Here's what you and my clients have told me, when I shared about my trauma and PTSD:
- I make great money, but I always feel like I'm not taken care
- I have savings, but I constantly feel like it's going to disappear in a flash
- I know I'm strong and capable, but I can't sleep at night awaiting dooms day
- I have a life partner and love, but I feel like it'll be taken away
On their own, these thoughts seem harmless. Who doesn't have a bit of doubt here and there.
But when you're living in a constant state of hyper-vigilance and threat, like a tiger is going to eat you, take all your money, and send you to divorce court (or the grave), that's not normal.
The Great Big Thaw
The only way to heal PTSD is through the body. You can talk until the cows come home. Until you work with your somatic system, nervous system and body, you're the tiger chasing your own tail.
So I asked around and hired a Somatic Experiencing Coach. If I had filmed my Somatic Experiencing sessions, you'd be watching paint dry. It wasn't a untz-untz "lose 30 pounds in 30 days" extravaganza.
It was subtle. It was deep. It was the Great Big Thaw of 2016!
Pre-notes (3 weeks prior)
Because you and I are in the privacy of my living room as I write this, I'll copy and paste sections from my Somatic Experiencing (SE) journals here. May they illuminate your path. May they thaw your body. May they liberate your soul.
JOURNAL • Session 0
Feeling unsafe. Always had roof over head, food in belly, savings in the bank. So why constant feeling of unsafe? Why have I never, ever felt safe???
Somatic Experiencing (SE) coach I chose lives 2.5 blocks from me. What are the freakin’ chances?!? Met John today. Forgot to ask how much he charges. Doesn't matter. Not living with this paralysis for rest of my life. Thirty years was enough!!!
JOURNAL • Session 1
Nothing much happened during session. We talked. I really, really, really hope this works. This better work.
Walking home, felt so so so so validated. John validated that I have classic developmental PTSD, caused by an upbringing that didn't meet my needs, as opposed to circumstantial trauma like war or car crash.
Woah. Suddenly remembered Jen [energy healer] telling me I have classic symptoms of PTSD... back in December... 6 months ago! Totally didn't register that. Was my memory full? Was my memory switched off? Was I not ready to hear this? Does trauma mess with memory?
Practical Tool that Actually Worked • Shower talk: under shower, with eyes closed, pass water jet on one area of body, feel that area. Move to next area, feel that area. Repeat for 12 weeks.
Bamboo Forest, Kyoto, Japan © Ellany Lea
JOURNAL • Session 2
Will I? Will I ever be ok in this world? I’m looking forward to what John will help me discover. F*ck these traumas!!! So unfair. How many of them do I have? I'd so rather be doing anything, but this.
JOURNAL • Session 3
I still really, really, really hope this works. So far, meh. John taught me orientation. Said my eyes shift side-to-side too rapidly, constantly scanning for danger / threat... thus overtly revved up nervous system.
Advised me to fixate on single object as I walk through the world to reduce revving. Kinda like tracking horizon when on a boat to reduce sea sickness...
Practical Tool that Actually Worked • Orientation: fixate on steady object when moving through the world. The red mailbox, the big tree on the corner. Practice daily for 15-17 days.
JOURNAL • Session 4
I’m sleeping better. Can’t be sure it’s because of SE…
Still in shock by long ass list of traumas I wrote in John's health intake form. They all seem so benign on their own. But when put together, since such a young age, trauma shave away at your self-worth, leaving a little kid feeling insignificant / unwanted. Ouch.
Practical Tool that Actually Worked • Sleep: sleep constantly, uninterruptedly, unapologetically. Cancel everything. People won't understand. Fuck them. Business will fail. Fuck it. Just sleep. For 40 days and 40 nights even :P [<-- Hey, look! Gaining my sense of humor back!]
Boracay, Philippines 2015 © Ellany Lea
JOURNAL • Session 5
Hmm something is shifting. Memory is more vivid. That's good. Remembering… more traumas, 5 more specific incidents. That's bad.
Today, on SE table, body started twitching and jerking. Then tears… because I realized that I have no memory of my parents holding me or giving me physical reassurance. Not a single memory. Weird. Can I trust these memories? Or lack of memories? What's true or not true anymore...
Not parents fault. Did best they could. They didn't have emotional capacity to understand and support a highly sensitive gifted multi-potentialite child.
Also, right hand twitched and was looking for a hand. John gave me his. I placed my hand near his but didn't clasp. John noted that I have an avoidant attachment style. I don’t get attached because I don’t believe people will be there for me. Never have, never will. Ouch. I knew this about me, intellectually. But to watch my body dance out my history. Freaky. And ouch.
Practical Tool that Actually Worked • Breathe counting: like in scuba diving, count breaths, 4 inhales in, 4 inhales out. Meditative and soothing, without sitting down for meditation. Works instantly!
JOURNAL • Session 6
Feeling lethargic. Is it the rain? Last week’s SE session was super draining. Isn't it supposed to give me energy, not drain me. Sucks to watch my potential slip away. I strive so hard... I've worked so hard... just to end up traumatized and froze. WTF?!?!
Practical Tool that Actually Worked • Sailor swear: swear out loud, constantly and unapologetically. [Just not at others, duh.] It's a divine relief.
Love is not something you find. Love is something you feel.
JOURNAL • Session 7
On my way to my SE session, want to quit. Not really seeing results. But if quit now, still stuck with the frozen. So what's it gonna be, Ella?
John and I came up with a mantra for tonight: it is safe for me to rest and sleep. How f*cked up is that? That I need a mantra to convince me that's it's safe for me to rest. Ox don’t rest. They plow fields day in and day out. I was raised an ox. So how can I possibly rest until I've plowed every field in the Milky Way?
Practical Tool that Actually Worked • Wind love: every time you feel wind on your skin, hear the words "I am loved." Practice it for 3 months. Love is not something you find. Love is something you feel into.
JOURNAL • Session 8
OMG I think SE is finally working... I can feel my spine exhaling a deep sigh… unwinding… nerve endings thawing. Woah. Weird... Super weird feeling. Is this what a pork chop feels like when taken out of the freezer?
Vancouver, BC, Canada 2015 © Ellany Lea
JOURNAL • Session 9
OMG OMG OMG SE is working! My creativity is back! Arranged my bed so pillows swaddle me, like you would a sleeping baby so it doesn't roll off the bed. So pathetic that I have to do this as a grown adult. Not pathetic. Sad. So sad that no one ever did this for me.
So what? Boo hoo. Poor me. I will do it for me. No one else will. So I will god dammit!!!
Woke up next morning feeling propped against my back… almost like the Universe has my back… Weird. Strange. Foreign feeling.
Practical Tool that Actually Worked • Rigorous morning routine: wake up, 5min self-compassion talk, defrost smoothie, glass of room temperature water, start aromatherapy machine, meditate for 15min, brush teeth, wash face, barf out emotions into morning journal, clean kitchen, sit and drink smoothie, no work and no internet until noon.
Pay It Forward
Know anyone going through a rough time? Hear them say they can't seem to do what they used to love doing? Forward this to them, just in case. You may be the light at the end of their dark tunnel. <3