Birth Trauma Survivor and Maternal Health Advocate

"The world we’re in right now, it’s like showing emotion has become a bad thing". James Gandolfini

The world we’re in right now, it’s like showing emotion has become a bad thing. Like there’s something wrong with you if you’re really in love or really angry and you show it. Like, if you feel those powerful emotions and you express them, instead of keeping them inside then you must be someone who needs therapy, or Prozac.’ –James Gandolfini

I’m Sorry. I’ve been busy.

Before Miss J was born, it was annoying when my friends with children would complain about how busy they were. Busy doing what? I would ask myself. Well, now I know. When I am not working, writing and still trying to sell “The Heart of Beauty,” I am shuffling Miss J back and forth to school, extracurriculars and parties. I am cooking breakfast and dinner. Packing lunch for school. I am attempting to clean the house–unsuccessfully, usually. I am giving baths. I am chasing Miss J around the house, while trying to comb her hair. I also manage to find time to tell Bobby that his tie doesn’t match, change his shoes and put more gel in his hair and to please throw away the socks that have holes!  I am doing music time, reading time, story time. I am wiping up poo. I am bribing Miss J with M and M’s. I am standing on a corner a few blocks away from home using the new meditation techniques I learned in Yoga while Miss J has a public meltdown. I am nursing boo-boos from the playground. My day ends with Miss J finally in bed, making demands for one more hug and kiss and a cup of milk and water. Then she asks for her Ipad or her phone to make a call. Eventually she doses off to sleep holding whichever stuffed animal or doll is the flavor of the month while rattling off a new song she learned in school.

At the end of each day, I try to savor a few moments of silence, catch up on some shows I’ve DVR’d, and perhaps, enjoy a glass of wine. Lately, I have been busy doing something else: avoiding you, my readers.

April and May are complicated and busy months. There’s Miss J’s birthday, my birthday and Mother’s Day and they are all within the same three-week period. My grandmother’s birthday is in June. I still miss her so much. This June, I admit, I was just being lazy. I ran out of excuses when July came. I feel stronger and happier than ever, yet the memories still linger. I’m basking in the happy times now and I don’t want to go back to that dark place, but it’s hard.

I don’t think of myself as someone who can’t let things go. I can and I have.  But, it took a lot of work to get to this place. I had to learn how to redefine happiness for myself. My life completely changed after the trauma I went through and no one can tell you when and how you should heal. People might tell you to “get over it” and “stop dwelling on the past,” “life is too short,” etc., but if you have ever lived through something you shouldn’t have, you obviously know this. Only you have the ability to know what you are feeling in your heart and mind. Part of recovering from a trauma is allowing yourself to explore the full range of your emotions. There is no perfect timeline and there is no perfect treatment. Having a support system is crucial. Bobby was mine and eventually my therapist (the second one) was too.

I have learned how to separate the incident from my everyday life. PTSD is a diagnosis I was given after surviving a traumatic event. It will always be a small part of me but does not define who I am.  PTSD is what I recovered from. It was hard to let go of the label. I got used to justifying certain behaviors because I was a trauma survivor with PTSD.  I went from normal life to being thrusted into a group of war veterans, individuals who had been abused and those who had lost limbs. Where did I, a new mom who almost hemorrhaged to death post delivery fit in? After connecting with several other people with PTSD, I realized that the one thing we all had in common was that we felt betrayed by other people, our bodies, the circumstances, or all of the above.  There were very few resources available for us. There was no group for me to join. So, as you know, I took a leap and started this blog in hopes of helping other women who have survived a traumatic event. After starting this blog, I began to receive emails from women all over the world, sharing the most intimate details of their lives with me.  I found that all of us had one thing in common, we believed that our bodies had deceived us.

How would we learn to trust our bodies again?

A few months ago, I began winding down my therapy appointments from every week to just once a month. I felt guilty for taking a therapy hiatus, but my counselor understood. I hope she was proud that I was ready to move on–it was a true sign of how gifted she is at her job. I was tired of talking about everything. I needed to do something.  Yes, I get the irony here. I was tired of talking to my therapist about it all, but here I am, telling you everything.

My mind was beginning to feel free and clear from the PTSD symptoms but my body constantly felt fatigued and sore. My back and legs were constantly in pain. I decided that it was time to bridge the connection between healing both my mind and my body. I began by reading “Overcoming Trauma Through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body”. This book helped me understand the importance of including my body into the healing process. I signed up for a beginners Yoga class in April. Really, I did!

If you are one of my friends reading this and know how anti-Yoga I used to be, you can stop laughing now.

I was pleasantly surprised at the diversity in the Yoga studio. There were women and men of all ages, races and sizes.  Our beginners class was small, just six of us. Our teacher, Maja, was a sweet-natured (but stern) blond. She started the first class by asking us why we chose to start yoga. I shared my PTSD story with the class. It amazes me now how open I am about it.  I have nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of. Neither do  you. Maja explained the fundamentals and principles. We then began “our practice”. The word practice sounded strange to me. I thought yoga was just exercise. Maja explained that practice refers to your individual experience with yoga over time. Anyone can do, I mean practice yoga.

I wanted to bust out laughing when we started the practice by chanting “Om.”

You know it is hard for me to be quiet.

While our eyes were supposed to be closed, I looked around the room to see what my peers were up to.  Everyone looked so peaceful with their eyes closed and their hands in prayer over their hearts. Sometimes, Maja would catch me and remind me to focus on my own practice. Gee whiz, guess I better really try to concentrate, I thought. I focused and tried to shut out the outside world. Before I knew it, I had disappeared into a calm realm. Although I was in a room full of people, I felt alone. I could feel my breath traveling through my body. Our class intensified and we moved from breathing exercises to learning poses that I had only seen in magazines and on television. Within minutes, I was doing poses I never thought possible! Downward Dog. Mountain. Cat. Plank. Warrior. I was doing it all!

No, not perfectly, but I was giving it my best.

What surprised me most about that first yoga class was how much I could feel my emotions running through me.  I could feel every ounce of  pain trying to escape. I was terrified. I realized what the problem was. I had betrayed myself. I have always been an open and upfront person when it comes to expressing myself. But somehow over the last three or four years I had put my emotions  into a container that I managed to keep tightly sealed.

When the class was over I went to go change in the bathroom. I was tired. I stared in the mirror. Perfectly coiffed hair and flawless make-up.It was all a part of the cover-up.

I finally saw through it all.

I wanted to cry.

I needed a release, but I held it inside.

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