spent looking at it rather than looking at myself or into the eyes of those I truly love. My phone doesn’t control me anymore – I control it. I highly recommend this if you are really wondering who truly values you in their life.  They will pick up the phone and call you.

I have learned there is honor in saying no – I am honoring myself.  This has brought incredible peace to a lady like me who loves to say yes.

I have found new ways to show myself love which brings me peace too. My husband jokes that I’m turning into an old lady with all my natural remedies, Epsom salt baths, gentle yoga, meditating, etc. and I say that sounds about right since the grays on my head have seemed to multiple by the millions since August.  I am okay with the grays too.  I feel I've somehow earned them.

Inner peace is being okay with these changes. Embracing them. Living them. Exuding them. 

I don’t know where all of this will really lead me but I know that wherever I’m headed it will be peaceful.

Trailer Trigger

New Year’s Day morning my husband and I were laying around with the kids and snuggling into our bed to watch the Patriots game. This isn’t new for us but something new happened while we were watching the game that sent me running out of the room covering my ears. The trailer came on. The trailer for the movie that is set to premier very soon about the day that changed my life and thousands of other’s lives (I write this not knowing the title of the film, the premier date, nothing… I don’t think I need to).  When I caught my breath, I realized that I hadn’t been triggered by the first few seconds of it that I had seen but that I had been angered.

As I am still receiving bills from my hospitalization, paying out of pocket for the EMDR (trauma therapy), medications, natural supplements and hypnotherapy I need so that I can be a decent mom, wife, friend, and grounded human being, a movie will be entertaining crowds of people and I have no say in it. I was there wasn’t I? I’m still paying for the aftermath aren’t I?

Soon people will pay money for a ticket and plop down in their chairs and throw popcorn in their mouths while they take in a flick based on a day that I lived and can’t forget. Awesome! Hollywood will be capitalizing on an event in history that our very own citizens died in, were injured in, and are still suffering from every day. Why? The reason simply cannot be so that we, as a country don’t forget what happened.  It can’t be used as a reminder for Boston to stay “Boston Strong” and it sure can’t be used to remember all the innocent victims who lost their lives.  It’s being used to entertain people and I think that is wrong. But I am going to use it for something else, something greater I hope.

I went to therapy the following day and the first thing my therapist said to me was, “I thought of you this weekend.” I knew exactly what she was talking about, she had seen the commercial too.  She isn’t the first person to say this to me and she won’t be the last. So I continue to move through life in my protective bubble I’ve built – no news watching, no Facebook scrolling, and no energy spent on what is happening in our world. I’ve learned that I must completely focus on what is happening in my world, in my body, the conversations going on around me, and the situations I put myself in at all times. Can I go to that restaurant? Did I get enough sleep? Is that food going to irritate me? Can I stand spending a day at the aquarium with my kids?  Will it be too noisy? Will there be too many people? These are the questions I constantly ask myself as I go through my life.  My therapist reminded me of something very important that day after my trailer trigger; I have a greater confidence now and I have better tools that I can use to cope that I didn’t have before.  Most importantly, I have to believe in myself and have faith that when I see those images it doesn’t mean I will go backwards in my growth. Nothing scares me more then moving in that direction again.  

The timing of this film seems so ironic to me given what I have gone through mentally the past year, my recent hospitalization, the birth of this resource, and largely sharing and accepting this event as part of my life’s story.  I know that God has perfect timing in everything He does.  He is calling me not to be angered but to be blessed by the opportunity to hopefully reach more people with my message during this time. He is showing me that this film may be giving me the chance to share my journey with more people and so for that I will say thank you to Mark Wahlberg for his work about a city and people that we both love.

 

you are invited on my journey

This is my pass to wait for Jeff in the bleachers the day of the marathon. I keep it as a reminder of how lucky I was to be on the other side of the street that day.  

This is my pass to wait for Jeff in the bleachers the day of the marathon. I keep it as a reminder of how lucky I was to be on the other side of the street that day.  

Almost four years ago my life was changed forever as you have learned from the contents of this site.  Through my journey to find peace and healing I have started a journal.  I want to share with you some of the passages I have written to remind myself years from now what inspired me to keep living this beautiful life I have been given.  

When I was naming this space I consulted a dear friend and soul sister. She is this amazing person who reflects creativity in everything she does and I knew she was the right person for the job because I had entrusted her to plan my wedding 8 years earlier.  We tearfully dove into the contents of the composition book I was given in the hospital and began highlighting words that stood out.  There in her living room was born Still Blooming Me.

Still. I started my journal while in the hospital when I was seeking stillness the most. The first day I had none of my own belongings but the clothes on my back, a composition book, and miniature pencil. Here I was, removed from all the comforts of my home trying to find relief in such simple possessions. I soon found myself on medications that made me shake so badly I couldn't eat, couldn't sit still, and couldn't sleep. Wasn't I there to get relief from these things in the first place? My mind was plagued with racing thoughts. I was working so hard to claim some peace in that awful place I found myself in. I remember praying and begging God to grant me stillness.

Blooming. My maiden name is Flores, it means flowers in Spanish and flowers have always been a part of the beauty I seek out in my life. In my journal I wrote, "God is burying me so that I can grow into the most beautiful fruit bearing tree, with deep roots, strong branches, full of blooming flowers and the knowledge that my life is always changing and that's okay." Through this experience I have learned that blooming takes work, it can be painful, it requires the help of others, and if you work at it, you will find the most beautiful flower blooming is you.

Me. This is the most important word in the title.  This is about me. It's my story, I didn't choose it but I am claiming it. I'm not hiding it from you or from me anymore and that will help me heal. This blog is about what has helped me, how I have found the strength to be my own advocate, and how I plan to help others like me. Finally, the very best therapy I have found has been the time I have taken to slow down and enjoy my two treasures whose names begin with "M" and "E".