PTSD Awareness Month: My Interview with Michele Rosenthal

June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month.

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that may develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which severe physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or unnatural disasters, accidents, or military combat.

Anyone who has gone through a life-threatening event can develop PTSD including military troops who served in wars; rescue workers for catastrophes like the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.; survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing; survivors of accidents, rape, physical or sexual abuse, and other crimes; immigrants fleeing violence in their countries; survivors of earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes; and those who witness traumatic events. Family members of victims can develop the disorder as well.

PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults, but it can occur at any age, including childhood. Women are more likely to develop the disorder than men, and there is some evidence that it may run in families. PTSD is frequently accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders. When other conditions are appropriately diagnosed and treated, the likelihood of successful treatment increases.

Roughly 30 percent of Vietnam veterans developed PTSD. The disorder also has been detected in as many as 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans, about 6% to 11% of veterans of the Afghanistan war, and about 12% to 20% of veterans of the Iraq war.

Other factors in a combat situation can add more stress to an already stressful situation and may contribute to PTSD and other mental health problems. These factors include what you do in the war, the politics around the war, where it’s fought, and the type of enemy you face.Another cause of PTSD in the military can be military sexual trauma (MST). This is any sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs while you are in the military. MST can happen to men and women and can occur during peacetime, training, or war. Among veterans using VA health care, about 23 out of 100 women (23%) reported sexual assault when in the military, 55 out of 100 women (55%) and 38 out of 100 men (38%) have experienced sexual harassment when in the military.

PTSD is diagnosed when the stress symptoms following exposure have persisted for at least a month. When symptoms develop immediately after exposure, the condition may be called acute stress disorder.*

 

Last June I made a YouTube video about my own PTSD Recovery:

 

 

PTSD expert, Michele Rosenthal, lit up my life last year when she shared my video on her Heal My PTSD website (click here).

 

Michele Rosenthal is an award-winning PTSD blogger, bestselling and award-nominated author, founder of HealMyPTSD.com, host of Changing Direction radio, and a former faculty member of the Clinical Development Institute for Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center. She is also a trauma survivor who struggled with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for over twenty-five years before launching a successful “healing rampage.” Her most recent book is Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices to Reclaim Your Identity (W. W. Norton).

 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

 

This year, I got the privilege of interviewing Michele Rosenthal!!

 

This is incredibly exciting because I owe my recovery process to her. If you think you might suffer from PTSD, subscribe to HealMyPTSD.com and enjoy all the FREE resources; I know I do.

 

Without further ado, my interview of Michele Rosenthal:

 


How long did you suffer from PTSD before you sought treatment specifically for PTSD?

Sadly, my story is like so many survivors with PTSD: I struggled for too many years without understanding what was wrong with me. While I intermittently sought help from the mental health and medical communities 24 years went by before I finally received the PTSD diagnosis — and that was because of my own self-advocacy. I was getting worse and worse in therapy and decided to do my own research about my symptoms. The research led me to PTSD literature and a PTSD self-test like the one we have on the Heal My PTSD web site. I took the test and scored extremely high, then took those results to a trauma trained therapist for direction, guidance and ultimately a diagnosis.

What were your PTSD symptoms?

The usual mix: Anxiety, insomnia, recurring nightmare, numbness, avoidance, intrusive thoughts, unpredictable emotional swings, rage, dissociation, hypervigilance.

How exactly was your PTSD diagnosed (did a doctor surprise you with the news or did you tell your doctor that’s what you suspect the problem to be)?

I showed my therapist at the time the results of the PTSD self-test and asked if he thought I had PTSD. He responded, “What is PTSD?” That’s when I knew I needed to specifically find a trauma trained therapist to help me. She immediately recognized the symptoms and history.

What specific combination of healing exercises helped you recover from PTSD?

A mix of traditional and alternative processes that I put together based on what made me feel most comfortable. I started with talk therapy that included cognitive behavioral therapy, then added Emotional Freedom Technique, Thought Field Therapy, EMDR, Tapas Acupressure technique, acupuncture, hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming. Whew, it took a lot to get me to freedom but it was worth it!

How long have you been free from PTSD symptoms?

Eight fabulous, fun, joyful and wonderful years. Which is not to say there haven’t been traumas! Indeed, the most exciting part of recovery has been experiencing another life-threatening trauma (very close to the category of my original trauma) and coming through it with zero repercussions. Healing really can happen — and stick.

Any advice for those trying to heal their PTSD?

Yes……

Engage and participate in your healing.

For too long I thought others (i.e. therapists) could/would do it for me. Well, with that attitude I didn’t get very far. In the end only we can truly facilitate our recovery. Everyone else is there to support, guide and help.

To keep yourself moving forward keep making choices and taking actions. These are the mechanics of healing and they offer you a process to gain and keep healing momentum every day.
Access and feed your hope. There will be dark, horrible, awful days in PTSD recovery. During those moments it’s going to be necessary to find a reason to keep going.

Identify what inspires you, and what provides your reason for slogging through the muck. Sometimes, that will mean connecting to a source of hope inside yourself; other times that will mean borrowing hope from outside yourself.

However you do it, fan the flame of hope because that’s where the fire of determination is born.

Remember that you are the expert in you. Personalize your recovery so that you feel able and as comfortable as possible in the discomfort of healing.
Remember that you have enormous healing potential; the goal is learning to access it. You can do this. Dig deep!

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Michele Rosenthal
Award-Nominated Author, Speaker, Post-Trauma Coach
Founder, www.HealMyPTSD.com
Radio Host, CHANGING DIRECTION
Author, Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices To Reclaim Your Identity


 

What struck me the most about this interview was how similar our experiences were with the (mis)diagnosis.

 

YOU HAVE TO ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF.

 

If you think you have PTSD, take this self test (click here). This is the beginning of your recovery, Warrior, well done. You will most likely need to do your own research in finding a QUALIFIED Trauma expert (a medical professional who not only knows what PTSD is, but also how to effectively treat the symptoms you experience) to bring the test results to and create an action plan.

 

Because of Michele Rosenthal, who is a class act, there are free resources that can help you on your journey to being CURED from your PTSD symptoms.

 

Am I cured?

 

Almost. I have been diligently working to heal my own PTSD for the past 2 years and the results are remarkable. I have complex PTSD.

 

Complex PTSD, also known as disorder of extreme stress, is found among individuals who have been exposed to prolonged traumatic circumstances, especially during childhood, such as childhood sexual abuse. Research shows that many brain and hormonal changes may occur as a result of early, prolonged trauma, and contribute to troubles with learning, memory, and regulating emotions. Combined with a disruptive, abusive home environment, these brain and hormonal changes may contribute to severe behavioral difficulties such as eating disorders, impulsivity, aggression, inappropriate sexual behavior, alcohol or drug abuse, and other self-destructive actions, as well as emotional regulation (such as intense rage, depression, or panic) and mental difficulties (such as scattered thoughts, dissociation, and amnesia). As adults, these individuals often are diagnosed with depressive disorders, personality disorders, or dissociative disorders. Treatment may progress at a much slower rate, and requires a sensitive and structured program delivered by a trauma specialist.*

 

Like Michele Rosenthal, it took decades for me to figure out on my own that the symptoms I was habitually experiencing were PTSD. Doctors could not help me until I figured that out on my own. Even then, doctors can do very little to help you; your recovery has to be ALL you.

 

Ew. No.

 

Yes. Seriously.  No one is coming to save you. Save yourself. Fight for yourself. Create a support team who understands (for a long time, you may be the only person on your own team and that is okay). Above all else, figure out how to LOVE YOURSELF.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

How to be a genuine rebel: wear your hair

Did you know that hair is rebellious?

 

I have always been struck by Patsy Cline’s Crazy. Crazy. Crazy for FEELING so LONELY.

 

I have a lot of thoughts going on at once, a whole encyclopedia per topic. I learned at a young age that all those words + feelings tend to make most others extremely uncomfortable; that it would be easier for other people if I toned myself down.

 

Unfortunately, I decided around 10 years old that I would rather be considered quiet than crazy. I became reserved, serious, observant…the duller version of me.

 

Well, I had a secret. A big secret. Tons of secrets actually, I was choking on them.

 

One huge encyclopedia set of secrets could be dedicated to the changes I noticed going on with my body. I’ll just come out and say it: boobs. They were glorious. They still are. I started to fall in love love with my body. I was my own private dancer.

 

Private being the operative word because it became clear at this time that my body required policing; shirts were not a suggestion, they were THE LAW.

 

Coincidentally, that shirt helped mask another developing secret…out of nowhere…from the pits of my arms….

 

Hair.

 

Whoa.

 

As an American girl of German/Italian descent, I knew this was a “problem” that I could easily solve. I got out the Lady Bic and destroyed all the evidence.

 

Destroyed being the operative word because those soft brown hairs were immediately replaced by screaming red bumps.

 

Ouch.

 

My 10-year-old armpits were scarred for life. I repeatedly shaved over the screaming red bumps every other day for 22 more years.

 

Why?!! Was everyone super into them?

 

No. I am aware that it is unheard of to compliment another person’s armpit. Are you aware that it is totally common for my armpits to be the source of ridicule? Seriously, I have received MANY grimaces and complaints regarding the black hole that is my armpit. Before my son could talk, he looked right at my shaved armpit and said:

 

“Ew!”

 

I pointed to my shaved armpit and asked: “this is ew?”

 

He nodded his baby head solemnly.

 

Sigh. Why didn’t the old faithful combination of grooming + pain = beauty?

 

WHY?!!!

 

Honestly, I blamed my body. The problem with my armpits was that no matter what, my freshly shaved armpit revealed a five o clock shadow. You could always see black beneath the surface because, honestly, just beneath the surface of my delicate skin was thick bold black hair waiting to burst through.

 

Awhile ago I noticed this Instagram page dedicated to showcasing ladies with hairy armpits (@ladypithairy). I scrolled through all the pics with my jaw dropped and my eyes darting back and forth from armpit to face, armpit to face, armpit to face. I could not believe that armpit hair DID NOT diminish their beauty whatsoever. In fact, something about the rebelliousness, the unapologetic look in their eyes was SO attractive to me.

 

Dare I?

 

Somehow I gathered the courage to stop shaving my battered armpits. Not somehow. I remember now. There was this tween Vine star who shocked a lot of his fans by making a statement about how girls should shave their armpits. My 14-year-old goddaughter was a fan of his and I just could not do it anymore. It is exhausting to have your natural body policed for over 3 decades, especially when you notice the new batch of police officers are less than half your age…

 

hair

 

I went crazy. I stopped shaving my armpits. Previous to this article, only 7 people even knew about my indiscretion. My social experiment is rather introverted in nature, but I can easily disclose the results from this closed group:

 

(1) Mild concern. “OMG, you like it?!” or “What does your husband think?” (Ha).

 

(2) Dissent. “Stop.” “Don’t do this.” “At least trim, stay groomed. “

 

(3) Confusion. Mainly there was confusion. “Why are you doing this?” “When will you be done doing this?” “What is that?”

 

The last question came from my toddler and it was beautiful. He noticed my armpit hair, pointed to it and said: What is that? I told him that it was my armpit hair, that I have it because I am an adult, that Daddy has it too because he is an adult and that, one day, when he gets bigger, he will also have amazing armpit hair.

 

His face was priceless. He actually didn’t even believe me. “Daddy has hair here?” I took my son by the hand and walked him to the bathroom where his Dad was getting ready for work. My husband and I stood side by side and revealed to our son that we both have basically the same exact armpit hair situation (mine is actually a little bit fuller and more awesome). My son was clearly thrilled, it was written all over his face. He can’t wait to get bigger and have glorious adult armpit hair.

 

hair

 

The combination of the above 3 reactions resulted in the certainty that I had to keep it up. I am a rebel by nature.

 

I was on to something.

 

Personally, I could not get over how aggressive I perceived myself to be. Aggressive. The word was constantly popping up in my mind. I wasn’t just scratching my head, the presence of the armpit hair turned it into an aggressive head scratch. I wasn’t just reaching for the cereal on the top shelf, I was aggressively reaching for top shelf items. It was weird. I talked about it a lot. Why do I feel aggressive?

 

hair

 

My dear friend gently pointed it out to me: maybe you are aggressive.

 

WHAT?!!!!!

 

She’s right. Upon reflection, I know that it’s true. I am aggressive because I have been “managing” the fear that I already am aggressive since about 10 years old. By managing I mean that as part of my thought process, I would determine that my first idea for how to achieve an objective was “too aggressive” and then I would pick from plans B-Z. God forbid someone think I was a “bitch.”

 

And so the cycle of burying who I truly was began. At age 10. By the time I was 16, I knew I was full blown crazy but instead of letting the real Rachel out, I buried her deeper. She’s so aggressive…I hate her…I wish she was dead.

 

This was my mantra. It kept me out of trouble. Neglected children should get a handout for how to parent themselves better. I remember when I was 22 how my older brother called me bipolar and punched my bedroom door off the hinges. I remember how I went into my closet and cried on the floor.

 

I am not bipolar. I am an emotional creature. I am a human being who is reacting beautifully to a lifetime of oppression. I am grieving. I am a survivor of PTSD. I am healing. I am INFJ and an empath. Knowing who I am has brought me right back to the beginning: I am aggressive. I will fight for my rights. That’s not crazy.

 

Rolling over and burying yourself alive is crazy.

 

Shortly before I started growing out my armpit hair, my husband and I went to the movies to see Guardians of the Galaxy. I was not familiar with the storyline going into it and was very struck by the character named Groot. There is a very magical moment near the end of the film where Groot’s tree-like body expands into a protective sphere, saving the lives of all his friends, at the cost of his own life. It was beautiful. My heart was aching because I knew it was going to happen…because I would do the same thing.

 

groot

 

If I were a superhero, my powers would be related to my ability to grow amazing hair. Everywhere. If I had to, I know that I could, in a similar magic moment, expand my hair growth into a protective hair sphere around my husband and son, to save their lives. It would be beautiful. And so gross. Obviously.

 

Fortunately, I decided at 32 years of age to stop toning myself down. Patsy Cline’s Crazy has taken on a whole new meaning. I still feel lonely, but I don’t feel crazy about it. I feel able to connect with like-minded individuals because I uncovered that girl I buried alive. She’s stronger than ever now…angrier and more aggressive, too. Good thing. Life’s a bitch.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

hiar

 

long hair don’t care

DIY stands for Do It Yourself

DIY means Do It Yourself

 

Yes!

 

I am in love with my home all over again.

 

This always happens in the aftermath of a DIY…

 

(I didn’t know what DIY stood for until 2014, so I will just stop here and say: I got crafty).

 

In my first YouTube video, I mention that I am doing some serious nesting right now in my home and explain the health benefits of surrounding yourself with Beauty.

 

1

 

This is a Kelly Rae Roberts piece that I actually don’t own quite just yet, but am still making the message a daily practice. As you all know, I am obsessed with potting plants and Kelly Rae Roberts art right now. But that’s just a fraction of what I have going on over here. By nesting, I mean I am on a quest to make my home absolutely beauty-FULL. I go at my own pace, only work when I am creatively inspired and am ALWAYS thinking about a variety of projects/ideas and how to best implement them. It’s a mental exercise I really enjoy (you should try it!).

 

It wasn’t always this way. I actually did not nest at all during my pregnancy; that symptom from the what to expect book never paid me a visit. I have always had a sense of style, but was very traditional in my home decor, which is not even my personality. When I was 30 weeks pregnant and turned 30 years old on November 30th (Golden Birthday!) my friend Libby came to visit and told me:

 

You have got to decorate above your cupboards.

 

Okay.

 

Shortly after my son was born, Libby came back to visit and told me:

 

I wasn’t kidding. I hate this, it looks terrible. I told you to decorate up there.

 

2

 

Obviously no one was impressed with my minimalist style. Libby whispered to me:

 

Let’s go shopping…

 

I started to nod my head uncontrollably and felt like a dog who wants to go on a car ride: ‘cited!

 

It was actually my first social outing since my son was born other than the dentist and I was pumped; we had so much fun at TJ Maxx Home Goods it was off the hook.

 

We decorated above all 3 cabinet areas in my kitchen and we were THRILLED.

 

3

 

That was 2012.  It took until 2014 for my husband to admit he was not thrilled with the area above the fridge. Why? He doesn’t know. Okay. So I started thinking about what would be the BEST thing for us? I thought long and hard and then I slowly began to execute my plan.

 

We like plants, so I wanted to have a nice green base. Went to the craft store and picked out a bunch of large green drapey fabric plant pieces. Decided while I was there that because I love hydrangeas and orchids, that I would be picking up fabric representations of those as well.  I got up on a ladder, used clear push pins and stuck all my pieces into the wall. Some of the green pieces I bought were so large, I cut them into 4 different pieces to cover the whole area.

 

DIY

 

It remained this way for weeks, maybe even a whole month until my lights arrived. I had to have a string of heart shaped paper lantern lights. Listen, if you feel that way, too, let me save you the headache and send you to Etsy where I got mine (this is also where I got the string of star shaped paper lanterns that I use in all my YouTube videos) because I could not find them in stores.

 

DIY

 

Clear push pins hold the lights in place and MIRACULOUSLY, there was an outlet in the top cupboard to plug into. My Husband drilled a hole into the top of the cupboard and fished the cord through so we can access the light plug by opening the cupboard above the oven. Easy.

 

DIY

 

Things remained this way for a few more weeks. The last step was the hard part. I had to figure out how to hang block letters in a whimsical manner that ensured high visibility of all pieces. My first thought was to string them all together like the lights, but that was a disaster because all the letters crashed into each other and spun all around; looked terrible. My second thought was to hang the lights from the ceiling using clear push pins and fishing wire. My husband put a special drill bit on the power drill and I went into the garage to drill holes into the tops of my letters, to string the fishing wire through. Ok, well, once hung from only the top, the letters still spun around constantly. My husband, who has the patience of a saint, climbed up the ladder to intricately tie down the bottoms of the letters with fishing wire and….drum roll please…

 

FINISHED PRODUCT:

 

DIY

 

Do you LOVE it???

 

DIY

 

We do. Every day when we use that door to the left to exit our home and enter the garage, I feel the love. When I’m preparing meals, I look at the oven timer and feel the love. When we hungrily walk to the fridge, we all feel the love. I want my son to know that we VALUE LOVE in this household.

 

Beauty matters. Surround yourself with it.

 

XO

~Rachel

Heal your Self, heal the world

PTSD Hiking & Healing: Rocky Mountain National Park Style

PTSD Hiking & Healing: Rocky Mountain National Park Style

 

When you live in the desert—summer vacay is essential for your sanity.

 

In my first YouTube video, I mention how my husband and I have a life goal of hiking in every National Park in America. Well, we brought our toddler to Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado in the hopes of, among other things, spotting moose!

 

It’s OK that I forgot to bring my National Park Passport because I got that park stamp 9 months ago when my husband and I came to celebrate our 10-year dating anniversary.

 

A1

 

We saw zero moose on this trip in the Fall of 2013.

 

A2

 

We had 15 moose sightings this time in the summer of 2014.

 

A3

 

Amazing!

 

A4

 

Every single time we saw moose, the hairs on my arms stood up, I got goosebumps, my heart would beat so fast and I would smile HUGE, much bigger than usual. Dream come true.

 

A5

A6

 

But I still have PTSD and I was a little nervous because the last time we were in Colorado, my PTSD was triggered, resulting in cyclical vomiting that lead to dehydration and a sexy anniversary out-of-State Emergency Room visit so that I could hook up to an IV, rehydrate and calm down my intestines. Cha Ching. (I am currently in the appeal process with my Insurance Company who decided that visit was not an emergency…it’s hard not to take personal that dehydration leads to death but whatever insurance company, whatever).

 

I don’t know why that happened to me last time I was in Colorado, but I was determined to not let it happen again. I have come SO far in my recovery process and the idea of bringing my toddler to the ER is anxiety provoking in itself.

 

Having my son along on this trip was a very different experience. He did not take a nap one day that whole week. He was so excited he fought sleep the entire time actually; waking at 6 a.m. every day like a rooster and succumbing to exhaustion around 10 p.m. after hours of “it’s bed time, Jackson.”

 

It shouldn’t matter, but the fact that the area we stayed in had no internet or cell phone reception threw me for a loop. In my first YouTube video, PTSD RECOVERY, I describe a myriad of Mind, Body & Heart exercises that I do to heal from my injury. Well, a lot of what I mention involves accessing the internet (Research, my nightly Meditation, my Yoga podcast, etc.!!) and taking that away was kind of devastating to me emotionally.

 

You see, I got triggered.

 

One of the symptoms that my PTSD presents is an exaggerated startle response. I have managed it for decades. Sometimes it is worse than others. Basically it means, I am WAY more startled biologically than the situation warrants.

 

So I’m sitting on the porch of our cabin and it’s after 10 p.m. but I’m still waiting for my husband to join me (meaning my son is still awake and it’s my husband’s turn to make him lay in the bed by staying there cuddling with him until he falls asleep).

 

I hear a noise behind me that seems like 3 adults very carelessly tramping through the forest in the dark. Not talking. Before I turn around, in a matter of seconds, I feel and think a million emotions and thoughts.

 

Terror. Calm down. Don’t scare them by screaming, calm down. Confusion. Yeah but why are they in my back yard? It’s a rental. I don’t know. Oppression. Why would 3 grown people walk so quickly and brashly toward your back porch in the dark at night without talking? Oh no. What can be used as a weapon…nonchalantly…so they don’t get mad in case they weren’t trying to rape you, just talk to you…in the dark…at night…in the woods…alone…no phones…so aggressively…

 

All of that and more in a matter of seconds…it was sickening. So I turn my head slowly to see what’s behind me moving so quickly and it’s a huge moose walking the length of our cabin.

 

My thoughts at this point are so erratic, I can’t describe them well enough to do it justice but I can tell you that I had an overwhelming VERY PRIMAL feeling that I was in the presence of a dinosaur.

 

“Dinosaur”…I whispered in my own head dramatically as I realized that, without thinking, I was already standing at the back door trying desperately to get in the cabin, get away from the 10 foot moose that was 10 feet away from me.

 

The doorknob betrayed me and WHY?!

 

LIKE A HORROR MOVIE, SOMEONE IS STANDING THERE IN THE DARK ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR HOLDING THE KNOB!!!!!!!!!

 

Yeah, it’s my husband coming to join me, finally.

 

A…moose…

 

I guess at this point I am very much like John Candy in the end of the movie The Great Outdoors when he’s all “big bear chase me…”

 

PTSD hiking

 

And seriously, I don’t even go in the house; I am already intellectually ready to get my moose spotting on (though my physical and emotional needs have not yet been totally understood let alone been met) because I know how rare and special this is. And I’m trying…

 

Ah…PTSD. You bastard. Taking my moments and making them…difficult.

 

Honestly, this startling experience really set the tone for the rest of the vacay.

 

It seems so bratty, why can’t you just enjoy your dream vacation?

 

A8

 

Impromptu pony ride in our pajamas? Why not.

 

A9

A10

 

Hiking:

 

A11

 

Visiting with my lifelong friends who came up for one night of AMAZING memories:

 

A12

 

But it wasn’t just the lack of internet or phone. No potted plants, no fancy bubble baths, no Jillian Michaels DVD’s, no vision board…limited to only one book and one journal (!?). Tough. Especially when my other PTSD symptom resurfaced: rage. Yup, I have it. RAGE. It came upon me suddenly, as it always does.

 

I try to manage my symptoms as best I can and rage is the easiest for me to spot because it’s so…not me. It’s not logical. It’s not kind. It’s not loving. It’s not what I want to be doing or feeling at all. So what I do in those moments is take a walk (a healing exercise that was, thankfully, still very much available to me on vacation).

 

I mentioned in a really kind, calm, casual way in my first YouTube video that I like to hike or take walks around the block—as a healing exercise. Please allow me to add this caveat: I am not kind, calm or casual when I am walking as a healing exercise. I am furious. When I am done walking (my body knows when it’s over) I am not furious anymore, I feel better.

 

Luckily, when the rage bubbling up finally surfaced, my husband and son were riding a huge horse together into the Rocky Mountain National Park and I was given 2 hours to do what I wanted without a toddler in tow. Perfect time to freak out. I don’t drive when this happens because it’s not safe. So I left the car keys with my husband and walked (stomped) 6 miles back to our cabin from “town.”

 

If I knew it was 6 miles I probably wouldn’t have done it, we had plenty more hiking we were going to do as a family later that day. But I am glad I did. I needed it.

 

PTSD hiking

 

I know now why Rambo walks alone. I mention in an earlier Blog post that Rambo First Blood is the greatest PTSD story ever told. In the beginning of that movie he is shown walking alone for what seems to be miles. Whenever he meets up with someone in that movie, the loneliness only seems to become more evident and it also intensifies. Me and Rambo have a lot to think about while we walk.

 

PTSD hiking

 

Was I doing positive mantras while I walked? Oh hell no. It was ugly…

 

PTSD hiking

 

Yes, I was looking at the Rocky Mountains thinking very dark thoughts. Until I heard an old truck slowing down behind me. I look briefly behind me to see a beat up truck approaching me with the passenger window down.

 

How tough is Rambo now? My first thought was: go ahead and try to murder me, stranger, I’m in the mood to fight right now. Very quickly, my second thought was much more intense: he’s not going to kill you Rachel, it’ll be worse…then my brain imagined all the scenarios that are worse…so when he said:

 

“It puts the lotion in the basket”

 

A16

 

I was like: excuse me?

 

“I’m going to the Windy River Ranch, you want a lift?” Literally in the same deep terrifying voice as the killer (Buffalo Bob) from the movie Silence of the Lambs.

 

No thank you, I am super close to my destination (not true) and really enjoying the exercise but thank you for asking!

 

I smile and look him right in the eyes as if to say: don’t hurt me. He keeps driving. I realize now that I am 3 miles from my destination and it bothers me that I have seen so many R rated movies but also that we do live in a country where women are blamed for their rape. I looked down at my American Flag tee shirt like, do I look like a whore? Wedding ring is on. Check. Ok. Replay the movie Silence of the Lambs in my mind for the rest of the walk…think about how it sucks that women get kidnapped for the weirdest reasons.

 

Finally made it to my cabin and now have blisters on the balls of both feet. I cry. Hard. I begrudgingly drink water but feel way too upset to ingest food. I shower, I journal, I nap and when I wake up, my husband takes us out for ice cream.

 

A17

 

I’m overcome with emotion as I watch my son’s face jumping off of a dock holding his Dada’s hand.

 

A18

A19

A20

 

Over and over again.

 

A21

A22

A23

 

It was here in this moment that I began to find myself. My mantras started to flow: this is your family, your family is beautiful, you belong here with your family, I love you, Rachel, stay here with your family who loves you.

 

Love yourself.

 

A24

 

The journey is not always pretty. Be kind to yourself along the way.

 

XO

~Rachel

Heal your Self, heal the world

Eating Grief & Friendship (a love story)

Eating Grief & Friendship (a love story)

 

In my first YouTube video, I mention the health benefits of taking a break from toxic relationships.

 

You can have a healthy relationship with someone as long as they let you have your story. Including your parents, siblings, spouse, friends, etc. If you are not allowed to tell your TRUE story because someone keeps changing it in a way that dismisses or invalidates the very essence of your being, that is a toxic relationship you are free to let go of. You’re welcome.

 

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It’s not easy to let go of or take breaks from relationships. It involves GRIEVING. I’m talking about Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance…in a constant cycle…for the rest of your life. (You’re welcome?).

 

I’ve been spending some time each day multitasking sunshine and reading on my hammock. It’s awesome.

 

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Intuitive Healing is a book that I highly recommend. I’m not that into doctors in general because of my experience with flagrant disregard for emotional health, but this lady seems like the kind of M.D. I could have a doctor/patient relationship with. This book gives me permission to use my INTUITION regarding personal health and wellness (finally!).

 

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Here is an excerpt that I read today from Intuitive Healing:

 

“Here’s a formula for healing everything from anxiety to abuse: Darkness is transmuted into light by love. A practical alchemy. Give yourself latitude in expressing self-love. No rules: just your personal truth in the moment. Suppose you’re depressed. You may decide to enter psychotherapy, take antidepressants, not take antidepressants, go on a meditation retreat, call a time-out with your mother, or build sandcastles on the beach. Follow your intuition. If you’ve lost touch with it—stop. Find someone to help you reconnect. This is fundamental work I do with all my patients. Part of healing is reaching out. If you can’t love yourself (those times may come), you must let others love you until you can. When I’ve sunk the lowest, what has saved me over and over again are the eyes of my friends shining on me.”

 

Recently, I spent some time with my dear friend Liz (the one who taught me about House Plants!), her husband (the one I starred with in my first musical in 4th grade: Christmas on Main Street), and their adorable son, Zev.

 

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It was really special because this was the first time our toddlers had ever met.

 

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They hit it off right away (just like me and Liz and Tim) and are pretty tight now.

 

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Once again, my good friend Liz taught me a bunch of stuff—about wellness, parenting and life. What is resonating with me currently is what Liz taught me about preparing meals:

 

I eat while I cook.

 

What?

 

Yeah, I always do.

 

What??

 

I make a small plate of starters that I nibble on while I prepare dinner, I listen to music and, to be honest with you, I enjoy a glass of red wine. Basically, I make preparing meals as enjoyable as possible for myself.

 

What???

 

She then went outside and fed my husband from her plate of triscuits, hummus and carrots and I could immediately see the frustration in him subside (the charcoal grill was giving him a tough time due to rain and he said he was hungry over an hour ago).

 

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Liz

Is

Awesome.

 

I mentioned in my PTSD RECOVERY video that it’s hard for me to eat 5 times a day. I wrote a blog about seeing a nutritionist and discovering my eating was disordered. The advice I received from Liz was the most helpful to date: eat while you cook.

 

At first it seemed…wild…excessive…fancy.

 

Then I ate the triscuits and hummus and carrots and it just…seemed…right.

 

I was back on. Engaging. Funny. I realized that I was now winning a battle with a head ache that I did not even know I had been fighting.

 

Liz invited me to partner with her in a weekly comedic podcast similar to one she and her husband enjoy called: uhh yeah dude (but ours will obviously be way better). Liz thinks the world is missing out on how funny and interesting the combination of the two of us always is. I agree. (Liz is smart).

 

Stay tuned for the launch of our podcast. Hopefully we come up with a better name for it than Mrs. Tadpole #1 & Mrs. Tadpole #2 (the names of our characters from my 8th grade musical: Last Chance High).

 

XO

~Rachel

Heal your Self, heal the world

PTSD Recovery (I made my first YouTube video!)

{Originally posted June 29, 2014}

 

So I made my first YouTube video.

 

It’s called PTSD RECOVERY and I made it in honor of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness month (June).

 

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The process of making my first video was incredible. I had fun, I used my brain, I thought outside the box, I got out of my head, I was creative, I felt proud of myself.

 

PTSD Recovery

I was operating on all cylinders.

 

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I am a Director.

 

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Did I get frustrated during the process of learning something new?

 

Of course I did! I always do. What am I gonna do, cry about it?

 

Of course I did! I always do. But then I did some of my own Mind, Body & Heart exercises and I felt a lot better.

 

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I potted 3 plants, did yoga, took a bath, ate, drank water, journaled, slept, wrote this blog, complained to my friends and husband and jig saw puzzled (uploading my video took more than 24 hours with several attempts).

 

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People keep asking me why I am making/made this video. Volunteerism is healing to your soul. This is my own personal spontaneous act of service to help people who suffer from PTSD to recover.

 

I am a social change activist. It is very common to be insensitive and downright mean to people who have PTSD. That has to change. PTSD is an injury that requires sensitivity and kindness.

 

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Growing up in the 80’s, my older brothers and I happened to watch that Rambo movie, First Blood, just about every day of my life. Greatest PTSD story ever told. All he wanted was something to eat. Blowing up a whole town because of outrageous abuses of authority when you’re hungry made total sense to me.

 

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What did not make sense about First Blood is that nobody CARED. It was obvious that Rambo was suffering from a serious injury but not one person demonstrated care or concern, empathy or kindness; not even after learning he was a war hero.

 

I’d like to change that.

 

Millions of Americans suffer from PTSD, not just war veterans.

 

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PTSD Recovery

PTSD Recovery

PTSD Recovery

PTSD Recovery

PTSD Recovery

PTSD Recovery

 

I hope my video helps raise awareness about PTSD and how to recover.

 

If you have 20 minutes, watch PTSD RECOVERY; if you find it helpful, kindly share it with someone you feel could benefit from the content as well.

 

XO

~Rachel