Here we are! The first workday in the new year! I had an incredibly deep and relaxing weekend with just a few hiccups.
Today is the first day of prepping to leave. I am still very excited and still a little scared, but it isn’t about the ride, it is about the changes. Having and holding trauma in the body probably explains the fear the most for me. Some may be able to relate to it and for some it’s just hard to explain if you don’t experience it.
We all have different variations of trauma and of how we were raised and for some, if you are sensitive souls, it can be challenging to be in a body when the main theme is a Complex PTSD flashback when things begin to change. It’s mainly about feeling unsafe.
It is a little hairy for me, but that is why I am doing this.
I have the car packed up with most of what I need for the drive already so that is going well. I recorded some videos to be added into my YouTube channel in the next couple of days. I feel good about what I have so far and it’s good I’m not full time on the road, because I am not set up for that yet. No worries… well maybe a little.
Anyway, in the videos, I showed that I have some tools that I have been using to help with the body healing of trauma and I am finding out more and more about different types of work people are doing in relation to helping people in healing trauma. This is the part that I don’t obviously know what direction it is going to go in, but here is just the beginning of this portion for me.
I love that I get to do this work on myself, and I know for sure that just talking about my issues in my life and trying to fix whatever I thought was wrong with me and my mind is not the direction I need to go in anymore. I have done that work and while I am fully aware now that I have felt like a victim and have plenty of awareness in most matters related to the mind, I still find that I run into these body reactions. From the trauma, being fearful and not feeling safe are not just thoughts that I am aware of anymore. It now moves into the body… again.
At this point, I can witness and observe what is going on, but there are moments where my body takes over during a stress response, even if it isn’t a huge one.
Years ago, is when I moved into learning to understand the body and how the body-mind work together. I didn’t know it at the time though.
Interestingly, I started the body part of the journey when I went to nursing school. I did not finish and that is ok. Apparently, I was not meant to. When my stint with nursing school ended, by the way of a body response to trauma, I knew I wanted to look at the human body in a different way.
That was when I started going to school for massage therapy. It changed my life.
So going back, I want to share what happened to change the direction of my life.
I was going through the height of the situation with my children. I was seeing a therapist and I was in the military doing funerals. I don’t remember the timing, but somewhere in there my father also died and that was another traumatic event on top of everything going on. They call it stacking and at this point, it wasn’t just stacking over many years, it was stacking by days and weeks.
Back to nursing school.
All of this was going on and then one day and many days of memorizing the formula to give medication, two years’ worth while I was in school, the “fateful” day happened, and my body took over.
Looking back, I feel like I was in a full out anxiety attack, but I couldn’t recognize what was going on back then. All I knew was my clinical supervisor just asked me what the formula was. Easy, right… uh no. I froze. My heart rate started to go up, I was sweating, I wanted to run and… I forgot the formula. I could not get the words out of my mouth. I was staring out into space, and I could feel eyes drilling into me. They weren’t angry, they were empathetic, thankfully. She was a genuinely caring nurse that I had that day.
As a side note, I had worked with quite a few nurses that were burned out and not very kind, but on this day, I had her as my supervisor.
Ok, back to the story. She looked at me and said, “Why don’t we go to the nurses lounge and talk?” I knew what was coming but I wasn’t sure how. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. I was scared because I had no idea what I was going to do next and yes, I was already thinking about that.
She brought me into the nurse’s lounge and asked me to sit down. I tried, but all I wanted to do was run (that is the flight part of the stress response). She asked me what happened out there, and I couldn’t tell her. No one knew at that time of everything I was going through, I kept it to myself. I had only shared with one or two close friends, and I was apparently at my wit’s end in keeping it all inside.
I told her I didn’t know. She then said to me, “Well you’re going to have to make a decision then. Do you want to stay in school or not?”
I froze again. I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t breathe, my whole life was flashing before my eyes. I had worked so hard to get here and endured a lot in the process at all levels and I just didn’t know what to do.
She saw that I was having a hard time and told me to just sit back and breathe, that an answer would come. I sat back and tried to settle myself, especially my body. I was shaking all over and didn’t know what was going on.
Finally, I was able to come back to myself, just long enough after seeing my life flash before my eyes. I wanted to cry so badly but became numb in that moment, which is another symptom of the stress response, especially, for me in front of people I really didn’t know well.
After what seemed like an hour of this, which was only about 5 minutes, I said I wanted to stop school. The thoughts in my head after saying that knew that I couldn’t take it anymore and I needed to do something that fit me more. What that was, I didn’t have a clue.
What I did know was that I didn’t like doling out medication to patients and I did know at that point that the human body was capable of healing itself, in most cases. Of course, intervention is needed in emergency situations which I would find that out later the hard way with a motorcycle accident, but that’s another story. Outside of that, I knew nothing about it or what I was about to do.
I packed up my things, thanked the nurse and walked out of the hospital and my life of nursing for the last time. I was really shaken up. As I was driving home, I was crying so hard, I thought my insides would fall out. That might have been a good thing.
“What am I supposed to do? I spent all this time here and I just wanted to finish. That’s all!” I just wanted to finish something in my life so my family wouldn’t think I gave up… again. That’s all they knew about me and this made it worse.
More tears, more yelling and more breathing. I remembered her telling me that and that is what I did. My body began to calm down and after about 10 miles or so of this, something shifted. I started to “hear” something being told to me to look into a massage therapy school. At the time, I had not really understood what this was as I do now. I call them “downloads.”
By the time I got home, I was ready to jump on the computer and start researching some schools and picked one on the border of downtown Pittsburgh.
This situation and that moment of deciding and choosing, changed the direction of my life.
Back to present day. I touched on how I was just learning at the time about how the body works holistically. I know now after seeing many therapists, psychiatrists, and coaches that the mind isn’t the only explanation of our fears and reactions. Especially for sensitive beings who have been traumatized. Not everyone experiences this in the same way.
And not everyone knows how to support someone who has gone through this.
I have to say that going through this process continues to be a struggle. Doing the exercises has caused me to feel nauseous. Witnessing, seeing, observing going through a present moment situation where logically it is obvious now that I will get through it, doesn’t change the fact that my physiology takes over and still throws me into fight, flight, flee or freeze. All of the symptoms of a stress response come up and my logical brain wants to make sense of it. That doesn’t happen.
The physiological responses of PTSD and Complex PTSD are in the Autonomic Nervous System which is in charge, just like it controls our breathing and heartbeat, it also controls the stress response.
Here is a quick look into what happens. This system has two components, the Sympathetic Nervous System, which triggers the fight or flight response so the body can respond to perceived dangers, which is similar to the gas pedal in a car. The Parasympathetic Nervous System is like the brake and runs the resting and digesting of the body after danger has passed.
PTSD causes the sustained hyperactivity of the autonomic sympathetic branch of the ANS which is shown in the heart rate and blood pressure going up, skin conductance and other psychophysiological measures the body uses to “protect” itself. Again, I say… it does this to protect us from imminent danger such as a tiger chasing us. *This information is used from NCBI and Harvard Health.*
For a lot of us it is in stuck mode and research shows that the amygdala in the brain on traumatized people at this level is enlarged and keeps us in hyper-vigilance as if we are waiting for the next danger. Life isn’t about “waiting for the next danger.” It is about living, loving, enjoying and some just need the assistance in figuring that out and working through it in the body.
If this is going on for you or someone you know, as it does for a lot of us, then please continue to follow me on The Ride of My Life to see how I work and heal through this.
The understanding of this is very important in the society we live in, especially now where so many of us are being stacked with all types of different traumas.
I hope you have gotten something you can use from this. Reach out to me if you have any questions.