8 months, but 10 years, A Short Story on an Inconspicuous Path to Overcoming Addiction 

It has been 8 months today since I have stopped drinking alcohol.  I feel like the pieces of my life have finally fallen into place. My baseline being with accompanying highs and lows feels manageable for the first time in my life. I no longer feel like a ticking time bomb. 

It’s almost like a switch flipped. The whole thing and the way my life and relationships fell into place is almost miraculous.

But is it a miracle? It feels like it. But when I stop to consider how this phenomenon took place it wasn’t magic. It was years of learning and work. A lot done in smaller, very memorable spurts. But it’s far from a miracle. 

As Alan Watts often said, there is no specific defining moment when an event begins. He challenged his listeners to think about when a war really begins. Or when life truly springs into action. At birth? Now of a proper embryo? When the sperm meets the egg and they mesh? Or is it at the point when there is a twinkle in the father’s eye upon seeing the female that he will procreate? 

My current sobriety journey started at some point. It was part of the plan long ago. It  has been 8 months since I have consumed alcohol. I did take Antibuse. I am on Vivitrol. I did increase my anti-anxiety medication. I did live alone for 2 months and dive headfirst into 2-3x per day sobriety meetings, visits, and activities. Those things made it easier, but the life lessons I learned through spirituality and yoga in past 6-10 years have made it so I may not have needed to start from scratch when it came to the absolutely brilliant concepts of AA where many recovering addicts learn to live a life without addictive substances. 

When I first learned some of the concepts that now use with ease, they all seemed to be “no brainers”. They were some of the most difficult and yet somehow simplest concepts to process and apply. They made sense. “Accepting life on life’s terms”. “One day at a time”. “It’s not your business what other people think about you”. “Nothing changes if nothing changes”. “If you want what you never had, you have to do what you’ve never done”. 

It was almost 10 years ago when I started to proverbially “wake up” spiritually and first began to contemplate that I’m in a participatory saga in this universe.  

This realization not being the norm, it felt jarring for a while. It wasn’t the way I knew the world to be. But it made SENSE. The world flipped on its head for me. I felt kind of lost but also curious and hopeful. 

The idea of “Let Go and Let God” wasn’t new. I went to Catholic school growing up and similar concepts were sort of beaten into my young mind. But I wasn’t taught what they truly meant or how to put them into action.  

It wasn’t until +/- 10 years ago after being divorced and seeing the world through completely different lenses which I, oddly, had difficulty adapting to, that I began to seek out spiritual living. When I listened to Podcasts on what “Faith” really meant. I realized I hadn’t really understood or practiced it. I wanted that. I wanted what people who live contently and simply had. I wanted to Let Go. I wanted Faith in something bigger than myself. 

Religion tries. Schools don’t touch it. Parents never learned it themselves. It took being downtrodden to want to seek it out. It took being curious, feeling scared, and feeling hopeless to consider a different way of looking at the world. It took having the security, intelligence and means in my life to have the luxury of exploring something else while living my current life as it was to test out different ways to approach things. 

TEST them out. Make mistakes. Try again, try something new. Watch the screw up or success. Learn and adapt. 

When I think back over the past decade, there were certain moments where I knew what was taking place was a turn off the current path and there was no road back. Unlike a highway where you can turn around, once we experience or know something; there is no way to unknow it. I am calling them Defining Moments. 

These moments were critical to me, but were any the start or even end to alcoholism? 

No doubt it all let to a more spiritual path. Everyone’s journey toward spirituality (if they get to experience it at all) is different. This was mine. 

When I first felt jarred, out of place, and not like myself – I noticed instantly. Until then I was one of the happiest people I knew. I thought this unsettling feeling would last a few hours. Then maybe a day. 

When a week passed, I realized a week had passed and I wasn’t myself again. I was worried but convinced that any day I’d snap out of it. But I didn’t. It was a time of absolute chaos. I had two tweens, two more young kids and my then fiancé at home. There were changes for everyone, not all being handled well by all the kids and more so worse with some of the adults that were throwing more difficulty at us by not adapting well in their own right and making my household even more disruptive. 

Defining Moment

I remember the very first time I used alcohol to chill out. It was a random weeknight. I picked up my kids from their father’s house. They were upstairs doing homework away from me at their desks) and I was practically home alone in a gigantic house starting dinner and anticipating the arrival of the other 3 household members to come bounding in with loud rolling backpacks, 3 dirty lunch boxes, dry cleaning and BAGs of stuff that needed to be distributed. It was around Jan or Feb 2011. I was OFF. My kids had complained to me earlier about how nothing felt normal for them. I now felt off, irritable, fearful, and uneasy for a few months on & off, but mostly ‘on’. I couldn’t take it. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew that if I didn’t make dinner and just went up to my gargantuan gorgeous bedroom to cry that it would disrupt the evening, the sports schedule, homework help, and my husband’s fear that the kids won’t see us as blissfully happy, that our coming together was just all the big mistake that everyone was hoping it would be… you get it. 

With my heart beating uncontrollably in my chest, I contemplated taking a shot of hard alcohol. It worked for me once before in 2009 right before a kid’s party when someone in my life (an alcoholic at the time) gave me a shot to chill out while I ran around at the last-minute putting things together and was completely amped up. I remembered how it worked INSTANTLY. As the heat of the liquor warmed my chest cavity, I felt my nerves unpeeling and my mind slowing down that day back then. Did I really want to go down that path? 

I kept putting it out of my mind, but my mind kept bringing it up. I went over to the liquor cabinet and looked at what we had in there for hard liquor. 

At the time I enjoyed beer and wine. Perhaps a little too much, but I knew my limits and when I was hitting them. I knew how to stop. Days, weeks, and months could go by without thinking about drinking. There is a history of alcoholism in my family, and I always worried about it for myself knowing how much I enjoyed it. I had never abused it though. I never drank alone; would never even consider it.

Until now. 

I KNEW it was a bad move, but it seemed like a viable option. It would have been  viable if it had been  once every two years. But something in me knew that night that if I took a shot that it wouldn’t be the last time. 

As I stood there contemplating whether to do this dumb thing, I heard the peppers and onions I was making for fajitas sizzling in the pan behind me. It sounded like a ticking clock that was reminding me any moment the garage door would open or one of my kids would come down and I’d have to pretend I’m not disturbed and feeling the way I felt that nothing was wrong with me, and that I had an unwavering interest in everyone’s day. 

I couldn’t even tell you what it was that I took a shot of that evening. I can only tell you that it worked. I do know that it was about another week until I did that again. And probably another month or so that it became a sporadic “go to” when I was feeling so “Off” and out of control. Within a year it became the norm to open a bottle of wine before dinner and drink while cooking sometimes after a shot of hard liquor. It helped. That is the tricky thing about alcohol. When used as a medication substitute, it helps. 

It helped at the end of the day. During the day I struggled. I woke up every day with a beating heart. I still had to be “normal” though. I still had work and a house and kids to take care of. I still had to be a mom and now stepmom and think about everyone else’s well-being while my own was deteriorating. 

At the time I van-pooled to work. I loved my “vannies”. It was a welcome relief from home and work twice a day. I laughed and let loose. They were all crazy but normal. More like people I grew up with and felt comfortable with. One of the guys in the van started bible study classes after work on Thursday evenings. I couldn’t van-pool those days since the van left before the bible study began, but I decided it was worth it and drove in myself on those days. At first, I did it to support his endeavor, but I quickly grew to really enjoy talking about a bible piece and delving into a deep introspective talk about what the piece meant and how to live a spiritual life. 

Defining Moment

Not long after on Feb 28 & 29th of 2012 I took a work class off-site on “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”. My intention was to somehow be more organized and streamlined than I already was to deal with the chaos around me, but I absolutely got far more than I bargained for. 

I don’t know if the intention of the class was spiritual or not, but it was spiritual for me. It challenged me to look at the paradigm I lived in. A paradigm I had never considered to be different from anyone else’s. It challenged me to think about being intentional about what I want in my life. The treadmill I was on never allowed me time to think about what was important to me and if it would fit into my life. I just believed that if I went faster, I could fit all things in just fine (important things and things thrown at me). Just Run Faster…

Of course, I knew that wasn’t the answer but there wasn’t time to stop to do anything else. Or was there? The class had us break down where we spend our time. Work, cooking, cleaning, shopping, kid activities. No time for exercise, leisure, taking care of myself or spending quality time with anyone I loved. I often did my nails in the car before I drove to meet my vanpool so they could dry on the way to work. My hair was often wet and braided on the way to work. I was challenged to think about how these activities met my values. Wait – what were my values? How could I be 36 years old and not have thought about them before? 


I left thinking about all the habits but determined to ensure I had the four areas of Habit seven (Sharpen the Saw) in my life. Social/Emotional, Spiritual, Physical, and Mental. 

I was determined, but beaten back because I was a mom first, a wife/stepmother, and an employee. Those were what I made more important than my own needs. Too much of my time was spent in the mental arena of work and focusing on what the  important people in my life considered important, which was school and work. I wasn’t strong enough, or didn’t realize that it wasn’t selfish, to put my foot down and assert what I believed was important. I didn’t know that my body had limits and that if I didn’t take care of it that it would crash and burn. 

I began to look forward to bible study on Thursdays. It was a respite from life and a recipe for how to live. I threw myself into faith. I stopped questioning things I always questioned as a Catholic like the virgin birth or life after the cross. I just absorbed the messages and didn’t ask. 

Defining Moment

It was April 2012. My husband and I were out at our favorite watering hole having wings, pretzels, and beer with my father-in-law. I had been going to the bible study for a few months at that point and had become nostalgic for some old childhood Catholic comforts. I prayed. I read the bible. I read other religious books. I downloaded and listened to church music and found myself surprised to know I remembered the words and would often tear up thinking about all those hours in church with my blue uniform and first friends and crushes. 

That evening my father-in-law asked me if I really believed in the Catholic and Christian concepts. Of course, I didn’t really, but I wanted to; so, I said I did. He pushed in a kind way and asked me if I really, really did believe. I was drinking and I so wanted to be someone who did. Something about the drink, the atmosphere, the diametric opposites of the atmosphere of a bar while thinking about Jesus… At the moment, I felt like something in me just opened. Something about that conversation and my answers of “I don’t question” made it so. There was an actual moment where I let go and felt that I didn’t need to know the answers. All I needed to do was believe. At that moment I knew what it meant to have faith. 

Without knowing the phrase, I Let Go and  Let God. And do you know what happened when I really really really let go? A whole new world opened to me. Within a few weeks a Bishop Spong book somehow ended  up on my lap. 

Bishop Spong was a Christian Bishop who delivered the teachings of Jesus his whole career  but also secretly questioned. Post retirement he became a mystic and found religion to be allegorical. He had his own theories of how humans developed as a species, and why it was important to take the words of the bible as literal earlier on in our human years. The ideas of us as humans becoming more conscious of being conscious were new to me and absolutely fascinating.

From there I explored discovered a  world of Podcasts from the Centers for Spiritual Living  and Science of Mind. Life as I knew it flipped on its head. The bible made complete sense from a metaphorical standpoint. I stopped going to bible study because I felt in some way, I outgrew the literal interpretation of the bible  that some others were stuck on. The idea of being born again and seeing the world through different eyes was how I was experiencing life. 

The spring and summer of 2012 were when I experienced the most profound changes I had ever experienced to date  in my life, and in the shortest period. I understood things that I couldn’t before from a positively new perspective. All religions and spiritual teachings make so much sense. More importantly they seemed to all be saying the same thing. 

It sounds elementary to me now, but we really do create our own lives, and how we think about it creates our own experience. Nothing made more sense. Our universe is metaphorical. Thoughts are like seeds. You can’t plant a watermelon and expect a carrot. In the same way you can’t walk around miserable and looking at the world like it’s dangerous and then except happiness and freedom. 

One of the more difficult things for me was changing the way I thought when no one else around me was changing. I thought very highly of the people that surrounded me in various ways until I realized most of them were living on a treadmill like I had been. I was so excited to get off and slow down, but they weren’t. I still had to live and work in the same paradigm. I tried to get others off too, but I sounded like a crazy person. Others agreed and had long deep spiritual talks with me, but then walked away and did the same things they were doing before. 

???

I felt alone.

So, I’d drink and read about other people who were experiencing the same thing. 

At the end of 2012 as the holidays approached, I was looking for gifts that would provide experiences rather than more “stuff”. I looked into the adult education programs in my town and aside from ballroom dancing for my husband and I, I decided to sign up for an 8-week yoga class starting the next January as a nice way to kick off the new year. 

I’d only tried yoga a handful of times before either in classes or on my own with videos. But something inside me always knew that yoga was going to be part of my life in a more meaningful way. Just the word itself when hearing it for 30+ years of my life invoked some kind of knowing inside of me. I never disliked it; I just didn’t understand it. I had danced for 10  years and had always been flexible, so I really did not feel anything by doing it. I loved Savasana, lying in stillness, at the end, but often got up from that part because I was always so busy, and it felt like a waste of time. Surprisingly, after just one class, I understood.  Don’t let anyone tell you that an instructor can’t make a difference! Even more surprisingly, not long after I started going to yoga, I realized it had the same effect as drinking. I felt calm, slower, more in control. 

I’d leave yoga class and come home to chaos. It was so jarring and shocking to go from one world to another. How did I deal with it? Wine of course. 

Wine, yoga, and spirituality through podcasts, books and web searches helped me to stay sane. 

Until 2016 when I started yoga teacher training. I loved yoga by that point. I recognized the mind/body/soul connection. I wanted to do it more. I didn’t realize until teacher training how spiritual and deep it actually was. On day 1 of training, I met my two teachers. They were so open about their depression and anxiety. I admired their openness and willingness to share their own foibles. 

It wasn’t until a month and a half later, while thinking about a stressful work event two-day safter it had happened, while driving to work, that I had my first panic attack. It was then that I realized the “Off” feeling I had had for the past several years and for  I was abusing alcohol over, was anxiety. 

It took a few subsequent panic attacks within the next few weeks to realize this was anxiety. Holy cow – I had anxiety! Real clinical anxiety. I wanted help for that, but I did not want to have a mental health diagnosis on my record to get medication for it. I was confused. I talked to the yoga teacher that had anxiety about it and unprompted she shared that while she herself wasn’t on medicine, she did know it was a much faster way to get things under control. She gave no advice but did give me some things to contemplate. I read through forums and decided that the people who took medicine and felt better shared that it was more important to feel like themselves than to have any silly perceived stigmatized thoughts about being on medication .

I read and considered my options carefully for a few weeks while having more and more panic attacks before making an appointment with my PCP.  I started Lexapro. I did not stop drinking. It helped. 

There are no miracle drugs either. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds do not instantly work. You must start with really low doses until your body adjusts and eventually learn at what dose you feel normal again. This can take anywhere from weeks to months. I started this crazy mix in March of 2016.

By May of 2016 I just couldn’t go through the motions any longer. At the point in my “career” I was serious about work and loved it. I had fun there while learning new things nearly all the time. I had been in my job for 14 years and knew almost everyone who worked in my very large organization. I felt respected by most people. I had mentored a few dozen employees in an official capacity and many others sought my professional advice outside of an official mentor/mentee relationship. 

Almost overnight that love of work shifted. Suddenly, I couldn’t imagine spending the remainder of life waking up early every morning, donning a monkey suit, and getting in the metal box/trap called my car to commute anywhere from 35 to 50 minutes to work. I was no longer vanpooling because my drive home often involved picking up multiple kids and a dog which at times meant I got home nearly two hours after walking out of the office (in a complete rush of course). 

Honestly, looking back, it was the drama in my home at the end of the day that  was the catalyst that caused the most stress. Nonsensical first world drama that wasn’t exactly aligned with my beliefs but was brought into my house by divorce and blending two very different families.  Beyond the drama, there were responsibilities that required my time and attention but didn’t align with my priorities or values.  

I loved everyone I lived with. I wanted to support them. I wanted to be a team player. But I just couldn’t do it all. The obvious thing to cut back on seemed to be work. I made much less money than my husband. If I cut back to part time, our expenses would decrease by that amount of my half time salary. My ex had moved to another state. My husband traveled often, as did his ex-wife. This left me mostly in charge of logistics of four teenagers. Work outside the home suddenly had no appeal. 

I was exhausted. I was burnt out to the max supporting things that didn’t align with my values,  for kids who had no appreciation for the amount of time, money and effort it required to keep it up.

I had always been a natural organizer. I always had dinners planned, food stocked and prepped, clothes washed and ready for the week. Events were organized on a calendar with duties known ahead of time. I talked to my kids weekly about what to expect and how to help out. But that all went to the wayside when I got remarried. At first it wasn’t that bad. But as the kids grew older and became busier, the chaos took over. 

 I didn’t even know what was going on week to week. Daily there were unexpected events that I should have known about, that affected my time and what I had planned. I couldn’t get others to cooperate and help us stay. My husband’s ex seemed to thrive on chaos and take delight in disrupting any attempt at organization  We failed to establish any boundaries about what we would and wouldn’t do. Our lives and our scheduled seemed out of control and at the whim of people outside our family who didn’t care and refused to collaborate.

The Lexapro helped. Weekly therapy was ok. Yoga was a reprieve. The drinking continued. I’m not sure it was helping any longer, but it was now a habit that I didn’t want to let go. I leaned on it as my evening wind-down. Some days it was all I had to look forward to and when I had to wait to have a drink because of nonstop evening driving activities, it made me even crankier. 

I had written a few blogs by that point. Once I started Lexapro, I decided I didn’t want to keep it a secret. I couldn’t handle my life any longer. I couldn’t work full time, let alone mentor others. I cut back to part-time. I stopped teaching a topic at work (Facilitation) that I had once been over-the-top passionate about. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Everything I thought I knew about myself had flipped. My belief system had turned on its head and no one understood what I was talking about. I felt like the crazy person that was now documented in my medical charts who needed medicine. I was lost. 

What felt good about this particular time – when I came clean about not being able to handle life and needing medicine, was  that I felt loved. People I liked or mentored were surprised and almost happy that I wasn’t a walking miracle, that my  social media posts weren’t the whole story. I felt support like I never had before. Others told me for the first time in my life that they related to my stories and thought I was brave sharing. Me? Brave? 

I’d heard successful, friendly, helpful, lucky… but never brave. Those other things were fluff. They were what I thought I wanted and showed to the world. But the hardest and most brave thing was to be vulnerable. 

In that time – from 2012 to 2016 I was inundated with stress and immersed in spirituality tools, breathing techniques, movements, therapies, meditations, mantras, mudras, pranayama, etc. It was all so new. It made sense. But when I needed it, I couldn’t remember to use anything I knew would work. I’d just spiral into panic. I felt like a failure in some way for not being able to remember these simple tools, but yoga teacher training helped me to realize I’m human and that it could take up to 12 years to change a habit.

12 years??? 

Yes, 12 years. 

That’s pretty  stinking disappointing huh? 

I didn’t like that idea, but after learning much about it and why; it made sense to me, and I accepted that truth.  

Defining Moment

May 2017. I’ve written about it before. I realized I might have PTSD from a history of childhood abuse. It was late in the evening at a 50-hour mandated reporter course I was required to  take to teach  yoga in Connecticut  Domestic Violence shelters. There was a slide up on the screen that described  ME. 

Could I have PTSD? I never considered it before. That was something only war vets had. But that slide described ME. And it was the result of child abuse. It was an “Ah Hah” moment. 

At  that  point it was over a year since I began anti-anxiety meds. I was now working part-time. I was allowing myself to slow down and think. And to feel. Feel all the emotions that I never had time to process. 

That summer I had a major emotional breakdown in mid-July where I decided to admit myself to an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). I used FMLA and spent a month traveling to the Institute of Living in Hartford, CT for four days per week to immerse myself in healthy mental environment with others like me: professionals who chose to spend time at such a place. 

I was unable to attend the program without having to quit alcohol for at least a week before the start and for the duration of the program. UGH. At first, I told the admissions area I didn’t think I could do that. They told me if I could not quit, I would have to go into the sister IOP for addiction. I couldn’t be labeled an addict – so I quit. 

It was at the IOP where I was officially diagnosed with PTSD. During my time there I learned another host of tools for my proverbial toolbox to help deal with overwhelming emotions and breakdowns.  The tools were very yoga-like. They were called different things, had differences of course; but the intention and underlying process was similar.  The more I learned the same types of things the more they made sense and the more I believed they could work. 

The last week or so of the program when I knew I wouldn’t be tested for drinking, I started to drink again. As much as before, even though I knew I didn’t need to and felt quite amazing without doing so. I didn’t want to quit. I rather liked drinking. I loved the taste, the smell, how it accompanied my food. I loved going to wineries and  breweries with my husband. I loved everything about it. 

That fall I began advanced yoga teacher training and delved even more deeply into spiritual practices, tools and beliefs that were aimed at serenity and peace. I found a therapist that spoke my language. The day I walked into her office she had a Pema Chodron quote on the wall, a jiggle jar on the coffee table and gave me a handout on the Ego vs Higher Self. Finally! A person that related to the way I was learning to deal with the world! 

You’d think all these things would help right? Every Monday I had yoga teacher training all day and would spend that night in Branford alone. As I learned all these healthy messages and things I started to practice, my mind was adjacently taken over with thoughts of alcohol. Where I would buy the wine, what kind I could buy. Should I buy it? I was learning all these healthy things, so why would I poison myself? There was an invisible angel on one shoulder and devil on the other. Every week it was going to be the last week and that next Monday I would quit. I graduated the program in June of 2018, but that “Monday” never came” 

Defining Moment 

There was an infamous incident in July 1993 that was equally as traumatizing as most of my childhood but changed the course of how it was dealt with. Every summer I had a mini break down, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2018 – exactly 25 years later that I realized a pattern.

Once again, I had a mid-July breakdown. This time the police were involved. This time my husband and I lived apart for a few weeks and I made time for mental health. I realized I had to quit drinking because these incidences were alcohol related. I had a problem with alcohol. I said the words for the first time in an email to my husband. I am an alcoholic. I quit on 7/13/18. 

A few days later I had a another defining moment. I was coming home from a mental health appointment to the house in Branford where I was staying alone. One of my neighbors walked up to my car when I got out to tell me that she really enjoyed my blogs. She said she didn’t realize that it was panic attacks she had been having until she read what I was describing. 

She was NOT the first person to tell me that. I didn’t understand. Once I started thinking about my panic attacks, I realized that I knew they were coming from a mile away.  Everyone else who had them seemed surprised by them.  I was not. As I once told my previous therapist (one of the many I didn’t connect with); I almost welcomed the panic attack. It was such a relief of emotion that I felt build up. It was a way to purge. That therapist said that was “interesting”, gave me a funny look and wrote something down on her legal pad. To me it sounded normal, obviously to her it was not.

But that day when my neighbor approached me, it was kind of like the final straw of needing to wonder why I was different. A few minutes after going into my house, in a very actualized moment; I realized I felt panic rising ahead of time because I was triggered. I was triggered because I had PTSD. It took over a year, but I finally understood what having PTSD really meant. 

I was so excited that I broke out a flip chart and stickie notes (my problem-solving skills from my facilitation days) and started to think about all the instances where I broke down and what I felt. Then I thought about where those feelings were coming from and how they related to childhood. Within 2-3 hours I had a list of my triggers and where they came from. It was an exhausting but very exhilarating day. I felt like I unlocked a key piece to my being that I didn’t even know was there. 

Liberating. 

That helped. But it wasn’t a miracle. I immersed myself in DBT (one of the therapies I learned at the IOP). I immersed myself with yogic practices. I was sober. I was picking up on my triggers about 50% of the time. When I didn’t, much of the time I knew how to stop the cascade. I was starting to heal from trauma I didn’t even know was there for more than 40 years. 

I started having an occasional glass of wine about 6 weeks after I quit. For several months I drank once a week or less. And never more than 2 glasses. I didn’t want anymore and didn’t miss it when I didn’t drink. 

Life went on. The holidays came. Drinking was involved in everything, everywhere. All the time. I imbibed. By mid-January 2019 I was drinking every day again. 

At this point I had a lot of tools to lean on. I used them. It wasn’t always perfect. I had little flare-ups but was able to reel them back in and come back to stability. 

For the next two years that was my life. Drinking daily, earlier, and earlier in the day as COVID came around. Occasional flare ups while drinking with the ability to reel myself back in. 

I finally came around to being able to use what I had been learning, but at this point I was an alcoholic who desired to stop drinking, intended to; but never could last more than a few weeks at a time when I did try. 

Then this last February 8, 2021 came around. It was a Monday. I was off from work, and I started drinking early in the day. I won’t get into the specifics of the day but there was a cascade of triggers from early on. At a point in the evening when I should have left, there was nowhere to go. Life was closed due to COVID, and I couldn’t drive to some secluded area because I was inebriated. I had a breakdown. A bad one. Police were involved again. I couldn’t come down from panic and was taken to the ER at Yale.

While I laid in the gurney in the middle of the night in the middle of the hallway at Yale for HOURS, I thought about how I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been drinking for nearly 12 hours straight. I had to quit. I was an alcoholic. 

Most days when I watched Days of Our Lives (my beloved Soap Opera) through an app on the 
Smart TV I had to watch ads. There was this ad for Aware Recovery Care that came on a few times a day. This program explained that they come into the client’s home “Where Addiction Lives” to help addicts recover in their own environment amongst their own particular lives.  Each day as I sat there to watch this soap with a freshly chilled bottle of Chardonnay, I would silently think about calling that program at some time in the near future. If I couldn’t quit on my own. I should be able to quit on my own. “Today” was going to be the last day. 

Today was every day. Tomorrow never came. 

I looked up Aware Recovery Care on my phone at midnight on the gurney in the ER hallway and inquired about their services online. The next day while I was in court Aware Recovery called me back and I set up an appointment that same evening for a telephone intake. That Friday I met my care team and I’ve been sober ever since.

Naturally they came in and at me armed with tools and ideas and quirky slogans. I had heard most of them before. I had been getting pretty good at implementing them. The only thing standing in my way of fully immersing was alcohol. When I was drinking and I was triggered, I did not recognize triggers. Or if I rarely did or was told – I didn’t care. It was in the way of my life.  

In February this year I jumped in with two feet/full body; and used everything at my disposal that was recommended. Aware came in for visits 4x a week at first. I had appointments with 2 different therapists (my previous therapist I held onto as well as an addiction counselor) and a psychiatrist for my meds. I went to AA once or twice a day at first. I went to group appointments. I attended online meetings for trauma. I pulled out my old DBT workbook. I started Antabuse (which makes you violently ill if you drink) as well as Vivitrol (curbs cravings). I upped my anti-anxiety meds. I did EMDR and LOVED it. 

I’ve been healthy ever since. 

I am still with Aware Recovery and down to one weekly visit. I canned the Antabuse (my skin breaking out very badly) and still go for a monthly Vivitrol shot. I can easily remember all the quirky slogans, sayings, tools, reminders, and breath techniques, when I need them. I know the feelings I have as I am having them, and I will pull back and slow down or walk away. It’s easy. It seems like a miracle. My entire life is the same, but everything has fallen into place. Nothing has changed, except my reaction to things. 

But is it a miracle? No. 

It’s been years of learning. Not just passive learning. I have been actively seeking out tools and methods and trying very hard to put what is needed in place. Nothing about it was easy. People at AA have said they don’t believe me when I say I am not having cravings and I feel happy and healthy. They don’t know my story. They might have learned life skills at AA and feel it saved them and I’m just a newcomer who thinks she knows it all. AA is great. But AA’s tools are the same things that I have been striving to master for a very long time. I’m finally getting the hook of it. No miracles. 

Today is 8 months since I quit drinking. But it has been more than 10 years that I have been working at building mental stability for myself. It’s been 10 years since I ever needed it. 

My divorce and subsequent remarriage shook me up and stirred up emotions and trauma I didn’t know I had. I was on such a great path before all this, but I was done growing. I needed a good shake up to grow deeper. I learned so much about myself and people in the last 11 years. I know that this is what I needed. 

Bringing my addiction back to my Alan Watts reference in the beginning of this blog, I must wonder… when did the addiction actually begin? When I started drinking every day? When I had that shot in the early months of 2011 while making dinner? Or before that when circumstances led me to believe that a shot would help? Or during my childhood when the trauma started? 

When did my recovery begin? Was it in February? Or did it start when I began seeking out help for overwhelming emotions even before my body was physically addicted? 

I am also not blind and do realize I can be hit with something tomorrow and be right back to square one in a New York second. I hope not, and I hope all I have learned will kick in and keep me on the good path. I need new habits of a constant check in. I need to continually assess myself and ensure my environment is not triggering. It can’t always be helped, but if it can I will do everything in my power to ensure my mental health is my #1 priority. 

I hope I’m not done learning. I don’t want or need such a big shake up again, but I do want to keep having “Ah Hah” moments. I hope to continue to be amazed at how sensible and deep little things are that sages and very normal people before us has passed down as wisdom. 

It’s been a journey. Some of it wonderful, other parts absolutely horrific. It spanned the range of the highest highs and lowest lows. I loved it all. It’s life. Beautiful, messy, organized, ugly. It all belongs and accepting that it ALL belongs makes it all the sweeter. 

On How it Takes a Village

Last Friday was my birthday. Before the invention of Facebook and smart phone, my family would always call. I would get a few cards in the mail from family, in-laws and old friends. It felt very special.

For the past 12 years-ish, it is an avalanche of birthday greetings on social media, text and messenger apps. The calls and cards are nearly gone. Times have shifted. It is very nice, but it does not feel as authentic. Quantity does not trump quality. 

Every handful of people takes some extra time to write a few lines about how happy they are for me, or how they see my pictures and it looks like I’m doing so well. It is kind of them to put in the effort to reach out and say something specific to me. However, I realized last week that they are only seeing the façade that social media unwittingly enforces.  

We’ve all fallen prey to believing what we see, forgetting that as humans we aren’t capturing painful moments with our cameras; or putting out the dirty laundry for the world to see. Social media platforms are full of the good times, the beautiful moments, platitudes of gratitude, showcasing political affiliations, hating on articles or something that happened to you, asking for prayers for a situation, etc.

But how many people are being truly real? How many people do you see wear their heart on their sleeves or share with the world how they are suffering with personal issues? Or tell the world their worries about their loved ones (outside of disease or death)? 

I find it ironic when I talk to people off of social media that I do not know too well; they will comment that I wouldn’t understand something they are telling me because I don’t have issues with my family, that my kids went to college, or that I have a healthy life. I question why they think this, but it’s obvious that they see my feed where it’s tulips and daisies. 

I’ve used my blog in the past to communicate more heart wrenching stories. Honest truths about things I suffer with and unpleasant things that have happened. Most who read it thank me for being open because it helps them to realize we are all alike and suffer similarly. Some others question how I can possibly put it all out there? I’ve even been accused of being too negative on my blogs.

Yikes. You can’t win. 

I don’t post or blog for anyone’s benefit. I don’t post to make people feel good or bad. I post and write from my heart about what I’m experiencing in that moment. Life’s moments are not all good. It’s just as normal to feel negative emotions as it is to feel positive ones. So why pretend we are always happy and that everything is great? 

I’m day 18 into sobriety.

On February 8th I had an alcohol induced mental breakdown and went a bit crackers. It has resulted situation I never thought I would be in. It damaged relationships and my self-esteem.

I’m getting the level of help I never wanted to ask for because I saw such things only for other people. I believed that only a failed, broken person needs intensive level of services. Where did those beliefs come from?

They came from my environment. From stigmas. From the false belief that something is wrong if you aren’t happy because look around at everyone else – they are blissfully happy. Even though I share the ways in which I’m not happy, most people still see the tulips and daisies.

Human connection is at an all time low. We have so many platforms and mechanisms to communicate, but they strip away authentic relations. It’s easier than ever to show the world only what you want the world to see. When everyone does that, everyone else thinks they are the only ones who suffer and feel more alone and ashamed than ever. 

We end up trying to live up to unrealistic expectations of what it means to live out a human experience. 

I don’t want to do that. 

I have quit drinking for good. I have PTSD and it affects the way I perceive situations. When I drink and my brain slows down all bodily reactions, it also slows down my rational mind to pick up the signals that what is happening around me is not what my body’s fight or flight auto response thinks it is. 

I need help. Help to stop drinking and help to process old trauma that comes up because it would like to leave and finds opportunities when I’m not paying attention (drinking) to burst out. 

I’m getting help. I’m not perfect. Not getting help sooner has done a lot of damage. Some damage cannot be undone. 

It takes a village for each individual to be the best version of themselves. If a village has no real connection and facades of perfection, the result is that the people in the village are going to feel damaged, alone, anxious and depressed. 

Being real is what makes life and relationships real. Without pain there is no opportunity for growth or change. Pain is part of life too. It’s real and no one amongst us doesn’t feel it. 

I am asking anyone reading this who sees me in real life to honor the fact that I am no longer drinking. I’m asking anyone reading to be real with me about your life or anything I’ve done and how it has affected you positively or negatively. 

I’m real. I’m imperfect, angry, sad, hurt and suffering from my past and an unhealthy way of dealing with it (alcohol). I’ve hurt others because of this and trying to make it not true about myself. But I’m also really loving, funny, kind, creative, brainy and friendly. 

I wrote a blog not too long ago about embracing your Shadow self. We all have one. So let’s all embrace our own and learn to live with it and forgive others for their shadow sides as we would like to be forgiven. https://esterinaanderson.com/2020/10/30/on-halloween-and-our-shadow-side/  

I’m asking to be a part of a real village, even if I have to create it myself 

Peace 

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On Halloween and Our Shadow Side

We were made from the universe, so we contain the same elements of the universe. The universe is both dark and light. So are we.  

But who are “We” really? 

If we can agree we are not our liver or kidneys which are vital organs, is it feasible to agree we are not the organ of the brain? 

If we are not our brain, are “we” what is in the mind – which is function of the brain? It would be analogous to saying that we are not detox, which is the function of the liver.  

Hopefully the answer is no, because “we” are the substance that hears what the mind is saying. We are the part of the body that isn’t cells or substance. Just because it is only us that can hear what our mind is saying, doesn’t’ mean what the mind is really us.   

Our mind is influenced by the physical world around us. Jingles in our head, the constant replaying of a conversation we had or show we watched, the proverbial angel and devil on our shoulders justifying a decision in two different directions. Those things happen without conjuring them up. If we notice it, that part that notices is really the part that is us; not the part that is providing the commentary. 

That is IF we notice at all. The commentary, songs, dialogues, internal arguments or justifications for being ‘right’ or bad feelings of being ‘wrong’, and all the random and not so random things our mind is consistently chatting about are so ever presently constant; that we actually believe what we are thinking is who we are. But that is not true. Who we are is the witness to this chatter. 

I will refer back to the Angel and Devil relation above. How can you proport to be (as a person) the Angel who is advocating for the right decisions, when the Devil is right there doing exactly the same thing but advocating for something else? We may feel it is right to do with the Angel says because it is what morals and laws are built upon. But the Devil is in there too making a case. How is that dark side not as equal to who you profess to be? It’s not a pretty part to acknowledge, but that Devil is as normal as the Angel. 

That Devil part is the shadow side. 

Shadow side: 

“What is the ‘shadow’ self according to psychology? The ‘shadow’ is the side of your personality that contains all the parts of yourself that you don’t want to admit to having. It is at first an unconscious side. It is only through effort to become self-aware that we recognise our shadow.”

Your ‘Shadow’ Self – What It Is, And How It Can Help You

Neither the angel or devil is really who you are. 

You are the part that notices the angel and devil. 

Both will equally influence the decisions you make unless you learn to separate your true self from what your mind chats about. 

The best way to learn to notice your thoughts is to sit in meditation. That is another topic for another day perhaps. 

The point of this blog is to explain that you are not your thoughts. It is as natural to have good and bad thoughts as it is for the day to be dark and light. Our physical bodies are made of the physical universe, so our bodies are governed by the same laws. Both the good and bad exist. I believe the purpose of the Yin Yang is to visually demonstrate these natural laws that exist in our dimensions.

No human alive is above this law. Perhaps Jesus and Buddha had a better understanding and in their teachings of attachment in various ways, were showing us ways to live more humanely and to ignore the monkey mind. We didn’t have the language of the various levels of brain function at the time, but it’s not different from the unconscious, conscious, and superconscious. Or the Id, Ego & Superego. 

  • Unconscious: autonomic system that regulates bodily functions, influences the conscious to act in fight or flight to protect the body and their systems.
  • Conscious: thoughts and mind chatter about inner and outer world. 
  • Superconscious: part that notices thoughts

We would be missing the mark of having higher superconscious brain function over animals if we do not take this knowledge and work to separate identifying who we are from our thoughts. 

If we do not understand that we are not our thoughts, we attach to our Angel side, then expend time and energy hiding the Devil side away from ourselves and others. We attempt to un-attach to the shadow side by saying it is not who we are. But we are not the light side either. We are a witness to this very duality that exists in nature.

Ironically, embracing this shadow side and allowing it to feel natural is like breaking free and opening up to a beautiful new world. 

Embracing the shadow self can lead to a greater understanding of our whole self, as it helps us to understand, control and integrate it. Because when we shine a light on our shadow, we become conscious of the unconscious and gift ourselves with the power of conscious choice.” (Embracing the darkness within)

Embracing does not mean it is ok to take it out to the world and inflict it on others. 

Acceptance of the shadow side is personal work to in order to provide yourself clarity of the drivers you are unaware of because you didn’t want to acknowledge the thoughts the angel part of you didn’t like. No one is judging you but you. It is important to accept all thoughts that come up. It is difficult unless you really understand that these thoughts are just passing images and words. They are not the real you.

Halloween is a time to let out the Devil inside. A time of the year to celebrate the murkier side of life as we transform from summer to winter (light to dark). 

Samhain is the pagan celebration at the point in time believed the veil between the worlds is thinnest. In the Northern Hemisphere it is celebrated on October 31st, while in the Southern Hemisphere is it celebrated April 30th. Samhain is the transition of when the real switch between seasons occur, where it is impossible to deny that Winter is Coming (Sorry – I couldn’t help the phase [Game of Thrones] – Haha).

Accepting that it is natural to go from light to dark and celebrating nature helps to those not wishing winter to come to accept it as a natural part of life.

Now, transform that sentence (bolded) to the one below:

Accepting that it is natural to go from light to dark and celebrating nature helps those not wishing to acknowledge their shadow side to accept it as a natural part of life.  

Not accidentally, November 1st and in parts of the world the days leading up to 11/1, are a time to celebrate the dead and death as a natural part of our world. 

Death is natural and should be as expected as living is. Just as the shadow side is natural and should be as expected as the good in us is. 

These next few days is naturally a time to be in touch with the laws of nature, as the veil between worlds is in thin, so it’s easier to grasp. 

When I taught yoga classes regularly, I had a theme each month that I used. In October I had always used the theme of Embracing the Unknown in honor of world-wide Halloween traditions. I began each class with the same words in which I will end this blog. I asked students to consider perhaps incorporating some of these thoughts into their practice, and allowing whatever it is they fear to be welcome. 

Embracing the Unknown

  • Facing the scary, hairy thing under our beds
  • Not being afraid of death, but honoring it
  • Knowing our deepest renewal begins with surrender
  • Embracing the concept that life requires the presence of both light and dark

How Do Day of the Dead and All Saints Day Compare
Halloween-time traditions around the world

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Anxiety and Missing Medication Doses. A Missed Effexor Dose.

I woke up from my husband’s alarm this morning. It’s Saturday, and what most people would consider a day to sleep in. But for us almost every week for a different reason, for the past 9 years- there is some reason to get up.

6am today.

The beeping jarred me awake from a very vivid dream that I try to hold onto for a moment or two- trying to make sense of what it meant.

At some point just moments later, I realize that I feel EXHAUSTED. I mean exhausted, in case the uppercase didn’t relay this feeling well enough. Next I notice an almost unbearable throbbing of my head. My nose is stuffed. My mind is racing for no good reason. So badly that my heart and breath (with stuffiness) matches the anxiety.

But there is a reason for anxiety. We are moving and had just spent a week in the new house meeting with contractors, getting quotes, installing ductless air… working for work… working around the house… managing upcoming renters and our mostly adult children. A week of some big changes too. Devin, the youngest of our brood of 4 passed his road test on Thursday. Days of carting kids are just suddenly over.

I went through this week like any other. Feeling like I’m going through the motions to get to the next step. Feeling like I’m barely hanging on and can hardly make it another day at this pace. Telling myself and my husband that we cannot keep going on like this. That the work we are doing has to be for some great reason so in the near future we can finally rest.

Massive changes taking place around me hardly phase me. If I went back to every week in the past 9 years- nearly every one of them would show at least one or two mega great changes and things to celebrate or mourn. It’s constant. This week was really like no other. So why am I anxious today? It’s no secret I struggle with anxiety disorder and PTSD. But it’s felt very under control for about a year now with a few relapses. Why now?

I think back to yesterday when at some point around 2 or 3pm in the afternoon I felt unbelievably restless. Then it turned to feeling trapped. Next I’m frantically texting my husband about how I feel. This alone is an old familiar feeling. I hadn’t done this in about a year either. I’ve had relapses of panic and/or PTSD episodes, but this one is different. It feels a little more uncontrolled.

We’ve had workers in our house since Tuesday around the work day clock. They were supposed to be done Wednesday. Then they said Thursday. Thursday when I arrived home at noon they were still there. 7:30pm and wanting to eat dinner with no where quiet to sit… they are still there. Thursday evening they say they will need to come back for a half day Friday (yesterday). I am ready to go back to our home on Cheshire. We have renters coming today (Saturday) and I haven’t been home in a week. We are also going to Long Island. I’m starting to feel overwhelmed again. Like I have no time for myself. There is so much to do. I’m sick of eating take out, I want to cook but need to shop first. The house in Cheshire is on the market and I can’t even think about what it might look like after my quite messy 22 year old came home for the month of Aug. I can’t bear to look at my broken fingernails with dirt underneath due to the copious amounts of yard work- and there is more to do in Cheshire. My body is sore from what feels like non stop physical labor from cleaning, fixing, working. I have bruises, bug bites and cuts everywhere. I need to unpack my clothes and loads of food in Cheshire only to pack an overnight bag… then unpack again Sunday.

As the hours tick by and the workers are still there- relaying they are ‘almost done’ every 1-2 hours. I become increasingly more agitated. At 4pm they announce they are in fact done and start to clean up.

I drive home in commuter traffic with a car packed to the gills with air conditioners, food, photo albums, clean and dirty clothes, frozen items defrosting rapidly in the nearly 90 degree heat, amongst a myriad of other things. My car is constantly packed with stuff to cart from house to house or to drop off here or there. My anxiety starts to go over the roof.

Somewhere on Route 10 about 20 minutes away from home while moving at a snails pace I start to cry. Really really cry. And it feels good. It’s a release of all the toxicity I feel has been building up that I just pushed away and dealt with.

Long story short I get home and feel fine, but the night is filled with mixed emotions ranging from sadness to anger to despair to PTSD related thoughts. I’m crying, then laughing.

What is wrong with me?

IS there anything wrong with me?

Wouldn’t most others hit a limit of feeling like it’s too much as well?

To add other weird fuel, I have 4 known trigger dates that I’ve identified in my PTSD treatment. Trigger dates are times to rest and realize your body recognizes similarities in the atmosphere (light falling certain ways, temperatures, smells, etc). One should rest because our lower brain only feels these things without rational thought and goes into fight or flight mode in an attempt to protect itself. If we don’t consciously pick up on this with the higher brain, the lower brain shuts the higher one down at a certain point to divert all energy to fight or flight. This used to happen to me a lot. With and without dates, brought on by other known triggers. The only thing is you don’t know when those other triggers will strike. At least with dates there is an ability to prepare and take it easy.

Three out of four of my most prominent annual trigger dates take place on & around July 9th through on & around August 9th.

I’m not taking it easy or treating this time of year with any special care. In fact I’m feeling busier than usual and barreling ahead like someone is chasing me.

As I move around in bed my body hurts in every single which way. Mind, belly, headache, muscle pain, sinuses, heart, third eye.

I mentally go through the morning and imagine going downstairs for coffee and to take my daily dose of Effexor. That is when I horrifically realize that I never did take my medicine yesterday morning. Pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place. My emotional breakdown and complete instability last night. The way I feel today. The feeling of being trapped yesterday. It makes sense.

More often than not if I forget my pills by 10am I have a dizzying headache and feel crazy nausea. I take them as soon as I remember and I’m fine within a few hours. No head ache yesterday. No head ache = no physical reminder something was amiss. Only hours later when my old mood symptoms returned did anything feel off.

So is it the chicken or the egg??? Anxiety from missed dose or missed dose due to anxiety.

Both??

Twice this week when going into work I forgot my pills. One day my husband delivered them and the next I had some in my car. Perhaps I’m anxious, my thoughts are jumbled and I can’t remember?

Is this anxiety or is what we are going through something that would make anyone anxious? 9 years of non stop activity and life momentous life changes taking place back to back (divorce, kids driving & going through all firsts of puberty, graduations, college starts, new jobs, house moves, new schools)

Is it my trigger dates?

Do societal expectations to do it all, hurry faster, give and experience as much as you can cause anxiety? Would my PTSD kick in less if I weren’t so busy and experienced the same levels of increasing anxiety that society in general seems to feel? I know I’m not the only one. Stress and anxiety seem to be a quiet epidemic virally rolling through our nation like a barely detectable tsunami before it strikes.

Does it matter to me where it’s coming from?

This morning I cried some more. I cried because even though I know how sick I get when I miss a dose, I didn’t realize how much the Effexor was keeping the anxiety at bay. Like I said I’ve had relapses. But yesterday’s was something different all together. It was like I never started a single pill and I was right back to where I was before I began dealing with this issue. It feels like a complete and absolute loss of thought and emotional control. The lower brain did take over. It sensed some kind of danger and shut the rest down. It’s terrifying. But I do have to admit the crying jags feel really good! They actually hurt physically in my heart, throat and head- but it is like there is a release of pressure in those areas and it is coming out. Am I not allowing emotion to pass through by taking pills?

The struggle is real. The pills really work. The issues are complex and are both personal and societal.

There is no point to this blog other than to just wonder, chicken or egg? To share with others how missing a dose feels because an hour ago I wanted very badly to read someone else’s experience. To see how long it was before they felt better once they took their dose. To see if anyone else wonders if their life experiences would affect anyone or if there is something truly wrong with the wiring in their brain. 9 years of running around and with delayed onset PTSD creeping in slowly through that time. Would an occasional breakdown be expected?

I used to be so afraid of the thought of having a mental illness. So afraid I didn’t even want to find out. It’s stigmatized.

Once I couldn’t take it any longer and started meds, I was afraid of anyone I know finding out.

Now I just want to shout from the rooftops that it is ok, you will be ok. We all struggle. As soon as we stop pretending we are struggling & that all is hunky dory- it miraculously becomes easier.

Why is that? Because we let the emotions pass rather than holding them down & hiding them? Does the medication prevent real healing then? Or is it a bandaid?

I don’t know. All I do know is that I’m starting to feel a little better about 2.5 hours after my dose this morning. I haven’t left the couch yet so I can’t speak to the level of feeling better other than I’m not suffering through stillness any longer.

Writing about it and seeing my fleeting thoughts in front of me helps.

If it helps anyone else too either now or in the future, then all the more beautiful.

Esterina

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On the Chakras

More often than not we find scientific ‘proof’ that ancient wisdom passed on through generations that was considered ignorant hokey-pokey non-sense turns out to be true. How did they know?

 

This painting I created is my artistic interpretation of the manifest and un-manifest world. The colors symbolize the manifest world; and the shades of tan, white, black and grey are what is on the other side. The colors also are the Chakras.

 

As humans we know very little that can be scientifically proven regarding the spiritual world or how conscious life pops in and out of existence. The energetic body is something that some types of scientists dabble in, but again there is no ‘proof’.

 

Eastern philosophies and their ancient texts explain that as there is a visible physical body, there is also an accompanying invisible energetic body. It’s just as complicated and intricate. It has systems, nodes, and channels as our physical bodies do. Energy can get blocked just as an artery can. Emotions are energetic. They get stuck and if not released can go deeper and deeper into our being and/or eventually manifest through physical pain.

 

Mental health professional do this type of work and explorations. Yoga is all about the energetic body and helping energy flow more easily through the practice of physical postures (asana). Hence, my interest in the topic. Additionally my interest in art and color peaks my curiosity into how color is combined in various ways.

 

The chakras are something that has always fascinated me, long before I understood, practiced or taught yoga. The first time I heard about them, they just made sense to me. Like my cells deep down inside knew it to be true even though my mind was kind of laughing at the idea.

 

For anyone who doesn’t know about the chakras (I was well into the my 30’s believe it or not before I ever heard of them!), they are 7 of the main energetic centers of our bodies that energy flows through. They start at the base of the spine in the tailbone area and work their way up the body through the crown of the head through the center part of the body.

 

Later while completing a 500 hour yoga teacher certification course I would learn about the rest of the energetic system, but the chakras are the most well known and are depicted through so many texts and pictures throughout history.

 

The chakras have colors. There are 7 and they coincide with the colors of the rainbow. Their flow is vertical (unlike my art piece). Like the koshas (yogic) and other more managerial concepts I’ve learned about in my life through my business education, they remind me very much of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It also reminds me of evolution in that it starts out very basic and physical, but then moves toward a path of higher consciousness and enlightenment toward self-actualization and understanding why we are here. We can’t get there until the lower needs are met. In the chakra system, if anything is blocked on the lower end; the energy is unable to flow up higher.

 

These two pictures I swiped from Google Images are a visual depiction of what I’m describing. Maslow’s famous triangle in this photo is actually colored similarly to the chakras.

The chakras are energetic. I later came to the realization that when I’m in emotional pain, the actual physical accompanying pain is located at a chakra point. It often points me in the direction of where I’m being blocked.

 

I’ve studied and read a lot of spiritual and religious texts. I don’t have a strong belief in any one thing, but I have an idea of how my own personal belief system/understanding of the physical and non-physical worlds are: the tangible and intangible. The part where we are alive and moving about this planet, and the part of the cycle that is blocked to us. The part where we wonder what happens to our consciousness or spirit when our physical body dies. What is our spirit before we are born? Is the spirit even real?

 

My artistic expression of the spiritual life cycle is depicted here. Like the Yin-Yang, half of the time our spirit is in the manifest world and the other half in the unmanifest world.

 

The colored lines are the manifest world, the world where white light bends and we can see color.

 

The non-rainbow colors represent the un-manifest world. When all colors are combined and mixed together, they create the ‘color’ (if you can call it that) brown. When you add white to brown it becomes tan. Adding black darkens it up. White is all there is, with everything included in it (white light contains all the colors in the spectrum), and black being the absence of it all – together they create gray. At dusk when we are in between day and night, color is shaded over. It doesn’t exist to the eye. Only form.

 

Our physical life is surrounding by this unknown. Before birth and after death there is the unknown. Lack of light (life) is as far away from us as possible. Or is it? Does it bend and show color in the absence of material things? Possibly it contains all the colors blended together (browns), and on the side closer to death and darkness that brown is darker, while on the side closer to birth and brightness it’s a shade of tan.

 

White and black together make a perfect in between shade of gray. Gray even has shades- darker and depending on the mixture of black and white: still a total absence of color. Science already has determined that in the absence of anything material, refraction of white light is also absent.

 

At least to our senses that is. Perhaps if we had another sense we’d see a whole other world on the other side….

 

The chakras here in this painting are the physical living world we experience. They move from a lower vibration to a higher one. Less conscious to more conscious. More connected to the earth and physical things to less. Much like Maslow’s triangle.

 

 

1stCHAKRA

Color: Red

Sanskrit name: Muladhara

Known as: Root chakra

Location: Base of the spine in the tailbone area

Symbolizes: safety, survival, grounding, nourishment from the Earth energy (food, other humans, clothing, etc)

My interpretation: it is our root. It’s located in a place where we sit and literally connect to the earth beneath us. Also in a place where we connect with other humans through copulation.

To me it symbolizes the earlist part of life when we are completely at the mercy of others. We build a foundation from the original safety and survival as babies. Our perception of the world is shaped from there. We come into life here. We could be stuck here our whole lives. If we are, unless it’s purely lack of money for food/shelter/clothing – it’s an energetic or emotional “stuckness”.

 

2ndCHAKRA

Color: Orange

Sanskrit name: Swadhisthana

Known as: Emotional chakra

Location: Lower abdomen, about 2 inches below naval and 2 inches in

Symbolizes: emotions, creativity, sexuality, and is associated with water, flow

My interpretation: it is what is next. We feel and can interpret that after we are fed. Sexuality helps life to stay on the planet. It’s the next closest thing to survival after we are fed, clothed and have the ability to live. It’s also our ‘gut’ feeling and is at the gut level. It symbolizes the childhood part of life where we are learning and growing, coming into our own and understanding how to respond to the world.

 

3rdCHAKRA

Color: Yellow 

Sanskrit name: Manipura

Known as: Solar chakra

Location: Upper abdomen, between the heart and belly button (solar plexus)

Symbolizes: Mental activities, intellect, personal power, will. It’s where self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem are built and is at the core of our personality and identity.

My interpretation: Once we have that safety and gut feelings, we are able to use our mind and will power to go about in the world. That will power is based on our heat and desire. Heat and power like the sun. It’s the younger adult part of life up until middle age or the part of life where we shift mentally to part II – or something else. Where we are moving & shaking, taking care of the young and old. Working and using our physical identity to move through the world.

 

4thCHAKRA

Color: Green 

Sanskrit name: Anahata 

Known as: Heart chakra

Location: Center of the chest just above the heat  

Symbolizes: The ability to love, relate to others, have compassion and feel our inner selves.

My interpretation: Mentally we can move past all the intellect and listen to our heart. It’s like the highest of the 3 proverbial minds (gut, mind, heart).  It can guide us the right way if the solar plexus chakra is flowing freely and we can distinguish it between the monkey mind and the inner self. It’s the connection of the physical body to the higher body. It’s a place in life that symbolizes a switch to another thought process. If you can get there it’s beautiful. Usually around middle age or when we start to get tired of the grind and ask “What For”?

 

 

5th CHAKRA

Color: Blue  

Sanskrit name: Vishuddha  

Known as: Throat chakra (voice)

Location: Throat  

Symbolizes: Communication, self-expression, speaking our truth, creativity

My interpretation: When the lower chakras are unblocked we find ourselves more closely in the flow of life. We are able to be creative, speak our truth, and communicate in a heart-felt way with the world and people around us. On the proverbial life line, it’s at the later part of life where we understand how we are interpreted, live from a heart level rather than a level of obtaining material wealth, possession or status.

 

6th CHAKRA

Color: Indigo (or Purple in some places)   

Sanskrit name: Ajna  

Known as: Third Eye chakra 

Location: Forehead, between the eye brows   

Symbolizes: Inner wisdom, intuition, imagination. Ability to see the big picture inside and out. 

My interpretation: In other cultures the elderly are praised for the very notion that we get wiser as we grow older. We can be taught certain things, but it’s only through really knowing and figuring out their truth for ourselves that we can become wise enough to understand the wisdom bestowed upon on from sages of the past.

 

7thCHAKRA

Color: Purple (or White in some places)   

Sanskrit name: Sahasrara   

Known as: Crown chakra  

Location: Top of the head    

Symbolizes: Inner and outer beauty, universal connection with spirituality and consciousness. Pure bliss.  

My interpretation: Sounds like heaven on earth! With everything else unblocked and no attachment to any outcome- we can experience total peace, utter bliss. It’s the closest thing in our living world to death and not having an investment so tied and rooted to the material world. It’s the top of Maslow’s pyramid where we self-actualize.

 

The pyramid and the image of a sitting body are both sort of triangular in shape. My interpretation is that the larger base is at the bottom because those descriptions of what these areas symbolize are the most connected to earth. They are more difficult to move through and where the majority of individuals experience life. As we move up toward the more narrow sections, there are less humans around that thrive in those parts regularly, and it gets a bit easier to move because it’s further away from the root or axiomatic apron string. We can move up and down the Chakras at any time. But if the energy system is blocked by emotion it is difficult. Even a person with little to no food if they are emotionally clear can self-actualize.

 

In my artistic expression of this cycle the colors live in the middle of the known and unknown worlds. The small symbols on the painting that go from left to right, bottom to top are my humble explanation of moving upward through the chakras toward the unknown, which ultimately is completely and utterly surrounded by the pure energy of beautiful, boundless, weightless, expansive and all encompassing white light.

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog

https://esterinaanderson.com

this and 6 other pieces were inspired by contemporary artist Sean Scully. 2 weeks ago Daren and I went to the Wadsworth in Hartford and it was the last day for his exhibit. He works in stripes mainly.

 

 

 

 

 

The Inevitable Scream

2am this morning.

I’m taking deep breaths and have my hand over my mouth. A long established, cataleptic practice. Additionally my eyes, temples and the space in between my eyes really hurt. I subconsciously begin to rub those areas with the hand that comes off my mouth. In just writing this my forehead, temples and eyes hurt.

 

It hasn’t been that long since these small acts were even noticed and now provide the insight as to what is happening to me. Chakra wise it’s the voice and wisdom body inside that are in pain.

 

I thought back to one evening about a year ago on my therapist’s couch. When I described ‘The Scream’, she (with empathy and almost automatically said) – it’s because you had no voice. Instantly tears sprung to my eyes. With that sudden understanding of what was unknown, obvious and finally understood – my throat hurt. It made sense! It was obvious to her, but new to me. I couldn’t wait to tell my husband. But somehow relaying it not long after over the phone while he was waiting for his son to finish hockey practice late at night while sitting at Starbucks and catching up on work himself, it got lost in translation and I couldn’t quite explain it. It lost it’s potency and I lost the motivation to meditate on it and explore it further.

 

The Scream. It was inevitable.

 

The scream I speak of took place in mid-February 1994 just days before my 18thbirthday outside of the Patchogue courthouse on Long Island. The previous summer on July 9th was the first time the police were involved in the Domestic Violence and child abuse that had been taking place at home since I was born, resulting in the February court date. I wanted justice. I wanted to see something happen, but nothing had. Since I was still a minor for a few more days, the law allowed my parents to move the case to Family court – which was at the time slightly more serious than a bad joke, and my father walked away without even as much as an anger management course or proverbial slap on the wrist.

 

I didn’t know what was going on that day. As I was leaving with my parents in what seemed like minutes after we had gotten there, I asked my mother what was going on. She just ushered me outside. Once out in the bright sun on that brisk February day I asked again. No answer. I stopped and got louder- “What is going on?!”

 

A few passerby’s looked our way. My mother must have felt compelled to answer due to the attention we were drawing. She pulled me aside as my father continued to walk to the car.

 

Mom: Nothing is happening.

Me: What do you mean nothing?

Mom: Nothing.

Me: What does that mean?

Mom: It means we are going home.

Me: What about dad? Classes, probation? What happened in court?

Mom: Nothing. We moved the case to family court and he is able to go home.

Me: I thought that classes and probation were the minimum, what about the restraining order?

Mom: That was if we left it in criminal court. We moved it to family court.

Me: I thought that was my decision.

Mom: It’s not, you are a minor.

 

With that she continued to walk to the car. I reluctantly followed.

 

With each step I grew more and more aware of what just happened. More confused. More enraged.

 

When we got to the car I stood there behind it. I didn’t want to get it. It was bright, sunny and cool out. The car seemed like the box I was proverbially stuck in my whole life – hot, stuffy, enclosed. I was mad at them. I didn’t want to get in. I was confused. I was angry. I wanted justice for what has happened to me.

 

I stood there.

 

My parents got out and asked me what I was doing. I didn’t know.

 

They were urging me to get in.

 

I didn’t want to. I couldn’t even speak.

 

The more they urged me; the more trapped, confused and angry I felt. I felt stuck to the ground beneath my feet. Literally and metaphorically.

 

Esterina – get in the car

 

No.

 

No? What do you mean no?

 

I don’t want to.

 

Get in the car.

 

No.

 

They both started to approach me when I let out a scream. A scream I didn’t know I had in me.

 

They halted their approach and watched me, panicked.

 

“Esterina – get in the car”.

 

I screamed again. And again. I screamed at the top of my lungs, like I never screamed before. A scream that seemed almost inhuman.

 

They stood frozen and watched me like I was a wild animal. That is what I felt like – a crazed wild animal. I continued to scream, and scream, and scream for what seemed like minutes.

 

They watched in awe and horror.

 

When I stopped, I realized I felt better. I had to go home. I had to find a way out of my life and house. It was a few more months until high school graduation. I had no idea what I was going to do; but I had to get in the car, go home and figure it out.

 

It felt so good to scream. So good, I was able to get in the car I didn’t want to be in. I didn’t want to be in their company, but what choice did I have? I got in the car and we went home. My mother spoke of this scream a few times to others, but never me. It was never mentioned again, but I never forgot it.

 

The July 9, 1993 incident happened when I was 17. Until that day, me and my family pretended that our home was like any other and that violence and abuse wasn’t a part of it. Once the cops were called by my youngest brother that day (it was his 13thbirthday) the cat was out of the bag, and it was a little easier to tell my then friends and boyfriend what happened. I showed them the bruises. I didn’t have the voice to talk about the past, but only to say this has happened before. The first time you talk about it is the hardest. That was the last bite the beaver took of the dam before the leak started. It would be years though before the dam actually flooded.

 

That particular day I had an argument with my father. He was annoyed about how long I was dating my boyfriend and didn’t have a ring. I tried to explain that I didn’t want to get married, that I didn’t even finish high school yet. He got angry and couldn’t fathom that I was dating someone I didn’t want to marry. I said I wanted to finish school and have a career first. Then the hitting started. It’s about as far as I care to explain, but it’s the story of how most of these incidences went.

 

The truth was I didn’t want to marry early. I didn’t want to depend on anyone to support me as my mother felt she needed my father’s support. She hadn’t finished high school and was embarrassed by that her whole life. I didn’t something more for myself. I wanted independence and an education. Through words, deeds and actions; my mother has communicated numerous times that she wouldn’t be with my father if it wasn’t for us 3 kids. I grew up feeling like a burden. Very unwanted. Very unloved. There were no kisses, hugs or I love yous in my home. I didn’t even know that was a thing people did. It was for TV if anything.

 

Not long after “The Scream” I decided to join the Coast Guard and set an enlistment date of August 9th. It was the perfect solution for getting out, supporting myself, learning a trade and obtaining money for college. A true ticket out of my house.

 

Against my own intentions, just 3 years later I was already married and pregnant with my first child. At 23 I had my second child. Scared of turning out like my mother, I made it a point to not settle and was determined to obtain a degree to and have the ability to take care of myself. I did finish my required 4 years of active military time. I put in another 4 years of Reserve time. I did go back to school and had a BS in Business by the time I was 24. At 25 my then husband and I bought our first home. At 29 I had an MBA and a very decent full-time job in the government. At 32 we bought the larger home in the nicer suburbs with the good school system. At 34 I was divorcing. There was no violence in my home, but I realized I married a man that had the same maladaptive habits as my father. I was unable to see how badly he treated our children because it was so much better than the way I grew up. In our home there were kisses, hugs and I love yous. I thought it was how it should be. It was later I would realize that it wasn’t so healthy either.

 

From the time I left home until I divorced I felt very healthy mentally. Once the stability of a home and two biological parents were out of the picture, I felt like I started to unravel. The scream was still in me. Unbeknownst to me.

 

The years from 34 on were kind of a rebirth and kind of a mental hell. I love my now husband, but joining two families that came from two different backgrounds with children that still went to two different homes with other parents and family members who could not possibly be any different from one other was a recipe for turbulence. My now husband and I had different ideas on what our newly formed family would look like, how we’d spend our weekends, evenings and summers, how much time we’d spend as a blended family together and apart. What our holidays would look like. All things that were my little to only down-time, and things I had previously very much looked forward to. His ex was far more mean & manipulative than mine, and had a very strong opinion about how we spend time with his kids; which pretty much dictated how we lived, how we spent our money, and everything we did. He didn’t want to fight with her or disappoint anyone and in turn succumbed to the belief that this is what divorced life looks like.

 

I disagreed. I felt like I had little to no voice on how I wanted to spend my time with my own husband, children and blended family. I started to lose the voice I had gained in controlling my own life as an adult. I felt trapped.

 

After a few years “The Scream” came back.  I can’t even remember the first time I screamed again like I had in the parking lot of the Patchogue courthouse. Probably in my car. It was a place I screamed a lot. I would be driving home from work and singing loudly to music thinking I was happy, when I’d get an overwhelming feeling of being trapped. Usually due to traffic, but it rubbed on the nerves of feeling trapped in my life. Feeling voiceless. Feeling that I had no control and had to live as someone else dictated. I’d think about the evening ahead. Evenings busy with making dinners, kid activities in different towns all over the state. Things that I didn’t plan but we had to do. Things I was too tired to do at the end of a long day. Things that took time away from unwinding and spending quality time with anyone in my life – even my own children.

 

Every new thing that popped up on our calendar and every new expense that arrived without my consent or knowledge would feel like a little dagger. It was small at first, hardly noticeable – but over time it would bother me more and more. I’d express my frustration to my husband in the little time we had together and were able to talk without anyone else hearing. Those rare times were in bed, on vacations or on the days our kids were with their other parent and we didn’t have an event of theirs to go to. So it seemed like I was always frustrated. It seemed like all we talked about was how I was frustrated. We couldn’t even get past this to have a conversation about taking control of our lives because the whole conversation would be focused on how I am and shouldn’t always be upset. It went on like this. And the longer it went on, the longer I felt unheard and the more and more the scream inside tried to break free.

 

It would come out often. I’d scream and just lose my mind. In my car, in my house with no one home, at home with people home, late at night while arguing with my husband. For the life of me I couldn’t relate it to anything in my past. Hindsight is so very 20/20. I can’t believe no one else around me was able to help me relate this. We were all in our own worlds trying to get through every single day and all the things that needed to be done, who had time to think about rest, mental health or self-care?

 

Rest. Self-Care. These are things that are SO necessary; but I was taught, and for certain my husband’s ex felt that downtime is for the lazy. We should be busy at every moment doing something productive. Even though our home was full of non-stop activities, if something was unscheduled for one of my step-kids for a New York minute, she’d step in to make sure they had something to do. Something of course that would require my husband’s time, which meant it was my time because he wasn’t around to help me with the house(s), dinner, shopping, pets, other kids, etc.

 

Downtime is necessary. And I didn’t have it. And it sent me into crisis mode.

 

Something about turning 40 initiated a stream of events. It was like the next piece of the dam that I had built as a child to protect myself snapped. Not broken and flooded yet, but enough to cause some damage.

 

It’s no coincidence that this breakdown took place over just a few months. A period where I began physical therapy for my back, started yoga teacher training, and hit my knee under a table at workat work, which required other physical manipulations. Unless you are immersed in the world of mental health and or energy work, it could be hard to understand why I don’t find this to be a coincidence. The trapped emotions were being knocked on and broken up so to speak through these activities.

 

Suddenly, I almost couldn’t bear being in the car and commuting to work. I couldn’t face days of going to work and killing time there when there was so much to do at home. I couldn’t stand another minute of not having time for myself to meditate or go deeper into the practices I was studying. I couldn’t stand having a life with little to no meaningful human connections and being an un-humanized vessel of money and transportation.

 

The scream would come more often. I’d get hot. I’d lose control of my bladder. One day in the summer the following year right before I checked myself into an IOP, I broke into boils on my chest. Every time after a few minutes I’d think about something related to childhood and it was make the screaming and subsequent crying that would inevitably take place for a long time after feel almost like a release. I was embarrassed to tell anyone this. I thought it was rather melodramatic. I had no idea it was all PTSD.

 

Then one evening last summer on July 11th, 25 years and 2 days after that incident when I was 17, I had a really bad evening. It was following a few days of step-children drama, an accusation about something I didn’t do. It followed a few too many drinks at a charity event, and then an argument with my husband about the kids. The scream came out again. It was a hot summer night. Every window was open, and as usual after a few minutes it had nothing to do with the present. I was screaming and crying for the past. I was unbearably hot and had no bladder control so I stripped down, got in the bathtub and screamed. I was screaming HELP. I was screaming about the help I wanted and needed as a child, the help I wanted then mentally. The help I wanted in needing to feel heard and understood and not like a burden of someone who is just not happy with the wonderful life I was being told I have and should be grateful for.

 

I was an adult feeling like a child. I now know and understand that my husband represented my mother. The gatekeeper between me and my father who didn’t want to shake anything up and upset him – so turned a blind eye and pretended that nothing was wrong. The mother who told me that I have a nice life and home and I should be happy. The mother that made me feel like a burden because I was alive and the reason she had to be in this unhappy marriage with this abusive man.

 

My husband was the gatekeeper between our uncontrolled time and his ex and kids. He couldn’t understand that with a nice life why I wasn’t happy. I felt like a burden that I wasn’t happy and tried to use our free to time to discuss things he didn’t want to address – because it would shake things up and upset someone else.

 

It’s now so obvious.

 

A few days after this incident last summer, where again – exactly 25 years and 2 days later cops were called for the first time, I had the epiphany of my current situation and how the characters in my present life represented my past. Once that happened the dam really broke for good. I had a few really long, hard months of understanding this and learning about PTSD and the brain. How my lower brain – the one that takes over in times of crisis (the instinct to run and not contemplate when being chased by a lion) cannot see the actual people, but responds to the emotions it interprets to be dangerous and floods the body with fight or flight hormones. When I couldn’t physically fight I’d scream. And scream. And scream….

 

It’s why I put my hand on my mouth when I’m anxious.

 

That wasn’t my last scream. I was now aware of how dangerous they were. Neighbors don’t understand. They hear help and screaming and call cops. They should! So my screams became muffled. Or I’d get in the car and drive to a remote place. I’d scream until I felt like I was able to ‘get it out of me’. I can’t explain the release I feel afterward. It’s cathartic. Even in the throws of crying and screaming, it’s better than not, and I feel like I’m purging all that is bad inside of me, despite it looking very differently to an outsider.

 

I had a lot more ‘safe’ screaming last summer. Nights I couldn’t sleep I’d get up and write or read about PTSD and allow myself for the first time in my life to think about what happened, and finally begin to process it.

 

I’m not proud of screaming. I’m not proud of how I’ve acted and argued or fought before I actually got to a place of where the scream came. I’m not proud of the self-destructive and relationship-destructive behaviors that took place. My body was in fight-or-flight mode. I actually did feel a shift of losing control at a certain point. I always knew the moment, but I was truly helpless to stop the flood as my lower brain took over. I can relate to the term “faulty alarm system”. It is really what it is. Not a true emergency, but something internally so close; that it sets off the alarm and subsequent actions. The propensity of the reaction to the situation doesn’t match. That is PTSD.

 

 

I haven’t screamed in many many months now. Once I understood what happens to the body, what my triggers were and how to get somewhere safe it was game changer.

 

This is a blog I’m not even sure I will post. It doesn’t wrap up nicely. It doesn’t tie back to some sort of theme. It just is. I woke up, had my hand on my mouth, my temples and third eye hurt… I remembered that it was because it was tied to feeling voiceless. I remembered the scream that first day when I was 18 and felt it was inevitable. That day and always, until I felt I have a voice.

 

The below is from an email I wrote to my family in the middle of the night last summer. Oddly between the evening of Aug 6thand Aug 7th– the anniversary of my mom’s passing. She died around midnight on 8/6/06 but wasn’t pronounced by Hospice until they got there until after midnight, which is what her death certificate says. Strangely it links to someone else who wrote about “The Scream”. Just learning and knowing I’m not alone has helped me to feel human and not alone.

 

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope I’m not bugging you all with some of these emails. I just had the strangest, but maybe good night and wanted to share with someone. 

 

I woke up as usual in the middle of the night with a overwhelming sadness. I started to cry about things I was remembering. The more I thought, the more I cried. Gabby wasn’t home (she is a college kid often out in the middle of the night). No one else was up for at least two floors and I really, really cried. 

 

I had a assortment of stronger than usual memories. I remembered different places where I felt the most mix of emotions – like extreme excitement and profound anger at being hit at the same time, such as how happy and angry I was when we went to Disney; or bought a new (used) car. I was seeing details of things like I was still living at home. Dented walls, my mirror in my room with the pictures of my friends tucked around the frame. I even remember the exact pictures of who they were of. I remember my ballet slippers hanging off the brass bed, my curling iron on the dresser… It was like I was there, the level of detail was so great. 

 

It was mostly my room that made me sad. I was thinking about how I would lock the door, but that really didn’t do any good. My father broke the knob and lock many times. I was thinking that if he tried to come in I should have just gone out the window, but at the time that never crossed my mind. I wondered why… Because I wouldn’t know where to go… For years I had no vehicle. The neighbors would have sent me back. I had no money or change to make a phone call at a payphone. Unless I grabbed mommy’s phonebook in the dining room I wouldn’t have even known anyone but my friend’s numbers to call. And what would I have told them? How was I going to get past him to get the phonebook and out the door? I was so brainwashed to believe that I should keep this quiet that it would have been a horror to tell someone far away that I didn’t have their number like grandma or aunt Fran. I felt the repercussions of telling anyone would have been worse than just enduring it. It was to perturbing to even imagine telling any friends. My room that I was remembering was like a jail cell. I felt unbelievably hopeless and trapped.

 

As I cried I had such a mix of emotions. Like why? I must have done something in a previous life and this is karma. That actually made me feel better, as it made sense and I was paying my dues.

 

I also couldn’t help but wonder if I was being dramatic. If it wasn’t as bad as I thought. 

 

Some of these thoughts soothed me as I stopped crying and tried to fall back to sleep.

 

I couldn’t fall back to sleep so I googled “delayed onset PTSD in adults of child abuse”. Many things quickly came up, but my favorite (very long) was the this one – http://www.naasca.org/2011-Articles/081411-PTSDinAdultSurvivors.htm

 

There were two things I like about this article. First it is a complete description of my journey, as it describes completely how I’ve felt from a child up until now, and explains why now; after such a delayed period this would come up. The second thing is the poem at the bottom written by a survivor called “The Scream”. 

 

I’ve screamed “The Scream” the first time days before I was 18 in front of the courthouse with my parents when they dropped the only charges we ever had from that famous 7/9 day without my consent, as I was still a minor for a few more days and the laws were quite different back then. They were scared of my scream. They couldn’t get me in the car. They genuinely looked panicked. They told at least Mario about it. I scared myself. I didn’t know it was in me. It felt freeing to scream. After a few minutes and watching their panic, I fell silent and just got in the stinking car – feeling unbelievably trapped. No one talking about a thing. Like what just happened never happened. I was so numb I was not even thinking about how I was going to get out of this jail I was living in. 

 

Up until a few years ago ‘the scream’ was a distant memory. Now it happens often enough. I get triggered and I cannot stop screaming. I remember telling my therapist about it a few months ago, with slight concern. She just looked sympathetically at me and said you are using your voice to get it out, because you felt voiceless for so long. “The Scream” is what prompted the call to the cops on 7/11. 

 

After I read a few articles I felt more normal again, remembering I am having a human reaction to a human experience. I still couldn’t fall back to sleep, so I tried some yoga nidra which has been helpful as of late. When I got to the part about visioning a safe place, I quickly scanned my memory for one and only could remember theapartment on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn. It wasn’t a safe place at all. 

 

Again, I was FLOODED with minute details about the outside & inside. The hallway and two flights up. I was remembering or not remembering that the lock on the front door didn’t work for a while before we moved. I couldn’t remember if that was real or just a dream that I’ve had so many times. If it was a dream, what did it symbolize? Not feeling safe, locks not working? I cried again for a long time. Same mix of emotions like it’s my fault or I’m over exagerating it. But I remembered the article and how the only way to move through it is to experience the thoughts and feelings again. So I let them through to pass. Letting the memories and details just flood me. After reading the article I embraced what was happening, as it’s the only way to let it go. 

 

The article is very long as I said, but here is a clip from the end after explaining how one would have gotten to this point 

 

“Survivors attempt to flee from feelings about having been abused, from normal reactions to an abnormal situation. Because that situation was life-threatening in thepast, some survivors mistakenly believe that to experience those feelings today would also be life-threatening, would bring on an emotional breakdown, a falling apart akin to death. They do not understand that the breakdown has already happened, when their feelings were preempted by shame.

A survivor can afford to look that “death” squarely in the face when he has people who will stand by him, as well as the insight and power he did not have as a child. When it is finally safe enough, the survivor will remember the memories and feel the feelings about the trauma. Such a “thawing out” is a second chance, an emotional reincarnation. Still…the first sensations that have been repressed or avoided all of one’s life can feel like a tidal wave.

When he is ready, the thoughts and feelings return. In response to what has been uncovered, he often feels great anger at the betrayal itself and the injustice and randomness of the violence.

Underneath that anger is a terror and helplessness that is more difficult to experience than the anger. (“Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I remember. Maybe I’m just exaggerating.”) This can go on for a long time, but with the help of others, the survivor will eventually accept that the trauma was as bad as he knows it was.

Profound sadness follows. This compassionate acceptance of “poor me” and the mourning of the losses that the trauma created eventually lead to resolution.

When the losses engendered by trauma are fully mourned, the trauma loses its power over the survivor. Instead of the emotional breakdown they feared…survivors experience an emotional breakthrough! Completing the grieving process means divorcing the trauma from one’s sense of identity and self-worth.”

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog

https://esterinaanderson.com

Voices Carry

Voices Carry

 

Shush, keep it down now, voices carry

 

The song “Voices Carry” by Til’ Tuesday always gave me somewhat of a chill. Not in a bad way, but through some haunting lens I didn’t quite understand but felt a magnetic draw to.

 

2 years ago while preparing some yoga classes April’s Sexual Assault month which has a strong hand-in-hand partnership with October’s Domestic Violence month (a topic that I feel very strongly about as a child abuse survivor) – I set out on a search for songs about these topics.

 

Voices Carry came up under Domestic Violence. Yes, I suppose – ‘shush, keep it down now, voices carry’. It wasn’t all too different from some of the other 80’s tunes like Luka and Behind the Wall. It had that same eerie vibe that drew me in, while not really digesting much what the lyrics were so poignantly about.

 

A few months ago on the way home from work my music was playing on shuffle in the car when “Voices Carry” came on. Likely for the first time I really listened to and digested the lyrics. The Internet search from 2 years ago plagued my mind, but I wasn’t so sure anymore that Domestic Violence was completely behind it. Was it a secret lover perhaps? What did the words mean???

 

Hours later after dinner, walking the dog and the nightly routine – Daren was out at hockey with Devin and I picked up my phone before bed to search the lyrics meaning.

 

No doubt it was about the power dynamic in an Intimate Partner relationship. But what I read over and over and over, is that the song was originally written with “She” instead of “He”. I read a lot about the video and how the man tried to control the woman… (never saw this video) and how it could be about sexual assault; but I couldn’t shake what almost seems now after one too many sources said that it was about a lesbian relationship.

 

Wow. That just shifts everything now doesn’t it?

 

I’ve written about this before- that back in May 2017 I was required to take a 50 hour CT state training on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in order to teach yoga at Domestic Violence shelters. I was ambivalent about the training. It was a requirement. I had to shift my schedule a bit to fit it in. It ended up being a life-changer.

 

The topics were so eye opening. It wasn’t just about the topics. It was about the dynamic of relationships. The dynamic of human unfairness. The dynamic which children grow up and how certain segments of society are treated unfairly. How cycles of violence perpetuate through generations. How we treat and work with perpetrators. How the police are trained and not trained to deal with these issues. How the law works and how the laws have changed over the years. How our culture almost encourages boys toward violence and treating women as objects. How the LGBT movement plays into it all. How race is involved in this. I trained at the umbrella agency in Bridgeport CT. I was finally able to piece together that these topics are all so very related and are ultimately human rights issues. Human Justice Issues. All encompassing and under one umbrella.

 

It was there I very sadly realized that I myself have PTSD from childhood abuse. I was very likely unable to handle the awareness until then.  It was probably the most educational 50 hours I’d ever spent – professionally and personally.

 

Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and a same sex relationship – how can one song be related to all 3? How can these topics even be related?

 

Strange thing is that they are. It’s all stuff that as a society we’ve kept hush about and swept under the rug. Things that folks were ashamed of and had to hide. The unspeakable, but oh so very real truth.

 

I heard the song again last night on the way home after sharing a few drinks with a friend. It haunted me as always. Something I read a few months back when I search it the last time preoccupied my mind enough for me to try to find it again (of course I could not – go figure). A writer explained how she always believed the song was about a heterosexual couple in an affair situation until she read about the “she” word removal as well.  At that point she wrote a bit about how sad it was that the record company wouldn’t record it, as stations and the public were not ready for the topic; but how that changed the words and entire meaning of the song for her.

 

Voices Carry… Voices Carry… Voices Carry.

 

That was the main meaning. If we don’t keep quiet about a topic, the voice of it will carry to others. The message will get across. Yes, ‘shush’ we’ve been told to keep it down, that voices will carry. But on the other hand – Voices Carry! The more we talk and bring awareness, the more our voices will carry. Would it have been so bad to carry the message the writer intended to send?

 

The love of homosexuals. Any human or sexual orientation that is involved in intimate partner violence. Child Abuse. Sexual assault/abuse/rape. The mental illness of perpetrators. & their own sordid pasts… These are human rights issues. Things that have made people feel ashamed and lesser than. Things they’ve felt the need to hide. People who have felt they have no voice.

 

Not treating everyone the same regardless of the shoes they’ve walked in is ABUSE.

No need to listen to the bully who says “Shush & Keep it down now”. Voices do carry. All of them do. Like drops in a bucket. Each little drop will contribute to the eventual overflow that will change things. Every voice counts.

 

https://spinditty.com/playlists/Songs-About-Domestic-Violence-and-Child-Abuse

Unknown

Voices Carry

'Til Tuesday

 

I'm in the dark, I'd like to read his mind
But I'm frightened of the things I might find
Oh, there must be something he's thinking of
to tear him away-a-ay
When I tell him that I'm falling in love
why does he say-a-ay

 

Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry



Uh-ah

I try so hard not to get upset
Because I know all the trouble I'll get
Oh, he tells me tears are something to hide
and something to fear-eh-eh
And I try so hard to keep it inside
so no one can hear

 

Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Uh-ah

 

Oh!
He wants me, but only part of the time
He wants me, if he can keep me in line

Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, shut up now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, darling, she might overhear
Hush, hush - voices carry



He said shut up - he said shut up
Oh God can't you keep it down
Voices carry
Hush hush, voices carry

 

Songwriters: MANN AIMEE / HAUSMAN MICHAEL / HOLMES ROBERT / PESCE JOSEPH

Voices Carry lyrics © Til Tunes Assoc., MECHANICAL COPYRIGHT PROTECTION SOCIETY LTD, 'TIL TUNES ASSOCIATES

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Hygee (Hoo Guh) & How I Plan to Embrace Winter this Year

I never heard this word until last week. I was starting to plan for the holidays and feeling really festive and excited, until my heart sunk thinking about January and the rest of the winter.
I REALLY don’t like the winter. But it’s an inevitable part of life. If I’ve learned anything this year that is positively impacting my life, it is to enjoy the moment, whatever it is; as this too shall pass. Alan Watts wrote a book called “This is It”. Meaning, as we are waiting for life to start or get better we are actually wasting it- because the whole thing; the good, the bad, the ugly… the joys, sweat & tears… and even traffic is “IT”.
I hardly noticed the winter until the year I was pregnant with Gabby. She was due in June and around February I really started nesting. I had a paper calendar on the wall at the time (who didn’t in 1999?) and on the last day of February I excitedly turned the page and saw the beautiful spring picture for March. My heart filled with joy. I was so excited and ready for spring. I went to bed happily anticipating the coming months. But when I woke up it was still freezing, dark and wet. Weeks later it was still freezing, dark and wet. That same year as the days turned darker and colder in October I realized I am one the thousands I have been hearing in the background who dislike what feels like the never ending season of winter.
20 years later and I’m still a hater. I want that to change, or at least to accept it the way I can smile and catch myself from feeling grumpy during traffic. This is a totally new concept for me to accept even a yucky present moment [most of the time anyway] and tell myself that this is really it! This is life. There is nothing else and even this could be kind of enjoyable when I realize I’m alive and experiencing what exists in the spectrum of living experiences.
So I went to my best ally that I turn to for answers (Google of course) and asked “How to enjoy winter?
Almost every search response turned up this word “Hygee” pronounced “Hoo Guh” (I personally like the way I was pronouncing it in my mind better, but that is neither here nor there). Apparently it’s a Danish word that loosely translates to coziness. The Danish are the well known as the happiest culture in the world, but also have one of the more harsh winters with a population of human settlers. What is their secret?
One can look on their own, I’m not going to go bonkers writing it all out- but the general concept is to embrace it, do all things inside that you’ve been putting off, make time for friends no matter the weather and to indulge in winter foods, clothes and warm beverages. Embracing it means hunkering down and getting cozy. Lots of candles, soft light, and blankets. Also, going outside every day for a bit no matter how dark or cold. Not only is the fresh air and movement of walking a benefit, but the contrast back into the cozy home makes it all the more sweeter.
As I raked leaves at both of our homes this week, covered the stubborn little spring bulbs I recently planted that were poking up, and started to put away the outdoor summer items; I felt a sense of connection the earth and dare I say even slight excitement toward this season for this first time ever.
Being prepared and doubling down on making my home cozier than ever felt right. I ordered non-holiday candles for my windows that I plan to not move until the sun starts to set at an earlier hour next year. I purchased those battery operated string lights for little places in the home near the potted plants I brought in from the outside for the winter for extra light & cheer. I hope to have a fire almost every evening (mental note: need to have the hubby show me how first), so I ordered a ton of firewood just for the occasion. AND I put it in the porch right outside the front door so it stays dry and seasoned… and it is close enough to not groan about having to trek anywhere else around the outside to get it.
What else?
I’m making a list of movies I’ve always wanted to see. Creating a pile of books to keep in living room that I want to read this winter. I am putting together exciting crockpot, dessert and soup recipes to try. I have a list of electronic things I never get to that I want to cross off my mental to do list forever.
I also made a list of things to do on weeknights and weekends that aren’t that exciting to do in the warm months because the draw to be outside is so much greater. Some of those things are to use the sauna we have in the basement, cross country ski (we have a trail within .2 miles from our front door), put together puzzles we bought & never touched, paint, write, color, knit, take online classes to get all CEUs or just learn about somethings I always want to know more about, go to plays and musicals at local theaters, visit museums, try new coffee shops…
Just writing it all out again makes me feel like the whole winter might not be enough time for all these great activities! Could it be that I can enjoy these months? I hope so!
It still might not shake out to actually be enjoyable, but it absolutely won’t be enjoyable if I don’t realize all the cool ways I could embrace and make the most of it. Fingers crossed.
If you are of the many like me who dreads these months and found an idea or two here to make it more bearable – then this was worth the time to write and share.
Here is to embracing it all, because after all, this it it.
~Esterina

 

My wood pile on the porch. This was taken only yesterday after moving a half cord of wood myself and then making a large tarp to keep it all warm & dry. I put kindling in flower pots. Today the scene is full of snow!
Now a day later.
Welcome Winter

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On Navigating with Love

There are some experiences in life that seem almost magical or other worldly as they happen. Sometimes it is when you meet someone and you get a sense of ‘deja vu’ or a flash of unexplained feelings. Or when you hear or read something that just seems to strike some sort a cord within you about its unexplainable truth.
One of the dozen or so times this happened to me is when I had first read that the soul is the connection to divine (God, nature or whatever you chose to call all that is). I was so moved by this simple statement. The truth of it was so obvious to me at the moment, that it sparked one of those other worldly flash feelings. The article discussed how the soul doesn’t dish out advice like our loud, animal mind brains do. But if you ignore or quiet the monkey brain and ask your soul for advice, the right answer is always there waiting to be heard. 
Wow. Yes. 
I knew that somewhere but didn’t realize it until then. A few hours later after mulling it over I posted something on Facebook about it- a short quote I made up as my own interpretation of this. It had very few “likes”. Guess my Facebook tribe didn’t get it. 
Not long after I heard a podcast about the moral compass. The speaker explained how we experience negative emotions (depression, hopelessness, anxiety, etc) when we aren’t living according to our moral compass.
Right- that makes sense too! And in my own interpretation I understood that moral compass connection to be through the soul which is connected to all that is. When we can’t hear or follow that sound advice and live against it, we feel unhappy.
Then, not long after I started to better understand the deeper meaning of the yoga I was attracted to. The focused attention of breath and movement quieted the monkey mind. Meditation and quieting the mind is a ticket to really hearing sound moral advice from my soul- that without question always knows the right and loving way to be in this world.
I feel so inspired to write this morning because when I opened my email amongst the midst of things was the start of a sentence that caught my eye strong enough for me to open it. It read “God does what God is: Love. God does not love you if and when you change. God loves you so that you can change!”The email was a few paragraphs long. It is a daily mediation that I signed up for from the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr who wrote a book I recently finished called Falling Upward. 
The email this morning brought the message of the soul and compass home for me. The email referenced one of the famous lines of the Bible where man is created in the likeness and image of God (the divine, nature, whatever you connect to spiritually). That likeness is LOVE.
One paragraph states “Love is who you are. When you don’t live according to love, you are outside of being. You’re basically not real or true to yourself. When you love, you are acting according to your deepest being, your deepest truth. You are operating according to your dignity.
Love… Love it. To me that says it all.
Maybe, just maybe… the allegory of the apple and ensuing suffering was having doubt about pure love. Not living by the advice of the soul. Not having faith in all that is. 
The soul knows. Perhaps we should listen a bit closer. It’s always there- the good angel on our shoulder, NOT jumping up and down loudly like a child with a pitch fork such as the little fiery red guy on the other shoulder. Maybe listening to it really is a key away from fear & suffering.
Hey… it’s worth a try! 

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On Fear and Suffering

“Man suffers most through his fears of suffering”. —Etty Hillesum

I am beginning to understand how important it is to accept fear, suffering, and the unknown as a part of life. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it really is part of being human and our existence. Once we begin accept fear, suffering, and the unknown as natural and ordinary; we can experience a more balanced outlook on the way things are. Once that balanced outlook is realized; we still have fears, bad days and down days – they just seem to have less power and debilitating effects on us.

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In a blog I wrote a few weeks ago “On the Fluctuating Gunas ”, bad things happening to our around us, doesn’t mean something is wrong with us. It’s just part of the flow of life.

What is even more astounding is that as humans we have the capability to truly accept the entire flow of what life is. In our most enlightened form it’s possible to not be affected at all. From a Christian biblical perspective – symbolically, the lesson of Jesus on the cross is to help free us from suffering through demonstrating that at even the WORST, we have nothing to be afraid of if we chose to embrace what is.

Acceptance = Non-Suffering

We can’t fight what life throws at us. It’s fruitless. We will lose by fighting and trying to avoid it every time. It’s a law of nature, but it doesn’t mean that we should lie back and be pushed around by life. In the same way we cannot win by swimming against the tide or sailing against the wind. We have to use nature’s forces intelligently to still navigate where we would like to go using what is there at the time and not just wishing the tide away.

What’s worse is that wishing the tide away means not enjoying life as it is happening. We waste time that would otherwise be enjoyable by being scared of the unknown, thinking things are supposed flow easily – then being miserable when they don’t.

Will Smith even quoted the version of the below phrase in a great YouTube video I watched not too long ago. This is the abridged >2 min version, but the point is well taken. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSIo4JMzcbM

 

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FDR said it best years ago. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

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Years ago I read the book “Who Moved My Cheese”. It was cute enough. I was in my 20’s and it was my first exposure to hearing about accepting change. One of my favorite lines is quoted below. I remember it gave me chills because there actually would have been quite a bit I would be doing if I weren’t afraid.