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We are not our PTSD

but we have been shaped by it. Case in point: Dead Girl.

That’s what I call this photo, my high school graduation picture. To my mind, there is no joy or aliveness in my face. There is image–who I was supposed to be. A mask. Was I happy to graduate? Sad? Full of pride?  Fear?  Truth is, I didn’t know how I felt, and no one else did either. Locked up, shut up, frightened, and in retreat, I’m holding my breath. If I move too quickly or spontaneously, I’ll break. There are many reasons for this, including what our society told girls about who they could be. But largely, I’m frozen due to unacknowledged PTSD, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, from infant surgery.

Next is my college graduation photo about twenty years later after a breakdown; a year living in a rehabilitation community; two years of a botched therapy relationship; four years working in therapy with a psychologist I loved; two years in couples’ counseling; a decade of living with my beloved partner Griffin; and twenty years of writing, drawing, and painting.

Ten years after my college graduation, I learned the words for what I had: PTSD. Because I can now identify my symptoms, I know that the fear, nightmares, startle responses, excessive cautiousness, frozen breath, rigid body, and panic attacks that I still cope with are not me; they are a result of PTSD. And I can transform them.

In fact, somatic and neural repatterning is happening as I write. I am literally making new connections all the time so that each day, my experience of life gets better and better. Yesterday, I floated anxiety-free on a lake under the blue bowl of sky. It was as if the sky were water and the white wisps of clouds waves radiating out from a center. When I found myself worrying about my wallet left behind in the canoe, I reassured myself, All is well. When I became concerned about my safety, constantly checking my surroundings, I told myself, You are safe. I was floating in harmony and trust with the world and the universe. I am not my PTSD. I am Alive Girl.

Off to the Healing Art of Writing Workshop!

I’m off to The Healing Art of Writing Workshop at Dominican University in San Rafael, California, a city in Marin County just north of San Francisco. I am hoping to make some strong connections with other writers and healers, affirm my dedication to writing, revel in the company of writers and artists who are devoted to… Continue Reading

The Divine Self: Believing What Is

When I graduated from college, my cousin sent me a doll in the mail. Without knowing why, I immediately took the scissors and magic markers to it. I snipped off the white yarn hair and drew a recored of my abuses onto its body. My eyes are black tear drops, my jaw is aflame from… Continue Reading

On my Head

Here are two drawings I made when I was coping with Post-traumatic stress in the mid 1970s. I chose them because they convey some of what I’m feeling these days. Lying in bed at night, awaiting sleep, I am discovering an old breath pattern in which I hold my head and face rigid, especially my jaw.… Continue Reading

A Ceremony: Healing from Post-traumatic Stress

For those of us who’ve had a major trauma as babies and still suffer from post-traumatic stress (PTS) as adults, a ceremony may be in order–a ritual of some sort for the self that says, I am safe now and can live my body without fear. My body is a place of comfort. Each morning,… Continue Reading

Fear Brain / Flower Brain

I was raised on fear: fear of falling, fear of drowning, fear of being snatched by a stranger luring me with candy. Fear of my father’s anger, fear of my mother’s rejection, fear of failing in school, fear of humiliation from classmates. Fear, fear, fear. Fear of being me–if I’m me, I won’t be loved;… Continue Reading