Sunday, October 25, 2015

I'm Like the Dead Sea, You'll Never Sink When You're With Me

Listening to my Spotify Channel Drowning in a Sea of Folk after a long day, I realize I might be like the Dead Sea when I am at my best and healthiest self, keeping people from sinking.  I flow with those who swim or struggle, I detoxify those who dare to ingest my support, or walk near enough my waves to feel the silky salt water wash over them.   Whether or not they were aware, here are people that waded my shores today -

H - celebrated 35 years on the planet today.  The salts that keep her buoyant in the sea are modern medicine, bliss, and occasional foot rubs.

E - celebrating 5 years of being a miracle. The salts that keep him afloat are modern medicine, a calm and clever mom, and the big world ahead for him to make his mark in.

W - birthday blessings to you.  You've probably forgotten that it even is your birthday.  And what could possibly keep you from sinking when it is also the day you lost your precious N?  For a parent to be present at their child's birth is required, to be present at their child's passing from this life is . . . there are no words.  The salts that will keep you from drowning today will be the Love that finds you and brings you the surface every time you need to take a deep breath.

E - turning 19 today, in the harsh reality that life does not operate like all those movies, television shows, and magazine ads.  The salt that brings you buoyancy is getting out of bed each day.  You can do it.

S - not your birthday, but taking a big step in caring for yourself and demanding to be heard.  The salt that is saving you today is that you are unaware of the tasks ahead.

I - not your birthday, either.  Just continually meeting life head on.  I hope you know that your salts will be your bravery, peaceful heart, continuing to share your story . . . and me.  Really me.

D - just another regular day for you.  Your salt is knowing that you are enough.

A - lonely times for you.  Your salt is your willingness to be so alone in order to reach the goal that is so important to you.

VAEM - seen or not, you imps are with me everyday.  Your salts are the dedication your families have to you; our unconditional love for you.

M - everyday I wish we were closer.  Your salts are your bravery in defining the world you see.  You are salt, yourself.

D - not a day goes by that I don't wonder what you would have to say about something.  Your salt is your ability to weave your experiences into a vision for a peaceful and equitable world.

M - every morning I check to see that you are still here, on the planet.  I feel so much of your life is entrusted to me.  Your salt is your inherent wisdom and . . . me.

EOE - I think of how crowded we all are, and that's okay.  I like sharing the planet with you.  Our salt could be each other if we just remember to see everyone of us in each of us.

Like the Dead Sea
You told me I was like the Dead Sea
You'll never sink when you are with me
Oh Lord, like the Dead Sea   (Chorus from Dead Sea ~ Lumineers)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

From the Common Cold to PTSD. Or, I am the Worst Patient Ever

I've been ill with a Fall Respiratory Syndrome (FRS) for several days.   Okay, it's a cold, but I get it every year so I've given it a more official sounding name.  I lie and tell myself and others that I suffer from seasonal allergies.  But, when I am sick enough, when I am oxygen deficient from respiratory failure and a high temp, I allow the truth to spill out.  FRS is my bodies attempts to make me deal with all the unresolved trauma (not drama) in my life.  This realization usually comes after my appointment at the clinic, but before the steroids and inhalers have had time to fully restore my oxygen levels to normal.  The predictability of my FRS is so annoying.  

"The Body Keeps the Score"
by Bessel van der Kolk, MD

I wish I could stop looking for something beyond  leukotrines, bacteria, and viruses on which to blame FRS, but I've recently been doing a lot of reading and participating in workshops on trauma and it's effects on the body. Affirmation comes regularly that I am correct in my understanding that every malady of my body is traceable back to the trauma of my childhood. Right?  Right.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         But, so what?  Does anyone care if the cold I am transmitting is caused by my unaddressed trauma?   No. Everyone just wants you to stay home and not sit next to them in conference rooms when you have a nasty infection.  Do not, I repeat do not, expect the stranger sitting next to you to reach over and hug your wheezing, mucus expelling body when you share you are sorry to have to be here today, but the course is mandatory and the infection is all the fault of some creep back in 1963.  

In this same vein, do not expect to go to your primary care doc and plan to have an engaging conversation about you score of 8 on the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) test when they had you down for being seen for a respiratory infection.  They are too busy, too embarrassed,or too uninformed to share any sort of meaningful connection between your score and your distressed breathing.  And, FYI, sharing this information will not automatically get you weight loss drugs - even though it should -  because of all that extra cortisol you've been producing over a lifetime.  No, it will not.  You will get steroids that make you gain more weight for the respiratory infection called into the pharmacy of your choice and a "we can talk about your depression at your annual exam" as both doctor and nurse crowd out the door together so as not to be left alone with you in the exam room.  

Per the pattern of my life, I was not really expecting to have a long conversation about trauma with a doctor who double booked me into his schedule for a URI.  And no amount of insight into why I struggle with all the physical disorders I have will heal them.  To get through each day, and each episode of breached health, I will have to rely on the tools I've developed over the course of my life to keep me rebounding - resiliency, positivity, strategic problem solving, and the yearning for connectedness.  And meditation.  And yoga.   And sleep, restorative sleep.

All sarcasm aside, I do understand the connection between trauma and illness.  Trauma, no matter how much you do to resolve the incident or make sense of it, how much you try to divert your memories and your fears, it is a part of who you are.  This is not a hopeless thing - there is much to offer those who have the bravery to ask for help, to seek answers, and allow safe people into their lives to help them in the healing.  And, trauma teaches us much about ourselves and the world we live in.

There are many of us out here doing the work of healing and helping others heal.  We all owe a debt of gratitude to the Vietnam Vets who taught is a lot about trauma.  They were the first significant group of survivors to reach out and tell us that what they'd experienced would not allow them to live the kind of lives we expected then to live when they returned from war.  This led to the naming of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and all the ensuing research.  

The passing of research from veterans to the rest of us who have experienced trauma in our lives is a great gift.  This research is changing the lives of many who thought they'd be haunted by memories and nightmares forever.  Dr. van der Kolk estimates that for every 1 veteran who suffers from PTSD, there are 10 civilians who suffer from PTSD due to childhood or adult trauma.  We are a world of walking wounded.  

The prescription is not in a pill (well, some are), but rather in the compassion of those who walk with the wounded.  It is on all of us to create safe places for stories of trauma to be told.  People who suffer PTSD want to disconnect from the nightmares and fear that linger from their experiences, but they do not want to forget the significance of the story.   It is on all of us to believe the stories that are told, to allow ourselves to be uncomfortable as we listen.  Then we must all help hold the stories, sharing the collective or personal responsibility for our part in the story.  Yes, we all hold responsibility in the stories, but that is another post.  This is not an easy process, but it is well worth the amazing and beautiful souls we will unburden.

Many thanks to those who have heard my stories, believed them, and continue to hold them with me.