Allowing Others to Know…

Never Would Have Imagined Posting This Picture

I’ve been having a hard time lately as I realize I don’t let people into my world as a physically disabled person. My outside body tends to work like a perfectly tuned orchestra for being physically disabled. The inner workings of my body are more like the makings of a terrible horror movie.

Today I was supposed to help sort clothes and food for a volunteer project. I could do it seated from my wheelchair, but I knew the twisting and bending would be more than my incredibly painful back and neck could handle. I’m working closely with pain management, where I think I ended up with an angel on my case, but despite it being an option, I’m not going down the 24/7 opiate route as I enjoy having a clear mind and just enough energy to get by more than constant pain relief. It’s a no brainer for me.

I said I would never post a picture like this as I’m a prude by nature. I was doing just a home practice of yoga, so nothing official. No one was watching. I just attempt to do a little iyengar yoga daily, whether it’s a couple stretches while the dogs are eating, a full length class, or my home practice, which was 26 minutes today.

I was lazy and kept my pj bottoms on and just put on my sports bra. I take pictures for myself. They are for seeing where I can improve alignment of my very degenerated spine to get pain relief. It was interesting as when I did this pose today, I felt a release in my spine and neck. It’s not a back cracking, snapping type release, it was like I could finally feel space between my vertebrae. If you’ve ever jammed a joint, think of how amazing it feels when it loosens. I have a fusion in my thoracic spine, nearly every disc is out of place in one way or another, I’m having the beginning of a scoliosis S curve in my lower spine.

When I looked at the picture, I saw my spine alignment was nearly perfect. It’s really scary to be 90 degrees to the floor. It’s also freeing and exciting. I let my spine and neck dangle for the longest time I ever have. It felt so good. I wanted to stay forever. My pain extends from other diagnoses besides the degenerated discs. So a few moments of loose, dangling, freedom is a welcome distraction from my whacked out body.

Iyengar yoga has been scientifically studied for the relief of chronic lower back pain. It’s even been written up in Harvard medical journals. I just put it out there if you suffer from chronic pain or autoimmune diseases, iyengar yoga has been amazing for me. It hasn’t cured me, but it’s part of a path of taking my health into as much control as possible with some phenomenal results. I will put the disclaimer that many with chronic pain or illnesses aren’t doing this pose. It is much more gentle. I do it because I was blessed with a naturally strong body that thrives on using my upper body strength when my legs are often useless.

Disability Art

Sure, it’s amazing what I can do with my body with my yoga and ability to hike with my specially designed forearm crutches made for disabled people to enjoy the outdoors, but I keep emphasizing what I can do understanding I have my own internal disability discrimination. My mantra has been “yes I’m disabled, but I don’t feel disabled”. It denies who I am. It doesn’t allow people around me to understand the disabled experience, my disabled experience.

I can’t go up a flight of stairs. I’m supposed to travel in October that I doubt will happen now. A couple ladies offered to share their space with me for a couple nights of the trip. I felt ashamed in asking if it was up a flight of stairs as I would appear ungrateful or some strange idea I have in my head as I knew I would have to say no. I kept turning it over in my head how I could do a flight of stairs regularly for 3 days. It’s not going to happen. Well, it turns out the space will be fine if it’s even safe to go.

It’s an interesting thing when you come to acceptance about things in your life. It feels free. My acceptance the past couple weeks is that I’m disabled and my ableist ideas that I were damaging to myself and to others perceptions as physical disability doesn’t always look like you can’t move. The handful of physically disabled people I have met in person move in incredible ways. It’s not because they are disabled. It’s because I admire people who exercise or try new things given challenges.

So this piece of art is far from complete. I realized I need to honor my disability in ways that are meaningful to me. It has to do with wearing the “weight of the world on your shoulders” and how that looks for me realizing I will never walk unassisted. It’s beyond just disability, feel a lot of burdens in my world and the world as it is. This piece of art will also be how I work to feel lighter.

If I honor my truth, others will honor it too. I can stop explaining what my needs are and emphasize what is hard for me as well as celebrate what is easier for me since I went down a path over 2 years ago to take the best care of me possible. It gives me personal self respect that I hope trickles down to others through understanding.

I like to smile. I want to emphasize what a miracle my body is. I laugh through my pain. I spew positivity when my back is spewing venom at me for not taking care of it while I ignore the reality that I can’t be all things at all times.

I’m strangely grateful for what’s happened to me medically. It gave me an excuse to be and examine a lot about my life I never would have if I hadn’t been thrown into such a medical debacle. It’s not an overly positive grateful. It’s more of a noticing how this has been an integral part of big personal change.

As I reviewed some lab results that came in on my patient portal last week, my stomach, heart, brain, just about everything sank into a pit. Medical debacles have also allowed me to sink into some healthy grief as well as examine what it means to have genuine faith that I am doing the best I can and whatever or whoever looks out for me is doing a really good job. (I don’t so much like to get into spiritual leanings here as it can be very triggering for trauma survivors, so I’m not skirting the issue. I’m simply being cognizant to be an open space for now, and heck, I’m not even sure myself?)

So as much as I have embraced the awful and good parts of how trauma has impacted my life, I’m now working to fully wrap my own mind around the idea that I’m disabled and throwing out the concept that disabled people can’t do anything. I was somehow special. It’s been a time of examining my privilege. I was hiding under a guise of ableist privilege when it completely puts down every disabled person as we are as diverse in ability as able bodied people.

As much as I hate labels. I’m here to say, yes I’m disabled. It’s hard. It’s also nothing short of a blessing and couldn’t imagine life any other way. I don’t even wish for it, (although I curse my pain plenty 😊).

Love

Lizzie

I Think About People-A Lot

Feeling Peaceful and Serene

As I’ve come more and more into myself with medical diagnoses being more concrete and learning to work with that, my mind turns back to trauma.

I’m not thinking so much about my own trauma, but how it is a life stealer. I don’t mean in the typical people committing suicide way, I am thinking more in terms of how it steals people’s ability to be peaceful.

I myself was miserable and felt like no way out of trauma for years. I knuckled through a lot of the ugliness alone. I stopped talking about it in therapy as even though it was ruining my life, it was too hard to face.

I read an article today about Romanian children who grew up in orphanages who got basically zero interaction or nurturing. Once the final communist dictator fell, a lot of American families rushed to adopt these children with disastrous results.

I found myself immersed in the article as it was talking about neural development up to 24 months and what happens if you don’t learn to trust a caregiver to give you your needs. My mom wasn’t interested in me and had a lifetime of her not only not having an attachment to me, she worked diligently to destroy me.

A lot of psychologists rushed in to study the attachment patterns of these children as with legitimate psychological research currently, you are not supposed to harm someone. You obviously can’t purposefully deprive a baby or small child what they need for science.

The most interesting thing that came out of these studies and watching the Romanian children grow into adults for me, is that asking for help when you are distressed is a learned behavior.

Maybe it doesn’t blow you away, but it did for me. For many years, I couldn’t ask for help when distressed. In fact, I retreated to myself by myself. I never learned as a traumatized child that when I hurt, you were supposed to go to a caregiver to get support. If I skinned my knee, I knew it was my fault for falling. I certainly wasn’t going to ask for a bandaid as a little girl.

I know a lot of people in trauma recovery. They say they refuse to ask for help when they are in huge distress. I had someone once yell at me when she sent a text saying she was in huge emotional upheaval when I decided to call. She answered the phone in this half weary/ half angry tone of “I told you I don’t want to talk about it!!!”, so the conversation ended.

I think about people in trauma recovery or just have been traumatized and the misery they live in, the life stealing. I think if one could find a way to ask for help, it would make it better and easier to recover.

When I first started asking for help when I was distressed, which was medically as it felt more legitimate to be distressed for medical reasons versus emotional ones, it felt foreign. When people did help, I wanted to retract my request as it almost felt like I was going to be in trouble.

As asking for help has become more and more common for me, I will admit, it still feels strange. I do it as we all need help, but it can still feel off. Now I know it’s a behavior I’ve had to learn. With any new skill, you won’t master it the first time around or maybe for years, but I practice as it’s important to me.

As I think about how trauma has played out in the lives of so many people I know or are from my past, I want to share with them a path out of misery is learning the new behavior of asking for help.

Free yourself as I know when I ask for help and help comes in whatever way that might be, I feel lighter, less alone, loved, awkward, eased, guilty, grateful… Essentially though, help for me comes in ways of needing a lightbulb changed to meaningful conversation about the complexities I might be managing at that moment. Help brings relief that whatever my problem happens to be, it will be fixed, heard, or validated.

The more you allow others to help you, the more you will be freed to help others in healthy ways.

Getting help and comfort in a distressing situation is a LEARNED behavior. Whether you are lucky to have learned it at the appropriate developmental stage prior to 2 years old, or in your 40s, 60s, or whatever stage in life you are at, I hope you learn it.

As I said, I think about people—a lot. I have to think of them as they haven’t learned to ask for help. As sad as it makes my heart, I can’t help someone who hasn’t learned to ask.

Love

Lizzie

Being an Observer and Disabled Realities

Yes, I AM disabled

I’m in a period of life of doing a lot of observing, thinking, reflecting, and with that being the case, I’ve come to a lot of difficult realities.

This is not to detract from the black lives matter movement at all that is gaining steam in the western world and definitely stand behind that as a black friend put it something like “our lives are on fire. We have to call 9-1-1”. I agree. I am not interested in all lives matter. I’m not even so interested in disability access until I get it in my face.

In my observing and reflecting lately, I’ve looked a lot at religion, schools of philosophy, and have probably been dabbling in too many different things to come to any conclusions. I find whether it’s the yoga sutras, the Muslim faith, stoicism, Christianity…, it all comes down to “love thy neighbor as thy self”, which is just the Christian way of saying it.

I love loving people. I appreciate and respect friends in my life who have wholeheartedly thrown themselves into one religion, philosophical school, not because of what they choose, but I admire their passion. I love their love. I get jealous of how they can throw themselves into it with both feet, arms, torso, heart, when my life circumstances have put me into a place where I can only dabble.

Occasionally I was going to a Christian church prior to the pandemic. Due to my trauma, Christianity was a really hard pill to swallow. I’ve come to realize it’s not Christianity that makes things difficult, it’s hypocrisy. It’s hiding behind anything that is based in love to give you an excuse to be an unkind, unthinking, or lead you to feel virtuous when your actions are opposite. I’ve seen it in Christianity. I’ve seen it in the yoga community. I’ve seen it among Buddhists. I have seen it in humanity.

Last night this church had a social distancing service in the park. Even if I can’t completely wrap my mind around any single thing spiritually as that’s just where I’m at, I appreciate the positive and loving message that this particular group of people offer. Who couldn’t use some uplifting in uncertain times or general life?

We broke into small groups. One of the things we were asked to do was have people volunteer to pray for their partner organizations. One of the partner organizations was sitting there, in my face staring at me in my disability and it hurt—a lot.

I’ll tell you why. This organization did a couple wonderful things for me that I was hugely appreciative of and hoped it to be slice of my community. As my physical disabilities advanced and access wasn’t as simple as running up a flight of stairs, the door was closed to me. I had a conversation with one of the higher ups several months ago saying how much I loved going to events, but I can’t go up a flight of stairs. The first response I got was, “those stairs are steep and can be hard for me”. No. Don’t you see me sitting across from you in my wheelchair. A flight of stairs aren’t just hard, they are impossible.

I tried to use my kindest as well as assertive self to request disability inclusion with this particular group. I already knew they couldn’t help me in regards to anything with my chronic illnesses. I was fine. I asked for community. I was offered community until I couldn’t access community as many events are upstairs or I was told at the time that they were roller skating and skiing, so that wasn’t going to work. I kindly said what I could do, which were activities that were done in the past.

The monthly calendar wasn’t sent to me anymore. I made a request about something that would be coming up that I could do. I received a simple text basically saying that they “hope you feel better”. In times of COVID, I assumed they shut down, but sitting across from me was a woman I didn’t know from this organization bestowing the virtues of still being up and functioning without anyone getting sick and still helping women.

I smiled. What does one do? No one stood up for me in regards to how my disability affected me with this organization. I wanted to pick up my forearm crutches, dig a hole in the ground, lay in it and put the dirt on top of me. My very visible disability is an invisible problem.

I admit, I’m not the stereotypical disabled person that able bodied people think of. There’s a lot of stigma that disabled people live miserable lives sitting in our houses rotting away. I luckily have met paralympions, my teammates on my wheelchair basketball team are among some of the most active people I know. People with physical disabilities do incredible things not because they are disabled, but because able bodied people do incredible things too.

One thing that is universal to physically disabled people I know at least is that if faced with a flight of stairs, it’s going to be a major challenge, if not impossible.

So as they prayed for this wonderful organization that has been able to stay open and operational continuing to help women, I realized I’m not THAT woman. I’m physically disabled that gives me a lesser status to some. It hurts. I encounter disability discrimination regularly. In a world of so many hurts, it’s one I don’t grieve often as I tend to celebrate what I can do versus what I can’t. I’m grieving at 2:30 in the morning as I had a tangible experience again of what I can’t do. Where I don’t belong.

So I listened to how grateful everyone was that they could stay open and the wonderful work they do. I agree, but not if a flight of stairs is your Mt Everest.

So as soon as I possibly could, I separated myself from those people as I have certainly learned you can’t find water in an empty well. It’s futile, pointless, and frustrating. I don’t go to empty wells for sustenance anymore. I don’t even try.

Sometimes I don’t know how to share my story. Yesterday wasn’t the time. That organization can help the women who can climb a flight of stairs. I can turn and gimp, wheel, crawl away from the empty well with anger and sadness to a well that is full when I’m really thirsty. So that’s what I did.

Hypocrisy, discrimination, exclusion shows up in a lot of places. I can only hope that there is genuine and positive change in the black lives matter movement. I’m doing what I can. As long as that needs to be huge, and these are discussions I personally back and want to go well whatever the mechanism has to be seen to be heard with a hope that someday there will be a trickle down effect that people who care about me might think about how my disability affects daily living. Daily grief. How a flight of stairs is a representation of rejection and sadness.

I’m not actually in a heavy mood, but it’s sometimes hard to sit in a group of people affirming an organization when I had to adapt just to go to that service alone as my legs were extremely exhausted yesterday and using my forearm crutches wasn’t ideal when I needed my wheelchair, but it’s not about disability right now. Just something to think about that I never had to until it became me. That’s privilege right there. You don’t think about it until it is you.

Love

Lizzie

Chronic Illness Lingo

Weekly Infusion of SCIg

It’s a strange thing what we each experience that feels like a normal experience that must be universal. This is my attempt at some chronic illness humor as I work at being much lighter in spirit while still honoring tough realities. This is light today.

I recently had a conversation with a lady who is in her 50s. She was talking about having her first ever EKG a few weeks ago. I was like, wait what? Your first EKG in your 50s? I’ve probably had at least 5 this year and hundreds in my life at 44. I’m not normal.

Someone posted on Facebook making fun of “gf”. In my world “gf” means gluten free as I have celiac disease that is an autoimmune disease that attacks the intestine and they are finding causes neurological symptoms as well as lots more if you eat any gluten. I can’t even eat something if you take a bit of your gluten food and stick your fork in my gluten free food as it’s been contaminated and enough for me to get sick. I even made fun of people for being gluten free as a fad diet years ago until it became a huge part of my health. So I was highly offended that someone I know was so publicly make fun of “gf”. I asked for clarification. “Lizzie, gf means ‘girlfriend’”. 🤦‍♀️ I’m not normal.

All the rage is talking about IG. I’m super excited as I’m on IG therapy or immunoglobulin therapy so I finally don’t feel so alone. I mean EVERYONE references IG. Good thing I figured out “IG” means Instagram and not everyone I know understands my IG, although I realized why some people have been so dismissive when I say I’m on IG, or immunoglobulin that I don’t specify that part, which is a very big deal and get a look of, “who cares”. They are probably wondering why I’m so serious about being on social media or Instagram in their minds. I’m not normal.

So it’s kind of silly to me what my normal is that is not a universal experience at all. I’ve been working to listen to what other people’s unique experiences are. I like to know what is unique in their lives and what they are looking forward to in tumultuous times as Hope lingers even when life is strange.

I did do something normal yesterday that is probably a universal experience of doing something dumb. I was trying to do laundry yesterday and couldn’t find my laundry detergent anywhere. My washing machine is in my kitchen. I gave up until I went to get some water. I put my laundry detergent in my refrigerator 🙄.

What’s something unique to your life that might be a shared experience but very limited? What did you do that was dumb and made you laugh at yourself?

Love

Lizzie

The Bravest Acts are Never Seen

Typical Morning

People see me doing my yoga, hiking, taking good care of myself, but what my most courageous acts I do are ones that aren’t seen. When I wake up in the morning, my body HURTS! I have a severely degenerated spine, osteoarthritis, and despite looking healthy with my clothes on, my ribs and hips are sticking out from rapid weight loss that is being investigated. Laying on a bony, skinny hip hurts too.

I don’t say any of that for sympathy or people to feel sorry for me. I don’t even write it for more understanding. I put it out there that my bravest act I do daily is make the choice to get up.

Whether you are managing physical pain, emotional pain, or both, the choice to get up is a huge one. As someone who supports many in trauma recovery, when asked for advice on how best to deal, I will say to just get up.

Some days I get up to go on grand adventures. A lot of days, I can only handle getting up to eat healthy and do a few dishes.

If you have the physical ability to get up, get up. Take a breath and get going even just a few steps around your living space.

The other brave thing I do is things I hate. Sunday late afternoon is the day I give myself a self infusion of hizentra or SCIG. It’s really painful. It takes a long time to do. I feel like crap for a day or two after, but I also recognize it’s a gift.

Preparing for My Infusion with a lot of Feelings

Last Sunday I sobbed while I went through the process of preparing. I wasn’t in the mood to poke myself with several needles and feel burning going into my body for just over 2 hours. I also sobbed as I had a great day with some wonderful people and as I go into year 3 of this blog that I was sure to end, except you really can’t, I reflected on how different things are for me. Medical validation. New friends. Self confidence. What happened to me?

Each day is not easy. I have some incredibly complex situations I’m managing, but I can recognize my bravery and courage to just make the choice to get up.

Love

Lizzie

You Got Lucky, or Maybe I Did!

Meditation for an unbearable week physically

I guess when they say what stays on the internet never goes way, they are correct! After much bantering with WordPress, I can’t really export my content. Well I did, except all my images were just code language and the content was disorganized. A basic mess. My option to keep my content was to switch to the free version. In a couple days, it will no longer be in pretty colors but I can post occasionally as well as update where to find my new writing as it comes. I don’t even know what it will look like honestly!

No doubt it has been a miserable couple weeks for me physically. I’m proud I have become strong in my meditation skills. I don’t do meditation apps or listen to anything guiding me. I can clear my mind to a state of utter nothingness that allows me to disconnect from the physical storm of pain I had for several days. It sounds like nothing, but it’s a state of fullness that one can only understand if you can do it. I guess having a dog sit on half your face helps too. This is my dog that likes to “help” when he knows his mom is very bad off. He does a good job. Considering just a handful of years ago, if I was told there was going to be meditation, I would have gone running as I could never clear my anxious brain. That causes anxiety! No more.

Crazy as it may seem, being upside down helped relieve my migraine a bit. My head is actually barely touching the floor, so it kind of suspends as a backwards blood flow. The pose is held by pressing the forearms firmly into the floor while interlacing the fingers to make a cradle for the head. You push out of your shoulders and voila! I’m in an almost headstand. Being upside down has a way of turning you right side up.

Iyengar Yoga Headstand

A huge thank you to those that reached out personally to know my future endeavors. I’m hoping it’s bright as I continue to manage a multitude of chronic illnesses and wait for a call from a surgeon to get something pretty big done. I don’t feel afraid. I feel equipped no matter what it looks like as I grow stronger each day through exercise, healthy eating, and lots of self examination.

Love

Lizzie

Best wishes. Take care of yourself. Let others take care of you.

After this post, I will be downloading my blog for my personal file and shutting it down within a couple days. I close out this blog for the reasons I mentioned in the previous post.

I’m extremely sorry how much the world is hurting, especially the events in the United States. It’s been tragic to watch and know how deeply affected people are close to me.

A lot of people are in pain and unfortunately, we tend to isolate when we hurt and don’t share it. I’ve been guilty of it myself for many years as I couldn’t be real with myself how much I hurt. I didn’t think anyone wanted to listen.

I sent an acquaintance a happy birthday text hoping they had found some way to celebrate. I ended up getting a few texts about how horrible the day was and why. The part that made me sad was that this person’s final text said something about “I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve that”.

I responded that I was glad they could get it out and I DID deserve it as sometimes we have to let it out. It doesn’t mean I can fix it, but I can be the person who cares on the other end. I was honored they told me how rough it was.

If there’s one thing I want to leave reiterating from this blog is that it is OKAY to share your pain. It’s actually the most healing thing you can do is to find a friend, not a therapist (or in addition) that will hold space for you and even if it’s not reciprocal in that relationship, go into holding space for others who hurt.

Take care of each other. Don’t hide. Everyone hurts, a lot, at times. Even people blessed with supportive families, friends, a romantic partnership, or all of the above can have deep pain.

I learned where to share mine. I’ve learned where to hold onto it for myself. Not everyone has to know what we are going through, but it’s important that SOMEONE knows to feel visible.

In my 20+ journey of working on my severe childhood trauma or CPTSD to one extent or another, I have met countless people who think their problems are “too much”. They continue to persecute themselves for what was done TO them instead of recognizing that living each day is a heroic effort when you didn’t have a family to teach you how.

I’m not sure how I’m managing to live in such light except I’ve finally recognized who I am. I know my truth. I don’t have to explain myself. Not everyone is going to like the person I am. I felt more lonely with a ton of friends versus the handful of devoted ones I have now. I still hurt. I still cry, but that brings relief to move forward.

I have very ugly things happening in my life, with my health, and the disruption of my country deeply affects me. I also notice the tiny miracles that surrounds me daily.

My life path is changing to aid people in gaining resiliency to manage the impossible as contrary to what psychology used to say, resiliency is something you can build.

In doing that, I will begin a different blog eventually that will be more organized and focused. It will have more of a focus on chronic illnesses and living as well as possible with them. I will mention the connection of trauma to developing chronic diseases, but it will not be my focus. I’m grateful for this blog and the journey it led me down.

Through disability, illness, fractured relationships, and more loss than I could ever list, or even feel I would have the proper time to grieve, I built myself back up to be a person I’m proud of. Life is changing for me. I occasionally think in my head “I must be crazy, evil, ugly, terrible…” until I remember those are old thoughts someone else put on me.

Find your light. Find your beauty. Just because someone told you it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t make it true. I will say the more emotionally healthy you become with setting appropriate boundaries that are true to you while thinking of the other person (I’ve made plenty of huge mistakes of course), people will hate you for it if they aren’t strong in their own. You will also gain the genuine love, respect, and admiration from others that I desperately wanted for a near lifetime.

Not each day will be perfect. Life is a constant navigation of highs and lows. Stay in the center to move forward.

Last couple days to connect with me via my contact page. If you just want to shoot an email to know my new blog, I can do that too.

In the meantime, keep your head up. Live with integrity constantly examining how to grow and change to evolve to be better and feel better. ✌️, oh and cry as much as you need. There might not be toilet paper, but I have found plenty of Kleenex!

Love

Lizzie (my examples through pictures of my paradox of highs and lows. Weekly medical treatment that has me feeling awful to be able to hike a few days later)

And I Say Goodbye to Blogging: Goal Achieved

I received a notification from WordPress that my annual renewal comes due on June 14th. That would lead me into year 3 of this blog. I have decided through a lot of contemplation not to renew.

My goal in beginning this blog nearly 2 years ago was to figure out what it means to be authentic when you have CPTSD. I was brought up that you could only be happy. A favorite phrase if I was feeling upset was “get over it”. So I stuffed it and put a fake smile on my face with sad eyes.

I have learned that authenticity is just that, being real. In so many ways, I feel like the story of the “velveteen rabbit” genuinely mimics what life can be like for so many of us who have struggled with severe childhood abuse. You can beat us up, tear us down, have our eyes fall out (in my case not being able to see the truth of who I am), but one day we wake up to understand we are real, special, and beautiful.

Authenticity means being sincere with my feelings. Does that mean I tell the grocery store clerk, or even a new friend the intricacies of how awful things have been or might be in that moment? No, but it does mean I have an extremely tiny circle of people who get to know bits and pieces. I am particularly lucky that I met one woman who gets to know the real me. I let her know when I’m grieving. I let her know when I have had a victory. She understands and truly wants to know the complexities of my illnesses. She is a friend like no other who has helped me on the journey to authenticity. We both have the time and interest and given, there are times we can’t correspond like we always want to due to one of us having symptoms of our different illnesses prohibiting it, we are always there. Authenticity means having a friend where there isn’t jealousy or pity, but joy for each other and holding space for the harder times. You only need one of those, and I found a gem!

I have met several new friends that know different things about me. Many don’t know the complexities of my past, or even my present, and I have learned to in authenticity, it’s not necessary.

I have become a genuinely smiley person. In knowing and experiencing so much ugliness, I recognize when the good comes, and I feel the gift of trauma is that I see the sun just a bit brighter. I smile with my eyes too.

I can be “smiley” as I also recognize my grief. I can feel the gamut of feelings I have about life. I can cry genuine tears over heartbreaking situations. I can grieve a past that wasn’t fair, but it’s what I was handed.

Authenticity means I can have fun. Authenticity means I can enjoy my own company. Authenticity means I don’t have to turn into a chameleon so everyone will “like” me. Authenticity means embracing who I am and what I love and look for the people who share those things too. Authenticity means I choose who I interact with and in doing so, it has been a hard couple years in losing people, but I have gained true friendships that don’t leave me feeling lonely, but most importantly, I have a newfound respect, admiration, and love for who I am.

This doesn’t mean that “poof”, all the ugliness of trauma has left me. Managing trauma will be a lifelong process of counteracting negative thoughts, continuing to remind myself that I do NOT want or need validation from relationships that don’t serve me that I was desperate for for such a long time.

Trauma recovery isn’t easy. It’s something I put energy into consciously each day. I realized that there are many ways I have recovered that people don’t believe will help. I know as I’m in my 3rd year of being psych med free as I find a carrot stick (well, my entire anti inflammatory eating lifestyle where I eat 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and no sugar among other things) to be the best medicine along with my strong iyengar yoga practice that is too complex to explain here, but it’s not “gym” yoga. Just like my eating, it’s a lifestyle as well. It’s not weird like that sounds, but iyengar yoga is a genuine practice of mind, body, and spirit where in my class yesterday, we had a discussion about cultivating a life aligned with joy, compassion for the hurting, and working for equanimity for those genuinely struggling. Then we went into our practice enjoying going just to where our bodies allow us to go with gaining physical strength, one gains mental strength.

In the past couple years, I had a lot of medical mysteries that have finally been diagnosed. I face some huge health challenges ahead that I asked my doctor to just give me a few months before I manage that part. I know I’ll get through it with strength, community, kindness, and I was proud of myself for saying I just needed a break.

I have some incredible opportunities coming my direction. I need to focus on those. I need to focus on being light hearted. I need to focus on writing my book instead of this blog. I have also found an audience elsewhere that are interested to know how I heal.

I have received countless emails and personal messages about how my blog has helped them, but because what I write about is personal, many have said they haven’t wanted to publicly comment. My stats show thousands of people have read this blog with a couple thousand regulars. No worries, I can’t see who reads my blog, just the numbers. My original goal of this blog was to create a community where people could come together to know they weren’t alone through dialogue with each other. I failed in creating that as unfortunately, people feel they have to hide. It’s ok. I hope you will be seen someday.

This is blog post 169 in less than 2 years! I am proud of that. As I download my blog and eventually read my own journey from almost 2 years, I’m sure I’ll be astounded at my growth. I hope people who have read this in the shadows who have CPTSD have grown too.

The most important thing I have come to realize is that I can have many miserable and painful circumstances in my life, and as long as I recognize and honor them, it allows me to be joyful. Joy is our human right. So I do genuinely smile. I also genuinely sob. I have anger in appropriate ways. I have learned I don’t have to be a “doormat”. I can be kindly assertive.

Have I made mistakes? Absolutely, but don’t we all? The best thing about making mistakes is learning from them and finding people who will give you grace when you realize it. If they leave, that’s their choice to make too as I have left people I couldn’t handle as well.

To make a post that could probably be a book in itself on authenticity, the best I know is that I have learned to explore what I avoided, advocating for myself, living with stillness to have painful feelings I don’t shy away from, learning by making mistakes in friendships that repeated my trauma to understand what a real friend is, enjoying what I enjoy that might not be typical of most (I haven’t watched tv in over 3 years and choose a book several times over instead) instead of doing what other people want, accepting compliments as real, spirituality, forgiveness of others and self, and genuinely knowing I am a deserving person of good things.

I’m leaving bitterness and ugliness behind. It doesn’t mean I don’t get angry. It doesn’t mean i will stop fighting for certain things, I am just choosing to understand the only thing I can control in this world is myself and my actions. I am freeing my heart to be open to giving and receiving love and as I open it up more and more, both seem to be expanding exponentially.

I won’t give advice on how you can do it for yourself. I do know that receiving positive attention and staying in gratitude is exhilarating compared to being miserable about things I can’t change.

So my blog will be up for a couple weeks. Feel free to email me if you would want to stay in touch via email on my contact page. I can also share my social media accounts if you email.

Do what makes your heart sing. Take good care of yourself, especially if no one ever took good care of you or couldn’t allow it. Enjoy your life of today, especially if your life is technically safe. I never got into the nitty gritty of how I actually went about saving myself, but it’s not an easy process that’s laden with hopelessness, but I will say it’s worth it. I didn’t write much about how I allowed trauma to ruin my life for many years, but I will not allow it at 44 years old even with significant health challenges and heartbreaking situations.

I’ll leave you with a few pictures of my heart singing and hope to hear from you. If not, best wishes on your journey. May it be blessed with the hope and love I have come to know from some of the most unlikely of sources!

Love

Lizzie

In the US, We Celebrate Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 10, 2020

This is a picture of the founder of the style of yoga I do, Iyengar yoga. He was a light filled man who created a rather different style of yoga to manage his own hard times. Being a devoted practitioner to Iyengar yoga has certainly helped me navigate many difficult emotional times through the physical strength I have gained. If you know what downward dog pose is, we sometimes will hold it for 5-7 minutes. I have to go inside to tap into a mental strength to get my physical body to do it. That mental strength grows as I navigate life that is increasingly difficult, yet it grows easier to manage daily.

Mother’s Day has been a typically rough day for me. My mom was my primary abuser and the constant barrage of messages I get about loving and appreciating your mother as she’s the only one you have can feel discounting to my experience as I don’t mention in casual conversation what she did to me. It’s ugly.

A couple years ago, I took Mother’s Day back as MY holiday of the mother I had become and always was. I broke the cycle. I have been proud of the mom I have been, while no mom is perfect, I tried really hard.

Due to a bunch of insane complexity I won’t go into much detail about, I will not be celebrating Mother’s Day with my son. I haven’t celebrated anything with him for months. A very tiny select few might call me an ugly person. A much larger group recognize how hard I work to live well knowing I’m defeated, for now, in seeing my son. I live with joy. I live with gratitude. I live with beautiful memories of knowing my son and I had a wonderful relationship. I live with my truth about who I was as a mom who worked hard to protect her little bear cub despite not being successful.

Regardless, it’s Mother’s Day. While I know I have every right to be a miserable lump of ick, I’m working to take back the meaning of Mother’s Day again. I do cry big tears sometimes as my tears lead to smiling huge, genuine smiles as I work through the pain of so much.

I spent a good portion of my Friday morning writing cards thanking several women in my life that have been strong and powerful in my eyes and said “happy Mother’s Day” to them regardless of if they have children or not. I’m celebrating Mother’s Day this year by thanking the women in my life that make it meaningful. I have more cards to write, but none of them were going to get there on time anyway.

I didn’t happen to be blessed with a loving or caring mom. I had a mom who abused me in ways I won’t mention. She taught me to hate myself. She wasn’t successful forever as I appreciate and love who I am today and work to evolve to become even greater and stronger.

I celebrate that even if being a mom isn’t a current hat I’m wearing, I will always be a mom no matter what happens with my son. I didn’t do anything wrong. Truths get obscured. People have misunderstandings and if I were to tell the true story of what happened, you would be shocked as are the people who know my story about my son.

Today, I love him from a distance. I adore and treasure so many precious moments we had together. I am strong as I believed his truth too, and he took great comfort in knowing that he was seen, heard, and loved in a way a mother can.

Today might not be a perfect day. It might not be a joyful day. It might have tears. I also know that I am celebrating many women in my life that are incredible and brave.

I also know Mother’s Day grief isn’t unique to me. People can grieve this day for a variety of reasons—a lost mother, not having the chance to be a mother, similar reasons to mine whether it’s having a mom who inflicted trauma or losing your ability to see your child due to unjust reasons. Many holidays can bring up a variety of feelings. That’s ok.

My mom voice might have been silenced, but I am NOT silenced. I am not destroyed. I celebrate my victories. I celebrate wonderful women in my life. I celebrate me.

After feeling those ugly feelings, I can feel the peace the founder of Iyengar yoga knew. I can smile brightly and genuinely as I will continue to assert that my trying hard and working towards goals makes ME feel good. I also want my son to know I never gave up no matter how painful things were for me, physically, spiritually, or emotionally. Isn’t that the gift of having a mom? Knowing she was tenacious? Knowing she loved you unconditionally in distance or togetherness?

I can only hope I see him again someday to embrace him in a huge bear hug and start from a place of complete love where he doesn’t have to worry about what happened. He will only know that my love never stopped.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to eat healthy, engage in my iyengar yoga practice, celebrate the incredible women I’m surrounded with, particularly one who I write back and forth with daily from a place of love and compassion on both of our ends, knowing her beautiful words keep me going as we mutually decided to sit with each other this Mother’s Day as chronic illness is complex and mothering for both of us has its joys and sorrows. (I will celebrate the other incredible people in my life another day. Today is just about the women.)

If you are grieving this Mother’s Day, I’m sorry. You aren’t alone in it for whatever your reason is. Don’t buy into the social media hype that it’s some magical day where everyone got a perfect mom or gets to live a life of being a perfect mom. Social media is never true. Mother’s Day posts will be no different.

And if you are extremely happy about Mother’s Day or content with this holiday, congratulations. I am genuinely joyful and sit in gratitude for you and celebrate you as well.

So thank you to the women in my life that have held my hand as I continue through a life that might not be easy, but I am victorious in finding joy in a storm of chaos. My smiles don’t lie anymore.

And of course thank you to my son for giving me the opportunity to be a mom. You will always be my bunny, my baby bear bait, who lives inside my heart and has brought me so much fullness of spirit, laughs, and pride as I watched you grow.

Love

Lizzie

What Hat Are You Wearing?

This picture was taken in April of 2019. I had been admitted to the hospital for neurological problems where my whole body couldn’t move except for my left hand and could talk. At that moment in time, my neurological problems were just beginning to be uncovered. I have now been diagnosed with a neurological autoimmune disorder, a fused thoracic spine from degenerative disc disease, and a genetic neurological disease. I’ll just stop there. Diagnoses can be boring and that’s just the neurological stuff 😉!

Anytime you get admitted to a hospital with strange neurological symptoms that don’t have a clear diagnosis, you have to undergo a psych evaluation as anxiety, depression, etc. can cause significant neurological problems. They call it “functional neurological disorder” these days. I don’t have that, but you get a psych evaluation regardless as there is treatment for it.

I was diagnosed with transverse myelitis just slightly over 4 years ago, which is a neuro immune disease. You could ask 8 different neurologists their take on it and get 8 different answers.

I was using one of those walkers with a seat around my house, but my pride wouldn’t allow me to use it outside as it made me feel like an “old lady”. So this doctor busts into my room exclaiming that she had transverse myelitis too. Her specialty was in psychiatry and neurology. She knew I wasn’t crazy. She also knew my growing limitations were making me sad. She had gone over all my old records, including ones when I went to Stanford for a second opinion and believed it was transverse myelitis 4 years ago. Her point wasn’t so much to diagnose me. She wanted me to move again.

She validated the idea that I would need a custom lightweight manual wheelchair as FINALLY a doctor found it unacceptable that I had seriously fractured 7 bones in 2 years from falling. I remember joking to her that I just tape my fingers and toes together now as it’s cheaper than going to the ER for an X-ray when they would just tape them anyway. There was camaraderie in her understanding the incredible difficulty of falling over constantly from a neurological disease that literally strikes 1 in a million so no one understands.

She went above and beyond to work with me daily beyond her normal shift in the ER and brought in her sidestix forearm crutches that are designed for people with all kinds of disabilities to enjoy the outdoors. This picture is my taking some of my first confident steps in years where I felt secure. I was still terrified of falling over and kept telling her I was going to, but she kept reassuring me I wouldn’t. I didn’t!

After my 2 week stint in the hospital in April of 2019, I was incredibly sad to say goodbye to her. I was afraid to lose her guidance as she got it. She understood. I left her with a promise that I would be completely different in a year.

My one year later using my own sidestix forearm crutches in April of 2020. I kept my promise to her, more importantly, I kept my promise to myself.

Interestingly enough, I have wanted her to know that I did it. She found me on Instagram a couple weeks ago. She and I sent some personal messages back and forth. She thought it was incredible to see pictures of me hiking. She was inspired by my positivity as in those hours in the hospital getting me walking again, I told her about my life. I told her a lot about my trauma.

She inspired me a year ago as she told me about her story of how she rehabilitated from transverse myelitis. I saw a picture of her riding a bike today.

I will always be physically disabled, but it doesn’t mean it has to stop me. She was the first person to tell me to sit with the idea that “you have never been broken. Your body is broken, but YOU as a person are not broken”. I carry those words with me constantly.

It had me thinking about the hats I have worn in life as we all have several. I have worn the hat of victim, trauma survivor, being sick, friend, daughter, mother, writer, artist, disabled, career woman, student, doormat, yogi… I realize those are all just labels, and my entire lifetime I have hated labels as a way to define me. So today as I ended up in bed by around 1 PM fast asleep as I completely overdid it the past couple days with taking long hikes a couple days post surgery with completely numb legs, I decided I’m wearing the label of “perseverance”.

It might take me a couple days to recover, but I’m pushing my energy envelope just slightly further each day as I’m finally getting the medical treatment I need that gives me just enough health to tackle the emotional stuff from a place of strength, centeredness, and “perseverance”.

What’s a strong label you can attach to yourself? I went from total victim to perseverance. It wasn’t overnight. It took years of hard work, but the hard work has been much more worth it than continuing to live with the label of “victim”.

Love

Lizzie