Archive for October, 2010

A reader named Jen sent me a wonderful letter to her body that she has given me permission to share with you. Last week was particularly grueling for me, and I was not kind to my body during that time. I need to follow Jen’s example and seek forgiveness from my body for the ways that I tend to take out my emotional pain on my body. I also need to forgive my body for acting and reacting in the ways that it was designed to do.

Dear Body,

I am sorry for not listening to you, and I am sorry for hurting you when you needed me most. I let you down, because I thought you had let me down.

But really you were just doing what you have been programmed to do. It was not your fault, like it wasn’t my fault.

They tortured you, and they made my mind split from you leaving you to endure it alone. So I am sorry for being absent from you for so very long.

Today I forgive you, and I will allow you to feel your memories and I will hold them and I will accept them, and I will not cover them up by harming you.

Maybe you can forgive me too, for never listening to you, for putting you in that situation, for not being able to get away, and for hating you for so long.

My mind left when you could not. You had to endure the things that were done to you, and for that I am sorry. ~ Jen

Throughout my years of healing, I have learned that I actually have a relationship with my body, and I have not always been kind. In many ways, I have been my own body’s abuser, from banging its head into pillows to overstuffing it with food that it did not need. I have hated my body for having orgasms during sex, and I have hated my body for not having orgasms during sex. I have taken a lot of my anger out on my body even though my body did nothing to deserve it.

In fact, I have a pretty amazing body. I am in my forties and have a body that feels like it is in its twenties. My body looks younger than it is. It can endure 45 minutes on the elliptical machine followed by 20 minutes of weight training. My body can walk three or four miles without trouble. My body is quite resilient and able to adjust to the feasts and famines that I have put it through over the years.

Through therapy, I learned that I need to treat my body as my child. Why do I permit my body to live on junk food while insisting that my son’s body be fueled with healthy foods? I vacillate between caring for my body and abusing it, but my body continues to serve me well. I have spent 2010 trying to make caring for my body a priority, and I am making progress. Part of this progress has come from forgiving my body for the abuse it endured, even though I recognize that there truly is nothing to forgive.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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In my blog entry yesterday, I highlighted Sabrina Mesko’s book, Healing Mudras: Yoga for Your Hands. The book contains basic information about alternative healing methods in addition to healing mudras. I was fascinated by a section on healing colors. The colors apparently align with the colors of the Chakras, which I admit that I know very little about. Nevertheless, I have noticed that I am sometimes drawn to one color more than another for different situations, and this could explain why.

For example, I prefer to wear red if I need to be bold, such as at a job interview or when I am walking into a confrontational situation. According to this book, the color red positively affects a person’s vitality, grounds you, and connects you to the earth. I probably need to feel grounded when walking into a confrontational situation due to my tendency to dissociate, so it makes sense that I would be drawn to the color red.

Here are the descriptions of each color from page 25 of the book:

Color Description
Red Vitality; grounding; connection to the earth
Orange Empower sexuality, creativity, and relationships
Green Heal your heart and feel loved
Blue Calming; helps you see and speak the truth
Indigo Enhance intuition and sixth sense
Violet Centering and calming; help connect with universal healing powers
Black Help communicate as a leader
White Feel cleansed and pure; help clear negative feelings and depression

According to the book, you can visualize these colors to help achieve the different goals, or you can wear those colors to help. You can even surround yourself with a particular color if you want to work on a particular area.

Has anyone ever used healing colors in your healing journey? Was it helpful? I am fascinated with trying to use some of these strategies to help me when I am struggling.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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A friend recently told me about mudras, which is basically yoga for the hands. I had never heard of such a practice, but yoga and meditation are actually filled with mudras, such as the mudra of making a circle with your thumb and index finger when you meditate.

My friend recommended Sabrina Mesko’s book, Healing Mudras: Yoga for Your Hands as a great place to get started. I really like it because it is written in very simple terms that I can follow. If you research mudras online, you will find a bunch of difficult-to-pronounce names that do not necessarily tell you what the mudra does, whereas this book provides pictures and an explanation underneath what you are trying to accomplish (inner integrity, recharging, patience, etc.).

Mudras only involve the hands (and sometimes the arms), and you only need to hold them for three minutes while doing deep breathing exercises (either deep breathing or the “short breath of fire,” depending upon the mudra) to feel the effects. You also need to sit with your back straight, just like with meditation. I have been doing three mudras a day this week and have been pleased with the results so far.

The book that I am using lists the mudras in three categories: soul, body, and mind. I have been trying to do one of each every day to achieve more balance.

My favorite is the one for contentment. I can feel a rush of contentment flowing through me whenever I do it. It is hard to explain, but it is a wonderful way to help bring yourself down when you are triggered, and it is very easy to do. With the right hand (for women; left for men), make a circle with your thumb and middle finger. With your left hand (for women; right for men), make a circle with your thumb and little finger. Hold them a few inches apart near your naval area and take long, slow, deep breaths for three minutes. When you finish, make fists and then relax. It is amazingly relaxing.

This is just one example, but there are numerous mudras included in this book. Here is a sampling: For the soul – happiness, trust, inner integrity, wisdom, guidance, and powerful insight. For the body – preventing stress, overcoming addictions, healing a broken heart, recharging, and eliminating fatigue. For the mind – facing fear, releasing guilt, overcoming anxiety, inner security, calming your mind, removing depression, and unblocking the subconscious mind. There are many more included in the book, but you can get an idea about why I wanted to share this with you based upon the topics I provided in the sampling.

Have any of you ever used mudras? What was your experience?

Photo credit: Amazon.com

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I sometimes have what I believe to be night terrors, although I have read online that PTSD can be misdiagnosed as night terrors, so who knows? Whatever you want to call it, they are scary as #$%&, and that is saying something for a person who has nightmares on a regular basis.

When I have a nightmare, it is awful, but it plays out differently in my head than a night terror (or whatever it is). My understanding about night terrors is that they occur during non-REM sleep, which is what this feels like, but my night terror last night happened right before I woke up, which sounds inconsistent with a night terror diagnosis. Whatever it was, I am going to discuss this topic, and feel free to replace “night terror” with whatever term captures this more-than-a-nightmare nightmare.

I still remember my first one vividly. I was in college, and I had an intense dream that I was driving a car down a dark road and saw a man walking alongside of the road. As I passed him (in flashes, not linearly), he reached in, pulled me out, and raped me. I awakened very shaken, breathing hard, with my heart racing. The quality of the dream was different from any that I had ever experienced before.

I have nightmares so frequently that I have learned how to do “lucid dreaming” where I recognize that I am asleep and have a variety of ways for force myself awake, such as screaming at the top of my lungs, which results in silent screams in the dream but will sometimes cause me to make a noise in my sleep, which causes me to wake up. These tools do not work with night terrors. I once had one that cycled around multiple times. I would be sleeping in my bed and a man in a hooded black robe came in my window after me. I used my tools to wake up, only for the story to repeat itself over and over. I could not awaken – I could only restart the dream so I was stuck in a “loop.” It was terrifying because I truly could not tell if I was awake or asleep.

Last night was Night #6 of nightmares, and I am both physically and emotionally drained. I had this quality of dreams last night again where I could not pull out and could not tell whether I was awake or still sleeping. I would try to will myself awake but could not read the clock. Different people kept coming in my bedroom, but I could not see them. One time it was my kid. Another time, it was someone trying to hurt me, so I held on tight so he couldn’t leave (and I could “bust” him), even as he bit me and I bit back.

If these are not night terrors, I don’t know what to call them. They have a very different feel from a regular nightmare, such as the time I “flashed” down the stairs after seeing that the front door had been left unlocked and then was attacked by the door. These dreams are more vivid, and I cannot pull myself out. The sheer terror I feel is indescribable.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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This has been four nights in a row with the same recurring nightmare, and I am wiped out. After jolting awake multiple times the first night, I got drunk the second night, but that did not help. For nights three and four, I took the highest dosage of Xanax that my doctor prescribed me. That has not stopped the nightmares, but it has at least lessened my body’s reactions to the release of cortisol and adrenaline.

The background is different, but the plot is always the same – I cannot protect my inner child. Last night, I watched helplessly as my inner child (always represented by a younger version of my son – he is around five years old) climbed onto a platform over a coliseum. A child before him had already fallen off and plunged to the ground, and people were checking to see if he had survived the fall. My inner child tried to hit a ball with a bat from the platform and then purposely jumped to my horror. I ran to the ground and had a few terrifying moments of not knowing whether he was alive or dead, but he was okay.

In another dream, I was in school and walking to class. I passed by my inner child’s class, and he was learning how to work a fry cook station (like they use in McDonald’s) with no adult supervision. I ran to stop him, but he walked into the hot grease with a big grin on his face the whole time as I could smell the flesh of his burning feet. I pulled him out and screamed at the people watching, but everyone said that they were not responsible for him. Surprisingly, he seemed to be okay with no damage from the grease.

I can’t remember the other dreams right now (still shaking from the coliseum one), but they are all this type of theme – I cannot protect the child.

Also last night I dreamed about my son (inner child) being asked to go into a room repeatedly that had no gravity, which we both found to be fun, but I wonder if that is symbolic of not being grounded??

I know that recurring dreams are significant, and I wish I could decode this series, deal with it, and get some rest. I am making a point to get nine hours of sleep a night because I slept so poorly the first two, but I am physically exhausted because my sleep is anything but restful.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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In case you did not catch this in the news yesterday, a Muslim cleric in the U.K. stated that it is not possible for a man to rape his wife, to which I reply bull$@#%! Because a sexual relationship is a part of marriage, he does not believe that a man should be prosecuted for raping his own wife.

First of all, I seriously doubt that many spousal rape cases are even pursued because of the difficulty of the he said/she said dynamic. I would guess that most of the spousal rape cases that actually make it into a courtroom involve couples who are separated and/or divorcing, which makes the assumption of sex in a marriage much more questionable. Setting that aside, it is never okay to overpower someone and rape him or her, whether you are married or not.

Additionally, most of the marital rape cases that are likely to be prosecuted also involved physical abuse. Rape tactics that are more emotionally coercive are very unlikely to be prosecuted or, quite frankly, even reported. How can you look a woman in her black and blue eyes lying in a hospital bed after being beaten and raped and tell her that the rape “doesn’t count” because she is married to the perpetrator? And then he gets a free pass to do this over and over again until the divorce is finalized??

One other spousal rape situation also happens in some marriages, and I am certain that few, if any, are even reported, but it is emotionally damaging. I have known wives whose husbands had intercourse with them while they were knocked out for some reason, either on alcohol or drugs (either legal or illegal). They did not know that any intercourse took place until the next morning when they saw the physical evidence. For wives with a history of sexual abuse, knowing that their bodies were taken without their permission is incredibly traumatizing. This is technically rape even if it will never see a courtroom.

I don’t understand why it is so difficult to respect that each person’s body is his or her own to share or not share sexually, whether married or not. What woman would choose to get married if she knew that she was forever giving up her rights to say who gets to touch her body, even when she burns with fever or has just given birth to a child? The marital bed needs to be a place of safety, not of abuse.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Over the last week or so, I have been focusing on the healing process and have stated that the healing process has its own natural rhythm. If we can identify that natural rhythm and allow it to flow, healing happens naturally.

Of course, since I wrote this, I had to put myself to the test, and it has been a tough week. I am apparently working on healing a deeper layer of myself (or another alter part for those with DID). I keep finding myself feeling intensely sad, and I have been plagued by nightmares. The nightmares got so bad one night that I kept waking myself by whimpering in my sleep. I knew that if I got up to take a Xanax or clear my head, I would never get back to sleep. So, I kept falling right back into the nightmares and finally awakened in tears with my heart pounding and my bed sheets soaked with sweat.

Early in the healing process, I would be beating myself up for this. I would assume that I was doing something “wrong” because, if I was really healing, I should no longer be having nightmares. Adding negative thoughts, self-hatred, and shame would be an impediment to the natural flow of healing, and I have reached a place where I recognize that I am not doing anything “wrong” right now.

Another common reaction is for me to throw myself into compulsive busy-ness. This can be over-committing myself through volunteer work, taking on more classes at my job, or doing other things to keep me “too busy” to have to feel this lousy. The idea is to stay too busy to feel badly during the day and then drop into bed too exhausted to dream at night. Instead, I am choosing to slow myself down, building yoga and meditation into my daily schedule and moving at a slower pace. My therapist always advises me to “sit with” the pain and just allow it to “be.” It takes a lot of self-discipline for me to do this.

Another reaction that I used to do a lot is to attach myself to those feelings. For example, I started working through this phase of healing over the weekend, which is when I was receiving all of the comments to Friday’s blog entry in which some of my readers felt “judged” by my words. It hurts me to know that I have hurt another person, so I could have easily attached my feelings of sadness to that event, but I chose not to. I was able to recognize that one was not related to the other.

When I attach my life today to the feelings I experience that are really echoes of the past, I can go downhill quickly. I take the sadness from childhood and add my experiences from today, which is like pouring gasoline on a fire. So, instead of feeling a malaise, I can feel suicidally depressed, as if I were being sucked into a dark hole with no way out. My yogi gave me the advice to think of myself as the fire hose and the emotions as the water coursing through it. No matter how powerful those emotions are, I am not the “water” – I am the hose.

So, I have gotten better about what not to do, but I am still uncertain what I should be doing right now. Until I figure that out, I am choosing just to “be.” I am choosing to “sit with” this pain and recognize that this is part of my natural healing process. It is going to feel lousy for a while, but then it will pass. I just have to be very gentle with myself in the process.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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