Friday, July 30, 2010

LilyPad Bliss

Another key for me to living well with C-PTSD is taking inventory of all the bliss and happiness and beauty in my life.  Every day.

So here is some of what is happening around our LilyPad lately:

A Baby Eggplant in Our Garden

A Decent Photo of Daisy, the Hardest Cat to Photo EVER!

Marcy and I took a short half-day trip to one of my favorite spots.

A few other good things:

This blogger, whom I adore and have had the privilege to meet, did a very sweet thing.

This came in the mail and I will be watching it over and over.

This also came in the mail.  (We couldn't help ourselves.)

And finally, this came.  I am devising a pretty different way to use it and will be sharing that with all my dear and lovely readers.

OH!  And during a prayer and meditation session this week, I got major clarity on some design work for this blog and for my movement work.  More details coming in the near future.

What are you grateful for this week?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Key Question


One of the hardest things to deal with in Complex PTSD for the injured and their loved ones is emotional flashbacks.

Marcy and I have devised a few techniques over the last week or so to awaken me from these free floating pains and anxieties from the past.

First, we have created a safe haven for me in a prayer and meditation space that is dedicated to Mary.  I sit there three times a day and ask for help and guidance and strength or to have bad dreams removed or to sleep better...whatever it is that I am needing.

Remember, I am a believer and so this works for me.  I think it's super important that everyone who suffers from C-PTSD find something they can believe in besides their pain and their brains.

Second, we have purchased a comfortable blanket that is just mine.  This sounds silly, but emotional flashbacks make us feel very small and very unsafe.  Having something to hold onto, literally, can help in the worst of times.

And finally, we have come up with the Key Question.

This question would be different for everyone but also very much the same, I think, since Complex PTSD always comes down to feeling unsafe in the present because we are confusing it with the past.  Well, our brains are confusing it with the past.

This question is a KEY in that it can unlock our frozen fear and walk us through the door into our current, adult life.

The question that Marcy asks me when it is apparent that I am not present is:

What are you afraid of right now?

We are new to this path, so I know that over time, we will just get better and better at this, and we will be sharing with you as we go.

(Feel free to ask any questions about all of this.  Marcy and I would love to help other couples learn to cope.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I'm a Believer


Svasti and Marcy were both trying to help me to see something very vital about myself.

I was lost in the literal and the concrete, in psychological texts and concepts.  This is all very helpful, but there is more to me than this brain.  There is something much more powerful that resides in my heart:  My Believer-Self.

Svasti kept reminding me that there is always a pre-trauma self, even if the trauma starts at birth because we are an eternal soul. (I am paraphrasing and putting her ideas into my own language here.) But I kept arguing practicalities with her; I kept insisting on thinking only on this concrete plane, forgetting it is an illusion, it is all temporary, fleeting.

Marcy sat me on the couch during all of this and asked me to think about where and when I have felt safe.

I spoke of my Great Aunt Ardelle, who so clearly saw me.  To the point that I have memories of her and I together and we are literally surrounded by sparks of light.  I remember those sparks of light as being physically present when I was with her.

I spoke of my time in Catholic school for a year and a half.  A time when those nuns and teachers made me feel so safe that I was completely myself in that building.  I had never and would never again be so creative in so many ways.

Through these memories there is a common thread for me (which would take too long to explain): the presence of Mary, a safe and loving mother figure.

Marcy said to me on that couch, "You are a believer.  That is who you are. You can't not be that. It hurts you."

Yes.

Yes.

I had not been spending any time in prayer and meditation with Mary, thinking I had outgrown her somehow.

Not.

Svasti with her yogic wisdom and Marcy with her clear eyes of love reminded me that I do believe there is an essential self that I can re-member that existed even before this incarnation, this manifestation.

A Pre-Trauma Self of the Highest Order...and yes, she is Dancer and always will be.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Light That Dispels All Sorrow


At one point over the last many days, I was feeling especially...negative about the possibility of healing, even in light of the new, more accurate, and more hopeful diagnosis of Complex-PTSD.  I wrote about feeling frustrated about the concept of a pre-trauma self.

Svasti and I had some interesting back and forth in the comments of that post, if you've not seen it.  I was getting additionally frustrated with her take* on it, feeling very stuck in my "what if I can't heal?" panic.

(*Svasti knows she is someone whom I greatly admire. She is one of the kindest, wisest bloggers out there, so don't mistake my frustration for anything about her!)

During all of that, a facebook email came to me from a yoga sutras group, and it reinforced what others were trying to help me to see.

This particular sutra is the Light that dispels all sorrow.  It's about yoga and how it connects us to our essential, bigger-than-this-life selves.

You can replace "yoga" with whatever you big bliss is, and for me, of course, that would be dance.

When the email came, just like Svasti's comments, I wasn't ready for it, but I knew it was important because I starred it and kept it in my inbox.  I kept opening it and reading it.

Finally, I opened it, read it, and smiled.

The smile came thanks to something really vital I re-membered about myself late last week and which I will write about tomorrow.

What in your life dispels the darkness when it descends?

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Awareness of Pain & the Pain of Awareness


I've been thinking about this post for many days, but it kept feeling overwhelming to me because I was in the middle of all the muck that I wanted to write about.  Now I feel like I am emerging a bit and am getting some perspective...if not just a wee amount.

Remember, too, that I am really struggling with how much to write.  I mean, I am essentially a private person.  You'll notice (or not) that I don't write a lot of details on this blog about my past.  I generalize, assuming that people who need the writing, people who have had similar experiences...they'll "get it."

Like we are talking in code.

At the same time, I want to be honest.  I want to be open.  I think it is super important to my own development and growth and healing, as well as to those who might be reading this blog for this very reason.

Here we go...

When I returned to dance just a year ago, it was a Miracle of the sort that cannot be overemphasized.  My life was suddenly filled with the possibility of Big Happiness, a possibility I had sorta decided was just not for me. I had thought that the level of contentment, peace, and love that I had was more than enough, and it really scared me to even think about asking the Universe for more.  I didn't want to "jinx" what I already had.  And staying small and relatively unseen felt comfortable and safe.

Then I started dancing again, and God, it makes me breathless to think about it.  I cannot describe to you the Joy and the Big. I do not have the words to tell you accurately what happened to my heart.  And what continues to happen to this day.

I really thought I was done.

I really thought that I had completely defeated all the demons in my life.

I did not know that my mind and body and soul were waiting for me to be strong enough to handle the demons that were hiding in the deepest and darkest places.

When my depression started to leak back into my life a few months ago, I tried to ignore it.  I kept telling myself that it wasn't real, that it was just old habit, that more dancing was all I needed.

More dancing is always good, don't get me wrong.  I continue to work on this every day because I know I am who I am because of it.

But the depression and anxiety kept growing regardless of the dancing and this just made me feel worse.  How could this be?  I had found my "thing!"  I had found my bliss path.  I had found what I was born to be.

I had, but like I said, the mind and body are brilliant and they knew to wait for my Strength to assert itself before allowing me to go all the way down.

I started getting angry.  My argumentative defenses started to take over my life, which includes Marcy, of course.  Poor thing.

I got to the point where I really thought (and Marcy really thought) that I might be losing it.  That I might need to go into a hospital.

I was devastated.

And one day, Marcy came home with a probable diagnosis for what was going on.  We were desperate for an explanation, for some sort of guidance through this hell, and a diagnosis seemed like the right place to start.

At first, it brought me a level of awareness that brought some relief.  Naming something is very powerful.

But if you name it incorrectly, watch out.

When I first attempted talk therapy 15 years ago, my therapist immediately had me read a book about Borderline Personality Disorder, convinced that one of my parents fit the bill.

I came back to her and said, "But this is me..."

She said, "NO! Children of BPD often fit the bill but it's learned behaviors that can be overcome..."

Phew.  Fast forward to recent time and Marcy and I were sorta convinced that I really was BPD.  Like I said, at first, this felt like a relief...oh, look...this is what has been happening to me.

But then I started to get worse.  As I wrote to a blogging friend, this diagnosis was birthing some serious self-disgust.  I hated this person.  Everything felt wrong.

Then (angels singing here and light coming down from the heavens) I happened upon the work of Dr. Judith Herman, who believes (and she is not alone) that many, many women who are diagnosed BPD are actually Complex PTSD, which leads to horrible consequences.

The mainstream psychological community, for instance, perceives most personality disorders as serious mental illness that can never be cured.  On the other hand, Complex-PTSD is not an illness but an injury and just that change in language means the world!

There is hope!  There are methods to overcome this.  Lo and behold, one of the most promising methods is all about getting into your body.

So we come back to the beginning of this long story...dance.

Beautiful dance.

Also, as soon as we identified the Complex PTSD (which is way way way more accurate for me and my history), we created this boat load of coping mechanisms, and here is the most beautiful thing of all:

THEY ARE WORKING.

I have so much work to do, but I am not afraid of work.  I am afraid, though, of being told that I am "crazy" and "broken" and completely "unfixable."  That was too much.

Now I know with just time and patience and care that there really is that Big Happy in my future, that dancing was not lying to me at all.  Rather, dancing was making me strong enough and brave enough to move toward the Big Happy.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Updated Teaching Schedule!

For my most recent local (Erie, PA) teaching schedule, go here.  (You will also find some links to the new website for the studio where I teach!)

I am working on creating multiple variations of workshop material, from a few hours to a full weekend, so please contact me if you are interested or know of a studio that may be interested in hosting.  (Email me using the button in the left column that looks like a letter!)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Working Past the "Hooey" of Bliss: A Note from a Reader


Me among the rocks...a very unexpected bliss.

A couple of weeks ago, I got this amazing note from reader, Kimberly, whose blog you can find over here.

What I love most about her note is the unexpected nature of what she discovered.  She thought she was happy and then she realized there still could be more.

Dear Christine,

Life is full of funny coincidences. I saw a new post from you come up on my bloglines and thought "I should comment sometime and let her know how she has inspired me." And then you shared that fabulous letter from Glenda and I knew it wasn't just a coincidence.

I started reading your blog perhaps a year ago. I followed a link from somewhere and liked what I read. I think you were talking about mindfulness, which is a topic very important to me. I subscribed, even though I thought the concept of living your bliss to be a little "hooey." But something niggled to me to subscribe and I did. At the time, I thought I was living a good, creative life. And it was. I co-own a quilting and knitting store, which surrounds me with creativity and community every day. I dabbled in fiber art and had even exhibited some of my work to good reviews. I co-created a happy home with my husband and kitties. I was happy. Wasn't that enough?

But I kept reading your blog, kept learning about how you found your bliss (and how you have embodied it), and realized that something was missing. I was happy and comfortable, but where was my bliss? The question kept niggling at me. I knew I wanted to expand my life, and for a while thought it was in painting and mixed-media. But I held back. For months I collected paints, books, and ideas. I surrounded myself with intentions and wielded my supplies like a totem, as though wishing and wanting are whole in themselves.

Finally, this past 3-day weekend spurred me into action. I headed to my studio and prepared some journal pages and some paper-cloth substrates. Yesterday morning they were cured enough to work with. I started painting and inking and within minutes was enthralled in creative ecstasy. I realized I had found my bliss. I realized who I am in a truly meaningful and life-altering way: I am an artist and I need to create. It's like I see the world in an entirely different way now. Everything is possible.

Sharing your bliss inspired me to seek out mine. Thank you.


--Kimberly

P.S. A week ago, I was sitting on my patio, watching the birds swoop and glide and I thought "I'd love to be a bird." That was the first time in my life I ever wanted to be a bird. That gave me a hint that I was on the verge of a breakthrough.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Power of a Simple Sigh


(Toby cat claiming my meditation cushion is really for him.)

I know that getting back into the body can seem like an overwhelming idea at first to people.  Or we overwhelm ourselves by trying to make it too complicated.

So I have a super simple suggestion about sighing.

When I was doing my yogadance training at Kripalu, I had to attend 6:30 AM yoga classes every day.  These were Kripalu tradition yoga classes, and let me tell you, they love their noise making there.  At first, all the sighing and the totally loud exhales of yummy made me really nervous.  I am a private person and very modest and more than a bit afraid of feeling exposed and vulnerable.

While I was there, then, I did not vocalize as we were asked to.  I would pretend.  And it wasn't like you could tell that I was cheating because everyone around me was so damn loud!

Cut to a few months later and I am teaching.

It became quickly apparent that for women this making noise and breathing deeply thing were all intertwined.  I was (and still am) surrounded by women who breathe way up in their chests and who will not sing in public much less make other "unattractive" noises.

Talk about 5th chakra blockages!  (For some work on your 5th chakra, go here.)

Now I see my main thing as a teacher is to get women to make noise.  To let stuff out of their throat and shoulder and heart areas.

By my second class, I was demanding that they exhale OUT through their mouths and make the sound "Har," which in Kundalini is excellent for releasing anger.  And I spend a lot of time yelling "I can't hear you!!!"

They laugh but they are getting louder all the time.

I even start classes with a bit of this noise making, and I have discovered that the simple Sigh is a very powerful tool.

Here's what I want you to do:

Sit comfortably.  Start paying attention to your breath.  Focus a bit on your shoulders and throat.  Just check in.

Now take a very deep breath into your belly.  You'll probably notice that this feels tight and is difficult.

Take another deep breath but pull it into your upper chest and scrunch your shoulders way up toward your ears.  You are physically mimicking internal feelings here.  Hold the breath for a moment and feel your feelings.

When you let it out, let your entire body drop into a sloppy, gravity-pulled hunch.

The exhale should be big, through your mouth, and powerful.  I want noise here, people.  Big. Loud. Beautiful Sighs.

Do this about six times.

Then sit and try to take that belly breath again.

Notice the difference.

And smile.

Body says thank you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Working with Emotional Flashbacks


My entire sense of self and place is a bit askew right now, and though it's uncomfortable, I know it's all good, as I work with and through the concepts and ideas behind Complex-PTSD.  I've never met such an accurate and helpful psychological model for myself.

None of the other boxes ever quite fit, and yep, you got it...I don't like boxes of any kind so instead I choose to see Complex-PTSD as a lens through which I am looking at myself and my life and how I do this thing called living and how I could do it so much better.

Through this lens, for the first time, really, I can see clearly and I can see far ahead and I can see that there is deep and abiding peace and joy awaiting me.  If I am willing to do the work.

Firstly, I have been working with becoming super aware of my "emotional flashbacks."  A bit different from flashbacks of the PTSD variety that are tied to a specific event, emotional flashbacks are more nebulous, not-necessarily-associated-with-anything feeling states.

Like abandonment.  Which is my Biggie.

Here's a great little bit about them for you to consider from this site:

"...emotional flashbacks (are) sudden and often prolonged regressions ("amygdala hijackings") to the frightening and abandoned feeling-states of childhood. They are accompanied by inappropriate and intense arousal of the fight/flight instinct and the sympathetic nervous system. Typically, they manifest as intense and confusing episodes of fear, toxic shame, and/or despair, which often beget angry reactions against the self or others. When fear is the dominant emotion in an emotional flashback, the individual feels overwhelmed, panicky or even suicidal. When despair predominates, it creates a sense of profound numbness, paralysis and an urgent need to hide. Feeling small, young, fragile, powerless and helpless is also common in emotional flashbacks. Such experiences are typically overlaid with toxic shame, which, as described in John Bradshaw's Healing The Shame That Binds, obliterates an individual's self-esteem with an overpowering sense that she is as worthless, stupid, contemptible or fatally flawed, as she was viewed by her original caregivers. Toxic shame inhibits the individual from seeking comfort and support, and in a reenactment of the childhood abandonment she is flashing back to, isolates her in an overwhelming and humiliating sense of defectiveness. Clients who view themselves as worthless, defective, ugly or despicable are showing signs of being lost in an emotional flashback. When stuck in this state, they often polarize affectively into intense self-hate and self-disgust, and cognitively into extreme and virulent self-criticism."

Is this familiar to any of you?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Clearing Space for Clearer Thinking


Lilly Cat has made a bit of a nest of my desk, but I have to take responsibility for the materials with which she constructed it.  My desk is a mess, as is the rest of this writing room and pretty much, well, the house.

It's a lot like my brain.

We started the cleaning process yesterday.  First, we cleared and rearranged the bedroom, and then we created a much needed meditation and prayer space at one end of that room.

Good start.  I need a clear space to focus my mind.

All of this is so intertwined, isn't it?

I am writing from the Cleveland Clinic, having driven a friend here for some tests.  Staying meditative in such a large hospital is still far beyond my capacity.

How about you?  Is your meditation space literal or have your managed to clear your mind and heart enough that you carry it with you?

Monday, July 19, 2010

How to Know Your Bliss: The Definitive Guide


First Premise: "Bliss," remember, on this blog, right here?..."Bliss" is not some woo-woo feeling-state but a concrete thing that you are meant to do.  And yes, it can change over your life time but identifying it and doing it...that's your work.  And no matter what anyone says, sometimes work is hard.  (Insert whining here and see me not listening.)

Second Premise:  On this blog, according to this Chick -- this Chick who has been through some major shit that could have easily turned her against this Second Premise, major shit that she could have decided to use to disprove this Premise -- here, on this blog, according to moi and others, our purpose in this life is to See, Witness, and Love each other.

Conclusion:  How to Know Your Bliss as Explained Via a Personal Example:

When I dance, I love you and you and me (which is giant) and you and you and you and you ... When I dance and when I am teaching dance and when I am surrounded by other dancers or even dancing alone, that love is Boundless.

That Love is a little Universe exploding inside and out of me.

It dissolves "me."

That's how I know.

How about you?

When do you Become Love?


Friday, July 16, 2010

The Problem of Self in Trauma


My main focus today has been on getting over this dang (and by "dang" I mean, "fucking") virus, because I have to teach on Saturday and will not cancel.  Will. Not.

So no post...until now...because I am obsessive and I refuse to miss a weekday, which I have not done since I started this blog.  My obsession has become a bit more tame if you consider that during the first year of this blog I would not miss any of the seven days of the week.

Today, what is on my mind has to do with Complex-PTSD.  Well, really, this has been on my mind for many days, and it become clearer as I was reading through the archives of the fabulous Heal My PTSD that Svasti sent to me.

Complex-PTSD shares everything in common with PTSD but it has all these added layers, added...complexities.

So Heal My PTSD often speaks of the "Pre-Trauma Self," and my frustrated question has become:

What if there is no such thing as a "Pre-Trauma Self" because the traumas started that young?

Just something to think about...

I have some ideas about this but wanted to throw it out there to you, wise and wonderful readers.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pass the Kleenex & Press Play on a Movie


My body has decided that it has had enough of the stress I've been under, and in order to force me to rest, has gotten some bug thing.  Today I am on the couch, in a nest made for me by Marcy, watching Star Trek movies and feeling rather miserable, but trying for once, not to be mad at myself...as if I am some super human who is never ever supposed to be "down" even for a minute.

I have been reading a couple of interesting books over the last week, including Age is Just a Number by Olympic swimmer, Dara Torres, and so I leave you with a quote that has been floating around in my brain since I read it:

"...the real reason most of us fear middle age is that middle age is when we give up on ourselves."

Yep.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

WishCasting: Focus on the New


(Another amazing local church.)

Today when I saw Jamie's Wishcasting question, I knew I was meant to answer it:

What do you wish to focus on?

I wish to focus on the possibility of Fully Healing.

I wish to focus on understanding.

I wish to focus on new language and the power of word choices.

I wish to focus on new ideas about myself.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shining Some Light in the Dark Corners


There is a light at the end of this tunnel I am in and I can finally see it.  It is becoming glaringly bright, actually, and that squinting effect is something I am feeling quite grateful for.

At the beginning of a dark tunnel, it can be hard to believe that there is such an end.

Over the past month or so, my moods and demeanor have been...deteriorating.  My sleep patterns over the past couple of weeks have downright sucked.  Not being rested never helps.

It also does not help that it has been so hot and humid that my dancing time has diminished severely, but then I think...breaks like this are meant to happen so that we might have breakthroughs.  Which is exactly what is going on.

You know I hate psychological diagnostic boxes and labels, right?  I think I've been pretty clear about that, so when I write on this site about my own troubles, I list what are essentially, for me, the biggest symptoms of something else: Depression, anxiety, fear, body image and food stuff.

But thanks to this break I've had, we've figured out (and this may seem obvious to many of you) that I suffer from Complex PTSD.  The "Complex" part of that refers to the chronic nature of my traumas.  The fact that they went on and on and on...

There is so much more to this story but I am not ready yet to try to articulate it, yet I wanted to share something that is changing my life.

This quote that I read on a British mental health site:

PTSD is an injury, not an illness.

To not think of myself as "sick" or "crazy..." this seemingly small change in language?  It is making a world of difference.

P.S. It was super hard to push the publish button for this post. I am (hard to believe...) a very private person and this post feels very vulnerable to me.  Within minutes, though, I started getting some comments, and as usual, my dear readers are the most wonderful readers.  *sigh*


Monday, July 12, 2010

Introducing the WarriorChick Award!

I am having some major breakthroughs right now and that comes with a lot of hard work and exhaustion.

I am having a difficult time discerning how to write about it all, and that got me to thinking about blogging women whom I admire for their courage and tenacity and their willingness to share their journey though that sharing comes with a certain level of nakedness, which is just, like, another layer of scary.

To honor these women, I have devised the following award:


(The image is free for the taking.)

Now, I am going to name some recipients, and I would love for them to pass this along because there is no way one of us could name all the people who are so deserving of the title WarriorChick.  (Even if I don't name you and you know of people who deserve this, please play along!)

There is no question that needs to be answered or list that needs to be made by the recipient.  Their writing is their gift to us already.

So here they are...the first official batch of WarriorChicks and the women to whom I look for inspiration in this time of seismic level personal change:






All I can say is thank you.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Only Way to the Other Side...


...is through.

And right now, I am feeling mired in the middle.

It feels easy to say "I'm too tired for this...I thought I was done...I give up."  But I won't say that, because I don't.

One foot in front of the other is the only way for this Chick, who is not ready to share about what is going on right now but is seeking a way to be brave about sharing and still maintain some privacy.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

LilyPad Bliss

LilyPad is the name of our house, because, yes, we name everything.

Here's what's going on around here lately:

Daisy the New Kitten has Taken Over

In the Garden:





Lilly & Toby on LookOut!
What have you noticed happening in your very local world?


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Aging & Bravery: A Note from a Reader


One of the great joys of writing this blog is the direct interaction with readers, which comes in from many directions, including emails.

Last week after I wrote some posts about aging and dancing and bravery, I got this email from reader Glenda, and she gave me permission to share:

Thanks for posting the articles about your return to dance at 40.

I danced for about 16 years when I was younger, but with college and life, I stopped. II would watch my nieces and wish I could get back into it. Of course, I have a list of excuses, not the least of which is I am still recovering from a car accident. But so what! I was bound and determined to accept that the car accident was the universe giving me a major shake to get me out of my old life and into my new one. So, here I am about to celebrate my 40th in a couple of weeks. I have booked the JourneyDance training program at Kripalu and a little extra time there to enjoy myself with yoga, hiking, and some pampering. I have found a dance studio in my city that has adult classes and bought some new ballet tights and leotard and shoes. I look forward to getting started!

When I read your posts, I remembered what it was like for me to dance - that simple joy. That joy that has been lost for quite awhile as I focus on raising my daughter by myself and work a lot of hours in a corporate job to ensure we have a comfortable life. As she heads into her third year of university, I find myself suddenly very aware that I am going to be alone and without that much else in my life that brings me joy and peace. Time to re-commit to my new life - yoga, dance, friends, and potentially a new job very soon. 

Thanks for the inspiration!


This is what I am talkin' about!  It is truly never too late to recommit to yourself, to your bliss, to the YOU you were born to be.

What step toward your Fullest Life could you take today or this week?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Climbing


Walking through Panama Rock, one of the things that really captured my eye was the view from inside a dark cave area.  Looking out into the bright light created all these great shadows and lines and natural frames.

I took a few of these, but I didn't take that many photos overall because I was so busy just having fun.  Climbing and skinning my knees and figuring out how to grip that tiny little ledge of rock to pull myself up and out of some very small crevice.

There's a metaphor in all of this but I'll leave that to you.