For First Time Visitors

If you are a first time visitor to this blog, I invite you to start from the beginning, especially if you are unfamiliar with the potential emotional impact of long-term child abuse.

Trigger caution to unhealed survivors!

Understanding the Incomprehensible

Children of incest or long-term sexual abuse grow up to be wounded adults with complicated emotional issues. Unfortunately, some symptoms are misinterpreted or often dismissed as "crazy", only serving to maintain a tormented victim status. We, as a society, have the power to change this dynamic. Each of us can make a difference.

May 11, 2011

Mindfulness for Trauma

Yesterday I was fortunate to see an article posted on Facebook regarding mindfulness. What really caught my attention was the last sentence: "What makes life so frightening is that we let ourselves be carried away in the garbage of our whirling minds. We don't have to do that."

In my life as a therapist I had learned and taught mindfulness. I still practice it to some extent by listening to guided imagery to help my body relax to fall asleep. But I’d never seen mindfulness explained so succinctly. I now understand how to use it to get myself out of my head when it is circling with unpleasant memories, the aftermath of nightmares, or, most recently, a barrage of suicidal thoughts.

Without realizing I was practicing mindfulness, one morning after being discharged from the trauma center, I awoke from a horrid nightmare/memory. I can see in retrospect I engaged every one of my senses to keep me out of my head. I turned on my aromatherapy to have the aroma of fresh cotton and have a pleasant and different smell; I grabbed the rosary-like grounding beads I’d made at the Center to have a tactile distraction; I turned on my favorite music to provide soothing sound, and I placed a heated lavender spa pad over my eyes for soothing warmth. It took me nearly three hours to shake the nightmare but it worked.

I had forgotten about the full benefits of mindfulness and hadn’t thought about how it might be used to get me out of my head filled with suicidal images and only tended to make me tense and frightened. The other aspect of mindfulness that I apparently hadn’t grasped initially but hit me between the eyes yesterday was that I was keeping myself stuck by wanting to be the person I was in 2005…happy and healthy. My reality is my body has undergone surgeries and trauma in the past four years that likely will not allow it to be ever be quite the same. Mindfulness is being in the present…not the past or future.

For me, it meant accepting me and my body for where it is today and moving on from now. Wishing for a point in the past is fruitless, frustrating, and stressful. Wishing for me to be healed when I’m not is also not productive. But I can start from today and move in the direction of acknowledging where I am today in terms of mind and body pain to finding ways to move forward as well as handling the days with what is going on NOW.

This morning, in trying to focus on my breathing to get out of my head and the nightmares, I found myself back up in my head. This is why it Is called the practice of mindfulness. As the article states, it takes practice. When focusing on just my breath didn’t work, I turned on music and focused on listening to every word and musical instrument while keeping my hand(s) on the grounding beads. I also had heat on the areas of the body experiencing pain. It is now an hour later and I am up writing this blog post.

We trauma survivors get stuck in our heads a lot and many of us do suffer from chronic pain. Mindfulness is one coping tool. I also use Belleruth Naparstek’s guided imagery for depression, alleviating pain, and IBS. Her voice is so easy to listen to and, for me, she works. Sometimes curling up with a soft stuffie, crying, and listening to sad music is also being in the moment with my feelings. We don’t have to distract from them. Suicidality is one we definitely don’t want to “be in”, but experiencing unpleasant emotions is healthy when done safely. The key is being mindful of how we choose to experience our own pain.

Most in my group on Polyvore use art to get stuck images out of the head. Some might view that as focusing on the thoughts; however the focus is actually on the art: what elements to use to create the set, the colors, the effects, which images best represent the feeling. It is a healthy distraction and release at the same time.

Having read the article yesterday and having an “aha” moment, I do feel unstuck from 2005 and have moved my mind to where I am right now with my concussion and body pain from the fall along with frequent suicidal thoughts. And I’m DID. lol. Could there possibly be more? Am sure those reading this do have more. Likely we all feel we are at our maximum tolerance level. Even more reason to find that which helps us cope and live our lives as best we can with what we have day by day. Is it okay to dream? Yes. It’s the wishing we were already there that gets us stuck in a place away from where we need to be…in the moment.


TC said...

I can relate in so many ways. I like Belleruth, too. I was reading yesterday about not using mindfulness as a means to an end (stress reduction etc.) but just using it as a wonderful way to live, with the side effects being stress reduction, grounding etc. That was an aha moment for me. : )

Grace said...

Hi TC, Am so glad you had an aha moment. Love it when that happens :-)