The unexplained emotional strike of PTSD resembles a lightning strike in an otherwise positive perspective and lifestyle. One of the things I learned in therapy was that PTSD likes to spike its head when you least suspect it. When everything is safe, life is happy and we find ourselves in a good place. Some of us awaken or find ourselves reliving some traumatic experience that could have happened over 20 years ago. Some of us have unexplained anxiety, depression, or some other combination of uncomfortable feelings.
In the past 10 years I have made an effort to do Yoga everyday partly because I want to start my day off in a good space. In my practice there have been many occasions in which I arrive to my mat in tears. Most of these times it is obviously PTSD. When there is nothing to cry about because life is getting better and we find ourselves in safe space we are confused by these horrific feelings. They can overwhelm us and push us to find a reason for their emergence. Some of us might get lost in the emotion, some of us enjoy the attention it gives us, some of us are comfortable there – in a way. I have had many experiences in these unexplained emotions and reacted in a variety of ways. I have tried to blame someone else for these overwhelming emotions or blame myself for eating the sugar the day before. We can turn the knife inside ourselves like no other can. But if we listen to those emotions and dig really deep we can find their roots. There will be some hints like a dream, memory flash, or present reminder and/or trigger.
When I get deep into the roots of my emotions I have discovered that many of them are injured. Some of them have simple bruises and cuts but some of these roots have been twisted, burned, and torn in ways that make it unrecognizable. This is often where the psychiatrist will prescribe a pill. A pill to make me happy because of the so called “Irrepairable” damage caused by my traumatic experience as a child. The horrors that are just memories that creep up arrive in my heart just when I am ready and when they do I am prepared with a daily practice of prayer and yoga. I relive those moments on the mat. I feel the beatings for not cleaning the floor the way she wanted it. I feel her words cut through my soul like knives. I feel how she hurt me. I feel the damage. I see how I have always believed I am bad. I remember the dark place I lived in for too long. I remember and the emotions get so overwhelming I want to lash back at her. How dare she reck me so completely? There is story after story about the neglect and abuse I endured in my first 17 years of life. There is diagnosis after diagnosis that tries to label me as “broken”. Not only did my mother regularly reinforce how bad I was but also every doctor I ever told my story easily labeled me with a diagnosis that required medication for the rest of my life.
The violence that swells inside me at the pain in my heart only wants to protect it from happening again. I know that an eye for eye only makes us both blind and in that I take another perspective. I understand her fear, she was a single mother with two boys in jail, a young confused girl at home and a baby on the way. She wanted so badly to discipline my brothers but instead she made sure I didn’t get out of control. I understand the abuse she also endured as a child. I recognize that it was likely that her mother was likely abused by her mother. Generations past in my bloodline were neglected and abused children with controlling manipulative mothers. As I arrived into motherhood I arrived as a rebel in an effort not to carry on the same behaviors. I recognize my mother also tried this and was more accomplished in it as she raised my little sister. Each generation has gotten a little better. Each one of us finding tools in our lives to help us heal.
There on my mat in the emptiness that was my childhood I recognize the importance of my journey. As I allow the child to completely arrive instead of running away or flailing in an effort to protect myself I instead just allow the child to cry. To feel the emotions I once stuffed deep inside in an effort to hide my vulnerability. When someone is being physically beaten at some point, without thinking, will put their hands up to block some of the blows. This same things happens with our emotions, we stuff it inside until there is a better time to experience it, because experiencing it in that moment could bring on further abuse. So I held the child that cries outloud at the abuse and rejection inflicted by my mother, her mother, and all those that came before. I feel it. I cry. I hug myself. Never dismissing emotional and/or mental abuse as less than other forms of abuse. All abuse does its damage.
At my delight this usually only lasts a few minutes, sometimes as long as 5 minutes. Some of the memories last longer than others. Sometimes realizing a lifelong struggle had roots in that memory can bring on more tears. Then as I sink deep into child’s pose I feel my heart melt to the earth and I feel her wisdom reach up to mine. As my head clears I come into the now. The only moment that exists. In this now I am no longer a victim. There is no longer a need to be a victim. I have overcome those traumas and I am ready for healing. I move myself into poses in which bring my head to hang upside down. In these hanging poses I am reminded just how helpful this position can be and how important it is to pay attention to how we hold our bodies. Suddenly I am back into my regular yoga practice.
Once again a trust in yoga to comfort me in my time of need has lead me to overcome yet another memory. The loneliness and abuse I endured as a child has driven me to be the best mother I could be at age 17 and now it drives me to find my own personal healing. My personal healing has lead me to some amazing places including the realization that I have a choice about my moods. I have a choice about my reaction and response to my emotions. Finding understanding and compassion helps me heal my own victim, helping the child to understand that it was not their fault. It was not because they were so different, so weird, or too fat, too bad, too loud, too sad, too angry or whatever “too much” that I had overwhelmed the world with at that time. I helped the child understand that this was old stuff and that instead of repeating the abuse and ignoring it, we would hold her. We would love her. We would lift her up and tell her that all those traumas from the past are over and today we are safe. Today that child can feel it, forgive the perpetrator, and heal those roots.
As I continue in my practice I can feel those roots untwist and as miraculous as the healing in my heart happens in just that hour the roots burns and cuts are sealed over. Although there is some scar tissue there I am healed and someday that scar tissue will be less and less. What a short time those 17 years were compared to the rest of my life. Today I have found personal healing and begin to build a divinely lead life of gratitude, joyfulness, and peace. My tools are many and the gratitude that flows toward myself for bringing the child to the mat is like a hug from the nurturing person I am today. I am no longer ruled by my past instead I am inspired by my future.