Category Archives: mental health

One Year of Trauma Therapy 2. Learning to Look Forward

Here’s to shedding the weight of the past.

This is my new minimalist art. Last week it was “The White Album” and White whales, this week it is all about black because it is slimming, “I have that which passeth shew,” ” ’cause black is how I feel on the inside,” and all the reasons cited by Johnny Cash. Pick one.

Last week I took a trip through my first year of trauma informed therapy. This week is more challenging. Looking forward! I say challenging because of all I have gone through — particularly the reason I am still writing from a hotel room — getting run out of town by psychotic neckbeards. But also because I was stuck. Weighted down. Angry, listless, and depressed by turns. I had lost any sense of who I was or was becoming.

A perspicacious woman once told me I was very “intentional.” I am a fan of plans and planning. It is very much like only wearing black. What should I wear? Black. What should I do? Check the plan.

We plan and the gods laugh. I know. I am Greek.  And inevitably your black clothes will stop matching as they fade. Last January I had no reason to think I would be living in a hotel room.  But I did begin the work of thinking about where I was in life, and where I wanted to be. And, as an unexpected side effect, I added color to my closet.

I wanted to look and feel like myself again. The Pandemic weight upset my self-image. I was depressed. And that made me feel and look old. Even my posture had become hunched. And no amount of black tunic tops was hiding anything as they got scrubby looking and dull.

So I started a mens sana in corpore sano  (healthy mind in a healthy body) journey that helped push me to think more about where I was going, and aided me through the unending trauma that was nearly every day since July back at the former [ducking] house. And I got some clothes…with color!

I went back to yoga. I first got into yoga and meditation as a teen when I was reading a lot about The Beatles. I was a good gymnast as a kid. Yoga seemed to come naturally. And I took two semesters of yoga in college with a great teacher. And it worked hand in glove with my anatomy classes (yay art school).

But I really committed last year, and I have done about 669 yoga classes since then. Maybe half were Sun Salutations, but still!

Yoga means “practice.” So you could think of all life as yoga, as practice. And like life, it is not static. Neither is it all “aaaaah.” I curse plenty at the lovely Australian woman on my favorite yoga app. Yoga requires focus. You work with your mind, breath, and body. Even in stillness, your breath moves you, as you hold your mind and body in gentle intention.

That gentle intention is called your “sankalpa,” and it took time me to find. Simply, a sankalpa is a short sentence in the first person, present tense that signifies your reason for any practice, it can be “I keep my floors clean,” “I do not drink alcohol,” or “I bring peace to the world.”

It is both a heartfelt desire and a promise, and it is gentle. I spent a lot of time in meditation and yoga nidra searching for my sankalpa. And it turned out to be very simple. It was as strong and flexible as my body and mind were becoming. And it was always there. But life, past experiences, traumas, hang ups, difficulties of all sorts crusted it over, and I became hardened to even myself.

Through my work in therapy, and the work we did to find the softening of the the body that allows us to truly listen to ourselves, I came to see what I had forgotten. And my journey now consists in continuously bringing my mind back to my sankalpa, what I give myself as a purpose, my heart’s desire, my promise to myself.

Of course, a promise is nothing. Air, pixels, ink in a certain form and order. Unless you honor yourself and the one you make the promise to. In this case, both parties are you. But having a practice, a promise, and are committed, gently, to honoring yourself helps.

You respect and honor yourself. And you honor your promises. Practice that for a while. Sit with it. Move with it. Breathe into and through it. And suddenly old Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes — that if one is true and honest with oneself, you will be honest and true to others — will change your way of seeing and being.

Your sankalpa is your own. It is not shared. Please do not ask your yoga class crush, “So, what is your sankalpa?” Protect what is precious, gently.

And you thought the whale post was esoteric! I did go through a change, a shedding of mental, emotional, physical weight. Of crusty old thoughts and feels. And of pilled up black tunic tops with bleach stains.

I have bright pink, purple, and blue yoga tops! Pink walking shoes?! And you cannot go around in yoga pants (now with pockets!) without tennis socks in fun colors. And you know what else? I can still just order five packs of everything from Amazon, and switch out dirty yoga top to clean yoga top of different color! Fancy.

So, after a lot of softening, strengthening, shedding, and clarity seeking: I decided on my sankalpa. And here I am, still in my hotel room, living it now. Practice can only lead to exploring where this will lead me, but I have a general idea, gods willing and the crick don’t rise.

So, that is where I am, and where I am looking to go. The woman who helped lead me here, my therapist of the last year, with whom I have to part ways. In her shining smile and laugh dwelt hundreds of happy fairies. Her gentleness, boundless joy and compassion, and halo of light around her blond hair, made me think of Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings. And she did possess a light, like the bottled starlight the Elven Lady of Lorien gave to Frodo to light his way when all other lights went out. It is as awake as a plunge into ice water; a diamond reflecting warmth, strength, kindness, and love, gently.

Thank you for everything Haley. Including the homework! I love professional students. I am looking forward to this new stage of my life. I went through an enforced crisis. I know what I can do. And I have every confidence that something is bound to turn up!

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌπŸ’πŸŽΈβ„οΈ

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The Whale Chapter. A Look Back on One Year of Trauma Therapy & Beyond

Psst!

Fans and decidedly non-fans of Moby Dick will remember “The Whale Chapter.” Like “The White Album,” that is not its name, but that is what I call it. In Moby Dick, Ishmael takes us on a long, slow ride through cetology, just as the Pequod’s voyage is getting under way. After the lengthy description of all things whale, Ishmael declares a whale a fish. I kind of like it.

My therapist thought it would be helpful to do a look back at our year of working together. After several attempts with markers and pencil and mixed media and my guitar, I decided to write it. That is what I do!

This can be my Whale Chapter from the trauma and tragedy I have been chronicling in my last two posts, and maybe my conclusions will ultimately be wrong! And I will declare a whale a fish. One can never be sure.

Over a year ago, I spoke with my doctor about how normal therapy was not helping. In fact, it began making me worse. Two places in a row had dumped me. One most unceremoniously. That is when I began getting pictures of my brain taken, and was referred to Trauma Informed Therapy.

I looked back in my journal and discovered I was really into Hannibal at the time, and I called my first session “rough.” And it was! You can skip back to my first post on it.

There are two especially difficult pieces. The first is learning to establish and enforce my own boundaries (which may contribute to me living in a hotel room), but also how to be kind and mindful of others’ needs and boundaries as well. It is a difficult trick. I hope I am getting the knack of it. It is kindness.

Also, I learned to really forgive. I know we all have that spiritual ick inside us. That makes us feel shameful or unworthy. We all have it. Love it out of existence. Unclench, soften, breathe, relax right into it. And it will pass. You may even see what a lie it really was.

Have a therapist to guide you back to integration with those pieces that you want cut off. They will check your thoughts, or suggest a different point of view. A good therapist is invaluable. I never like when folks only take pills. That is just to steady the foundation. The work that you rebuild on is the work you put into therapy.

Anyhow, now for whales. I think I’m turning into Bob Geldolf in The Wall living in this hotel room. I even broke a guitar string. Yeh-heh! I can not get either my desktop or laptop online. So I have been doing credit stuff and online apps on my phone. It is not cool man.

I keep busy. I clean the place, practice yoga and guitar, do my work for the day, argue with my dog. Fairly normal. It’s not like I’m dying to get out. I mean, I have zero desire to go out in below freezing weather no matter the lovely backdrop. I would rather be warm and safe.

But, in the end, it is liberating to be able to name and call out your problems. But be careful. You must face it, fighting will take you down with it. Learn it, know it, name it, face it, but you fought that monster once. Do not try that again.

And now I’ve come to the next part of my assignment: figuring out what to do with the rest of my life. Yeah. That is all. Get over my recent traumas, move, restart life with new purpose. Whales are fish. And I’m happy to be back in the USSR, thank you.

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌπŸŽΈπŸ’πŸ•ΊπŸ»

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My Experience of America’s Culture Wars. Part 2 RoundUp, Homework, and Trash

Another hotel room post. Thank goodness for the WordPress app because my laptop and desktop refuse to go online. So I am reduced to thumb typing and phone editing. Like a barbarian. Good thing my vision is perfect for 8 inches in front of my face, beyond that lies blindness.

Our house went up for sale. I was thumbing through the pictures, and remembering how much I loved that old house. I felt the same way while packing and cleaning. The hardwood floors we found under ancient linoleum. The laminate we put down in the big back room with the wood stove. It was so pretty. A happy place. Our happy place. And the only home my Border Collie ever knew.

Border Collies were not meant for hotel rooms, nor not being able to go out.

I spent so long avoiding the outside of my house, where the male neighbor, “Harry the Homunculus,” would sit and wait for me to come out to holler at me, comment on my life, and just stare all day. I have no idea why he was home all the time. But he sure let me know he was. Running motors at all hours, unattended, some diesel engines, until they ran out of fuel. But the result was, my gardens went untended and to seed. My animals weren’t happy. I didn’t want to power-wash. He was always looking. And I felt like the trash he dumped in our face. Like a middle finger, or a bathroom-wall dick scribble.

Though, of all females, my female neighbor earned every gendered epithet you can imagine, I called her “Becky.” As in BBQ Becky, Karen’s Dark Side disciple like The Emperor and Vader (but as totally basic [riches]). She was an emotionally manipulative, pathological liar, with two brain cells to rub together (two more than Harry). There was no lowness to which she would not sink, to her knees.

These people who tore up a 208 foot hogwire and cement sunk post fence AND the side picket fencing BECAUSE they were told to keep their dog out of our yard. Who admitted, when I requested an inspection from the Department of Agriculture, that, yeah they did mix and boom spray RoundUp Pro over a water course and onto our yard. The police did nothing. Zero. And I was always unsure how to react because when we put up some netting as a temporary fence for our animals, he made a pile of a pulled up tree, wire, posts, an old oil tank, and the roof of an outhouse in front of our house. I filmed it, and as he got off his forklift, dude said “Stop testing me, lady.”πŸ’›πŸ€πŸ’œπŸ–€

His reactions were always exponentially more insane than I could imagine. And all the police would say is keep a record, take pictures, and save your security cam video. Well, yeah, but what is the end game here?

In Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear, he said that restraining orders are homework the police give to women to prove how much they REALLY do not want to see a person ever again. Usually a man person. This is when an abuser is most dangerous. You have done everything you were told, you filed the restraining or protection order, and that is when they feel trapped and kill pets, kill spouses, and in the case of my township, led to the gunning down of two little girls in a car in a ditch by the side of the road. Because the issuance of the Emergency Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) was delayed for 24 hours. And a disgraced, former Baltimore cop kidnapped those babies from their mother, and shot them dead on the side of the road.

No tragedy that unspeakable happened to me, but in the next part, I will tell you how much man power the regional police had, and how it was (mis)used against me, but not to protect that mother and her children.

Sorry these are so dark, folks. I promise, it gets something-er.

– JLβœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌπŸ•ΊπŸ»πŸ’πŸŽΈ

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Bona Drag? Listen in Order.

“This is the last song I will ever sing… No, I’ve changed my mind again. Good night and thank you.” – Disappointed by, Morrissey

Holy hand grenade, I’ve been going through a time. Let’s review. A neighbor dog killed one of our ducks in our yard, never tried to make it right, and someone is shooting arrows at my side porch.

Along with those slings and arrows, I’ve had: two funerals, two stomach viruses, looking for a new SS lawyer, phone calls and paperwork, and that most Karen of 90s holdouts, faxes!

Speaking of 90s holdouts, I found a copy of the CD Bona Drag, by Morrissey. The original with the red shirt on the blue background. I had that on tape! It was five bucks at a music store. Snapped it up.

When I finally sat down to listen, I realized that every single one of the songs was a hit that would show up as the first song on a Pandora playlist. But they were all together! These iconic songs were all ordered into one entire unfolding experience. A two year journey of delicious pop, with 60s girl band throwbacks, the slyest and snarkiest of lyrics, and a smooth yet odd and expressive voice. I had never fully appreciated those songs until I heard them set in that order.

That’s what the rest of my life has been in want of: order. I’m world-renowned for my intense dislike of chaos (and people going barefoot). I needed to get my life in some form of order, and I needed to let nature dictate that order. I needed to listen to each piece of it all in its own time, in order.

I love not worrying. Worry gives me panic attacks and agita. But when needs must, at least let me take it one at a time.

The first part to call was physical. Take a shower. Clean clothes. Drink water. Eat! Your brain is hardwired to react to scarcity, or any physical discomfort. You ever get depressed when you’re sick? And you ever tried eating? It’s like magic! Your body and brain work. I also highly recommend sleep. Melatonin helps.

This can all be truly hard when you are worried or anxious or depressed. But they’re some of the first parts of myself I try to reclaim from disrepair after a shock, sickness, or emergency.

I hate that I’ve become this person, but I gotta move my body! Slowly start walking about, swing my arms, dance a little, do some gentle yoga. My body becomes a Gordian knot after a few sedentary days. Only I slowly work it out, unlike other, “greater,” Greeks. My body is screaming, “move that arse.”

While we all are forced to make quick calls, literal and figurative, most of the time, those calls can wait a day or so for us to recover. And even for us to clean our normal work and life space. I’m a big fan of dedicated spaces that are ready for whatever.

And of course: can’t ignore the call to self-soothe. I try being very kind to myself. Let myself have permission to not be top functioning. I struggle with this. I feel I should do every dreaded task at once, when I could probably put aside time every day to work on the pieces. But if I don’t stop to just do a thing that soothes my mind and body, I can’t function at all.

The sooner I get myself on my regularly scheduled program, the better. But it does take time to come back from a major life whalloping. But at least there is plenty of daylight to get things done. Plenty of long summer days to tend to myself and life.

Obviously, things are still rough going. But I’m taking it in stages. Pasito a pasito. Baby steps. Making time for fun/good for me stuff. Even stopping at that music store for no reason was a win. I also got “Viva Hate” by, Morrissey. So I’ll sit down for a proper listen in good time, and in order.

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ’πŸ––πŸΌ

PS – Fax machines are an arcane, invasive species of communication. There is no limit on killing them.

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Your Top 5 Questions on Why Your Narcissistic Abuser Does What They Do and What to Do About it Answered

“…and Heaven knows I’m miserable now.” Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, The Smiths (Marr/Steven Morrissey), 1984

As I recover from my abuse and trauma, I’ve spent a lot of time on forums for folks who have experienced abuse or have a Narcissist in their life. Reading the questions and experiences of these folks has been eye-opening and educational.

Did you know there are Covert Narcissists? Covert Malignant Narcissists? That Narcissistic Abusers and Borderline Personality Disorders are different? I didn’t. But now that I have explored the subject, I’d like to answer the five most common questions regarding why Narcissists, BPDs, and abusers abuse, and what to do about it.

*Note: these are similar to questions I have seen, and not actual questions and/or concerns from real individuals.

1) Why did my Narc boyfriend call it quits, date another person, then start calling me six months later like nothing happened?

Because he’s a jerk who is playing mind games with you. Block his number, and block him on social media. Seek therapy, learn to value yourself, and waste no more time on him. Get out and live!

2) Why does my Covert Malignant Narcissist girlfriend keep saying she needs space, then begs me to take her back?

Because she’s a selfish jerk who is leading you on by playing childish mind games. Block her number and block her on social media. Then learn to love yourself. Try seeing a therapist trained in helping folks like yourself move on, and get on with your life! Best of luck to you!

3) Why did my Narc abuser divorce me after 4 years of marriage? What did I do wrong?

You did zero things wrong! Now that your abuser has left your life, thank your lucky stars. Block their phone number and block them on social media. Please look to your own self-care now. Be thankful that you only spent 4 years with them and not 40, or didn’t end up in a hospital or worse There are several hotlines for victims of abuse (try your local YWC/JA) that can point you in the direction of a trained trauma therapist who can help you heal, move on, and live the rest of your life as the best you possible. You may also want to speak with your own doctor. They may want to check you for physical damage. They can also give you a referral, or point you to other resources. Some states offer financial and other assistance for victims of crimes in your state. In mine it’s called the Victim Compensation and Assistance Program (VCAP). This program does not require a police report or court proceeding. Your local YWC/JA also may offer services such as therapy, housing assistance, etc. I wish you healing and the very best in your new abuse-free life.

4) How do I deal with a Narcissistic parent now that I’m a parent? My spouse can’t stand them, and doesn’t want them anywhere near our child. What should I do?

First, congratulations on the new addition to your family! Being a new parent is an enormous undertaking that will take all your patience, effort, and time. So why add to your anxieties and exhaustion by allowing a cruel and abusive grandparent to torture you and your spouse? Is that even the type of person you want around the new, fresh little person you’ve both created? Listen to your gut and your spouse’s concerns. And don’t let this person continue the cycle of abuse. BrenΓ© Brown has wonderful advice on setting boundaries in her books and Podcast. If setting boundaries doesn’t help, block their number and block them on social media. Find a doula or a local young person to help with babysitting and childcare. It’s a lot cheaper than the therapy your child will have to go through being near this toxic person. But please consider therapy for yourself. Many insurances now pay for tele-psych/therapy, which could better fit your new schedule. Learn to love yourself, and good luck to you and your spouse on your new family.

5) Why is my Narcissistic parent trying to turn my family against me, and what do I do? I feel like everyone hates me now! I love them, what should I do?

I am so, so sorry you are dealing with this. Unfortunately, most folks can have children, and that includes selfish, rigid, or abusive folks. It will never be easy to accept that your parent can’t or won’t be able to offer you the love you crave, need, and deserve.Β  Take heart in the fact that your parent’s behavior is probably well-known in your family. I suggest blocking them on social media and their phone number as a first step. Get a good therapist trained in family trauma and abuse to help you learn that you are not to blame, and to love and cherish yourself. It may also be worthwhile to reach out to your family individually and reestablish one on one contact with them. But be warned, folks like your parent are skilled at pitting people against one another, and they may have recruited others. There’s not much you can do in that case, but do seek out support from friends and family that truly love you. And build yourself a support system with them, or a therapist, doctor, school counselor, coach, or pastor, anyone you trust. You’ll soon discover that your life will be a lot more peaceful, with room to let yourself bloom and grow. Focus on your own interests, hobbies, and life, and surround yourself with those who truly love and support you. Life is difficult, chaotic, and messy, don’t let those who make it worse into your life. And always remember, you are deserving of love, even though you may not feel that way now. Through practice and time, you will learn to stop blaming yourself, feeling unworthy, or ashamed. And grow into the beautiful, loving, and best you possible. Take care of yourself, and all the best to you in your journey.

I hope many of you find this helpful and learn to step out of the dark shadow where abuse thrives. Stop attempting to understand your abuser. And learn instead to turn the soft light of your own compassionate and loving heart on your fears, wounds, shame, your worst moments, and your most raw and painful nerve. I invite you to try this meditation from Sara Blondin’s book “Heart Minded.” It’s the 6th track, but all are both useful and healing. And from the depths of my heart, I wish you healing, love, and a joyful life.

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ’πŸŒˆπŸ––πŸΌ

While you’re here: check out the wonderful work done by NAMI: The National Alliance on Mental Illness. Use their resources to find free help or donate.

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Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain. Birthday Edition

Here’s to never having this recipe again.

I always liked my birthday. It’s at the end of May, near Memorial Day weekend. The Spring is just turning to Summer. The temperature is perfect, the flowers are blooming, the Sun is showing off. But last weekend felt more like early March than late May. And that was just the topper to a small, private sadness that doesn’t mean much in the big scheme. But means something to me.

It’s not the number of trips around the sun (AKA aging) that gets me down. I look at my long-lived family, and feel encouraged that there’s at least as much in front of me as behind. But, the world is wily. No one knows how much time is left on the clock. So, best to make the most of it all.

But there was a lot of pain this year. And I need to acknowledge it, lest I grow a tumor. I was denied Social Security again, and when I read why, they listed “asthma” as one of my conditions. I have asthma, but that’s not why I applied. So, asthma, anxiety, and neurological issues. But missed that my neurological issues stem from repeated minor concussions due to Domestic Violence. And the CPTSD from my life in a war zone. Because when your life, your home, your body, your feelings and experience are violently abused, you live in a warzone, and there’s no VA for it.

Social Security didn’t look at any of my psychiatric and therapeutic notes for their decision. They didn’t wait for me to submit all my evidence. And the woman who dealt with my case always sounded like I caught her mid-nap. They’ve been working from home, so she may well have been napping. She certainly fell asleep on the job dealing with my case.

On my birthday, we were chatting with the neighbors when my Alpha female Border Collie, Abbey, decided to try to take on their Alpha female Rottweiler. No one was hurt. But the man kicked my dog, twice. And said that she had bitten someone’s face, which is a damn lie, and bit of whisper down the lane gossip. She chased off a dog that was going after my chickens. I got a leash on it, brought it back to the other neighbors. It was a friend’s dog. It’s lip bled a little. I gave them my number. They’re fine. Now I get to hear bullshit gossip about my dog from a man who just kicked her. It’s still really upsetting. Kicking a dog has to be one of the lowest forms of expressing anger.

And then there was the card “from” my two year old niece. It was adorable, and I cried. But I realized that my sister has, for some time, been using the same type of boundaries my therapist recommended for my more troubling relationships. Minimum contact. And it was my Mom’s birthday soon after mine, and that was hard. I did send her a card, but it’s not easy to 1) realize that your own sister doesn’t want to speak with you while 2) you love your mother, but don’t know how to engage without being hurt. And all of it was just sad. Not an epic tragedy, just a small, sad, private pain. One more heartache amid the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.

Things were good with SO. And I got flowers, we ate oysters, and I got a few things. But Saturday I had to sleep because of a migraine. And my nightmare hollering had my dog waking me up through most of it.

I’m down. I have to appeal the Social Security decision, which can take months to a year. I need to find a new lawyer, and I didn’t click with the one my former attorney referred me to. In fact, she was an icy bitch for someone who handles Domestic and Sexual Violence cases. And I realized something I’ve suspected, that my own sister just can’t or doesn’t want to deal with me. Who knows what will happen with my Mom.

I did have a laugh, after a lot of ouchie, when a duck ripped my right thumb open. Yep, you read that right. I had to rescue one of my duckies who thought it could fly. And as I was putting it back, my dog jumped up, and the duck dug into my thumb to push off.  It’s funny. Go ahead and laugh. My doctor’s office sure did. But it’s all wrapped, and I get to sport a not-creepy-at-all latex glove on my right hand. Like if Steve Martin’s dentist also did the Moonwalk. Definitely hampers my guitar playing. And I waited a few days before attempting downward facing dog. Guitar and yoga are two big coping mechanisms for me though.

I also had a few perfect gardening days to sneak in the last bits of my gardens. Which was lovely.

But I’d like to thank two people, aside from aforementioned SO. My cousin & her hubby who stopped by on my actual birthday and who I was finally able to hug! And my friend in Detroit, who called me, and we had a good long chat. Even laughs.

So, chalk this up as a recipe for a birthday that can get lost. It wasn’t my loneliest or worst. Just another small, sad non-event. I am still owed a day at the lake though.

Hope everyone is well. Sorry, not sorry for the bummer post.

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ’πŸ––πŸΌ

While you’re here: check out the wonderful work done by NAMI: The National Alliance on Mental Illness. Use their resources to find free help or donate.

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How to Stop Internalizing Anger and Not Grow a Tumor

Have you ever gotten a pimple that you’ve named after a person or stress? “Oh that? Why that’s ‘Newman.'” (Jerry Seinfeld sneers.)

Well, I have terrible news! There is a way to name, recognize, and work through how your body expresses your emotions. But part of it is called “exercise.”

Let’s rename this. We’ll call it “body awareness.” Does that feel better? Cool.

The abused or traumatized are more likely to live a shorter life. Drugs and alcohol, risky sex and activities, abusive relationships, and severe physical aliments such as heart disease or high blood pressure, are generally what the future looks like for those who don’t get help.

A few years back, a therapist first asked me where I feel my psychic pain in my body. And I knew just what she meant. It’s somewhere between my heart and stomach, about where the rib cage begins. I had never really thought much about it, but she knew to ask about it. Now, in my Trauma Therapy, my therapist has turned me back to focus on that place.

In the meantime, I had gotten back into yoga around the time of the Pandemic and lock downs. And I realized there was a whole bundle of issues hidden within me. Making me — keeping me — feeling utterly powerless and miserable. Which is a sure recipe to whip up a brew of depression and rage.

My new therapist was happy to learn I practiced Body Scans and yoga, and we incorporated a softening body meditation to our sessions. Either at the end of our session or the beginning. And I began to really get a sense of where I was holding myself tightly, or was stiff, even how I was sitting. I am beginning to become familiar with how my feelings are expressing themselves in my body.

And, as my yoga practice deepens, I’m growing to know my body better. What each little knot, weakness, and buldge hold. It’s also taught me I can be strong, flexible, and feel better in my own skin. And it makes me happy, proud of myself, and feel more in control. A sure-fire method to improve my mood and work through anger.

While every other medical tradition from the Romans’ “healthy mind in healthy body” to India’s Ayurvedic medicine recognizes the link between mental and physical health. We in the West see this as an epiphany. At least I did. As do the tons of wellness articles I keep stumbling upon.

But is it really surprising that you’ll feel better mentally if you feel better physically? Or vice versa?

As for me, my therapist helped me see that feeling in my stomach and name it Shame. A shame so crippling that my posture was slouched, my limbs were weak. My ass got, um, assier every moment I sat locked in frozen fear of doing anything because I was sure it would be wrong. So getting my back and core stronger, and opening my chest and shoulders more has become foundational. And I do see and feel the difference in my posture. I’ve both worked on and learned more, but I’ll leave that for another post.

I am beginning, every so gently, to learn to open up in that space where I feel the Shame that cripples me. That locks me in place. That makes me feel stuck, powerless, and pathetic. And that drives my anger. It takes patient, loving practice to soften the pain parts and strengthen the healthy me parts. To learn how to let go of the fear that holds me bound. To trust in myself enough to make a choice to do a thing, and then do it, even for a half an hour yoga session. It gave me some confidence.

I’m not prescribing yoga in particular. Any type of movement makes you aware of your body. Strengthens, unknits, and loosens. I do recommend Body Scans, though. You simply breathe as you notice each part of your body, and what you feel there. This is enough to help let go. And a useful tool for stressful moments.

There are tons of Body Scan meditations on Spotify and YouTube. I recommend trying a few. This guy’s voice sounds like Alan Rickman, and somehow that’s incredibly soothing. But find the one you like. Quiet your mind. Listen to your body. It holds your story, and your future. Hopefully a future without Newman!

*Author’s note: Yoga, exercise, and meditation won’t prevent tumors, or heal them. Maybe figurative ones. But, you know, balance. A little Western Medicine and some ancient wisdom.πŸ˜‰

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌ

While you’re here: check out the wonderful work done by NAMI: The National Alliance on Mental Illness. Use their resources to find free help or donate.

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Gaslighting & Beating a Dead Parrot

One “something completely different,” please.

Monty Python’s Parrot Sketch is a master class in Gaslighting. And as absurd.

Let’s pretend we’ve all lived under Commie rocks in North Korea our entire lives, and look at this famous comedy sketch afresh. See what it can teach us about Gaslighting. Shall we?

If Gaslighting is driving/convincing another person they are insane or cannot trust their own senses, thoughts and feels, then the Shop Keeper (Michael Palin) is the Gaslighter. And the Customer (John Cleese) is the Gaslightee.

Cleese returns to a pet store where he recently purchased a less than alive parrot. Cleese confronts Palin, who is sneaking a smoke behind the register and pretending to close. Cleese stops him, and explains his dead parrot issue. Palin’s Shop Keeper drives Cleese from polite customer to a ranting, shouting maniac, banging the parrot on the counter. All by simply denying that the parrot is, in spite of all proof, dead. A frustrated Cleese leaves after being offered a slug, and Palin moves into a song about wanting to be a transvestite lumber jack.

As the John Cleese in this exchange — no matter what you say, no matter how much you beat that dead parrot — you will never be in the right. And the best you’ll ever get out of this argument is the offer of a slug.

Michael Palin does not care that he sold you a dead parrot, he will do and say anything to convince you the parrot is not dead, drive you crazy trying to prove the parrot is dead, and maybe offer you a slug for your troubles. All he cares about is being a transvestite lumber jack. And, to him, you’re the thing stopping him from that dream of cross-dressing lumber jacking. And he feels no pity in making you pay for his dissatisfaction with his life. It’s YOUR fault!

There’s not much we can do about the parrot death-denying shopkeepers of the world. They will continue to sell dead parrots, and will persecute anyone who calls them out on it. It’s not their fault they never got to be a lumberjack. It’s clearly yours. No matter how much you wish them well in pursuing their Canadian dream. You’re the one annoying them with a dead parrot!

As the unfortunate purchasers of a dead parrot, the best we can do is look for that inner Graham Chapman to show up and declare our situation “entirely too silly.” Listen to that voice! He’s right. It is entirely too silly to lose your mind over a dead parrot. Everyone knows it’s shuffled off its mortal coil and joined the choir invisible. That it is an ex-parrot.

Right!

So what can you say to your Shop Keeper? How many times must you beat a dead parrot for someone who does not care whether they sold you a dead parrot to begin with? You don’t. Say nothing. That’s all you can to protect yourself from the crazy-making, Gaslighting Shop Keeper, apart from accepting the slug.

Just remember, it’s not your fault they never became a lumberjack in heels. It’s all too silly to continue. So don’t.

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌπŸ’πŸŽΈ

While you’re here: check out the wonderful work done by NAMI: The National Alliance on Mental Illness. Use their resources to find free help or donate.

Check out my Instagram!! There are pictures of stuff!

Got a COMMENT? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, TAP the Star LIKE button below! LIKE and SHARE on Facebook. Follow and share on Twitter


Trauma Therapy 2 A Narrative of Shame and Loney

Dad and I fishing
Loney fishing with Dad.

“A Shame Narrative,” my therapist called it. I call it “Ermergerd this is impossible I can’t think about it without getting agita and crying. I should probably wash all the baseboards or nap.” Then I stumbled on the picture above, and I realized I had found a safe way to approach my Shame.

Trauma therapy is beyond what I’ve ever experienced in therapy over about twenty years. It’s good I have that basis in self-knowledge, Mindfulness, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. But trauma therapy is the big leagues. It’s definitely scary. And it can be draining.

The two most important parts are an empathetic, well-trained therapist, and my desperate desire to manage the constant nightmares and other paralyzing affects of CPTSD on my life.

I won the Irish Sweepstakes in therapists. She pegged me fast. She asked about where I feel my pain in my body. And used my interest in meditation to develop a regular practice of body scans before, and sometimes later in a session. She took the bare pieces of my story, my responses to the scans and stimulus –such as the Pixar short “Float” πŸ₯°πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ˜ — and came up with Shame.

And she’s right. I’m not sure when it started, but I was very young. Possibly under 4. It’s this drop in the heart, and a burning, twisting sense of being powerless, unlovable, and utterly alone in a pitiless, dark, lonely void where no one cares, and I don’t matter at all in this world.

She said, we can use my story of those feelings to help provide a “Portal” to slowly reach through to my trauma. And then I get to write a Trauma Narrative. Huzzah? But the approach makes so much sense because the feelings around those memories are too raw for me to even go near. Even while they break into my daily life as nightmares, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, or my (over or under) reactions to triggers.

But how to approach my Shame? I’ve always felt that, as long as a person experiences real, unconditional love at some early point — through a grandparent, teacher, mentor, etc — then that person will always hold that feeling. And they will have a chance. I’ve had a lot of mentors and teachers in my life, but the first and best was my Dad.

Dad loved mentoring young people. And he had many “adopted” kids. Mainly my cousins and his former students, ending up the Best Man at many marriages (six times in the case of one unlucky-in-love student who called him Dad). He was both professionally succesful, and never lost that bit of 1st Sargeant he learned in the frozen hell of the Korean war. Dad served in Truman’s Desegrated Army. It equipped him with the ability to work with and inspire others of any type. So long as you didn’t play “grab ass.” He questioned his young acolytes and listened, and questioned some more. He was genuinely interested in the thoughts of people, especially young people.

And he had that same interest in me as a growing human being. Usually we’d be doing an activity. Sky watching, driving around following the local grocery stores’ free samples schedule (Dad could usually old-lady-flirt his way to extra samples), and during art lessons. But the best times were fishing, like in the picture above.

I’ve found my way to get to the Shame by viewing my gnawing doubts, fears, anxieties, and self-loathing from the point of view of the girl my Dad saw. Dad dubbed me “Loney.” (Lone-ee) When I look back at myself as Loney, I have more sympathy and compassion for myself. I see the curious, dark eyed girl he saw and loved. And I can cast that into my future that he never saw nor will.

If I view myself as Loney, it’s a step removed from recording Jessica’s feelings of Shame. It’s my way in through that “Portal” described by my therapist. Slowly, the idea is to increase my understanding of and exposure to the most delicate pieces of myself, my experiences, my Shame. But I feel I can do that if I remember Loney and carry my father’s love for Loney in my heart.

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌ

While you’re here: check out the wonderful work done by the people at The National Alliance on Mental Illness and donate.

Check out my Instagram!! There are pictures of stuff!

Got a COMMENT? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, TAP the Star LIKE button below! LIKE and SHARE on Facebook. Follow and share on Twitter


Digging Out of Despair? Do the Easy Thing.

Jack Torrance took an ax…Then died in the snow. Don’t be like Jack.

Late February in the Northeast: The snow hasn’t time to thaw before the next storm. I’m not even trying to clear it off. I have stacks of forms to fill out, and tax records to organize. There they sit. My yoga and meditation practice were interrupted by rebellions in my sinuses and lungs. My routine is reorganizing around three separate forms of weekly Zoom therapy (Trauma, speech pathology, and vision) and PT. It’s the longest month of the year, despite what the lame-stream calendars say.

So, how not to go full Nicholson? How/where/what to do to dig out? If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or the effects of (C)PTSD dysregulation — or are simply feeling overwhelmed — I’m here to say “Do the Easiest Thing.”

When I’m literally and mentally snowed under a growing mountain of stuff I have to do, stuff that keeps me able to do those things, and the stuff I enjoy doing — it may as well be Everest. Yet it always comes back to me doing The Easiest Thing.

Let me explain. Amongst the blizzard of crap I’ve read over the course of the Pandemic regarding mental and physical health, one suggestion has stuck. Do the Easiest Thing that helps. Look around. Where are you? What can you do with the least effort and/or the least time to lift yourself up? Sounds easy, but it’s taken many a rock bottom fall for me to begin adopting this practice.

Let’s talk about the sorts of Easiest Things I do and don’t mean. Absolute #1 thing not to do? Don’t doom scroll social media. Do not read the comments on an innocuous-looking post about local vaccination sites. Don’t get into a pitched internet or personal argument. That’s not helping. Don’t do it.

That doesn’t mean your phone is off limits. But unless you open that demon device with a clear intention, best to steer clear.

Which leads me to My Easiest Thing. Music. Specifically — πŸ₯πŸ₯πŸ₯ eye rolls ready? — I listen to Morrissey/The Smiths. There’s something about his unfailing pop instincts, mixed with with that voice, and his witty/intelligent/alt-culture outsider lyrics that picks me up. He would never insist I be happy, and he shares his everyday struggles and loves and losses in a voice that always croons, floats, yodels, and growls to me afresh.

Before long, my mind gets caught up, and my body follows. I may start to sing, get up and dance, until I feel well enough to do the next easiest thing: like the dishes! All while bopping about and singing “lalalalala interesting drug!” Heck, I may wipe down the counters. I may even make or at least prep for dinner! Or sweep the disgusting floor!

Suddenly, I find myself singing in the shower. And — while hours may have passed, and I didn’t necessarily get to anything particularly pressing — I wasn’t staring at the wall or a screen. What I did was simply give myself a completely healthy mood boost that made slightly more difficult tasks seem within reach.

To be honest, sometimes that mood boost may only lead to teeth brushing or playing with doggo. But heaven knows I’m not miserable now. And that’s my bigger point about The Easiest Thing.

I can reach over to my phone and put on my handcrafted Mozilicious playlist (Everyday is Like Morrissey on Spotify if you want to follow). Having my Easiest Thing right there on my phone keeps comfort continually by my side.

And that one thing, that playlist, is simply a way to bring me to present, back to at least the steady kick of Sister I’m a Poet. From foot tapping, to standing and moving isn’t too far to go. It’s just a foundation of feeling better that allows me to build up to tasks that require more effort, concentration, or presence.

You can take your own progression at any pace you please. Your easiest thing may be a shower. Or a phone call. Or having a coffee or tea break. I choose music because it only takes opening Spotify and pressing play. It also lasts, and gives my mind and body a little something to groove on.

Of course, I’m writing this because I hit another bottom, and resorted to My Easiest Thing. Hopefully, in a week or so, I may be back to my yoga, cleaning schedule, or that mountain of paperwork, or that Everest of snow (w/an assist from the sun🀞🏽). Maybe eek(!) out another blog.

Then I’ll stumble and fall, because that’s what I do! But I can fall right back into the arms of my favorite music.

What’s your Easiest Thing? How do you keep picking yourself up when you’re snowed under? Leave a comment, let me know. And ya know, maybe pour something out for Spring to hurry along.

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌ

While you’re here: check out the wonderful work done by the people at The National Alliance on Mental Illness and donate.

Check out my Instagram!! There are pictures of stuff!

Got a COMMENT? Click below! I love the feedback. If you like what you’ve read, TAP the Star LIKE button below! LIKE and SHARE on Facebook. Follow and share on Twitter


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