Brainwave optimization follow-up, two years later

I received a phone call yesterday from someone who had read my original post about receiving brainwave optimization. Barbara in Houston was considering it. She’d read this blog and wanted to hear some follow-up. We had a nice long conversation, and I felt inspired by her courage.

This month marks two years since I underwent brainwave optimization — five days of twice-daily sessions designed to help my brain function better using biofeedback.

I have no regrets about doing it. I’m glad I took that leap of faith.

Of course it’s impossible to say how I might be different had I not received it. It’s also impossible to separate the BWO from the meditation, diet, yoga, and other work I’ve done. (I still think BWO is probably the equivalent of five years of daily meditation.)

What I can say is that when I compare how I experience myself now and how I experienced myself then, now is better. I feel more myself — I occupy my body and my life more fully and with more pleasure and serenity and depth and wholeness than I did before. I make better decisions. I am happier.

One of my reasons for doing it was that I had experienced trauma in my childhood that plagued me with ill effects for decades. Facing the trauma, healing and integrating it were turning points toward health in my life. I wanted to see if brainwave optimization could relieve me from any more dysfunctional patterns that might remain.

Last year, a year after undergoing BWO, I did get triggered by someone who didn’t recognize the extent of his own traumatic experiences and was unable to communicate responsibly about it. I experienced the flood of stress hormones and adrenal exhaustion that went along with being triggered.

The useful part of that experience was being able to witness how those stress hormones affected my thinking. I got a clear sense of what I’m like unaffected by trauma and what I’m like after being triggered. Day and night. Equanimity vs. fear and anger. Sunshine and butterflies vs. creepy shadows with hidden monsters.

The unpleasant part was that it took months to completely clear the effects of the cascade of stress hormones and return to robust, excellent well-being. During this time, I forgot that I could have gotten follow-up sessions of brainwave optimization, which are much less expensive than the initial assessment and 10 sessions.

In hindsight, it would have been really smart of me to experience just enough of being triggered to learn its lessons and then to shorten my suffering by going in for some follow-up work. I don’t know if it would have worked, but I believe that it would have made a difference, because when you make an effort on behalf of your own well-being, that commitment to action makes a big difference and amplifies the measures you choose to take. 

I regret now that it did not occur to me to do that.

It’s clear to me now that undergoing BWO does not give someone who’s experienced trauma a bulletproof vest against being further traumatized or being triggered. It does give you more resilience, because experiencing wholeness is so desirable. The brain is aware of its own well-being and likes it and will return to it as soon as it can. That’s a big part of how BWO works, in my understanding.

If you’re not sure your brain has experienced well-being because of past trauma, or if it’s been so long it’s hard to remember what well-being was like, I recommend getting brainwave optimization. It can’t hurt, and if it doesn’t help in the way you think it might, then at the least you’ve ruled something out on your path to recovery. You have not left that stone unturned.

And it might help in ways you haven’t thought of, so please be open to that. It’s hard to describe well-being if you’ve never experienced it. It’s hard to know what to expect before you do it.

Also, the brainwave changes keep happening for a long time after you finish the treatments. Hold your story lightly and keep a journal. I have been told by people who’ve known me for awhile that I’ve changed for the better more than anyone they know.

I also take the Buddha’s Brain supplements to support my post-BWO brain health, and I recommend that.

NYT: Response after trauma may be as crucial as trauma itself

This New York Times article presents research that suggests that what happens right after a traumatic event may be just as important as the trauma in determining how a traumatized person fares.

This may seem like common sense, but the world surely can use more of it.

Here’s the link: A New Focus on the ‘Post’ in Post-Traumatic Stress. And I really dislike the paywall where you can only see so many NYT articles per month for free. It’s early in the month, and I hope you can read it if you’re interested.

One of the damaging things that happened a day or two after my childhood trauma was telling an adult that I wanted to go home and being told I needed to stay where I was.

It wasn’t even that I wanted to literally go home. I can see now that I wanted reassurance that things would be or even could be okay again. I wanted the comfort of my mother’s presence. That’s what home meant then. And at age 11, I just didn’t have the right words to communicate what I needed so badly.

Was that the moment that trauma became PTSD? I don’t know.

Part of my recovery (after the big chunks were in place) was having a series of dreams for a couple of years in which I was trying to get home and couldn’t. I’d find myself stranded and making the best of it in some town miles away from Austin, but always looking out for a way to get home.

Then I finally had a dream in which I was at home, and it was a home I didn’t recognize, but it was my home.

At both ages, home was a metaphor for living in my body and feeling safe.

A note: The work of Dr. Peter A Levine spells out how important it is for a person to connect with and be tended to by a kind, calm person after a traumatic event. He recognizes that “the human connection” is critical in preventing PTSD after a trauma — in his book In An Unspoken Voice, he describes his own trauma and recovery in detail, including a bystander who offered a steady, reassuring presence.

He is one of the most renowned trauma researchers and writers in the world. It seems like an oversight to me for his work to go unmentioned in this article.

What happens when boundaries are crossed

Special Bonus! What happens when Boundaries are Crossed!.

Came across this blog post, which illustrates how to use Somatic Experiencing when one’s boundaries have been crossed. There’s a lot of noticing sensations, emotions, reactivity, and new tools to facilitate healing.

It’s good to see how to use SE. It develops “the witness”.

 

More wit and wisdom from Byron Katie, and a 21-day challenge to do The Work

Byron KatieThis weekend I got to experience the wonderful presence and work of Byron Katie again. I’ve lost track now of how many times I’ve seen her. I love The Work, her four questions and three turnarounds that you can apply to any thought you have that causes you to suffer.

This time my friend Glenda drove down from the Metroplex to attend with me, and I reconnected with several friends who also hold Katie’s work in high esteem. I remembered to bring my copy of her book Loving What Is: Four questions that can change your life. She signed it for me, and we chatted a bit about using The Work in trauma recovery. (She says it works well.)

Glenda bought her book for children, Tiger-Tiger, Is It True? Four questions to make you smile again, to use with her young grandson as well as an audiobook of Loving What Is and some cards.

My dear late Neuro-Linguistic Programming teacher Tom Best included The Work in his master practitioner training. Even though The Work is not NLP, it is very NLP-like in that it uses questions to induce profound shifts at the belief and identity neurological levels of experience. Tom thought very highly of it, and I cannot think of any other non-NLP techniques that made it into his practitioner and master practitioner trainings.

I’m feeling inspired to start a new 21-day challenge: 21 days because that’s how long it takes to develop a new habit, because I would like for The Work so become so ingrained that as soon as I even start thinking a thought that is less than loving, I can ask “Is that true? Nope! What happens when I believe the thought? Who am I without the thought?” and immediately shift my state.

When I discard painful thoughts, I always feel “returned to myself” with a sense of peace, pleasure, wonder, and expansion. Imagine: We could live from that state nearly all the time!

Katie is onto something of huge importance, in my opinion, with her distinctions between what’s my business, someone else’s business, and God’s business. If what I cannot control is either someone else’s business or God’s business, then what is my business? It is being present in my own life, attending to my own experience, knowing and doing what is right for me, letting go of all stories about how things “should” be.

For my challenge, I need to make 21 copies of her Judge Your Neighbor worksheet (available online if you would like to participate too — I invite all readers willing to do the inquiry of The Work to join me). I plan to blog about it occasionally.

Here are some of her memorable words from the weekend (and here’s a link to the last time I noted her wit and wisdom if you want even more inspiration):

In my world…

Are you being thought?

You can’t feel my pain and vice versa. It’s a projection. I’m the only one who can hurt me.

We’re all innocent.

I asked with the intention of really listening.

They will or they won’t mind you.

I want to know what’s real and what’s not.

Nothing has ever happened, except I believe it happened.

I love everything I think. I’m the best company I know.

Who needs God when you have your opinion?

The ego loves to play.

Apologize to yourself.

You said thank you, so I’m thanking me.

Smoking quit me as I became sane.

Live in your own business.

Prior to thought was pure awareness, joy, the unnamed.

Inequality is not possible when the mind is right.

We’re a human race. We need your help.

Would you hold me now?

I’m always asking what I want.

The mental produces the physical.

Immobilization/shutdown/dissociation/frozen, a trauma response built into the nervous system

Back in March 2012, I posted that I had started reading Peter A. Levine’s latest book, In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. My post included excerpts from Levine’s description of being hit by a car and his experience afterwards.

His experience serves as a useful model for being and staying present through trauma and recovery. He knew how to allow his body and emotions to process naturally so that he did not get stuck in a traumatic state (i.e., PTSD).

Well, I am still reading that book. It’s very, very rich. Some parts are rather scientific. I’m taking my time to really understand it.

Levine uses polyvagal theory (I just posted an interview with Stephen Porges, who came up with the theory) to explain the states that people experience and can get stuck in from traumatic experiences.

Because Somatic Experiencing Practitioners and other therapists (as well as astute loved ones) who are helping someone recovery from trauma need to know which layer of the nervous system is dominant at any given time in a traumatized individual, I am going to describe them.

First, the primary job of our nervous system is to protect us. We have senses that alert us to danger. We may react to a perception of a threat in our bodies before it ever becomes conscious in the mind. That’s because the autonomic nervous system (which is not under our control) is involved when trauma occurs. We react instinctually.

This is good to know. It means that your trauma reactions are automatic, not something you can control, so there’s no need to feel shame or blame yourself. You were doing the best you could.

There are two defensive states that occur when encountering trauma: immobility/dissociation/shutdown (freeze) and sympathetic hyperarousal (fight or flight).

I’m going to write about them in separate posts to avoid being too lengthy.

The more primitive nervous system state is immobility. (Primitive in that evolutionarily it comes from jawless and cartilaginous fish and precedes sympathetic hyperarousal.)

It is triggered when a person perceives that death is imminent, from an external or internal threat.

Levine also uses the terms dissociation, shutdown, and freeze/frozen to describe this state. Note: If you’re an NLPer, dissociation means the separation of components of subjective experience from one another, such as cutting off the emotional component of a memory and simply remembering the visual and/or auditory components. (Source: Encyclopedia of NLP)

Keep in mind that Levine is talking about dissociation as an involuntary post-traumatic physiological state that trauma victims can sometimes get stuck with. There may be some overlap. According to Levine, symptoms of being in this state include frequent spaciness, unreality, depersonalization, and/or various somatic and health complaints, including gastrointestinal problems, migraines, some forms of asthma, persistent pain, chronic fatigue, and general disengagement from life.

Levine notes:

This last-ditch immobilization system is meant to function acutely and only for brief periods. When chronically activated, humans become trapped in the gray limbo of nonexistence, where one is neither really living nor actually dying. The therapist’s first job in reaching such shut down clients is to help them mobilize their energy: to help them, first, to become aware of their physiological paralysis and shutdown in a way that normalizes it, and to shift toward (sympathetic) mobilization. 

The more primitive the operative system, the more power it has to take over the overall function of the organism. It does this by inhibiting the more recent and more refined neurological subsystems, effectively preventing them from functioning. In particular, the immobilization system all but completely suppresses the social engagement/attachment system.

Highly traumatized and chronically neglected or abused individuals are dominated by the immobilization/shutdown system.

Signs that someone is operating from this state include:

  • constricted pupils
  • fixed or spaced-out eyes
  • collapsed posture (slumped forward)
  • markedly reduced breathing
  • abrupt slowing and feebleness of the heart rate
  • skin color that is a pasty, sickly white or even gray in color

Brainwise, volunteers in the immobility state exhibited a decrease in activity of the insula and the cingulate cortex. In one study, about 30% of PTSD sufferers experienced immobility and 70% experienced hyperarousal, with a dramatic increase of activity in these brain areas. Most traumatized people exhibit some symptoms from both nervous systems, Levine says.

I feel the deepest compassion for people in this state, because I have experienced it myself: the spaciness, depersonalization, sense of unreality, and passive, disengaged attitude toward life. It was many years ago. If I could, I would reach back in time to that injured woman and give her resources she just didn’t have back then.

I feel so grateful for the trauma recovery work I’ve done, both with a therapist and on my own. I haven’t experienced immobilization for years, except briefly.

Next up: sympathetic hyperarousal/fight or flight.

An interview with Stephen Porges: polyvagal theory, or how the nervous system is affected in autism, ADHD, borderline personality disorder, and trauma

Nexus, Colorado’s Holistic Health and Spirituality Journal.

This interview with Dr. Stephen Porges, whose career is based on understanding the evolution of the human nervous system, outlines some of the basics of polyvagal theory.

This theory is being tested in trauma recovery sessions. It’s exciting because it helps explain how and why people freeze or experience fight-flight reactions in response to trauma — and the route back to normal, healthy functioning, no matter how long ago the trauma occurred or how often it happened.

Polyvagal theory is increasingly becoming part of the training of bodyworkers, therapists, and educators. In a future post, I will describe how to tell which nervous system (freeze, fight or flight, or parasympathetic) is dominant at any given moment.

This theory is based on an in-depth understanding of the vagus nerve, also known as the 10th cranial nerve, which wanders (the Latin word vagus means wandering, like vagabond and vagrant) from the brain stem down through the body, affecting the face, heart, lungs, and gut.

The brain evolved hierarchically in vertebrates, and the neural circuits of the older nervous systems are still present, accessed hierarchically.

RD: So one thing happens then another thing happens then another thing?

SP: Right. This influences how we react to the world. The hierarchy is composed of three neural circuits. One circuit may override another. We usually react with our newest system, and if that doesn’t work, we try an older one, then the oldest. We start with our most modern systems, and work our way backward.

So polyvagal theory considers the evolution of the autonomic nervous system and its organization; but it also emphasizes that the vagal system is not a single unit, as we have long thought. There are actually two vagal systems, an old one and a new one. That’s where the name polyvagal comes from.

The final, or newest stage, which is unique to mammals, is characterized by a vagus having myelinated pathways. The vagus is the major nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system. There are two major branches. The most recent is myelinated and is linked to the cranial nerves that control facial expression and vocalization.

Here’s how it works in action:

SP: Let’s say you’re a therapist or a parent or a teacher, and one of your clients, students or children’s faces is flat, with no facial expression. The face has no muscle tone, the eyelids droop and gaze averts. It is highly likely that individual will also have auditory hypersensitivities and difficulty regulating his or her bodily state. These are common features of several psychiatric disorders, including anxiety disorders, borderline personality, bipolar, autism and hyperactivity. The neural system that regulates both bodily state and the muscles of the face goes off-line. Thus, people with these disorders often lack affect in their faces and are jittery, because their nervous system is not providing information to calm them down.

RD: How will polyvagal theory change treatment options for people with these disorders?

SP: Once we understand the mechanisms mediating the disorder, there will be ways to treat it. For example, you would no longer say “sit still” or punish a person because they can’t sit still. You would never say, “Why aren’t you smiling?” or “Try to listen better” or “Look in my eyes,” when these behaviors are absent. Often treatment programs attempt to teach clients to make eye contact. But teaching someone to make eye contact is often virtually impossible when the individual has a disorder, such as autism or bipolar disorder, because the neural system controlling spontaneous eye gaze is turned off. This newer, social engagement system can only be expressed when the nervous system detects the environment as safe.

There’s much more fascinating information you can read by clicking the link at the top of this post.

My trauma recovery manifesto: the deepest compassion, the strongest boundary

I originally posted this earlier this year. Yesterday I received this comment:

Well said! I’m a clergy person with PTSD who can handle almost any trauma while in the collar thanks to good training and very clear boundaries, but when traumatized people insinuate themselves into my personal life, it sends me into a tailspin even after decades of hard therapeutic work. Caring does not involve being receptacles for others’ misery. Setting limits and sending them for the help they need is the very best thing any of us can do.

It inspired me to repost the original. I feel the same way as the commenter: Tell me up front you’re traumatized, and our relationship will be good. I will set the boundaries I need to keep it healthy.

If you fail to disclose your trauma, we’re probably not going to have a healthy, trusting relationship, and when I find out, it could send me back to a place I worked really, really hard to get out of. I don’t take kindly to that. It’s irresponsible and very unfriendly on your part.

Traumatic symptoms have a way of showing up in behaviors beyond your control until you face and heal the trauma, and specialized professional help (Somatic Experiencing and the like) is almost always required. I guessed you had been emotionally abused from your behavior because you were so weird. I just didn’t know the extent of it until I had that clairvoyant experience after seeing you be triggered that sent me into major fight-or-flight mode. The truth will come out.

I empathize with where you are. If you ever want to be a real friend to me, and not an unhealthy co-dependent, I need you to actively work on your recovery and “get on the other side of it”. I know it probably seems harsh, but I know whereof I’m speaking, having been there myself. You getting well is the best thing you can do for yourself and the quality of your future relationships. I wish you well.

~

Occasionally people who have been traumatized have gravitated to me because I’m open about having experienced a serious trauma and (mostly) recovered, but they don’t seem to realize how deeply their past still affects them. They haven’t done any trauma recovery work, and they show up in my life.

I believe they show up because their unconscious is seeking healing. Or perhaps angels bring these people to me so they can see for themselves that recovery is possible. You know, I don’t mind being a role model for recovery from trauma. I’ve come a long way in 10 years. I’ve worked at it.

It’s not like traumatized people wear signs stating that. The sudden discovery that a friend or love interest has been traumatized can create a huge amount of distress for me. Even though in hindsight, their craziness now makes more sense (“oh, of course, that weird behavior was a trauma response”), it can still really be a shock.

So I just want to put this message out there:

If you’ve been traumatized and feel attracted to me because I’m open about having experienced trauma and having done a lot of work on my recovery, first of all, please tell me clearly and up front (or as soon as you realize) that you’ve been traumatized, emotionally abused, get triggered, have flashbacks or nightmares, are shell-shocked, or whatever history or symptoms are affecting you.

There’s no shame in it — you didn’t ask for it. I’d rather know than not, and I just might be able to proceed with appropriate boundaries. I will help you find good help and support you emotionally — in a way that is healthy and not co-dependent.

If that’s what draws you to me, just own it. Do not be asking me out on dates and withholding information about your untreated trauma. That’s creepy. You may naively think you can hide it, but it seriously disregulates your autonomic nervous system, which means it’s beyond your control. Your trauma-related weird behavior will show up in your most intimate relationships sooner or later.

Having untreated trauma is like ignoring an elephant in your living room whose shit is piling up. It will stay there until you see what it’s doing to your life and determine to get it out of your house. Which takes help.

Secondly, if you’re not getting professional help, please do that — get professional help. And let me know that too, because I’m going to worry about you if you don’t, and I’d rather be happy than worried.

Please do not look to me to help you beyond being a cheerleader for your recovery work. I am a blogger who’s open about having experienced trauma and having done a lot of work on recovery. This blog (read About me, and do a search on PTSD or trauma to find related posts) describes some of my recovery experiences. Please feel free to ask me about them or try them yourself.

There is absolutely no need for you to just show me your wounds without any verbal warning. Seeing you suddenly be triggered by your past trauma triggered painful memories of my long struggle of not knowing I had PTSD and finding out, and then spending months processing, healing, and putting my life back together in a new, healthier way.

Your behavior freaked me out badly. It took acupuncture, herbs, and therapeutic assistance to start to get over it (at my expense, I might add, which you have ignored, which also makes me think less of you), and I really don’t trust you now.

Recovery from trauma doesn’t mean being bulletproof. It means being more embodied, emotionally present, and energetically open than before recovery, while still being an ordinary person who cannot read minds. I have more compassion now and am more of a whole person, and I need to set clear boundaries to take care of myself. I do know the difference between friendship and co-dependence.

It breaks my heart more than you can imagine that the innocent gesture I made triggered fear in you. It’s not anything I take casually or lightly. It’s emotionally disturbing to witness someone with their wires crossed, whose body mind mistakes someone who has never emotionally abused them with someone who did.

With help, you can heal your poor damaged nervous system and experience peace and stability and aliveness in your life. I am recommending Somatic Experiencing to people these days.

Please find your way to help. I wish you well.

So this is for everyone: if you know that I have had PTSD and you have had untreated trauma in your life, and you come around seeking a relationship, please tell me up front, do your own recovery work (I’ll be rooting for you), and get yourself in decent emotional and relational shape before you seek friendship or dating from me, for both our sakes.

I look forward to talking with the healthy you.

The price of busy-ness. If you need a massage, call me. I’m good.

I just encountered this great article, an opinion piece from the New York Times, about busy-ness and thought I’d share my thoughts.

Not only am I a recovering serious person, I’m also a recovering busy person. For several years, I worked full-time and went to graduate school while raising a child as a single mother. In hindsight, that was insane.

This downtime after my last contract job in the technology world ended about six weeks ago has been lovely. I’m recovering from adrenal exhaustion, and then, just when I was starting a running practice that I felt joyful about and ready for, I pulled a calf muscle and have had to lay low for longer while it heals. (It’s healing very nicely, with self-care and other healing hands working on it. Thanks, Brigitte and Pauline!)

The universe is telling me to slow down, and I’m listening. I’ve been letting a lot of stuff slide, trusting that the important things will rise to the top of the list and the rest will get done when and if they get to the top. One day at a time. I’m loving my daily Tarot readings, the cards that influence my awareness and development and trust in the universe. My favorite deck is the Osho Zen deck.

During this period I’ve also attended several trainings in Somatic Experiencing, which is based on the truly great trauma recovery research and writing of Peter Levine. (I’m currently reading In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness.) I fell in love with it. The main premise is that trauma deregulates the nervous system (into freeze or fight or flight), and that the body can heal itself, with loving attention and guidance.

I’ve been practicing body awareness as well as writing about grounding, centering, and having boundaries. You can expect more posts along those lines.

I also seem to be developing an organic vision for my bodywork and changework practice that involves more teaching and writing. And—I am available now! Call me if you need a massage. I am really good, my rate is reasonable ($1 per minute), and I give discounts for regular customers and referrals.

Who knew that all this time, throughout the history of the human species with all of its atrocities and traumas, that the secret to trauma recovery was right there all along, being ignored by the mind, which in order to “be civilized” began to believe itself superior to the body?

How cut off are we from our own lives? Have you ever had something like this happen to you?

I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

Self-importance is a joy killer, and that’s all most busy-ness is, when you get right down to it. If you are swept away in a current of busy-ness, why, then you must be somebody important! Or at least somebody.

It’s the opposite of being here now, of being present and grounded/centered/boundaried/etc. in your own body. It’s dissociation.

Here’s more, about a New York artist who moved to a village in the south of France:

What she had mistakenly assumed was her personality — driven, cranky, anxious and sad — turned out to be a deformative effect of her environment. It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.

How do we collectively force one another to be too busy to be real? It’s as I suspected:

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.

I’m listening, feeling, and letting each day unfold while not losing myself in breathless busy-ness. Isn’t that what summer is for?

The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.

Well, it’s almost noon, and I’m still in bed on this Monday morning, in bed with my laptop, tarot cards, book. Actually, my butt is getting numb, and I feel thirsty. I believe I’ll get up, stretch, drink some green tea, and mosey over to the yoga mat. I hear a down-ward facing dog calling my name.

Reframing trauma recovery as detoxing the whole system

These days I’m thinking of trauma recovery more and more like detoxing.

We all know people — or even do this ourselves — who do fasts or cleanses to rid their bodies of toxins from too much sugar or alcohol, meat, or junk food, after taking drugs, after food poisoning, and so on. I’ve written about the colon/parasite cleanse and the liver/gallbladder flush on this blog. I’ve also done the Master Cleanse, once.

There’s a lot to be said for cleansing for getting rid of recent toxins as well as those that have accumulated in our systems over the years. The proof is feeling better afterwards. If you don’t feel better after doing a cleanse, don’t do it again. Try something else. Be good to your body. It works hard so that you may live and is taken for granted a lot.

Well, trauma recovery is like detoxing your entire system. It’s not so much getting rid of the toxins in your digestive system as letting the harsh, non-nourishing behavior and events that your whole system took in make their way back out of your system.

It may not be pretty, but it’s actually a good sign — it’s so much healthier than keeping it locked up inside, repressed, frozen.

I’m thinking now that there is a natural period after you are safe when you detox, unless you get stuck in a situation with no support for your detoxing, and that’s another story. You have a basis of comparison — safe versus non-safe — now. Because you are safe, you can start to relax. You might want to think, “Whew, that’s it. I’m safe now and can get on with my life.”

Well, that is true, and you will start to bloom. But you might not be prepared for stuff from the past unpredictably sneaking into the present and biting you on the butt. You might not be prepared for intense emotions that may arise. You might not be prepared for the cognitive reframing that occurs as your identity changes from victim to hero of your own journey.

You may sometimes feel pulled in various directions. It is unsettling.  It’s good to find a physical outlet that grounds you. Yoga, bicycling, and walking were all helpful to me. Those things are healthy to do anyway, but it really helps to feel like you have control of some part of your life (your body) at a time when your mind/heart/spirit are in such flux. Exercise/movement is grounding, and the sweat help you detox. Your system wants to release that stuff.

You may reach equilibrium that feels like a few days of inner peace, and then something else — a memory, a dream, a trigger — may come up for you to experience and integrate, bringing you to a new equilibrium, and that cycle repeats, with the periods of equilibrium getting longer and longer. Actually, it’s life.

You  eventually reach a state where the past pretty much stays in the past unless you decide to delve in.

My advice: Let it arise as it arises, because it will do that anyway. It’s a process; it takes time. Notice and honor it. Document it, even — at least write down your dreams.

And it might be good to let a few people know. Ask for help if you need it, and definitely ask for support. You have mine.