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.