It is with a heavy heart that I write this blog. At the Kripalu weekend on PTSD, a good deal of time was spent doing yoga. I have tried yoga in the past but I ended up in such chronic pain each time so I adapted some poses and added them into my movement session each day. It really worked for me. Well after hearing from the experts that movement and yoga can be a part of the “cure” I immediately went into the bookstore and bought not one gentle yoga DVD but I also bought another restoration yoga DVD. This mentality that something can “cure” me drives me every day. I thought I had come to peace with my PTSD and that I had built a fulfilling life with it but I still obviously want a “cure” after 10 years.
I got home with the DVD and I immediately thought that I would do the entire 80 minute program the first session. Well, I was only able to do 10 minutes and the next morning my body was in such pain that it kept me up most of the next night.
The reality is that I have been constricting my body since I was a baby. Even last night while watching the Big Bang Theory my body was completely constricted. No matter what I do I find myself in this constricted mode. It is my default mode. It is truly sad. I feel this real draw to just dance and move my body but every time I try it I end up in more pain. This constriction is such a brain and body thing. It is completely frustrating. Even right now as I write this I find myself constricted especially in the leg area. I take a deep breath and try to relax into my body. Within seconds it is constricted again. Right now, I just feel like I want to give up trying to live in and be alive with my body. I want to give up on the hope that my body will know the joy of freely moving and dancing. I want to give up the hope that my body won’t always default to constriction to survive. Actually, right now I am observing it move from constriction right into dissociation. Bessel van der Kolk’s book has the perfect title – “The Body Keeps the Score’.
I will honor my muscle constriction for years of trying to keep my body in a continual freeze state. It is how I survived. I am grateful for the brilliance of my body to know that the freeze position would keep me safe. At the same time, I want to find freedom in the movement of my body. I do believe in building new neural pathways but not many people tell you how long it can take to do that especially if you have been using constriction and dissociation as a tool for survival your whole life. For me that is 55 years. I really do need to just revel in the beauty and brilliance of my body’s response over my lifetime and to tell my body thank you for protecting me and ensuring my survival. However, I will gently tell my body that I no longer need these techniques. I am in a safe place.
I need to give my body time to adjust to its new role in its future – one of freedom and aliveness – while respecting that I live with significant chronic fatigue and chronic pain. Despite my great emotional healing of my PTSD, its accompanying symptoms (chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia) have not gone away. I need to allow for reverence in the reality of a body burden by life’s traumas. I need to lovingly, gently and patiently draw it to a new way of being. I need to give it time. My reality is that the limited yoga I incorporate into my daily movement is enough for me for now.
I might need to just trust my own inner guide and know that my gentle walking and yoga poses I learned in a yoga class for trauma survivors is what my body can do at this point in time . I have been doing it for several years now and it has kept my chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia somewhat manageable. There is a lot of expert advice on how to “cure” PTSD but I think my own inner wisdom will need to be my guiding force. I can trust my body to tell me what it needs as it continues to evolve and be birthed anew.
Thank you for sharing your story. I can relate to so much of what you are sharing. My most troubling symptoms of hyperarousal include: difficulty sleeping and concentrating, being easily startled, irritability, agitation, panic, and hypervigilance (being hyper-alert to danger). It can be so tiring. You are definitely not alone. I look forward to more of your posts.
I have the same troubling symptoms. It is exhausting. Some days it just makes me sad. I am sorry you are troubled by these symptoms but it is nice to know I am not alone. The gift is that I now know on the sad days that I also have great bliss in my life. I guess I am embracing all of my humanity.
I agree! I use to say to my therapists “it exhausting being me” thankfully, she understood. Creativity and music helps me.
Thanks. I have just started using music and it does seem to do wonders for me. Since I am very sensitive to noise I really had to find the right music and I think I did. My writing is my form of creativity and I am really enjoying that as well.
I purchased a yoga DVD for arthritis sufferers a few weeks back. The exercises seemed simple and easy, yet I was in pain the next couple of days. I’ll stick to my gentle walking around the meadow, and the elliptical trainer which I also use gently for a half hour. I find though that day to life can exhaust me and my exercise falls by the wayside.
I hope your pain lessons quickly and you can get back to ‘dancing’…. I loved the way you described your usual daily ‘movement’ sessions…
Oh, forgot to add that my startle response is also still on guard as ever… : (
Thanks. I am feeling much better. I am accepting more and more that I really do have the insight of what my body needs. The fatigue part does make movement a challenge at times. .
I think trusting your body is key. It’s especially hard to do when you’ve lived through trauma, but it’s so important.
I really see the results of trauma in my body and I am continuing to grow in my ability to love it where it is at. I think it will be a lifetime process for me.