Seven Morning Habits Which Are Highly Effective for This Person

Congratulations brave warrior. Your survived the Monday after Thanksgiving and if it was anything like mine that is to be commended.

The entire holiday weekend had several highlights but it was also looooooaaaaded with triggers as holidays often are for a lot of us. By Sunday night I was headed for trouble and by Monday, mid-morning I was….what they say…”a heated mess? A mess where heat is applied to it so that what once was a little messy is now very messy?” (name that line).  Look the reality is that shit happens to all of us, usually at inconvenient times. I think of overcoming PTSD as a project which takes up a lot of time and energy. But  even when you are involved with a project involving lots of past shit, shit can and does go down real time too.  It’s the nature of living that we can’t schedule our shit to suit us best. This is because most of the shitty life events are outside of our control.

And that can make us feel (and also be) completely out of control too. An out of control person in a crisis situation?  Well, look nobody wants to be that that person or be around that person or even know that person. You want a freaking pilot who is IN CONTROL when the plane starts having mechanical difficulties y’know? Not some freaking idiot who is shrieking about how modern planes are supposed to be able to fly themselves. It’s just not an optimal thing.  I try hard not to be that person.

Yet there was no other way to describe me by Monday aternoon. I was Out Of Control and it was Not Optimal. And then as I scrubbed the walls and baseboards with soapy water, (the only productive thing I could focus on for any length of time whilst trying not to hyperventilate), it occcurred to me that because of the holiday weekend, I had completely slacked off on the careful daily habits I have cultivated over the course of my PTSD-ending Project.  And while I couldn’t control the triggers and I couldn’t control the shitty realities that had cropped up, I really can control whether or not I do my “Daily Disciplines” as I like to call them. And guess what else? They totally help me to become a competent pilot in the shitstorms of life.

I can also tell you that when my mornings are in control,  I feel pretty confident in my ability to keep my shit more or less together for the forseeable future..like, I feel pretty solid about the day ahead, come what may. Before I had these disciplines in place I felt really scared all the time. I couldn’t count on getting through the day if it got too hard. That’s not a cool way to live..and happily it’s not how I live anymore. So long as I keep up with my disciplines. That’s pretty powerful stuff. That’s worth buckling down for a little bit isn’t it?  For me it is. For me it SO IS.  So here I am to share with you what gets me and keeps me on the right track. Maybe all of these work for you too, maybe only one of them looks like something you’d like to try, or adapt to try. Disclaimer: daily disciplines are for everyone, if you have a mental health crisis in addition to this sort of thing you need to be working with care providers (which I do).

Here’s what I’m going to ask you not to do. Not because it annoys me but because I want you to reframe the way you think about your life and its problems. If you are inclined to write to me and tell me how you guess you are just stuck with a sucktastic life because you can’t do these things for xyz million different reasons then remember:  I’m not asking you to do these specific things.  I’m asking you to figure what disciplines you could employ to help you take control of your responses to what life hurls your way. So instead of putting energy into explaining why these things wouldn’t work for you,  go ahead and put it into figuring out what will work for you! Deal? Deal! I’m bossy cos I love you. Without further ado:

Kirsty’s Daily Disciplines.

1. Wake up early.
What?? No! I hate myself for typing those words. I am not an early bird. I don’t understand people who love the early morning, I go to bed too late…blahblahblahblah. I need an alarm to get me up every single day. And it’s dark and it’s cold and I’m sleep deprived because I do like to stay up too late. And if I had to get out of bed early without some sort of accountability it’s almost certain that I wouldn’t. Because I am nothing against the power of a warm comforter and a soft pillow.  Which is why I have organized my life to have people expecting me and waiting for me and even paying me to get up early.  The sad truth is that successful people are almost always early risers. Dammit. Anyway, sunrises are really pretty and when my beautiful friend Stacey died in her 30’s amongst
the words of advice she left were, “get up to see more sunrises”. I like to think of her when I do.

2. Drink a big bottle of water first thing.  Life hack. When you are brushing your teeth every night, fill up a bottle of water, put it on your night stand. Upon awakening…drank. People. Dehydration. Is. So. Bad. It’s bad for your body, it’s bad for your brain, it’s bad for your mood, it’s bad for your looks, your weight control, it’s bad for your breath it’s bad. If in doubt, drink more water. FYI: Coffee is not water, milk is not water, soda is not water, juice is not water. Water is water. Herbal tea without caffeine is a closer substitute than the above things.  Water is not just good it’s really critical for healthy functioning and so many things are going to start working better for you if you just buckle down and drink the right amount of water. Just Do It. Drinking room temp or warm water first thing in the morning is really good for your digestive system.  If I don’t drink about 20 oz first thing, there’s a good chance I’m going to keep on the path of dehydration all day which will lead to bad eating choices,  headaches, digestive issues and a super terrible mood. And that’s just short term. If I do drink it first thing I just function better and I keep hydrated as the day goes on. Good things beget more good things. If you hate water  trick yourself into liking or at least in drinking it: imagine you are in the desert and the water is the oasis you have been dreaming of all this time and glug glug glug… or use a straw or buy a bottle you love (this battered Swell bottle is my constant companion, keeps things hot or cold for ages and it is really really sturdy. (I know because once I used it as a javelin off of my top balcony and it landed on my stone path and it’s still being awesome). Anyway WATER. Drink more. Drink early and often. Life will get better for you. I promise.

3. Do yoga.  Yoga is a brilliant way to wake your mind and body up because it involves stretching, breath awareness and focus on the present. I can’t possibly go into how many ways yoga is beneficial, you have the internet, look it up!  Literally everyone can do a little bit of  SOME KIND OF yoga every day. There are so many different poses and adaptations within those poses. I like the little ritual of playing  “Here Comes The Sun” to kick off my practice every day. I can’t help but smile and feel comforted when I hear it. Even if you can only do one song’s worth of yoga, you did it. It’s so much better than nothing at all.  I chose this of my many yoga pics to share because I’m throwing down in jeans, with my jacket and my sunglasses off to the side on the way out of the door. Yoga doesn’t require lulelemon pants and a fancy studio or a “yoga body”. Just strike some poses where and whenever you can. They add up. A few sun salutations are an excellent way to get some truly beneficial stretches in and start your day off perfectly.

4. Meditate. Over the summer I practiced the very basics of basic zen meditation but with the school year being so much more busy and the weather not being as conducive and inviting to long practices outside in lotus position I turned to apps for help and variety. Head Space and Simple Habits both have very generous free trials to get you on your way (Simple Habits is currently 50% off for the yearly subscription), and they show how easy and accessible meditation really is. It takes no skill whatsoever. Exciting news! YES YOU CAN MEDITATE. Trust me, if I can do it, literally anyone can.  It’s not about emptying your mind of thought and being some kind of levitating genius. Allow me to reiterate: Even I can do this. And I have the attention span of a gnat on crack ok? Meditation is not what you think it is, it really is a very simple process and what’s more all the people you think are so amazing and calm and chill and accomplished probably do some form of meditation or another…try it out..it’s powerful stuff, yo. I’m by no means a pro or an example to live by but when I found myself in profound distress on Monday I discovered my brain automatically switching over to some of the skills I have recently learned through meditation so…yes. It works.

5.Write in a journal. I write 3 pages in an A4 Moleskine journal with a lovely flowy pen every morning. Doesn’t that sound so artistic and delicious?  Ah, I love Beautiful rituals! Someone taught me this “morning pages” concept about a year ago. And it’s such a cherished, satisfying ceremony for me. But  then, I like to write, and I write quickly. If you don’t you could maybe try to start with 5 things you are grateful for. Or write 2 intentions or top priorities for your day.  Since I’ve got 3 pages to fill, I manage to cover thoughts that are floating around, gratitude and intentions most days. But really, just the act of taking a pen and ink and putting your thoughts to page is the goal..at least for me

6. Make my bed.  I choose to ignore that study about how it’s better not to make your bed,  but if you don’t, there is nothing to stop you from smoothing your sheets, fluffing your pillow and pulling your covers back neatly so that you have an inviting place to return to at the end of the day. Creating order in the sacred space of  our room (I do consider our bedroom a sacred little sanctuary and I try to keep it beautiful and tidy because of that) is a very self nurturing and controlled way to start your day before you walk out into the chaos of the world. It’s such a small but deliberate act of discipline which will signals to me that I am in charge of my day and that I’m capable of creating order out of chaos. It’s a little thing that can make a really big
difference.





7. Have a nutritious easy to prepare/eat breakfast.  I give so much credit to my husband for preparing overnight oats for me since this spring or early summer. He’s perfected the recipe for me over time and it includes so many amazingly

healthy things while still being perfectly palatable and delicious. If I skip my oats and coffeeeeeeee, things fall apart predictably around 3pm every day.  As I mentioned above, I am incredibly easily distracted, so having something pre-prepared, appetising, healthy and comforting to eat which will keep my blood sugar stable for many hours is a total game changer for me and probably for the rest of my family who don’t have to deal with my irritability at 4pm when I realise I haven’t eaten all day and suddenly am foraging for all the carbs, writing rants on facebook IN ALL CAPS and being super bitchy to all the people.

Well that’s it for now. I actually have like 10 things but I’m out of time and the 7 seemed like a cool way to leverage off someone else’s success so you get 7 😉 Tell me what your habits for being the competent pilot of your life are! I wanna knoooooowwww! Maybe I wanna copy them! Anything here you like that you think you might incorporate? Tell me that too. Tellllll meeeeeee!!!

You guys remember when I used to do Works for Me Wednesday?? Well it’s Wednesday..these work for me! Ha! Nostalgia!

xox
k

Letting It All Be.

This morning I lay on the couch and I cuddled my precious little girl. Marveling at each of her delicate tiny features and listening to her carefully sounding out the words on her ipad to me and I realised. “She can read! She can really read. And she can write. She can express herself through the written word and she can read the communications of others. And that is a true miracle for any human being and it made me a little breathless. Just as it had when my mom pointed out that I could read when I sounded out “Hot Food” in the food court at Sandton City.

And then I watched as the glass window above the front door filled with a halo of white blonde hair and my youngest son, who is suddenly a man with a deep voice, hurried to pull it open and greet his oldest brother and I listened to them talk, they way men who are friends do. And I thrilled with joy when each of them came over to wish their little sister Happy Thanksgiving and listen to her with amused affection and leaned over to let me ruffle their hair which felt exactly the same as it had when they were 3,6, 10 years old.  And I just soaked in their camaraderie as they laughed and exchanged stories and jokes about Thanksgiving morning football games they had participated in years gone by and I thought to myself. This is my family.  And honestly looking at all these handsome grown men, I still feel like I’m playing a part of mom to teen-aged boys and a girl who has her boyfriend come over to help with the pies. I can’t quite fathom that it’s real. It feels like I dropped into a Folgers coffee Thanksgiving morning commercial to be honest.

I don’t know if everyone feels like this or if it’s because my life is so very white middle class TV-ad American and I’m still very South African. And I only saw scenes like these on TV rather than in real life?  Or perhaps it’s just because I’m still in denial that my son is older than I was when I got married and so none of this can possibly be because I’m still 19?  I’m still 28 with 4 little children in matching outfits. Aren’t I? And then my husband hands me a cup of coffee and he says, “you made all these people. Can you believe it?” And I’m like…”hey so did you and…nope.”

But instead of feeling weirded out or panicked or wistful or wishful, today I allow myself to soak it in completely. To observe it and feel absolute wonderment and gratitude and joy that this happy, peaceful scene of perfect abundance is mine. Is mine! Is of my making and of my good fortune and of my love and the love of those around me. And of the love and the goodness and the hard work and the faith and the commitment and the forgiveness and kindness of everyone in my family, and everyone who had a supportive role in my family over the years through all of our good times and our many struggles and our day to day conundrums of having too many places to take too many children. Someone always stepped in.  The Universe has shown us a tremendous amount of grace and has  never failed to channel love our way and I don’t know why but I do know that this love is responsible for everything so precious and perfect in my tiny sunny living room.  My tiny very humble living room with it’s random assortment of donated and found furniture and the rug which is actually a big piece of fabric from a bolt I found for $5 at Goodwill and put on a rug mat I found at Big Lots and rejoiced because the widths matched EXACTLY,  this morning and I feel purely and entirely thankful.

At the beginning of this month I was committed to posting something every day. I was derailed by PTSD. I kept writing but it was for me.  And I had many other posts lined up in my drafts for today. But none of them wanted to be published. And long ago I decided that if my heart didn’t beat a little bit more quickly when I considered publishing something I wrote, it was to stay in my personal folders until it did. But here’s something I want you to read it’s by Glennon Doyle and it was written last Thanksgiving Eve:

Here’s what we do tomorrow
We stop trying to be the director of the family show
and we just become an amused audience member

we jump on stage when it’s our line
we let everybody in the family play their role

we stop fixing, cajoling, judging, and lobbying

we stop hoping so hard and start accepting

we let it all be.

And here’s something I want you to know. I have a beautiful, blessed life. And I am thankful for it. And a good deal of the time I also struggle with feelings of great sadness and I struggle with them so that I can enjoy the abundance that is real. And I’m getting so much better at winning those struggles but less than 48 hours ago I lay sobbing like a very little girl in my bed, under my covers. Feeling very sad and very, very, very alone and scared and lonely.   And I wished nothing more than that all the holidays would just disappear because they trigger my PTSD rather badly sometimes. But I also know that I have a family and I don’t want their holiday legacy to be tainted by PTSD and so I figured out what would make this day the very easiest for me. And that meant deciding to cater in most of the Thanksgiving meal and handle only the parts that a very scared, overwhelmed little girl felt was doable.  And once I made that decision I felt more and more like a functional adult.  So if you are feeling very sad or very alone as you see pictures on social media of big happy families enjoying time together know that we all have our struggles. Everything is not as it seems.  Be very, very kind to yourself. Do whatever you need to do to stay alive and to be present and to enjoy the abundance that is in front of you. Because it is present for all of us in some form or another. Even if it is just a comfortable place to sit, a hot cup of coffee, running water and a bed where we can rest undisturbed. Shelter from storms and from vermin. Somewhere we can go to get food.  Whatever it is, recognize it and rest in that abundance and ask nothing else from yourself. And if you simply can’t see any abundance because the sadness is just that overwhelming and the fear and panic feelings are just too real, withhold any judgment. Talk to yourself as if you would a small frightened precious child. Because that is who you are. And assure yourself that this too shall pass. And yes the feelings may come back over and over again but there will be breaks in the clouds and there will be sunshine and you only have to handle what is right in front of you on this day. And then find a distraction if you can. A friendly face, something to laugh at, something to do. Move your body. Get outside even if it is just to take the trash out.  See if you can help a neighbour in any small way. All these things help. They helped me a lot in the last 48 hours. We can do this. I hope you can feel my love and my warmth and my reassurance because it’s meant just for you dear reader.

Much love.

K

Adventures in Float (Sensory Deprivation) Therapy.

It’s November you guys and I’m totally back. I know that’s my line but…hey..

No seriously. This time it’s going to stick. I have missed my blogging so terribly much. So. Terribly. Much.  I have such a backlog of posts in drafts. I have been typing away like a fiend but for some reason I have had such a mental block about getting back in the blogging saddle. But here I am. I am  here.

Several years ago somewhere on this blog (in a post far away which I cannot find) I waxed wishful and wistful about how desperately I would like to have the experience of floating in a sensory deprivation tank. And then.dreams came true and ..this marvelous place opened not very far from my home right in time for my super intense adventures in PTSD. I had read quite a bit about the benefits of floating for PTSD and since I am all about getting that episode of my life dealt with as quickly and properly as possibly, I made an appointment with alacrity. True REST is the acronym representing Reduced Environment Stimulus Therapy which is somewhat different from the idea of total sensory deprivation. The pods offer lights, music and even iphone hook ups so you can listen to whatever you want. They are also equipped with a two way intercom so you are never without access to someone who can answer questions or help you out should you need them.

Just the aesthetics of the True REST float spa are enough to attract anyone looking for some calm and serenity. This glowing orb filled with warm water is nothing short of mesmerizing. MESMERIZING I SAY.  But let’s start at the beginning because the whole thing is An Experience.

When you check in, you trade in  your shoes for flip flops, then you are escorted to the Oasis room where there is all manner of soothing stuff going on. Adult colouring books, soothing instrumentals, herbal tea, fireplace.  It’s the stuff overstimulated mom’s dreams are made of.  At the appointed time you are escorted back to your very own “suite”. It’s all very zen and minimalist.  You shower with the provided shampoo, conditioner and soap, and then you slip into this womb like environment. The photos obviously show people wearing swimsuits but you are encouraged to float naked and since your room is completely private there is no reason not to.

I am horribly claustrophobic to the extent that I have made all of my loved ones promise that I will be buried attached to all sorts of bells and cell phones and shovels and such should it turn out that I was just in a deep coma so I was pretty skeptical as to how well I would cope with getting into a pod and closing the lid. Turns out it really isn’t claustrophobic at all. If you want you can leave the lid open as much as you like (I didn’t like because I didn’t want to get chilly) You are free to push it open at any time. You can also control the lighting from blues, greens, reds or plunge yourself into total darkness, which I only managed to deal with for a few moments at a time. It’s just SO dark.  The pod itself is not small or confining you can float around in there very freely.

My first experience really surprised me because I relaxed and almost fell asleep almost immediately and I am the type of person who can only sleep in my own bed under optimal conditions, when thoroughly exhausted. Ugh so high maintenance.  I felt incredibly relaxed after and the sensation lasted for days after but it wasn’t a very intentional experience and by the time my hour was up that day I was more than ready to get out. I was just so unused to lying still without stimuli.

The next time I went I had the intention of dealing with an injury prior to a race. The extremely high salt content is recommended for athletes and I have had a lot of luck preventing injuries by taking regular Epsom salt baths. And this is way, way next level to that.  I found that the nagging pain in my calf was markedly improved after the first float and so I made an appointment for one more the day before my race.

That’s when the real magic happened. The float started out just as the others, I felt relaxed and delightfully weightless but this time I was able to truly meditate in preparation for my race. For a full hour I was able to really check in with each body part. I spent time visualizing each organ and limb functioning smoothly and healthily. I pictured my heart beating steadily and strong, my lungs expanding fully, I focused on each muscle, tendon, bone. I imagined them, strong and healthy, completing each mile effortlessly.  Then I focused on my mind. I pictured myself feeling the great joy of having overcome so much in the last few years and over the course of my life. Going from completely broken and hopeless to going back to being able to complete goals that that required mental toughness, commitment and consistency. I pictured myself filled with joy and gratitude. At the end of my float I had some playful moments, doing the yoga poses of my dreams in the weightless environment. I felt so completely relaxed and rejuvenated and lo and behold. The pain I had been dealing with for weeks was gone. Entirely gone just in time for my race.  I carried this sense of peaceful, calm confidence in my body and serenity and joy in my mind throughout next 24 hours and my race was truly the stuff that running dreams are made of.  I felt so totally in synch with my body and completely joyful and pain free throughout. I had no anxiety, paced myself perfectly and felt truly triumphant and at peace from beginning to end.

I honestly cannot speak highly enough of the benefits of the float tank. The whole experience is so serene, nurturing, healing and uplifting.  If you are dealing with excess stress physically, mentally, emotionally. If you are dealing with PTSD (the Perrysburg location offers special pricing packages for veterans), if you are an athlete trying to avoid or heal from injury, if you have a chronic condition or illness, this is for  you.  If you like time to yourself, would be interested in taking your meditation to the next level or are just curious as to what this otherworldly womb like state could do for your mind and body, this is for you. Did I mention that they have an oxygen  bar that you can hook up to after your float session? And a beautiful, well appointed dressing room where you can dry your hair, reapply make up and gradually re-enter the real world? It has FLAVOURED oxygen. It’s so incredibly Hollywood!  For more pictures, locations close to you reviews and videos as well as to take advantage of the packages being offered this month be sure to check out their facebook page. 

**I was so impressed with my experience that I felt moved to reach out to True Rest to see if they would be interested in a collaboration to get the word out.  While I have been compensated for this post, all of  the opinions expressed are unsolicited and genuine. 

On Being Fiercely 40 (now that I’m 41)

Darlings. Look at this! A blog post! I had to do it. For posterity. By the time I finish and publish this post I will be celebrating my non-official birthday and will have completed my 40th year on this mortal coil.

And what a year it was, yo.

Honestly? I have lost track of time and space this year. So much has happened it feels like at least 10. Which isn’t a bad way to go when you are 40 and 40 happens to have been your favourite year so far.

I have always heard women proclaiming that their lives began at 40 and everything fell into place and it was the literal best and I was like..the lady doth protest too much, methinks. BUT I AM HERE TO TELL YOU IT IS ALL TRUE.

Which is not to say for a single second that 40 has been one big joyful skip in the meadow of serenity. Not so much. Not at all. I mean when I think back on the year I feel really happy and good about it but apparently lots of shit went down (which I know cognitively and I can even identify to be all too true for several moments like earlier today around 2pm as I sat in my empty bath, fully clothed texting  “FML” messages to a friend).

HOWEVER. HOW.EVER my general sense is that this year has been awesome and that isn’t because it has been easy because it hasn’t all been easy.  It’s just that I feel like me.  And I’m (finally) cool with who I am. All messy and twisty and volatile and angry and peaceful and kind and bitchy and hurt and healed and wise and ridiculous and immature and disciplined and driven and lazy and cool and sexy and dorky and insecure and confident and self loathing and confused and clear thinking. All of me. I’m down with it. I finally am who I am and I love this crazy broad I call Myself.  Yes I do. And I make no apologies for whatever it is I am on any given day because…I am who I am. And that’s what 40 looks like. That’s the gift it’s brought me. Accepting that I am who I am and working within that acceptance to be the best version of me that I can muster on any given day. And some days that looks like just getting out of bed (or getting into bed and staying away from the defenseless public).

Other stuff I love about being 40/41? I’m fortunate enough to be healthy and active and old enough to know how lucky I am to be healthy and active and experienced enough to be good to my body and treat it with the respect it deserves instead of doing crazy things to make it look a certain way I listen to it so that it can feel and function a certain way.  I’m not even going to pretend that I don’t care about how it looks. I want it to look as good as it feels, and when it doesn’t I get frustrated and I’m not sorry about that either. I think enjoying the way we look and feeling confident in our skin is nothing to be ashamed of and certainly something to strive for.  

I’m just not willing to do weird stupid things in the pursuit of appearance at the expense of being able to enjoy life.  I have never enjoyed being inside of my body more than I have this year.  And I know these are jinxing words and I know that this might sound braggy or insensitive to those who are struggling with health issues but please do know that I cherish every moment when I am challenging myself physically or just feeling relaxation or the good type of tired or pleasure in its many forms. I don’t take it for granted. I have had long periods where I have struggled with considerable physical pain with illness and crushing fatigue, I know how soul destroying it is.  Having a healthy, vital body to live inside of as I have continued the hard work of healing from PTSD has been a beautiful gift which I appreciate with a great sense of joy and wonder.  This year I have done some sort of yoga almost every day,  I have kept up with running and I feel like I’m the best runner I have ever been since I started running at age 17. 

I finally figured out good form. Seriously, how did I not know how to run properly all these years and miles later?  A few months ago I started going to a mixed martial arts gym. A couple of years ago I would have laughed at the concept. It was so not me. But do you know what? I left my comfort zone and have discovered that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and boxing have been the most fun, healing things I have done in a long time. But more on that later.

And as ever, the  PTSD thing. Man alive that’s a beast! Am I right? However, it’s a beast that can be conquered. With patience and determination and education and support. It can absolutely be conquered. I still struggle mightily some days. Life has a way of just pulling the freaking rug out whenever you think you are nailing it. Life is a total bitch that way.  But here’s what’s hopeful. I still get triggered from time to time and then I hate everything and it’s the worst and I take a moment to do whatever just to stay alive and then…it passes. It. Passes.  There have not been any major spirals into despair. There haven’t been any more weeks/months lost to torturous pain or perhaps worse..total catatonic numbness. There have been excruciatingly painful, confusing, isolating horrible moments, hours, maybe a day or two and one month in particular this year was grueling, but the reprieves have come quickly and regularly. This is profound progress.  Darlings, please listen to me. If you are in the catatonic numbness or the greyness of the days when you wish you could just cease to exist…please know that this too shall pass and with the right help, you are going to experience those times less and less and even when you are in them the edge will not be quite as sharp and the despair will not be as enveloping and terrifying. It honestly does get better.   And none of this is for naught. I have been so honoured to walk beside others on this journey. In places similar to where I am now, or further down or forward on the path of healing.  As an ex-Mormon, a religion which finds meaning in everything and nothing, it was weird to suddenly find myself at a loose end. Having to define my own belief system. Weird is the wrong word. It was devastating and horrifying and terrifying but also liberating AF and ultimately it has brought me so much peace.  My pain means something if I’m willing to use it to hold space for others who are experiencing their own.  And that’s enough for me. I need nothing else to find meaning in my life. I’m here to help with what I’ve learned through suffering. There’s enough struggle and grief in the world to keep me occupied with that for the rest of my days. And they will be days well spent if I do.

Being 40 has given me focus. I have streamlined my life considerably in recent months. My circle is small and tight, my commitments are few and focused, my goals are reasonable and I am patiently tenacious about achieving them. “Patiently tenacious” means that I am learning to adapt when necessary but that I’m not just rambling around in the dark hoping to get shit down. That’s another thing about being 40, there’s definitely a sense of actually actively figuring out how to get shit down rather than just dreaming and hoping about that “one day” when it will all magically fall into place.  I have checked a lot off the old bucket list this year. And once you get into that zone you find that it becomes easier and easier to do.

In summary this year I have loved my life (even when I’ve been cursing it) and I love my people. I am grateful to have lived another year of this brilliantly brutiful life. I have been incredibly fortunate in my circumstances and my relationships.  I so hope that I can live many more just as eventful, exciting, growth filled, humbling, confusing and fully alive as this one.  Thanks for being along for this ride, and for letting me be a part of yours.

And since I drink now (which by the way is really most enjoyable in moderation in case you were wondering), cheers and L’Chaim and bottoms up and all that!

Kisses,
k

The Fascination of Fixing your Flooded Basement

In keeping with the promise I made to use writing about my experience less as catharsis (which is fine but I do have a therapist and a private journal) and more in terms of offering help in practical portions, I want to cover one of the things that has been very useful to me in being on the path to overcoming my crippling PTSD relatively fast. And that has been to Stay Fascinated.

I am fortunate that the capabilities of the human body and mind are endlessly captivating to me, and while I used to know that there were definitely mind body connections, I had no idea how deeply and inextricably they run together.  I had no idea of how layered and protective the human mind is. How brilliantly the webs of memory and trauma are woven to help us to cope in the short term.

Because I am prone to oversimplifications and analogies in my explanations, I will liken it to when your house is a DISASTER.   It’s the worst it’s ever been and then suddenly you find out that you have overnight guests on the way. Maybe your in-laws. So what do you do? You deal with the mess but not in a way that is a long term resolution. You don’t have time to sift through the crap and make decisions, you just need to create an appearance of not living in a slum and having your shit together.

Maybe you grab a bunch of bags in the method of “Stuff and Scream” I outlined sometime ago, whereupon you grab all the crap off all the surfaces you can see and scream at the family members to join you in stuffing it all into  random bags which you will hide in the basement until such a time that the guests are gone and you can deal with it properly.

 So that’s what often happens with trauma. Childhood trauma particularly. Especially when it’s dealt by people who are supposed to be safe and in charge. When trauma comes at you when you are a kid or a teenager or maybe just very overwhelmed and/or unsupported, you are like…Oh HELL no. I am a kid. I am not equipped for THIS. So you stuff it into all the bags and put it into the basement and pretend that everything is fine. 

Now some people actually forget about all the crap in the basement but others are uncomfortably aware of the piles down there. And some forget about it for a while because life is full and busy and distracting, but then something reminds them and oh dear, what a bummer that is.

But regardless of how consciously unsettled you might be, having all your hastily grabbed, not properly filed or disposed of clutter randomly stuffed down in the basement, is going to wreak havoc on your life when bills go unpaid and permission slips are lost and people are crying about the precious artwork they created for you that you obviously don’t care very much about….

And soon enough, if you don’t get down there to sort stuff out, other guests come and you’ll just keep piling more shit on top of the original chaos and and all the mess gets mixed up, and life will get messier and more chaotic, and more confusing, and if you leave it long enough eventually those piles..well they are going to start making sure that you deal with them.

Maybe you get a situation where your family just can’t even with the fact that you don’t have any idea where the passports are,  or your wife is hella pissed because the basement is now essentially unusuable or omigod…maybe…. there is a flood down there.  And then…well you are out of options. Time to face the music. Right?

When it comes to trauma believe this one truth if you don’t believe anything else I ever tell you. You are going to have to get down there and sift through all that stuff at some time if you are going to have a fully functional, happy life with good, satisfying relationships, and if you don’t, you are going to be consistently unhappy or anxious and weirdly triggered in ways that don’t make any type of sense to anyone least of all you, and eventually you will just dismiss yourself as a horrible, worthless person. That happens a lot sadly, with predictably disastrous results.

Here’s where Staying Fascinated is a life saver. Look. Friends. Nobody relishes the idea of going down into a nasty flooded basement full of soggy crap that you have convinced yourself you don’t need anymore.  I mean I guess some weirdos do. There’s probably a show on TLC about that. I dunno. Back to most people though.  This is why you have to find a positive motivation. Not just: “Omigod the house is going to literally fall down if we don’t sort out the flooded basement.”

But how about:  “Ok so when we clean up the basement,  I bet we are going to find so many cool things we have been looking for, and maybe we can even put in new flooring and make it super functional and cozy and have people over to play pool and chill on the yoga trapeze”. 

Is this analogy clear as mud? Yes? Ok: Working through PTSD in therapy is like that. You can look at it as a chore and a nightmare or you can approach it as a fascinating opportunity to understand so many amazing things about yourself and others and how to navigate a life that seemed like it was in charge of you rather than the other way around.
Because honestly, it is.

I was reviewing a few blog posts from May’s gone by and there is a clear pattern. First when I wasn’t aware of my triggers, everything was just awful. Then I was aware of my triggers,  but I was so upset that I was continuing to be triggered and I wasn’t OVER IT already, so everything was even more awful.

Now I know what I’m dealing with. So everything is hard, like really hard but it’s getting better. Slowly but surely,  it is getting better. My therapist tells me that it’s not even happening slowly but very fast actually. And when you consider that I’m working through decades of trauma over the course of a couple of years I must agree. But without her help and without what I understand now, well, you guys I just don’t know. I might not be here. 

Knowledge is power. Knowledge is fascinating.
 Knowledge is healing.

I find that when I’m in a perpetually triggered state as I have been this last month I alternate between not sleeping and then falling into an exhausted catatonic sleep whereupon I have the most vivid often disturbing dreams which are always highly symbolic. That’s draining and triggering in turn and so I resist sleeping or I wake up a lot and so the cycle continues.  Today after several days of bad sleep I found myself having the deep sleep with hectic dreaming. None of it was pleasant. I was working through a ton of trauma in those dreams.  At one point I actually woke myself up doing a jiu jitsu escape. It was jarring but also kind of cool. And while it was all rather harrowing I take it as a good sign that the basement purge is going well. 

Where I used to wake up after these dreams, feeling a sense of dread and panic and anxiety and then spiral into a full fledged PTSD episode; I find that I am now at the point that I can wake up, feel a sense of dread and panic and anxiety, acknowledge my emotions, remind myself that they are stemming from my dreams and not reality, analyze the dreams, put them in their place and use them to solve puzzles.

Part of my dream today was about being very sick. I remembered that I always used to get very sick at this time of year. I very rarely get sick,  but I can’t remember a single late May until this year where I wasn’t truly ill. This year I haven’t been sick.  That’s not a coincidence. You have to get this trauma out of your cells or it will make you sick. 

One way or another, the basement is going to need to be addressed.

I once read an article about experiencing physical pain as an interested observer instead of a victim. I have used that technique to successfully deal with physical discomfort and athletic challenges many times. And it works just as well with emotional pain. We can transfer ourselves from victim to survivor when we choose to be interested in this process. When we decide to take wisdom from it. When we look at it like a puzzle to be solved. When we anticipate what we will be able to do with the cleaned out basement. 

Stay fascinated darlings. Life is about learning.
xo
k

Do Whatever Just to Stay Alive

If you follow my Instagram story you will know that I have been outlining my practical strategies for coping with flare ups of post traumatic stress. This is partly in keeping with Instagram’s May Mental health #hereforyou initiative, and partly to keep me accountable as I fight the demons of May in my own life.  One of my sanity saving go-to’s is to go running in the woods and in the story I featured one of my favourite songs for running to and the mantra that I have taken from it.  I’m sure I have mentioned “Stay Alive” from one of my fav movies, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. Not a difficult day goes by when I don’t chant to myself over and over:

                                                  Do Whatever Just To Stay Alive.


There is a truth and it’s on our side, dawn is coming open your eyes…
Look into the sun as the new day’s rise….

Deep within most of us on some level most times there is the hope for dawn. But that doesn’t mean that the night isn’t dark and frightening and how the hell are we supposed to survive that?

All weekend I have kept the monster manageably contained through feverish distraction.  Yoga, jiu jitsu, boxing, some kicking (damn that felt good).  Kids, shopping, going out, yoga trapeze! The monster was always right below the surface and that’s not exactly my happiest place but doable.

But today is Monday and the house is quiet. And when you find that the brave Kimmie Schmidt in the drivers seat has been replaced by a frightened little girl who is feeling very threatened and alone that’s not a good space to be. Mommy mode saves me until I drop Ella at school and then I sit in the car , swallowing the panic and assessing my options.

1.I can go home and get into bed and pray for the oblivion of sleep since I woke up 25x last night at least.  Nope. That doesn’t seem right. Day sleeping can spiral in a hurry.

2. I can get into the bath. It’s warm and safe in the bath. But no. Too much stillness.. too much time to think and then I have to get out eventually. Plus my house is a mess.

3. Go for a run. Ok. Do that. I don’t want to do that but it seems like a good choice.

I wandered into my room, looking for the last place I kicked off my running shoes. I spot a book I am half way through. It’s Glennon Doyle’s Love Warrior. G is my jam. She’s messy. She speaks her truth and she is vulnerable and brave and raw and real. She gets me. She’s been scared and sad and messed up and she figured out how to stay alive anyway. G is always a good choice for me. Running can wait for G.

 I settle into reading about one of the worst moments of her life.  A phrase she has used many times in the past pops out at me. Something like..”when you don’t know what to do…just do the next right thing”.  Yes. Doable. Even a frightened little girl can follow these directions. Ok I need to clean the house. It’s Monday. The house needs to be cleaned.  But where do I start?  I thought of a podcast I listened to recently, Jordan Peterson was  talking about activism and trying to change the world being a bit of a stretch when we can’t manage to keep our own rooms tidy. The man is abrasive in his manner but he has a solid point. We can start improving the world but sorting ourselves out first. There’s no denying that truth.

Ok so I will start with my room.  Smoothing the sheets, fluffing the pillows. To keep my panicky mind focused on the task at hand, I listen to my big sister Shona’s voice telling me what to do next. Nobody can clean a room the way Shona can. My friend checks in with me to see how I’m doing with my “no sugar” pact. Sugar is a disaster for me and I only lasted an hour yesterday. I have asked him to be my sponsor. He is a sugar addict who has been in successful recovery for months.  I tell him I’m good because I haven’t eaten yet. This reminds me I haven’t eaten yet. That might explain some of the sense of despair.  Next right thing would be to eat. I open the fridge to see the overnight oats my sainted husband has prepared. Next right thing to do. Tell him thanks for that, check in on his day. Tell him I’m struggling. We talk about the next right thing to do….

This day will be difficult and at times maybe the emotional labour will begin to feel unbearable. But I will breathe through it. I will get some things done. Maybe not nearly as many things as I wish I could get done because it’s hard to get a lot done when you are in labour. But some things, certainly. I will do Some of the Things. This day will be ordinary, and difficult and ultimately it will be triumphant. Because as hard as it will try to bury me and lie to me and tell me how terrifying and hopeless everything is, I will proceed in the truth which is that in reality everything is actually ok at this moment and that infinite hope lies ahead and I am loved.

And so are you.

If you are struggling, and going through your own emotional labour right now and you are not sure how you are going to survive it, may I suggest that you join me in just coming up with one right thing to do at this moment. It can be simple. Maybe brush your teeth. Unload the dishwasher, Empty the trash. Go to that appointment. Clean off your desk. Send a thank you note. Walk to the end of the block and back. Any of these are good things to do. There are any number of right things to do now. Just pick one, You can do that. Do it and then do the next right thing and together we will walk this day out and we will stay alive. (And kicking.)

Much love
k

How Does It End When the War that you’re in is Just You Against You Against You?

Hello darlings

How are you?
Me. Such a mess! A mess! Of note!
I can’t contribute much to this world and that’s a frustration, but transparency about my struggles is something I am committed to. For whatever it is worth. I hope it is indeed worth something to someone.

Life is great though. I mean it really is. I have no complaints.  Everyone is healthy. I’m healthy. Everyone seems happy enough. Everyone seems to be doing what they are supposed to be doing. It’s not Winter anymore. The sun shines from time to time. The dog is still alive. I have a family who are incomparable. I can’t describe their wonders, their support. Living in my pretty little doll house is easy.  It’s small but it’s chill. There’s minimal conflict at any given time, the people who live here are all very awesome. It’s a safe, happy fun place to be. Messy a good deal of the time, but nurturing.  I have friends. They are kind and good and true.  Generous, caring, selfless and loving beyond words. There are no real worries. No true problems. Cute white picket fence town.  Everything is provided for. Couldn’t be easier.

But my life does not seem valuable. It does not seem worthwhile. It does not seem helpful. It does not seem to be worth the pain of living it. The world in my head is often very dark and sad.  My dreams are dreadful.  Every night. The hardest part right now is that it’s back. The darkness.  C-PTSD is the name for what plagues me. Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

 Last May I was practically catatonic but it was to be expected. The things that I had been through in the months just prior to that were a culmination of many many many many years of suppressed trauma and had been cataclysmic in many ways It was really the first time I was addressing my trauma. This May is pretty chill. Nothing is going down other than the good stuff.  Awesome handsome, cool fun, overachiever first kid graduating with honours and a full college scholarship. Four other awesome fun etc kids. Booyah. Mother’s Day. (omigod Mother’s Day can we please please please just dispense of the horror of mother’s day trust me when I tell you it does more harm than good to more people than not. I’m just saying.) Actually, my own Mother’s Day brought every reason for gratitude and  oh grateful I was. It was delightful and I was Over the top grateful. Triggered? That too. The whole week leading up to it maybe a couple of weeks. So bad. All the bad, bad feelings.

Honestly, the last six months have been full of triggers. And some of the time I was a trooper through those triggers and faced them like a little champion and some of the time I did all the wrong things and pretended none of it was happening to me…lalalalalalallaaaaaaa.. After a while I “had to take a break” from therapy. I just couldn’t keep digging. I felt the need for emotional independence. I just wanted to be normal, carefree, in the present. Apparently breaks are ok. They happen. I took way too long of a break. My bad. You don’t quit therapy. That’s a luxury that is not afforded to those who are in the early stages of dealing with unresolved C-PTSD.

You guys, I don’t know much about freaking anything but one thing I have learned and I know and I live every day is that TRAUMA WILL OUT. You can’t DIY yourself out of it, regardless of how smart and resilient you may think you are.  That MOFO will insist on being heard and the way it can be heard if you don’t know what is going on is confusing and weird and insidious and very damaging to the soul. So you won’t necessarily act up in the way one might expect you to.  You may go about your day and be the freaking life of the freaking party all the damn time.  You might smile and hold down a job and laugh a lot and throw lovely parties for your lovely children.  And show up and do the things you say you will do, and run and do yoga and seem like you  have it all together. More than all together. But those observing closely will sense the cracks in the facade, they will see that you aren’t ok and then one day one of them will show up at your workplace and ask you with a kind and worried face how you are because they are truly worried and then maybe the dam will break and you will sob and you will sob and you will sob. Openly. Just as you have been doing as you hide in your car, the storeroom at work, the bathroom before you wash your face and touch up your makeup and go back to being “on”.    And then you will realize that your cover is blown. And you will wonder why you bothered with the cover at all.  And then the old question that you have fought against since you were 11 or 12 years old will rise to the surface again and will coldly, boldly ask you why you bother with life? You are so stupid and so weak and worthless, so ridiculous and generally just so very useless. You are taking up space, and air. And time and other people’s worry.  Wouldn’t everyone just be so much better off not having to worry about you? What a burden you are.

It will tell you that in all likelihood you are much too broken to fix. The patch job that you’ve been doing all your life, the one that you used to reel in all these kind and unsuspecting people who unwittingly have grown to like or even love you…it’s wearing off  it’s falling apart and there’s no way to fix what has been revealed and soon they will ALL ABANDON YOU. Total abandonment is inevitable! Why wouldn’t it be? Why would people stand by you while you muddle your way through this shit?  To fix you will take resources, and time and concern.  Which could be so much more easily channeled into so many more worthy causes. More worthy uncomplicated, undamaged people. Right? Quit while you are ahead. There’s no hope. Do it to be kind. Do it to be kind to all the unwitting people who you cunningly made care about and now are saddled and burdened with you.  Right?

They tell me wrong. They tell me I’m wrong. They keep saying I’m wrong. There’s a part of me that believes them.

Yet.

All my life I have been motivated by being kind. I recognize that about myself. I am kind. I like that about myself. I value kindness above any other quality.  Being kind is good. I’m not always kind, not by any stretch of the imagination, but ultimately, I try very hard to be. I really do.  I want everyone around me, whether they love or like or even know me to be ok. I want the world to be ok. I don’t want other people to feel pain or suffering. If you make kindness your primary motivation in life you can live to have a very valuable life. See Mother Theresa.  You can also become very neurotic and allow yourself to become very hurt.  See me. I know that. I’ve lived that. I’ve been somewhat successful in my kindness I think. I believe I have raised kind children.. But I haven’t successfully extended the kindness to myself on any consistent basis.

The same friend who showed up at my workplace and watched me cry and cry and cry later sent me a text with a link to a song. It had been a horrific day. Horrific.Worst of the worst. I was out of options.  I was in the lowest of low places. I didn’t want to listen to it. I knew that she has a very simple and very profound faith in a God that I do not have a simple faith in.  I do not have good connotations with that God and I really didn’t want to have anything to do with anything that would remind me of Him at that time.  But! If a friend takes enough time out of their day to think of me, and send me a kind wish and then goes so far as to look up a link and send it to me in an effort to help me, well then dammit the least I can do is listen. That’s just good manners. Suicidal depression aside. Good manners trumps all.  I lay in my bed under my covers and listened. The song was short, it was tender and the message was simple. There was an oblique reference to God but I inserted my kind friend’s face in there instead. Actually the faces of many kind people in my life flashed before me one by one.

And then one line broke through the stoic ice cold numbness I had summoned to protect my fragile heart and broke it:

….you can’t expect to be perfect, it’s a fight you have to forfeit so
lay down your weapon, 
darling take a deep breath and believe that I love you. 
Be kind to yourself. Be kind to yourself.
You’ve got to learn to love your enemies too.

My breath caught. The tender nurturing simplicity of the injunction broke through my cold self loathing determination and I sobbed again. Just for a moment. I’m sorry to say that crying doesn’t come easily to me because I think it can be very cathartic. I wish I cried more easily. But it was enough. Enough to break the cold clinical devastating spell of what I thought I should do and had to find the courage to do to make everything ok for everyone else.

Later by some miracle, I managed to go for a run,  the song rolled around on my playlist and again that same line emerged, I felt my step quicken so that I could keep my composure but again it broke me. As I ran I sobbed and sobbed. I felt humanity. I felt a tiny shred of kindness toward myself, the self that was also the enemy. Maybe not something not quite as powerful as kindness but an acknowledgment at least, that the light within me deserved to you know…not be snuffed out….. I’m not sure, to be honest how to explain how I felt. But it was something. Enough to get me through the day.

Since then, I’m getting through the day. Sometimes one minute at a time, sometimes hours flow fairly effortlessly by. Generally it’s a minute by minute thing.

You guys I wish I had a happy spin or pretty bow for this story. I do. It seems like that would be the kind way to end this. But another line from the song, the title of this blog post which asks, “how does it end?”  This war in my head. Just me against me against me?

 And I can’t tell you. I just can’t.

 I can tell you that:
I’ve overcome a lot to be where I am, however tenuous that place might be I’ve had a part in bringing about some truly nice people into the world. And I do remember even as a young child experiencing trauma confidently innately believing that all would be well, if it had to happen to someone I was glad it was me because I’d be ok. I knew I was strong and I knew I could make bad things turn out to be good lessons. I knew it would make me kind and more compassionate.

 But it would appear that I forgot about myself.  Compassion is supposed to be turned inwards too. I talk a pretty good game about that. But when it comes to me, I don’t feel it.  I don’t see the point in it. I don’t see much value in me. Keeping it real. Right now I see myself as infinitely disposal and dispensable, completely replaceable. But I also tell myself that while I may be dispensable, first do no harm. First be kind. Be kind where you can and give what you have. Right now, I don’t have much to give.  But I do know that sharing my pain in the past has been kind. People have told me it has helped them. And so I hope it does.

If you can; be kind to yourself today. If you can take a deep breath darling, and lay down your weapon and just be kind to yourself today. I hope you will.
xoxo