Archive for the ‘Yoga’ Category


Don’t Let Anyone Tell You That PTSD is Permanent

Posted on:

matphotoviatka

I hear from a lot of clients and friends that they have been told by their therapists that they have to learn to live with PTSD.  “Walk beside it like a friend” is how one therapist put it.

 PTSD is not your friend.  You do not want its companionship for life.

 In the yogic model of the human being, there are multiple layers. We have a physical body, an energetic body made of prana or qi/ki, two layers of mind: one cognitive and one intuitive and a bliss body.  We cannot hope to heal PTSD unless we understand this important concept:

 All layers of our being are wounded by the injuries and abuse that result in PTSD.  PTSD is the manifestation of those wounds.

 In the Western model of medicine we treat only two of the five layers.  We treat the body and we treat the cognitive mind.  In other words we address less than half of the system that has been injured.  In many cases we don’t even treat both.

 Usually people with mental disorders are remanded to some variety of psychiatric care with little attention paid to the rest of the body.  Or the reverse. If the person expresses symptoms mostly through the body, it can take years for a physician to ask simple questions about a history of trauma. 

 Most therapists and counselors pay little to no attention to anything but the latest “evidence-based” treatment, even though “evidence-based” most often means showing an effect for only 3-6 months.  Mental health treatment has become highly politicized and regulated, and essentially a casualty of the free market capitalist system here in the USA. 

 But I digress.

 As a therapist and a survivor, I am here to tell you that  you can heal fully from PTSD. In order to do this you will have to assemble your own treatment team and techniques to heal each of the layers of your being that were injured by trauma. That is essentially the thesis of my book, The Trauma Tool Kit: Healing PTSD From the Inside Out.

 Please don’t give up.  There is an end to suffering.  The “peace that passeth all understanding” is real.  It may take a while, years perhaps, but life these days is long. Keep going. You can heal fully from PTSD. 




Trauma and Psychic Ability

Posted on:

This past week I presented workshops at the European Society for Trauma and Dissociation in Copenhagen, Denmark. Twice during the conference highly regarded researchers and treaters of trauma, psychologist Andrew Moskowitz and the parapsychologist Etzel Cardena wondered about the connection of PTSD and psychic experiences. In The Trauma Tool Kit (Quest, 2012) I have also noted the preponderance of unusual experiences that those with trauma report. The questions that came up was why. Why do people with high levels of trauma tend to report experiences in nonordinary reality?
Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

1) Extraordinary Empathy. A person subjected to much trauma, especially growing up can develop certain survival skills. One of the skills of surviving an abusive home is to be able to anticipate caregiver’s moods and “manipulate” one’s caregivers into doing their job i.e. not being abusive but helping the child to grow and thrive. The child in this case has to develop preternatural attunement to the caregiver. Out of necessity the child may begin to develop telepathic capacity, exquisite sensitivity to mirror neurons in the brain and a sensitivity to electromagnetic energies emanating from the person.

2) Natural Psychic Giftedness is Aligned with Intergenerational Trauma. Many of the most sensitive and psychic cultures in the world are indigenous. Conquering cultures have gone out of their way to disable the extraordinary abilities of those cultures. Examples include the witch trials of the Inquisition, the British cutting off the fingers of Marma practitioners in India, etc. These conquered cultures store a great deal of intergenerational trauma that may predispose them to perpetuating the trauma through intergenerational abuse. We have seen examples of this repetition in Irish, Native American and African American families. In other words, the indigenous cultures already had these gifts and also manifest traumas recapitulating the original traumas of domination and assimilation so that the relationship is not causal but related to colonization.

3) Chakra Disruption. Shamanic healer Barbara Brennan has written extensively about the human energy body, which she can see clearly. She has noted that certain kinds of abuse, such as sexual abuse, can “tear” open the chakras of the body. This artificial opening then allows the energy body to be more permeable than someone who has not had chakric damage, leading to many kinds of phenomena in nonordinary reality.

4) Dissociation is a Condition of Psychism. All manner of psychic practitioners and shamanic healers need to learn to “unground” their consciousness in order to access information from other realms than the physical. If one has had early training in this from necessity caused by trauma, then one is already well on the way to developing these abilities by definition. This may be the reason that so many shamanic initiations include controlled traumas to open up the mind and supersensory perceptions (teen circumcision, fear trials such as being buried in the earth for several days, scarification, hallucinatory drugs and experiences, etc.)

5) Survival Techniques Facilitate Psychic Ability. Increasingly, trauma survivors are turning to techniques such as meditation, work with spiritual teachers and shamans to heal from extreme traumas. In India it is well known that intense yoga and meditation practices lead to the unfolding of psychic and occult abilities. When trauma survivors pursue these practices for healing, they naturally unlock thoses abilities, too.

It is good to see some of these avenues of thought being pursued in realms of academia and psychology. These pursuits are still fairly controversial in certain states and countries, but overall the public is becoming more friendly to these ideas. My next book Connected: How Reclaiming Your Indigenous Ancestry Can Heal You, Your Community and the World will be exploring these ideas in more depth. It is my strong belief that additional connection and perception may be the qualities needed by modern humanity to change the paradigm on planet Earth, heal the world’s traumas and brighten the future for us all.







24 Hours With PTSD

Posted on:

 I wrote this post so that those without PTSD can begin to understand and so that those with PTSD know that someone else has been there before.  I do not have PTSD any longer. WARNING: MAY BE TRIGGERING.

     I wake up groggy, with remnants of a bad night’s sleep still clinging to me. I don’t want to go back to sleep, but I’m not sure I can face the day either. I cannot remember my dreams, but I know they weren’t good. Last night I didn’t yell in a nightmare and disrupt my husband’s badly needed sleep. That, at least is good. I cannot remember the last time sleep felt refreshing. Now it feels like another form of deprivation, another instrument of suffering, another of the myriad losses of PTSD. I wonder if I will ever have a good night’s sleep again.

     My joints and gut ache as they do every day now as I push myself up to sit on the side of my bed. If I don’t move slowly I risk dizziness. Lately my body doesn’t seem to know where it is in space. I have bruises that I don’t remember getting from bumping into doorways, edges of tables and chairs. It’s like having the PMS clumsies all the time. The bruises don’t hurt though. On the contrary, I hardly feel them. It’s the pain inside that absorbs all my attention. I breathe, attempting, without success to ground myself before beginning my day.

     My kids are waiting for breakfast and a ride to school so I need to get a move on. Every day my prayer is the same. Please let me be a good mother. Help me protect them from what I am going through. Give me the strength to do what I need to and I will deal with my PTSD later. It doesn’t always help, and guilt over bad mommy moments is a constant companion these days.
Mornings are particularly bad with PTSD. It is as if someone has gone through my sensory system and turned up all the knobs to high. Light stabs my eyeballs making me squint with pain. Sounds are amplified as if I am in an echo chamber. Internal feelings and emotions can rev to highs and lows with no warning. I keep a very zen environment. The kids know not to talk too loud, bang their plates or scrape their forks. My husband is encouraged to leave the kitchen without cleaning it because the running water sounds like white noise in my head. We keep the lights low. I never know how bad it is going to be and they don’t either. Fortunately, my kids are not morning people either. They move slowly and quietly. I worry that I’ve become too controlling, but the stakes are too high to do anything different.

     I’ve tried to explain what it is like to live in this body now to my very calm, stoic Lutheran raised midwestern husband. If there is a superpower for nerves of steel, he has it. My husband deals with life and death in his cath lab on a daily basis. He works in the space of millimeters for hours on end to open blocked hearts when his patients’ only alternative is life threatening surgery or certain death. He has not experienced PTSD or any mental affliction. His mental health and stability is both an asset and a hazard in our relationship. Sometimes I just need him to lose it on my behalf, to show that he really, really gets it.

     I explain to him that on bad days I feel like I have ground glass running throughout my nervous system with sharp jaggedy edges. I explain how triggers make me want to jump out of my skin and how that jump is always accompanied by intense emotion, either a tornado of disintegrating rage, or fear or both. I explain how I know what some of my triggers are, but that every day, as I work through my healing in therapy, new ones are popping out and that we can both be caught off guard. I want him to understand that the constant flow of adrenaline makes me look alert and energized on the outside but that inside I feel exhausted. Wired and tired is how I put it. The foot is full throttle on the gas pedal, but the car is stuck in neutral. (I look for good manly analogies.) I explain that I need him to not react to my irritation and anger, to not take it personally, that it is only the PTSD rearing its ugly head. He nods his head with understanding, but the next time he does take it personally. And why wouldn’t he? Another source of guilt and rage for me. And a source of fragility for our marriage, a marriage that has always been strong. Is PTSD going to take this away from me too?

     Normally couples can make up with physical intimacy. But even the least little bit of this comfort is now denied me. When the PTSD first hit, even hugging through two layers of flannel pajamas made me nauseous and dizzy. That initial shock has settled into a distant sort of numbness. I hug out of habit, but I can’t really feel it. I can’t feel my connection to myself or to him. The only connection that is safe for me is the kids. Thank goodness I can still feel my love for them. I realize that it is possible that my husband has become a trigger. But I’m not sure. Is it him? Or is it the trigger? Is our marriage viable? I have no idea, and I have to live with that uncertainty for months, and so does he. I decide not to decide until I have progressed in my healing.

     After everyone leaves for the day, I face hours alone, just me and my PTSD. I am both relieved and terrified. Some days are better than others. Some days I have therapy with the shaman therapist. He is helpful and powerful, and there is no state he cannot bring me out of. I am very, very lucky to have him as a resource. Still, there are many hours to fill.

     With PTSD I am never really happy. I miss simple happiness. I miss joy. I take my dogs on a walk and watch them run with abandon, big wild dog joy grins on their faces. On a good day, my insides feel like a grey, shadowless Portland winter day, flat and featureless. On a bad day, a howling storm is raging that threatens to obliterate me. Unless I am in the bleakest place I will myself to do my job as mother and housemaker: cook something, clean something, pay something. Self-care and hygiene is no longer a natural act, but something that must be chosen and willed every day. When I am in the darkest states, I curl up for hours on the sofa waiting for my next therapy appointment.

     Fortunately, I did not just fall off the turnip truck. I have had a lot of training and life experience. I can meditate. I can do breathing exercises. I can walk (until I have a very bad skiing accident, but that is another story). I know by virtue of my age and therapy that this too shall pass, that there is no way I can stay in this state forever, that I am working actively on my healing. Sometimes this helps, and sometimes it really doesn’t.

     PTSD taunts me with loneliness. If I had cancer, or some other major medical illness, if I were a victim of a current crime or in a car accident or had something visibly wrong with me, people would know. People would sympathize, maybe bring over a casserole, send a card, check in with me or take me to lunch. But nobody knows. I cannot talk about my disability because to talk about it makes me feel much, much worse. Talking about it makes my head spin and my stomach want to retch. Even if I could stand to see the look on people’s face when I tried to talk about my condition, most of them, like my good husband, would not really understand. They might nod their heads politely and say that time heals all wounds, or that I should be grateful for what I have now. I might have to kill them for that. Or myself. So I remain silent and withdraw unnoticed. I go to school events, put on a brave face and then crawl into bed exhausted.

     If I am lucky I make it through the day without any major triggers. But it feels like walking daily through a mine field. At the end of the day I lose myself briefly in spending time with my happy amazing kids. I manage to stay focused on them and their needs until their bedtime. But then I am used up and collapse on the sofa exhausted. I have nothing left for my spouse. I try to look back over my day and find one thing to feel good about. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I just want to hurt myself. I watch these moods come and go with the experienced eye of a therapist and meditator. It doesn’t mean it’s easy though.

    I have no idea how people make it through without the level of support that I have, and then I realize that many of them don’t make it.

     Bedtime comes, and with it, intense dread. I used to love bedtime. I couldn’t wait to snuggle down into flannel sheets, cozy up to my hubbie and drift off feeling our warm connection. Now we sleep on the edges of the bed. I tell him I love him, but please don’t touch me. Trained doctor that he is, he falls asleep instantly. I am left with the final battle of the day.

     Sometimes I can fall asleep easily sometimes I can’t. But I never stay asleep. Every 90 minutes like clockwork, my mind and body pop out of sleep. It is exhausting. REM sleep is where our bodies process intense emotion and memories. I think about how waking people up before REM sleep is a torture that can result in psychosis. As I slip into the dream state the nightmares come. They are bad. Sometimes they are screaming and striking out in my sleep bad. But more often I wake up before I can even have them, a new conditioned response that is out of my control. I meditate. I do yoga to relax and start over. I read. Sometimes these things help and sometimes they do not.

     I don’t know if tomorrow will be any better, but I hope it will. And when I can’t hope I endure.




Street Yoga: One of my Favorite Organizations!

Posted on:

I found Street Yoga when I was writing The Trauma Tool Kit. They are an amazing group of people working hard to bring yoga and mindfulness to at-risk youth in need. If you are inspired please click on this link.

[vsw id=”NE_7KmZJwPI” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]




INSOMNIA!

Posted on:

Insomnia and PTSD go together like a mosquito bite and itching but with far worse results. Insomnia is not only a consequence of traumatic events but, left untreated, can result in such chronic medical conditions as mood disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, and even fibromyalgia, a painful condition affecting joints and tissues throughout the body.

There are roughly 4 types of insomnia:

1) Early awakening
2) Inability to fall asleep
3) Repetitive waking throughout the sleep cycle (usually every 90 min)
4) Unsatisfactory sleep

There can be other physical or disease processes that interfere with sleep so the first step with insomnia is to get a medical exam to determine if there are any conditions, such as sleep apnea (poor breathing during sleep) that are resulting in awakening or unsatisfactory sleep (waking up tired).

With PTSD the two most common types of sleep disorder I’ve seen are the inability to fall asleep or waking approximately every 90 minutes. These are so common that if I have a patient walk in with those symptoms there is a high likelihood that they have suffered past traumatic events.

Why?

The answer is simple. REM (rapid eye movement) sleep occurs approximately every 90 minutes. In this stage of sleep the brain processes memories and emotions. That is what the brain is hardwired to do and why people normally wake up feeling refreshed.

But if the memories are too scary and overwhelming or if the conscious mind is not ready to assimilate the information a person will shut down the REM process by popping prematurely out of sleep. Similarly with sleep inhibition or the inability to fall asleep, the mind is unconsciously resisting the process of assimilation or digestion of overwhelming experiences.

For these reasons, sleep can start to feel like a very overwhelming experience and can snowball into its own traumatic situation. Insomnia breeds its own special kind of anxiety. A secondary trauma develops: the fear of not being able to sleep.

What to do?

Here are three steps to getting back to a restful night even while healing from trauma:

1) Unwind the fear about falling asleep. If you are awake use your time productively. Do some yoga postures and relaxation exercises. Or read something that is “good for you” like history, medical information or a religious text. The mind wants to shut down out of boredom after a while, just like in school. Do not read Stephen King or the latest murder mystery! Tell yourself that you will not be awake forever and allow yourself to be awake if you need to be. You can always nap tomorrow. The more anxious you are about being anxious the less chance sleep will come.

2) Develop excellent sleep hygiene. Sleep in a dark room without computers, tv’s etc. Turn off bright lights at least 2 hours before bed (yes that includes all media screens). Abstain from caffeine and sugar for 6 hours before bed. Develop a routine. Etc.

3) Most important: Start addressing your traumas! Your unconscious mind wants you to heal and will keep throwing up traumatic dreams and memories until you get the point and deal with them. Seriously. The best cure for insomnia is curing your PTSD. Find a great counselor or program and get to work! 

The alternatives to not addressing insomnia are unbearable. Pills only work for so long. If you resolve the underlying issues be they physical or psychological you will be well on your road to healing and back to the land of Bedfordshire in no time.

Sweet dreams.







KBOO Interview on Recovery Zone

Posted on:

I was fortunate to have Stephanie Potter of KBOO’s show Recovery Zone, in Portland, Oregon interview me yesterday about healing from stress and PTSD. The show is 30 minutes long and features three different callers with excellent questions. I had a blast doing it and am thankful for a chance to help people go deeper in their healing process. Click here, for a link to the downloadable interview.




THURSDAY: Come join me for a *FREE* Manhattan event!

Posted on:

This coming Thursday night I will be giving a workshop and book reading/signing at Quest Bookshop in mid-town Manhattan. We will be exploring yogic healing from traumatic stress. Expect to laugh, explore, engage and add more tools to your healing tool kit! You can find more information if you click here.




The Trauma Tool Kit Has Arrived! *GIVEAWAY*

Posted on:

Hi all,

I’m happy to tell you that The Trauma Toolkit: Healing PTSD From the Inside Out is now in bookstores across the United States and is shipping from online booksellers. I had the privilege of finally holding my own copy this week. In celebration I am giving away three copies to the first three readers who link to this blog and comment below. Please be sure to send me your address privately if you see your name in the first three comments! Here’s to healing from traumatic stress! Blessings, Sue







Yoga in Chaos with Bibi McGill

Posted on:

[vsw id=”NF2I_qsfik4″ source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]

Bibi McGill, musical director for Beyonce, volunteers with the Portland based organization, Street Yoga, a group that brings yogic practice to traumatized and disenfranchised youth. Yoga is one of the best practices for overcoming PTSD and anxiety. Watch and be inspired as Bibi brings beauty, breath, and being into chaos!




Mind fitness routines fight combat stress – Marine Corps News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq – Marine Corps Times

Posted on:

Mind fitness routines fight combat stress – Marine Corps News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq – Marine Corps Times

Yes! This is exactly what I do in my psychotherapy practice. The first step to managing and overcoming PTSD is to strengthen the mind. The mind is like a horse, you can master it and have it go in the direction you want it to, or it can run away with you. Mindfulness, relaxation exercises, focusing, and meditation are invaluable skills that anyone can learn. And like any skill, it takes regular practice! 5-10 minutes a day is a good place to start.




POLL UP!

Posted on:

Hi Friends,

I’ve just put up this poll about ways people handle extreme stress or PTSD.  When you are triggered, where do you go for relief? What’s most reliable for you?  You can check more than one answer.  If your favorite treatment is not on the list, please share it for others in the comments section below!  I look forward to seeing your responses! 

Love and Blessings, Sue




© Lotus Heart Counseling, LLC • 530 NW 23rd Avenue, Suite 109 • Portland, OR  97210 • (503) 869-0314 • moc.t1544467274tinab1544467274esaep1544467274eus@o1544467274fni1544467274

To Top